Nutrition Questions

  • I have a real sweet tooth and am struggling to stick to my diet. I

    You don't have to live on steamed fish and vegies. Get a healthy cook book and try something new. Or just experiment with fresh herbs, spices and some different cooking methods. Don't be afraid of a little olive oil - your body needs the essential fatty acids - so use a couple of teaspoons to cook your dinner, or make a salad dressing with it. Olive oil makes everything taste better.

    Set aside some time on the weekend (or a weeknight if you prefer) and cook a few things so that you're prepared. Make a couple of dishes and freeze individual portions, so you just have to grab your frozen meal and reheat when you get home from work. You can even cut up vegies and seal them in zip-lock bags, so all the work is done - you can just microwave them or throw them in a bowl with a simple dressing.

    Every 2 weeks, I usually cut up about 3kg of chicken breasts into individual sized portions, then cook half of them. 3 or 4 go in the fridge, the rest in the freezer, so I have no excuse for not making a healthy lunch. I freeze the remaining raw ones in separate bags, so they're easy to defrost and cook for dinners. I also buy a whole eye fillet and cut that up and freeze. It lasts me a while, since I don't eat a lot of red meat.

    Have plenty of yoghurt and fruit handy, small packets of nuts (if I have big bags, I usually eat WAY too many), some protein powder, some rice cakes and a jar of natural peanut butter. And of course some whey protein. Then you'll never be short of snacks. Oh, and eggs....when I really can't be bothered, or just can't face another dinner of chicken or fish, I make a quick egg white omelette with lots of vegies and just a little parmesan cheese for taste.

    You can also cook up some healthy muffin or pancake recipes, preferably with added protein to make them more satisfying. Just make up a large batch and freeze them. Then you have something for those times when fruit just won’t do the job of satisfying your sweet tooth.

    The trick to sticking with a meal plan is to:

    • Have variety in your meals. This avoids boredom and also makes it more likely that you will get all the nutrients you need.
    • Do some advance preparation, so that when time is short or you have an attack of the “can’t-be-bothereds”, there’s a quick and tasty meal in the fridge that you can have ready in minutes.
    • Pack snacks in individual portion sizes so that you’re less likely to overeat
    • Make sure that your meal plan includes some of the things that you just can’t live without. If you have a sweet tooth, work some sweet “treats” into your plan. And make use of things like sugarfree syrups, Xylitol or Splenda to add some extra sweetness without lots of calories.

    There is also an article published on Amino Z related to this topic:

    Nutrition On The Road: Possible Or Not? 

  • What are the benefits of glutamine supplementation?

    Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid within the the human body. It assists with recovery and protein synthesis (an important process in building muscle). It also assists in the regulation of fuel production from protein, carbohydrate and fat nutrients. Furthermore, Glutamine plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, central nervous system, metabolism and cellular repair.

    Whilst glutamine is a non-essential amino acid (meaning that our bodies can synthesise it independently), following intense bouts of exercise, the body cannot create glutamine at the required rate for optimal recovery.

    Due to the numerous benefits of glutamine supplementation, it is widely believed that such a strategy is very important for pre- and post-workout nutrition.

    Also, I have previously answered another similar question which provides some information on this topic:

    Why would you add L-Glutamine to your protein shake?

  • Should I have a protein shake after a workout? How much protein should I have a day?

    Within the scientific community, there seems to be very, very little doubt that a protein shake is extremely effective following a workout (cardio or resistance).  There are very little products in the fitness and health industry that have such a solid backing behind it.

    Essentially what happens is the following:  When you workout, you put your body in a state of breakdown (ie. catabolism) due to all the physical stress it must endure.  Straight after a workout, your body is still breaking itself down in order to recover.  A protein shake provides the nutrients the body requires that would otherwise be obtained from the breakdown of muscle tissue.  So - the protein goes into the body, the body absorbs the required nutrients and goes into an anabolic state (ie. a state of muscle building).

    For cardiovascular work, a similar process reigns true.  During the exercise, you place physical strain upon your body, breaking down muscle and fat tissue.  Consuming a protein shake stops this breakdown process, kicks the metabolism into high-gear and allows the fat-burning process to effectively begin.

    Also worth noting, during a resistance training workout, no muscle is built - muscle is broken down.  The workout itself is a tool to be used in order to stimulate your body to build muscle mass.  The same theory goes for cardio workout - a very effective form of cardio is high intensity cardio in order to stimulate your body to burn fat for the next 24 hours.

    A diet should never be based solely on protein.  There are fears (yet no conclusive proof) that a high protein diet can lead to kidney/renal disease in the long term.  It can also contribute to osteoporosis, dehydration and excessive flatulence.  When you are seeking to build muscle mass - carbohydrate, protein and fats should ALL be included in your diet in substantial amounts.

    The amount of protein varies between individuals.  It also highly depends upon the individuals goals.  For example, a 60kg male will require far LESS protein than a 100kg male due to the 40kg difference in weight.  In addition to this, someone seeking to build lean muscle mass will require MORE protein than someone seeking to lose body fat.  At the end of the day, there is no specific amount of protein that is proven to be most effective in order to reach a specific goal due to everyone's genetic differences.

  • After a very intense initial workout, I was nauseous and shaking. Should I eat carbs? Won't this cause fat gain?

    Ouch!  Sounds like you had a pretty tough workout!

    Often if you push your body too hard, it can react quite adversely - typically if your body isn't used to the physical stress it has been placed under.  Whilst intensity is an excellent tool to stimulate changes in your body, if you do have limited recent exercise experience and conditioning, it is often wise to slowly build up intensity levels so your body has time to adjust.

    Post workout nutrition is absolutely vital - particularly following an intense workout.  Your body has reacted in this way for a reason - it is run down and needs to recover.  Recovery is greatly assisted through protein, carbohydrate and fat intake (at the correct times).  Recovery is also encouraged by physical, stress-free rest.

    A high glycemic index (GI) means that the carbohydrates will get absorbed into your system extremely quickly.  This is very important after your workout - essentially you want nutrients back into your system ASAP so your body has a chance to recuperate.  There have been countless studies on post-workout nutrition and the benefits of high glycemic index carbohydrates with regards to recovery.

    And I wouldn't be too concerned with fat gain following your workout.  Within approximately 2 hours from the completion of your workout, your body "soaks up" carbohydrates for storage within your muscle cells.  This is part of the recovery process.  Exercise is the catalyst for these flood gates to open up.  We store carbohydrates as glycogen in our muscles - a form of fuel required in order to provide energy for exercise.  The body will only convert macronutrients (ie. protein/carbohydrates/fat) into adipose tissue (ie. the fat you see) when there is a surplus of unneeded calories going into your body.  Following your intense workout, your body is in a significant caloric deficit.

  • Does dextrose aid protein uptake after exercising? Should I therefore have dextrose in my protein shake?

    Ultimately, yes.  Personally I believe that dextrose is a vital component of your post-workout protein shake.

    Insulin is a hormone that regulates carbohydrate metabolism within the human body.  Consuming dextrose will raise your insulin levels and thus encourage protein synthesis following exercise.  I'll explain in a little more detail:

    Once you consume protein, it is broken down into its' molecular components, amino acids.  Amino acids are then absorbed into the blood stream and taken up by muscle cells in order to undergo protein synthesis.  However, amino acid uptake is stimulated by insulin independently.  Therefore, if you have low insulin levels, amino acid uptake will be inhibited, thus leading to reduced protein synthesis within the muscle itself.  At the end of the day, this is bad news - the muscle building and recovery process is slowed which will hamper your progress in the gym.

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