Archive for November, 2009

Glutathione Considered – The Body’s Master Antioxidant

performance, Recovery - Repair | Posted by admin November 22nd, 2009

Antioxidants are intimately involved in the detoxification process and are a very important part of our defenses against environmental toxins and carcinogens. They protect our cells from oxidative stress which can come from our environment in a variety of ways. Because such damage plays a role in the weakening of the immune system that it should come as no surprise that antioxidant supplementation can benefit those with degenerative diseases such cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis, neurological diseases and viral infections for example.

Let’s look at one antioxidant –Glutathione- and how glutathione can affect the body. Glutathione is a small molecule made up of three amino acids, which exists in almost every cell of the body. The presence of glutathione is required to maintain the normal function of the immune system. It is known to play a critical role in the multiplication of lymphocytes (the cells that mediate specific immunity), which occurs in the development of an effective immune response. The cells of the immune system produce many oxygen radicals as a result of their normal functioning, resulting in a need for higher concentrations of antioxidants than most cells. Glutathione plays a crucial role in fulfilling this requirement.

Glutathione helps the body fight almost any disease, because it is a powerful antioxidant and helps maintain cellular health and there is a body of research on degenerative disease that has shown that people with degenerative disease are also experiencing low levels of glutathione. Glutathione acts as a detoxifying agent by combining with undesirable substances and ridding the body of them through urine and bile. Aside from being a powerful antioxidant and system detoxifier, it helps repair and protect DNA. Glutathione has been heavily researched and many researchers believe that the degenerative processes take place when the body is lacking the glutathione it needs to protect from degenerative damage.

Glutathione works in a protective role by boosting the immune system, thereby helping the body’s immune response and helps protect the body from oxidative stress – and oxidative stress is associated with aging. Thus, glutathione levels are correlated with aging and physical function. One way to drastically increase glutathione levels, aside from consuming glutathione precursors, is through the ingestion of ascorbic acid – vitamin C3 – and l-glutamine, vitamin E, ALA (Alpha Lipolic Acid), and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) which all help with glutathione synthesis.

Oxidation damage is now recognized as being the key feature of much of the aging processes that our bodies endure. It is known that as we age, there is a precipitous drop in GSH levels. Lower Glutathione levels are implicated in many diseases associated with aging, including Cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, arteriosclerosis and others.

The key to living better is to resist age related deterioration due to oxidation. Recent studies have shown that glutathione play a key role in reducing the oxidation process (antioxidant) and protecting our bodies against free radicals. Supplements that increase glutathione may be a way for us to protect our bodies against the aging process.

What can reducing the oxidative process on the body mean for the athlete?

Many world-class athletes are discovering the importance of glutathione, which when maintained, gives them the edge over the competition. Increased glutathione levels provides athletes with increased strength and endurance, decreased recovery time from injury, less pain and fatigue and possibly an increase in muscle-promoting activities.

During workouts, athletes generate free radicals which in turn lead to muscle fatigue and poorer performance. Glutathione neutralizes these radicals and allows our bodies to recover faster. Recent research indicates that the body has a natural tendency toward many degenerative diseases and aging itself. Some believe how well the body can protect itself from damage and recover from oxidative damage can be determined by measuring the intracellular stores of Glutathione.

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Importance of Magnesium – Prevents Health Risks

nutrition, performance | Posted by admin November 6th, 2009

Most people are aware of the importance of getting enough calcium, which remains a widespread problem. Most people don’t know there are other common micronutrient deficiencies that need to be addressed. Magnesium is one of those important micronutrients that doesn’t seem to get much attention, but plays a huge role in the body promoting health & performance.

Unfortunately the diets of all Americans are likely to be deficient and they don’t even know it. Sources estimate that nearly 70 percent of Americans get inadequate doses of magnesium every day and do not consume the daily recommended amounts of Magnesium. Studies have also shown food alone can’t meet the minimal Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) micronutrient requirements for preventing nutrient-deficiency diseases. For several years experts have suggested that the availability of magnesium in the soil has significantly decreased and it is difficult to get the amount of magnesium needed to function at an optimal level. This, in combination with diets low in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, has led to a general deficiency in the population.

Magnesium is used for more than 300 bodily functions and assists in energy production, maintains healthy bone density and aids the electrical conduction of the heart. Magnesium belongs in a category of minerals called electrolytes because they conduct electrical signals in the body. It is needed in energy metabolism, glucose utilization, protein synthesis, fatty acid synthesis and breakdown, muscle contraction, all ATPase functions, for almost all hormonal reactions, and in the maintenance of cellular ionic balance. It is found in all of the body’s cells, although it is mostly concentrated in the bones, muscles, and soft tissues. Magnesium also affects calcium’s role in homeostasis through two mechanisms.

