Can't Get Enough
Meat And Muscle
Cereal After Workouts
How Much Protein
Supplements Recuperation And Growth
Water Vs Sports Drinks
Eating Before Training
Protein And Exercise
Foods That Combine Complete Proteins
Diet Adversely Affects My Progress
CAN'T GET ENOUGH
Q: I'm an avid triathlete, and I'm having a hard time keeping my
weight up. I find that on my long training days I can't seem to eat
enough food to get the amount of calories I need, especially when
I'm training intensely. Is it okay to drink regular sodas in order
to get more carbs and calories?
A: While most people would love to have your problem, it's quite
common for endurance athletes to have difficulty eating enough
calories to maintain their muscle glycogen stores, a requirement for
optimal training and performance. Many elite athletes need 8,000 to
12000 calories per day or more to maintain the energy output of
their training. In one study of Tour de France bicycle racers the
researchers found that the athletes required a high-calorie,
high-carbohydrate replacement drink, in addition to their food, in
order to resupply their glycogen stores for the next day's ride.
Even when the athletes ate as much as they wanted, they couldn't
consume adequate calories and carbs to keep their muscle glycogen
Many athletes resort to concentrated forms of carbohydrates, such as
replacement drinks and dried fruit, to get the calories and carbs
and at the same time keep their fat intakes low. As long as you're
eating a high-carbohydrate diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
to give you adequate vitamins and minerals, the sugar in regular
soda will be no worse than what you get in fruit juices or other
beverages. Remember, however, that most regular sodas contain eight
to 12 teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounces; and try to limit your
consumption of the sodas that contain caffeine, including several
orange varieties and other you might not suspect.
MEAT AND MUSCLE
Finally, a partial
answer to the question of whether meat is necessary for gaining muscle.
While we still don't know the complete story, new research suggests that
animal protein- whether from fish, chicken or red meat-may help to keep
your testosterone levels up and to establish an environment for muscle
Research shows that a high-carbohydrate diet enhances muscle glycogen
levels and endurance performance. For this reason endurance athletes
often eat high-carbohydrate diets and limit their intake of fat and
animal protein. Meatless diets, too, are popular, as many in the medical
community recommend them; however, these athletes tend to be lactose
vegetarians, which means that they do eat low and nonfat dairy products
and eggs for sources of complete proteins.
According to the results of a recent study published in the Journal of
the American College of Sports Medicine, this type of diet may not be
optimum for bodybuilders and strength athletes. The researchers found
that athletes who followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for as little as
six weeks had serum testosterone levels that were significantly lower
than when they ate a mixed diet. Even so, the scientists noted no
changes in performance.
Both high-intensity training and diet can alter serum testosterone
levels. While we can't make definite recommendations from the limited
research thus far, it appears that bodybuilders should eat a minimal
amount of animal protein, particularly if they want to increase muscle
mass. Testosterone is a potent stimulator of protein synthesis and
allows males to have larger, stronger muscles than females. So rather
than taking steroids, if you modify your diet, it may help get you past
that sticking point in your quest for more muscle.
Q: If I eat a lot of cereal after a workout, will it improve my vitamin
A: Overdoing anything can be bad for the human body, and so moderation
is the key to success with vitamins. Many commercial cereals are
fortified with vitamins and minerals, specifically iron. While there's
generally no danger for people who eat one or two bowls a day, this is
potentially harmful for an athlete with a big appetite.
Iron is one nutrient you don't want to get too much of. Studies have
found that the greater the iron concentration in the blood, the greater
a person's risk of getting cancer. Researchers suspect that iron may be
a carcinogen in high concentrations, and if they can prove it, the Food
and Drug Administration will probably prohibit the practice of pumping
it into cereals and other foods.
Iron deficiency is a problem is school-age children and reproductive-age
women, but too much iron is another story. There's no reason to be
alarmed and stop eating cereal, but you should check to see what's in it
before you chomp down an entire box in one sitting.
So be smart and watch your quantities or what you think is helping your
performance may actually hinder it.
Q: Should I consume carbohydrate drinks before and during endurance
A: In the past athletes were warned about taking in carbohydrates 30 to
60 minutes before an event because experiments showed change in blood
glucose and muscle glycogen levels that doctors thought negatively
affected endurance. Recent tests have found, however, that consuming a
carbohydrate meal or beverage four hours to a few minutes before an
endurance activity does not negatively affect performance. You don't
want to get too much, though, or it can hurt your performance. So
experiment and find what works best for you.
As for taking in carbs during endurance activity, it's advisable to do
it for events that last longer than an hour because it can extend your
endurance at the end. The recommended intake is 15 to 20 grams of carb
every 15 to 20 minutes. If you're drinking fluids, the recommended
solution is 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate-the concentration of most
fluid-replacement beverages on the market. Juices and sodas are usually
10 to 12 percent, or you can dilute regular juices with water, half and
half, to create a beverage for optimal hydration and performance. After
you finish your training or event, if it's particularly hot and you have
sweated a lot, you should drink two cups of liquid for each pound of
bodyweight lost during the activity.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN
Q: I weigh 185
pounds and train intensely with weights three times per week on a
full-body routine. How much protein should I get each day?
