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Vitamin D and Muscle Strength

17 Apr

Vitamin D is an essential, fat-soluble vitamin.  It is an important hormone with a wide range of functions.  Among the biological actions of vitamin D metabolites is regulation of protein synthesis.

In addition to getting vitamin D from food sources, the body also synthesizes it from sunlight exposure.

I live in northeast Ohio, where year-round sunlight is not as ample as some other parts of the country.  Vitamin D supplementation is often recommended for people living in the northern and midwestern states, especially during the non-summer months.

Now, there is evidence to support vitamin D3 supplementation in athletes (and active individuals) to improve muscle strength.

In the article, Effects of Vitamin D Supplementation on Muscle Strength in Athletes: A Systematic Review (Chiang, et.al.), published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, “vitamin D3 was shown to have a positive impact on muscle strength.”

“In 2 studies, strength outcome measures were significantly improved after supplementation.  In the studies administering vitamin D3, there were trends for improved muscle strength.  Specifically, improvements in strength ranged from 1.37 to 18.75%.”

“Trials lasted from 4 weeks to 6 months and dosages ranged from 600 to 5,000 International Units (IU) per day.  Vitamin D2 was found to be ineffective at impacting muscle strength in both studies wherein it was administered.”

Please also refer to related article: Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

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Caffeine Reduces Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness

10 Apr

There is considerable documentation touting the beneficial effects of caffeine on aerobic activity and resistance training performance.  Less, however, is known about caffeine’s effect on post-exercise muscle soreness.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the effects of caffeine on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  In the study, individuals who ingested caffeine one hour before resistance training reported that this strategy “resulted in significantly lower levels of soreness on day 2 and day 3,” compared with individuals who did not ingest caffeine prior to working out.  (Hurley, et.al.)

The study corroborated previous findings that caffeine ingestion immediately before resistance training enhances performance.  “A further beneficial effect of sustained caffeine ingestion in the days after the exercise bout is an attenuation of DOMS.  This decreased perception of soreness in the days after a strenuous resistance training workout may allow individuals to increase the number of training sessions in a given time period.”

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Whey is the Way to Go

29 Mar

When it comes to protein, athletes have lots of different options.  There’s protein from whole foods, like milk protein, egg protein, meat protein, and plant protein.  As a supplement, whey protein, casein protein, and soy protein are among the alternatives.

Additionally, research shows that different types of protein work better at different times of day (and night).

In the morning, whey protein from whole foods (milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) or a whey protein powder shake can help control cravings all day, according to scientists at the Journal of Nutrition.

Whey is also a good choice for your pre- and post-workout protein because it is quickly and easily digestible.

Another option for your post-workout protein is casein.  Casein is the main protein found in milk and cheese.  Of the true proteins found in milk, about 80% is casein.  The other major protein in milk is whey.  Compared to whey, casein burns more slowly and provides a consistent flow of protein, over time (sort of like a “long-acting” protein).

There are several protein powder supplements that contain both whey and casein proteins (I know of at least one that also contains egg protein).

Studies also show that casein protein, when taken before bed, can increase muscle growth by about 20%.

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Spread Out Your Protein

22 Mar

If you want to build muscle, you need to get more protein.  Active individuals should aim for 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  Athletes may need even more.

So, how should you distribute your daily protein intake?

Scientists at Skidmore College (NY) found that individuals who divide their daily protein among six smaller meals, instead of three larger ones, build muscle faster.

Start your day with protein, and try to get more than half of your recommended intake by lunch.  Eggs for breakfast are a quick and easy way to get your morning protein.  Add a mid-morning protein shake, and grilled chicken (or other lean meat) and Greek yogurt for lunch.  Peanut butter is another good way to get your protein with any meal or snack, any time of day.

I like preparing a protein shake — 10-12 oz. of chocolate milk and a scoop of chocolate whey protein powder — and sipping it, throughout the day.  It’s an easy way to add 30-40 grams of protein to my daily intake.

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Increase Your Vitamin D Intake

20 Mar

A lack of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on your athletic performance, according to the journal, Nutrients.  Additional research corroborates these findings, showing that there is  a positive correlation between vitamin D levels and muscle strength.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), at least 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.  This is especially true in the northern states, where exposure to sunshine can be scarce during the winter season (the sun plays a vital role in your body’s natural vitamin D production).

You can boost your vitamin D by increasing your consumption of whole foods like fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, and tuna), milk (and other fortified dairy products), eggs, and oatmeal (and other fortified cereals).

You can also improve your vitamin D level by adding a supplement to your daily diet.  Aim for at least 600 IU per day.

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Eat Greens for More Energy

15 Mar

Eating more green vegetables can help athletes improve endurance, energy level, and delay fatigue during exercise and athletic activity.

