Category Archives: Diet

Quinoa Stimulates Protein Synthesis via Phytoecdysteroids

I’m not sure where Quinoa falls on the dietary good-evil spectrum these days.  Many value it for its high protein and mineral content.  It can be a staple food for the health-minded vegetarian.  On the other side of the spectrum, Quinoa has been on the do-not-eat list for followers of the Paleo diet because advocates consider it to be a grain.  Paleo dieters have also been concerned that Quinoa contains saponins. Some have proposed that saponins may damage the intestines.  However saponins are beneficial anti-oxidants and some are health-protective.  For a more general discussion of Quinoa and why it should be an excellent addition to the paleo diet click here.

Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Phytoecdysteroids in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

Quinoa is high in protein, flavonoids and phytoecdysteroids

Analysis of quinoa extract shows that quinoa contains:

  • 20% protein
  • 11% oil
  • 2.6% flavonoid glycosides
  • 1% phytoecdysteroids (this is very high compared to other plants)
Crossfit trainer amie taylor crossfit seven with phytoecdysteroids
Crossfit Trainer Amie Taylor of CrossFit Seven gets ready for the snatch

Protein, as we all know, is important for building strength and muscle mass.  Protein is also important in preserving muscle mass and functionality in older people.  Protein intake may be important to long-term health.  Its not just an issue for athletes and body-builders. Flavonoid glycosides are health protective anti-oxidants.   Quinoa contains high amounts of phytoecdysteroids.   These are thought to be part of a plants phytoecdysteroids.  However, they may be good for people.  There are many different phytoecdysteroids. The dominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa is 20HE.

Beneficial effects of phytoecdysteroids

There have been a number of studies showing different positive effects of phytoecdysteroids or of qunoia extract.

  • Quinoa extract lowered blood glucose in obese, hyperglycemic mice
  • Phytoecdysteroids increased protein synthesis in animals with and without exercise
  • 20HE (the predominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa) has anabolic-like properties that promote protein synthesis
  • 20HE Increased muscle fiber size
  • Phytoecdysteroids Inhibited tumor growth
  • Quinoa extract increased metabolic rate and may be an anti-obesogen
Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Crossfit masters athlete Angie Bender at CrossFit Seven supports WODMASTERS. Join us! Wear the shirt!

How phytoecdysteroids work is not completely understood.  They do not seem to act in the same way as anabolic steroids.  So far, phytoecdysteroids show very low toxicity in mammals but limited (if any) testing has been done in humans.

Dinan L (2009). The Karlson Lecture. Phytoecdysteroids: what use are they? Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology, 72 (3), 126-41 PMID: 19771554

Báthori M, Tóth N, Hunyadi A, Márki A, & Zádor E (2008). Phytoecdysteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids–structure and effects on humans. Current medicinal chemistry, 15 (1), 75-91 PMID: 18220764

Foucault AS, Even P, Lafont R, Dioh W, Veillet S, Tomé D, Huneau JF, Hermier D, & Quignard-Boulangé A (2014). Quinoa extract enriched in 20-hydroxyecdysone affects energy homeostasis and intestinal fat absorption in mice fed a high-fat diet. Physiology & behavior, 128, 226-31 PMID: 24534167

Quinoa is high in Protein and Stimulates Protein Synthesis from WODMASTERS

Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Phytoecdysteroids in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis

I’m not sure where Quinoa falls on the dietary good-evil spectrum these days.  Many value it for its high protein and mineral content.  It can be a staple food for the health-minded vegetarian.  On the other side of the spectrum, Quinoa has been on the do-not-eat list for followers of the Paleo diet because advocates consider it to be a grain.  Paleo dieters have also been concerned that Quinoa contains saponins. Some have proposed that saponins may damage the intestines.  However saponins are beneficial anti-oxidants and some are health-protective.  For a more general discussion of Quinoa and why it should be an excellent addition to the paleo diet click here.

Quinoa is high in protein, flavonoids and phytoecdysteroids

Analysis of quinoa extract shows that quinoa contains:

  • 20% protein
  • 11% oil
  • 2.6% flavonoid glycosides
  • 1% phytoecdysteroids (this is very high compared to other plants)
Crossfit trainer amie taylor crossfit seven with phytoecdysteroids
Crossfit Trainer Amie Taylor of CrossFit Seven gets ready for the snatch

Protein, as we all know, is important for building strength and muscle mass.  Protein is also important in preserving muscle mass and functionality in older people.  Protein intake may be important to long-term health.  Its not just an issue for athletes and body-builders. Flavonoid glycosides are health protective anti-oxidants.   Quinoa contains high amounts of phytoecdysteroids.   These are thought to be part of a plants phytoecdysteroids.  However, they may be good for people.  There are many different phytoecdysteroids. The dominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa is 20HE.

Beneficial effects of phytoecdysteroids

There have been a number of studies showing different positive effects of phytoecdysteroids or of qunoia extract.

