A Brief Look: Benefits of Drinking Your Recovery + Simple Ingredients to Add to Your Post-Workout Fuel

One of the most common questions I get asked as a dietitian-nutritionist is what should I eat after my workouts. My more than common response is…well it depends. Variables of intensity, type, duration, and environment determine what post workout fuel is the best fit. No worries in needing to hire a sports nutritionist to figure this out, as there are common principles to recovering after a workout that one should follow in order to optimize recovery. Below is a list of principles and questions to keep on the ready next time you head out the gym after a training session.

  1. Form. Simply put solid food takes longer to digest as it needs to travel through the gastrointestinal tract to reach the main site of most nutrient absorption, the small intestine. Solid food is chewed, swallowed, broken down in the esophagus, broken down further in the stomach, and trudges through the intestine to be absorbed. Along that path enzymes break down carbs and protein to a almost liquid state. Drinking your recovery foods, a la shake form, streamlines the process as it is already in a easier to digest state.
  2. Content. Here is where we can customize our meals to the many variables mentioned. Many scenarios can play out here. Long workout sessions lasting 2 hours or more would dictate a 3:1 or 4:1 carbs to protein ratio of meal composition. The longer you workout, the more energy you are burning, the more you need to put back. Carbs are your most efficient form of energy in terms of breakdown and absorption. Carbs of choice: simple carbs such as fruit or honey. Simple = easy to digest. Easy to digest translates to low fiber and low fat containing foods. A metabolic window exist where our body’s are primed to take in food calories and assimilate it optimally into our cells and tissues. Think of it like a descending line graph where right after exercise the body is “most ready” to take in calories and nutrients, as time goes on the body becomes impatient as it is in a desperate search to replace the energy it lost. It begins to break down muscle tissue (and some fat) for energy, robbing you of your “gainz!” Protein comes in as your building blocks of lean tissue. We stress the muscles from training and needs sufficient protein to recovery. In general, 20-30 g of protein is optimal to achieve the “rebuilding’ of stressed muscle tissue after exercise (especially after a rather intense lifting session). The best proteins tend to be milk based proteins, but composition vegan style proteins such as pea/hemp/spirulina shows to be as efficient in rebuilding muscle tissue as their cow based counter parts.
  3. Content (Part 2). The body becomes rather stressed after exercise. This is a good stress that pushes the body to become stronger. Your strength improves, your heart beat gets stronger, your lungs are able to use oxygen more efficiently. Your body does need some help. It needs nutrients. It needs vitamins and minerals. The main two are vitamin C, and E. They are your main antioxidants that help your body recover from stress (exercise in this case). Citrus fruit, peppers, kiwi are high in vitamin C. Avocados, dark leafy greens, and sunflower seeds/butter are high in vitamin E. Other great additions include spinach, blueberries, watermelon, and pineapples. Each has its own special nutrients that help the body recovery faster. Spinach is rich in vitamin E and folate that aid in cell repair and function. Pineapples have bromelain aids in muscle tissue repair and also helps digestion in the stomach by breaking down protein. Citrulline in watermelons transforms in L-Arginine which is a precursor to nitric oxide that helps blood vessel “pump” nutrients faster.

Smoothies and shakes are a fun and easy way to create super food blends to speed your recovery. Try out different combinations to your taste buds, and training sessions. You can even sip them in-between training sessions for a healthy burst of energy and to begin the recovery process. Remember that recovery is a 24hr process, so be sure to pack all your meals with healthy starchy vegetables (broccoli, squash, beans, carrots, sweet potatoes), enough protein to recover stressed muscles, and healthy fats around training sessions.

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How Fructose Produced in Your Brain Can Change Eating Behavior

Image result for hungry brain clipart free

Did you know the brain’s main source of energy is glucose? We can think of glucose as currency for the brain, eating too little can cause brain fog, and an inability to focus!

It has been know by physiologists that the brain’s primary source of energy is the glucose we derive from food. Grains, fruits, dairy, meat, and vegetables all contain some amount of glucose. Grains and fruits contain glucose at it’s highest amount per gram of weight. It has been well documented that the excess consumption of glucose (sugar) can lead to a host of metabolic disorders in the liver, kidneys and heart. However if we do not consume enough sugar (carbohydrates) we can develop brain fog, irritability and mood swings; The body may also go into starvation mode and start to develop ketones from fat and protein for the brain to fuel on. Despite the recent popular trend of “going keto” or becoming “fat adapted”, the research isn’t there yet to prove unequivocally the diet’s effectiveness for weight lose or promotion of longevity in the general population.

