How many have you made a pact to lose weight for the new year? And, how many of you know where to start?
Of course, you can make better food choices and exercise more. But, if you’re going to do this, you need to know how to fuel your body properly before and after exercise as well as supporting your body’s needs during the day. As not to confuse you with the plethora of amino acid supplements beneficial for weight-loss and muscle gain, I have only written about a few.
Enhance Your Performance
The harder you work in the gym, the better your results will be. The following nutrients and foods are what I believe to be essential pre workout:
L-arginine increases nitric oxide (NO) production which helps to dilate blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the muscles, heart, lungs and brain enhancing performance as nutrients and oxygen are delivered faster to the tissues that need them. Foods high in arginine include almonds, sesame seeds, seafood, coconut, chocolate, gelatin, oats & walnuts. You can also boost NO with natural food sources like rocket and beetroot.
Dose: 3-6 grams on an empty stomach
Contraindications: People with viral infections, eg herpes. Arginine can increase outbreaks.
- Creatine (malate)
Creatine is produced from the amino acids arginine and methionine and is a substrate for the creation of ATP (energy molecules). During the first ten seconds of exercise, creatine levels are markedly depleted. Supplementation has been shown to enhance the force of muscle contractions, increasing strength. It’s also used by the body to create PCr (phosphocreatine) which helps to buffer intracellular hydrogen ions – decreasing muscle fatigue during exercise. It’s particularly useful for weight-lifting and anything that requires repeated short bursts of energy, like sprints. Creatine is mainly found in meat and dairy products.
Dose: 2-3 grams daily
Although not essential to a workout, caffeine can definitely give you an energy boost! Evidence has shown that caffeine enhances endurance and performance in a wide range of exercises. It’s also been proven that caffeine enhances the breakdown of stored fat for use as an energy source. As caffeine is a stimulant, it alters the body’s central nervous system by changing perceptions of effort and fatigue enabling us to go harder in the gym and not feel as tired. A cup of black coffee is my choice before a workout. Think coffee is bad for you? Stay tuned for my next post.
Dose: 4-6 milligrams/kilo body weight or 1-2 cups of coffee before exercise
Boost Your Recovery
Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise (think bicep curls, squats and lunges), causes microscopic tears in our muscles; this is why muscles can be sore or tender the day after exercise. Rest is where the magic happens; this is when the body heals itself to make those muscles stronger. If you’re not giving your body adequate rest or proper nutrition between workouts, your muscles will actually go catabolic; meaning they will breakdown.
The number one post-workout must-have = protein. Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth which is why it is imperative after a workout and during the day. Within twenty minutes after exercise is the ideal time to consume protein as protein synthesis rates are at their peak; this is why you see gym junkies walking out of the gym with protein shakes. Read more about the importance of protein in my ‘Eat More, Weigh Less’ post.
Dose: Minimum of 1 gram/kilo body weight daily. Just make sure to include a source of protein with every meal – meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, grains, nuts or protein powders are all good choices. My favourite protein powder is BSc Alkaline Vegan Protein available from Woolworths.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in the body. It is concentrated in skeletal muscle and helps to build and maintain muscle. More importantly, it can help to prevent muscle wasting. Stress and injuries, whether it’s the burden from heavy exercise, diseases (like cancer and AIDS) or surgical trauma, leach glutamine from the muscles and into the bloodstream which can lead to loss of muscle. If enough glutamine is available, however, this can be prevented. Not only is glutamine great for recovery following exercise, it also supports performance as it is a precursor for other amino acids, glucose, purines, pyrimidines, glutathione and glutamate. As it is a source of fuel for immune and intestinal cells, it enhances immunity; reducing the risk of getting sick from too much exercise, and strengthens the lining of the gastrointestinal tract; increasing the efficiency of nutrient absorption. It’s found in all animal products & in powder form; I add a scoop to breakfast in the morning.
Dose: 5-8gm daily
- Cherries and Berries
Yep, you read correctly. Cherries and berries can help decrease inflammation associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The anthocyanins in these fruits, especially cherries can help reduce inflammatory markers like CRP in the bloodstream. Cherries can also help to preserve strength in the muscles. Research found that when weightlifters used heavy weights, the muscles they used lost 22% of their strength the following day because of DOMS. When they consumed cherries, their muscles hurt less and they were better able to preserve their strength – only reducing their strength by 4% on average. Blueberries were also studied to have similar effects so take advantage of these Summer fruits and eat up!
Dose: 4-5 cherries daily or 1/2 cup blueberries daily
Don’t Forget Water!
If you take anything away from this blog post, make sure you drink enough water. It is the single most important nutrient with even a slight drop in body water percentage (2%) causing small, but critical, brain shrinkage. This can affect performance in the gym as it impairs neuromuscular coordination. Dehydration can also cause fatigue, muscle cramping, decreased strength and endurance affecting your overall performance. I could go on forever about the importance of water in assisting detoxification, aiding in weight-loss, reducing fluid retention, improving digestion etc, but it could take a while! Aim for at least 2 Litres everyday.
I hope you enjoyed a snippet of what I think the best pre and postworkout nutrients are. This is one for the gym junkies, yogis and ‘new-to-exercise’ people in my life. I would love to hear what you think 🙂
Have a great day everyone!
Love Stace x
*The information contained in this blog should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems and is provided for your information only. Any supplements I have recommended may not be suitable for you so check with your doctor or natural health care practitioner first.