  • Quinoa extract lowered blood glucose in obese, hyperglycemic mice
  • Phytoecdysteroids increased protein synthesis in animals with and without exercise
  • 20HE (the predominant phytoecdysteroid in quinoa) has anabolic-like properties that promote protein synthesis
  • 20HE Increased muscle fiber size
  • Phytoecdysteroids Inhibited tumor growth
  • Quinoa extract increased metabolic rate and may be an anti-obesogen
Phytoecdysteroids  in quinoa can help promote protein synthesis
Crossfit masters athlete Angie Bender at CrossFit Seven supports WODMASTERS. Join us! Wear the shirt!

How phytoecdysteroids work is not completely understood.  They do not seem to act in the same way as anabolic steroids.  So far, phytoecdysteroids show very low toxicity in mammals but limited (if any) testing has been done in humans.

Dinan L (2009). The Karlson Lecture. Phytoecdysteroids: what use are they? Archives of insect biochemistry and physiology, 72 (3), 126-41 PMID: 19771554

Báthori M, Tóth N, Hunyadi A, Márki A, & Zádor E (2008). Phytoecdysteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids–structure and effects on humans. Current medicinal chemistry, 15 (1), 75-91 PMID: 18220764

Foucault AS, Even P, Lafont R, Dioh W, Veillet S, Tomé D, Huneau JF, Hermier D, & Quignard-Boulangé A (2014). Quinoa extract enriched in 20-hydroxyecdysone affects energy homeostasis and intestinal fat absorption in mice fed a high-fat diet. Physiology & behavior, 128, 226-31 PMID: 24534167

What CrossFit Masters Athletes wish CrossFit Trainers knew.

Crossfit masters athletes are a growing part of crossfit communities, crossfit boxes and client bases.  Many Masters Athletes have felt ignored or that our unique experiences, injuries and needs are misunderstood by crossfit trainers who have had little knowledge about working with our age group.  Accordingly many are seeking community, support and advice from their peers on Crossfit Masters webpages and facebook groups.  The Crossfit Masters group CFMasters now has over 7,000 members from around the world.  Other groups,that support primarily Crossfit Masters women or masters within a specific age class are also popping up.  Many group members have questions that are masters specific:

  • How long does it take masters to recover from _______ (add type of injury here)?
  • How are other masters dealing with insomnia, or muscle soreness, or flexibility problems?
  • Do masters athletes have specific nutritional needs?
  • What can I do to get faster, stronger, leaner etc.?
  • How are hormonal shifts impacting my performance?

Masters crossfit athletes, masters athletes in general and the need for more research

crossfit masters athlete John Mariotti
Crossfit Masters Athlete John Mariotti trains for the crossfit games

The explosion of interest in participation in Masters Sports and Athletics is quite recent.  The pace of research to address masters athletes needs is just warming up.  Or possibly still parked in the driveway.  Most of the research available to us has focused on health and functionality among the elderly.  While it is useful to look at these studies, studies about us masters would be greatly appreciated.  (Will be writing more on what we have so far soon.  Take a look at our archives for now.)

For Crossfit Trainers working with Masters Athletes: what you should know

Masters Crossfit Woman Training
Crossfit Masters Woman Angie Bender Competes in the 2014 Masters Crossfit Open
  • We want to be treated like athletes, but there are somethings that make us different than other athletes.
  • Understand that we will modify as we physically need to; we are not slackers. We are seasoned enough to distinguish muscle pain from joint distress and will protect ourselves from injury — Leanne Cantrell of CrossFit Mandeville
  • That our joints don’t work the way they used to. Find ways to help us get under the bar more efficiently, to get our elbows up into position, to engage our shoulders — addition from CFMasters athlete
  • “the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t on the list. Specifically that we need substantially more warm up, warm down, and stretching time. Oh, and aligned with some of the other thought already written – that coaches should ask us about our physical state, fitness and health history, any injuries we might have and our goals.”
  • Understand that our eyes are changing and that we don’t have the depth perception we used to.  This makes box jumps harder.  Its also harder for us to shift between near and far vision.  That also makes it harder for us to do box jumps and slows us down.
  • Vision issues can also make it harder for us to be as agile.
  • Many masters men will be concerned about testosterone.  Testosterone can be boosted by working out in a supportive (and co-ed) environment.   Crossfit is perfect for that.  As far as we know working out in a gung-ho co-ed group doesn’t increase cancer risk.
  • We are more likely to rupture a tendon or kill our shins and shoulders.  Have an emergency plan for first aid and for serious injuries.
  • ” New masters athletes appreciate mentoring by experienced masters athletes. Coaches can ask the experienced ones for this support.”
  • “Masters athletes may need to vary our level of intensity, weights or volume from WOD to WOD due to joint stress or other flare ups, I so appreciate when our coaches work on technique instead of going for better times or heavier weights that day.”
  • “That we have learned to finish what we start. Sometimes you just have to let us go to a corner and finish the WOD. We may not be the fastest. But we are persistent.” CFMaster
  • Cheer us on too.  We appreciate it.
Experienced as Hell Tank Masters Athletes Protein
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Here are a few articles that are specific to masters athletes.  We’ll be summarizing these soon.  Keep in touch.

