Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

Like any other busy family living in Toronto, my wife and I were finding it tough to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals every week that we won’t find boring and repetitive. Add to that our toddler who’s seems to start eating as much as we do!

So we were looking and asking around for options. We tried buying food from small Filipino restaurants/catering service for a few weeks, but realized soon enough that they serve the same meals every week, which tend to be fatty, salty, or both (don’t get me wrong, they were yummy!).

Then a friend gladly referred my wife to a farm-to-table service by Good Food, Canada and what they do is they send fresh ingredients every week based on recipes that you choose to make delicious, five-star meals at home.

To be honest, we were hesitant at first because the recipes were unfamiliar to us, and we weren’t sure if the servings will be good enough, especially for the very affordable cost per week. I thought high-quality, fresh ingredients that are used to make premium recipes would cost more!

But we gave it a try for a week, and they truly delivered! (pun intended)

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I was really impressed when I opened our first box and saw how they carefully packaged each ingredient, labelled them, and portioned each one to the EXACT amount we would need for cooking!

This made it a ton easier to prepare and cook each meal, and we were able to save time for other things we have to do through the day.

Preparing the ingredients this way reduces food waste as well, because we get to use ALL of the prepared ingredients for each recipe.

What I like personally is how each recipe shows the approximate calorie content of each serving! So if you are overwhelmed about counting calories in each meal, this is definitely right for you!

The estimated time to prepare and cook each recipe is also indicated in the professionally printed recipe cards so you can plan other things-to-do around your cook time.

Each recipe is curated by their team of chefs, and the well-balanced, healthy ingredients are portioned out for easy cooking. These raw and fresh ingredients can last for over a week if refrigerated after unboxing. I was worried that no one would be home to receive our first box, but I was happy to see that the package had insulated liners and biodegradable ice packs to make sure that the ingredients stay fresh in the box for 24 to 48 hours. Each and every food container were recyclable, so literally nothing goes to waste!

Cooking with Good Food ingredients was a different, fun experience. Trying out new recipes is definitely exciting for me, and knowing that I can cook with these five-star ingredients in 20 to 40 minutes make me feel like a Master Chef in the kitchen! What a way to impress the family!

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In terms of getting fit and healthy, I know that nutrition is the TOUGHEST part. Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or just improve your everyday performance, what you eat plays a big role in how and when you reach your goals!

Getting a farm-to-table premium service from Good Food may be the answer to make your calorie management easier, doable and consistent.
Their ingredients fresh from the farm are nutritious and well-balanced so that you can enjoy a healthy, home-cooked meal without worrying about counting calories.

You don’t need to be an experienced Cook to put together and prepare these sumptuous recipes, but cooking their five-star ingredients and recipes will make you feel like an Expert Chef!

Each subscription is good for one week and you can select how many meals and servings you want each week. You can “skip” weeks if you have other food plans or if you’re going away, so your budget remains flexible and manageable as well. There are vegetarian options, too, and I like how they all have balanced protein, carbs and fats.

I can’t keep telling you how tasty the food was, but what I can do is give you a $40.00 off on your first order and try it out for yourself!

The cut-off for each subscription is Wednesday, and each box arrives on a Monday.

If you are someone who wants to eat exciting, easy to prepare, and yummy meals made from fresh ingredients that are well-balanced and nutritious so that you can save time for more important stuff and not worry about counting calories, then take this offer to get $40.00 off on your first box by clicking HERE.

 

Let me know how it goes!

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Talk to you soon!

carbsCarbohydrates are one of the three major macronutrients that the body needs for proper functioning. It is the body’s main fuel not just to move those muscles, but most importantly to keep your brain working. Many fad diets promote carbohydrate depletion and carbohydrate fasting, which is contradictory to the essential purpose of this macronutrient. It is important to understand what the uses of carbohydrates in the body are and how the body utilizes carbohydrates to maximize this efficient fuel source.

How does the body use Carbohydrates?
The body uses carbohydrates for various and important functions. Primarily, carbohydrates are important for brain functioning. The brain exclusively uses the blood sugar glucose – the type of carbohydrate found inside the body – for its normal functioning, and the body does well to balance blood sugar levels to keep the brain fueled. Carbohydrates are also used by skeletal muscles for contraction and by smooth muscles of internal organs. The body mainly uses carbohydrates for high intensity exercises. Without carbohydrates to fuel movement, the body will look for other sources of energy which is usually protein converted into glucose. The body breaks down protein in the liver to produce the needed fuel if you do not have enough carbohydrates in your diet. Sufficient carbohydrate supply keeps the liver from using protein as an energy source so that protein can be used for more important functions in tissue growth, maintenance, and repair.  Last but not the least, carbohydrates are the key to fat oxidation in the Krebs cycle. The body needs energy from carbohydrates to start up its engine that burns fat for fuel. This means that the body cannot burn fat if you deprive yourself of carbohydrates.

