The Caffeine Thing

As I mentioned, I have been loving this book, except I read something curious today. About caffeine. This is another hot topic. Good or bad?

This just seems off to me...

According to the Runner’s Diet, caffeine intake is correlated with increased athletic performance in conditioned and competitive runners. And any soccer mom or college student can probably attest that caffeine is what keeps them performing all day long as well. Also other research suggests caffeine relaxes muscles and aides recovery. But is caffeine really the silver bullet for energy and stamina? What about the consequences?

I mean besides the jitters, shakes, or insanity that can follow over-consumption, what really is the harm in a little caffeine here and there? Well honestly, a lot of health professionals, athletic trainers, and nutritionist will tell you nothing. If you stay within 300 mg/day, caffeine can be a safe and healthy addition to your daily intake. In fact, there is loads of research out there stating that a regular intake of coffee and/or tea will provide health benefits coming from the good amount of antioxidants (cancer fighting substances) found in these beverages.

The following is a chart of caffeine amounts in typical beverages:

Beverage         Caffeine Content (mg per 8 oz serving)

  •        Brewed Coffee           80 – 150
  •        Espresso                    80-90
  •        Instant Coffee             50-70
  •        Soda                           25-50
  •        Tea                              20-50
  •        Energy Drinks             80-160

Some people would leave you with this information and recommendation and tell you to get on with your merry energetic way, but I will tell you some other things I have learned along the way that you might want to consider.

  1. First of all, from an athletic or racing stand point, caffeine acts as a diuretic. What does this mean? You’re kidneys are going to filter and process out any sort of fluids you have much quicker. From a long distant runner’s or endurance athlete’s perspective, you will have a tough time staying hydrated and feeling good if you are consuming a lot of caffeine before a run or even on a regular basis. Some people argue that a small amount of coffee or tea before a race will not effect you, but certainly don’t go crazy on any sort of supplements or caffeine pills. You won’t feel as great trying to cross that finish line, and you will certainly need to map out all the port-a-potties along the way.
  2. And with that being said, avoid supplements that promise to boost your energy and mental focus by increasing your metabolism, or products containing caffeine as a thermogenic agent to support weight loss. These products typically contain an absurd amount of ingredients that have never been tested for safety. Just don’t go there please.
  3. Everyone has a different response to caffeine and typical side effects can range anywhere from agitation, insomnia, headaches, and stomach irritation. In fact, migraines are correlated with caffeine intake. Use caution when consuming caffeine, even if it is just one can of diet soda.
  4. And another thing I learned while working in the natural realm, is the association between caffeine and cortisol. Without getting too far into the cortisol issue (one day I will dedicate a whole blog to stress, cortisol, and weight gain), I will say that there is some evidence that caffeine can increase cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone in our body that, when under stress, can mess with our blood sugars, thyroid, metabolism, and ultimately our ability to lose or maintain weight. When we talk about weight control we have to consider hormone control. And simply put, caffeine can work as an antagonist in this scenario.

I will not act as the nay-sayer nutritionist here, (I fear have already lost a few friends over the diet coke issue) but as always, consider these facts as drink responsibly.

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Carbs and Exercise

Alright all you activity goers, let’s talk carbohydrates and how to select them. Remember the tid bit here about how carbs store as glycogen in the liver to be used during activity? Keep that in mind during this discussion.

Our carbohydrate needs is one the most controversial topics in the nutrition,dieters, and exercise world. This is because there is no official requirement for this nutrient class. There is no such thing as a carbohydrate deficiency (there is such thing – and seen too much in third world countries – fat and protein deficiencies) because there are no essential carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be produced in a lot of different ways in our bodies if necessary, and there lies the problem. How can we set a minimum or maximum requirement?

Dieters always want to cut out carbohydrates and fill up on protein, but those who follow high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets will find themselves pretty fatigued half way through their exercise routine. But wait, can’t fat be converted to glucose to be used for energy during work outs over 20 minutes? Yes, but this process is slow. If your body is already low on fuel (aka glucose) you are going to feel totally drained before the fat converting magic even happens. If you don’t feel energized you can’t finish your work out. If you can’t finish your work out, you won’t burn calories, If you don’t burn calories your diet really isn’t going to help much in the end. See the problem?