Sillanpää E, Häkkinen A, Laaksonen DE, Karavirta L, Kraemer WJ, & Häkkinen K (2010). Serum basal hormone concentrations, nutrition and physical fitness during strength and/or endurance training in 39-64-year-old women. International journal of sports medicine, 31 (2), 110-7 PMID: 20222003

 

Sallinen J, Pakarinen A, Fogelholm M, Alen M, Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, & Häkkinen K (2007). Dietary intake, serum hormones, muscle mass and strength during strength training in 49 – 73-year-old men. International journal of sports medicine, 28 (12), 1070-6 PMID: 17497592 Another article of interest is: Position Statement (2010). Selected Issues for the Master Athlete and the Team Physician Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42 (4), 820-833 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d19a0b

Honey for wounds, ripped hands, healing and pain relief

If you have tried Crossfit you have probably ripped your hands at some point.  Ripped hands can be painful.  They can also keep you from working out.  Let’s be frank: they look horrible.  Honey may help.  Honey has been used for medicinal purposes for millenia.  I would have dismissed the idea, but I’m investigating the plight of honey bees and colony collapse disorder. and came across some interesting studies of wounds, infection and pain.  There is good evidence that honey relieves pain, speeds healing and prevents or treats infection.  There is also evidence that honey provides anti-oxidants.  Let’s take a look.

Honey and wound healing

Honey may help speed wound healing by acting as an anti-inflammatory.  Application of honey reduces inflammation.  This helps reduce the amount of fluid seeping into the wound.  Reducing inflammation can also help with pain.  Part of wound pain comes from the pressure of swollen tissue on nerves.  Wound healing is also helped by preventing or treating infection.  There have been a number of studies showing faster burn healing with honey when compared to malfenide acetate, a widely used treatment for severe burns.

Honey and infection

Honey may help with infections in several different ways. Honey absorbs wound fluids that support bacteria.  However diluted honey also slows bacterial growth — so there is something else going on as well.  Honey has been found to be effective in inhibiting growth of many different types of bacteria, including MRSA microbes.  Honey is not an anti-septic.  It doesn’t kill bacteria on contact.  It seems to treat or prevent infection by inhibiting bacterial growth.  This would keep infections from developing.  Slowing bacterial growth would give the body’some help in fighting an infection too.

Honey and pain

Honey has pain-killing effects.  This has been testing in rodents.  Rodents can’t express their feelings of pain the way people can. However there should be no placebo effect.  Tests of rats show reduced pain-like behavior after pain infliction when honey was applied.  It is thought that, like other analgesics, honey . . . or something in it . . .  blocks pain receptors.  As mentioned above, honey may also reduce pain by reducing inflammation.

How to use honey for wounds

Medical grade honey is used in hospitals.  Medical grade honey is honey that has been irradiated.  Concerns have been raised about using regular honey for wounds.  This is because honey may contain chlostridium butlinum.  These are the bacteria that cause botulism.  Botulism can be fatal. The radiation kills spores without requiring heating.  Apparently heating honey can destroy some anti-bacterial properties.  Medical grade honey is available online or at some pharmacies if you are concerned about using off-the-shelf honey. Hospital protocol calls for applying honey to wound dressings and then covering the wound.  They also recommend changing the dressing twice a day, especially in the early stages of healing. While there’s a lot of interest in honey for wound treatment and it is being used in some hospitals some scientists advise against it.   Chochrane Reviews , for example advises against using honey for wound treatments because there have not been enough studies yet.  While honey has worked better than conventional dressings in some studies it may not work well under all conditions.  More research is needed to see how it stacks up against other treatments.

Does honey help on hand rips like you get in Crossfit?

This is a very good question.  I intend to try the next time I rip my hands.  Will post pictures.

Experienced As Hell WOD Masters T-Shirt
The WODMASTERS Experienced as Hell Shirt for CrossFit Masters and other tough nuts.

Blaser, G., Santos, K., Bode, U., Vetter, H., & Simon, A. (2007). Effect of medical honey on wounds colonised or infected with MRSA Journal of Wound Care, 16 (8), 325-328 DOI: 10.12968/jowc.2007.16.8.27851 Lusby PE, Coombes AL, & Wilkinson JM (2005). Bactericidal activity of different honeys against pathogenic bacteria. Archives of medical research, 36 (5), 464-7 PMID: 16099322 Owoyele BV, Oladejo RO, Ajomale K, Ahmed RO, & Mustapha A (2014). Analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of honey: the involvement of autonomic receptors. Metabolic brain disease, 29 (1), 167-73 PMID: 24318481 Comparison between topical honey and mafenide acetate in treatment of burn wounds

Masters CrossFit Athlete John Mariotti Trains for the CrossFit Games 2014

John Mariotti (age 57) stands at the top of this year’s Masters CrossFit Open Competition. John’s path to Crossfit began with a meniscus tear that brought his ultramarathon-career to a sudden stop. He turned his focus to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but was frustrated by his younger, stronger, faster competitors. John bought a book by Pavel Tsatsouline, the famed Russian Kettlebell Master and author of The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness for Hard Living Comrades and started training on his own. He discovered CrossFit in 2009, using it to gain an edge in Jiu-Jitsu, but he quickly fell in love with CrossFit as a sport in itself.