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What are the types of Cabohydrates?
With regards to Carbohydrate consumption, it is the structure of these chemical compounds that determine how the body uses it. Understanding the types of Carbohydrates is important to know which ones are needed for quick recovery, maintain balanced energy in the body during competition, or which ones are best for general health.

Carbohydrates can simply be divided into two:

1.) Simple Carbohydrates (Monosaccharides and Disaccharides)
It is the chemical structure of Carbohydrates that dictates how it is absorbed by the body. Glucose is a monosaccharide that is used by human cells and can be easily absorbed by the body from your diet, broken down from more complex types, or produced by the liver through the process called gluconeogenesis. Other monosaccharides are fructose and galactose.
Oligosaccharides are composed of 2 to 10 monosaccharides that are bonded together. Examples of oligosaccharides are table sugars or sucrose, maltose, and lactose. Sucrose can be abundantly found in processed food. Other oligosaccharides are milk sugars or lactose, and grain sugars or maltose.
Food sources for simple sugars are table sugars, corn syrup, fruits, malt igredients, honey, and other sweeteners.

2.) Complex Carbohydrates 
Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides which means that its chemical component is compound consisting from 10 to thousands of monosaccharides. In practical application this simply means that generally, the body breaks down complex carbohydrates at a much slower pace than simple carbohydrates. Starch and fiber are sources for complex carbohydrates from plants and glycogen is from animals. Complex carbohydrates usually refer to starch which can be derived from eating bread, cereal, pasta peas and beans, potatoes, and pastries. Fiber is a non-starch and non-digestible complex carbohydrate that can be derived from eating food like leafy vegetables, fruit coverings, oats, brown rice, and wheat bran.

Eatig a high-fiber diet does not directly affect sports performance but it promotes general health and prevents chronic diseases.

When to consume Carbohydrates? Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates

So when should you eat simple carbohydrates and when should you eat complex carbohydrates?

A good way to determine which kind of carbohydrate to eat is to know its Glycemic Index. Basically, the Glycemic Index (GI) of a food tells how fast the food source is processed and absorbed by the body. Sugars in most sports drink or soda have a high GI which means that the body absorbs them quickly. It was mentioned before that generally, complex carbohydrates are broken down at a much slower pace than simple carbohydrates, but it also depends on the GI of the food.

It is best to consume simple carbohydrates with high GI after a long or intense physical activity or when your energy is depleted from exercising. Simple carbohydrates can be easily absorbed by the body and replenish lost energy stores. Also for long-duration athletes like runners or marathoners, consuming high-glycemic carbohydrates is essential in maintaining their blood glucose level during their endurance events or training.

Complex carbohydrates with low GI are ideal to be eaten in between exercise or training sessions to promote energy storage. Note again that not all complex carbohydrates have low GI. Also, cooking or processing of food changes the chemical structure of carbohydrate sources. It is better to eat unprocessed carbohydrates to maximize its benefits.

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How much Carbs should I eat?
The daily requirements for each macronutrient depends on your age, gender, height, weight, and even physical activity. Generally, 45 to 65% of total daily calories should come from Carbohydrates. Athletes need to replace lost energy from training and they may require up to 70% of calories from carbohydrates in a day! Since carbohydrates are the main fuel for your brain and muscles you definitely need much of it every day even if you are not involved in any sport.

Unlike Protein and Fats, there are no minimum daily recommended allowance for Carbohydrates. This is because the body can generate fuel from other sources apart from Carbohydrates but remember that this may mean breaking down muscle protein and deprives your brain of energy. Generally, 180 to 300 grams of Carbohydrate is enough to fuel your day. If you take part in intense physical activities such as sports, you might need to consume up to 400 grams per day to replace lost fuel.

Carbohydrate Tips:

  • If there is such a thing as a nutritional secret, then that would be balance. Eat a balanced diet composed of simple and complex carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These are macronutrients that your body needs for fuel, repair, and proper functioning.
  • Choose organic or unprocessed foods for your fuel source. Processing alters the chemical composition of food which not only lessens the health benefits of the food but sometimes may even cause other negative effects such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • Before and during high intensity activities, consume carbohydrates with high Glycemic Index to provide fuel for your work out.
  • In between exercise bouts, consume carbohydrates with low Glycemic Index to maintain your blood sugar and keep your body fueled for the next work outs.
  • If you are trying to lose weight, it is not wise to undergo carbohydrate depletion or fasting. Think about losing fat, and not merely losing weight – there is a big difference. Remember that your body needs carbohydrates to burn fat, and you burn fat through exercise. If you want to limit your carbohydrate consumption, consume at least 70 grams of carbohydrates per day to keep your brain fueled.
  • Talk to your nutritionist or dietitian for more understanding on carbohydrate consumption and what will work best for you.

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On a previous post, you can read about what protein is, what its uses are, and how the body metabolizes protein or breaks it down for energy. This is Part 2 of this couple of posts on Protein Nutrition.
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fresh-organic-farm-eggsIt is important to know the basics of what Protein is, not only for a better understanding of what you are consuming or eating, but more importantly to know how to fuel your body for repair and improved function. Food rich in protein, when ingested, takes time and travels a long way before it is digested, absorbed, and used by the body. Excess protein is processed again to be excreted by the body. It is essential to know which protein sources provide the complete amino acids that your body needs at a specific time, without taxing your body from processing excess protein.

