Worrying About the Little Things With the Glycemic Index

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Prepare yourself. This is going to get “quotey” up in here.

So in my CHO post I mentioned how the Glycemic (GI) is not really that big of a deal. I think it went something like this:

“So I’m expecting most of you have now Googled the GI to find out what to avoid. Here’s the beauty of it all… The GI was done on fasted individuals with solely a carbohydrate meal. Read that again slowly. This is part of the reasons behind one of my dietary recommendations. For a mixed meal (proteins and fats included in the meal), the GI is affected GREATLY. It is to the point that it is nearly pointless to follow. It can also be modified with a high intake of fiber because fiber is nearly impossible to digest (hence why it does a great job of “cleaning you out”). So always have your protein spread out evenly throughout your meals (for even more reasons that I will get into on my Muscle Protein Synthesis post). This will attenuate your GI “spikes” and will also help you feel satiated (protein is far more satiating than CHOs).”

This is an incredibly confusing subject that most people get wrapped around unnecessarily. I do want to say that if you have issues with insulin (diabetics especially), do not follow the advice that I am about to tell you. Your situation is unique. Most likely a lot of the following advice will apply to your diet structure, but that’s not for me to advise; discuss with your general practitioner.

Let’s first realize that the GI was studied for diabetics. This is an effort to prevent them from, oh I don’t know, not entering a coma. Let’s list some myths that are presented by UNM on the subject:

Myth #1 The Glycemic Index is the best way to determine the amount of carbohydrate (sugar) in a particular food.

[The] Glycemic index describes the rate glucose is released in the bloodstream and says nothing about carbohydrate content. The more grams of carbohydrate consumed the higher the glycemic response because there is an increased glycemic load. For instance, you could eat two different foods with a similar GI but the blood glucose response will be greater for the food eaten in higher concentration.

Myth #2 Avoid foods that are white such as pasta and potatoes because they are high GI foods.

The white color of foods doesn’t necessarily mean it has a high GI. As mentioned previously, cooking method, amount of processing as well as meal composition affect GI, not food color. For example, the GI of boiled potatoes is substantially lower (56) than when microwaved potatoes (82). What many don’t realize is that pasta is a low GI food (40-50). Also, we usually eat foods in combination so the fat and protein consumed at mealtime serve to lower the overall GI of some meals.

Myth #3 The Glycemic Index Can Be Used to Assess How Healthy vs. Unhealthy foods.

The GI doesn’t indicate whether a food is healthy or not. One example of this is milk. Whole milk has a GI of 27 while skim milk has a GI of 32. Lower GI doesn’t always mean a healthier product.

Myth #4 All Simple Sugar is High GI

Not all sugar is created equal. Fruit, for instance, contains the simple sugar fructose. This simple sugar has a slower rate of digestion and absorption than glucose, therefore it produces a lower glycemic response. The GI for most raw fruit is between 30-50.

Myth #5 I Can eat as much Low GI food as I want and maintain low insulin levels

Some feel that low GI eating entitles them to consume as much as they want. It is possible to get high insulin responses with low GI eating. Remember, glycemic response is a combination of GI x carbohydrate concentration (glycemic load), so the more grams of carbohydrate consumed will result in higher insulin levels.” [1]

To add more onto this, it is extremely unlikely that eating according to the GI will prevent you from getting diabetes. [2, 3] So you won’t have to go on a commercial with Wilford Brimley because of the GI. That isn’t to say it doesn’t help WHEN you have diabetes, just that you won’t GET diabetes from a certain GI diet.

As for when you’re eating mixed meals? Well let’s let the writers for a Clinical Diabetes article (Amanda R. Kirpitch, MA, RD, CDE, LDN, and Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE, LDN) go over that one:

“Protein/fat: Adding protein or fat, which have minimal effects on glycemic excursions, to a high-GI food will decrease the GI of that food. For example, adding cheese to a slice of bread would decrease the GI.

Soluble fiber: In general, the higher the food is in viscous or soluble fiber, the lower its GI will be. By increasing the viscosity of the intestinal contents, the interaction between the starch and the digestive enzymes is slowed, resulting in slower and lower glycemic excursions. Beans are a great example of a food high in soluble fiber.” [4]

This is yet another reason why I recommend mixed meals. This will keep you from sweating the small stuff and carrying a pocket GI Table with you. There’s more important things in life.


