Tag Archives: Protein

Post-exercise Nutritional Tips for Improving Performance and Recovery

My former co-worker giving me a stretch during the Spartan race after cramps set in.

My former co-worker giving me a stretch during the Spartan race after cramps set in.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a 5k and a 10k challenge that was scheduled 12 hours apart. Fitness enthusiasts would consider a back to back 5k / 10k as just another training session. I, on the other hand, am quite the opposite. I have developed a hate-hate relationship with aerobic exercise –specifically, running. I like speed, agility, quickness, strength, and power – arrg arrg arrg! I am five foot nothin’ and a hundred somethin’ (emphasis on the nothin’ and somethin’).  I would rather pluck my eyelashes than run. But, I do love the exercise science.

You’d think I’d use my knowledge for exercise science as a useful tool. Unfortunately, my continued pursuit of knowledge does not translate to practical utility. What follows is what I should have done to enhance recovery and optimize performance during this short 12 hour recovery period between races. Since, I won’t listen to myself, maybe you will!

First, we must understand the physiology of producing energy, fatigue and recovery. I do not want to turn this in to an advanced exercise physiology session on metabolic pathways but this general background is helpful. When we exercise energy (ATP) is needed.  This energy is created by our body using three systems:  ATP-PCr system, the glycolytic system and the oxidative system. Each energy system has its own method of generating energy. Likewise, each energy system becomes fatigued after an imbalance occurs in its system.

In the ATP-PCr system our body uses stored Phosophocreatine and through a series of reactions quickly generates ATP. Unfortunately, this system gets depleted of stores rather quickly. This is why you can only perform and all out sprint for 10 – 20 seconds. After a 2 minute rest period the ATP resynthesizes giving you the ability to perform an all-out sprint again. If we going longer than 20 seconds our body must enter the glycolytic system. Here we begin to use glycogen to make energy. When glycogen is broken down without oxygen present, our cells becomes acidic (commonly known as lactic acid buildup or lactate threshold). This acidity inhibits enzyme activity. Since enzymes are the catalysts for almost all body functions, we fatigue when they stop working.

If intensity is low enough in the glycolytic system, our body has time to use oxygen to breakdown glycogen and prevent lactic acid build-up. This is the oxidative system. Using oxygen to breakdown glycogen is our long-term energy system, which we use to perform tasks like distance running. Carbohydrate is stored in our body as glycogen in muscle and liver. This is our preferred and primary energy source. However, when we exercise we deplete glycogen stores and sometimes have to call on fat to make energy. When we reach this phase our body will fatigue. So, in review, during high-intensity exercise we fatigue because we deplete ATP and Phosphocreatine stores. During moderate activity we fatigue due to lactate build-up. During long and steady state exercise we fatigue when glycogen stores become depleted.

To combat this fatigue we must train our body to adapt to these physiological changes, or provide opportunity for our body to recover through rest. You can also practice good post-exercise refueling habits. By eating and drinking macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) we replace what we just used. So, what do we eat and when do we eat to replenish?

A Study published by Howarth, et al., in 2009 found that ingesting a carbohydrate and protein mixture at a 4:1 ration provided the best benefits when compared to carbohydrates alone. Similarly, Koopman, et al., in 2005 found a 3:2 ration of carbohydrate to protein ingested post exercise was better than carbohydrate alone. The Koopman study also investigated the benefit of leucine – an essential amino acid found in soy, beef and salmon, known to facilitate muscle regeneration – and demonstrated an added benefit of this supplement. Even though some current data is contradictory most studies show that the amount of glycogen formed is significantly greater in athletes consuming the mixture of Carbohydrate and Protein.

Timing also plays an important role. You may have heard of nutrient timing – it’s getting a lot of attention lately. In order to compensate for protein loss during exercise, the timing of post-exercise protein supplementation is important. The efficiency of protein synthesis is improved by ingesting rapidly after exercise.  Another challenge is the refueling with carbohydrates. Bottom line, the sooner carbohydrate is consumed post-exercise; the greater the amount of muscle glycogen is resynthesized. When time is short between fuel-demanding events, it makes sense to start refueling as soon as possible.

