Sleep Will Make You Leaner and Faster – Here is the Proof!

To those of you out there struggling with fatigue, weight loss, anxiety, sleep disorders and/or performance plateaus, consider sleeping more to allow your body to recover and rebuilt naturally. There are no short cuts. High intensity and high volume will destroy you unless you have the time to sleep and eat enough to ABSORB what you do – plain and simple.

Sleep Project Overview
For the last 20+  years, I have asked all my clients to train with a heart rate monitor to keep them from training too hard on their easy days leaving them fresh for their high quality days.

This methodology has been challenged by many coaches and athletes for many reasons: “grey zone”, “wattage”, “perceived exertion”, etc. I have personally watched clients leave to go to a another program with more volume, more intensity, calorie restriction, etc. only to become injured (sometimes career ending), have a performance regression and/or become exhausted mentally and physically resulting in creams, injections or oral supplementation to turn their “symptoms” around. Sad but true.

In addition to having my clients train with a heart rate monitor I have required all my clients to maintain a Body Analysis spreadsheet to evaluate their body’s feedback to training volume, intensity and frequency along with ensuring that they are consuming enough quality calories and fluids to support their training loads and life’s other stress sources (work, family, etc.).

To prove my theory I conducted a sleep study over an eight month period where I asked 10 clients to wear their Garmin strapless heart monitor for every workout as well as when they sleep. With the permission of one of these clients, I have documented her sleep data averages and performance results below.

Parameters
Sleep goal: 9 hours (difficult but necessary)
Food: raw fruits, vegetables and clean fats; eaten every 2 hours
Training: 7 Hours a week
1 hour per day Mon-Friday
1 complete rest day per week – Saturday
2 hours on Sunday
Training Intensity:
2 hours anaerobic
5 hours aerobic

Sleep Log Observations/Take Away
Hours of sleep: increased from 6 to 9 hours
Deep sleep average: increased from 23 min avg to 1 hour 40′
Light sleep average: increased 3 hour avg to 5 hours 17′
Note:
Deep sleep allows the body to rebuild NATURALLY
Light sleep allows the brain to rebuild NATURALLY

Performance Results
Swim Time Trial: 17 seconds faster
Bike Time Trial: 36 seconds faster / at a lower HR of 8 beats
Run Time Trial: 18 seconds faster / at a lower HR of 5 beats
Body Fat Percentage: decrease of 4%
Note: body fat, not muscle or dehydration

Numbers don’t lie.

The Importance of Fat and How It Can Improve Your Health & Performance

Fat is one of the most beneficial substances in your diet, and it is often the missing link in developing and maintaining good health and ultimately optimum performance. But a misunderstanding of the role of fat and a well financed misinformation campaign has misled the public and led to an epidemic of fat phobia.  Just think of the amount of money spent each year on low fat and no fat food and you’ll understand why you might not have been told the whole truth about fat.

Fat sources like vegetable oil, butter, fats in eggs, meat and cheeses and other naturally occurring fat can be harmful if over eaten. In fact, too much or too little is dangerous and hence the importance of understanding the role of fat and ultimately your personal needs for optimal health and performance.

Consuming a balanced amount of healthy fat helps maintain health, prevent disease and facilitate optimal performance. Eating too much of one type of fat, saturated fat, or too much omega 6 from vegetable oil can disturb the delicate balance of fat in the body. Eating processed fats, such as hydrogenated oil, and overheated fat, such as a fried food, causes dysfunction and disease. This means many mainstream foods and snacks are out: chips, french fries, and fried chicken.

Energy from Fat

The aerobic system depends on fats as the primary fuel for the aerobic muscles, which power us through the day. Fat produces energy and prevents excessive dependency upon sugar, especially blood sugar.  Fats provide more than twice as much potential energy as carbohydrates do because fat contains 9 calories per gram in comparison to 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate/sugar. Your body is capable of obtaining most of its energy from fat, up to 80 to 90%, if you’re fat burning mechanism is working efficiently. The body even uses fat as a source of energy for heart muscle function. These fats, called phospholipids, normally are contained in the heart muscle and generate energy to make it work more efficiently.

What happens if you have not trained your body to use fat as your primary fuel source? Then you must use more sugar for energy. Low blood sugar symptoms include: mood swings, mental or physical fatigue, clumsiness, headaches, depression, allergies and other physical and mental challenges, depending on your susceptibility to an excess or deprivation of sugar in the blood.  How can you avoid these sugar highs and sugar lows? By making sure you train your body to burn fat for energy. If your body is burning fat for energy while you exercise, your brain and nervous system will have enough sugar, which they require for energy. If the rest of your body takes too much of the brain’s energy supply of sugar (from your liver & muscles), the brain will not function at peak performance and neither will the rest of your body.

A second reaction to the body not having enough balanced fat for energy is that it will store fat. The body likes fat, think of all the foods with a high-fat content that you like to eat. Actually, the body likes fat so much; carbohydrates and proteins can be converted and stored as fat. In fact, the body stores fat in case fat is needed in the future- that could be tomorrow, next week or next month. Let’s take a look at some of the various body functions that require fat.

The Hormonal System

The hormonal system is responsible for controlling virtually all healthy functions of the body. For the hormonal system to function properly, the body must produce proper amounts of the appropriate hormones. Many glands, such as the adrenal glands, are dependent on fat for production of hormones according to Dr. Maffetone, well renowned author and coach to Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Champion.

In addition to the adrenal glands, the thymus, thyroid, kidneys and other glands use fats to help make hormones. The adrenals also require a specific fat, cholesterol for the production of hormones such as progesterone and cortisone. The thymus gland regulates immunity and the body’s defense systems. The thyroid regulates body temperature, weight and other metabolic functions, the kidneys hormones help regulate blood pressure, circulation and filtering of blood.

