Many of us will spend a great many hours working through endless set’s and rep’s looking for that magical combination that will finally add that extra inch or bring about that much sort after line of definition. But how many of us would think about spending even half as much time, effort and dedication in looking at what we eat and drink?
In my experience, unfortunately, not enough!
The importance of good nutrition cannot be overstated in any physical pursuit but particularly when it comes to increasing muscle mass, reducing body fat and changing shape. Without a well thought out eating plan that is balanced in carbs, proteins and fat, all that time and effort spent in the gym will be in vain.
Of all the nutrients available to the exercise enthusiast protein is probably one of the most controversial in terms of the quantity and quality required to sustain muscular growth. In short most studies indicate that the R.D.A. (recommended daily allowance) for the general population ranges from about 0.75 – 0.83g per Kg of body weight per day up to 1.63g/Kg/day for individuals involved in high intensity strength, endurance or weight training. Just as important perhaps is the frequency with which protein is consumed, especially when training.
1) Proteins are formed from sub units called amino acids.
2) The body requires 20 different amino acids.
3) Eight of the twenty amino acids cannot be synthesized in the body. These are known as essential amino acids and must be consumed within the diet.
4) Proteins are found in the cells of all animals and plants and are generally referred to as: –
Complete (higher Quality) containing all of the essential amino acids in the correct balance for the body. And Incomplete (lower Quality) containing less than all of the essential amino acids, which may not necessarily be in the correct balance for the body.
5) Proteins provide the building blocks for synthesis of cellular material during anabolic (growth) process.
6) Protein breakdown (catabolism) during exercise becomes most apparent when the bodies carbohydrate stores are low. This perhaps enforces the need to maximise carbohydrate levels during strenuous exercise.
7) Excessive intake of protein over and above the body’s daily requirement does not lead to continued muscular growth and strength gains. Surplus protein represents an excessive burden on the body because it subsequently has to be broken down into other substances and either removed from the body or stored. When stored it merely becomes a further source of body fat.
What is carbohydrate, and is it important in determining your ability to increase your lean tissue mass?
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates used to be divided into two main categories. Those that where SIMPLE, sometimes referred to as sugars, and those that where COMPLEX more often referred to as starches. At a molecular level these terms referred to the complexity of their structure (a full description, of which, falls outside the boundaries of this text). On a more practical note these products where and quite often still are more readily identified from the examples below.
Fruit sugar (glucose, fructose), Table Sugar (Sucrose), Milk sugar (lactose) White bread, jam, sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes, fruit, honey and sauces.
Pasta, rice, noodles, potatoes, breakfast cereal, pulses and flour.
Which was thought to be better for you simple or complex?
Although both could provide us with the energy to carry out physical activity, it was believed that the complex variety of carbs would provide us with a far greater spread of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, proteins and fibre. The simple variety where, more often than not, associated with processed foods that where generally higher in fat.
Why do we need either of them in the first place?
In short, without sufficient carbohydrate intake you will not have the fuel to provide your body with the necessary energy to exercise and to provide you with the physical changes that you are looking for. An adequate carb intake also prevents much needed protein from being catabolised to provide energy.
How many of these carbohydrates does the average person require to sustain adequate energy levels?
The specific number of calories required varies from person to person depending on activity levels, genetics and lifestyle. It is therefore perhaps more prudent to look at the percentage of carbs in the diet. Current guidelines indicate that for an individual who is working out on a regular basis you should be aiming for approx 60% of your daily calories from carbs. But which ones, those that used to be referred to as simple or complex
To answer this question, you will first need to understand a little about what is referred to as the glyceamic index.
Until the last decade it was believed that dramatic increases in blood sugar where as a direct result of the ingestion of foods high in SIMPLE carbohydrates, however it has subsequently been proven that it is not quite as straight forward as this.
