Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Protein, you need some healthy carbs!

So it's the end of LAX season and my son has already started training for wrestling. This summer, mini-man is going to train at a new gym. The director of this gym e-mailed my son some nutrition guidelines. Nine out of seventeen foods on the main list were high protein foods. The nutrition guidelines reviewed supplemental protein shakes, fruits, veggies and directions on how to avoid processed foods.
No where, do these guidelines highlight the benefits of whole grains.
Where's the beef, CARBS?
Doesn't he know that Protein needs a good Carb to work?

Of course, I'm coming from an endurance/aerobic/Carb Queen point of view, but still, it never ceases to amaze me how much respect protein gets, and how little carbs get.

The guidelines promote eating a variety of foods, and just a little mention of whole grains - and with that little 'mention', there's a slap in the face. Case in point:
2-3 scrambled eggs
2-3mixed fruits (fruit salad)
and if you are still hungry: a bowl of oatmeal.
Ouch, that hurt!
Okay, I won't go into the NSCA's recommendations on carbs for wrestlers,  as stated in the December 2011 NSCA Journal, but really, 'If you're still hungry?' 

Why does protein always get top billing?
Yeah, I get that it helps form hemoglobin, hormones, enzymes and antibodies and helps regulate acids, bases and fluids in the body, but the AMDR percentage of daily calories that should be protein is only 10-30% compared to carbs 45-65%.

Okay, so excess protein can be used as a source of energy, but it will also demand a lot of oxygen and water for processing (not good for endurance runners). 
Excess protein can also be stored as fat.
Athletes need protein, but XS amounts can be harmful!
Since mini-man is working out intensely, he needs some extra protein to maintain his health, support muscle growth and preserve bone integrity. So, yes, he can afford to eat some extra protein in his diet, like about 1.2 to 1.8g/kg body weight per day. But he also needs some whole grains and healthy carbs.

To maximize training efforts, it's helpful to understand 
how the body uses protein, 
what type of protein is good for aerobic or anaerobic activity 
and what's the latest research on protein timing?

Because muscles breakdown when you train, 
and what better way to maximize health and prevent injury 
than being able to know how to feed your body right!

After exercise, muscles can take 24-48hours to repair themselves. Eating a variety of foods with different protein absorption rates can maximize muscle building and repair. 

Milk and eggs have high absorption rates because they are recognized as easily digestible proteins. Beef and soy follow, with vegetable proteins (like from from rice and beans or mac & cheese) lagging behind. So, by eating some proteins that are easy to digest, and some that are not, you can manage to supply those recovering muscles throughout their muscle building and repair period!
Also, to maximize protein absorption, 
it's better to eat a little protein with some carbs and fat. 
How many time you've heard to drink
low fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink?
(Re: Protein burns on the heels of a healthy Carb)

During endurance exercise, when carbohydrates stores are low, muscles will rely on fat and/or protein, especially the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA). Many supplements or sports drinks will tout their addition of BCAA's, stating that muscles can use them as a source of energy. This is true, but only up to a certain point. Our body's enzymes limit the rate at which we can use these BCAA's. But with adequate carbs, there is less demand on your body's ability to convert these proteins into energy because your body can rely on the carbs for energy!

So can knowing this affect exercise stamina? 

Yes! Based on research, protein alone cannot improve an endurance athletes ability to work faster or increase stamina. Protein added to a carbohydrate beverage  consumed during activity can help, but since protein reduces gastric emptying, it can cause stomach problems, which would really stink in a race or a competition.

After intense exercise, protein has been shown to reduce muscle soreness, but the research is not clear if consuming protein during training is more effective than consuming it during  recovery. There's lots of research, though, on proteins and carbs helping in recovery efforts, especially after intense exercise. Carbs help supply the energy needed for the next training session, while proteins help reduce muscle tissue breakdown and soreness. Just as little as 0.1 to 0.2grams of protein per kg body weight has been shown to help reduce muscle tissue breakdown and soreness.

Research has shown some benefits to eating protein (~ 6grams of essential amino acids, like eggs, whey or soy protein isolate) with carbs (~35grams), before exercise, when that exercise is weight training. This research was conducted on athletes who fasted, and it showed that the protein with the carbohydrate helped to increase muscle gain and repair. This research is why I started eating an energy bar before my morning gym routine!

Carbs help stimulate the hormone, insulin. 
Insulin helps prevent muscle tissue breakdown.
Insulin also helps get protein into muscle cells.
Once in cells, protein helps reduce muscle tissue breakdown and soreness.
It's not all about protein!
Protein needs healthy Carbs!

Research has shown that this chain of events is most likely to occur if a little bit of protein is consumed with some carbs immediately after training. Waiting a couple of hours after training can reduce the carb/protein recovery effects on muscle tissue breakdown, gain and repair.

Well, that's my soapbox stance for this Friday 
...and I haven't even begun to talk about essential fatty acids!
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