by Bonnie Taub-Dix MA, RDN, CDN
Have you ever had what I call a “Ratatouille moment?” You may have had one without realizing it, so let me explain what this is:
In the tender movie Ratatouille, a food critic sits down at a restaurant table and tastes a dish of ratatouille, a combination of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, and a blend of seasonings and spices. As soon as his fork hits his lips, he’s immediately transposed to his childhood. He traveled back to sitting at his mother’s table, filling himself with this comforting dish laced with bursting flavors and, of course, love.
For me, oatmeal brings a Ratatouille moment. When I was a young child, my dad worked a very early shift. He used to wake me up in the wee hours of the morning and welcome me to the table with a steamy bowl of oatmeal. I never knew or cared about what time it was, I only knew that it was dark outside and that I was going to be surrounded by a dish of warmth. To this day, when I’m stressed or I’m just in the mood for a hug from my plate, I know I can count on the comfort of this guilt-free food that somehow feels indulgent.
Breakfast With Benefits
Since October 29 is National Oatmeal Day, it’s a good time to point out that if you’re not eating oatmeal, here’s why you oat-to:
- Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fibers form a viscous gel that helps to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels. The insoluble fiber in oats helps provide a “moving” experience by curtailing constipation and improving intestinal health. What a delicious way to make your heart and colon smile.
- Oats make an easy, balanced breakfast. One cup of cooked oatmeal contains about 150 calories, four grams of fiber (about half soluble and half insoluble), and six grams of protein. To boost protein further, my favorite way to eat oatmeal is with a swirl of almond butter nestled within. This powerful combo will keep you away from that mid-morning visit to the vending machine.
- Oats provide important minerals. Nutrient-rich oatmeal contains thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron.
- Oats are naturally gluten-free, but check with manufacturers to ensure that their products are not made using the same equipment as other potentially contaminating grains. (Always purchase gluten-free products from reputable companies and read food labels carefully.)
- Oats could help you control your weight by keeping you feeling fuller longer. Sadly, carbs are often shunned and feared by those looking to drop a few pounds, yet choosing whole grains could squash hunger and simultaneously provide that pleasant “ahhhh” feeling carb-lovers crave. But, as with any other food, be mindful of portion sizes.
Foods that bring back comforting memories are precious and should be savored slowly. But proceed with caution when it comes to what I call “Ratatouille impersonators.” Those are foods that remind you of a past experience, but taste nothing like the original dish. For example, let’s say you noticed an apple strudel in a box on the supermarket shelf and it made you remember the way your grandmother baked this recipe. If you purchased it, tasted it, and it didn’t taste like grandma’s … then hopefully, you ditched it! These impostors usually come with a side of angst, leading to discomfort instead of comfort.
What food gives you a “Ratatouille moment?” Tell me on Twitter @eatsmartbd
Energize your exercise routine by choosing the right preworkout foods. Whether you’re an early-bird exerciser, a midday mover, or a night owl, here’s how to fuel your engine.
Whether you’re heading out for a morning jog or going to a midday spin class, knowing what to eat before your workout can make or break your exercise routine. Preworkout foods should be high enough in calories to sustain the intensity of your workout, but the meal shouldn’t be large enough to slow you down, says Franci Cohen, a personal trainer, certified nutritionist, and exercise physiologist in Brooklyn, New York. “Fuel your body; don’t drag it down,” she advises.
According to Cohen, the perfect meal before exercise should be low in fat, moderate in easily digested carbohydrates and protein, and low in fiber, and it should contain some water. Here’s why this combination works: Carbs are stored in the liver and muscle for energy use, and protein (amino acids) is the building material of muscles and is needed to keep your red blood cells healthy. Those cells carry oxygen to your working muscles, Cohen explains. Water is essential to replenish the electrolytes and fluids lost when you sweat during exercise.
Of course, the best thing for you to eat (and the best time to eat it) also depends on the intensity of your workout. Marathon runners often have a big pasta meal the night before a race. The reason is simple, says Cohen. Carbs are broken down and stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver, but this process takes time — digesting a big meal can take from three to five hours. “While we sleep, the body undergoes this digestion,” Cohen says. “By the time we wake up, the storage is complete — we’re all set and fully fueled for the big race!”