Many people are rightly concerned about their percentage of body fat. But hormonal problems, and the related health problems that stem from them, can be seen in those who have fat imbalances or whose body fat is too low. For example, some women who exercise too much experience disruptions in their menstrual cycle, usually indicating a fat metabolism disorder. Many women also except the popular misconception of menopause is always accompanied by significant symptoms. In reality, women with properly functioning hormonal systems have only minor symptoms. Many women on a low-fat diet, or who have a history of following a low-fat diet and have not corrected fatty acid imbalances or deficiencies, experienced significant menopausal complaint bees often are related fatty acid deficiency. Without the right balance of fats in the system, the hormonal system can produce certain hormones.

Eicosanoid Balance

Hormone like substances, called eicosanoid, are necessary for normal cellular functions such as: regulating inflammation, hydration, circulation and free radical activity. Produced from dietary fat, eicosanoid are especially important for the role in controlling inflammation – the precursor to many chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s according to Dr. Maffetone.  Many people have inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendinitis and anything ending with “-itis” probably have an eicosanoid imbalance. But in many people, chronic inflammation goes on unidentified.

The balance of eicosanoid is also important for regulating blood pressure and hydration. An imbalance can produce high or low blood pressure or trigger constipation or diarrhea. Eicosanoid imbalance may also be associated with menstrual cramps, blood clotting, tumor growth and other problems.

Insulation

The body’s ability to store fat permits humans to live in most climates, even those of extreme heat or cold. In areas of warmer conditions, stored body fat provides protection from the heat. In cooler areas, increased fat storages below the skin prevents too much heat from leaving the body.

In warmer climates, fat prevents too much water from leaving the body, which can result in dehydration that causes dry, scaly skin.

Digestion

Because so many people digest food poorly – a common result of stress, they do not always absorb the nutrients in foods. Your diet may be the best in the world but it’s all for nothing if you can’t properly digest and absorb the nutrients they contain. Bile from the gallbladder triggered by fat in the diet, helps aide in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat soluble vitamins.

Most of the fats and the diet are digested in the small intestine – this process involves breaking the fat into smaller particles. The pancreas, liver, gallbladder and large intestine are also involved in the digestive process. Any of these organs not working properly could have a negative effect on fat metabolism in general, but the two most important organs are the liver, which makes bile, and the pancreas, which makes the enzyme lipase. If there is not enough fat in the diet, not enough bile will be secreted according to Dr. Maffetone.

The secretion of bile into the small intestine makes your dietary fat digestible. Certain lipase containing foods such as avocados & extra virgin olive oil can greatly aid digestion of fat.  Fat also helps regulate the rate of stomach emptying. Fats in a meal slow stomach emptying, allowing for better digestion of protein. If you’re always hungry, it may be because your meals are too low in fat and your stomach is emptying too fast. Fats also slow the absorption of sugar from the small intestine, which keeps insulin from rising too high or too quickly. Additionally, fats protect the inner lining of the stomach and intestines from irritating substances in the diet, such as alcohol and spicy food.

Supporting Function

Fat offers physical support and protection of vital body parts, including the organs and glands. Fats acts as a natural, built in shock absorber, cushioning the body and various parts from the wear and tear of everyday life and helps prevent organs sinking due to the downward pull of gravity.

Vitamin and Mineral Regulation

Most people know that vitamin D is produced by exposure of the skin to the sun. However, it is actually cholesterol in the skin that allows this reaction to occur. Sunlight chemically changes cholesterol in the skin that allows this reaction to occur.  Sunlight chemically changes cholesterol in the skin through the process of irradiation to vitamin D-3.

This newly formed vitamin D is then absorbed into the blood, allowing calcium and phosphorus to be properly absorbed from the intestinal tract. Without the vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus would not be well absorbed and deficiencies of both would occur. But without cholesterol the entire process would not occur as outlined by Dr. Maffetone.

There’s another important connection between calcium & fat. Calcium needs to be carried from the blood and taken into the bones and muscle cells. For this to happen, certain prostaglandins, made from fat, are needed. If there is not enough fat to make adequate prostaglandins, too little calcium enters the bone. When this happens, the results can be stress fractures, osteoporosis and collapsed vertebrae. Without enough calcium in muscles, tightness, spasms or cramping can occur since calcium is needed to relax muscles. Unused calcium may be stored, sometimes in the kidney’s as stones or in the muscles, tendons or joint space as calcium deposits, often called bone spurs.

Besides vitamin D, other vitamins including A, E and K rely on fat for proper absorption and utilization. These important vitamins are present primarily in fatty foods, and the body cannot make an adequate amount of these vitamins to ensure continued good health. Additionally, these vitamins require fat in the intestines in order to be absorbed.  With this in mind, a low fat diet could be deficient in these vitamins to begin with and also could further restriction their absorption.

Taste

Face it, people love food with fat in them but are too guilt ridden to enjoy the food they are eating.  Fat does not have to be an unhealthy addition to your diet if properly balanced. Fat not only tastes good, it makes you feel good both physiologically and psychologically as well.

Fat (along with protein) satisfies your physical hunger. People on low fat diets often claim that they are always hungry. Of course they are, without fat in their diet they can’t achieve the feeling of satiety.  And as a result, the brain just keeps sending the same message over and over “Eat More”. Because you never really feel satisfied, the temptation to over eat is irresistible. In fact, there’s a good chance you can actually gain weight on a low-fat diet by overeating trying get that “I’m not hungry anymore feeling”.

Dealing With Heat & Humidity – How to Stay Cool and Hydrated During Training and Racing

As we exercise, our bodies burn the calories that that we consume (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fats).  It is the breakdown of these calories and muscle movement that causes heat to build up and raise our core body temperature initiating the demands of the body to maintain its ideal body temperature of 98.6 degrees.  There are several ways that the body dissipates heat (skin and exhalation for example); however, the most complex system involves your ability to sweat.

Simply put, water molecules evaporate from your skin removing heart energy, leaving water molecules on your skin making you feel cooler.  The endothermic process of converting liquid to a gas is beyond the scope of this article; however, the ultimate goal is to maintain your body’s ability to efficiently dissipate heat throughout exercise.  What makes it difficult is dealing with elements that we don’t have any control over – heat and humidity.

