BOOST YOUR HEALTH THROUGH WEIGHT LOSS, FITNESS AND SPORTS NUTRITION!
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Articles written by Dr. Deborah Baker ©
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NUTRITION FOR ENDURANCE SIMPLIFIED!
Athletes and even fledgling athletes are susceptible to all kinds of nutritional advice/hype. Low-fat diet, high fat diet, low carbohydrates, high carbohydrates, low protein, high protein, this supplement for extra energy, building muscle mass, increasing endurance…and the list goes on. The magic to supplementing the physically active persons diet is understanding just what one is trying to do biochemically to your body and enhancing those metabolic pathways.
Whether you are exercising to become the worlds first and foremost black belt, a bodybuilder or marathon runner, the bottom line is you are pushing your body to the limits and this is what you need to support. Increased activity equates to increased demand for nutrients, replacement and maintenance for tissue injury and repair, mineral supplementing to compensate for sweating and so on.
Let’s dispel a few myths right off the bat:
The majority of oxygen consumed during exercise..about 93-94% ends up linked to hydrogen to produce water. The other 6-7% winds up as free radicals.
Free radicals are also produced through the metabolism of molecules such as the neurotransmitters epinephrine and even the usage of glucose, ending in lactic acid is a weak free radical
The natural antidote to these are the family of antioxidants from Vitamin C, E, A, beta-carotene to the newer pycnogenol, lycopenes (tomatoes), selenium, and a three amino acid (building blocks of protein) group called glutathione. Increased exercise put added stress on the body’s store of antioxidants and therefore supplementing these elements is a prudent choice. This probably particularly true for the "weekend athlete" who puts sudden demand on this system after not exercising every day, therefore not having highly "tuned" antioxidant pathways in place.
In a very interesting study by William J. Evans, Ph.D., they looked at the effect of supplementing 800 I.U. of Vitamin E per day to both young and older athletes. We know that muscle injury from both tears and oxidative stress happens particularly when stress is added to the elongated muscle (eccentric contraction). This is particularly seen in weightlifting, downhill skiing and the martial arts in sparring, weapons training and bodily throwing opponents.
In this study, the participants were supplemented the 800 I.U. of Vitamin E for over two months. The younger athletes showed no difference in response to muscle damage and repair, but there was substantial effect on the responses of the older men. It appeared that the younger men had already a very vital response and in the older men, their responses came close to the younger men under the supplementation of the Vitamin E. Healing from trauma involves mobilizing of immune cells to invade damaged tissue and stimulate repair.
In both groups, however Vitamin E (as does Vitamin C and beta-carotene) lowered the amount of oxidative free radicals in the system.
In another body of studies, researchers have shown the benefits of selenium on reduction of oxidative damage by enhancing the protective effects of Vitamin C, E and glutathione, mentioned above. Selenium is a mineral, which can be lost very easily in sweat as can magnesium and zinc.
It should be remembered therefore, that as the science becomes apparent, one should be taking antioxidant supplements which contain readily assimilated forms, but in my opinion not excessive amounts of these helpful nutrients. At the end of this information newsletter, I will recommend some favourite products that I choose for my clinic.
I would like to give you the basis for wise dietary choices for the athlete, based again on good science and not on hype or "flavour-of-the-month" wonder-cures. I approach all my work with a large bent to a "holistic" or health oriented protocol and not as a disease technician. On the other hand, there surely is a mountain of eclectic, unsubstantiated health claims out there that simply do not make any kind of biochemical/physical sense whatsoever. I have already discussed antioxidants and the role I believe they play. I am about to proceed onto diet and individual nutrients of concern for the athlete and endeavour to separate fact from fiction.
I think it is pretty obvious that exercise increases the demand for nutrients in the body and the amount is directly proportional to the energy expended.
First and foremost, for the athlete in particular (not that this information doesn’t apply to all people, because it does) the diet should be centred around complex carbohydrates – to the tune of about 40-60 % of calories. These are whole grains, fruit, pastas, starchy vegetable such as potatoes, carrots, peas and corn and legumes, i.e. beans, lentils etc. (the latter also supplies vegetarian protein). Protein – either animal or vegetable should be about 20% of the diet and good quality fats (minimizing saturated fats, i.e. animal based) should be about 25-30%. Nuts and Seeds are one of the best sources of "good fats".
