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Can't Get Enough
Meat And Muscle
Cereal After Workouts
Carbohydrates Drinks
How Much Protein
Supplements Recuperation And Growth
Water Vs Sports Drinks
Eating Before Training
Water Worries
Protein And Exercise
Foods That Combine Complete Proteins
Diet Adversely Affects My Progress



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 levels high.

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.





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 growth.

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 intake?

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 events.

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.





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.





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 exhaustion.

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 training session.







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 adversely affected.

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 am training?

A: There are three factors that affect protein

use during exercise:

.Amount of 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 for fuel.
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 protein fuel.

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 amino acids.



         baked beans and bread, beans and wheat tortillas


         bean salad and rice


         split pea soup and rye bread


         corn bread and kidney beans


         stir-fried veggies and rice


         salad with mixed beans and corn


         salad 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 studied.