The Best Fuel Sources — Macronutrients (updated July 2019)

The Best Fuel Sources — Macronutrients

Against popular belief, there are no supplements that can fuel your workout, recovery, and performance quite like food. The three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fat — are the key elements to great performance. These macronutrients can be found in just about every morsel of food you can eat. The amount of each varies per food group and item, however.

Carbohydrates

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Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation from the media over the years. It’s been promoted as the macronutrient group most closely related to weight gain, and so people have become frightened of eating “too many carbs.” However, the diet should be about 50% carbs for a normal individual, and up to 60% for highly active individuals. This is because carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. And since about 60-70% of our daily intake is used by the body to simply keep us alive, eating carbohydrates is essential.

So what constitutes a carbohydrate? Carbs are in almost every food, save for pure protein and fat sources. Even your vegetables have 5g per serving! However, the best way to ingest carbohydrates is from whole grain sources, because these also contain an ample amount of fiber. Fiber helps to reduce LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and make up a bulk of your stool. So eat your grains, eat your fiber, and have more energy for your activities!

Carbohydrates can also be broken down into glucose, which is further metabolized into glycogen. This glycogen can be stored in the muscles — up to 500g worth! And it’s this stored energy that helps to fuel your workouts. Or, at least for the first couple of minutes of activity. Any activity longer than an hour requires alternative fuel sources, which can be metabolized from dietary fat.

Fat

image @ www.cheatsheet.com

Fat is another macronutrient that gets a bad reputation from the media. However, dietary fat does not equal body fat. Or, rather, eating fat will not make you fat.

In fact, dietary fatty acids are essential for our daily life! A moderate fat intake (or about 25% of our total calories) can aid in: vitamin A, D, E, and K absorption and distribution throughout the body, weight maintenance, skin and hair health, and sustained energy during exercise. In addition, since dietary fat is more calorically dense than both carbohydrates and proteins at 9 calories/gram, eating less can make you feel fuller longer. Good fat sources include: fatty fish, avocado, nuts/seeds, olive and sunflower oil, and nut butters.

The benefits of an increased dietary fat intake are most prevalent in activities that required sustained energy. The body will always process carbohydrates first and then fat. This is because the body can 1) store more carbs, and 2) they’re easier to break down. However, stored dietary fat is oxidized during long-duration activities (like running) and can be used as a more powerful energy source. Actually, Oxidative Phosphorylation can produce 36ATP versus Glycolysis’s 2ATP, which makes it the preferred energy pathway overall. But it also takes a great deal longer to oxidize molecules than simply breaking them down, so the body never utilizes fat first. Which is unfortunate, because who wouldn’t want to eat their weight in dietary fat and have better gym performance at the same time?

A lack of stored carbohydrates and fatty acids in the body, though, makes the muscles and energy systems reliant on protein. But relying on protein for energy takes away from your heard earned gains, which is bad.

Protein

image @ www.girlsgonestrong.com

Protein is the only macronutrient group that hasn’t received a bad reputation by the media. However, an increased protein consumption, like any other macronutrient group, can lead to weight gain. It can also lead to free-floating toxins in the bloodstream because the liver can’t process all those protein molecules at once, as well as some being forced to convert into glycogen. So it actually can be a disservice to the body to increase your protein intake.

For healthy, active men, protein consumption should not exceed 1.2g/kg of body weight. For women the number is usually lower at about 0.8-1g/kg of body weight, since women’s muscles are genetically smaller than a male’s. But this increased protein consumption is essential to building muscle. Protein intake brings essential amino acids into the body that it cannot produce on its own. These amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Leucine, however, it the key player in muscle regeneration.

As you train, the muscle fibers tear and reform. This reformation grows the muscles and gives them a larger appearance on the body. However, if the body has no protein supply to fix these tears, the musculature becomes weak and deformed. It becomes harder to fix. So keeping up with your protein consumption is a key way to make sure your hard training routine equates to larger muscles. Or stronger muscles. Or whatever goal you’re currently working on.