A lot of hype exists around the question of protein levels in the heavy exerciser. Remember, muscles need glycogen for energy, this is a carbohydrate. Very high protein levels as mentioned before stresses the kidney and can cause damage and also tends to clog the colon by virtue of its lack of fibre. This tends to vary somewhat for the power muscle-builder where the calories required per day are over 3000. In this case the intake may have to rise to 150-200 gms per day. By balancing this athlete’s diet, they would still maintain complex carbohydrates at the 40-60% range. Young, still growing athletes may need slightly more protein than their adult counterparts, but in both cases the lower fat (25%) and carbohydrate (in the above ranges) is still maintained. Often it is better to use good-quality protein powders to add protein than to eat too much animal source protein, which tends by definition to have higher levels of fat in it.
As carbohydrates provide the storage molecule – glycogen – to the muscles, which in turn increases stamina, endurance and energy, some athletes use the concept of "carbohydrate-loading" just before competition to enhance their performance. The basic method in this is: four or five days before the competition, the contender increases exercise, while lowering complex carbohydrates to around 40-50%. They eat more protein and fats such as dairy if they can handle it, eggs and fruit. This causes a depletion of glycogen in the muscles and liver (where it is normally stored). The two to three days before, they increase the complex carbs. to 70or 75%, eating three large meals of complex carbs and some protein and fat, increasing glycogen in the muscles and liver. Glycogen is easily converted to energy during competition and is in good supply when needed. The body burns glycogen first, then fat after a time. This is also the biochemistry that explains why if you want to burn fat in your aerobic routines, you must work long enough to go through the body’s stores of glycogen first, then you will burn fat. An added bonus is that many athletes claim that carbohydrate loading also increases their sexual energy….not difficult to live with!
Fats, on the other hand are there for different reasons. They provide lubrication to the joints. Another and even more important function is the production of cell membranes, nerve wrappings and your hormones, including your own body’s production of its steroids. Quality is very important here. The essential fatty acids in particular need to be ingested as you cannot produce them. They are found in evening primrose oil, black currant oil, salmon oil, flax oil, foods such as olives, seeds, nuts, avocados, and good cooking oils such as canola, olive, peanut (for those not allergic), sunflower.
A good book, which tables grams of protein, carbohydrate, both simple and complex, and fat, saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated and monosaturated in food is required to calculate percentages of nutrients in the diet. From there it is easy to convert percentages of calories from the various groups. For example, you need to know that every gram of protein and carbohydrate supplies 4 calories and every gram of fat (any kind) supplies 9 calories. Therefore if a food has 10 gms of protein, 23 gms of carbohydrate and 5 gm of fat….the calculation goes like this…
10 x 4 =40 calories from protein
23 x 4 = 92 calories from carbohydrates
5 x 9 = 45 calories from fat.
Total Calories is 177 calories.
40/177 x 100 = 22.5% calories from protein
92/177 x 100 = 52% calories from carbohydrate
45/177 x 100 = 25% calories from fat
This food would then qualify as a "good" selection for health as the ratios fall into the suggested parameters of percentage of proteins/carbohydrates/fat. The only thing to check is that the carbohydrates come from complex carbohydrates and thereby supply the needed fibre and nutrients.
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VITAMINS,MINERALS, AND CO-FACTORS
A GUIDE TO CLINICAL SUPPLEMENTATION
While it is probably true that a good multiple/mineral supplement is nutritional insurance for the athlete, there is so much more to augmenting physical performance by looking at the individual nutrients and then weighing that against the individual’s health history.
Certain nutrients are required at higher levels after strenuous exercise..for example.. the B vitamins, B1, B2, B3 and pantothenic acid (B5) are lost very quickly during exercise. Minerals also are lost very easily in sweat, etc and if these become too low can contribute to faulty cellular metabolism and in particular, cramping of the muscles. So, let’s get specific and I’ll tell you about the individual nutrients and just what they do for you…..all the hokum aside…just the facts…..
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NUTRIENTS AND THEIR FUNCTION
Minerals are probably the most susceptible to fluctuations during exercise. I will discuss the individual on terms of function and suggested levels of daily intake.