On hot days when there is little difference between the skin’s surface temperature and the ambient air temperatures, the skin provides only small cooling benefits – increasing the importance of sweating to maintain your internal core temperature. In fact, above 95 degrees Fahrenheit you lose no heat at all from your skin – evaporation must do all of the work.  Humidity decreases your body’s ability to evaporate sweat because the air is already saturated with water vapor, slowing the evaporation rate.  Though you and your clothes may be saturated, it is not helping you in your cooling process – sweat must evaporate to remove heat from your body – plain and simple.  It is this concept that makes hydration so important; if you don’t have enough fluids to produce sweat you will over heat guaranteed (along with the adverse side effects – performance and health wise).

On average, endurance athletes lose approximately 30-35 ounces of fluid per hour of exercise (the actual amount varies by body size, intensity levels and heat/humidity levels).  There are numerous formulas floating around in the sports nutritional world regarding ideal food and fluid intake; however, keep in mind that there are three things that we need to evaluate regarding ideal performance nutrition: water intake, electrolytes and calories.  It has been our experience working with hundreds of athletes that the best way to formulate an ideal nutritional strategy is through trial and error.  This formula requires good documentation on behalf of the athlete to track what is consumed, your workout duration and intensity levels along with average paces and heart rate levels.

Here are a few tips for training and racing in the heat and humidity

  • Avoid over-hydrating on plain water
  • Train at times that are relevant to your race (i.e. if you are going to start your run at 2:00 pm during a race, then practice running at this time dealing with the heat, humidity and sun burn)
  • Wear only clothes that facilitate the evaporation process (avoid cotton at all costs)
  • Cold fluids absorb faster than warm fluids; use insulated bottles
  • Backing off of the intensity every so often and pouring cold water over your wrists and neck will help relieve your body of internal heat
  • Pay attention to body signs that things are not going well: dry chills, becoming lightheaded or queasy are all indications to stop. Be smart!

Top 5 Vitamins to Aid Muscle Recovery

Maintaining an exercise regimen is tough. You make time, set attainable goals, and create a schedule of fitness-boosting routines. However, once muscle soreness sets in, it can be hard to maintain the routine, let alone move in the morning.

The pain can become unbearable, but sore muscles can be soothed without a pill. Before rifling through the medicine cabinet, try these five naturally-occurring vitamins to help speed recovery. Include them in your post-workout meal for optimal—and tasty—results.

Vitamin C

This powerful antioxidant boosts the production of collagen—connective tissue that helps repair skin tissue, tendons and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps flush the muscles of lactic acid.

Sources: Citrus fruits, green peppers, red peppers, raspberries, broccoli, sweet potatoes, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupe, pineapples.

Vitamin D

In addition to aiding in the absorption of calcium to build strong muscles and bones, vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.
Sources: Fatty fish, liver oils, fortified milk products, fortified cereals, meats, eggs, sunlight.

Vitamin E

During strenuous exercise, a protein, creatine phosphokinase—also known as CPK—seeps into the bloodstream. Vitamin E increases blood circulation and helps rid the body of CPK more efficiently. It also protects cells from damage-causing free radicals.

Sources: Sunflower seeds, almonds, fortified cereals, wheat germ, olives, avocados

Vitamin B

The B complex is comprised of eight vitamins, that help the body perform a variety of functions. They ease the breakdown of proteins and carbs, boost muscle repair, and assist with cell development. A lack of B vitamins can increase muscle cramps and aches.

Sources: Legumes, swiss chard, kale, dates, pomegranates, squashes, salmon, dairy, whole grains

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is known for its vision-boosting powers, but from a recovery standpoint, it helps the immune system and major organs function properly.

Sources: Organ meats (high in cholesterol so limit consumption), salmon, dairy, pumpkin, cantaloupe, carrots, apricots

How to Fuel Properly for Optimum Performance

Proper nutrition is such an instrumental component of performance, yet is overlooked by 90% of the racers at the starting line. A few years back, a research project associated with human performance (equipment, altitude training, endurance training, strength training, etc.), revealed that the most powerful influence on performance was attributed to hydration and nutrition habits.  Nail your nutrition and the results were stellar; miss your nutrition (even by a little) and the results were devastating.

After spending the last six to eight months training for your big race, the last 24 hours should be quite simple – exercise lightly, hydrate properly and eat correctly (quality & quantity).

Fighting Fatigue

With proper nutrition, you can offset the negative effects of fatigue in three ways:

Muscle Glycogen Depletion

Muscle glycogen is the major energy source during training and especially racing.  When your sugar storages (in your liver and muscles) are depleted, your ability to go fast for any period of time will be diminished.

Decreased Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar is the major fuel for the brain (from your liver) and muscles during training and racing; the higher the intensity, the quicker your body depletes itself of sugar.

Dehydration

When a muscle becomes dehydrated by as little as 3%, that muscle can lose between 10-20% of its contractile strength and also incurs an 8% loss of speed.

Nutritional Timing

Proper nutrition is all about topping of your body’s natural fuel tanks (muscles and liver) to ensure that you have enough stored energy to finish your race strong.  By choosing the correct foods at the correct times, you can delay the onset of fatigue on race day (as outlined below).

Day before a Race (8 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight) –  Consume six to eight small meals distributed throughout the day approximately two hours apart.  Choose items made from high quality carbohydrate sources: real food smoothies, brown rice, pasta, quinoa and dark breads.  Convenient snacks include fresh fruit and high quality energy bars (the Paelo Ranch Protein bars are ideal!)

Morning of the Race (75-150 grams of carbohydrates depending on your body size) – Consume your last meal two hours before your race start time to allow for complete digestion and purging in a relaxed environment.  Food items should be easily digestible and of the highest quality: real food smoothie, almond butter on a bagel or toast, slow cooked oatmeal with raisins, 2-3 egg omelets with a bowl of brightly colored fresh fruit.

