Category Archives: Nutrition

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

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
Support your Masters Crossfit Athletes with shirts by WODMASTERS. Drop us an email for group orders.

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
WODMASTERS Shirts for Men and the Women who think they are awesome.

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.

Beets for Speed and Power. Walnuts for Endurance.

Cracked Earth Eye Pood Shirt on Beet Eater
All Seeing Eye Pood Kettlebell Shirt for men. Beets and walnuts make you harder to kill.  The shirt will too.  Our model is Olympic Lifting Coach Dutch Lowy.  Dutch trains Masters Crossfit Athletes for the Games Beets Nitrate and Physical Performance

Nitrate has been shown to improve exercise performance in healthy adults. Nitrate is metabolized to Nitrite and then Nitric Oxide.  Nitric Oxide dilates blood vessels.  Nitrate has been shown to reduce blood pressure, inhibit platelet aggregation (clumping) and improving irregularities in constriction and relaxation of blood vessel tissue.  Nitrate may also reduce inflammation, make arteries less stiff and stiff.  Healthy blood vessels and arteries allow more blood to be delivered to muscles during exercise.   There have been a number of new articles on beets as performance enhancers.  Beets are rich in anti-oxidants, but they are also high in nitrate.  Nitrate can be metabolized to NO, which is a vaso-dilator (relaxes and widens blood vessels.)  Nitrate from the diet, or nitrate supplementation may increase the response of type II muscle fibers to exercise.

Does Beetroot juice enhance exercise performance?

Given evidence that nitrate can increase muscle fiber activation, an experiment was undertaken to determine if beetroot juice would have similar effects.  The research team compared normal nitrate-rich beet root juice against a beet-root juice that had had its nitrate removed. VO2 kinetics and exercise tolerance were recorded. VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use.   The exercise session was a double-step protocol.  The beet root juice supplement resulted in a 22% increase in exercise tolerance and faster VO2 kinetics.  This indicates that it is most likely the nitrate that is providing the effect rather than something else in the beet juice.  Anti-oxidants for example.

VO2 maxis a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen a person can take in.

Until recently nitrate was thought to be primarily a problem.  Nitrate interferes with iodine uptake, so it could contribute to iodine deficiency. There are also associations between high nitrate consumption and cancer.  Associations among nitrate and cancers are strongest with nitrate from meat products.  It is possible that something else in meat increases cancer rates.  Many vegetables, besides beets, contain nitrate too.  High vegetable intake is strongly associated with lower risk of cancers, heart disease and early death. If you are thinking of using beets as a performance enhancing vegetable it would be important to know how long it takes

  • How long it takes for beets to be digested
  • How long it takes for nitrate to be metabolized to NO (nitric oxide)
  • When optimal levels are reached in the blood
  • What optimal levels are.

There has not been enough research to know how much is enough or how much is too much.  We do know that nitrate levels are highest 2-3 hours after a drinking beet juice. Conversion to nitrite and nitric oxide probably happens very quickly.  The test subjects in the Breese study took the beet root juice supplement for three days before starting the exercise protocols.

The Power of Walnuts

WODMasters Our Lady of the Kettlebells
Our lady of the Kettlebells shirt for women.

This is a tougher subject than beets.  Walnuts seem to lower inflammation.  Less inflammation may mean less pain during endurance exercise.  The effects of walnuts on endurance performance has been studied in mice (Kim & Kim 2013).   In this study a group of mice was dosed with walnut extract.  Mice were given Walnut Extract at 600 and 900 mg/kg.  This is probably awful lot of walnuts.  Another group was dosed with water and served as controls.  All the mice were given a forced swim test.  (Not a polite thing to do)  Time to exhaustion was recorded.  Walnut-dosed mice:

  • Got the equivalent of a human eating 42 grams of walnuts once a day for 4 weeks.  (About 1/3 of a cup)
  • Swam longer
  • Had lower lactate levels
  • Had lower ammonia levels
  • More glutamine
  • More liver glycogen.