It is interesting to note that 99% of a woman’s life long bone mass is established by just over 26 years of age. In men it is about 21 years. Therefore, training and exercising, particularly jogging and weight training before these ages will increase bone strength and mass for life. Researchers have shown that exercise definitely improves bone strength and assists in osteoporosis prevention, which by the way, men are also susceptible to.
Calcium is not just a "bone" mineral. It is a critical part of muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve transmission (the ability of the nerve impulse to jump from nerve to nerve all the way down a chain of them to get to its final destination, whether it is a muscle, blood vessel, organ, lymph vessel or any other structure in the body), blood clotting and cell wall strength.
I recommend 600mg. – 1,000 mg. per day in divided doses. In other words 200 mg. per time to keep the blood levels consistent throughout the day. Calcium carbonates are very poorly absorbed. My favourite is calcium citrate or other chelated types such as calcium gluconate, aspartate or lactate. Chelated simply means a mineral is bound to a well-absorbed substance, often an amino acid that enables your digestive system to absorb it more efficiently.
Taking it after exercise and before bed is probably the best time.
The list of magnesium’s functions is quite extensive. It, too aids in muscle performance and nerve conduction. It also improves bone quality. Unlike calcium though, it is needed in over 300 different enzyme reactions throughout your body where food is processed and new products are formed. Some of the key reactions are the formation of ATP, which is the energy molecule your body constantly produces to allow all life functions to be. It also is mandatory for the breaking down of glycogen (the storage form of glucose) to glucose so your body can use it for energy. Magnesium also helps regulate the cells’ membrane stability.
A word of caution though, magnesium overdoses of 500 mg. per day can cause intestinal distress in some people and acute diarrhea.
I usually suggest doses around 400 mg per day, again in divided dose.
Zinc, like magnesium is involved in hundreds of enzymatic functions, particularly as it applies to the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins and then supporting cell replication. Some of these are particularly involved in exercise metabolism.
Zinc has a part to play in the body’s production of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a very potent antioxidant, which combats the negative effects of free radicals.
Recommendations for zinc for women are about 15-30 mg. per day and for men 30-50 mg. Doses over 50 mg. can inhibit copper absorption. Where exercise is known to increase the amount of HDL (high density lipoprotein) or the "good" cholesterol in the blood, high doses (over 60mg.) of zinc can actually impede this positive effect. Doses over 160 mg. have been shown to stop the production of HDL all together.
Chromium is needed for glucose metabolism and some studies have shown it is a co-factor of insulin action. Insulin regulates the uptake of glucose from the blood into the cell, where it is used for energy production. It is another mineral, which is very susceptible to loss during exercise. Recent findings have suggested that it reduces fat mass in those who exercise regularly.
Recommended dose is 200 micrograms per day, 100 morning and evening. Amounts over 200 m gm. can induce iron deficiency.
Iron is particularly needed for the haemoglobin part of the red blood cell to carry oxygen, as part of the muscle protein myoglobin (gives muscle red colour and ability to contract and relax) and for energy and endurance. In female athletes, the red blood cells are broken down more easily. Let it be noted that about 15% of the world population is deficient to start with. Vegetarian female athletes are at high risk and must be very careful to eat high iron containing food. Absorption of iron from meat products and eggs is far more efficient.
Dosing for females should be around 20-25 mg. per day and in men 10-15mg. I prefer the iron citrate form both because it is better absorbed, but also it does not cause the constipation other forms do. Toxicity occurs at levels of 75 mg. or more leading to intestinal distress and constipation.
Potassium improves endurance and it, too, is lost easily in sweat. It has a role to play in muscle, nerve and heart function.
Eating potassium rich foods such as: bananas, cantaloupe, spinach, parsley, broccoli, peas, lima beans, whole grains, etc.
I would suggest 100-200 mg. after exercise.
Primarily needed for thyroid support, which controls your basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which you burn calories. With regular exercise, research shows that this rate increases.
You should be getting in your diet or by supplement, about 200m gm per day.
Manganese’s main functions fall into improvement of tissue strength and cellular performance.
In a supplement, you are looking for 10 mg. per day.
