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Nutrition Questions

  • Post-workout, is soy, milk, casein or whey protein more effective for building muscle?

    Whey and casein are derived from milk sources, whilst soy is derived from the vegetable.  Interestingly, both soy and milk proteins are "whole proteins" - containing the full spectrum of amino acids required by the human body.  However it is now commonplace amongst the bodybuilding community that milk (particularly whey) is a more effective protein at assisting muscle gains following a workout.

    A very interesting study was conducted by McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology and was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  They compared milk protein to soy protein following a weight training workout.  (Milk contains approximately 20% whey protein and 80% casein protein.)  The men that consumed the milk following their workout gained almost twice as much muscle compared to the soy protein group over a 10 week period.  Their conclusion:

    Milk-based proteins promote muscle protein accretion to a greater extent than do soy-based proteins when consumed after resistance exercise. The consumption of either milk or soy protein with resistance training promotes muscle mass maintenance and gains, but chronic consumption of milk proteins after resistance exercise likely supports a more rapid lean mass accrual.

    Similar results have previously been demonstrated in several other studies too.

    However when considering soy versus milk versus whey versus casein, whey isolates have been shown to be extremely effective:

    Soy protein is not a very effective protein to consume following a resistance training workout as demonstrated by the study above.  The rate of absorption of a soy protein isolate (ie. that found in a supplement) is approximately 3.9g per hour which is relatively slow.

    Milk protein is a whole protein and is thus absorbed by the body much slower than proteins such as isolates found in supplements.  The rate of absorption is approximately 3g per hour which is again slow.  However whole milk has been demonstrated to be more effective than soy.

    Casein protein, a derivative of milk, is slowly absorbed over a 7 hour period, which is not very effective by itself, at assisting recovery immediately after a workout.  Casein protein, in isolation, has been shown by many studies to be relatively ineffective at assisting protein synthesis post-workout.  This is because your body is placed in a state of recovery and requires fast-acting nutrients.

    Whey protein is a very fast absorbing protein that contains the full spectrum of amino acids.  The rate of absorption of whey protein isolate (commonly found in supplements) is between 8-10 g per hour which is extremely fast.  This aids the recovery process and thus assists protein synthesis.

    There is however much more research to be done in this area.  So no firm conclusions can yet be made with the lack of studies currently available.

  • Would eating clean mean eating purely natural, unprocessed foods?

    I would agree that "eating clean" could be only eating as naturally as possible, for some people. The human body has evolved to eat natural and relatively unprocessed foods and it therefore makes sense to eat in this way. BUT I do think that there is further criteria too.

    I do think that "eating clean" greatly depends upon the context in which the person is using it. A person who just wants to eat in a healthy way would fall under the above definition.

    However a bodybuilder's definition may be vastly different. Clean eating may also require supplements in order to aid the muscle building process (protein shakes, L-Glutamine, dextrose, creatine, vitamins/minerals etc.) - all of which are highly processed. In addition to this, processed white rice is often a staple of many bodybuilders.

    Same deal with most athletes, in order to follow a clean diet, many athletes consume supplements alongside alternative diets in order to reach a level of peak performance.

    So personally I would define "eating clean" as consuming the most appropriate diet that supports that particular person's goals. These goals may be anything - building muscle mass, losing fat mass, general health & wellbeing, improving strength, increasing endurance capacity and so on.

  • Will too much protein in my diet in cause fat gain?

    Good ol' protein :D  Here's a little background on it:  When you consume protein, it gets broken down into amino acids.  Amino acids are the building blocks of protein - a protein chain is just a bunch of amino acids linked together.  These amino acids are used for a variety of reasons within the body - growth and repair of cells, hormones etc.

    As with carbohydrates and fat, too much protein will cause fat gain.  These amino acids will be converted into fat tissue (also known as adipose tissue).

    Our body will naturally want to store any excess calories that go into our system just in case it needs them in the future.  One way that the human body stores energy is by having fat stores.  This is a survival mechanism - why discard something that may prove useful at a later date?  Our bodies have an unlimited capacity to store fat.