After the Race – Liquid calories  are the easiest to consume and are converted quickly to “feed” the body’s needs: protein for muscle regeneration and sugar for the muscles and the liver.  

By implementing these nutritional tips and hitting proper hydration levels, you will see your body produce new levels of speed and a new level of performance! Work Smart, Not Hard! 

Eat Your Way to Your Potential

New research suggests that changing the way you eat could result in your body being able to adapt to the stress of training – especially hard training!

We all realize that nothing causes the human body to adapt to training and racing except sport specific training and racing. However, through proper eating – quality, timing and quantity, you can improve your ability to adapt and absorb hard, interval type workouts.

Between food and sleep, you have THE two key elements to improvement – sleep allows the body to rejuvenate and the food provides the vitamins, minerals and macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fat) to rebuild the torn down muscle tissue, hormonal system and the cardiovascular system.

I always have my clients focus on health and wellness first and then performance. I utilize several tools to ensure that my clients are recovering adequately and consistently improving. You are either getting healthier, stronger and faster or you are not – there isn’t any middle ground. It is just a physiological fact.

What is Adaptation?

When you train, one of the adaptations is an increase in the development of mitochondria within your muscle tissue. Mitochondria are the cellular power plants which are responsible for producing a majority of the energy you use during endurance training and racing. Through consistent training, your body naturally produces chemicals that tell your body to produce additional mitochondria. This concept is not a new one, but is intriguing because we have become acclimated to the idea that training improves endurance by enhancing the production of mitochondria within the muscle tissue. But what if I told you that eating fruits and vegetables may produce the same effect? Let’s take a look.

Food to Help You Train Harder and Faster

While trying to determine the true source of obesity and develop that “wonder pill” that will help offset the negative health issues associated with obesity, research has tripped upon some intriguing results associated with endurance training and racing.

The area of research has stemmed around polyphenols and flavonoids. Please don’t get caught up with the big words and become intimidated, the concept is what I want you to take away, not the actual pronunciation! Both of these nutrients are found in fruit and vegetables and are available to the human body in many different types, but with similar functions within the body.

Resveratrol is one type of polyphenol which is found in red grapes (and also red wine!). In a 2006 edition of the science journal Cell, mice that were supplemented with Resveratrol had a 33% higher peak oxygen uptake and lasted nearly 50% longer before exhaustion.

When researchers took muscle samples of the mice, there was 2.5 times greater mitochondria within the muscles. Also increased was Citrate Cynthase, a key enzyme to producing energy within the muscles, along with additional triggers telling the muscle to produce more mitochondria.

Here is an interesting observation on behalf of the researchers. The mice that were supplemented with the resveratrol, were also able to complete more exercise on a consistent basis which in turn improved the fitness level of the mice which allowed them to longer and faster. This is a huge observation when you consider an athletes ability to get fitter involves being able to go both longer in duration (active recovery workouts) and faster (high quality interval workouts). An additional health benefit to consuming polyphenols is an improved immune system which will keep you from becoming run down, sick and away from training – hence improving your consistency. Another key factor within the world of health, wellness and ultimately performance.

Research completed here in the US has been researching another polyphenol called Quercetin. Mice that were supplemented with quercetin showed significant increases in the molecular triggers within the muscle tissue, indicating that their bodies were preparing to produce more mitochondria. After only seven days of supplementation, the mice were able to run 40% longer before becoming exhausted.

This research has validated that this supplementation has benefited individuals “less fit”. However, when you consider most athletes are running deficient in micro and macro nutrients within their bodies, this research validates that when these nutrients are present within the body, athletic performance improves.

Quercetin is found naturally in onions and apples – so maybe that saying that an “apple a day keeps the doctor away” may not be far-fetched. Research provides overwhelming evidence that quercetin can help reduce the stress of high intensity training and support the immune system. So this falls right in line with my desire to have my clients healthy first, then fit and fast!
Fruits and Vegetables Aren’t The Only Source of Improved Speed!

All natural herbs and spices are an excellent source for polyphenols as well. For example, research is validating that cinnamon has shown to stimulate the production of mitochondria within muscle tissue.

Before you Overdose on Supplementation

It is imperative that you realize that this research on quercetin and resveratrol is just that – research. As I mentioned earlier, the realization of these mitochondrial production levels within the muscle tissue came as a byproduct of researching obesity at a chemical and muscular tissue level. With this in mind, the improvements associated with physical performances cannot be overlooked. Factor in the all-natural source of these elements: fresh fruits, vegetable, herbs and spices, and you have another way to improve your immune system and make you more resilient to high intensity training.

Four Tasty Sources of Polyphenols

Blueberries – one of the highest polyphenol contents of all foods; benefits include enhanced aerobic function and off-setting the development of cancer. Add blueberries to your salad and top off your Greek full fat yogurt for additional nutrients, fiber and flavor.
Cinnamon – not only loaded in polyphenols, it helps reduce the insulin response to high glycemic meals, which helps you stabilize blood sugar levels and burn carbohydrates more efficiently. Add cinnamon to your all natural oatmeal.
Dark Chocolate – look for chocolates that have over 75% cocoa. In addition to having high polyphenol content, it has been shown to improve blood flow to working muscles. Consume high quality, dark chocolate as a mid-day snack (unless you can have a glass of red wine instead!).
Nutritionally Green Smoothies – these products are derived from real fruits and vegetables and provide a hefty dose of vitamin and minerals per scoop. They are easily absorbed by the body because it isn’t broken down through the digestion process in the gut. A scoop can easily be added to soups, broths, and smoothies to add to the nutrient value.