So back to the brain. In a recent study published by the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers investigated whether the brain can produce fructose from ingesting an excess amount of glucose. Fructose’s most infamous form is HFCS which has been implicated in the rise of the obesity epidemic, and has been shown to alter eating behavior in humans through a change in appetite sensing hormones. However, the mechanism for this has been unknown since fructose can not cross the blood brain barrier. Researchers recruited a group of healthy adults to undergo a hyperglycemic clamp, meaning their blood glucose is held at a high range for a set amount of time, to determine insulin response. The results after specialized brain scanning indicated the brain can produce fructose from glucose.

So why does this matter? This study gives a possible pathway of effect where excess glucose, and maybe not fructose or HFCS, is a causative agent in the metabolic diseases of the brain, liver, eyes and peripheral nervous system. A secondary effect of fructose generation in the brain is the decrease in glutathione production. Glutathione can be viewed as the primary antioxidant produced in the body that aides the immune system in combating inflammation by extinguishing free radical production. Free radical production damages cells, tissues, and organs if our own innate antioxidant producing system is inhibited.

Now this certainly doesn’t change the global effort of limiting consumption of highly processed sugar laden foods, but it does give greater insight in understanding what exactly may be going on in the body when too much sugar is ingested too often for years. The fructose being generated in the brain can cause the body to crave sugar and sweet foods and create a sense of “always being hungry”. This is one key reason why overweight and obese individuals continue to gain weight, and why restrictive eating practices are doomed to fail. Best practice is to focus on nutrient dense food that contains bountiful amounts of nutrients, with few calories, as the volume of food will create a sense of fullness without the additional calories. A plant based eating plan filled with starchy vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, squash, beans, peas, and lentils will help to curve the brain off its sugar rush!

Is Your Exercise Plan Working For You? How do you know if you are a “Low Responder or High Responder to Your Plan”

Have you heard of the term “hardgainer” or “ectomorph”, or how about “skinny fat”.  fullsizerender-4_large

Most likely you have heard of these terms if you have struggled with gaining weight i.e. lean body mass (muscle). What about the flip side of the fitness coin. Weight loss is hard to come by for those with the “endomorph” body type. The remaining body type is your mesomorph, who can pretty much do any type of resistance and cardio program and see results. All this can be simply broken down to two main terms: Low responders and high responders to exercise.

Another term exist out there; conjured up by the very low responders who just can’t seem to add any centimeters of muscle size to their frame, or lose even an ounce of weight. A  recent research article completely nulls that term. The article took a group of 78 healthy adults through a cardiorespiratory program for 6 weeks to determine who were “non-responders”. The participants were divided into 5 groups, each group did an identical endurance training program with varying training sessions during the week. Group #1 did one day of training a week, group #2 did two days, group #3 did 3 days, etc. Then the “non-responders” were recorded after the initial 6 weeks; mostly those in group #1, #2, #3. The “non-responders” went through an successive endurance training program for 6 weeks, but did an additional 2 sessions per week.

The results? The so called “non-responders” improved their peak power output after the 2nd endurance training program with added training sessions!

Simply put for those who are “non-responders” or rather low responders, increasing training volume according to the article can elicit performance based results when all other variables are controlled i.e. nutrition, sleep, and stress.

If you would like to learn more about fitness, and nutrition, and start your own weight loss goals check out our Fuel for Life Program at the Dodge YMCA in Brooklyn, N.Y.  https://tinyurl.com/DodgeFFL

 

Is Your Exercise Plan Working For You? How do you know if you are a “Low Responder or High Responder to Your Plan”

Have you heard of the term “hardgainer” or “ectomorph”, or how about “skinny fat”.  fullsizerender-4_large

Most likely you have heard of these terms if you have struggled with gaining weight i.e. lean body mass (muscle). What about the flip side of the fitness coin. Weight loss is hard to come by for those with the “endomorph” body type. The remaining body type is your mesomorph, who can pretty much do any type of resistance and cardio program and see results. All this can be simply broken down to two main terms: Low responders and high responders to exercise.

Another term exist out there; conjured up by the very low responders who just can’t seem to add any centimeters of muscle size to their frame, or lose even an ounce of weight. A  recent research article completely nulls that term. The article took a group of 78 healthy adults through a cardiorespiratory program for 6 weeks to determine who were “non-responders”. The participants were divided into 5 groups, each group did an identical endurance training program with varying training sessions during the week. Group #1 did one day of training a week, group #2 did two days, group #3 did 3 days, etc. Then the “non-responders” were recorded after the initial 6 weeks; mostly those in group #1, #2, #3. The “non-responders” went through an successive endurance training program for 6 weeks, but did an additional 2 sessions per week.