Read about Amino Acids here

This article aims to enumerate the common and best sources of protein and rank them according to their quality and how quickly they can be absorbed by the body. I included the advantages and disadvantages for each protein source so that you can decide which one fits you for your specific goal in a specific time. These ingredients can be found in food but are usually the main ingredients that are used for protein supplements. Note that the sources below refers to the protein ingredient from food sources and not to the actual dietary food that we see everyday (for example, egg protein refers to ovalbumin, the protein extracted from egg whites) unless indicated.

Read here about the 31 Healthy Portable Protein Snacks from Greatist

How do you measure the quality of Protein sources?
A laboratory method of determining the quality of a protein source is called the Protein Digestibility- Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The PDCAAS of a protein is internationally recognized as the best method to compare sources of Protein. If a protein source has a PDCAAS of 1.0, it means that it exceeds the essential amino acids requirement of the body and is an excellent source of protein.

Another method is called the Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER). PER is determined by comparing the weight gain of rats that were fed a particular protein against a standard protein source (egg whites).

In general, gelatin (collagen) protein and wheat protein relatively has poor quality. Meat and fish sources are moderately high-quality sources of protein. The sources of protein that have the highest quality are soy, egg, milk, whey, and bovine colostrum protein and they will be discussed and enumerated for comparison below.

EGG PROTEIN (ovalbumin)
This is the fundamental protein source that we all know of. If you are a regular gym goer, yomay have heard of some big bulky guy in your local gym who gulps a dozen raw egg whites for body building. Drinking raw egg whites may sound crazy (I think it is) but it may be reasonable because egg protein is the standard of comparison or the reference point to compare and rate the quality of the other types of proteins.


Advantages of Egg Protein
Egg protein is actually extracted from whole eggs or primarily from chocken egg whites through various techniques. Studies have shown that egg protein is as effective as milk protein, casein, and whey in nitrogen retention to make lean tissue. Also, egg protein can be readily available for your daily consumption from egg whites.

Disadvantages of Egg Protein
Processing egg protein to produce ovalbumin can be expensive, and its use for the production of supplements has been reduced.

PER- 2.8
PDCAAS- 1.00

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MILK PROTEIN
Milk protein has 80% casein and 20% protein. It is commonly used in supplements because milk protein is relatively cheaper. However, milk sources for protein vary in fat content and total calories, so better check the labels first and compare with other milk products if you are considering milk for your protein source.

Advantages of Milk Protein
One cup of milk provides about 8 grams of protein. Milk is a fairly good source of both essential and conditionally essential amino acids. If you are lactose intolerant, you can have skim milk as an alternative, which is also a good source not just of protein but also carbohydrate.

Studies have actually shown that milk before or during (and both) exercise is an effective sport drink. Also, drinking milk after exercise encourages protein synthesis.

Disadvantages of Milk Protein
Milk sources for protein generally contains a higher amount of fat and total calories compared to other sources. Milk protein is also digested and absorbed more slowly by the body. Also, some people may be lactose intolerant which eliminates milk from their options for protein sources.

PER- 2.8
PDCAAS- 1.00



WHEY PROTEIN
Whey protein is one of the most familiar and may be the most used nutritional supplement for active individuals. There can be different ways that whey protein is processed and manufactured and it affects the fat and lactose content of the product. Some proteins found in whey also bind with vitamins and minerals, therefore making it a very useful protein source even for nutrient metabolism.

Advantages of Whey Protein
Compared to other proteins, whey protein can be digested faster and is often perceived as a protein having a high quality. Some studies have also shown that whey protein may offer additional health benefits compared to casein (another protein found in milk) such as improving the immune system and preventing cancer.

Disadvantages of Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the high-quality protein sources, but it is also a more expensive protein source. Differences in processing whey protein also slightly affects its amino acid, fat, and lactose content.

PER- 3.0 to 3.2
PDCAAS- 1.00

CASEIN
Casein protein or caseinates is another protein processed from milk. Caseinates are extracted from skim milk and can be produced as sodium, potassium, and calcium caseinates. They are common ingredients in commercial supplements.

Advantages of Casein Protein
Casein is a high-quality protein source and is a very inexpensive source of protein. Supplements that have casein as its main ingredient may be relatively cheaper compared to other products, depending on its quality, taste, and how it is manufactured. Also, casein is absorbed slower by the body but this makes it produce a prolonged increase in amino acids. A notable advantage when comparing casein to whey is that casein prevents muscle breakdown (catabolism) which adds to better muscle recovery and faster adaptations to exercise and training.

Disadvantages of Casein Protein
Generally, casein is absorbed by the body much slower compared to other protein sources. It does not mix well with liquid and tends to clump, which can be an issue when it goes to your stomach. If you are in a competition and you already have butterflies in your tummy, casein protein may not be a good choice.