Magnesium deficiency results in altered cardiovascular function, including electrocardiographic abnormalities, impaired carbohydrate metabolism, with insulin resistance and decreased insulin secretion, and high blood pressure. Even a mild deficiency causes sensitiveness to noise, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, confusion, twitching, trembling, apprehension, insomnia, muscle weakness and cramps in the toes, feet, legs, or fingers.

In active adults and athletes low magnesium levels can acutely contribute to early fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps & an irregular heartbeat during exercise. Magnesium as well as zinc, chromium and selenium are excreted in the sweat or as part of the process of metabolic acceleration. Heavy sweat loss can interfere with the important functions for which magnesium and other electrolytes are responsible. Also, the rate of magnesium loss is increased in conditions of high humidity and high temperature. An important consideration for athletes is the rate of magnesium loss that occurs during heavy physical activity. Heavy exercise makes you lose magnesium in the urine and scientific evidence suggests this is why long distance runners may suddenly drop dead with heart arrhythmias.

In a very tightly controlled three-month US study carried out last year, the effects of magnesium depletion on exercise performance in 10 women were observed. In the first month, the women received a magnesium-deficient diet (112mgs per day), which was supplemented with 200mgs per day of magnesium to bring the total magnesium content up to the RDA of 310mgs per day. In the second month, the supplement was withdrawn to make the diet magnesium-deficient, but in the third month it was reintroduced to replenish magnesium levels.

At the end of each month, the women were asked to cycle at increasing intensities until they reached 80% of their maximum heart rate, at which time a large number of measurements were taken, including blood tests, ECG and respiratory gas analysis.

The researchers found that, for a given workload, peak oxygen uptake, total and cumulative net oxygen utilization and heart rate all increased significantly during the period of magnesium restriction, with the amount of the increase directly related to the extent of magnesium depletion. In plain English, a magnesium deficiency reduced metabolic efficiency, increasing the oxygen consumption and heart rate required to perform work – exactly what an athlete doesn’t want!

No serious athlete or trainer can afford to overlook the benefits that magnesium brings to athletic performance and the recovery process. Research suggests that even a small shortfall in magnesium can lead to greatly reduced performance and stamina. Many athletic medical specialists believe that magnesium is the single most important mineral to sports nutrition. Not only does it help optimize an athlete’s performance, but it speeds up recovery from fatigue and injuries.

Optimal muscle contraction and relaxation is the foundation of an athlete’s performance. Proper magnesium levels are required for muscles to relax fully following a contraction. Some doctors believe that injuries to hamstring muscles can be partially avoided through intake of magnesium and stated that a shortened hamstring is a result of lack of available magnesium.

The first step is to eat more magnesium rich foods, especially beans, nuts and vegetables. The more active a person is the greater the need to make sure there is a variety of balanced micronutrient-enriched foods into their diet. The challenge is to eat large amounts of magnesium-rich foods on a consistent basis. Often this proves difficult and unrealistic, as an athlete’s requirement of magnesium intake far surpasses that of an average person. Micronutrient supplementation still may be needed to be incorporated into their wellness program as a preventative protocol for preventing these observed deficiencies.

Another important step is to have your levels checked. The residual level of magnesium in the cells is what’s important. The body does all it can to keep the blood levels normal, so if there is a body deficit, it will be found within the cells. Work with a practitioner that will check your RBC-magnesium level (the level of magnesium in red blood cells) or provide an FIA (functional intracellular analysis) for your body’s residual nutrient levels that will benchmark your cell level status to find the amount of supplements needed to achieve normal levels. Recommended intake for endurance athletes is 500 to 800 mg daily.

There is virtually no one that cannot benefit greatly from increasing daily magnesium intake. In terms of health and longevity magnesium is essential. For the professional athlete it means the difference between winning and losing, and in some cases, living and dying.

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Manipulating The Glycemic Index Diet – The Winning Edge ???

Fitness, nutrition, performance, Recovery - Repair, strength | Posted by admin November 4th, 2009

A high-carbohydrate training diet is a must for optimum sports performance because it produces the biggest stores of muscle glycogen. Unlike the fat stores in the body, which can release almost unlimited amounts of fatty acids, the carbohydrate stores are small. They are fully depleted after two or three hours of strenuous exercise. This depletion of carbohydrate stores is called “hitting the wall.” The blood glucose concentration begins to decline at this point. If exercise continues as the same rate, blood glucose may drop to levels that interfere with brain function and cause disorientation and unconsciousness.

All else being equal, the eventual winner is the person with the largest stores of muscle glycogen. It is important to maximize your muscle glycogen stores by ingesting a high-carbohydrate training diet and by carb loading in the days prior to the competition.