Good protein sources can include: lean meats, poultry, red meats (in moderation!), milk, yogurts, cheeses, legumes, and even some whole grains.

What Macronutrient is Right for Me?

You need all three macronutrients in order to live a healthy, active life. However, the proportions are different based on the type of activity you perform and your body type. There are three different body types: Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph.

image @ www.octathalon.com

An ectomorph is generally lanky and has a hard time putting on weight, so an increased load of all three macronutrients will help them to gain size.

An endomorph is generally stocky and has a hard time losing weight. In this case, a lower amount of macronutrients are essential when wanting to show size.

And a mesomorph is generally a cross between the two, as someone who generally looks muscular and can either have an easy or hard time putting on weight. Most people fall into this category and so their macronutrient split becomes more determined on their individual genetics.

In addition, the type of activity that a person takes part in has a large influence over their macronutrient split. For example, a marathon runner is going to need an increased fat and protein load because they need sustained energy and their muscles are under a lot more tension for longer periods of time. Conversely, a powerlifter will need a greater protein and carbohydrate load because they’re focusing on more explosive, one-time lifts. And a bodybuilder will need moderate amounts of all three, because they have shorter lived energy needs but still want to put on size.

The Best Macros Per Sport

For powerlifting, gear towards an increased carbohydrate and protein load.

For long duration sports, higher fats and proteins.

For bodybuilding, consume  1 part fat, 2 parts protein, 3 parts carbohydrate of total calories.

For aerobic sports, such as dancing and running, increase your fat consumption.

For athletic sports, your macronutrient split is more determined on the sport you play. For example, football would require more carbohydrate and protein while swimming would require more fat.

How Can I Determine my Macro Split?

In all honesty, if you’re new to tracking macronutrients or are getting serious into a new training style, seek a coach. Under or over eating are very common when first paying attention to macronutrients. Doing either one can not only hinder your performance, but can also lead to a slew of health problems. So do yourself a favor and hire someone who’s versed in this language.

If you’re more experienced in fitness and want to give it a try, tracking your macronutrients is easy, quick, and can significantly help your sport. You can visit this link for a macronutrient calculator, or track it yourself from your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

However, remember to take into account your sport, your current goals, and your genetic makeup. All three elements play a key role in how much you need to eat!

image @ www.ebodyfit.com

The Mechanics of Deadlifting (updated July 2019)

Mechanics of Deadlifting

What is a Deadlift?

The Exercise Overview

A deadlift is a compound power exercise, most commonly used by powerlifters. It engages more muscles during one movement than any other compound lift. This makes it ideal for not only strengthening those muscles, but also is more efficient for those who lift with a time constraint.

image @ www.bodybuilding.com

Deadlifts are also the easiest exercise to lift the heaviest amount of weight with. There are two main reasons why:

  1. The distance between the floor and the top of the movement is relatively small, averaging only a couple of feet. As compared to a squat or bench press, this makes heavier weights much easier to handle.
  2. You really only perform half of the movement. Unlike a squat or bench press where you need to control the bar for the concentric and eccentric part of the lift, gravity takes over for the eccentric half of the deadlift. As soon as you bring the bar a third of the way down after locking out (or reaching the ending point of the exercise), gravity takes over and gets that bar to the ground. You just have to make sure that it doesn’t squash your toes.

Recruited Muscles

The deadlift is primarily a hamstring and glutes movement because the lifter uses his heels as the driving force. However, both the thoracic and lumbar spine are activated at the top of the movement, as is the latissimus dorsi and rear deltoids of the back. In addition, the triceps are recruited when lifting the bar off of the ground. Tricep activation is due to the pushing motion of the lifter relative to the bar — against popular belief, the first movement in a deadlift is pushing the bar off of the ground, not pulling it, to lift it. Therefore, the triceps and not the biceps are utilized to complete the movement.

The Mechanics

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There are two different forms of deadlifting, conventional and sumo, but both have the same core mechanics. The trick to a deadlift is to keep your back relatively straight — no rounding at the top! Your feet should be planted firmly on the ground so that the heels are used as the primary driving force. Any additional pressure at the front of the body will just cause you to fall over.