John has been a life-long athlete. In addition to Jui-jitsu and ultra marathons, John has been involved in TaeKwon-Do (6th degree black belt) Grappling, sprint triathlons, swimming , football, wrestling, track, water polo and snowboarding. Years of training and competition have taken their toll. It’s tough being a masters athlete. “My shoulder is tweaky, my knee has some tendinitis . . . but I’ve suffered nothing that has forced me to stop training. Some things caused a bit of a slow down or modification but not much. I’m pretty lucky that way.”

John’s strategy for avoiding injury includes lots of mobility training and massage. He goes for Assisted Release Therapy weekly, does thorough warm-ups before WODs, sleeps well, takes fish oil. “Besides that,” he says “I try not to do anything too stupid.”

Training for the games.

John placed 31st in his division in the 2013 CrossFit Open. John was extremely fit, but he knew he would need to fine tune his game in order to make it into the top 20. He looked for a coach, and was taken on by CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus.   CJ worked with John to improve his technique for all the elements that had appeared in the CrossFit games. John has found the time spent with CJ to be extremely helpful. “CJ is a master coach in this area. He seems to know just how hard to push and when to back off a bit. He also keeps my mobilization and diet and sleep in mind as well.”

Today, John feels as good as he has felt all year. That’s a good feeling coming into competition. This has been a hard and busy year for John. He has moved from California to Dallas, TX to open a CrossFit box of his own: CrossFit Odyssey. In spite of the pressures of opening a business and adjusting to a new environment John has continued to meet challenges head-on. He competed in the TX state weightlifting championships in January and took first place in his age and weight division.

Diet for a Masters CrossFit Athlete

crossfit shirts or kettlebell shirts for crossfit athletes
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John trains on a diet of “real food.” “Food is a joy for me and I never feel deprived eating the way I do.” He eats mostly paleo with lots of animal protein, fats and vegetables. He includes a lot of carbohydrates (potatoes are a huge favorite) as well. He does not eat grains with the exception of rice and avoids dairy and sugar.   He is an infrequent drinker.   John cooks for the week on Sundays. He has been following this diet for years, but has only recently increased his carbohydrate consumption. The carbs have been helping him deal with his high volume of training.

Advice for Masters Athletes in Training and Competition

When asked what advice he could off fellow masters athletes John responded :“It is easy for us get over-trained, especially if we just follow the same programming the younger guys do. Recovery is slower and PRs and gains are further between. Most of us still have that fire and try to keep up with the younger guys and that can be costly. Our minds and spirits are willing but the flesh doesn’t cooperate quite the way it did in years gone by. That being said…I can do things now that I could not do in the past…muscle ups, handstand pushups and double unders come to mind. I can lift more weight than I could 5 years ago. I move as quick as I did years ago and I have a much better “engine” than just a few months ago. My resting heartbeat is 43, which is as low as it has ever been. We can all get better…stronger, more skilled, and have better technique as long as we train smart as well as hard.”

John can be found at CrossFit Odyssey in Dallas, TX.

Depression Brain. Folate and Anti-Oxidants can help protect against damage

Depression brain.  Depression damages the brain and contributes to memory problems

Depression is a brain disorder that interferes with many aspects of function.  The evidence for genetic susceptibility to depression is strong, although it may take a traumatic event, or even a series of traumatic events, to trigger it. The brains of people with depression differ from those of people who are not depressed.  Brain imagery studies show differences in brain regions related to cognition, sleep patterns, feeding behavior and sleep.  Studies have also demonstrated smaller brain volume, greater susceptibility to Alzheimers disease, heart disease and memory problems.  Depression is a bio-chemical problem that is strongly associated with other serious medical conditions that can further reduce quality of life and lifespan.

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How is depression related to other diseases?

There is increasing evidence that depression may increase risk of other diseases by changing body chemistry.  These alterations may lead to decreased levels of anti-oxidants and increased oxidative stress.

Depression Brain and the Chemical Stress of Depression

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Depression has been associated with elevated cortisol levels.  The general thought, originating with Hans Selye’s research, is that elevated cortisol leads to suppression of immune function.  There is a lot of good evidence supporting this, but more recent research indicates that even though cortisol levels may be elevated in depression, the immune system is not turned down– or at least not in the brain.  Increased immune activity can cause oxidative damage to surrounding tissues. One of the ways the immune system protects the body from attack is by blasting offensive material with highly reactive chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide.  The hydrogen peroxide blasts releases free oxygen, which damages the cell membranes of targets, and destroys them.  The blast is called an “Oxidative Burst.”  Another type of “Blast” is created by production of nitric oxide.  That type of “blast ” is a nitrosative burst. These “bursts” can damage healthy cells, especially when there is no appropriate target, such as infectious organisms.  New research is showing that depression increases immuno-inflammatory activity.  This activity can damage:

  • Lipids and Cell Membranes.  This can cause cell death
  • Proteins.  Also not good.
  • DNA.  DNA damage can result in cancer
  • Mitochondria.  Mitrochondria are needed to produce energy for cells.