Grocery Shopping For Better Speed

Stock up on these items the next time you head to your grocery store:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Red kidney beans
  • Blueberries, Strawberries
  • Acai berries
  • Olives
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Cherry juice
  • Green tea/coffee
  • Cinnamon, Sage, Rosemary, Spearmint, Thyme, Tumeric
  • Cloves, Dried Mexican Oregano, Basil, Curry, Celery Seed
  • Flaxseed
  • Black Elderberry

Top 5 Nutritional Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Over the last 33 years, I have seen nutritional mistakes that have resulted in weight gain rather than weight loss. Here are the top five mistakes and how to correct them.

Not knowing your sweat rate

You may ask how your sweat rate relates to nutritional mistakes; the reason is associated with how your body stores water relevant to what you eat. Fruits in vegetables are high in vitamins & minerals, but they are also high in water and natural forms of electrolytes (what you lose in through sweat). Also, for your body to store one gram of sugar for energy, it stores 2.5 grams of water. If you want to improve your pre-hydration levels, eat more raw fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to sweating, your goal is to lose between 1-2% of your body weight in a given workout – no more or less. If you lose more than 2% of your body weight you are officially dehydrated, if you lose less than 1% you are over hydrated. This is a very fine line that needs to be evaluated on a regular basis with the following variables being factored in: air temperature, humidity, intensity and duration.

To help you calculate your personal sweat rate, please email me at robb@coachrobb.com and I will send you a simple to use Sweat Rate Calculator. It will provide you insight into your sweat rate along with inform you if you’re eating habits are helping or hurting your weightloss efforts.

Not eating enough high quality calories

As mentioned above, fruits and vegetables are high in water, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes. However, fruits and vegetables are not high in calories. This means that you must eat a lot of fruits and vegetables (along with lean protein sources) for your body to perform at an optimal level.

To determine if you are consuming enough calories to fuel your exercise,  you need to evaluate exactly what and how much you have eaten, when you have eaten and then evaluate the quality of your workouts. This is very simple to do by maintaining a daily food log (Note: if you don’t have a simple to use food log, please email me at robb@coachrobb.com and I will send you a copy of our food log that is easy to use and maintain on a daily basis).

There are two typical realizations that come from maintaining a food log; one is the quantity of food that comes out of a box and/or a can; the amount of total calories consumed on a daily basis is not enough to fuel your efforts. By maintaining a daily food log and evaluating your energy levels/performance results you will develop a personalized nutritional plan in less than two weeks.

Not eating enough high quality fat

Fat has gotten a bad rap in the media, but the fact of the matter is that your body needs high quality fat on a daily basis for your body to perform at an optimal level. Typical symptoms of insufficient fat intake include: fatigue, delayed recovery, depression, over eating, constantly hungry and more.  It is imperative that you consume the following unsaturated fats on a daily basis: extra virgin olive oil, avocados and fish oil.

These fats are either used by your body as energy or passed as waste – which means no stored body fat! This is a win-win situation for you: improved performance and decreased body fat. When you increase your clean fat intake, there are two things you will notice within two weeks: improved endurance and not hungry all of the time. The reason for this is because most individuals don’t consume enough high quality fat – simple fix with huge benefits.

Not eating immediately after a workout

When you work out your body gets the majority of its energy from stored sugar from your muscles (your brain gets its sugar from your liver); the longer and more intense your workout the more you “empty” your stored muscle sugar. When you are finished with your  workout you have a 20-30 minute window to replenish these depleted stored sugar levels optimally. During this short post exercise window, you have an enzyme (glycogen synthase enzyme) that is highly activate within your muscles cells that helps increase the replenishment of sugar within the muscles (and liver).

The longer you wait to consume high quality food after your workout, the less effective your replenishment will be and your recovery window will take longer as a result. Ideally, you want to consume food in a 4:1 ration between carbohydrates and lean protein. Simple solutions include fruit smoothies made with Greek yogurt or chocolate milk.

Not drinking enough water

The average human body contains 96 pints of water – 64 of these are found inside the body’s cells. Your brain is 75% water, your blood is 85% water, muscle is 70% water, and you see how important being hydrated is literally from the inside out. Please don’t confuse hydration levels with sweat rate discussed earlier; hydration levels are strictly relevant to maintaining proper fluid levels within your body for optimum health and ultimately performance. Your sweat rate is relevant to how much perspiration you are creating as your body attempts to rid itself of internal heat.

As a general rule of thumb, your need to consume half of your body weight in ounces of water – for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to consume 75 ounces of water on a daily basis to maintain proper hydration levels. Any activities that you perform on a daily basis: exercise, work, leisure, etc. has to be factored in addition to your daily needs.

There are two simple indicators of proper hydration levels: urine color and urination frequency. Regarding your urine color, the lighter your urine the more hydrated you are. Please note, if you are taking a multi vitamin that contains B vitamins, your urine will be a tad darker as a result. As your body absorbs and purges the B vitamin, the color of your urine will become lighter in color. In regards to your urination frequency, you should be visiting the restroom once an hour. Though this can be an inconvenience at time, the health and performance benefits are definitely worth it!

Creatine Supplementation & Dehydration

The Effects of Creatine

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the effects of creatine. The truth of the matter is – creatine does do exactly what it claims to do: FOR SOME ATHLETES. However, before we discuss if creatine supplementation is beneficial as an athlete, it is imperative to evaluate its role in your everyday health.

First, the human body produces creatine daily to sustain the demands associated with exercise. Creatine is regenerated through your body’s normal bodily functions (assuming you are eating a sufficient diet and complementing this with 7-8 hours of sleep daily). However, if your body senses the presence of creatine on a regular basis, it will stop producing it within your body. This internal evaluation system cannot be “tricked”.

Second, creatine has been shown in endless amounts of research to cause dehydration among athletes of all sports backgrounds. Muscle cramping and spasming along with feelings of nausea are not uncommon with an athlete that reacts negatively to the supplementation of creatine. Keep in mind that even the slightest level of dehydration causes the contractile strength within the muscles spindle cells to diminish – not an ideal scenario for athletes. To make the situation worse, athletes that are training and racing in hot parts of the country are at a disadvantage in regards to dissipating the negative effects of internal heat (created by working muscles and internal body systems like digestion and respiration.) The scientific term for this is the Endothermic Process: your body’s ability to rid itself of heat. The only way that your body can rid itself of heat is through sweat at the skin level.  If you happen to be riding or racing in a highly humid environment, your ability to cool down is hampered again because water can not evaporate against another molecule of water. This causes you to overheat internally which ultimately slows down your internal bodily functions which manifests itself in the form of slower speed.