PER- 2.9
PDCAAS- 1.00


SOY PROTEIN
Most people may be surprised that soy is actually a high-quality protein source. Its scores are similar to that of fish and meat, and just slightly lower than egg, milk, and other high-quality protein sources. Most importantly for vegetarians, soy protein is considered the best choice for their protein source.

Advantages of Soy Protein
Compared to other dietary sources like milk, meat, and eggs, soy protein is a low-fat vegetable source for protein. It can contribute to lower cholesterol levels and displaces food that are high in saturated fat. For women, soy may serve as an alternative nutrition for estrogen hormone. I once had a male client who did not want to drink soy milk because he heard from his gym that it can cause the chest muscles to increase in size but in an undesirable manner and even sag (i.e., man boobs). To explain this, soybeans have isoflavones which bind to estrogen (a specific female hormone) receptors and this binding producing estrogen-like effects. Men need not to be fearful of soy protein because men doesn’t have estrogen receptors and are unaffected by this subtle chemical reaction. To quote the book, “Little if any research exists to document negative outcomes in males ingesting soy protein in terms of training adaptations.”

Disadvantages of Soy Protein
Soy protein is not a complete protein source as it lacks the amino acid methionine. For some people, the taste of pure soy milk products can be a factor. Also, you should also check the labels on flavoured soy milk products regarding its fat and total calorie content.

PER- 1.8 to 2.3
PDCAAS- 1.00

BOVINE COLOSTRUM
Bovine Colostrum is a pre-processed milk liquid that is derived from cows during the first 48 hours after giving birth. It is mainly processed as a supplement (unless you dare drink directly from a cow’s udder) for commercial protein products.

Advantages of Bovine Colostrum
Bovine colostrum has more nutrients than traditional dairy milk and also has a higher quality of protein. It also has other benefits such as improving the immune system, balancing insulin, and antibacterials which cannot be found in other proteins. Bovine colostrum has been marketed as a unique and high-quality protein source that promotes growth and enhances the immune system.

Disadvantages of Bovine Colostrum
There are only producers and dairy farms that market bovine colostrum. There also are major differences in processing bovine colostrum products. You also have to pay a little more for supplements containing bovine colostrum. More research may be needed to determine if it is a better source to whey protein.

PER- 3.0
PDCAAS- 1.00

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SUMMARY

  • Ovalbumin, the protein found in egg whites, is the standard for comparing protein quality
  • The two highest-quality sources of protein are Whey and Bovine Colostrum.
  • The ingredients in protein supplements can be found in dietary food. The body digests and absorbs protein differently compared to other food like carbohydrates and fats, so consuming protein supplements may be beneficial for better absorption.
  • Since most of these protein ingredients can be found in dietary food, it may be more prudent to eat a healthy balanced diet instead of taking in supplements especially if you are not a competitive or professional athlete.
  • Knowing the PER and PDCAAS rating of each ingredient would help you choose and decide which protein supplement works best for your individual needs and goals.
  • The way these protein sources are processed to be manufactured as ingredients for protein supplements may affect its quality.

Click here to read about Proteins.

therabandWe all know that we need to eat protein, but what is it? How does protein help someone gain weight or build muscle? How much protein should you eat? And most importantly, what are the sources of Protein for maximum results? I am writing a two-part article with the first part aiming to simplify what protein is and how the body uses it (without getting too nerdy) and the second part enumerating the different protein sources for the body.

Read Misconceptions About Protein Supplements here:

What is Protein?
Protein is one of the six essential nutrients that the body needs for daily functioning. The essential nutrients are those that the body needs to take in from outside sources, that is the food that we eat. Non-essential nutrients are those that the body can produce by itself. Proteins are made up of amino acids, a term that you may have heard of before that is usually associated with Protein. Simply put, amino acids are the building blocks, that is, the smaller chemicals that composes the structure of Protein. Smaller chemicals are called Peptides, but as promised, this article won’t be nerdy.

Proteins can be found in every cell of the body and is used for a myriad of very important purposes.

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What are the uses of Protein?
Proteins are found in every cell of the body and serve various important purposes:

  • Proteins are needed for the growth and repair of our body’s tissues and cells.
  • Proteins are involved in a variety of metabolic and hormonal activities. For example, Enzymatic proteins in the digestive system helps break down food. Hormonal proteins help control your blood sugar concentration.
  • Other proteins are used for nerve cell signaling processes.
  • The antibodies of our immune system which help fight infections and foreign substances are also made up of proteins.
  • Proteins move important molecules in our body such as the protein hemoglobin which transports oxygen through the blood.
  • Proteins compose the actin and myosin filaments, the cells in our muscles which are responsible for muscular contraction.
  • And lastly, proteins are needed by our cardiac muscle — the muscles in our heart.

One more notable use of protein is that during fasting, the body uses the protein from our muscles to produce energy. This means that if your diet has insufficient carbohydrate and fat for energy, or if you refuse to eat 2 to 3 days to lose weight, your body will resort to the best way to produce its needed energy to survive carbohydrate and fat deprivation, which is to break down protein.