Depression is also associated with

  • Reduced neurogenesis (growth of brain cells)
  • Reduced brain volume (popularly known as “raisin brain.”)
  • Memory problems and etc.
  • Increased vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease

Increasing immuno-inflammatory pathways can lead to decreases in production of melatonin and serotonin.

When the body increases activity of one pathway another pathway may be left with insufficient resources.  Upping the activity of the immune system may mean lowering activity of something else.  The molecule tryptophan is used in production of interleukins and tumor-necrosis factor alpha during activation of immunol-inflammatory pathways.  Tryptophan is also used in production of the neurotransmitter, Serotonin and the hormone melatonin.  Tyrptophan levels tend to be low in depressed people.  So are levels of serotonin and melatonin.  This may be because the demand for tryptophan is increased. Low serotonin is believed to be one of the factors causing the feelings of sadness and worthlessness of depression.  Anti-depressants such as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) help maintain levels of serotonin.  Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle.   Sleep disorders are hallmarks of depression.  It gets a lot more complicated and there is a lot more biochemistry involved.  If you want to learn more check out the references at the bottom of this article.  The point I’m hoping to make is that people who suffer depression may also be suffering more oxidative stress than is good for them and that depression is more than a psychological problem.

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A question about depression.

Are the feelings of sadness, guilt, worthless , low serotonin and etc. secondary side effects of something else?  Robert Sapolsky has likened depression to the response one would have to a crushing physical injury.  Getting munched by a sabre-toothed tiger and surviving would mean an extended period of healing.  It would be good to get your immune system up and running, because bacterial infection would be sure to set in next.  Forget the neurotransmitters for now.  You should be asleep anyway.  Maybe in depression the body is settling in for a tedious recooperation and is then unable to turn off the response.  People can stay depressed for years. And apparently it can be very difficult to help break a patient out of it.  But what about long-term oxidative or nitrosative damage being done during the time someone is depressed?  Could increasing anti-oxidants help?  Could anti-oxidants protect depressed people from neuronal degeneration, shrunken brain volume, memory impairment and inability to think straight?

Anti-Oxidants and Depression.

Anti-oxidants may help.  Maybe.  There has been some interesting work on people who have genetic variants for an enzyme (MTHRF) important in folate metabolism.  Folate is a B vitamin.  Folate metabolites, like vitamins C and E, are powerful anti-oxidants.  Some people, for genetic reasons, are unable to metabolize folate very well.  People with genes that do not allow for efficient metabolism of Folate are at higher risk of depression (and several other disorders, including migraines).  By some counts, around 70% of people with major depressive disorder are poor folate metabolizers. People who have difficulty metabolizing folate can get around the problem by taking a folate supplement that is already in an advanced form: L-methylfolate.  In fact, some doctors are prescribing L-methylfolate along with anti-depressants to their depressed patients.  Deplin is a prescription L-methylfolate.  You can also get L-methylfolate non-prescription strength from health food stores or Amazon.  It is not yet understood how L-methylfolate may relieve depression.  But it is a strong anti-oxidant.  Does it help by reducing oxidative stress?  Would other anti-oxidants be helpful in treating depression, or in reducing the damage depression inflicts on the body?  We’ll be keeping on eye on research developments.

Final Takeaway

If you are suffering from depression get treatment and try to eat well.  Even if its hard.  A little L-methylfolate might help.

Papakostas, G., Shelton, R., Zajecka, J., Etemad, B., Rickels, K., Clain, A., Baer, L., Dalton, E., Sacco, G., Schoenfeld, D., Pencina, M., Meisner, A., Bottiglieri, T., Nelson, E., Mischoulon, D., Alpert, J., Barbee, J., Zisook, S., & Fava, M. (2012).L- Methylfolate as Adjunctive Therapy for SSRI-Resistant Major Depression: Results of Two Randomized, Double-Blind, Parallel-Sequential Trials American Journal of Psychiatry, 169 (12) DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.11071114

Haroon E, Raison CL, & Miller AH (2012). Psychoneuroimmunology meets neuropsychopharmacology: translational implications of the impact of inflammation on behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 37 (1), 137-62 PMID: 21918508

Iron Deficiency, Anemia and Athletic Performance

Iron deficiency may slow down athletes, impair training and just making working out harder than it needs to be.

The Iron part of anemia, iron deficiency and athletes

Iron is important for athletes as well as everyone else.   Iron is needed for formation of Hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is the molecule in blood cells that transports oxygen through blood.  People who have low levels of red blood cells are said to be anemic.  Anemia can be caused by many different things.  This article, however, will focus on anemia caused by nutritional deficiency.