But you don’t have to run marathons to be mindful of what you eat and when you choose to exercise.
Foods for Morning Workouts
If you’re up at first light and like to run with the roosters, should you eat something beforehand or head out on an empty stomach? “There’s conflicting data on the subject,” says Cohen. “One school of thought maintains that ‘fasting aerobics’ (exercising at 75 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate without eating) is best. It’s thought that your body will burn stored fat because it can’t burn your breakfast.”
In fact, a small study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that exercise before breakfast gives you an advantage. Ten overweight, sedentary men took part, and each underwent three trials: eating breakfast and not exercising, walking briskly for an hour before breakfast, and doing the same workout after breakfast. The researchers found that exercising before eating resulted in a larger fat loss and lower levels of fat in the blood than after-breakfast exercise. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that before or after meals, exercising was better than skipping workouts altogether.
The opposing school of thought maintains that if you eat first, your body will have more energy, so you’ll be able to work harder and thereby get a bigger payoff from your workout. “Both schools of thought have been substantiated through well-designed clinical trials, so the bottom line is, It’s totally up to you,” Cohen says. If you choose to eat beforehand, think of it more as a snack than a meal. Cohen suggests a handful of whole grain cereal, a glass of skim milk, and a few raw almonds — just enough to get you fueled and on your way.
If you do opt to eat, keep the timing in mind as well. Generally, feeding your body a combination of carbs and protein one to three hours before exercise is ideal, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you plan on grabbing a light breakfast and rushing off to the gym, your body will not have sufficient time to digest your food before exercising,” says Cohen. This can lead to cramping and other intestinal distress. If you’re tight on time, Cohen advises that you stick with simple carbs, which are broken down easily (in the small intestine), instead of proteins and fats, which take longer to break down and are digested in the stomach.
Foods for Midday Movers
If you’re motivated to exercise in the middle of the day, Cohen says you need a super lunch to get you through your workout and to prevent a three o’clock slump. That’s when blood sugar dips and you find yourself struggling to make it to five. “You want a lunch that will keep you happy, energized, and smiling straight through until dinnertime,” she says. She suggests an oldie but goodie: ants on a log. Spread some almond butter or low-fat peanut butter into a few celery sticks. Top with a row of raisins. Throw a hard-boiled egg onto the plate, says Cohen, and you’ve got a combination that “provides slow-release energy, enabling you to power through your workout from start to finish.”
Foods for Evening Exercise
“If you’ve made it through the day and still have the energy to work out, then hats off to you,” says Cohen. In the evening, your circadian rhythm is already preparing the body for sleep. Sleep hormones are kicking in, and energizing hormones are being suppressed, so you’ll need a boost to jump-start a workout. “My top pick is green apples,” says Cohen. They provide a modest amount of sugar and valuable pectin fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. That means you’ll avoid blood sugar peaks and crashes. “Add a few almonds or a glass of skim milk,” Cohen suggests, “for more protein.”
Whether you work out in the morning, at noon, or at night, tired muscles need to be refueled afterward. A combination of carbs and protein eaten within about 20 minutes of exercise will do the job best. Reach for these satisfying suggestions from Cohen to fuel your body and prepare it for your next workout:
- Greek yogurt with natural granola and fresh strawberries
- Whole-grain cereal with skim or low-fat milk
- Fresh turkey breast on a multigrain rice cake with some leafy greens and tomato
- A smoothie made with almond milk or skim milk and lots of fresh fruit
- An egg-white omelet with spinach and mushrooms and a slice of whole-grain toast on the side
Choosing smart workout foods will leave you feeling energized rather than running on empty, both during and after your fitness sessions.
By Huffington Post Editors
Working out isn’t only about how you’ll look in that bikini. Getting — and staying — in shape boosts heart health, helps your skin and improves your sleep, to mention just a few of the healthy perks.