What makes up the proteins in our body?
As I have said earlier, amino acids are the building blocks of Protein. There are twenty-two different kinds of amino acids that the body uses to make proteins which includes eight essential amino acids; and again ‘essential‘ means that the body cannot produce it on its own and should get it from outside sources. These are the eight essential amino acids:


            1. Isoleucine
            2. Leucine
            3. Lysine
            4. Methionine
            5. Phenylalanine
            6. Theronine
            7. Tryptophan
            8. Valine

Don’t be too blown away by the names of these amino acids. Being familiar with them may be helpful especially when you want to know which sources of protein is better, or which supplement would work best for you. Apart from the eight essential amino acids, there are seven conditionally essential amino acids. These are amino acids that the body has difficulty in processing (nerdy term: synthesizing) so they usually are needed to be obtained from your diet as well to make sure that you’re getting enough. The seven conditionally essential amino acids are:


            1. Arginine
            2. Cysteine (cystine)
            3. Glutamine
            4. Histidine
            5. Proline
            6. Taurine
            7. Tyrosine


What are the kinds of protein that we can eat?
Protein sources from our diet are also classified into two. Dietary protein can be a complete source of protein or an incomplete source of protein. A complete source of protein means that it contains adequate amounts of the essential amino acids. Animal sources such as meat, fish, and poultry contain all essential amino acids and are thus considered complete sources of protein. Incomplete sources of protein are food sources that lack some of the essential amino acids, such as vegetables, red beans, and nuts.

Also, these protein sources vary with the quality of protein it contains depending on its amino acid profile and how the protein is easily digested. This helps determine which kind of protein source or supplement produce good quality proteins.

How does our body digest and absorb protein?
Protein digestion (the breakdown of food into smaller components) and absorption (the process of absorbing the nutrients into the body) is also valuable to note. The body digests carbohydrates and fats as soon as you put the food into your mouth and the enzymes in your saliva breaks them down. However for proteins, digestion does not begin until the food reaches your stomach and the acids in your stomach breaks them down. Then the amino acids are absorbed through the wall of the small intestine. After being absorbed by the small intestine, they are transported through the blood to the liver to be utilized by the body. This means that dietary protein sources travel a long way first and takes several hours for the body to be able to use it.

In application, after a long or intense bout of physical activity, your body would need sufficient protein supply to replace the broken down protein from your exercise or sports training. If you fail to replenish your amino acids, or if you fail to eat sufficiently after your workout, you are already depriving your body of its protein needs. The body digests protein for several hours, but once these amino acids are available, they can freely enter the blood and are cleared within 5 to 10 minutes. This gives you reason to drink that chocolate milk soon after your workout or take in an extra amino acid supplement.

How much Protein does our body need?
Can we eat too much Protein? The answer is yes. We can actually ingest too much protein and it may be detrimental for our body. Note that the cells of our body only uses the amount of amino acids that they need for a certain time. The unused amino acids are processed again (called deamination) which eventually leads to that processed amino acid being required to be excreted by the body. This all happens in the liver where the deaminated amino acid is converted into ammonia. Ammonia then is converted into urea which travels through the blood and is finally removed from the body by the kidneys in the urine.

The easiest way to know how much you need is to calculate your body weight with the recommended dietary allowance. As a standard, children ages 11 to 14 years need 1.0 g/kg of body weight per day; adolescents 15 to 18 years of age needs 0.8 to 0.9 g/kg of body weight per day; and adults need 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day. This means that if you are a 75 kg adult male, you need (0.8 g x 75 kg) 60 grams of protein per day. If you are a 50 kg adult female, you need 40 grams of protein per day. Here are some references for better understanding of how much these values are in food (source: www.cdc.gov):

  • 1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.
  • A 3 ounce piece of meat has around 20 grams of protein. Four ounces of meat is like a deck of cards, so 3 ounces would be 3/4 of that deck of cards.
  • 1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein.
  • An 8-ounce container of yogurt has about 11 grams of protein.

Other factors such as pregnancy, obesity, and exercise affects the protein requirements of the body. It is proven that intense exercise increases the body’s protein needs. Athletes are recommended to consume 1.5 to even up to 2.0 g/kg of body weight of protein per day to make sure that the body receives enough protein supply. Generally, the more intense the physical activity, the higher the amount of protein is needed by the body. Moderate intensity exercises would require a lower amount of protein from this range. Aerobic activities also require sufficient protein replenishment that is higher than the average recommendations. Ingesting amino acids after an intense workout, then can help the body replenish its protein requirements quickly as amino acids can be readily absorbed and used by the body.