The deadlift should be one continuous movement. Because of the heavy weight, some individuals have a tendency to lift the legs first and let the bar follow. This puts intense strain on the lumbar spine. Instead, the whole body needs to move as one. Ideally, the bar should travel up the path of your legs and follow the same path back down to the ground. It will make sure you keep control of the bar and prevent your back from being thrown out during the eccentric portion.

Another key component to completing the deadlift is to activate your latissimus dorsi before lifting the bar. Located right at the base of the armpit, the lats are the stabilizing force of the entire upper body. To prevent your back from rounding or your shoulders from slumping forward, pressure is applied to the upper back to keep it rigid. It’s a similar notion to locking your shoulders during a bench press. In order for the upper body to stay put and not ruin the rest of the lift, it needs to be activated. And stay activated until the bar touches the ground again.

The Equipment

A deadlift can be done with no outside equipment. There are some daredevils deadlifting a raw bar with no shoes on, and that’s great for them. However, the heavier the lift the more outside equipment will help. Here are some key tools for optimal deadlifting:

  1. Flat-soled shoes.
    image @ www.rougefitness.com

    Running shoes are bouncy for a reason: they keep half the foot off of the ground. However, since the primary driving force in a deadlift is the foot, the entire sole should remain planted on the ground. This gives the lifter better stability, which ensures a better lift. Powerlifting shoes or even Converse are great picks because they provide ankle mobility and keep the entire foot on the ground. Or any flat-soled shoes work, really. Just leave the running shoes at home.
    Powerlifting shoes can be found here, and Converse can be found here.

  2. Wrist straps.
    image @ www.roguefitness.com

    Lifting an iron bar off of the ground puts a lot of pressure on weak wrists. To avoid this, wrist straps are a great tool. They’re made of a combination of tough fabric and elastic, so one size really does fit every wrist. Wrist straps keep the wrists locked in place and prevent them locking out or bending. In addition, some wrist straps will loop around the wrist and then wrap around the bar to increase grip strength.
    Wrist wraps can be found here.

  3. Lifting chalk. Lifting chalk is messy but effective for those who hate using straps. Also, if you tend to sweat during exercise, chalk will soak up the liquid to prevent slipping grips. When trying to lift heavy barbells, a firm grip is the best grip. Chalk is also applied to the legs when wear shorts to prevent chaffing.
    Lifting chalk can be found here.

Choose Your Best Deadlift

So now you have the knowledge of deadlifting basics and key tools for the best lift. But what stance do you use?

image @ www.peakperformance365.com

Conventional V. Sumo

There are two types of deadlift: conventional and sumo. Conventional is a close stance deadlift where the hands are kept outside of the legs. Sumo is a wide stance deadlift where the hands are kept inside of the legs. Both get the bar off the ground by primarily activating the glutes and hamstrings. However, conventional deadlifts equally target the quadriceps, or the front of the leg. Conversely, sumo deadlifts work the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus and leave the quadriceps virtually untouched.

But Which to Choose?

Choosing your stance is primarily based on your physical build. Typically, individuals with long legs will choose sumo because they can get closer to the bar. Conventional deadlifts, while effective, make it more difficult for taller lifters to get down into the starting position. Similarly, individuals with longer torsos may also choose sumo deadlifts for the same reasons.

If you’re someone with short legs or a short torso, however, you may choose conventional. Having smaller limbs allows more room around the bar while still being able to get the full range of motion during the exercise. Similarly, someone with longer arms may choose conventional deadlifts because their arms are held farther apart. This actually reduces the space between him and the bar, making it easier to complete the movement.

Although, choosing your stance is also based on personal preference. You can learn one way but prefer the other way, or lift heavier, or have a higher repetition range. You can also lift in both stances if you’re indecisive. There really is no wrong way to deadlift. As long as your form is good and your back is not rounded during any part of the movement, deadlift away!