    In the course that I'm currently publishing, in LESSON 102 - The Calorie and Macronutrients I state that each gram of protein contains about 4 calories.  So if the body does not require this excess protein, most of this excess energy will be stored as fat tissue.  Same deal with carbohydrates and fat intake - your body will only require a finite amount of each.

    The primary source of protein in the human body is from muscle tissue.  If we are deficient in protein in our diet, muscle tissue will be broken down in order to supply (at least some of) the amino acids that are required.

    Main thing to remember - too much protein, carbohydrate or fat in your diet and expect fat gain.

  • I have just changed my eating habits and it feels like it's taking over my life!

    If you have just made a major change in your eating habits - it's going to be pretty tough as you're breaking in. Replacing those old behaviours with new behaviours isn't easy and does take some getting used to. Eventually you will fall into a pattern and things will become much easier and enjoyable the longer you stick to it.

    They say it takes 3 days to break a habit and 3 weeks to form a new one.  Okay...this isn't an exact science as I'm sure you're aware, but it does illustrate why this isn't just going to happen overnight.

    To make the change easier, ensure that you enjoy your new eating habits.  If you are white-knuckling, it's not going to work in the long-term.

  • Is it safe to consume genetically modified (GM) foods?

    When I studied biotechnology at university, we discussed genetically modified (GM) products in quite a bit of detail alongside many of the ethical issues associated with these foods. One of our assignments was to write a 3,500 report to discuss the ethics of using gene technology. Initially I was indifferent on the matter, however after studying the subject in so much detail, I formed quite a strong personal opinion.

    GM crops have their genetic information altered by changing the sequence contained within the DNA structure. The DNA is essentially the complex code that tells the organism how to function.

    Over millions of years, DNA has been altered as a result of natural mutations from evolution. A mutation may occur in some offspring (be it bacteria, plant, animal and so on). If this mutation proves superior to the old genetic code, then the old code will become redundant and eventually the new code will take over.

    Consider giraffes as a very basic example. A pack of giraffes with various length necks have survived in a particular location with both tall and short trees - the genetic code for long and short necks are both as effective as each other. Several of them move to a new location where there are only tall trees. The giraffes with short necks die off because they cannot feed themselves. The genetic code for long necks proves superior in this new environment.

    Now natural evolution occurs over many, many, many lifetimes - we are talking thousands of years. It is a very slow process. With genetic modification technology, humans are able to implement changes on a large scale within a fraction of a lifetime.

    The problem with this is that we cannot predict with 100% certainty the effects of the gene modification. If the DNA of a plant is altered, we do not know the long-term consequences of this on human beings, other animals and the environment. Don't get me wrong - a LOT of research and clinical trials are carried out before releasing genetically modified species into the wild - but how do we know that this will not result in problems 50 years down the track? Could our offspring be adversely affected? Human beings have naturally evolved to consume natural food, not to consume genetically modified food. We really do not know if there will be consequences because this is such a new technology. We also still know very little with regards to genetics.

    Ultimately with this gene technology, I do believe that we are playing god. What should be a natural process is now slowly being taken control by human beings. This may or may not have serious consequences down the road.

    There are several examples of seemingly good uses (at least in the short-term) of GM crops. For example "golden rice" has been introduced to provide extra nutrients to malnourished people in third world countries. This has resulted in an improvement in their diet, but again the long-term effects are yet to be fully understood.

    There is no proof that genetically modified foods do cause cancer or other complications. There is also no proof that genetically modified foods do not cause cancer. There is A LOT of uncertainty on the subject.

    So my opinion - avoid GM foods.

    With respect to economics, it makes a lot of sense to study genetic engineering. If you can genetically engineer a crop to be resistant to a particular pest, then imagine how many dollars will be saved. Or, if you can GM a crop to grow all year round (rather than just summer), there are very obvious benefits to this too. Even imagine if you could engineer a plant to survive on 50% less water - how much better would Australian farmers cope during a drought?

    Plus, with the increasing world population, it also makes sense to look for alternative ways to grow more food. A large portion of the world is starving and genetic modification may be a part of the solution to these problems.

    But is it worth it? At our current level of technology, I don't think so. Personally I think that we are far too primitive as a species to even think about artificially altering the natural process of life. But of course, the above arguments also hold some very valid points.

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