Side note, in clinical studies, creatine has been documented to increase the contractile strength of a muscle; however, the additional lactic acid (a by-product of burning carbohydrates) that is produced due to the higher levels of output has resulted in larger than normal levels of blood lactate. This surplus of lactic acid can not be effectively cleared from the circulatory system through the blood vessels and, in turn, becomes counter productive.

Bottom line: should athletes supplement with creatine: NO. Instead, they need to spend more time developing a comprehensive training and nutritional program that will provide the human body the elements it needs to perform at an optimal level.

Avoid Becoming Sick and Weak Through Clean Eating

To the surprise of many, strength training (kettle bells, free weights, medicine balls & stretch cords) and cardiovascular exercise (Concept 2 rowing, cycling, swimming, etc.) doesn’t make you fitter and faster! In fact, there are only two things that you can do to improve your speed & endurance: sleep and good nutrition. We will discuss the importance of sleep in the near future, but within this article, we will discuss why proper protein intake on a daily basis is not only necessary to reach your full athletic ability, but also important to your long term health (specifically low percentage of body fat and high percentages of lean muscle).

The use of interval training & strength training to build muscle and burn fat is only beneficial if your body receives the necessary type and amount of amino acids to rebuild the torn down muscles. Most imperative is the body’s ability to absorb what it consumes.

Lets take a look at when to eat, what to eat and determine how much to eat for optimal health and performance

PROTEIN INTAKE – BEFORE EXERCISE

The purpose of having protein before you exercise is to prevent muscle protein breakdown and to promote muscle protein synthesis. This is fancy talk for preserving the muscle you already have, and helping to promote the growth of new muscle tissue.

According to Bariatric Registered Dietitian, Derek Helderman , recent research has shown that consuming protein before exercise can decrease, or at least prevent the increase of, markers of muscle damage (myoglobin, creatine kinase and myofibrillar protein degradation) more than groups who consumed just carbohydrates or placebos. This is one of the key reasons to have protein before you train, as reducing the damage to the muscles can improve recovery time and cause better adaptations to training over the long-term. In addition, protein consumed before training will  flood your blood stream with amino acids as your body needs them, beginning the process of creating new muscle while you are training!

Aim to consume about 15-40 grams of protein within 30-90 minutes before training, depending on your size and needs. This can be consumed either in a shake or a mixed meal.

 

PROTEIN INTAKE – POST EXERCISE

When you are finished with your workout, you have two priorities relevant to recovery. First, is to replenish depleted stored sugar levels (glycogen) in the liver and muscles and second is to rebuild the muscles, tendons and ligaments stressed during exercise.

The period of time at which you consume protein following a workout is also important. According to a review published in the February 2008 edition of “Strength and Conditioning Journal,” sport nutritionist Dr. Jose Antonio concluded that protein cell turnover, or the process by which your body begins to synthesize new protein cells and rids itself of old ones, occurs at an increased rate within one hour following exercise. This is the most effective time for consuming a post-workout supplement.

On the flip side, waiting too long can compromise the beneficial adaptations to training, and decrease your results. So while you don’t have to slam down a shake immediately after training, it wouldn’t be in your best interest to wait for three hours either.

Aim to consume about 15-40 grams of protein within 30 minutes after training, again depending on your size and needs. Whether this is consumed as a shake or a solid meal is solely dependent on what best fits your needs

 

PROTEIN SOURCES

You can consume protein from whole foods, protein supplements or amino acid supplements. Whole foods include basic dietary sources such as milk, snack bars and meats. Protein supplements come in powder form and are generally extracted from milk, soy, wheat or eggs. Extracting specific essential amino acids, the building blocks of all protein molecules, can be an effective post-workout supplementation method as well. Your body is also at an increased need for fluid and carbohydrates following a workout because of losses in water and electrolytes through sweat and depleted glycogen stores. A beverage that contains about a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein appears to be ideal for post-workout recovery.

As outlined by Physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola, a fast-assimilating protein, such as whey protein is one of the easiest and most nutritionally rewarding food to consume pre and post workout. He writes,

” … in terms of current recommendations it appears that consumption of ~ 20–25g … of a rapidly absorbed protein may serve to maximally stimulate MPS after resistance exercise in young healthy individuals. Ideal candidates to fulfill such criteria appear to be whey or bovine milk.”

As research has documented, whey protein is superior to other milk proteins for building muscle because the amino acids found in bioavailable whey protein activates certain cellular mechanisms (mTORC-1), which in turn promote muscle protein synthesis, as well as boost thyroid and also protect against declining testosterone levels after exercise.

Researchers stress that high-quality leucine-rich proteins, such as whey, may be particularly important for the elderly to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Leucine is part of branched-chain amino acid that serves multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism to increase protein synthesis and build your muscle.

The review noted that adding free leucine to meals did not appear to be an effective strategy to enhance muscle mass or strength over a 12-week period, and you should be aware that taking leucine as a free form amino acid supplement can be counterproductive and wrought with side effects.

To reap the associated benefits without the side effects, make sure you get your leucine from food only. The typical requirement for leucine to maintain body protein is 1-3 grams daily. However, to optimize its anabolic pathway, you need an estimated 8-16 grams of leucine daily, you only need three ounces of high-quality whey to reach the eight-gram requirement, compared to 1.5 pounds of chicken, or about 16 eggs, or half a pound of raw cheddar cheese!

 

IMPORTANT POINTS ABOUT HIGH-QUALITY WHEY

There’s no shortage of whey products on the market, but unfortunately most of them will NOT give you the health benefits associated with high-quality whey. First of all you want to use a whey protein concentrate, NOT isolate.