Low energy, muscle weakness, and fatigue have long been associated with iron deficiency anemia. However, a study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that these symptoms may start well before low iron leads to anemia.

Low iron can result in a lack of energy, so athletes should eat plenty of foods that provide a healthy dose of this essential nutrient to ensure that energy levels remain high. Broccoli, spinachkale, and other dark, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of iron. Additionally, because these foods all contain vitamin C, they provide a healthy dose of antioxidants that will help you to stay strong and healthy which can also have a positive effect on your energy levels. It’s easy to fit these foods into your meals by adding them to pastas, salads, soups, and casseroles.

Try adding a handful of spinach into a blender with your usual protein shake ingredients.  You won’t even taste it.

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Get More Protein In Your Diet

13 Mar

Our society is “over-carbohydrated” and “under-proteined.”

Not only do most people not get enough protein in their diets, but their distribution of protein consumption throughout the day is not balanced – relatively little protein with breakfast and lunch, and lots of protein with dinner.

In a University of Texas study, researchers found that muscle protein synthesis—the driving force behind your muscle growth—was 25 percent greater when people ate protein throughout the day (30 grams of protein per meal) compared to those who ate a bulk of their protein at dinner (10 grams for breakfast, 15 grams for lunch, and 65 grams for dinner).

Research indicates that active individuals and athletes should consume at least 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every day (that’s 90-120 grams of protein a day for a 150-pound person).

For some people, the thought of consuming that much protein in a day can seem overwhelming, but balancing your protein intake throughout the day – along with a little strategic planning and preparation – can simplify the process.

Here’s an article from Men’s Health titled, 13 Easy Ways to Get More Protein In Your Diet.  The article lists several fast and convenient ways to boost your protein intake.

Here’s another resource – a previous blog post – with a simple but effective strategy for increasing your daily protein consumption: Increase Protein Consumption With This Simple Strategy.

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Is 5-Hour Energy Worth It?

1 Mar

5-hour-energy[1]There’s a lot of marketing noise surrounding energy drinks. But should you partake if and when you want a little pick-me-up?

Yes and no, according to research. It appears that caffeine is responsible for virtually all the benefits of these energy drinks, including increased alertness and energy level. When caffeine is removed, the drinks’ other ingredients have little impact, say researchers.

Caffeine’s benefits are well-documented, and include:

  • Increased alertness and energy level
  • Improved cognitive function
  • A mild, mood-boosting effect
  • Improved exercise capacity

Ultimately, caffeine may help you think faster, exercise harder, and live longer. The next time you want a little caffeine-inspired jolt, stick with coffee. You’ll also benefit from its high levels of healthy antioxidants. If it’s got to be an energy drink, at least stay away from those that are loaded with sugar.

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Try This Chili Recipe

13 Feb

chili[1]A few months ago, my daughter and I made our first batch of chili of the season (I’d offer to share, but it’s already gone).  Anytime is a good time for chili, but we especially like it when the weather begins to cool.  This is one of my favorite chili recipes, one which I found several years ago.  I’ve modified it, a bit, over the years (feel free to do the same, based on your own taste preferences), but it’s still a delicious, healthy, nutritious, and easy-to-prepare dish.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 lb. ground turkey breast
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers
  • 1 can (10.5 oz.) each chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp each salt, cumin, and cinnamon
  • 4 tsp chili powder
  • hot sauce to taste

Preparation

In a pot, heat the oil on medium-low.  Add the garlic and onion, and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the turkey, and brown for about 5 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with juice, chickpeas, beans, crushed tomatoes, and spices.  Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Makes 6-8 generous servings (freeze the leftovers and save $5 by eating them for lunch).

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • 300 calories
  • 30 grams (g) protein
  • 30 g carbohydrates
  • 5 g fat (0 g saturated)
  • 10 g fiber
  • 700 mg sodium

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Great Grains… it’s Quinoa!

6 Feb

Rainbow_Quinoa_ref.1951[1]If you’re looking for a healthy, nutritious side dish or snack, try quinoa.

Quinoa (pronounced, keen-wa), native to Peru and Bolivia, is one of several grains that dates back centuries and is finding its way into modern diets.  Red or white, quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain, and may help reduce belly fat, lower cholesterol, and protect against cancer and other diseases.  The high demand for quinoa has actually led to a shortage in its native countries.

What makes quinoa — and other whole grains — so nutritious?  Their outer layers (the bran and underlying germ), which are rich in nutrients, don’t get stripped away during processing.  Quinoa is also high in fiber and quick to prepare… it can be on the table in less than 15 minutes.  Serve it instead of rice or noodles.  You can find lots of quinoa recipes and it tastes great hot or cold.

There are several other healthful heirloom grains worth trying, like bulgur, millet, and whole-wheat couscous.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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