The conclusion was that walnuts increase endurance

Take Away:

Walnuts and beets may give you a competitive advantage.  They may also make you healthier overall.

About the Author:

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.

 

Vanhatalo A, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, DiMenna FJ, Pavey TG, Wilkerson DP, Benjamin N, Winyard PG, & Jones AM (2010). Acute and chronic effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure and the physiological responses to moderate-intensity and incremental exercise. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 299 (4) PMID: 20702806

 

Lidder, S., & Webb, A. (2012). Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables & beetroot) via the Nitrate-Nitrite-Nitric Oxide pathway British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.x Kim DI, & Kim KS (2013). Walnut extract exhibits anti-fatigue action via improvement of exercise tolerance in mice. Laboratory animal research, 29 (4), 190-5 PMID: 24396383

 

Breese BC, McNarry MA, Marwood S, Blackwell JR, Bailey SJ, & Jones AM (2013). Beetroot juice supplementation speeds O2 uptake kinetics and improves exercise tolerance during severe-intensity exercise initiated from an elevated metabolic rate. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology, 305 (12) PMID: 24089377

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

A New Source of Protein for the Athletic and the Sedentary?

A New Source of Protein?

This is an odd and interesting bit of research.  It relates to reaborption of nitrogen . . . and presents the possibility that more protein is conserved than previously thought.  First dietary nitrogen 101: Nitrogen is a major component of amino acids.  Amino acids are needed to form proteins.  We can synthesize some amino acids ourselves, but others need to be obtained through diet.  Dietary protein provides nitrogen and amino acids from plant or animal sources which are resynthesized into human proteins.  Unused nitrogen is converted into Ammonia and Urea and excreted.

Can nitrogen be reabsorbed from the intestines?

WODMasters Eye Pood Kettle Bell
Even if you don’t have the right microbial stuff, you can still look awesome and powerful with the right shirt

The answer is a shocking “maybe.”  A new nutritional study (published ahead of print in the Journal of Nutrition) has found that nitrogen appears to be reabsorbed.  This makes little sense at first glance.  Until we consider the vast populations of microorganisms that reside in the gut.  Until recently, they were all thought of as “germs” that needed to be quashed.   That has changed.  We are learning more and more about how important they are for our health and even our survival.

The study is titled:

Nonprotein Nitrogen Is Absorbed from the Large Intestine and Increases Nitrogen Balance in Growing Pigs Fed a Valine-Limiting Diet.

Valine is an essential Amino Acid, so these animals were fed a protein-deficient diet.   Then researchers administered urea or casein into the cecum of pigs.  Let’s consider this research a step toward greater understanding of how nitrogen may be recycled in living animals.  Not a new way to increase protein for strength.  (Although who knows.  It might work.) The urea was synthesized using Nitrogen-15.  Dietary nitrogen is Nitrogen 14.  Using nitrogen-15 lets the team know where the cecum-delivered nitrogen ended up.

Findings:

Researchers found that more than 80% of the cecum delivered nitrogen was absorbed.  Some of it was excreted in urine, but some was retained. This is a shocker.  I know.   Humans cannot synthesize protein using nitrogen.  So WTF?  The researchers propose that urea traveled through the bloodstream and into to the small intestine.   Bacteria (some of which can make amino acids using urea or plain nitrogen) in the small intestine then used the extra urea to make amino acids.  Amino acids produced by bacteria could then be absorbed the host (animals).

Takeaway:

More research would need to be done to confirm that this happens.  But it is very interesting.  Humans vary in the types of bacteria they host.  Bacterial populations vary according to diet, environment, chance (?) and who knows what else.  Do people get extra protein from bacteria?  Does this happen under normal circumstances (i.e. not piped in through the back end.)?  One thing is sure: there is a lot to learn. ResearchBlogging.org

Columbus DA, Lapierre H, Htoo JK, & de Lange CF (2014). Nonprotein Nitrogen Is Absorbed from the Large Intestine and Increases Nitrogen Balance in Growing Pigs Fed a Valine-Limiting Diet. The Journal of nutrition PMID: 24647394

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

Timing of protein intake: 20 grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise builds muscle with max efficiency

Timing of Protein intake builds muscles after resistance training.

