Getting in Shape – Balanced eating for-peak-performance
Working muscles use more stored glucose in the form of glycogen than inactive muscles. Glycogen stores can become rapidly depleted and the metabolic advantages of exercise quickly lost if the system is overloaded with carbohydrates. When this occurs, the body is unable to regulate insulin production through exercise because it’s overruled by the insulin-stimulating effects of the carbohydrates. Therefore, to reap maximum benefits, you should make sure you eat a balanced diet— especially when you exercise.
When someone is in good physical condition we say that he is “fit.” Fitness can be measured in terms of oxygen utilization (technically, V02 max). Peak performance demands efficient delivery of oxygen to muscles. The rate of that delivery is determined by red blood cells—their number and their thickness or stickiness, known as viscosity. This, in turn, is determined by the prostaglandins or eicosanoids generated from essential fatty acids.
The prostaglandin PGE1, vital for treatment of alcoholism resulting from omega-6 EFA deficiency, is also a key to increased athletic performance because it reduces blood viscosity. In this way, PGE1 increases circulation of red blood cells in the capillaries, leading to increased oxygen flow to muscle cells. PGE1 is derived indirectly from gamma-linolenic acid. Taking in enough GLA from evening primrose, borage, and black currant oils can help increase oxygen delivery to the muscles, thereby improving athletic performance. However, if too much red meat is eaten, an overabundance of a certain omega-6 derivative, arachidonic acid, is produced. This substance has a vasoconstrictive effect that can counteract the benefits gained. Clearly, we need to balance our intake of omega-6s, omega-3s, and saturated fats.
But it’s not just the consumption of EFAs that determines whether the body will produce “good” series-1 or “bad” series-2 eicosanoids. The production of eicosanoids is also determined by the balance of the macronutrients that we consume. In this post, you learned how the balanced 40/30/30 eating plan can help you lose weight and build lean muscle mass. Balanced macronutrient consumption creates favorable conditions in which glucagon release, triggered by protein intake, mobilizes body fat. Accessing the body’s stored fat for energy spares glycogen, stored in the liver and muscles, making that fiiel more available to the brain, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and preserving lean muscle mass. Exercise helps build that muscle mass, and the protein content of a balanced meal helps to sustain it.
However, the typical athlete’s diet is composed of 70-percent carbohydrate, 15-percent protein, and 15-percent fat. And the carbohydrates consumed are usually the high-glycemic variety, such as pasta, bread, and potatoes. This type of diet fosters the production of series-2 eicosanoids, precludes the production of PGE1, and inpairs athletic performance by decreasing the rate of oxygen delivery to the muscles. In addition, a diet like this will produce constant hunger and decreased mental
alertness due to the insulin response and subsequent blood sugar instability it provokes. Insulin activates an enzyme known as adipose tissue lipoprotein-lipase (AT-LPL), which removes fat from the blood and deposits it in fat cells. In this way, insulin acts as a fat-storage hormone. Eating a diet that has the correct balance of macronutrients reduces AT-LPL activity and body fat.
The insulin-reducing benefits of aerobic exercise can be canceled out when you eat (or drink) a high-carbohydrate snack before working out. Under these circumstances, insulin levels will remain elevated, regardless of intensity or duration of exercise. Eaten after the workout, a high-carbohydrate snack will negate the beneficial hormonal benefits that would otherwise have resulted from exercise.
To get the effect he’s looking for from carbohydrate loading without overloadingon carbs, an athlete can instead eat a balanced snack before and after workouts. There are several companies, including The Balance Bar Company, that now make a 40/30/30 nutrition bar. Eating half of a snack with the right macronutrient balance before exercise will assure that the body bums stored fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates, and that good eicosanoids are produced. Eating the other half after exercise helps to maintain the hormonal benefits of the balanced macronutrient intake.- Athletes should not consume high-fiber foods, such as whole grains or apples before exercise, because these pull water from the body into the intestinal tract. This inpairs performance.
Consuming too much protein in relationship to carbohydrates can actually be worse for an athlete than eating too many carbohydrates, as it can result in the development of ketosis, which causes loss of muscle mass. Imbalance in either direction creates problems.
Another benefit of balanced eating is that the higher levels of glucagon, produced by the higher percentage of protein, stimulate the production and utilization of human growth hormone (HGH), which facilitates muscle growth and repair. Series-1 eicosanoids release HGH from the pituitary. On the other hand, excess carbohydrates cause elevated insulin levels, which block hormones that increase production and effectiveness of HGH. Most of the 40/30/30 bars, unlike high-carbohydrate sports bars, contain chromium, which improves the utilization of HGH and amino acids in the cells.
