“Music is like a legal drug for athletes”

Filed under :Exercise

I can’t imagine life without music. Many would agree that the world would be a dull and sad place without its contribution. As much as it’s hard for one to imagine a celebration, or any other occasion without music, I can’t imagine exercising without my favorite tunes! From personal experience, my favorite songs make my workouts more productive and enjoyable.

Some reasons to how music can positively benefit your workout (besides making it more fun) may be: moving with the beat of the music tends to keep you going synchronously, music tends to increase your desire to move rather than sit or rest, and music tends to distract you from feeling exercise exertion-this way you keep on going rather than give up.

Three similar studies by Schwartzmiller (2003), Johnson (2004), and Kapingst (2010) compared groups that listened to music while exercising to groups that didn’t listen to music. “Combined data illustrated that as the beat of the music increased, power output and resultant exercise intensity increased.” Another study by Prieboy (2009) which examined the effect of music and exercise exertion concluded; “Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were lowest when subjects listened to self-selected music, despite a constant exercise workload.” Many other studies suggest similar results to the positive effect of music on exercise!

The bottom line is that by increasing the beat frequency you will tend to go faster or work harder. By listening to music, you will tend to enjoy exercise more while focus less on your breathing and perceive it to be less exhausting. And most importantly you get to enjoy your workout with your favorite songs!

The misconception of the B-complex vitamins and energy!

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes

The B-complex vitamins are very often associated with energy.  Any supplement or sports drink that contains the B-complex vitamins promises an increase in energy and performance, this is not quite true though!

The truth about the B vitamins is that they are cofactors in various enzymes in the metabolic pathways that produce energy from protein, carbohydrates, and/or fat.  That is the B vitamins are required by the body for the metabolism of these macronutrients for the body’s utilization for cell function.

This is why it is often mistaken (combined with the false claim on the bottles) as a supplement for energy!

Theoretically, exercise may increase or alter the need for B-complex vitamins in several ways.  Exercise stresses many of the metabolic pathways that require these micronutrients.  Exercise training may result in muscle biochemical adaptation that increase micronutrient need.  Exercise may also increase the turnover of these micronutrients, increasing their loss from the body.  Finally, higher intakes of micronutrients may be required to cover increased needs for the repair and maintenance of lean tissue.

So… do active people have higher need for the B-complex vitamins?

Exercise may slightly increase the need for some of the B-complex vitamins by one to two times the current RDA, but this increase need can generally be met by the higher energy intake required to maintain body weight!

Combining dieting for weight loss and exercise may increase the need for these vitamins.  Vitamins supplementation is recommended for active people who consume low energy diets or diets high in processed foods, or who restrict dietary intake of fruits, vegetables, or whole grains.

Currently there is no data available to support improved exercise performance in people who supplement with B-complex vitamins!

If you are trying to get more energy or improve your exercise performance, you should eat a well balanced diet and get lots of sleep!

Energy Demands of Muscles During Exercise!

Filed under :Exercise

All forms of exercise require the activation of skeletal muscles.  To contract muscle fibers require many physiological conditions, such as energy, oxygen, and removal of lactic acid.

For very brief periods, the energy for muscle contraction can be provided by the energy stored within the muscle itself in molecules such as ATP, creatine phosphate (you may have heard of the supplement Creatine), glucose, and glycogen (storage form of glucose).

More prolonged activity requires increased delivery of oxygen and metabolic fuels (such as glucose and fatty acids) to the muscle from other sources.

Contracting muscle cells produce heat and metabolites, including lactic acid and carbon dioxide, which must be carried away in order for the muscle to continue functioning.  If these metabolites are not removed, muscle pain and fatigue can result.

The proportional use of fuels (carbohydrate, fat, and even protein) during exercise depends on the intensity and duration of the activity.  This means that mix fuels used at the beginning is different than the mix used later on (notice I say “mix fuels” because many have the assumption that during exercise we use either glucose, or fat as energy, in reality we use both but at different proportions depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise).

In a very high intensity, short durations, exercise such as sprints the main source of energy is ATP and glucose these are two sources of energy that can be called on quickly-that is, it does not require oxygen.  With longer durations of exercise a greater proportion of ATP is generated through the breakdown of fat (fatty acids)-involves oxygen.

If you are trying to burn more fat when exercising it is usually recommended to do aerobic activities longer than one hour in a moderate intensity.  The reason behind this is if the intensity is too high you will be using a greater proportion of glucose (from blood, muscle, or liver) rather than fatty acids.  In moderate intensity you will be using greater proportion of fatty acids, sparing glucose.  You should do cardio longer than one hour because the longer you work out the greater will be the switch from using glucose as energy to fatty acids.

After a prolonged aerobic activity you should always consume a high glycemic food (refer to my previous post “Sugar Rush”) to recover glycogen stores in the muscles.  By doing so, you will decrease muscle fatigue, as well as you will have more energy for the next time you exercise!

Timing of eating and working out…

Filed under :Exercise, Health promoting

Exercising in the early hours of the day – There are many benefits to exercising in the morning.  In the morning your body and mind are fresh, after a long day at work you are more likely to find excuses or make other plans rather than exercise.  By working out in the morning you will wake up faster, and be more mentally alert for the rest of the day.