The results? The so called “non-responders” improved their peak power output after the 2nd endurance training program with added training sessions!

Simply put for those who are “non-responders” or rather low responders, increasing training volume according to the article can elicit performance based results when all other variables are controlled i.e. nutrition, sleep, and stress.

If you would like to learn more about fitness, and nutrition, and start your own weight loss goals check out our Fuel for Life Program at the Dodge YMCA in Brooklyn, N.Y.  https://tinyurl.com/DodgeFFL

 

Training vs Exercise: Why do you train?

Is your training serving your life, or is your life serving your training- Mike Bledsoe, Barbell Shrugged CEO

 

Do you know what exercise is?

Do you know what training is?

Are they synonymous?

A while back I listened to a podcast on Barbell Shrugged about that difference; and a paper written by Dr. Phil Maffetone of how intense continuous exercise/training can be damaging to the body in the long run, which can be problematic to health and longevity. And this podcast about finding the transition point. A few thoughts came to mind as I connected the pieces.

How much exercise is too much?

How far should we push past limits of physical exhaustion?

Does my training goals now of competing in said sport/competition put my body at risk of developing physical, psychological, and emotional issues down the road?

Now don’t get me wrong, exercise and/or training can be a healthy part of anyone’s lifestyle. I am not condemning sport practices, runs, weight lifting sessions, or anything of the like. For many of us, I include myself, it is a part of our fabric; part of how we identify ourselves. Speaking completely for myself I think I would fall into some kind of depressive state if I couldn’t do some form of exercise; maybe you think that’s kinda pathetic…oh well, I don’t care much of that opinion, as I help hundreds of people everyday, every week, and every year take a few more steps to achieving a healthier lifestyle via choosing better foods, and facilitating exercise/training.

BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME :}

In a basic nutshell…training, from what I can piece together, is day in and day out exercise routines/practices to reach a specified goal of competing continuously in a “sport”. Whereas exercise can be seen as a means to increase physical strength, cardiac function, cognitive function, mobility/flexibility, and overall decrease chronic disease risk factors, without the goal of competing. (Arguments could be made of the “weekend warrior”)

THE FOCUS: When we choose to chase those competitive goals, we can often fall into a regime of daily practices/training; waking up early for runs, getting in a second practice, running another sprint(or two); pushing our own physical and mental abilities past the point of pain, and tiredness…and right into injury!  It doesn’t have to be a pull muscle, tare, or broken bone; but a slow grinding away of our physical exoskeleton, that will affect us later in life as we can no longer run fast, jump high, or punch hard; but maybe not even walk, sit, or eat food without a “Purpose of refueling/GAINZ” (Look at retired NFL linemen as one extreme, or ex. Boxers/Fighters who show signs of cognitive decline earlier in life)

THE POINT: Our bodies can only take soo much punishment before we “breakdown”, or lose that “step”. Furthermore, as was mentioned in this podcast, that training lifestyle can take you away from the people that care about you, the ones that want you to succeed not only in your physical ventures, but emotional as well. Training vs. spending time with friends, family, and significant others is important, and can be seen as LIFE TRAINING.

THE WRAP UP: Take some time to really assess your training, who are you ignoring with that twice a day workout, what could this high intensity workout be doing to me physically LONGTERM, what balance can I find between training and my life (although training could be your “life”, unless that training stops…)

WHAT I IGNORED: This blog post is meant to give you an opportunity of insight to assess what you are chasing…training or exercise, and whether, quite frankly, is the former worth it. Recovery can circumvent many physical issues and damages…but even professional sports athletes carry with them many injuries of body and/or the mind, that medicine and proper dieting could only help so much.

A Wrestlers Diet Disorder

I am not speaking for all wrestlers, but I am speaking to a big percent

I have wrestled for years, with wins and losses along the way. There are traditions in wrestling, none more relvant to overall health than the ritual of cutting weight. 