And just last week, we added another motivation to the list, when a new study linked jogging to increased life expectancy. Researchers from the Copenhagen City Heart Study found that jogging one to two-and-a-half hours a week in two or three different sessions was associated with an additional 6.2 years for men and 5.6 years for women.
The CDC recommends healthy adults get two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking), plus two or more days of strength-training a week.
The research doesn’t quite prove that jogging helps you live longer, asThe Boston Globe points out, but it is certainly encouraging, and hopefully inspiring for anyone who is more inclined to sit on the couch than lace up a pair of running sneakers.
And jogging isn’t the only form of exercise that has been found to add years to your life — and in some instances, it only takes a few minutes of physical activity to make a big difference. Here are six other ways fitness has been linked to increased longevity.
Take the Stairs
In 2008, a small Swiss study found that sedentary people who switched from taking escalators and elevators to taking the stairs cut their risk of dying prematurely by 15 percent.
“This suggests that stair climbing can have major public health implications,” lead researcher Dr. Philippe Meyer, told the BBC.
An earlier look at data from the Harvard Alumni Health Study also found that climbing 35 or more flights of stairs a week significantly increased longevity when compared to people who climbed fewer than 10 stories a week.
Biking to work is a great way to squeeze exercise into your day, spend some time outside and even save on gas money. But a leisurely ride, while it might leave you less sweaty upon arrival at the office, won’t do as much for your lifespan as if you really ride it out.
A study of Copenhagen cyclists found that men who pedaled the fastest lived more than five years longer than slower cycling men, and the fastest women cyclists lived almost four years longer.
Take a Swim
A 2009 analysis of data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study found that men who swam regularly had about a 50 percent smaller risk of dying than sedentary men — but swimmers also had a lower mortality rate than men who walked and ran for their exercise.
Pick up the (Walking) Pace
A 2011 study found that people who naturally walk at a pace of one meter per second, about 2.25 mph, or faster,lived longer than their slower peers.
But walking pace might be more of an indicator of longevity rather than a way to increase it, the study’s author cautioned. “Your body chooses the walking speed that is best for you, and that is your speed, your health indicator,” lead researcher Dr. Stephanie Studenski told MyHealthNewsDaily. “Going out and walking faster does not necessarily mean you will suddenly live longer,” she said.
Work Out For 15 Minutes a Day
Some think to get the full benefit of a good workout, you need to be sweating for a full 30 minutes — or longer. But with so many people struggling to find a spare 30 minutes, researchers have begun to investigate if a shorter sweat session could be just as good.
A 2011 study found when compared to sedentary people, 15 minutes of daily activity, like brisk walking, added three years to life expectancy, according to Reuters.
Kick It Up a Notch
Walking faster, cycling harder — there’s an underlying theme to many of the benefits of exercise: intensity. Overall, vigorous activities seem to have more life-lengthening powers than nonvigorous activities, according to a 1995 study.
In fact, intense exercise may double the years added by moderate exercise, according to a 2005 study. Five days a week of walking for 30 minutes led to 1.3 to 1.5 additional years, The Washington Post reported, but intense exercise, like running half an hour five days a week, resulted in 3.5 to 3.7 extra years.
by TC Sept 19, 2013 on T Nation
Here’s what you need to know…
• When you consume nutrients is as important as what nutrients you consume, at least if you want to optimize muscle size, body comp, recovery, performance, and strength.
• If you don’t take charge of insulin during your workout period, you’re flat-out wasting your time.
• There are few things as indisputable in the strength game as proper workout supplementation. It’s perfect logic and it’s perfect science.
There have been big advances in muscle-building nutrition and supplementation over the years, but the one thing that supersedes all others in terms of flat-out effectiveness is our knowledge of the importance of timing.
Let me put it to you this way: when you consume certain nutrients is as important as what nutrients you choose to ingest in terms of, well, just about everything including muscle size, body comp, recovery, performance, and strength.
T Nation has talked about it for years and even coined the term, The Third Law, which explains that to get the greatest gains from training, you need to consume the precise compounds to fully fuel, reload, and rebuild muscle. But this can only be done immediately prior to, during, and immediately after training. This time period is sometimes referred to as peri-workout, meaning all around the training period. It’s the backbone of our supplement philosophy.
