10 Nutrition Tips for February

The death of energy drinks, GSP’s unique nutrition program, the truth on post-workout carbohydrates, the role hormones play in body composition, and much more.

1. What are some health/nutrition trends to watch for in 2013?

From Dr. James Hardemann:

This year will bring changes across the board: An influenza outbreak over the next three months will prompt record numbers of flu vaccines this coming fall for next season (but it’s still not too late to get vaccinated for this flu season). The popularity of energy drinks will begin to wane as they become viewed as what they are: calorie-laden, hyper-caffeinated sugar water with no redeeming nutritional value. The super-size drink ban will actually decrease the per capita soda consumption in New York City.

Energy drinks truly are one of the worst possible things you can put into your body. Need energy before a workout or big game? Sneak a quick 15-20 minute nap in. And if that isn’t possible, go for a more natural caffeine source, like a black coffee or green tea.

2. Chili is one of the best muscle-building meals you can make.

I love making and eating chili – you can get creative with spices and additions, and it is a very cost-effective way to fill up your stomach. Make a big pot and it tends to last for a few days (or less, if you eat it for every meal of the day like I do).

The link above has links to 83 different chili recipes… so get cooking!

A few tips/things I like to do with chili – make sure you chop the vegetables up very fine, or they tend to dominate the odd spoonful. Add in a little balsamic vinaigrette – adds a great sweetness without taking away from the other spices and natural flavours of the foods you have included.

3. Here is another good read on Gluten.

Don’t get too gung-ho with gluten-free foods, though:

Americans now spend more than $2 billion a year on gluten-free products, and finding gluten-free goodies is easier than ever. But just because you can stock your pantry with gluten-free pancake mixes, brownies, cookies and breads doesn’t mean you should.

You’re better off thinking of these products as occasional treats rather than daily staples, advises Wilson. That’s because gluten-free breads, pastas and crackers are often high in simple carbohydrates, such as potato starch, that rocket through the digestion process and lead to spikes in blood sugar. Such blood-sugar surges damage the body over time, and also contribute to inflammatory conditions.

4. An interesting read on the role hormones play in body composition.

There are five ways to boost testosterone naturally in the above link. Here is one of them:

Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

To place the body into an anabolic (muscle-building) state, adequate sleep is essential. While you’re sleeping, protein metabolism occurs at a more proficient rate, mainly due to a big spike in GH release within the first hour or so of sleep. Then, smaller bursts of GH are secreted about every four hours. The more sleep you get, the more GH you produce.

On the other end, a lack of sleep contributes to an increase in cortisol production, a catabolic, muscle-damaging hormone, which will lower testosterone levels. Not good.

Probably not what you were expecting, and not as exciting as some hyped supplement or pill with a name like Ripped Freak or Muscle Destroyer. But sleep is about as important as it gets. Zzzzzzz.

5. If you are giving the Paleo diet/lifestyle a try, here are a few quick and easy recipes to get you started.

I mean, how good does this look?

6. Georges St. Pierre is widely regarded as having one of the best physiques in the world. A lot of that comes from his work in the gym, but he is also extremely diligent with his nutrition.

An excerpt (I’d recommend reading the entire article as it is really interesting):

Below is the 2009 meal plan designed for GSP by Dr. Berardi.

It’s based it around “anytime” (AT) and “post-workout” (PW) meals. He gave the guidelines to Jen and Ross and they prepared a menu of roughly 30-40 items that adhered to the calorie and macro-nutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) requirements and ratios. Berardi explains the basic approach:

“Georges’ baseline menu is about 3200-3500kcal per day, with around 250 grams of protein, 350 grams of carbs, and 100 grams of fat. PW meals are higher in protein and carbs, while being lower in fat, and eaten right after workouts. AT meals are higher in protein and fat, while being low in carbs.”

7. A few new and interesting studies on protein consumption have been released.

The results:

Well, the first study showed that when college-aged weight-trainers drink 0g, 5g, 10g, 20g, or 40g of protein after a weight training session, muscle protein synthesis is stimulated maximally at the 20g dose.  Interestingly, there were no further increases in muscle protein synthesis at the 40g dose.

