Carbo Loading

Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to maximize glycogen stores for long endurance competitions. Without careful planning, after a couple hours of strenuous activity, glucose stores can deplete causing dysfunction with the nervous system and will make continued exertion almost impossible. Let’s avoid this, yeah?

Thousands of studies have been conducted on this topic since carbohydrates were identified as the most efficient energy source over 80 years ago. Today the discovery goes on and on; does carbohydrate loading solely prevent fatigue? Can it actually improve performance? What is the best type: food, liquid, supplement? Does the timing of intake make a difference, etc. It’s overwhelming right now the piles of books, journals, and pages I have found just on this topic. For your sake, and my sanity, I am going to keep this basic.

I will begin by saying, that carbohydrate loading is pretty much unnecessary for athletes participating in events lasting less than 90 minutes. I mean, the orange slices at the soccer games, and spaghetti dinners the night before track meets are great, but the increasing load of carbohydrate intake days before an event and doubling your grams/kg/day amount is a little overboard.

So how does carbohydrate loading work? The key is to consume substantial amounts of carbohydrates a few days prior to the event and at the same time decrease the duration and intensity of training to assure plenty of endogenous glycogen stores. This sort of tricks your muscles into storing more glycogen and can possibly double muscle glycogen concentrations! Here is a good basic “how-to” chart.

Before the Event Training Intensity Training Duration  Dietary Carbohydrate
6 days Moderate (70% VO2 max)      90 min Normal (5g/kg body wt)
4-5 days Moderate      40 min Normal
2-3 days Moderate      20 min High-Carb (10g/kg body wt)
1 day Rest        — High-Carb

Some people (those who do not struggle with reactive hypoglycemia) do well to have a little bit of carbohydrates about 90 minutes before an event. Also, it is important to eat around 60 grams of carbohydrates immediately following activity to replete glycogen stores. And carbohydrate ingested during prolonged activity can help maintain blood glucose levels and even reduce the psychological perception of effort. Cool huh? This is when Gatorades and sports gu’s come in handy.

Those of you who exercise regularly and intensely, but do not fall under the endurance category, would do well to have a higher carbohydrate diet all around. 5-8 grams/kg/day is a good target for ya’ll.

SO…for some perspective, the following snack ideas provide around 60 grams of carbohydrates:

  • 16 oz sports drink and a small bagel
  • 2 pieces of toast with jelly
  • 8 oz pineapple juice and a granola bar
  • 1 large sweet potato w/ juice or sports drink
  • Other good concentrated carbohydrate foods include dried fruits, nectars, and athletic gu’s.

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.

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

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,

Werk it

That’s right put in werk, move your bum, go wizzerk,

Eat your salad, no dessert, get that man you deserve.

-Kanye West

Well, despite what judgement I may have cast here, I know a lot of people really are interested in getting into shape for summer. The weather is nice, and people are out running, biking, hiking, climbing, and all that good stuff. So I have decided to do a little segment highlighting physical activity, weight loss, and sports nutrition! Hurray! Everyone’s favorite topic! I am mostly excited to include lyrics from The Black Eyed Peas, Pink, and the Ying Yang twins that are relevant and inspirational.

Today I thought I would start out by discussing fitness and it’s health implications. As we all know a calorie is a form or expression of energy. We need to consume calories daily to maintain a balance for the calories our bodies expend each day. Our bodies expend calories in 3 areas: basal metabolism, thermic effect of food, and physical activity.

Here is a helpful pie chart to help you understand what percent of energy is used where. Basal metabolism or resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy our body needs to function. Ya know, like to allow your heart to beat, kidneys to flush, lungs to expand, liver to detox, and eyelids to blink. Typically this takes about 800-1200 calories. Thermic effect of food is the amount of calories needed to digest and break down your meals. Did you know you technically burn calories (aka use energy) to digest what you eat? Nifty! And then there is physical activity, no brainer here, you burn calories when you work out. So can you guess which area is variable? If you guessed physical activity you are correct and please message me your address to redeem your prize! This folks, is why physical activity is important when it comes to weight maintenance. If you are in the market to loose weight, or eat more delicious foods because you love it and don’t want to gain weight, then learn to expend more calories through physical activity!

Some other benefits of physical activity include:

  • More restful sleep. I think more than half of people have sleep problems, so check you PA levels! (physical activity)
  • Nutritional health. Obviously
  • Optimal bone density and body composition
  • Resistance to colds and infectious diseases
  • Strong circulation and lung function
  • Lower risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers
  • Lower incidence and severity of depression and anxiety
  • Stronger self-image
  • A longer quality life!

And if that list isn’t convincing enough, do it for the endorphins. Hormones are the real drugs, let’s get high on life! But seriously, it’s amazing how many people recognize that a good work out is the cure for unhappiness, stress, and anxiety, every single time.

Please visit my favorite website that I have linked to at least 3 times on this blog : choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity to learn more and find out different types of activities from moderate to heavy. The old MyPyramid program also gave these great tips to help you achieve fitness:

EVERY DAY – Be as active as possible

  • Use the stairs
  • Mow grass, rake leaves, garden, shovel snow
  • Walk or bike to class, work, or shops
  • Scrub floors, wash windows (yeah guys, you really should be doing this everyday..)
  • Walk your dog, cat, rabbit, or snake
  • Wash and wax your car (again, this should be a daily routine anyway)
  • Play with children

4-6 DAYS/WEEK- Engage in moderate activity

  • Aerobic actives such as: running, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, dancing, power walking, jump roping, roller-blading, rowing, curling, rigorous canoeing, fencing, Insanity©
  • Sports activities such as: soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, tennis, football, racquetball, softball, etc.

2-3 DAYS/WEEK- Engage in strength and flexibility activities

  • Sit-ups, push-ups, curl-ups, pull-ups
  • Weight lifting
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Leisure activities such as golfing, bowling, table tennis, horseback riding, dancing in your bedroom, and leisure canoeing

DO SELDOM- Limit sedentary activities

  • Watch TV or movies
  • Leisure computer time
  • (Reading was not on this list, so I guess do that as often as you want…)

Good luck getting started on your fitness ventures! Consider making a SMART goal for yourself and check back often for more sports nutrition tips!

I’m so glad I am an army wife, cuz this is exactly what I look look like…