Crossfit sports anemia Iron deficiency
A crossfit athlete trains for the games. Is iron deficiency hurting her performance?

Iron deficiency can slow you down and make your workouts harder and more frustrating than they need to be.   People who are iron deficient (or anemic) don’t carry oxygen efficiently.  The heart has to work harder to get oxygen to tissues.  Low oxygen can also cause “poop out” (just too tired to continue the workout).  No need to mention this . . . but . . .   an iron deficient person is not likely to compete well either.  Anemia is most common in women of reproductive age. Recommended intake of iron is 8mg/day for men and post-menopausal women.  It is 18/mg/day for women who are menstruating.  Iron deficiency anemia (anemia not caused by blood loss, injury, illness of metabolic disorder) is highest among women of reproductive age.  It is uncommon in young men and boys and more common in people over 50.  About 7% of masters adults may have iron deficiency anemia. (Looker et al. 1997)

The athlete part of athletes iron and nutrition

There have been a number of studies of iron intake and exercise performance in animals and in people.  Performance related studies have looked at work performance, fatigue, endurance, oxygen use and heart rate (McClung & Murray-Kolb2013)   Iron supplementation has been associated with:

Anemia, Iron deficiency and Athletes
A crossfit athlete fatigues during the crossfit games. Fatigue increases risk of injury.
  • Increased maximal exercise performance
  • Increased VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less fatigue
  • More voluntary activity
  • Improved work performance
  • Improved performance on fitness tests
  • Increased energy expenditure

Intense training can lead to anemia.  The popular term for training-induced anemia is Sports Anemia.  Possible causes are intestinal bleeding, iron loss through perspiration, inflammation and a generally faster rate of body iron turnover.    Many athletes (especially older athletes) use ibuprofen to cope with muscle soreness and aches and pains from injuries.  Chronic use of aspirin and ibuprofen can increase risk of iron deficiency because they can cause stomach bleeding.

Iron deficiency can cause some cognitive problems too.  These include spatial ability, attention, memory, executive functioning and planning. These abilities are important in everyday life.  They are also abilities that are essential to training and competition.

The nutrition side of athletes, iron and nutrition

Iron-rich foods include:

  • red meat
  • fish
  • poultry
  • beans
  • dried fruit
  • whole grains
  • chard
  • spinach
  • molasses (black strap style)

Other nutritional deficiencies can also make you vulnerable to iron deficiency even if you are getting enough iron.  Vitamin C and Folate are important too.  Low vitamin B12 also increases risk of anemia. There are a lot of interactions among Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, and Folate that are still poorly understood.  High folate combined with low B12 increases the risk of anemia and risk of cognitive impairment in older people.  Normal B12 and High Folate, on the other hand, protect against anemia and cognitive problems (Morris et al. 2007).  Annoying that there no simple answers.  The best strategy seems to be to eat a varied diet

Take Away

Use pain relievers in moderation.  Consider an iron supplement and make sure you are getting enough folate and vitamin C.  Don’t over do iron intake.  There is no evidence that extra iron will help you if you don’t need it.  Too much iron can cause damage on its own.

 

Andrea Kirk, MSc. PhD is a toxicologist affiliated with the University of Texas at Arlington’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center‘s School of Public Health.  Dr. Kirk does research on human exposures to environmental contaminants and micro-nutrient intake and excretion.  She is also a former whitewater, dog-sledding, ice-climbing instructor and back-country ranger turned box rat.

 

Looker, A. (1997). Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in the United States JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 277 (12) DOI: 10.1001/jama.1997.03540360041028

Morris MS, Jacques PF, Rosenberg IH, & Selhub J (2007). Folate and vitamin B-12 status in relation to anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive impairment in older Americans in the age of folic acid fortification. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85 (1), 193-200 PMID: 17209196

McClung JP, & Murray-Kolb LE (2013). Iron nutrition and premenopausal women: effects of poor iron status on physical and neuropsychological performance. Annual review of nutrition, 33, 271-88 PMID: 23642204

Pasricha SR, Low M, Thompson J, Farrell A, & De-Regil LM (2014). Iron Supplementation Benefits Physical Performance in Women of Reproductive Age: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24717371

Masters Athletes Need More Protein than Younger Athletes

Masters Athletes may have some nutritional needs that differ from those of younger athletes. By Masters, we’re referring to athletes over age 40. This is currently the cut-off for Crossfit. Here’s what we know about Masters and protein:

  • Masters athletes may need more protein than younger athletes regardless of sport.
  • Consuming more protein may slow normal loss of muscle mass that occurs over time.
  • Masters athletes doing resistance training may need more protein than younger people because they don’t synthesize muscle proteins as quickly.
woman masters crossfit athlete high protein diet
Masters Crossfit Athlete competes in the Crossfit Games Open 14.1 in the 50-54 age category. She is wearing a WODMasters singlet. Check our designs.