  1. Mayo, Jerry J., PhD RD, Kravitz, Len, Ph.D. “Glycemic Index and Weight Loss.” Glycemic Index and Weight Loss. University of New Mexico, n.d. <http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/glycemicUNM.html >
  2. Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load are associated with high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol at baseline but not with increased risk of diabetes in the Whitehall II study. <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/988.abstract >. Am J Clin Nutr October 2007 vol. 86 no. 4 988-994
  3. Geng Zhang, An Pan, Geng Zong, et al. Substituting White Rice with Brown Rice for 16 Weeks Does Not Substantially Affect Metabolic Risk Factors in Middle-Aged Chinese Men and Women with Diabetes or a High Risk for Diabetes. Annhild Mosdøl, Daniel R Witte, Gary Frost, et al. <http://jn.nutrition.org/content/141/9/1685.abstract >. First published July 27, 2011, doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142224
  4. Kirpitch, Amanda R., MA, RD, CDE, LDN, and Melinda D. Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDE, LDN. “Clinical Diabetes.” The 3 R’s of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World. Clinical Diabetes, 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. <http://clinical.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/4/155.full >

Picking the Right Plan

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I’m back from a short (albeit refreshing) hiatus! We’re here to discuss the little nuances that keep getting glossed over. Frequently we see fad diets taking over. I can’t tell you how many times people have announced to the world the greatness of the ketogenic diet or that animals meals will kill you. That there gluten? Might as well put a gun to your head. It is so absurd that it pains me.

We’ve already discussed gluten isn’t as terrible in the carbohydrates piece (yes, I know it isn’t a CHO). Ketogenic diets aren’t really any more beneficial than a normal diet. [1] It is completely unsustainable of a diet, you’re going to gain back about 5-10 pounds when you cycle off of it (glycogen has weight as does the water with it), and it is far too restrictive for no reason. And don’t get me STARTED on the “plants > animals” talk. There is no substantiated proof (Dr. Campbell’s China Study was a train wreck).

And then there is dairy who has also received a terrible reputation. There have been a plethora of studies that confirm that dairy is not only great for inflammation, [2] but it can have positive effects on vascular health, diabetes, and cancer! [3, 4] It would be one thing if it also helped performance, but since that’s not… Oh? It does that as well? [5]

With all of the bad out there, we need to formulate a way to find the good. You’re in luck, because I have some simple ways to make it easy to find a nutrition plan that works for you. You have to look at it through these simple questions:

  1. Is it sustainable?
  2. Does it take into account activity?
  3. Is it well balanced?

Let’s dive into these a little bit, shall we?

1) Is it sustainable? I think this is self-explanatory. Are you making this a lifestyle change that will last the rest of your life? If not, then it is likely going to result in a “yo-yo diet” issue. Little treats are encouraged, but if you can’t stay with your plan for more than a day, then it’s not a very good plan.

2) Does it take into account activity? Look, the Basal Metabolic Rate is a fantastic tool that we all use to estimate. There was a lot of groundwork laid down to develop it. With that being said, it is only a piece of our estimating pie. It’s one tool in the tool box. If your nutrition plan doesn’t take into account your activity, it’s not worth the paper it is written on.

3) Is it well balanced? Avoid the faulty ideologies of alienating a certain food. Only remove foods with allergies. A diversified diet hitting a certain macro-ratio and high fiber (25-40 grams is what I always target) content will beat out any fad diet.

If you have check marked all three of these, likely that nutrition plan is going to help you succeed. At the end of the day, we want to accomplish our goals while still being concerned with our health.

Look, I’m not saying eat something which you have an allergy. That’s just silly. So is completely denouncing a food group or macronutrient solely on whim. Eat a balanced diet.


  1. Carol S Johnston, Sherrie L Tjonn, et al. ” Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr May 2006 vol. 83 no. 5 1055-1061 < http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/83/5/1055.full >
  2. Labonté MÈ, et al. “Impact of dairy products on biomarkers of inflammation: a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies in overweight and obese adults.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Apr;97(4):706-17. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052217. Epub 2013 Feb 27. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23446894/ >
  3. Tong X, et al. “Dairy consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Sep;65(9):1027-31. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2011.62. Epub 2011 May 11.  < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21559046/ >
  4. Elwood PC, et al. “The survival advantage of milk and dairy consumption: an overview of evidence from cohort studies of vascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Dec;27(6):723S-34S. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19155432/ >
  5. Josse AR, et al. “Impact of milk consumption and resistance training on body composition of female athletes.” Med Sport Sci. 2012;59:94-103. doi: 10.1159/000341968. Epub 2012 Oct 15. < http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23075559/ >

Macronutrient Versus Micronutrient

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Let’s start out with looking at Macronutrient (Macro) intake and Micronutrient (Micro) intake. Both of these are very important in different ways in our life, but having a grasp of the topic can liberate you.