Timing of protein intake matters.
Timing of protein intake can matter. Before or shortly after exercise seems to work best.

Today’s topic is an overview of dietary protein and amino acids and how these help build muscle and prevent muscle loss.  First, just a tiny bit about proteins and amino acids.  Proteins are made of amino acids.  Proteins are (for the most part) broken down into amino acids during digestion.  Once that happens they can be reassembled into whatever proteins your body needs.  Amino acids are hugely important to physiology.  They are needed for enzymes, hormones, hair and other things.  For most people, the first thoughts of protein and amino acids are muscle.

There is good evidence that consuming protein directly before or after resistance training reduces muscle breakdown and increases muscle mass accumulation.  The fine points of how much, which amino acids and exactly when they should be taken are under investigation.  Here are a few highlights.  Bear in mind that these may change as research continues:

  • Timing of intake: so far it looks like protein has its best protective effect when taken just before or soon after resistance training.  Consuming protein as late as two hours after exercise doesn’t seem to work as well as consuming proteins within five minutes of an exercise session.  Keep in mind that this timing difference may not matter functionally.  Even without extra protein, muscles are in active building mode for about 48 hours after exercise.
  • Which amino acids: How different amino acids stack up against each other is unknown to date.  Studies conflict.  One study is not necessarily wrong.  Two studies can conflict and still provide valuable information.  Results that seem to contradict one another may be caused by differences in how the study was done.  How old were the subjects; were they all men, or men and women?  What was the timing?  What training protocol was followed?   How much protein was given?  What else were the subjects eating or doing in their real lives?
  • How much: 20 grams of amino acids (or protein in a meal) seems to induce maximal results for young adults.  Older adults and elderly people may need more to get the same benefit.  This is probably because they (we) aren’t as efficient as we used to be.  Bummer.  But there you go.  Elderly people taking 35 grams of amino acids after exercise have had better results than elderly people taking 20 grams of amino acids. Elderly people in one study needed 40 grams of protein to reach maximal rate of muscle protein synthesis.

Timing of Protein Intake and Amino Acids can help prevent muscle loss during dieting.

Protein intake is important body builders and hyper-jacked crossfit nuts.  But it is also important to people on weight loss programs.  Increasing protein while dieting can help preserve muscle mass.  Preserving muscle mass matters to many people for aesthetic reasons.  Muscle gives form and definition.  Having well-developed muscle may also help people keep weight off.  That is pretty well accepted.  Less attention is given to the importance of preserving muscle mass during aging.  People who are constantly dieting and losing muscle mass may end up with even less when they are older.  Loss of muscle with aging is a major cause of frailty and loss of independence.   People with no interest in sporting huge muscles should still pay attention to this aspect of health.

Protein after exercise

If you are a young adult you can get your 20 grams of protein by using a protein bar or shake.  Powerbar makes a bar containing 20 grams of protein at a cost of about $2.00.  You could also have a glass of milk and a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich at a cost of about $0.60.  The milk and peanut butter sandwich would have about 23 grams of protein.  You could save $1.40 each time.  Please consider donating that money to research.  Many of our Paleo Diet readers will consider milk, bread and peanuts as horrors of the dark.  Its OK to eat these things.  Especially if the alternative is refined snacks, processed food or junk food.

If you are a masters athlete or older adult you may need to think about the extra calories you might get from two glasses of milk and two peanut butter sandwiches.  Timing meals with exercise may help.

Take away:

Twenty grams of protein within 2 hours of exercise helps build muscles with maximal efficiency.  Older adults may need 35 to 40 grams to get the same effect.

ResearchBlogging.org

Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland TM, & Phillips SM (2013). Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Amino acids, 45 (2), 231-40 PMID: 23645387