But on the flip side, sometimes we go over board with the whole carbohydrate and exercise thing. The best example I can think of is 5k races. So a little over three miles, this race can easily be done in 30 minutes if you jog. Yet, we have a station half way through passing out Gatorade and orange slices. And then when we complete the race they hand out bagels and chocolate chip cookies. Those who organized the race must know a thing or two about running and nutrition, right? So I need to fill up with everything the 15-year-old volunteers throw at me, right? Wrong. The volunteers aren’t handing it to you because it is the best nutritional choice for you, but rather it was donated and the people have grown to expect and demand it! The truth, you don’t need to carbo load for a work out like that. Whatever stores you have from dinner the night before should be sufficient, and calories still count! A person burns around 300 calories during a 5k race, and one cinnamon sugar bagel and a swig of Gatorade will cost you around 600. Owch.There goes all your hard work to complete that race!

So where is the balance? Remember this chart I told you I would come back to? Find where you think your calorie range is by multiplying your weight in kg (divide your pounds by 2.2) by 25-30. Use 25 if you are sedentary or trying to lose weight, 30 if you are extremely physical or trying to gain weight.

ex- a 120 lb female who jogs 45 minutes a day

120 lbs / 2.2 = 54

27   (medium activity level for weight maintenance)

54 x 27 = 1458 kcals/ day

Once you find your calorie level, look at how many calories should be from carbohydrates when using the 50-25-25 rule. So our example 120 lb female, let’s call her Rapunzel. would need around 700-725 calories of carbs or 175 grams (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) per day. So what choices does she have and what does that mean in real life? Rapunzel doesn’t count calories…

The best carbohydrates you could select are those that are fiber-rich and/or have a high water content. Eating these types of foods will slow your digestion, help you feel full, and give you lasting energy during your work outs. These complex carbs would be fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Obvi.  A lot of people get this notion that a calorie is a calorie, a carb is a carb, I’m going to have a danish pastry before my runs and fill up on donuts the rest of the day. Well first of all, people really tend to overestimate how much they actually burn off, and secondly, even if you stay in your calorie allotment, you’re body isn’t going to sustain its glycogen stores as well with these simple sugars. So prepare yourself to consistently consume good complex carbohydrates if you want to slim down or perform at your best.

Now the good part. What to pick. Print this out and put it on your refrigerator, please.

Best Carbohydrates

Fruits (60 calories per serving)

Apple, orange, pear, nectarine: 1 small (tennis ball size)

Peach or plum: 1 medium (fist size)

Banana – 1 small (5-inch) –mostly we eat bananas that count as two serving sizes…

Kiwi: 1 whole

Grapefruit- 1/2 of whole fruit

Grapes- 1 cup or 17 if you want to be exact

Cherries- 12 to be exact

Berries – 1 cup

Mango: 1/2 small

Tangerines or clementines : 2

Pineapple: 3/4 cup diced (can you dice pineapple? you know what I mean…)

Canned fruits (no syrups added): 1/2 cup

Vegetables (25 calories per serving)

Raw vegetables : 1 cup

Cooked vegetables : 1/2 cup (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbaef, green beans, eggplant, onions, etc)

Green pepper: 1 whole

Asparagus: 7 spears cooked/ 14 spears raw (please tell me if you eat these raw!)

Leafy greens: like 5 cups

Carbohydrates to Choose with Caution (aka watch portions)

High-starch vegetables (80 calories per serving)

Beans(black, lima, kidney, pinto, etc): 1/3 cup

Corn: 1/2 cup

Corn on the cob: 1 medium ear

Peas and lentils: 1/2 cup

Baked potato or sweet potato: 1 small (tennis ball size, we mostly eat double this…)

Pasta/rice ( 80 calories, choose less if you like)

Couscous: 1/3 cup

Rice (brown or white) : 1/3 cup

Quinoa : 1/4 cup

Noodles (whole wheat or white): 1/2 cup

Bulgur: 1/2 cup

Breads/Cereals/ Crackers (80 calories per serving)

100% whole wheat bread : one slice (actually around 100 cals, so you must read labels!)

Tortilla (wheat or white): 1-6″

Mini pita bread (5″): 1

Bagel: 1/4

The rest in this category can be found on labels, please read them!!!