The B family of vitamins is particularly crucial during exercise because of their direct relationship to carbohydrate and protein production and usage. Vitamins B1, B2, B3. B5, (pantothenic acid) and B6 are used up very quickly in times of prolonged exertion.
B12 and folic acid (also in the B family) have roles in the production of red blood cells and then delivering oxygen to the tissues. Newer findings show that in some individuals, particularly those who are genetically predisposed, that these vitamins help to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Suggested amounts of supplementation are B1, 2,3.6, 50mg. –100mg. per day in divided dose. B5-closer to 1,000 mg. per day, B12 – 100 m gm and folic acid – 800-1,000 m gm per day.
Choline is a part of the B family. It contributes to production of neurotransmitters which are the biochemicals responsible for nerve impulse transmission from nerve to nerve and finally to muscle for contraction and relaxation. Studies shows that intense and long term exercise (over 73 minutes) produces 40-50% decline in the blood of choline.
It was found that 2 gm of the bitartrate or citrate form improved timing for long distance runners and swimmers. For less intense training, 500 mg/day decreases fatigue, increases vigour and endurance of performance.
Vitamins as Antioxidants:
As mentioned previously, Vitamin C, E, A, Beta-carotene, bioflavinoids and the mineral selenium act as antioxidants, combating the effects of free radical production throughout exercise. They act as an anti-inflammatory, reducing irritations and counteracting the loss of energy caused by these free radicals.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Supplementing with protein powders or individual amino acids has had various acceptances in the world of Sport Nutrition. Whatever you decide, the beneficial effects of amino acid supplementation is much better when they are taken just before or even better, directly after exercise. There are some baseline facts to keep in mind before deciding whether this is something you wish to add to your regime.
The amino acids should all be in the "L" form on the label. "D" or "DL" forms are just not utilized very well by your body. There are some 20 amino acids, eight of which are "essential". In other words, you must take them in, in your diet…your body cannot produce them.
Some of the amino acids of particular interest to the athlete are:
L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine – energizing
L-proline-helps in the manufacture of ligaments, tendons
L-carnitine-one of the few amino acids not used to build body tissue, but very important to heart function, assisting in weight loss and improving athletic performance. It also helps in the metabolism of fats to be used for energy during exercise.
L-lysine and L-arginine according to some sources improves exercise strength and endurance….one needs about 3 gms of arginine and 1 gm of lysine. If you are working very heavily every day, you can even take an extra 1 gm of each on retiring at night.
The branched chained amino acids (this refers to their physical structure and are called BCAA) comprise about one third of our muscle structure. These are essential amino acids and so taking 1-3 gm of each per day has an effect not unlike steroids in helping you build muscle bulk without all the negative effects of taking drugs. These must be taken together at the same time and ideally about ½ hour to ¾ hour before exercise. The addition of about 50mg of B6 is helpful to utilize these amino acids more effectively.
There are some amino acids which require special attention with regard to athletics and body function in general….these are ones which have been the subject of scientific studies and scrutiny in the past couple of years.
It is involved in a large number of metabolic processes such as balancing the acid-base situation in the body, regulating the production and breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, fuel for the cells of the intestinal tract and the immune system, and not the least – a component of protein. Extreme exercise depletes glutamine in the muscles, and if oxygen delivery is compromised, then glutamine in the heart muscle also lowers.
There is a wealth of evidence that athletes tend to suffer more from upper respiratory infections. When well supplied with glutamine, the cells of the immune system cope much better and these infections become far less of a problem.
It would appear that glutamine can be supplemented at the level of 3-5 gm per day without concern of ingesting too much.
As stated previously, exercise increases the amount of free radical production in the body. Glutamine is one of the building blocks of glutathione, a very powerful antioxidant. After heavy exercise, glutathione is consumed very rapidly, particularly in the red blood cells. Another particular amino acid, N-acetyl cysteine was shown to spare glutathione or protect it from becoming oxidized at such a high level. The athletes took 200 mg. of NAC, four times per day and an extra 800mg. just prior to an event. In other studies, NAC was reported to reduce muscle fatigue in humans. Alpha lipoic acid, another strong antioxidant and NAC have been shown to raise cellular levels of glutathione. Glutathione is very hard to absorb from oral supplements, although the ingestion at the same time of Vitamin C helps. Using an amino acid powder in the form of whey powder, high in cysteine and cystine two amino acids, which help to produce glutathione in the body, along with NAC and lipoic acid appears to be the best combination. One product I particularly like is Immunocal from Montreal, Canada. This whey product has been tested in various labs and studies for its ability to raise tissue glutathione with impressive results.