Similarly, in the second study, when young and elderly volunteers were given 30 or 90g of dietary protein in a single meal, the 30g dose maximally stimulated muscle protein synthesis.  Again, there were no further increases in muscle protein synthesis at the 90g dose.

Pretty interesting stuff – I imagine a lot of people are wasting protein by trying to consume too much in one sitting. However, there are more benefits to protein than just muscle consumption (which is maximized at 20-30 grams per serving).

Looking over this list of benefits, it’s hard to ignore the fact that we don’t just eat protein for its muscle synthetic effect.  We eat protein for a bunch of other reasons too.  And since a higher protein diet can lead to a better health profile, an increased metabolism, improved body composition, and an improved training response, why would anyone ever try to limit their protein intake to the bare minimum?

The recommendations:

Women – 1 serving of lean, complete protein (20-30g) with each meal, every few hours.  (Or, if you eat less frequently, eat a bit more protein with each meal).

Men – 2 servings of lean, complete protein (40-60g) with each meal, every few hours.  (Or, if you eat less frequently, eat a bit more protein with each meal).

While your body may not “need” that much protein for muscle consumption, protein is the building block for so many other bodily functions. Don’t worry about measuring too closely – just eat healthy foods that contain protein, and supplement with shakes and powders only if necessary.

8. If you want to lose more fat, try exercising before breakfast.

Very interesting results from a British Journal on Nutrition study:

The researchers discovered that those who had exercised in the morning did not consume additional calories or experience increased appetite during the day to compensate for their earlier activity.

They also found that those who had exercised in a fasted state burned almost 20% more fat compared to those who had consumed breakfast before their workout. This means that performing exercise on an empty stomach provides the most desirable outcome for fat loss.

I personally am not a morning person with regards to working out (I usually stretch in the morning, but save the weights for later in the day/evening), but I know early morning workouts are great for many people (especially those with crazy work schedules).

9. A more realistic look at the purpose of post-workout carbohydrate intake.

Consuming carbs to boost performance in endurance training is a very common practice, and many studies agree on this. However in this review when removing stringent conditions the researchers found that the waters were muddied. In bouts of exercise less than 70 minutes, there was no observed benefit to carb loading or consuming carbohydrates during exercise. In bouts of longer than 70 minutes, a little over half of the studies reviewed indicated a benefit to consuming carbs in a loading manner or during exercise itself. Less than convincing, in my opinion.

Unless you are running a marathon, carb-loading may be a waste of time (and detrimental to your fitness goals).

The results could be due to the fact carbohydrate intake benefits people in a fasted state more than those not in a fasted state. So for those of us who eat normally, focusing the timing of your carb ingestion might not be critical to your performance. It should also be noted that none of the athletes in any of the studies reviewed were elite. However, my intuition says that an elite athlete would obtain an even more reduced benefit from specialized carb consumption due to a greater ability to metabolize fats for fuel.

So if you eat a pretty solid diet, don’t worry too much about when to ingest carbs. With nutrition, less is more. Make it as simple as possible, and you will have much more success sticking to it.

10. Exercise often to improve your body’s insulin resistance.

A recent study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity:

They found that moderate to vigorous daily activity was more important than actual cardiorespiratory fitness level for impacting insulin resistance. Just getting out there and exercising on a regular basis will lower insulin resistance, and thus improve your health by reducing metabolic disease.

The results also suggest the amount of time spent exercising may be an important part of improving the body’s response to glucose. Insulin resistance was improved by 25% going from no exercise to 60 minutes of exercise per day. It improved 50% from no exercise to 120 minutes of exercise. In addition to the more vigorous types of exercise, there was a trend for higher insulin sensitivity even doing light exercise such as walking, but not a significant one. It could be that the stimulus for improved glucose metabolism requires glucose utilization.

Nothing earth-shattering, but more support for some sort of daily fitness routine.

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