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In Summary:

  • Protein is one of the six essential nutrients that the body needs for daily functioning. This means that protein can only be obtained by the body through ingesting food sources.
  • Protein is used by the body for different important purposes.
  • Some food sources are complete sources of protein and some are incomplete. It is best therefore to have a balanced diet that provides all the essential amino acids and other nutrients that are needed by the body.
  • Proteins are composed of amino acids which takes a long time to be processed by the body. Our food sources for protein then should have good quality so that the body can replenish its protein supply effectively.
  • Check the Recommended Daily Allowances for Protein to know how much protein you will need on average.
  • Intense physical activities require athletes to consume more protein than the recommended average.

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My next post will be about the sources of protein and how they rate as your option.

Also check out my post about the effects of Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements for performance.

Visit my Articles page for more nerdy posts. 🙂

Reference: NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition. National Strength and Conditioning Association. Campbell and Spano. 2011.

The prevalence of various supplements and ergogenic aids today can be very confusing not just for the recreational athlete, but even for seasoned competitors who aim to improve their performance. The supplement industry is taking advantage of the increasing number of people who are now more conscious about their health. While some are clinically backed by science to deliver results (glutamine, creatine and protein), other supplements have received skepticism on whether they really work or whether they simply produce a ‘placebo effect.’ Some pills offer almost all of the performance enhancements that you can think of, and you can be quite sure that if a product does that, it’s definitely false. Still, there are supplements such as Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which are proven by science to be beneficial to performance.

What are Branched Chain Amino Acids?
Branch chain amino acids or BCAA’s are composed of three essential amino acids namely leucine, valine, and isoleucine. Essential amino acids are nutrients that can only be derived from food such as especially meat, dairy products, and legumes. On the other hand, non-essential amino acids can be produced by the body. ‘Branch chain‘ refers to the chemical structure of these three essential amino acids.

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What are the known uses of BCAA’s?
Branch chain amino acids have been used in medicine for treatments of various diseases which includes brain conditions due to liver disease, a movement disorder called tardive dyskineseia, and to treat poor appetite in kidney and cancer patients. It is also being used to help slow muscle degeneration in patients who are confined to bed.

BCAA’s are also known to prevent fatigue and improve concentration. Athletes have been using Branch chain amino acids to improve exercise performance by reducing protein and muscle breakdown during intense training.


Are BCAA supplements effective or are they just a waste of time (and money)?
A study has proven that although BCAA’s does not directly enhance athletic performance, they still produce a postive effect on muscle recovery and the immune system. According to the study, “Data show that BCAA supplementation before and after exercise has beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis. Muscle damage develops delayed onset muscle soreness: a syndrome that occurs 24-48 h after intensive physical activity that can inhibit athletic performance.

Another study performed by Green et al (2007) observed the effects of BCAA supplementation on endurance exercise through measuring blood samples. 9 untrained men performed 3 series of 90 minute bouts of cycling at 55% of VO2 max. They performed the cycling bout once with BCAA’s, once with a carbohydrate drink, and once with a non calorie containing drink.

Blood samples were taken at 4, 24 and 48 hours following exercise. The study showed that the blood samples of those who took BCAA’s had lower accumulation of waste products, which minimized soreness for the cyclists.

These studies suggest BCAA’s could certainly benefit sportsmen and gym goers by buffering waste product accumulation in muscles, thus preserving muscle tissue and promoting quicker recovery.
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When should BCAA’s be taken or ingested?
Branch chain amino acids are usually taken prior to exercise or training. BCAA’s are ‘free form,’ which means that they do not require much time to be digested. The contents of your supplement should contain 50% leucine, 25% isoleucine, and 25% valine. BCAA’s should be taken with water before and after training, and even with any other pre or post workout supplement. For those who aim to build muscle mass, BCAA’s can be taken with whey protein for faster absorption and for additional nutrients.

According to consumerlab.com, there is no apparent toxicity or danger associated with BCAA supplementation. They recommend anywhere from 1 to 12 grams.

Should I take BCAA’s?

The benefits of Branch chain amino acid supplements are proven to be effective. However, before you take BCAA’s or any supplements, talk to your coach, sports nutritionist, or doctor for advise. Know your goals – Why are you participating in exercise or training? Are you aiming to be a bodybuilder? Are you going to compete in a race? BCAA is an answer to the question ‘What supplements can help improve my performance?‘ or ‘What can help build my muscles?‘ but other factors should be considered. For any supplements, don’t take them for vague reasons unless you really need it and you are advised to take it. Remember that sometimes, eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest could do a lot more than taking a supplement.

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Athletic supplements such as Branch chain amino acids do have a role and are effective ergogenic aids, but like any other aspect of your training, taking supplementation should match your goals.

Did you know that according to top10supplements.com, the best BCAA supplement is Optimum Nutrition?

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Source:
Green B.K, Woodard J.L, White J.P, Arguelle E.M, Haymes E.M., (2007). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of muscle damage after endurance exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exercise Metabolism; 17(6): 595-607

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If you’re training for a Triathlon, Marathon, or any endurance event for that matter, what should you eat to fuel your training?
 