I challenge you to keep track of your carbs for just one day. Notice portions, refer to this chart, and see how well you did. This experiment can at least give you an idea of where you could improve, or maybe you will be pleasantly surprised with yourself. If you have specifics on other not-listed items, feel free to ask me!

Next up, to carb load or not to carb load?

50-25-25

I have been reading this great book and I have been pleasantly surprised that I agree with the nutrition advice. One concept I would like to share today is the 50-25-25 rule.

This rule says that 50% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 25% of your daily calories should come from protein, and the last 25% of your calories should come from fat. According to Madelyn Fernstrom, PhD, CNS, this is good advice for runners (and may I add most athletes). This theory of calculating our daily allotment into three groups rather than individual and specific calories will lighten your dieting burden loads.

This rule does 4 important things:

  1. It allows you to incorporate moderate amounts of carbohydrate int your daily diet
  2. It gives you sources and options for foods that give quick energy for physical activity
  3. It provides the right balance of protein and fat to give you continued energy
  4. It allows you to remain content and satisfied throughout the day while still losing weight and having enough energy

As I continue to blog and break down the three macronutrients I will give you specifics and suggestions and this 50-25-25 ratio will make more sense. This is a teaser post I guess you could say.

I also want to share this chart. This breaks down calorie portions. Again, consider your personal calorie range and keep this in mind for the posts to come!

50-25-25 Calorie Distrubution

 Daily Calories                   Carbohydrate kCals         Protein kCals             Fat kCals

1,200

600

300

300

1,400

700

350

350

1,600

800

400

400

1,800

900

450

450

2,000

1,000

500

500

2,200

1,100

550

550

2,400

1,200

600

600

2,600

1,300

650

650

You’ll Look Beautiful on the Outside

Check this article out:

Beauty Might be a Matter of Dietary Makeup

Seriously, it’s quick and entertaining.

Want to have beautiful skin this summer? Forget fake baking, try more fruits and vegetables! The caratenoids that give our produce such a beautiful color may in fact beautify your skin tone as well.

Exercise Physiology 101

Nerd alert. This post is going to be a little scientific, so lets get physical (as in lets discuss physiology). And if it’s too much, just skip ahead to the “Take Home Messages” at the end to get a very fast run down of everything that I will now take 10 paragraphs to explain…

Nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand because activity demands carbohydrates and fat as fuel, protein to build and maintain muscle, and vitamins and minerals to support energy metabolism and tissue building. And of course you need water to help distribute fuels and hydrate.

Two terms I would like to share with you today are ATP and CP.

ATP: Stands for adenosine triphosphate. This is a form of energy that is available for immediate use in the body. All energy- yielding nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) can enter metabolic pathways to make ATP.  Small amounts of ATP are stored in tissues at all times, even during rest, and in the muscles ATP provides the chemical driving force for contraction (think about how often you are moving your muscles, like always). When an ATP molecule is split, it’s energy is released and the muscle cells channel the energy into mechanical movement or as heat.

CP: Stands for creatine phosphate. CP is made from creatine, a compound found in muscles. This compound can split anaerobically (without oxygen) to release a phosphate and replenish ATP supplies. What this means to you is, this is the short term fuel for our bodies. When we participate in high intense boughts of exercise (like a sprint 100-meter dash) our bodies can use CP to produce energy quick and without oxygen. This energy source however usually last for only a matter of seconds. It also acts as a replenishment for ATP. When your muscles are resting, ATP feeds energy back to CP by giving up one of its phosphate groups to creatine. Therefore, CP is produced during rest by reversing the process that occurs during muscular activity.

Are you sufficiently confused already?

Well think of this. ATP and CP are stored in small amounts in your body. If you tried exercising with zero fuel (aka food, energy, calories, however you want to say it) how long do you think your activity would last? Not so long. So this is why it is important to have adequate food and energy stores to perform well. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins store in our bodies to be utilized during activity.

After you consume carbohydrates, your body stores whatever is not needed right away in a storage form called glycogen. Glycogen is saved or stored in your liver. Your body can then go shopping for energy when you need it. Like when you haven’t eaten for 4 or 5 hours and your body starts needing back up energy, or to sustain ATP production during exercise.