The big question here is whether you should eat breakfast before a morning workout or is it better to go on an empty stomach?

It is supported by many research studies that consuming a pre-exercise meal is the right way to go! The goals of a pre-exercise meal are to supply the body with glucose for use during exercise, and to minimize fatigue during exercise. It is recommended to consume the pre-exercise meal 2-4 hours before the exercise; yet it can be safely eaten as late as 1 hour before exercise.

The meal should be small, easy to digest, and familiar to the individual.  The pre-exercise meal should be: high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, low in fat and fiber, and moderate in size.  People engaging in early morning activities may want to schedule a very early morning snack or carbohydrate beverage (e.g. fruit juice) instead of skipping everything all together.  The timing and amount of food consumed depends on individual preferences and on the type, intensity, and duration of the workout.

Exercising in the afternoon – Research suggests that your maximum body temperature occurs between 2 – 4 pm, therefore the muscle strength is at its peak and you are going to be less likely to injure yourself. It’s also a time when people are most awake and alert.

You should eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.  You can also consume a high glycemic food about an hour before the workout with some water to maximize energy stores and energy during the workout (refer to my previous post “Sugar Rush” for explanation about glycemic foods).

Exercising in the evening – Research suggests that exercising in the evenings will produce better sleep as well as lower daytime sleepiness for the whole day!  Here again, it is recommended to eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.


Whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening; you must eat after the workout to replenish muscle glycogen and refuel the body.  It is important to consume both carbohydrates as well as proteins post-exercise.  Many believe they should consume only proteins after a workout which is incorrect; protein and carbohydrates are equally important.

Carbohydrates help replenish the muscle glycogen stores, while protein helps rebuild muscle tissue.  Carbohydrates actually help protein absorption.  It is recommended to eat small frequent meals throughout 2 hours post-exercise (rather than one big protein shake, or one big meal.)

So, what is the best time of the day for a workout? It depends on the individual!  Do you need an extra push in the morning to wake up, do you have your energy peak in the afternoon, or do you need a better sleep and need to reduce fatigue during the day – choose the best time for you.  Always remember to eat before and after the workout! This is a very important part of being physically active, which many tend to ignore or just uncertain about.

If you have any additional questions, concerns, or comments – please let me know 😉

Exercise and Brain Health!

Filed under :Exercise

It is immediately recognized that exercise promotes good health of the cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems; however the field of exercise and cognitive function is not as familiar.

Studies in ageing humans show that endurance exercise is protective against cognitive decline; especially in planning and memory.

It was once believed that the adult brain was incapable of producing new neurons. It is now known that neurogenesis (the process by which neurons are generated) is continuous in adults as well. Moreover, now it is believed that exercise stimulates the production of new nerve cells in the brain.

Research suggests that aerobic exercise in children is associated with higher measures of responsiveness, faster cognitive processing speed, and better academic performance (Medical Science and Sports Exercise, 2008).  Even though level of physical activity can be confounded by other factors such as IQ, social, or economic statues, these finding are very consistent and convincing.

Exercise has also been recently shown to increase brain volume in healthy exercising adults.  In one study researches used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine brain volume.  People aged 60–79 were randomly assigned to aerobic or non-aerobic exercise groups (1 hour three times a week for 6 months). Adults exercising aerobically showed increased brain volume in frontal lobe regions implicated in higher order processing, attention control and memory (Journal of Gerontology, 2006).

It is believed that in most societies today people are less active than in previous generations.  This could affect the next generations’ cognitive development.  Much research suggests that exercise has an affect on cognitive development, and improvement.  Physical activity during childhood may optimize cognitive development promoting lasting changes in brain structure and function.

Just another great reason for you to exercise; for overall body and brain health!

The chronically dieting women…

Filed under :Exercise, Health promoting

For most healthy women, “going on a diet” for a designated time should present few, if any, nutritional or long-term health problems.  However, serious health problems may arise for active females who chronically diet or restrict energy intake while expending high amounts of energy in exercise.

If an active female constantly restricts energy intake, it is almost impossible to get adequate nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, and minerals).  For example, If not eating enough protein, the body will not be able to maintain and repair muscle tissue and to cover the cost of any protein used for energy during exercise.

Many active females avoid fat either for weight loss or because they think fat is bad for their health.  If fat intake is too low (<10-15% of energy intake), the intake and absorption or the fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids may also be low.

With poor energy intake, many complain of fatigue, frequent injuries, irritability, etc. In this situation, you should either increase total daily energy intake and/or decrease total energy expenditure (less exercise).

Chronic energy restriction can result in decreased bone density, impaired immune response, menstrual dysfunction, anemia, poor exercise performance, and increased recovery time from injury.

Another effect of constant dieting is that it lowers the metabolism rate (more accurately, resting metabolic rate).  This means that the total daily energy expenditure is reduced in people who chronically restrict energy intake.  This decrease is compounded when heavy physical activity is combined with low energy intakes.

It is important to keep healthy energy statues.  An adequate intake of macronutrients is important as well as micronutrients for optimal health and fitness.