Masters Athlete Nutrition: what we know today.

The amount of FDA recommended protein stands at about 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight.  This number was derived by looking at many studies of people.  Some of the studies looked at the average amount eaten by healthy people.  Others looked at nitrogen balance: how much comes in vs how much comes out.  People who lose more nitrogen than they take in through food are said to be in negative nitrogen balance.  For these studies, the recommended amount would be the amount where the amount of nitrogen coming in is equal to the amount leaving (urine).  There are a number of limits with these approaches.  They do not answer the question of “what is best”.   They have not focused on athletes or older adults.   Weight lifters and others trying to add muscle have traditionally eaten a lot of protein.   Way more than 0.66 grams/kilogram. Eating more than the recommended amount of protein doesn’t seem to hurt.  Just don’t leave out other nutrients.

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All Seeing Eye Pood Kettlebell Shirt for men. On request for women.

Scientists who work in this area have concluded that 0.8 g/kg is better for masters athletes than the old level of 0.66 g/kg.  Many people will find number low and may get upset about. Don’t worry if you’ve just had a WTF moment.  After all, we’ve been urged to consume at least a full gram of protein, 1.2 g/kg or even more. This may be perfectly valid if you are interested in strength gain or preservation of muscle mass during aging. We simply don’t know what is “optimal.”  “Optimal” will, of course, depend on many different factors.  The increase from 0.66 g/kg to 0.8 g/kg is 25%.  That is a big jump.

Here’s what may help preserve or increase muscle mass for masters athletes

  • Eat more than 0.8 g/kg/day to increase strength (you have to lift too.)
  • Get some protein soon after a training session
  • Some recommend taking 5 g/day of creatine monohydrate.  There is some evidence that it can boost strength gains and help increase fat free mass.  Keep in mind that creatine can also increase water retention.  Some of the gains in fat free mass may just be water.
  • For endurance: sadly, there is no evidence that carb loading helps.
  • Carbohydrates are important.  If your body doesn’t have carbohydrates it will use some of your protein for energy.  It will use fat too, but it will also use muscle.

What kind of protein is best for Masters Athletes?

There is a lot of research showing that red meat increases risk of cancer.  I know a lot of people like red meat.  But evidence says: avoid it.  If you do eat red meat avoid grilling or charring it.  Burning food creates carcinogens.  Cooking fats at high temperatures produces acrolein.  Acrolein may contribute to development of Alzheimers.  Vegetable protein (beans and nuts) seems to lower risk of cancer.  It also seems to lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.  The paleo diet is against beans.  There is really no reason not to eat beans other than that some popular diet books put them in the “bad” category.  Beans should be well-cooked.  If you are not used to eating beans . . . you will probably get better at digesting them peacefully.  You may even get good at it.

Take away:

It looks like masters athletes need more protein than others.  The  recommended increase from 0.66 g/kg/day to .80 g/kg/day is a 25% increase.  Until we know more, increasing your protein intake may help you maintain or increase muscle mass. Limit red meat. Many people seem to be devoted to red meat, but the vast majority of research indicates it is a risky protein source.  Avoid fish high in mercury (tuna, swordfish).  Mercury accumulates in the body over time and has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes. Increasing protein intake with vegetable protein is a healthy strategy.

 

 

Tarnopolsky MA (2008). Nutritional consideration in the aging athlete. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 18 (6), 531-8 PMID: 19001886

Bazzano LA, He J, Ogden LG, Loria C, Vupputuri S, Myers L, & Whelton PK (2001). Legume consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: NHANES I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study. Archives of internal medicine, 161 (21), 2573-8 PMID: 11718588

Position Statement (2010). Selected Issues for the Master Athlete and the Team Physician Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 42 (4), 820-833 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d19a0b

Paleo Breath and Paleo Sweat

If you have recently started a high protein diet and are wondering why your breath smells so bad . . .

Paleo Breath is common among people following the paleo diet (aka caveman diet). There may be two factors involved in Paleo Breath. The first is the accumulation of ketones from fat metabolism.  Ketones are excreted in urine, but there are ketones that also volatile . . . those come out in breath too. Acetone is one of these.   Acetone in breath smells a bit like rotten apples.  The other bad breath agent showing up in paleo diet or low carb diet is ammonia.  Ammonia may show up in breath when people metabolize protein for energy.  Ammonia smells more like urine.  Urine breath may be more disagreeable than rotten apple breath. Or not.  You can get ammonia breath without being on the paleo diet too.    Ammonia breath happens when people are burning protein.

Hard workouts makes your clothes smell worse.

If you have noticed a sudden worsening of smell in your locker or gym bag it may be a sign you are really pushing it during your workouts.  Congratulations. Ammonia concentrations in sweat increase during intense exercise as well as when protein is metabolized for energy.  Ammonia in sweat will make your workout clothes smell nasty.   It may make you smell bad too.

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Look good even if you smell bad with a WODMASTERS limited edition weightlifting shirt. Dutch Lowy, model.