How much carbohydrate a person eats influences how much glycogen is stored. When a person is exercising, glycogen will last depending not only on diet, but also on the intensity of the activity. For example, moderate activities like jogging when breathing is steady and easy, use glycogen stores slowly. But during intense activities, like sprints or races where it may be difficult to “catch your breath, ” glycogen is used up real quick. Usually, a person’s glycogen stores are used as fuel for the first 20 minutes of exercise. After 20 minutes of exercise a person who continues exercising moderately begins to use less and less glycogen and more an more fat for fuel. Have you heard that you don’t start burning fat until 20 minutes into a work out before? Well its absolutely true.

During the first few minutes of utilizing fat as a fuel, your body is calling on free fatty acids circulating in the blood stream. After blood levels fall, the body calls on a hormone epinephrine to signal fat cells to break down and release their stores of triglycerides. Therefore, sustained, moderate activity uses body fat stores as it’s major fuel. So get a good 45 minute to hour work out if you really want to see that fat melt off ya! But in this case, the intensity of the work out also affects the utilization of fat stores, As the intensity of activity increases, fat makes less and less of a contribution to the fuel mixture. A lot of oxygen is needed to break down fat for energy , and if a person is breathing easily during activity, the muscles are getting all the oxygen they need and are able to use more fat. So moral of story, if you want to burn fat, look for activities that require a steady but longer duration. Moderate long distance runs, swimming, and bike rides are good activities. Or any sort of aerobic class or activity that keeps the heart rate pretty moderate.

The longer you train or stick to an activity, the body gets better at permitting the body to draw more heavily on fat for fuel. Also the heart and lungs become stronger and better able to deliver oxygen to muscles at high activity intensities. This explains why sometimes it may take a few months of training and consistent exercising to get your body to start burning fat and to see results. So don’t give up!

Protein is actually not a a major fuel for physical activity. Nonetheless, physically active people need an ample amount of protein in their diets to build muscle and lean tissue. Eating carbohydrates before exercise is needed to prepare your glycogen stores for utilization, but carbohydrate intake coupled with protein after an activity is important to replenish those lost glycogen stores and promote muscles synthesis. Don’t worry, I will dedicate a whole blog to amounts and eating guidelines, but for now it is important to say that it is important to have protein to rebuild muscles.

Only ten percent of the total fuel used during exercise comes from proteins and amino acids, but during activity, muscles turnover amino acids stores much quicker, and protein must be provided at the end of the work out to make sure you have bigger muscles in the end and not wasting ones. Longer work outs, after all the glycogen and fat stores are used, then rely on protein stores. So endurance athletes require the most protein during a work out than any other athlete, even body builders who actually use less protein during an activity. Weird huh?

Quick take home messages:

  • ATP and CP are energy sources in your body. ATP is made aerobically and requires carbohydrates, fat, and protein to produce ample amounts. CP is used to replensih ATP and for short intense energy and does not require oxygen to be utilized.
  • Carbohydrates are your body’s first means to get energy. When you eat carbohydrates, excess amounts are stored as glycogen in your liver to be used for later use and during work outs.
  • Glycogen stores are usually used for the first 20 minutes of a work out, even quicker if the activity is intense.
  • Fat stores are used after 20 minutes of a work out. Longer moderate activities require the use of fat fuels. The longer you train and the greater your lung’s abilities to provide sufficient oxygen, your body will use fat as a major fuel during activity.
  • Protein is needed for recovery and muscles replenishment and building. Protein is used as fuel source only in long duration activities (sport’s games or long runs).
  • And finally,

Prudent Healthy Diet

I came across 12 tips to prudent healthy living in a nutrition book of mine. It sounds so pioneer right, prudent healthy diet? But anyway, the tips are great so I thought I would share with you today:

1. Balance the food you eat with physical activity to maintain or improve your weight. Consume only moderate food portions. Be physically active every day.

2. Eat a nutritionally adequate diet consisting of a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. Let the MyPlate Food Guide guide your food choices.

3. Choose a diet moderate in total fat, but low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol.

4. Choose a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, and legumes, which are rich in complex carbohydrates, phytochemicals, and fiber.