There are times when low G.I. foods provide an advantage and times when high G.I. are better. For best performance a serious athlete needs to learn which foods have high and low G.I. factors and when to eat them. Understanding the glycemic index and making the best food choices can give you an advantage.

Low-GI Foods: Before the Event
Low-GI foods have been proven to extend endurance when eaten alone one or two hours before prolonged strenuous exercise. Low-GI foods are best eaten about two hours before the big event –so that the meal will have left the stomach but will remain in the small intestine, slowly releasing glucose energy, for hours afterwards. The slow rate and steady stream of glucose trickles into the bloodstream during the event. Most importantly, the extra glucose will still be available toward the end of the exercise, when muscle stores are running close to empty. In this way, low-GI foods increase endurance and prolong the time before exhaustion hits.

When a pre-event meal of lentils (low GI value) was compared with one of potatoes (high GI value), cyclists were able to continue cycling at high intensity (65 percent of their maximum capacity) for twenty minutes longer when the meal had a low G value. Their blood-glucose and insulin levels were still above fasting levels at the end of exercise, indicating that carbohydrates were continuing to be absorbed from the small intestine even after ninety minutes of strenuous exercise.

In any sport context, it’s critical to select low-GI foods that do not cause gastrointestinal discomfort (stomach cramps, etc.). Some low-GI foods, such as legumes that are high in fiber or ingestible sugars, may produce symptoms in people not use to eating large amounts of them. There are plenty of low-fiber, low-GI choices, including pasta, noodles, and Basmati rice.

High- GI Foods: During and After the Event
While the pre-event meal should have a low GI value, scientific evidence indicates that there are times when high-GI foods are preferable. This includes during the event, after the event, and after normal training sessions. This is because high-GI foods are absorbed faster and stimulate more insulin, the hormone responsible for getting glucose back into the muscles for either immediate or future use.

During the event
High-GI foods should be used during events lasting longer than ninety minutes. This form of carbohydrate is rapidly released into the bloodstream and ensures that glucose is available for oxidation in the muscle cells. Liquid foods are usually tolerated better than solid foods, for endurance racing for example, because they are emptied more quickly from the stomach. Sports drinks are ideal during the race because they replace water and electrolytes as well. If you feel hungry for something solid during a race, try jelly beans (GI value of 80) or another form of high-glucose candy. Consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour during the event.

After the event (recovery)
In some competitive sports, athletes compete on consecutive days, and glycogen stores need to be at their maximum each time. Here it is important to restock the glycogen store in the muscles as quickly as possible after each day’s events. High-GI foods are best in this situation. Muscles are more sensitive to glucose in the bloodstream in the first hour after exercise, so a concerted effort should be made to get as many high-GI foods in as soon as possible.

Suggested foods include most of the sports drinks which replace water and electrolyte losses, or high-GI rice (e.g., jasmine), breads, and breakfast cereals such as cornflakes or rice krispies. Potatoes cooked without fat are good choice too but their high satiety means it is hard to eat lots of them.

Carbohydrate Loading For Training & Understanding
Why This Is Important…

It’s not just your pre- and post-event meals that influence your performance. Very active people need to eat much larger amounts of carbohydrates than inactive people. Consuming a high-carbohydrate diet every day will help you reach peak performance. When athletes fail to consume adequate carbohydrates each day, muscle and liver glycogen stores eventually become depleted. Dr. Ted Costill at the University of Texas showed that the gradual and chronic depletion of stored glycogen may decrease endurance and exercise performance. Intense workouts two to three times a day draw heavily on the athlete’s muscle glycogen stores. Athletes on low-carbohydrate diet will not perform their best because muscle stores of fuel are low.
If the diet provides inadequate amounts of carbohydrate, the reduction in muscle glycogen will be critical. An athlete training heavily should consume about 500 to 800 grams of carbohydrate a day (about two to three times normal) to help prevent carbohydrate depletion. Typically, American adults consume between 200 to 250 grams of carbohydrates each day.

Could a High-GI Diet Be Harmful to Athletes?

By virtue of their high activity levels, athletes have optimal insulin sensitivity. When they eat high-carbohydrate, high-GI foods, blood glucose and insulin levels rise far less in them than in the average person. This also provides the athlete with a bonus by not exposing their bodies to dangerous levels of blood glucose which produce disease in sedentary, insulin resistant individuals.

Adapted from the Book: The New Glucose Revolution
Written by: Jennie Brand-Miller, PhD
Thomas M.S. Wolever, MD PhD
Stephen Colagiuri, MD
Kaye Foster-Powell, M Nutr & Diet