Keep it simple, post-exercise meals should be built on a foundation of carbohydrate-rich foods plus a smaller amount of protein. Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit or bananas with peanut butter are both good options. If you are a stickler for protein powder, switch it up – make yourself a fruit smoothie and add a scoop of protein.

My times for the 5k and 10k were 29:37 and 63:26 respectively; certainly not awesome.  Maybe if I’d apply what I know, I would have done better. Maybe if I replenished with a healthy carbohydrate protein drink instead of beer and pizza, I would have done better on day 2. If I’d just listen to my brain and not my fat cells I might have finished under 60 minutes. If I’d listen to my brain, not watch the ESPN, I could improve. If I chose to get up rather than drool on my pillow, I might approach 45 minutes. Someday I will get the hint and practice what I preach. Maybe I need the late Chris Farley’s famous character, Matt Foley, as my personal motivational speaker.

Recommended Readings for Health and Wellness Geeks: March, 2013

Each day we are bombarded with new data. My goal is to share a breakdown of what I have discovered and read this past month. There is a little something for everyone here. How do I choose which articles to share? Is it clinically relevant? Does the story share something new or raise an interesting question? Most studies have some internal flaw that can be poked and while I try to only share those having high quality, my number one goals is to share something unique, progressive or surprising.

Published research:

In the recent release of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition there is a good article supporting the benefits of a high-protein breakfast. Data reveals that a high-protein diet alters ghrelin and peptide YY concentrations subsequently leading to decreased appetite and also curbed late night snacking. Is this study perfect – no. But it is pretty darn good – Yes. I have been blogging on this topic for sometime. Where, when and why did the public begin thinking high protein intake is unhealthy? Did you know quality of protein is measured by how it compares to egg protein? That is because the protein in egg, albumin, has near perfect amino acid distribution. Yet many consider eggs bad.

Here is another topic area I have been yapping about for some time – risk factors for hamstring strains. This systematic literature review was first published online and is now in print in the latest edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. This SLR included 34 articles for review, which is a pretty good number to include. Unfortunately, only 1 evaluated hip extension strength. Three found decreased hip extension ROM measures indicating shortened hip flexors. It baffles me as to why studies do not look at glute weakness and hip flexor tightness as a risk factor for hamstring strains. I’ve written about this and hope someday a good study will come out and study the correlation.

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury – MTBI is getting a lot of media attention lately and rightfully so. NFL labor union disputes and an enormous amount of published research has athletes and parents taking MTBI seriously. If that wasn’t enough, Junior Seau’s suicide was linked to depression secondary to chronic TBI. In the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, April 2013 issue, an article discusses depression after TBI. It’s a nice short quick-hitting synopsis, with full-text available.

Website finds:

I subscribe to daily email updates from ScienceDialy. Two or three times per week they share something good that I get caught reading. Two articles they shared link positive benefits of Vitamin D. One shows that Vitamin D replacement improves muscle efficiency and another found Vitamin D may lower diabetes risk in children. Now I am not advocating to go overboard on Vitamin D, but I am saying drink Vitamin D fortified milk and cereals and get outside in the sun to ensure you are getting adequate vitamin D.

ScienceDaily also had an write-up that I loved regarding foods to help fight inflammation. The article states citrus fruits, dark leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, and foods high in omega-3s, such as salmon are anti-inflammatory foods. Notice none of these foods are grains, breads and/or pasta. All are earth foods and not processed. This supports and is similar to blogs I wrote previously: how the US Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate could be to blame for our chronic disease epidemic, another which is very similar linking arthritis and osteoarthritis to diet. Finally two of my most popular posts written Stop Destroying Your Body and Is Your Diet Making You Sick discuss the link between diet and disease.

Must Read Blogs:

There are so many smart people out there and I enjoy learning from them all. Here are some good blog posts from this month.