Ammonia in breath: a hot research topic

A lot of exciting work is being done on ammonia in breath.  While ammonia breath in people who follow high protein, low-carb or paleo diets may be an annoyance or embarrassment, ammonia in the breath can be caused by other problems and signal health concerns.   Ammonia in breath is elevated in people with kidney and liver disease.  Ammonia in breath may also be a sign of esophogeal or gastric problems (like cancer) or lung infections.  If you are eating a protein diet/paleo diet and are otherwise healthy the chance that your bad breath is being caused by a serious health problem are extremely, extremely small.  Still, research on breath is just fascinating.   We may soon be able to diagnose medical problems by having someone breath into a device that would create a profile of breath components.  This may help catch cancers early, so they could be treated earlier and more effectively.  It may also help us better understand physiology in general.  A just-published study has found that ammonia levels are elevated in the breath of obese children.  The obese children in the study also had other factors in breath that differed from their normal-weight peers.   Its not clear yet what elevated ammonia levels mean in over weight children.  A sign of impending diabetes perhaps?

Breath Profiles for Health and Sports

While research on breath is focusing on detection of serious health problems there are so potential applications for general health and sports performance. Ammonia levels in breath (or perspiration) may help coaches and athletes determine exactly when an athlete researches a particular training threshold.

Take Away

Yes, your clothes will smell like cat pee if you don’t wash them after a heavy workout.  If you are following a high protein/paleo diet, showering will help control body odor by washing high-ammonia perspiration off your skin.  Mouth bacteria break-down products form ammonia in breath too. They can produce enough ammonia to confound breath analysis studies.  Nose sampling gives better data. Keeping you teeth and mouth clean should help with paleo breath too.

 

Effros RM, Casaburi R, Porszasz J, Morales EM, & Rehan V (2012). Exhaled breath condensates: analyzing the expiratory plume. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 185 (8), 803-4 PMID: 22505753

Alvear-Ordenes I, García-López D, De Paz JA, & González-Gallego J (2005). Sweat lactate, ammonia, and urea in rugby players. International journal of sports medicine, 26 (8), 632-7 PMID: 16158367

Alkhouri N, Eng K, Cikach F, Patel N, Yan C, Brindle A, Rome E, Hanouneh I, Grove D, Lopez R, Hazen SL, & Dweik RA (2014). Breathprints of childhood obesity: changes in volatile organic compounds in obese children compared with lean controls. Pediatric obesity PMID: 24677760

Dietary Fat Preserves Muscle?

Preservation of lean muscle mass matters for long term health and function.  It is also important to those who want to gain muscle mass so they can look hot and/or awesome.   it is also important for strength and for athletic performance. Whatever your interests, here is a report of a recent study on dietary fats and muscle mass.

Sprinting and Jumping help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.
Dietary fat may help you stay strong so you can beat up young people.

Dietary Fat and Protein Turnover

Dietary fat may regulate protein turnover.  The thought is that dietary fats influence both inflammation and insulin.  This study was published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Nutrition.   Study subjects were 2,689 women who are part of a study of twins in the UK.  Data was collected on:

  • Percent of Calories obtained from Fat
  • Fatty acid profile
  • Fat -free mass in kilograms (an indicator of muscle mass)
  • Fat-free mass measured by X-Ray absorptiometry

Results of the Dietary Fat and Muscle Study

  • Women whose diets were higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids had higher fat-free mass (more muscle).
  • Women who got more of their calories from fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more saturated fat had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who ate more unsaturated fatty acids had less fat free mass (less muscle)
  • Women who are more transfats had less fat free mass (less muscle)

Women who were in the top 20% for energy intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids had about a pound more muscle mass than women who were at the bottom 20% for polyunsaturated fatty acid.  This is about the same difference in muscle mass that would be seen in a 10 year aging period.  You could look at this and say that a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids saves 10 years of muscle aging.  And you might be right.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and seem to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer as well.  We don’t know what drives age-related muscle loss.  It might be related to the same factors that drive cell-aging in general.  

The Simple Takeaway for Dietary Fat and Muscle Mass

ResearchBlogging.orgThis is the first study of its kind and more research is needed to figure out what is going on.  However, this study supports the idea that a diet higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids is protective against loss of muscle mass.  As many are sure to proclaim: correlation is not causation.  That claim does not end arguments, although it is often used that way.  It simply means that we need to know more.   This is an interesting study that should lead to further investigation.  Thanks to the team (Alisa Welch, Alex MacGregor, Anne-Marie Minihane, Jane Skinner, Anna Valdes, Tim Spector and Aedin Cassidy) for your hard work.

 

Welch AA, Macgregor AJ, Minihane AM, Skinner J, Valdes AA, Spector TD, & Cassidy A (2014). Dietary fat and Fatty Acid profile are associated with indices of skeletal muscle mass in women aged 18-79 years. The Journal of nutrition, 144 (3), 327-34 PMID: 24401817