 

Creatine Supplements: The Hows and Whys (Updated July 2019)

Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body. For short bursts of bodily stresses, such as exercise, the ATP-PCr Pathway is recruited. In this case, “PCr” stands for phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate). More specifically, the ingredient is released to help aid cellular function. The more creatine available to the muscles, the more can be released to adapt to stressors.

image @ www.rackcdn.com

How to Take Creatine

Food and Supplements

The ingredient can be found in some foods, such as eggs, meat, and fish. However, the amount in these foods is not normally enough to make significant differences in our energy pathways. Instead, ingredient can be supplemented into the diet in either powder or pill form.

image @ www.t-nation.com

There are also several different types of it available, but the cheapest and most abundant is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is normally sold in powder form and is mixed with water.

 

The body already makes enough for the average person, so quickly doubling that amount can lead to bloating, diarrhea, or nausea. Instead, a loading phase is necessary. When first adding a creatine supplement to your diet, start with 0.3g/kg of body weight for 5-7 days. Then, slowly increase by 0.03g/kg per day for about three weeks. The prescribed amount is typically 5-10g per day, depending on your size.

The only difference for the amount of creatine to take depends on your gender. Because males typically hold more muscle mass than females, they can ingest closer to 10g per day. Women, on the other hand, stay closer to 5g per day.

But be Warned!

It should also be taken with ample amounts of water. Creatine monohydrate is generally ingested by dissolving in water (don’t straight shoot it), but drinking enough water throughout the day is also imperative. Without, stomach cramping and bloating can occur.

If you take too much at one time, then diarrhea and nausea may occur. If this happens, spread out your 5-10g over the course of the whole day. The benefits will still occur, just without the nasty side effects.

Creatine Benefits

There are plenty of benefits to taking creatine daily. These benefits also apply to both men and women and can happen while taking 5g, 10g, or any amount in between per day.

  1. Increase Muscle Creatine Content — This one is self-explanatory. As you take in more creatine, your muscles are capable of holding more creatine.
  2. Increase Power Output — Because the ATP-PCR Pathway is recruited for power movements, increasing the muscle’s creatine load will also increase its power output. This is most handy for “fight or flight” movements initiated by the sympathetic nervous system, or for intense exercise (sprinting, powerlifting, etc.)
  3. Increase Weight — This is mainly from water retention. However, overall weight can increase as muscle density and strength increase. It is also linked to an increase in lean body mass. However, more studies show a weight gain due to water retention than lean mass.

    image @ www.zazozh.com
  4. Increase Hydration — When you start to ingest more creatine monohydrate, you need to drink more water. By doing this, your daily water consumption will increase, and you will become more hydrated. Huzzah!
  5. Increase Anaerobic Capacity & VO2 Max — Daily ingestion has been linked to minor increases in anaerobic capacity. The ATP-PCr Pathway is utilized without the aid of oxygen, so strengthening this system will help increase anaerobic capacity in most athletes. Increased creatine will also lead to more oxygen that can be taken up by the muscle. This leads to increased muscular capacity, which is beneficial for intense exercise.
  6. Decrease Fatigue / Increase Muscular Endurance — It is linked to increased energy production in muscle cells. With an increase in creatine phosphate in the body, the muscles will have an increased energy store. Thus, the muscles are capable of completing more work and the time to fatigue increases.
  7. Decrease Muscular Damage — As the muscles increase anaerobic capacity, they also become more capable of doing work. They become more efficient, thus decreasing their chances of injury.
  8. Increase Testosterone — Muscles require testosterone to grow and function. An increase in muscular capacity will increase serum testosterone in the body.
  9.  Increase Glycogen Resynthesis — Glycogen Resynthesis is the time required by the muscles to replenish glycogen stores. By increasing your daily intake, your muscles become more efficient at replenishing their glycogen stores. This makes them fatigue more slowly and increases their capacity for work.

    image @ www.s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

In all, it is a powerful and highly beneficial supplement to add to your daily regimen. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most cost-effective supplements available to date and has more than enough benefits to make up the price. However, remember to slowly increase your intake and to drink plenty of fluids while supplementing with it . Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!