Cutting weight means, losing weight, period. Cutting weight means, not eating, skipping meals, eating absurdly small meals, weighing meals, stepping on a scale with food in hand in order to determine how much weight you would gain if you ate that banana. Yeah I did all of that and more. (Spitting in a cup for a 2 hour drive to a wrestling tournament will help you to lose 1lb…)

The goal of cutting weight, or rather the ideal goal is to lose a precise amount of weight in a precise amount of time, without losing any strength, power, speed, or endurance. To be the bigger, faster, stronger bad ass than your opponent, who maybe did not have to cut 10lbs 3 days prior but only 5lb…yeah which one is the bigger bad ass? 

The name of the game is dehydration, as losing 10lbs of fat in 3 days would require surgery or a lost limb. I have eaten so little food for my body’s estimated needed calories, for up to half a year worth of a wrestling season, that I would dream about eating food…every night. 

The eating disorder otherwise specified. Imagine a very lean muscular man (or woman) stepping on a weight scale, and saying “I’m fat, and need to drop 3 more pounds” your immediate reaction would be like “This person is crazy”. Now that was out of context, but honestly is it? These “practices” of counting calories, weighing food, checking weight 5-6x daily, eating “light” food, chewing gum to control hunger, wearing plastic suits, eating a TBSP of peanut butter AS DINNER, sure does sound like a unspecified eating disorder to me. Not to mention after “weigh ins”

Binging disorder…

finally made weight after a week or less of eating about 1000kcal worth of food, regular college students need up wards of 2000kcal DAILY and athletes even greater at 3000kcal depending on gender and sport. After you consume nearly 3000kcal worth of gatorades, peanut butter bagels, and cliff bars all in matter of an hour or two. Then after some wins, or what the hell happened loses…you lick your wounds, and begin the cutting weight process all over again…smh

I am not entirely sure I have a disordered eating pattern…I definitely don’t step on scales with food anymore, that’s for sure. 

Vitamin D: Beyond Bone Health

Vitamin D new nutrition label

As spring and summer approaches, and winter a past cold forgotten memory. I find myself down to the last few capsules of Vitamin D3.

Bone health is an all too important health concern affecting billions of people per year. From osteoporosis, osteomalacia, osteopenia, to osteo…OMG I broke my hip. For the elderly, the bone degenerative disease is the ghost from Christmas past ready to suck the minerals right out of their bones. The cure? No cure, but rather treatment to slow down progression via increased vitamin D intake, exercise in the form of weight training, and a bit o’ cardio, can help to run from the bone ghost.

Vitamin D deficiency, and by extension calcium deficiency used to be a real and serious health concern similar to how scurvy was an issue during the exploration era, picture Captain Jack Sparrow  and his pirate crew with all those crumbly teeth, and bleeding gums, yeah vitamin C deficiency used to be an issue too. But now most dairy products, and even orange juice are fortified with calcium. And Vitamin D is in all dairy products to combat the bone diseases that also affected children, giving them some serious bowed legs (see Rickets).

So with all these processed foods fortified with vitamin D, then why is it still a health concern…well probably because most people don’t even realize that it is. Although this is no ones fault, as the nutritional science takes a while to present enough studies to show other wise.

Going beyond…just the bone health. Vitamin D is involved in many other physiological processes in the body that are tired to our immune health. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, infectious diseases, neurological disorders, and autoimmune disease are the areas where vitamin D has been linked to reduce the risk of. However the science is unclear…but who cares…That dog chasing me may not kill me, but why risk not running?

Status of vitamin D can be assayed via a blood test, which your general physician can order, just ask! A sufficient Vitamin D value can range greatly, from 20-50 ng/ml, to 40-80 ng/ml, and recommended intakes are 600 IU to 5,000 IU per day. WOW! With such wide ranges, and no agreement of what is the “optimal” range, making recommendations becomes slightly harder, since there are no “hard” values to say, don’t cross this line or poof! Disease!

Most of us consume enough Vitamin D to reduce incidence of the “classical” diseases, as outlined above. But not enough to aide us in reducing the chronic diseases.

Persons who are overweight, and diabetic are a population at risk of vitamin D insufficiency, and could improve their outlook if intake was higher. However, our dietary patterns are not set up to consume the amounts of vitamin D needed to meet such needs. Given that broad range of what we need to consume, this can be hard.

Food Sources include:

  • Salmon (Wild) 600-1000 IU, Can Sardines 300 IU, Can tuna 236 IU, Egg 41 IU, Fortified milk, yogurt, OJ (All 8oz) 100 IU, shiitake mushrooms (sun dried) 1600 IU…well isn’t that interesting.

Lets all be Sun Worshipers!! UV rays gives up up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D, through a fun mechanism where vitamin D2 in our skin is transformed to the active 25-OH Vitamin our body uses.