I would take one envelope per day of Immunocal, 800 mg. of NAC in divided doses as mentioned above and 200 mg. of lipoic acid, 100 mg. taken morning and bedtime.
Like glutathione, creatine is a tri-peptide. That is, it is made up of three amino acids – arginine, glycine and methionine. (glutathione is from cysteine, glycine and glutamine). It provides energy to the skeletal muscles (95% of the body’s creatine is found in the skeletal muscles). It is particularly useful in physical activity, which requires short, bursts of energy such as weight lifting, martial arts sprinting, and track and field. Creatine comes from the diet and supplementation and is very easily absorbed.
How does it work? Creatine exists in two different forms – free or unbound form or as creatine phosphate (2/3 of all creatine is in this form). When our muscles perform work, they need an energy molecule called ATP (adenosine triphospate) to come along and give up one of its phosphates and energy is produced. Unfortunately, this energy only lasts about 10 seconds. So more ATP is needed……but because this molecule has given up one phosphate, it is now called ADP (adenosine diphosphate), it is no longer energetic enough, so ATP must be re-made. Creatine phosphate comes along like the super hero, giving up its phosphate to reform ATP…and the cycle continues. The overall consequence here is that the more creatine in the tissues, the more ATP you remake and avoid another energy producing process using glycolysis which has as one of its end products – lactic acid which is responsible for that burning feeling one gets during hard exercise. If your creatine levels are higher, you can seriously reduce the amount of lactic acid you produce and then exercise longer and harder….building more muscle.
Because creatine encourages the production of the muscle proteins, actin and myosin, which are essential to contraction, an increased amount in your system, you increase your body's ability to do physical work.
Normally a person weighing about 150 lbs. has about 120 gms (just over 4 ounces) of creatine in their body’s muscle tissues (there is no creatine in fat stores). It is available in moderate quantities in beef, pork, salmon, tuna, cod and herring, but these foods also contain substantial amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol, which are of course unwanted in the diet in very large amounts. So the best and safest way to increase creatine is to supplement with creatine monohydrate.
Creatine was also shown to help prevent the muscle wasting commonly seen in aging as well as aiding the lowering of blood fats and cholesterol.
The dosing of creatine has many perspectives. Some athletes like to "load" it, which takes about 5-7 days of supplementing about 20 gms per day to saturate the muscle tissues. Loading definitely should not last anymore than the few days as the muscles can only absorb so much…the rest will start after about day 4 to come out in your urine….so you are literally " piddling" your money away. There is another, more serious consideration, here though. Excessive creatine is very hard on your liver and kidneys, which have to metabolize and excrete the excess.
Your average daily intake will probably be around 12 – 15 gms depending on the intensity of your exercise and the amount of muscle building you intend to do and of course how ballistic your training/sport is. A rounded tsp is usually 5 gms. In the loading phase one should not take in more than 5 gm at a time and you need at least ½ litre of water with each dose. More is better.
Obviously the more you build muscle mass, the more creatine your body can store and use. You will burn off some in your workout, so you will need to compensate for that. On average each kilo of muscle (2.2 lbs) contains about 4 gms of creatine.
Once you have loaded the muscles, you only need to maintain this. Cutting back to 2-5 gm per day may be enough. Creatine is odourless and virtually tasteless. If you open the can and it has an odour, chances are there are impurities in it. Return it and don’t use it. Taking it with fruit juices is a good idea because the transport of creatine into the muscles involves insulin and the juices stimulate its secretion. It dissolves very easily and so is simple to take.
Some authorities have recommended that you not take creatine with citrus juice, because of its acidity, but in fact the acid in your stomach is far stronger and it survives it. The one thing to avoid is caffeine (even in cola drinks and chocolate) as this does interfere with its absorption.