Macronutrients are split into 5 basic units; Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, Water, and finally Alcohols. Each unit has a different amount of kilocalories (4, 4, 9, 0, 7 respectively). The main three to be concerned about are the first three. They will be your performance drivers. This is because water has none, and you should only be consuming alcohol in moderation anyway. Binging is a no-no. STOP DOING IT!

A proper development of a healthy diet MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT MACRONUTRIENT INTAKE! I cannot stress this point enough. You WILL NOT get anywhere by neglecting the ratio of the macros. It is asinine to believe so. I am sure this will cause some anger, but if you want to discuss this civilly, I will take you up on that in the comments. The ratio of what to consume will be inevitably tied back to your goals. A marathoner, basketball star, and bodybuilder will all have different percentages of protein for their diet (10-15, 20, and 25% respectively).

The Micro side is where everything gets a little more fuzzy. These are vitamins, minerals, and other items that fit into the subcategories of the Macros. There are recommended daily intake (RDI) values, but these do not take into account activity. For that I default to ISSA’s list of Performance Daily Intakes (PDI), which is a really great resource for somebody who has taken the time to get certified. It’s as simple: as activity goes up, so does your needs!

Micronutrient sections will probably take up the most time on this series. Often I don’t stress enough how much Micronutrient intake can affect performance, but it is there. There are reasons I don’t put as much emphasis as I should, but that’s for another day.

Leucine and Driving Muscle Protein Synthesis

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Now we get to the fun part. We have covered all of the macronutrients in decent depth, but I want to start talking about the little things to focus on. Leucine is a Branch Chain Amino Acid that has very important effects and an important role in our bodies. It is believe to help with sterol development as well as potentially aiding the regulation of blood sugar and improve the brain functions as well. All of this is great for health purposes, but what I really want to talk to you about is the muscle building properties. This is what really excites a muscle head like myself.

We all know that most bodybuilders are obsessed with protein. Frankly they probably eat too much, but that’s ok as long as they have healthy kidneys to filter that. That subject, however, is for another day. What I want to discuss is how do we know HOW much protein that we truly need?

There is a lot of evidence towards leucine being the driving factor behind muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Before I get ahead of myself, I want to explain MPS a little more. When your body uses proteins to rebuild, the protein is constantly added (synthesis) to the muscles (or for generic protein synthesis it is anywhere in the body) and then discarded (degradation). Think of this like a shelf life for the muscle protein. This constant addition and subtraction is what we like to refer to as protein turnaround. The thing to note is that the body is CONSTANTLY doing both of these processes; they just occur at different rates. When synthesis occurs at a faster rate than degradation, we have an anabolic or mass building situation. When the reverse occurs (degradation is higher than synthesis) we have a catabolic or mass losing situation.

When I speak of MPS saturation I am talking about a top out rate at where the synthesis occurs. It’s at this point that if you were to eat one more amino, it would do absolutely nothing more on instigating more synthesis. It’s topped out.

There have been plenty of studies that confirm that approximately 15g of Essential Amino Acids (EAA) will saturate MPS for subjects that were between 155 and 165 lbs. [1, 2] The results of these studies resulted in a further hypothesis that it was leucine that was the initiator. When more studies were done with leucine, we found that this did occur! [3] The approximate amount of leucine for a 15g EAA intake was about 3.2g dosage. This decision was even more so supported during a 2012 study where the comparisons of whey powder and supplementation of leucine were compared. [4] While the whey sustained the stimulation for a longer timeframe, a suboptimal level of EAA (12g) was supplemented with some leucine (.75g) and it resulted in a saturation of MPS.

The next logical step would be, how long does this effect last? A couple studies have shown (and subsequently confirmed by other studies) that leucine supplementation will last for approximately 2 hours and 3 hours for a whole meal. [5, 6, 7] this is surprising considering that the bloodstream contained the amino acids for 6 hours. It was also seen that MPS appeared more readily saturated with the addition of 20g of carbs. [6] It is also postulated that continual ingestion will not help and could quite possibly lower the response. So before you muscle heads go and start eating turkey legs all day long, let’s also take a look at some studies on refractory responses or a lower in the effectiveness if you will.

Another interesting study I’d like to highlight confirmed the spreading of meals. When consuming 4 small meals a day, a study on 8 elderly women say that an evenly spaced out intake of protein compared to an intake of 80% in one meal resulted in differing results. There are some limits to this, however. Starting off, this is obviously a small sample size and it is elderly women and not athletes. The total intake of protein was only 60g. So the comparison of meals were 15-15-15-15 and 48-4-4-4 grams respectively. Those limitations are there, but I think that they can be applied to other aspects. I’d believe this would support the recommendations. [8]

There is some postulation of the idea that supplementing some free form aminos and CHO (15g EAA or 3.2g leucine and 20g CHO) between full meals might increase MPS responses as well. [9] I’m a little hesitant on this one because I’m not fully convinced of it. I simply wanted to mention it.