 

Your diet can make or break your goals. The Low Carbohydrate Diet For Triathletes by Ben Greenfield shows the committed Triathlete which are the best low-carbohydrate food to eat. Remember that what you eat while you train is just as important as how you’re training. Training for a triathlon will push your body to the max, so you have to make sure that your body gets enough energy to sustain your training until race day while maintaining your target weight.

Ben Greenfield summed it up this way:

In a nutshell, pun intended, as you begin to increase carbohydrate consumption above the levels that you need for survival or periods of intense physical activity, you lose your ability to rely on fat burning mechanisms, and you experience the damaging effects of chronically elevated blood sugars, including neuropathy (nerve damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), retinnopathy (eye damage), increased cardiovascular disease risk, potential for cancer progression (tumor cells feed on sugar) and bacterial or fungal infection.

So if the dangers of a low carb diet that I talked about didn’t deter you, and you’re bent on banning bread, take heart. There is a way to do a The Low Carbohydrate Diet For Triathletes
low carbohydrate diet the right way. Here are 10 ways to eat a low carbohydrate diet while avoiding common mistakes.

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1. Time Carbohydrates Wisely.

This one is a biggie, so we’ll start with it. One of the main reasons for eating a low carbohydrate diet is because your blood sugar levels stay far more stabilized. But there is a time that you can consume carbohydrate without causing your blood sugar levels to go on a roller coaster ride – and that time is immediately before, during, or after exercise.

So if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, I highly recommend carbohydrate intake for exercise sessions that are 1) intense; 2) involve weight training; 3) are longer than 2 hours in duration.

Although many folks use this as an excuse to eat more carbs than they should there is certainly truth to the fact that “fat burns in the flame of carbohydrate” – meaning if you are constantly carb depleted due to zero calories of glucose intake, you can shut down your body’s natural fat burning capabilities. So if you’re planning on exercising, try get at least 500-600 calories of carbohydrate per day, and eat them before, during or after your exercise session if you want them to not affect your blood sugars levels in a potentially damaging way.

2. Take Into Consideration Your Body Fat Levels.

If you’re fat, you’re going to have more fat to burn. Look down at your waistline. Do you have layers of fat that you can grab? A beer belly? Muffin-tops? All of that is fat that can be mobilized if you are on a low carbohydrate diet. But if your body fat is under 7-8% as a male, or in the low teens as a female, then it is highly likely that you’re going to struggle with a consistently low carbohydrate intake – specifically during exercise sessions.

So if I have a client who is 30% body fat, I have no issues with that client staring at the ceiling awake at night craving carbohydrates as their body mobilizes fat tissue for energy, and I generally continue to advise them to watch their carb intake. But if that person is 6% body fat, it is far more likely that they’re going to need that extra fat for insulation or essential fat stores, in which case it might be a good idea to go slam a bowl of rice.

SHOP3. Don’t Eat Processed Crap.

I mentioned this in my last article that typical “low carbohydrate” meal replacement bars and shakes, ice creams or ice cream sandwiches, and other low carb or sugar-free snacks often contain potentially unhealthy ingredients like maltitol, and are chock full of preservatives and highly processed ingredients. If your low carbohydrate diet involves boxed, wrapped and packaged food, it probably falls into this category.

Get this through your head – whether a food is low carbohydrate or not, if it is something you see advertised on TV, magazines, or newspapers you probably shouldn’t eat it. If it’s something you can easily recognize and identify where it grew and how it go to your plate, it probably is OK to eat.

This means that avocados are cool. Guacamole from your grocery store that has (and this is a popular brand):

Skim Milk, Soybean Oil, Tomatoes, Water, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut Oil, Safflower and/or Corn Oil), Eggs, Distilled Vinegar, Avocado Pulp, Onions, Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk, Egg Yolks, Lactic Acid, Sugar, Whey, Sodium Caseinate, Mono and Diglycerides, Gelatin, Soy Protein Isolate, Xanthan Gum, Corn Starch, Guar Gum, Mustard Flour, Black Pepper, Red Chili Pepper, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Added to Retard Spoilage), Coriander, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Cellulose Gel, Cellulose Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Disodium Phosphate, Cilantro, Gum Arabic, Extractives of Garlic and Black Pepper, Paprika Oil, Oregano, Thyme, Bay Leaf, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid, Dextrose, Artificial Color (FD&C Blue No. 1, FD&C Red No. 40, FD&C Yellow No. 5, FD&C Yellow No. 6).

is not cool. This is just one example, but I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what I’m getting at. Eat real food – not processed crap.

4. Inject Carbohydrate Loading Days.

This is another biggie. Long term carbohydrate deprivation leads to a complete depletion of your body’s storage glycogen levels, depression of your immune system, decrease in metabolic function, and a host of other issues that you may be able to put up with if you’re content to lie around on the couch, but that you’re guaranteed to get completely destroyed by if you’re planning on regular physical activity or competition like Crossfit, triathlon or marathon.

LowCarbDietTriath2502

Fortunately, there’s an easy fix, and this is a big part of my new book “Low Carbohydrate Guide For Triathletes”: simply inject strategic carbohydrate re-feeding days into your exercise routine, either the day before your biggest workout day of the week or the day of your biggest workout of your week. On this day, you double or triple your normal carbohydrate intake, and eat at or slightly above your total calorie needs.