A: While the Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per
kilogram of bodyweight, it's important to remember that this is a
recommendation and not a requirement set according to individual needs.
In fact, numerous groups, including the American Dietetic Association,
recommend increased protein intakes for athletes and people who perform
manual labor. Maintaining your daily protein at one to two grams per
kilogram of bodyweight will give you enough for growth and repair and at
the same time still falls within the ranges set by most experts.
Since you train only three times per week, you may want to hold your
protein to the lower end of the ranges on the days when you don't work
out and eat more protein, moving to the upper end of the spectrum, on
training days. So at 185 pounds you would eat between 85 and 168 grams
of protein, depending on your activity level. Excessive protein intake
won't bring you and added benefits and, in fact, can prove harmful to
your health and performance.
Q: I train extremely
hard. What supplements can I take to help me recuperate and grow faster?
A: The most important factors contributing to recuperation and repair
are adequate rest and a proper diet. Carbohydrate should be your primary
nutrient. You should eat at least 500 grams of carbs per day, or around
60 percent of your total caloric intake. Your protein intake should be
no more than one gram per pound of bodyweight.
One supplement that could, theoretically, assist you is amino acid
capsules. Many athletes find that these aid recuperation and allow for
faster repair and more intense workouts. For optimum benefit take amino
acids immediately after training. Other than that stick with a lowfat,
high-carbohydrate diet, get adequate sleep and take enough rest between
workouts to maximize your gains.
WATER VS SPORTS DRINKS
Q: In addition to
weight training, I do a lot of aerobic exercise. Could you please advise
me on what, if anything, I should drink during my workouts. Are these
sports drinks really any better than good old plain water or juice?
A: Proper hydration is not only important for your performance, but also
essential for your health. With as little as 2 percent dehydration your
performance levels will decrease, and dehydration levels of 5 percent
can lead to performance decreases of up to 30 percent. Five percent
dehydration can also lead to muscle cramping, heat stroke and heat
Water is as good as any so-called sports drink for maintaining your
blood volume and your thermoregulatory capacity, or your ability to
produce sweat and cool your body, during exercise. If you're going o
compete in an event or exercise for one to two hours, however, experts
recommend a drink containing some carbohydrates to help maintain blood
glucose levels and performance. Since drinks that are too concentrated
in carbohydrates slow the absorption from you digestive tract, one of
the more popular fluid-replacements drinks would be a better choice than
drinking juice, which contains 10 to12 percent carbohydrate. Most sports
drinks contain 6 to 8 percent carbohydrate, or one gram per 100
milliliters, a concentration that enhances fluid absorption.
For optimum results drink a beverage that contains 30 to 60 grams of
carbohydrate in a volume of one liter per hour. These recommendations
for fluid replacement during exercise will enable you to not only
maintain your energy level, but also to recuperate better for your next
Q: Sometimes I get stomach cramps after drinking water while I exercise.
Could this be because the water is cold, or is there some other reason?
A: Drinking cold water usually does not result in stomach cramps. In
fact, cold fluids empty faster from your stomach and therefore work
better than warm drinks to maintain your blood volume and performance.
Doctors believe that stomach cramps are caused by drinking large volumes
faster than small volumes, it's often recommended that you ingest larger
quantities of fluid when you exercise in a hot, humid environment. Since
you have problems with cramps, you may want to practice drinking more
frequently when you exercise and slowly adjust your body to taking in
larger quantities of liquid. Cold water will not only help to rehydrate
your body, but it will aid in cooling your body while you train.
Q: Is it good to eat something before I train? If so, what should I be
eating, and how long before a workout should I eat?
A: The answer is yes and no. While many athletes still believe that
eating a high-energy bar or drinking a high-energy drink right before
they train or compete give them energy, research has found the opposite
to be true. If you eat within two hours prior to exercise, you blood
sugar levels will actually drop below baseline, and your performance
will be adversely affected. On the other hand, if you eat a
high-carbohydrate meal more than two hours before you train, your
glycogen stores will likely be higher, and your performance will not be
Remember, your body can take up to 48 hours to completely replenish your
muscle glycogen stores, so in terms of what happens after hard, intense
training, what you eat on the day or several days before you train or
compete is more important then what you eat immediately before. Most
experts recommend eating at lease two hours before exercise and then
limiting intake solely to water. If your exercise session will last more
than one hour, you should drink a sports drink or eat some carbohydrates
while drinking water to help maintain your blood glucose and energy
levels. For optimum performance take in up to one liter of fluid and 30
to 60 grams of carbohydrate for each hour of exercise.
Q: How much water should I drink each day? Is it okay to drink it with
meals? Also, would I drink more when I train?
A: Most physicians recommend eight to 10 glasses of water per day in
addition to the other drinks you ingest. In fact, if you drink beverages
that contain caffeine or alcohol, both of which act as diuretics, you
should drink an addition cup of water for each cup of beverage. To a
certain extent, however, you want to exercise moderation. While it's
difficult to become overhydrated, you should not simply pound down the
water thinking that more is always better.