OK, time to take a deep breath. What does this all mean? Well it all leads up to a few simple recommendations that I’ve been giving for years:

1 – Eat your protein evenly throughout the day (five meals mean total intake is divided by five. Four meals means divide it by four). I don’t mess too much with the total daily recommendations outside of the normal governing bodies (NASM, ACE, NSCA, ISSA, etc.)

2 – Consume your BCAAs! I don’t care where you get these (plant or animal proteins), but these are needed for stimulation

3 – You can supplement leucine if you feel the need, but this isn’t crucial

4 – Eat mixed meals. This should be obvious from our Carbs convo, but let’s state it again.

5 – Stop eating every 2 hours! It doesn’t do what you want and is not necessary

That’s the most simplified version of what I recommend. It’s pretty simple and effective. Go get it.

– Gavin

If you want to email me, my email is hammerstandfitness@gmail.com – Feel free to email this address at any time!


  1. Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Zhang XJ, Volpi E, Wolf SE, Aarsland A, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Mar;286(3):E321-8.
  2. Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, Doyle D Jr, Wolfe RR.

Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999 Apr;276(4 Pt 1):E628-34.

  1. Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.
  2. Churchward-Venne TA1, Burd NA, et al. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein does with leucinssential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol. 2012 Jun 1;590(Pt 11):2751-65. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.228833. Epub 2012 Mar 25.
  3. Anthony JC, Lang CH, Crozier SJ, Anthony TG, MacLean DA, Kimball SR, Jefferson LS. Contribution of insulin to the translational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle by leucine. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;282(5):E1092-101.
  4. Bohe J, Low JF, Wolfe RR, Rennie MJ. Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol. 2001 Apr 15;532(Pt 2):575-9.
  5. Norton LE, Layman DK, Garlick PJ, Brana D, Anthony TG, Zhao L, Devkota S, Walker DA. Translational controls of skeletal muscle protein synthesis are delayed and prolonged associated with ingestion of a complete meal. 2007 Experimental Biology meeting abstracts [on CD-ROM], Abstract #694.6.
  6. Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. pulse feeding improves protein retention in elderly women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1202-8.
  7. Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Exogenous amino acids stimulate human muscle anabolism without interfering with the response to mixed meal ingestion. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Apr;288(4):E761-7.

Intelligent Macro Breakdown for the Athlete

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Before we get into the little nuances of health, let’s cover the top level first. Sherlock Michaels has done a fantastic job of covering your Total Daily Expenditure Estimate. To head back to the infogram, go here: http://imgur.com/z1cHiWb

So let’s go from there. We now know what our maintenance should be. For ease of calculations, let’s go with 3000 calories. That’s a great level to go with just for mathematical ease. There are a couple of tweaks that ISSA uses, but it comes out to be very close for an estimation anyway. The difficulty and amount of work is much greater, but if you’re interested here are two pictures of that technique:

Leanness Factor: http://i.imgur.com/cLRQ38z.gif

Expenditure Guide: http://i.imgur.com/1Ul0Rp5.gif

Remember, these are only estimates. Take the time to do this calculation, but also log your diet for two weeks. Once you figure out if you’re staying at the same bodyweight/body composition, start a caloric deficit of 300 cals (for our example 2700 cals Total Intake) from there and do work. If you’re wanting to gain weight, 3300 cals will be your target.

This is where we get into meat and potatoes of fitness. Each activity stresses your body differently and requires fuel in a different way.

Choose your goal and stick with it. Here is a very important chart for your goals:

As you can see, we have a breakdown of macronutrient ratios (the percentages are % of your total calories) for the goal at hand. It is just logical to take the macros for your goal and apply them to your diet. What most people don’t realize is that your food intake can change depending on what stage of preparation you are in for the year.

Different training events apply different stressors on the body. Food is fuel, period. Fuel your body to succeed. Let’s look at this a little closer to break it down. So for our examples we’ll take the two extremes of ‘Track and Field Long Distance’ and ‘Weightlifting’.

Let’s compare the two side by side:


Task      Fats       Pro       CHO

T&F –      25         15          60

W –     (10-15)  (30-40)  (50-55)

So we see the obvious that carbohydrates have increased for the distance events and protein has increased for the weightlifting. The surprising thing is that the fats have lowered. I chose the Season timeframe because they show the greatest disparity. I personally feel that fats could be higher and protein could be lower for the Weightlifting, but that isn’t the point. The point is to train towards your goals and this chart will get you in the ballpark.