Although the balanced bars are a wonderful aid to athletic performance, remember that you need to maintain the 40/30/30 balance at every meal to continually reap the benefits. For now, understand that balanced eating improves athletic performance by eliminating hunger; enhancing cardiovascular endurance; eliminating fatigue; increasing muscular endurance; increasing concentration; reducing body fat; increasing oxygen transfer to muscle cells; and improving recovery rate.
According to The Balance Bar Company’s President, Richard Lamb, a number of professional and world- and national-class athletes have changed to a more balanced diet modeled after the Balance program with considerable success. Among them are seven medal-winning swimmers in Barcelona; the members of the Subaru-Montgomery professional cycling team; United States pro cycling champion, Bart Bowen; skiers Ewa Twardokens and Robbie Huntoon; national cycling trial champion, John Stenner, and dozens of nationally-ranked triathletes in Southern California.
One study, conducted by the Department of Sports Medicine at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California tested the difference in performance between athletes consuming a diet of 60 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat and those consuming the 40/30/30 diet.- After four weeks on these different dietary regimens, runners were asked to run four consecutive 5- kilometer segments on a hilly course at training pace, then a final 5-kilometer segment to exhaustion at race pace.
The 40/30/30 group ran significantly faster than the high-carbohydrate group in the last race. They also ran faster in the other segments of the race (though not significantly faster from a statistical point
of view) and raised their “good” HDL cholesterol levels by an average of 14 points, when compared with the carbohydrate group. The results of this study indicate that balanced macronutrient consumption increases a competitor’s reserve for the final “kick” in competition by enabling him to utilize body fat for energy and spare muscle glycogen. At the end of the study, athletes on the 40/30/30 program reported “better appetite satisfaction, better recovery and better overall feelings of health and well-being.”
In another study, published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise the running times of six trained athletes were compared on diets with different fat contents: 15 percent (low), 24 percent (normal), and 38 percent (high).- It was found that running time to exhaustion was greatest following the high-fat diet (91.2 minutes, compared with 75.8 and 69.3 minutes for the normal and low-fat diets respectively). Oxygen utilization was also higher on the high-fat diet (66.4 ml/kg/minute versus 59.6 and 63.7 for the low-fat and normal diets). While I don’t recommend a diet that exceeds 30-percent fat, this study does dramatically demonstrate the performance benefits that can be gained by adding good fat to the diet.
The reason that increasing fat in the diet increases endurance has to do with the fact that fat yields more molecules of ATP than does glucose: Fat yields 460 molecules, compared with 36 molecules from glucose. Also, fat stores in a healthy male adult produce 100,000 kilocalories (calories) of energy, while glucose stores (glycogen) provide only about 2,000.
All of this goes to show that balanced nutrition can be just as important—and very possibly more important—than physical training in shaping an athlete’s performance.
MODERATION IS KEY
As you can see, exercise is enormously beneficial to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Some men, however, get carried away pushing their bodies beyond what is healthy. Research shows that an excessive amount of exercise can actually create health problems. Symptoms of overtraining include: apathy, deteriorating performance, diarrhea, elevated resting heart rate, insomnia, irritability, lethargy, loss of appetite, and soreness. While moderate amounts of exercise increase bone density, mineral utilization problems can result from excessive exercise.
Since electrolytes are lost through perspiration during exercise, their replacement is desirable. This is common knowledge among athletes. What many athletes don’t know is that some so-called electrolyte formulas lack the critically important trace elements and contain harmful sugar additives that actually leach minerals from the body. Bioavailability of the minerals in such formulas is limited. Instead, use a true electrolyte formula, such as Trace-Lyte, consisting of trace minerals in addition to macro minerals, in crystalloid form, for maximum absorbability.
MAKE A COMMITMENT
Making the commitment to eating a balanced diet is the first step on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
Adopting a program of regular, moderate exercise is the next important step—one that can greatly increase your physical and mental performance in your day-to-day activities. Even more astounding are the long-term benefits. Exercise can help you regulate your blood-sugar levels, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your risk of developing heart disease. It keeps your heart beating stronger and longer and strengthens your immune system In short, exercise can improve the quality of your life.
No one kind of exercise is good for everyone. To reap the greatest benefits, you should personalize your program according to your metabolic rate and blood type. Remember that individuals with blood types A, B, and AB will want to choose milder activities, including yoga, stretching, and light swimming., biking, or weightlifting. Those with type O blood will benefit more from vigorous exercises. And keep in mind that your blood type and metabolic rate may suggest contradictory types of exercise, in which case you’ll probably want to alternate between moderate and vigorous exercises.
Finally, don’t forget that balanced eating enhances athletic performance, so it’s important to maintain a diet approximating the 40/30/30 ratio. Consuming too much carbohydrate before and after exercise can cancel out its benefits.