There’s been an enormous amount of corroborating research on the subject and numerous articles and books have given a passing nod to the concept, but few have actually explained what happens when you consume a certain combination of nutrients at very specific times before, during, and after training.
If they did, then maybe more people would get it, and there’d be a whole new era of weight training where people were actually making significant and steadfast progress.
In short, if you’re not following the rules of workout supplementation now, you absolutely will by the time you finish this article – assuming of course you live in a universe that abides by logic.
To get a better understanding of nutrient timing, let’s compare and contrast the traditional approach to training nutrition to a proper, science-backed workout supplementation protocol.
If You Don’t Understand Workout Supplementation
Here’s what happens…
In years past, presumably knowledgeable lifters would eat or drink a protein/carb meal about an hour or two before a workout. They’d kick their feet up, maybe peruse their workout notes, and let their food get broken down a bit so it could be absorbed by the villi of their intestine, where the nutrients would then ooze into capillary tributaries that serve the rivers of blood vessels.
Insulin levels would rise accordingly and the recently ingested/digested nutrients would piggyback onto the hormone. Together, they’d ride the currents until they reached other capillaries that led directly to muscle cells. The insulin would then present the various amino acids and glucose molecules to the muscle cells as metabolic gifts. Thus fortified, the lifter would head to the gym and begin his workout.
During the Workout
Unfortunately, insulin levels, elevated after the pre-workout meal an hour or two ago, have by this time likely fallen to baseline levels. As a result, the glycogen/glucose that muscles rely on, quickly starts to drop during the first few sets.
The hormone glucagon then begins to raise its opportunistic head. The hormone is an insulin antagonist (meaning it works against insulin, in a sense) and starts to rob muscles of amino acids so it can convert them to the glucose that the muscles need for fuel. Simultaneously, levels of other catabolic hormones, like epinephrine and cortisol, begin to rise.
Epinephrine, in its search for glucose, has started to rob the liver of glycogen. Cortisol, too, is committing larceny in a desperate search for energy. However, cortisol is amoral – it doesn’t discriminate. It takes energy from wherever it can get it, be it from fat, carbs, or, unfortunately, from the building blocks of muscle itself, protein.
The harder the workout, the greater this breakdown of protein for fuel. Add that loss of protein to the damage incurred by the workout itself in the form of torn muscle cells and rampant free radicals and you have the setting for a systemic Katrina-like disaster scene.
While the super-hero anabolic hormones like Testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 make their appearance during a workout, any increases are relatively small and transient and they often drop below baseline levels after a workout. True, they’ll do some repair work in the hours in-between, but the workout period itself is prime time when it comes to muscle growth.
It’s too bad insulin, often regarded as the most anabolic hormone, is now in short supply in our hypothetical scenario. Insulin is what’s needed to offset the collective efforts of all the workout-induced catabolic hormones. But unfortunately, insulin levels were already at baseline or below baseline by the time our lifter pulled his Jeep into the gym parking lot.
(Of course, even if insulin levels were still high, they wouldn’t have much to transport as our lifter swallowed his last bit of protein an hour or two before his workout began!)
Additionally, muscle cells are amazingly sensitive to insulin during and after a workout – more so than any other time of day or night. As a result, very few, if any, nutrients would be stored as fat during the workout period. But alas, this sensitivity starts to fall precipitously as the post-workout minutes pass.
By the time our lifter drags his energy-depleted butt home an hour later and blends up a protein shake, his muscle cells are almost deaf, dumb, and blind to any rise in insulin from the shake he’s ingesting. As a result, insulin can carry amino acids and glycogen to the muscle cells’ doors, but they won’t hear and they won’t answer.
Homeless, many of the glucose molecules get stored as glycogen or fat. And while it’s doubtful any protein would be stored as fat, much of it would end up in the liver, which is kind of a purgatory for unused amino acids.
Metabolically, the lifter’s body has gone to hell but it hasn’t come back. Glycogen levels remain depressed, catabolic hormones remain elevated, and the rate of protein breakdown exceeds the rate of protein synthesis.