5. Choose beverages and foods that moderate your intake of sugars.

6. Choose and prepare foods with less salt and sodium.

7. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. Pregnant women should not drink any alcohol.

8. Maintain protein intake at a moderate, yet adequate level, obtaining much of your daily protein from plant sources, complemented with smaller amount of fish, skinless poultry, and lean meat.

9. Choose a diet adequate in calcium and iron. Individuals susceptible to tooth decay should obtain adequate fluoride.

10. Practice food safety, including proper food storage, preservation, and preparation.

11. Avoid excess intake of questionable food additives and dietary supplements.

12. Enjoy your food. Eat what you like, but balance it within your overall healthful diet.

I love this stuff. It’s basically what I have been trying to express in my past 25 blog posts. So much for all that, this is everything you need to know! Especially the last tip. Best advice I could ever offer. So please print this out, hang it on your fridge, and let this be your nutritional mantra til death do us part.

And here is a picture of a kitchen that I very much do like.

Hydrate Yourself

Before we go anywhere with the sports nutrition idea, we must talk about water. Agua. 水. Eau. Wasser. νερό. Acqua. I’m getting too carried away with Google Translate.

Water constitutes about 60% of your body weight and even more for the children. Water does this for us:

  • Maintains the structure of molecules like protein and glycogen (storage form of carbohydrates)
  • Carries nutrients and waste products throughout the body
  • Participates in metabolic reactions
  • Maintains blood volume
  • Aids in body temperature regulations
  • Lubricates our joints, eyeballs, spinal cord, and amniotic sac for all you preggo’s out there
  • Maintains osmotic pressure to balance electrolytes
  • And the most interesting of all (I think at least) is waters ability to support the proper functioning of our senses. Hearing waves are transmitted by fluid in the inner ear. Fluid in the eye is involved in reflection of light. And for taste and smelling senses to function, the foods and odors need to be dissolved in water! Neat!

When we have an inadequate fluid intake our blood becomes concentrated (because the blood has lost the solvent but not the solutes, yay basic science!), our mouths become dry, and the hypothalamus (brain center that controls water balance, temperature regulation, and appetite) initiates drinking behavior. On the flip side when we have drunk  too much the stomach expands and stretch receptors send signals to the brain signal center to stop drinking. You will most likely recognize this when your stomach feels like there is a watermelon in there and you hear sloshing when you walk. Basically, our body has a good way of knowing if we need more water, or if we have had too much.

One thing to be aware of is that thirst drives a person to drink water, but usually this lags behind the body’s actual needs. At this point you may even be close to dehydration. I say this because a lot of people aren’t water lovers. It’s not easy to just grab a glass of cool refreshing agua. So just because you don’t feel thirsty, doesn’t mean you don’t need to be drinking water!

So how much should a person be getting a day? General rule of thumb is you want to get about as many milliliters as calories you eat or expend each day in water. This usually equates to 2-3 liters a day (8-12) cups per day. But I like to tell people to just drink half your body weight in ounces every. single. day. If you are a training athlete or working out in heat, aka sweating a lot, replace the fluids lost!! The only way to do this without getting too scientific, is making sure your urine is clear.

Some other interesting things about water that may be news to you is that:

  • Michaud and others found that men who consumed the most water had a decreased risk of bladder cancer because increased water intake could flush carcinogens from the bladder and colon.
  • Some dietitians believe that increased water intake may help one reduce excess fat in the body-weight control program by increasing the sensation of fullness and suppressing hunger.
  • The more water you consume the less chance you have of developing kidney stones
  • More water = fewer asthma attacks
  • And more water (when replacing soda’s, fruit juices, and coffee) contributes to better dentition!

If you still aren’t convinced and drinking more water is still going to be a drag for you, go out and buy a fun new water bottle! I recommend this to everyone who struggles. It’s nice to have a cute bottle with you all the time and you will be more motivated to drink water when you look so stylish. If that fails, remember that you can get water from food sources as well. Usually the average person gets around 350 ml (~12 oz) of free water from food sources. Especially from melons, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. And if all else fails, go get yourself some of those Crystal Lite® or Propel® flavored water packets. Or the Now® ones if you want to be more “natural.”

CHEERS!