The first is from Sport Injury Matt (@SportInjuryMatt – twitter handle). He had two posts about foot mechanics and foot wear. Part I shares good crucial information on foot mechanics. Part II of this post talks about what one should run in and considerations when selecting certain shoes.

My good friend Jay Barss (@sportsrehabtalk – twitter handle) is new to the blog and twitter world. He is a smart dude and deserves some following. His most recent post talks about the a new perspective on management on patellofemoral pain management. As we all know, correction of faulty movement patterns is critical in management of the oft-diagnosed PFPS.

Last is a series posted by  Allan Besselink (@abesselink – twitter handle). If you have not followed Allan’s blog I highly recommend it. In fact his blog was recently nominated as top choice for health and wellness. Everything he posts is high quality. I particularly liked his three-part series titled the Low Back Pain Paradox. Low back pain effects 80% of the adult population and Allan does a great job covering all the bases in Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Stay healthy and well!

Is the US Government Responsible for the American Obesity and Chronic Disease Epidemic?

Chronic medical conditions is the leading cause of death in the United States. Nearly half of all adults have at least one chronic medical condition. Over the past 20 years there has been a significant rise in chronic disease. Over the past 15 years childhood obesity and diabetes is growing at an astronomical rate. Who is to blame? Nobody can really state exactly who, but  is it possible that the US government, specifically the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible?

1992 Food Guide Pyramid

In 1992, the USDA released the first Food Guide Pyramid. The USDA obviously had good intentions, through heavy research the pyramid was developed to prevent, chronic disease, obesity, and dental carries. Over the years the Food Guide Pyramid evolved to in to more user-friendly versions, MyPyramid (2005) and MyPlate (2011). Despite making the guides more user-friendly, the USDA did little to evaluate data and change the science supporting the pyramid.  Unfortunately, the USDA got it completely wrong. Since the ’92 Food Guide Pyramid was released there has been a dramatic increase in chronic disease and obesity. Has the Food Guides failed the American people?

Let us evaluate the guides. The ’92 version has grains, fruits, and vegetables filling the bottom two rows of the pyramid, accounting for 20 of 26 possible servings. The 2005 version is much of the same, with a large portion dedicated to carbohydrates, but like the ’92 version, the largest portion is dedicated to grains. The 2011, MyPlate is simplified for the consumer, but again indicates most of your plate be comprised of carbohydrates. In fact, when you breakdown the percentages the guides recommend the consumer eat approximately 75% of calories from carbohydrate sources. What is wrong with this you ask? Well, below I have outlined 5 reasons why the USDA might be responsible for the rise in chronic disease and obesity.

Five Reasons Why the USDA Might Be Responsible for the American Obesity and Chronic Disease Epidemic

Reason #1: Misleading information

The guides suggest grains (bread, pasta, rice) account for the largest portion of carbohydrate consumption. The guides do not state 100% whole-grain. To the average consumer, this gives the impression that refined breads and pasta is a fantastic option.  So, the lay person, goes to a restaurant orders a plate of spaghetti and a side of garlic bread, and thinks -‘this is a healthy low-fat meal’. After all, according to the guides this meal is well within the guidelines set forth by the USDA.

Additionally, the original guide said 6-11 servings of breads, grains, and pasta / day. Servings is key, because most individuals, myself included, grossly overestimate what constitutes a serving. Another note on servings: it gives a range of servings; 6-11 servings. This tells the consumer that you must have a minimum of 6 servings of grains. This misleading information has led to over-eating and over-eating of the wrong foods.

Reason #2: Satiety

Countless studies have correlated carbohydrate intake to increased hunger, specifically foods with high glycemic index (1, 2, 3). Primarily because of the insulin and blood glucose spike caused following the ingestion of carbohydrates. Newer research indicates that a higher than normal protein diet may actually be the reason for their partial success in inducing weight loss (4). Weigle, et al, found that the subjects felt more satiated with high-protein diet (5). In addition, Weigle’s team found total caloric intake decreased with when consuming more protein (5). There are two theories behind protein’s ability to increase satiety: 1 – High protein foods take longer to digest and leave the gut. 2 – Protein may impact our the hunger and satiety hormones of ghrelin and leptin. So the USDA is telling us to eat foods, that physiologically trigger us to eat more.