The disadvantage of doing this the day before your biggest workout of the week is that you’re often resting on that day, and being sedentary while eating a ton of carbohydrates is not that great for your blood sugar levels. The disadvantage of doing it the day of your biggest workout of the week is that sometimes you’re too busy exercising to eat much, but this is only really an issue for someone like an Ironman triathlete.

5. Use Supplements Wisely.

When you begin a low carbohydrate diet, you’re guaranteed to experience intense carbohydrate cravings. There are supplements that can help curb cravings, including chromium and vanadium (such as in Thermofactor), gymnema sylvestre (but you gotta take about 4000+ mg per day of it, which means you’d really want a physician’s brand version), L-tryptophan or amino acids (if the issue is a serotonin deficiency) and even foods like those I demonstrate in my video: 5 Ways To Suppress Your Appetite Without Taking Pills or Capsules.

For exercise sessions, I actually recently tried out wasp larvae extract (VESPA), which is supposedly able to increase your ability to utilize free fatty acids as a fuel during exercise. I took two packets of it, and was able to go about 4 hours on 1 gel. The disadvantage was that I was never able to go “above threshold”, or into my carbohydrate burning heart rate zone, so I’m not convinced I’d use it in a race, but it could certainly come in handy if you’re trying to get by on a low carbohydrate diet and also do long exercise sessions.

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6. Be In It For The Long Haul.

When you first start a low carbohydrate diet, your weight will plummet as your body sheds storage glycogen and all the water that the storage carbohydrate sucks up like a sponge. So if your goal is weight loss, life is good for the first couple weeks as you shed anywhere from 3-20 pounds, depending on your starting weight.

And then the weight loss stops. In most cases, this is the point where people throw up their hands in despair, convinced that the plan isn’t working, quit the low carbohydrate diet, and go in search of a pastry shop.

But if you stick with a low carbohydrate diet, the weight loss will gradually and consistently continue, especially if you include strategically implemented days where you allow your body’s storage carbohydrate levels to be re-filled.

7. Be Ready For Discomfort

During the first 7-14 days that you go low carb, you’re going to find that your energy levels plummet, you get grumpy, you feel lethargic, and your body simply does not move or perform the way you’d like it to. This is because you are burning fatty acids (ketones) as a fuel.

So a strict low carbohydrate diet can be uncomfortable, and you need to be mentally prepared for that. Implementing the carbohydrate craving tips I gave earlier will help, but ultimately, you will find that you feel the same way as a marathoner does when they “bonk”, which is what happens during a run when your body runs out of storage carbohydrate and needs to begin burning fat as a fuel. This is also called “hitting the wall”.

If the discomfort does not subside, then I recommend you A) identify nutritional deficiencies and get tested for fatty acids and also for amino acids, and also make sure you’re incorporating carbohydrate re-feed days if you’re an physically active person.

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8. Stay Hydrated.

Not only will adequate water help to reduce the carbohydrate cravings you may experience early in the diet, but A) water is also essential for beta-oxidation, which is how your body burns fat as a fuel and B) you’re going to lose a significant amount of storage water as your body sheds carbohydrate stores, so you’ll need more as a dietary source.

I personally drink and recommend ample amounts of soda water, unsweetened Kombucha, water with effervescent electrolytes dissolved in it, water with deltaE and just plain water. What I don’t drink is anything with added artificial sweeteners or sugars. So check your nutrition labels if you’re drinking fluid from packages or bottles, but stay hydrated when you’re on a diet like this.

9. Get Your Fiber.

When you switch to a low carbohydrate diet, the drop in fruit, vegetables, legume and grain consumption can significantly decrease fiber intake and result in inadequate phytonutrient, antioxidant, vitamin C and potassium intake. There is absolutely no reason that you can’t eat liberal amounts of dark leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables on a low-carbohydrate diet. Just be careful with your total daily intake and timing of starchy vegetables or tubers, such as beets, sweet potatoes or taro.

10. Don’t Judge.

This may seem a bit preachy, but I feel compelled to point out the fact that there are a multitude of successful vegan or vegeterian endurance athletes, including ultra-runner Scott Jureky, pro triathlete and ultra-runner Brendan Brazier, pro triathlete Hilary Biscay, US Master’s Running Champion Tim Van Orden, and top ultraman finisher Rich Roll.

Since most vegan and vegetarian diets are definitely not low carbohydrate, this demonstrates that you can succeed without eating a low carbohydrate diet. However, the low carbohydrate or ketogenic approach can be especially successful for fat loss, for learning to burn fats more efficiently and even for reducing risk of, or managing, chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.

 

Download THE LOW CARBOHYDRATE DIET FOR TRIATHLETES and other eBooks by Ben Greenfield:

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The Low Carbohydrate Diet For Triathletes
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Weight Training for Triathlon: The Ultimate Guide
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