Q: What are your thoughts about ingesting BCAAs during your workout?
A: Why is post-workout nutrient consumption vitally important? Well it helps with recovery (if you add carbs – you’ll replenish your glycogen stores, if you add protein – you are helping stave off the protein degradation caused by exercise).
Let’s face it, exercise is a mechanism to improve health, but it can actually create health problems (i.e. overtraining). Exercise is catabolic in nature, the nutrients needed for energy (substrates such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) are synthesized by the body. Think of your body as a store. Basically, exercise is robbing your store (body) of merchandise (nutrients). You need to stock the shelves with inventory, or your store (body) will go out of business (experience marked decreases in performance, et cetera). I’m not referring to anabolic, as in anabolic androgenic steroids (which improve protein synthesis, aiding with recovery). I could spend months talking about that. I’m referring to anabolic, which is a physiological term for growth, or in the case of someone with non-hypertrophic goals, recovery.
I remember as a frail high school cornerback reading articles on T-Nation and Muscle Media 2000, featuring much of Charles Poliquin’s views on BCAA supplementation. At 135 pounds, and with a crappy diet based on fast-food, skipped meals, and sodas, BCAA supplementation would do very little for me, and peri-workout BCAA supplementation would do even less, between sets of “team” bench presses and ez-curls. Years later as a serious athlete and fitness professional, I revisited Poliquin’s articles, who also promoted BCAA supplementation during workouts. He claimed that it would help with strength and performance. Well, in my case, and in my client’s cases, it certainly did.
Japanese researchers from the Nagoya Institute of Technology, cited BCAAs oxidation in skeletal muscle, which consist of leucine, valine, and isoleucine (the three most abundant amino acids found in muscle tissue) during exercise. The study found that BCAA supplementation prior to and following exercise helped stave off exercise induced muscle damage (1). Additionally, the study reported similiar results while supplementing with BCAAs during exercise. Leucine, the study noted, is the the BCAA that plays the most important role when it comes to protein synthesis, which is needed to repair muscle tissue following workouts. Essentially, the study is saying, that BCAA supplementation, specifically during workouts, offers many recuperative properties, and will keep the anabolic window open for recovery.
With that said, peri-workout BCAA supplementation should be considered.
1. Shimomura, Y, Murakami, T, Nakai, N. Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: Effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise. Journal of Nutrition 134:1583S-1587S, 2004.
Q: Is dietary fat a no-no for active people?
A: Healthy, active individuals, people tend to “overthink” nutrition. And when people gain too much conflicting knowledge via the media, then distorted perceptions of nutrition result. “Fat is bad. No wait! Carbohydrates are terrible! No, you have it all wrong, protein is the worst! It can shut down your kidneys!” I may not be quoting people verbatim, but this is the gist of what people, including athletes and fitness professionals say from time to time. Athletes and fitness professionals should all be aware of the need and the appropriateness of macronutrients and fluids. Fat is no different.
Getting to your question, a lack of fat intake can lead to deficiencies in the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s been surmised in literature that deficiencies in these vitamins could increase the likelihood of injury or delay recovery from an injury (1). For more information on the importance of fat soluble vitamins, I’d suggest you check out the study by El-Qudah et. al. Studies, namely Katz et. al., have supported the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids on reducing inflammation (3).
I think there needs to be more research in the area of omega 3s and inflammation. I remember reading a magazine article last year about Franco Columbu. If you don’t know who he is, he was a bodybuilder during its golden ages and is now a Chiropractor. He said that he noticed less joint pain and inflammation while supplementing with Fish Oil, which contains Omega 3s. In my experiences, I’ve noted similar benefits derived from its use. But I’ll reiterate once again that more research needs to be done in this area.
Bottom line, you need fat.
1. Gerlach KE, Burton HW, Dorn JM. Fat intake and injury in female runners. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2008;5:1.
2. El-Qudah JM, Al-Widyan O, Alboqai OK. Fat soluble vitamins (A, E and K) intake among a sample of Jordanian university students. World Applied Sciences Journal 2008;2:252-257.
3. Goldberg RJ, Katz J. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain 2007;129:210-223.
Here’s a ranting question I received earlier in the week:
“What is the best way for a guy that was very active and in shape, but has become really fat, old, and lazy over time ( 2 years) and now wants to get back in shape? Now that you are heavier, do you need to drop some pounds before starting a serious aerobic program (i.e., running) and/or weight lifting program or do you just jump back into it? Also, because you are heavier (25 pounds overweight) and older (over 50) you lack the energy you once had to work really hard during your workouts. Your workouts become less effective and efficient. How do you overcome the fatigue (lack of energy) caused from being overweight and middle-aged and resume the workouts you once had when you were younger?”
A: What is your definition of being “in shape”? Unless, you’re name is Benjamin Button, you’re not going to get really old in two years. But becoming “really fat”? Absolutely possible. You sound like you’ve taken a two year hiatus from physical activity to pursue a sedentary lifestyle and in your mind you think that this parallels Michael Jordan’s post first three-peat departure from basketball to try the baseball thing and return to play again at a high level. Well people forget that aside from the 55 he dropped on the Knicks, he sucked when he came back at the tail end of ’95. The Bulls were dispatched by the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. To ensure you don’t suffer the same fate of Michael Jordan in the 1995 NBA Playoffs, which was disappointment – you need to ease your way back into things.
First and foremost, take it slow and keep the volume and intensity low. It’s better to make the workouts too easy than barely tolerable. To ensure future success, make the workouts easy – iron out muscular imbalances, restore the resting lengths of muscles and their extensibility through stretching and soft tissue work, relearn basic movement patterns (i.e. do body squats first, even if you we’re a double BW squatter before you turned into a couch-warming atrophying lard of flesh). You will most likely need a bevy of corrective exercise if you were completely inactive, or if your activity was limited by a serious injury, which in my eyes is the only legitimate reason for taking off for so long.
You’re now heavier, which makes sense due to downsizing your physical activity two years ago like many companies did with their workforces. Exercise will be more difficult initially, because you’re carrying 25 additional pounds, but I see no reason in losing that before you begin an exercise program as you asked. Well, actually you can lose it, but without increasing your body’s caloric expenditure via exercise, it will be very difficult, unless you go on the Nicole Richie diet, but at that point, you’re going to lose more lean body mass than anything else and take on the burnout celebrity skinny-fat look that is a product of crash dieting (more likely an eating disorder, or two), menthol cigarettes, and cocaine. Instead of losing the weight to begin an exercise program, get in shape to train. You’re going to have to get your body ready for the demands that lie ahead – progressively more difficult workouts that will carve a chiseled physique from the geriatric doughy sack of flesh you make yourself out to be. Also, at 50+, your body’s growth hormone and testosterone production nearly come to a screeching halt and these hormones are necessary in keeping lean and strong. Also remember that having higher testosterone keeps the sex drive robust, which will keep your wife, your secretary, or flurry of horny divorcees that you met off a dating website happy.
People starting up need to have habits ingrained in them – start slowly and stay consistent. You didn’t turn 50 overnight so don’t expect your results to happen at the snap of a finger.
When you start working out again, you’ll notice that after the first few workouts that you’ll be sleeping more restfully and you’ll have a greater sense of vitality. Ever notice that the sedentary people at your job (which you’d be currently classified as) are more miserable and always sick. Exercise will strengthen your immune system, help your body function better as a whole, and will help you recapture your youth. You’ll be able to resume the workouts you did before at similar levels of intensity and at the same volume, but it’s going to take time to get back there.
Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS (790)