Reason #3: Insulin

When we eat carbohydrates insulin is released by the pancreas to begin glucose uptake from the blood. Insulin’s job is to take blood glucose and facilitate storage of glycogen  – our primary energy source. Insulin is also an indirect gate-keeper to fat metabolism, by inhibiting the release of glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone that has the opposite role of insulin. Glucagon is designed to take glycogen and convert it to glucose. Glucagon also creates glucose through lipolysis (the breakdown of fat). If we eat carbohydrates, the insulin response inhibits glucagon – thus prevents us from burning fat.

Reason #4: Elevated Inflammatory Markers

Chronic inflammation is a primary cause of most chronic diseases (6). Excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, low dietary fiber intake, and a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are strongly associated with the production of proinflammatory molecules (7). One large study compared a Western diet and high protein diet. In this study, the western diet group had greater levels of inflammatory markers, including CRP and E-selectin, whereas those on the high protein diet had a significant decrease of inflammatory markers (8).

Reason #5: Importance Fat

In the original food guide pyramid it is stated that fats should be used sparingly. In both the 2005 version and 2011 version, the USDA’s guide says nothing about fat. This gives the impression that fat should be avoided. This is a huge mistake. Fat, specifically, Omega-3 fats – found in nuts, fish, and seeds – is very important. Clinical studies in adults with high cholesterol have shown that nuts lower LDL-cholesterol and improve the overall blood lipid profile (9). Additionally, frequent nut and seed consumption is associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6 and fibrinogen(10).

Does this indicate the USDA got it wrong and led the American people down the wrong path? I believe the aforementioned reasons have led to an increase in obesity and chronic disease in America. Is it really a coincidence that following the release of the guides there has been a dramatic rise in obesity and chronic disease? That being said, I believe in personal responsibility – I think it is up to the individual to make wise decisions. The USDA is not telling people to stop exercising. So, although I believe the USDA may have been a contributor – some blame should be put on the people.

What do you think? Can we blame the USDA’s Food Guides for steering the American people in the wrong direction?


  1. Wien M A, et al. Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Int J Obes 2003. 27:1365-1372
  2. Roberts SB. High-glycemic index foods, hunger, and obesity: is there a connection? Nutrition Review 2000. 58:163-169
  3. Arumugam V, et al. A high-glycemic meal pattern elicited increased subjective appetite sensations in overweight and obese women. Appetite. July, 2007.
  4. Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A. Atkins and other low-carbohydrate diets: hoax or an effective tool for weight loss? Lancet 2004;364:897
  5. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin andghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82:41–8.
  6. Stehouwer CDA, Gall M-A. Twisk JWR, Knudsen E. Emeis JJ. Parving H-H. Increased urinary albumin excretion, endothelial dysfunction and chronic low-grade inflammation in type 2 diabetes: progressive, interrelated, and independently associated with risk of death. Diabetes.2002;51(4): 1157-1165.
  7. Neustadt J. Western Diet and Inflammation. IMCJ. Vol. 10: 2  Apr/May 2011.
  8. Lopez-Garcia E, Schulze MB, Fung TT, et al. Major dietary patterns are related to plasma concentrations of markers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Am JClin Nutr.2004;80(4):1029-1035.
  9. Mukuddem-Petersen J, Oosthuizen W & Jerling J. A systematic review of the effects of nuts on blood lipid profiles in humans. J Nutr. 135: 2005. 2082–2089.
  10. Rajaram, S, Connell, KM, and Sabate´ J. Effect of almond-enriched high-monounsaturated fat diet on selected markers of inflammation: a randomised, controlled, crossover study. BR J of Nut.  2010: 103, 907–912.