Recover with Chocolate Milk!

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes

Prolonged exercise causes muscle glycogen depletion(Glycogen = the storage form of carbohydrates in the body). Therefore it is very important to consume carbohydrates immediately after the exercise.  Consuming protein in addition to carbohydrates has been shown to positively affect glycogen storage. The protein also helps repair muscle tissue following the exercise.

Many people believe that protein is the only critical nutrient for sport and exercise, and that they need to consume huge amounts of it following an exercise session.  However, protein is not the only nutrient needed in sports.  Athletes do need more protein than lesser active people or people with sedentary lifestyles – although, the difference in recommended protein portions for each is much smaller then what most believe it to be.

The timing of protein and carbohydrate intake may be more important than the total amount of protein consumed. Consuming several small doses of protein within the 2 hours of postexercise is more beneficial for building muscle mass.

Chocolate milk has both carbohydrates and protein, and it could potentially be used as a post exercise recovery aid.  It seems to have just the right ratio of carbohydrates to protein for recovery.  The proper ratio of carbohydrates to protein is what’s going to make your recovery ideal.

Recently, there have been several research studies of consuming chocolate milk post exercise. Chocolate milk was compared to sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade, PowerAde, etc), energy drinks (i.e. Red Bull, Monster, etc), and protein shakes.  Chocolate milk was shown to serve as the quickest and best recovery drink, without spending a fortune on all of the commercially available sports/performance drink products.

I think it tastes the best too!

Salt, Sodium, and Electrolytes?

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes, Health promoting

This post is a follow up to my previous post about the adequate consumption of water.  It was brought up that salt is also necessary for fluid balance.  In this post I would like to clear the confusion over the salt, sodium, and electrolytes – and fluid balance.

Salt, sodium, and electrolytes – all basically mean the same thing.  Salt consists of sodium and chloride ions connected in a bond (sodium chloride), when dissolved in water they separate into sodium and chloride ions.  Electrolytes are basically ions in a liquid.  Sodium is a type of an electrolyte. Potassium, chloride, and calcium ions are other examples of electrolytes.  Salt/sodium/electrolytes are necessary to maintain a variety of critical functions in the body.  Overconsumption of salt (sodium or electrolytes) can increase the risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure.

To maintain fluid balance, the body needs more than just water.  Electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions (as well as other small molecules) all play an important role in fluid balance.  We must consume electrolytes in food and beverages in order to maintain fluid balance on a daily basis.

Exercise increases the loss of water and electrolytes from the body, especially sodium (the loss of the other electrolytes is very low).  The goal of drinking fluids during exercise is to: maintain plasma and electrolyte volume, prevent abnormal elevation in heart rate and core body temperature, as well as to provide “fuel” to the working muscles.

During an endurance exercise, fluid intake should match or exceed sweat loss (especially in hot environments). During an exercise lasting longer than one hour fluids containing both carbohydrates and electrolytes should be consumed.  The carbohydrates provide energy during exercise, while the sodium replaces lost electrolytes.

After an exercise, the goal of rehydration is to replace the water and electrolytes lost that occurred during the exercise.  In general, athletes can replace water and electrolytes by consuming adequate water and food throughout the recovery period.

Sodium improves fluid retention in the body, while carbohydrates enhance intestinal uptake of sodium and water and help replace muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body).

One way to increase sodium and fluid intakes is to use a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink before, during, and after exercise.  These beverages provide low amounts of sodium, increase total fluid intake, and provide additional energy in the form of carbohydrates.

I hope I was able to make the “salt/sodium/electrolyte” functionality more clear, as well as explain how it relates to fluid balance.  If you have any further comments or questions, please let me know! 🙂

Nutrition for Exercise

Filed under :Exercise

What is the role of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in exercise?

How much of each should be consumed?

What about endurance vs. strength training?

Let’s start with the Carbohydrates…

Muscles require carbohydrates as a fuel source during exercise (the body converts carbohydrates into glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrates in the body).  Activities that are high in intensity and longer in duration use more glycogen than low intensity exercise. Higher carbohydrate diets are generally recommended for endurance athletes.  45-60% of energy in the diet should come from carbohydrates.  (Low carbohydrate diets will decrease your energy, and lower your athletic performance).

The proteins…

Proteins play many roles during and after exercise.  They are used for energy in the muscle and for building and repair of tissues following exercise.  Protein oxidation (use by the body) is increased during and following both endurance and strength training exercise, raising the protein requirements for active people.  The protein recommendations for endurance activities are 1.2-1.4 g / kg body weight, and for strength exercise is slightly higher at 1.6-1.7 g / kg body weight.

Finally, the fats…

Exercise is a strong stimulator of fat lipolysis (breakdown).  The amount of fat lipolysis that occurs during exercise depends on several factors such as; fitness level, type, intensity, and duration of the exercise.  Enhancing one’s level of fitness is the primary factor that appears to enhance fat lipolysis during exercise.  20-25% of energy from fat are generally recommended for active individuals (Healthy fats, non or very low trans or saturated fats!).  Extremely low fat diets (<15% of energy) appear to offer no health or performance benefit.