All whey protein isolates are devoid of nutritional co-factors including alkalizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins, and lipids, which are lost in the processing. This renders them deficient and overly acidifying. Unlike whole protein food concentrates, which do not acidify your body due to their alkalinizing minerals, whey protein isolates are over acidifying. I would strongly avoid ALL whey protein isolates just as you would avoid trans fats as they contain putrid proteins that some experts believe to be worse than trans fat.

If chronically consumed in large amounts (such as with bodybuilders or athletes) without alkalizing foods, it can acidify your body and over time may lead to metabolic acidosis with consequences that include wasting of muscle and bone tissues, total metabolic shut down, and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.

So if you want to use whey protein, PLEASE do not use an inferior whey isolate. Look for a high-quality concentrate instead. These are the factors you need to look for in order to ensure you’re buying a high-quality product:

Organic (without hormones) Grass-fed Made from unpasteurized (raw) milk
Cold processed, since heat destroys whey’s fragile molecular structure Minimally processed  Concentrate

NO Isolates

Rich, creamy, full flavor
Water-soluble Sweetened naturally, not artificially Highly digestible—look for medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), not long chain fatty acids

 

Some of the best whey protein you can get today is derived from raw milk cheese manufacturing. They have very high-quality controls and produce great-tasting whey, with optimal nutritional content. Raw dairy products, such as raw milk or raw milk cheese, are another alternative.

Moreover, scientists have found that the ratio between protein and carbohydrates is critically important, especially as you age. Many make the mistake of eating too many carbs in relation to protein and fat. Research shows that high-carbohydrate diets fail to build muscle, even in younger people due to their detrimental effect on insulin. Again and again, it’s the high-protein/high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet that proves the most effective both for muscle building and weight loss.

 

AMINO ACIDS – ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCKS TO STRENGTHEN MUSCLES

As mentioned earlier, the amino acid leucine is one of the most important for fitness. It’s part of branched-chain amino acid found in certain foods, and serves multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism, which signals protein to be created and builds your muscle. But that’s not all.

Founder of Defense Nutrition and author of numerous publications, Ori Hofmekler explains:

“Leucine has shown to promote the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 15 (IL-15), which has been regarded as the most powerful fitness promoting protein produced by your muscle. IL-15 acts as an anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, muscle-regenerating signaling agent with unmatching effects on body transformation and anti-aging.

Furthermore leucine along with calcium blocks the obesity promoting effect of excess Vitamin D calciferol in adipose tissues (excess of vitamin d in fat cells induces central obesity which can be blocked by calcium/leucine intake such as from dairy, particularly whey protein). Finally, leucine/IL 15 anti-inflammatory actions have been linked to mitochondrial biogenesis, increased thermogensis, and increased energy utilization efficiency probably via activation of the longevity gene SIRT-1.”

Leucine also indirectly promotes the increase of glutathione in your body, as its anti-inflammatory actions can help spare glutathione molecules that would have otherwise be recruited to counteract inflammatory processes.

However, in order to be effective, you need far more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of leucine. The reason for this is because even though leucine is relatively abundant in our food supply, it does not appear in high concentrations, and is often wasted as an energy substrate or used as a building block rather than an anabolic agent. This means that to establish the right anabolic environment, you need to increase leucine consumption beyond maintenance requirements.

That said, keep in mind that using leucine as a free form amino acid can be highly counterproductive as when free form amino acids are artificially administrated, they rapidly enter your circulation while disrupting insulin function, and impairing your body’s glycemic control. Food based leucine is really the ideal form that can benefit your muscles without side effects. The highest concentrations of leucine and other branched chain amino acids (BCAA) are found in dairy products; particularly whey protein. and quality cheese.

Based on nitrogen-balance measurements, the requirement for leucine to maintain body protein is 1-3 grams daily. To optimize its anabolic pathway, you need an estimated 8g – 16g of leucine daily. The following chart presents leucine content in common foods. As you can see, whey protein is ideal for getting sufficient amounts of leucine in your diet. You only need three ounces of whey protein, compared to a pound and a half of chicken to get 8 grams of leucine:

Leucine Content in food / per 100g

Whey Protein Concentrate 8.0g
Raw Cheddar Cheese 3.6g
Lean Beef 1.7g
Salmon 1.6g
Almonds 1.5g
Chicken 1.4g
Chick Peas 1.4g
Raw Eggs 1.0g
Egg Yolk 1.4g
Sheep Milk 0.6g
Pork 0.4g
Cow Milk 0.3g

 

HOW MUCH PROTEIN TO CONSUME FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH AND PERFORMANCE

A protein supplement is only effective if you already consume adequate dietary protein. Most adults need to consume about 0.4g of protein per 1 lb. of body weight. Highly active adults and athletes have increased protein needs. Athletes who consistently perform strength training exercises should consume about 0.7 to 0.9g per 1 lb. of body weight. Endurance athletes should consume about 0.6 to 0.7g of protein per 1 lb. of body weight each day.

REFERENCE: “Performance Training Journal”; Protein Requirements for Athletes; Debra Wein, MD et al.; February 2011

The Power of Protein

The Importance of Protein

Because of the numerous responsibilities of protein in the body (from muscle regeneration to energy production) consuming the proper amounts on a daily basis are imperative for both health and performance. Your body continually makes new cells for your muscles, organs, glands and bones on a daily basis. All of these are built on the foundation of protein, their main building block. Keep in mind, the longer and/or harder you exercise the higher your protein intake on daily basis needs to be.

The Role of Protein

Before we get into how much protein your need on a daily basis, let’s discuss the role of protein. In addition to growth and repair of muscles and other tissues, some protein is used for energy. Per Dr. Phil Maffetone, the amount of energy contributed by protein may be as high as 15% in some individuals. Protein is also necessary for enzymes important to metabolism.