Whether or not you drink your water with meals is a matter of personal
preference. Drinking during a meal in no way alters the bioavailability
of the food. You should always drink both during and after exercise,
though, to make up for the fluid loss during the activity. Water is fin
for exercise that lasts less than one hour, but for events of longer
duration a carbohydrate-replacement drink like Gatorade is the best
choice for rehydration and performance. A good guideline is one cup of
fluid every 20 to 30 minutes during the activity and then two cups of
fluid for every pound of bodyweight you lose during the activity.
Another way to monitor hydration and water intake is to note your urine
concentration. The color should be clear to light yellow. There are
numerous possible causes of concentrated urine, including dehydration or
underhydration, as well as excessive supplement intake. Either way, if
your urine is concentrated, you should increase you water intake until
the color returns to normal.
Sports drinks are now the norm for endurance athletes. Gatorade not only
enhances endurance performance, but also speeds recuperation by
replacing glycogen stores more effectively than a diet high in
carbohydrates does. And the next generation of sports drinks promises to
offer even more in the way of refreshing nutritional benefits.
Recent studies looked into the advantages of using amino
acid-supplemented drinks during ultraendurance events such as
triathlons-with promising results. Taking in aminos before and during
triathlons that lasted longer than three hours improved the athletes'
performance capacities. It also increased fat utilization and helped
maintain blood glucose levels during the event.
The results were less conclusive for high-intensity exercise and weight
training. Amino acid supplementation had no effect on the snatch
performances of elite junior weightlifters. The researchers also found
that short-term use of an arginine supplement had no effect on body
composition or strength, which was measured as peak torque. Further
research in the area of amino acid supplements is currently under way.
Q: In one of your feature articles you stated that protein is used for
energy during exercise. What determines how much protein I use while I
A: There are three factors that affect protein
use during exercise:
carbohydrate in the diet
. Intensity and duration of exercise
. Athlete's level of fitness
Athletes who consume a diet rich in carbohydrates burn less protein than
those who eat protein and fat-rich diets. This is related to the protein
sparing effect of carbohydrates. In addition, some amino acids can be
concerted to glucose. Exercise requires glucose, but if your diet is
lacking in carbohydrate you'll use much more protein instead of glucose
Exercise intensity and duration also modify protein use because long
sessions of low-to-moderate intensity exercise demand large quantities
of fuel. Protein can make up 5 to 15 percent of the energy demands.
Short-duration, high-intensity anaerobic exercise demands less total
The athlete's fitness level affects protein use for one simple reason:
the better trained the athlete is, the less protein he or she used
during exercise. Protein intakes appear to be higher for trained
athletes during periods of increased training.
The exact amount of protein an athlete should consume is under debate.
While the RDA for protein is .8/kg bodyweight, the American Dietetic
Association recommends 1g/kg for active individuals, and many
researchers in the field up that to 1.6 to 2g/kg/day. This works out to
almost one gram per pound of bodyweight, and amount you can easily
obtain through your diet without resorting to supplementation.
Q: I follow a strict vegetarian diet, and I'm looking for a list of
foods that combine to supply complete proteins. Is a vegetarian diet
detrimental to my athletic performance?
A: There are many forms of vegetarian diets. Pure vegetarians, or
vegans, avoid all animal products, and fruitarians follow the most
restricted diet. There are also vegetarians who simply limit their
animal protein intakes and only eat foods that are considered to be
"organic," "natural," unprocessed or unrefined.
Clearly, vegetarians can become world-class athletes. Bill Pearl and
Chris Evert are prime examples. The major risk of vegetarian diets is
the possibility of a nutritional indeficiency. As a diet becomes more
restrictive in terms of food sources, it becomes more difficult to get
all the nutrients you need in sufficient amounts. Bill Walton followed a
vegetarian diet for years, and many of his bone fracture problems were
attributed to that. You can avoid such problems through proper diet
planning and food selection, however.
Protein is an important component of the athlete's diet. Most foods that
come from plant origins are incomplete proteins and differ from each
other according to the amino acids they lack or contain in limited
supply. Vegetarians have learned to combine proteins from plant sources
to obtain a complete protein mix. A common example is mixing peanut
butter with wheat in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The following
table lists some examples of complementary foods that supply adequate
beans and bread, beans and wheat tortillas
salad and rice
pea soup and rye bread
bread and kidney beans
stir-fried veggies and rice
with mixed beans and corn
with sprouts beanand corn on the cob
Q: I'm a vegetarian, and I was wondering, can my diet adversely affect
my progress in bodybuilding?
A: There have been several top bodybuilders who claimed to be
vegetarians, and the diet apparently did not hurt them. As long as you
get adequate amounts of complete proteins, vitamins and minerals in your
diet, you should have no problem. It is especially important to get
enough iron. Remember that vitamin C increases the bioavailability of
iron, while calcium decreases it. So drink some O.J. when you eat foods
high in iron, and avoid dairy products at the same meal. Several
scientific studies have concluded that strict vegetarian diets do not
adversely affect muscular strength-at least not over the time periods