So the net effect of this supposedly conscientious workout is probably little or no anabolic stimulus or resultant muscle growth, and possibly even some storage of fat in the post-workout meal. Muscle strength might still increase, though, as strength is often largely a response to neurological stimuli. But if muscle growth and better body comp were the goals, the lifter is pretty much out of luck.
It’s not a pretty picture, is it?
Let’s contrast the above with what would happen if the lifter knew something about modern day, science-backed workout supplementation.
If You Do Understand Workout Supplementation
Here’s what happens…
The science-savvy lifter consumes nutrients about 45 minutes to an hour before a workout, too, but it’s comprised of about 40 to 50 grams of easily digested functional carbohydrates and about 35-40 grams of unique di- and tripeptides that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream to set up his metabolic machinery. Insulin levels surge and amino acids and glucose are carried to muscle cells to prime the pump.
Fifteen minutes prior the workout, the lifter ingests another 35 to 40 grams of a special functional carbohydrate blend and another 15 to 20 grams of quick-acting protein, also in liquid form. Again, this is to make sure that the body’s most anabolic hormone, insulin, is flowing at peak capacities and that there are plenty of glucose molecules and amino acids for insulin to carry to hard-working muscle cells.
If the lifter wants to further enhance the anabolic effects of insulin, he’d also ingest cyanin 3-glucoside (C3G) at this time. C3G increases insulin sensitivity on muscle cells (not fat cells), thus enhancing glucose and protein transport, so all the good stuff you get with insulin is amplified and translates to bigger pumps, faster strength gains, and enhanced work capacity and recovery.
During the Workout
During the workout itself, our smart lifter continues to sip a combination of this same special carbohydrate blend and di- and tripeptide formulation. By now, even during what would normally be the most metabolically devastating part of the workout, his insulin levels are high, as is his insulin sensitivity.
His blood flow has increased, his pump is mind blowing, and insulin molecules are loaded down with amino acids and glucose like Santa’s sleigh, and they’re greedily being accepted by muscle cells.
With all that insulin surging through the body, cortisol levels remain low, and the glycogen or amino acid-robbing effects of it and its evil cohorts don’t amount to anything. Likewise, free radical production is kept to a manageable minimum.
Protein breakdown in general is extremely low. The carbs, still being regularly ingested, are fueling the ATP/creatine phosphate system, ensuring higher reps and more intense muscle contractions. Fat is also being oxidized at a much higher rate than would otherwise be possible, and this fat oxidation continues even after the workout.
Our still outrageously pumped lifter drives home – even though he feels he probably could have kept on lifting until they shut the lights out and locked the doors – and fixes himself another small protein drink or “pulse.”
Muscle cells are still extremely sensitive to still-high insulin levels and the just-introduced di- and tripeptides are quickly shuttled off to still greedy muscle cells. Cortisol levels, normally elevated after a workout, have been beaten down and shamed.
The net result of this evolved approach? We have a lifter who gave his muscles every advantage.
1. The anabolic environment he created is perfect for muscle growth and recovery.
2. Protein synthesis is super high.
3. Catabolic hormones are low.
4. Fat oxidation is proceeding, furnace like.
5. Free radicals have been minimized.
6. ATP and creatine levels have been fully reestablished.
And, if you were to actually weigh his muscles, they’d actually be much heavier, percentage wise, than they would be if you followed the traditional approach.
This lifter has done everything to stack the muscle-building cards in his favor and he’ll be rewarded with significant additional muscle growth and improved body composition. Furthermore, he probably won’t be sore or fatigued at all the next day. He’ll feel unbreakable, every single workout.
That’s quite a difference from the traditional, time-honored approach employed by our first hypothetical lifter, huh?
There are few things as indisputable in the strength game as proper workout supplementation. It’s perfect logic and beyond that, it’s perfect science.
To echo the “3rd Law,” what you do the rest of the day is up to you, but give your peri-workout supplementation the attention it deserves and you will absolutely, definitely make the progress that might have eluded you in the past