Protein is essential for maintaining neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers used by the nervous system to signal proper function throughout the body. Additionally, oxygen, fats and vitamins are transported throughout the body with the help of proteins.

Protein also plays an instrumental role in making natural antibodies for your immune system. Those who lose muscle mass through reduced protein consumption have a weakened immune system. Additionally, those who consume inadequate protein may not get enough of certain nutrients necessary for proper immune function. For example, the amino acid cysteine  contained in whey protein can improve immune function. This amino acid is necessary for your body to make its most powerful antioxidant, glutathione.

How Much Protein?

The argument about how much protein is needed for optimum health and performance has become so convoluted, it has been revised by the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowence) 10 times since 1943! The RDA’s current recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight has been declared too low by many doctors and nutrition experts. Some of these professionals believe that the gram per kilogram needs to be increased by 3 – 4 times this amount to maintain proper lean muscle mass, recover from exercise and keep the blood chemistry healthy.

As clearly declared by Dr. Phil Maffetone, the issue of protein needs dictated by body weight is very distorted and inaccurate. These inaccuracies are created because if you are going to use grams per kilogram of body weight, it needs to be calculated off of body mass (total weight minus your body fat). It is your muscle that needs protein, NOT your stored fat. Keep in mind that over 50% of the dry weight of your body is protein.

As you can see, this can get complex and consuming quite quickly. It is for this exact reason that I don’t want you to count calories, calculate grams or weigh your food. Why? Because you can determine your personal needs by listening to your body, document your mental clarity and performance results and capture eight simple body measurements to determine how your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake is affecting your health and wellness.

Importance of Protein

All bodily functions, from breathing to muscle movement to new muscle development is controlled by thousands of different enzymes – and you guessed it, enzymes are made from protein as well. Even the hemoglobin, that carries the oxygen in your blood, is manufactured out of protein. The structure of your genes and your brain cells are totally fabricated from protein.

As documented by Dr. Michael Colgan, research using radioisotope techniques show that over 98% of the molecules of the human body are completely replaced each year. Bits and pieces of all your structures are constantly being replaced with new proteins. Research has proven that every six months your muscles, blood, enzymes and even the structures of your genes are completely replaced. Think about this, the body that you have today is the result of what you have eaten for the last six months. Garbage in, inferior health, wellness out!

Dangers of Inadequate Protein Intake

Signs of low protein (or low quality) intake includes:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Low Energy Levels
  • Easily Broken Bones
  • Slow Recovery after Exercise

In a study completed by Dr. Gontzea at the Institute of Medicine in Bucharest, he demonstrated that exercise causes increased demands on the body’s need for protein. During this study (and most studies on protein synthesis) he evaluated the nitrogen balances in urine and feces. A positive nitrogen balance means that the body is obtaining sufficient quantity and quality from the diet. A negative nitrogen balance means that the body is not receiving enough quality or quantity of protein from the diet. A negative nitrogen balance means that the body is not receiving enough quality and quantity of protein so the body literally “eats” muscle and other protein structures in the body for its daily needs.

Dangers of Taking in Too Much Protein

Many people are afraid of eating too much protein – and justifiably so; excessive protein intake is harsh on your body with painful side effects (i.e. kidney stones). However, if your body needs 100 grams of protein per day, then 100 grams is not too much but rather your personalized protein needs!

On a quick side note, many times kidney stones are a result of chronic dehydration, not excessive protein intake. If you are consuming half of your body weight in ounces of water and calculating your sweat rate during exercise, you will minimize your risk of dehydration and the development of kidney stones.

Protein Intake to Build Muscle

One of the big misconceptions of building muscle is that you can accomplish this task by eating tremendous amounts of meat, nuts and protein shakes. The truth about building muscle has little to do with the amount of protein you take in, but rather the demands of the body to “need” more protein to rebuild stressed muscle tissue. If you consume more protein that your body needs (and your liver processes), the excess protein is broken down into carbohydrates and passed as urea waste.

The key to building more muscle mass is to stress the tendons, ligaments and muscles in a systematic manner to break down the muscle tissue without tearing it. This is a big problem with athletes who try to grow too fast, they overstress the system and instead of developing new muscle (natural anabolic growth mode) they put their bodies in a tear down mode (catabolic mode).

As you incrementally add more load and stress on your tendons, ligaments and muscles, consuming high quality protein will result in increased muscle mass as the body “absorbs” the much needed amino acids which build new muscle (in addition to repairing the torn down existing muscle tissue).

Amino Acids

Like everything we eat, it isn’t just what you consume but also what you absorb that improves your health and performance. The important component of protein is an element called amino acids. Think about amino acids as the “building blocks of muscle”. Amino acids must be digested in the intestine and broken down into amino acids for absorption. Once absorbed, the amino acids are used either as individual products or recombined as proteins. For example, the amino acid tryptophan is used to make certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Additionally, recombining many amino acids provides for the manufacture of new muscle cells.

Experts say that there are at least 20 amino acids necessary for optimum health and performance. While some of these amino acids can be made by the body (non-essential), others must be taken in through the diet (essential). The following table lists both types:

Essential Amino Acids Non-Essential Amino Acids
Arginine Alanine
Histidine Asparagine
Isoleucine Aspartate
Leucine Cysteine
Lysine Glutamate
Methionine Glutamine
Phenylalanine Glycine
Threonline Proline
Tryptophan Serine
Valine Tyrosine

One topic that pops up when discussing amino acids is “complete amino acids” and “incomplete amino acids”. Animal protein sources such as meat, fish, cheese and eggs contain all amino acids, and are what we consider complete amino acids. The only non-animal product that is a complete protein is tofu. Vegetables foods contain only some of the amino acids. With this in mind, combining various vegetable foods can produce a complete amino acid profile. Keep in mind that it is NOT necessary to eat all of them in one meal. For non-meat eating individuals, the combination of whole grains and legumes will provide a complete amino acid profile. Simple examples are brown rice and beans or almond butter and whole wheat bread.