Thursday, March 26, 2015

3 Things Supplement Companies DO NOT Want Athletes to Know

As we near the outdoor competitive season, many athletes are thinking about their performance nutrition regimen. Some may start experimenting with powders, pills, other mysterious products that promise enhanced recovery, increased muscle gains and better energy during workouts. I love discussing supplements with my athletes because - unlike a lot of internet outlets - my advice is 100% science-based, unbiased and unpaid for by any companies. Here are three things I tell my athletes that many supplement companies would not be too thrilled to hear.

1. The marketed positive outcomes of supplements is often based on theory, not proven science.
There are millions of physiological processes that happen constantly in the body over the course of a day. This opens the door for supplement companies to pick a metabolic process, pull out a nutrient utilized in the process and try to convince you to supplement it. One example of this is L-carnitine, which facilitates the influx long-chain fatty acids (i.e. fat stores) into the mitochondria of cells in order to be utilized for energy instead of using stored carbohydrate, or glycogen. Because of this fact, supplement companies encourage supplementation of L-Cartinine to "enhance fat burning" and "spare muscle glycogen" during exercise. The problem? No studies have shown this to actually happen when L-Carnitine is supplemented. While it may make sense in theory, it doesn't pan out when put to the test.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why coffee and tea are great for your health

For years, coffee and tea have gotten a bad rap. Health professionals have scolded those who choose to indulge in a morning cup of joe, stating that the caffeine was dehydrating and was linked to heart palpitations. However, with  more research, the benefits of drinking coffee and tea have now come to light. Here is why drinking coffee or tea may actually be beneficial to the endurance or high-intensity athlete.

Benefits of Coffee
The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee tends to be close to 60-70mg for coffee bought at a gas station or similar location and can be as high as 130mg for coffee bought at a high-end coffee shop. Aside from caffeine, coffee is full of health-promoting antioxidants. Antioxidants are also found in foods such as dark fruits and vegetables; they help the body "clean up" the muscle of free radicals after exercise. In addition, research has linked drinking coffee to a decreased risk of developing diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and certain cancers as well as depression. The mechanism behind these protective effects has yet to be determined. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to use protein powder so it actually works

Of all the supplements I see in my office, protein powder is the most common. But like all products, even the best powder can fail if not used correctly. So, what should you do to make sure your powder does it what promises to? Follow these steps...

1. Assess your reason for using it 
Are you trying to lose weight? Bulk up? Lean out? Are you a vegetarian or vegan needing to up your daily protein intake for overall health? Figuring out why you think you need a protein powder is an important step before you buy a powder. This is because powders are often formulated for specific reasons, from different protein sources and with different additives. Using a good powder for the wrong reasons makes it the wrong powder. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why athletes should be snacking

High-level athletes ask a lot from their bodies day-to-day. Proper fueling is essential for an athlete to be able to arrive at each day's workout ready to give 110%. A key part of proper fueling is snacking. Read on to find out why athletes should be snacking and score a few healthy snack ideas too.

1. Blood sugar regulation
Eating only meals typically means many hours between eating sessions. Athletes should be eating every 2-3 hours to be sure to keep blood sugar stable. Spikes in blood sugar can lead to loss of focus and concentration and increased headaches as well as feeling cranky, dizzy or lightheaded. These symptoms can keep athletes from getting the most out of a training session. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why you need to worry about dehydration when exercising in bitter cold

It's February 19th, yet here we are again with below-zero wind chills in the Chicago area. Competing or training in cold weather presents its own set of challenges. Dehydration – believe it or not – is a major issue. Here is why...

1. The body tries to keep your core warm
Normally your body carries blood to your extremities during exercise. But in the cold, your body preferentially tends to keep blood close to its core in order to stay warm. This increases your blood pressure, which will affect your kidneys and increase your need to urinate. 

2. Cold, dry air = more fluid lost
When you exercise in the cold, your lungs have to warm and humidify the incoming cold, dry air. Just by doing this, you can lose up to one quart of fluid daily.