Detailed research over the last ten years indicates that it is not necessarily the molecular make-up of the sugar that determines how quickly a carbohydrate gets into the blood stream but a combination of other factors such as the presence and balance of other nutrients and fibre contained within the foods consumed. Not to mention that different starches are absorbed at different rates.
To take all of these factors into account the concepts of the Glyceamic index (G.I.) and more recently Glyceamic Load (G.L.) were born. The index works on the basis of the time that it takes for 50g of a particular food to cause an increase in blood sugar levels. This time is measured against a reference food such as glucose which has an index of 100 (sometimes white bread is used as the main indexer) and then indexed accordingly .The higher the index, the quicker the rise in blood sugar and the greater the insulin release. It is this subsequent insulin release that has tremendous implications for: –
General well being
Weight Loss (body fat reduction)
Blood Sugar Regulation
Reduction of Heart Disease
The Glyceamic load (G.L.) is similar to the index but takes into account the portion size. There is a somewhat complex (excuse the play on words!) calculation for working out the GL of a particular food (number of grams of carbs in the portion, multiply by the G.I. and divide by 100!!) but for those of you who want the easy option the rule is- The lower the GI or GL the better it is for you in the context of insulin management.
Why should you be concerned about insulin management? Well my friends, this little baby is one of the most powerful hormones in the human body (ask any diabetic!) and if you do not respect it you will increase your body fat (significantly), increase your risk of Heart Disease and crawl through most days feeling tired, warn out and mentally fatigued.
You see for many years researchers like Atkins (remember his diet) Yudkin and a host of other revered experts in their field have tried to communicate the dangers of insulin mis-management to the public at large. Sadly however there is not a government on the planet that could survive without the revenues generated from food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. I am not going to spin off into some kind of conspiracy theory about how the likes of Atkins et al have been discredited by the media to suit the political agendas of the day. That’s not what this is about. Simply to raise your awareness that the number one cause of Insulin mismanagement and a whole host of metabolic challenges in the human body is sugar and all of its derivatives. Avoiding or minimising the consumption of foods that have a High G.I or G.L. has been scientifically proven to reduce the incidence of:-
Heart Disease, High Blood pressure, Depression, gallstones, Kidney disease, Poly cystic ovary syndrome, Liver disease, Type two diabetes, orthopaedic problems, sleep Apnoea and high cholesterol!
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Components of a balanced diet
There is a lot of mis-information in the media about Fats. Contrary to popular belief the human body cannot survive without fat in the diet. In the same way that the body requires certain proteins in the form of amino acids, it also requires essential fatty acids. The term essential implying that they have to come from the diet as the body is not able to “manufacture” them for itself. As well as providing energy Fat is essential for health because it supports a number of the bodies function as well as providing storage for vitamins ADE and K. The difficulty is in trying to differentiate between those fats that are perceived as harmful and those that are referred to as safe.
Potentially Harmful dietary Fat
Generally solid at room temperature, Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources whilst Trans fats which also come from animals, are far more prevalent in food manufacturing process. The term hydrogenated was used a few years ago until manufacturers realized that consumers were beginning to try and filter out hydrogenated foods from their diet. They are now more likely to be referred to as trans fats but don’t be fooled by the change in terminology. Research indicates that these synthetic or trans fats are just as likely to increase LDL cholesterol profiles and increase your risk of heart disease.
Why do the food manufacturers continue to use them if there is evidence that they are harmful?
In short, economics. These kinds of fat are easier to cook with and have a longer shelf life than naturally occurring oils.
Potentially Healthier Dietary fat
Both Mono and Poly Unsaturated fats are perceived as being a healthier option and have been implicated positively in research on Heart Disease and Diabetes.
Liquid at room temperature these fats include Olive oil, Corn oil, safflower and Peanut oil.
I have deliberately used the term “potentially” when describing fats as like many things in life it is all about balance. Saturated fats which include animal fats have been consumed since the beginning of time and in conjunction with regular physical activity have proven to be a good source of essential fatty acids and not associated with negative health implications (see Paleo, Atkins, PCOS Diet,) the list