Now that we have finished that step through, let’s go back to our example of 3000 calories needed. I’m going to do our In-Season weightlifter for the example. Once again I’m going to use 3000 for ease of calculations, but you need to do that for your individual needs:

Total Cals: 3000

Fats: (3000 cals) * (15%) = (450 cals) / (9 cals/g) = 50g

Protein: (3000 cals) * (30%) = (900 cals) / (4 cals/g) = 225g

Carbs: (3000 cals) * (55%) = (1650 cals) / (4 cals/g) = 412.5g

So there you have it. The ideal macro breakdown for this competition weightlifter would be around 50/225/412.5 grams. That’s how you breakdown your macros. There may need to be some tweaking for each person, but 80% of the people out there will fit into this category.

There are many other subjects that we can go into (protein/meal intake timing, quality/content of food, the GI and why it is overrated), but this will get you to about 95% of where you want to go.

Fats: The Old Villain

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Last week we touched on Carbohydrates and how they have now had an undeserved witch hunt for decades. That’s the old story for the ol’ lipids. Now this one has a lot of different info in it to cram into one place. This is due to fats being so complex, so I apologize for some “light” info. If any other details are needed, just ask!

When looking at fats or lipids you have many different categories. There are Triglycerides (unsaturated and saturated fats), Sterols (cholesterol is the most common but there are also phytosterols), and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). For EFAs, think of the Omegas (omega 3 or n-3s and omega 6 or n-6s).

With respect to saturated and unsaturated fats, we often associate saturated as unhealthy and unsaturated as ideal. This does not always hold true and as always the devil is in the details. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) have shown remarkable health benefits in many studies. They are easily absorbed and have even been included for some disease treatments (Waldmann’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s to name a few). For a 2000 cal diet, the RDI is 20 g of Saturated fatty acids with 65 g total intake. Just pay attention to not overdue these substances.

Cholesterol is a hot topic for certain. The RDI for Cholesterol is at 300 mg for a 2000 cal intake. Personally I feel this is kind of an antiquated reference. The idea that dietary cholesterol adds to serum (bloodstream) cholesterol is simply not there. There are loose links in clinicals, but nothing of substance. For this reason, I normally recommend people to not overdo it, but if you want to have eggs, go right ahead and eat the yoke. Try and mix up your fat sources, but don’t run away afraid of some scarecrow.

EFAs produce prostaglandins, which regulate functions like heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and conception, and inflammation. It also encourages the body to fight infection. Avoiding EFAs can lead to a number of issues including growth retardation, skin lesions, visual problems, kidney and liver diseases, reproductive failure, chronic intestinal disease, and even depression. These are essential to healthy living. You can get these from a few sources, but I like to recommend fatty fish like salmon for this micronutrient.

There are three types of Omega-3’s that we can consume. There is alphalinoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These three are known for their incredible anti-inflammatory properties. ALA is an essential acid that can be derived into both EPA and DHA, but the reverse does not hold true. Due to this, I recommend a diet high in EPA and DHA for your intake. ALA can be obtained through Flaxseeds and EPA/DHA can be consumed from fish oils.

The reason that fats have received their terrible name is the amount of calories in each gram. It is undeniable that nine kilocalories in each gram can add up quickly. That is undebatable, but what is debatable is that there are necessities for lipids in a performance diet. Don’t run away afraid of the boogeyman. Embrace him and show how you’re willing to embrace the upgrades to your performance. Go on. Get your goal.

– Gavin

Carbohydrate and the Saccharides

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Oh carbohydrates, how I feel for you. I think you’ve become the new “fat”. First Dr. Atkins, then Nutrisystem, and toss in a little Paleolithic jargon in the mix. Maybe some education will help to revive your destroyed reputation!

First off, what is a carbohydrate (CHO)? It is an organic compound with Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen that are broken down into sugars (glucose/sucrose, often monosaccharides and disaccharides and sometimes oligosaccharides), starches (polysaccharide), and celluloses (polysaccharide). These saccharides are the simplest form of a carbohydrate; similar to how proteins are built of amino acids.

I know what you’re thinking, “But what does it all mean?” Well, it means that some carbohydrates must break down before being digested. This is the true meaning between simple (easily broken down or already broken down and spikes blood sugar aka blood glucose levels) and complex (must be tediously broken down and has a slow release of blood glucose) carbohydrate sources. Hell, we even have an Index for such things: The Glycemic Index (GI). The GI has its limitations and it has been studied profusely, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

Carbohydrates are ESSENTIAL for your body’s energy path. The body will break these saccharides down into glucose. The glucose will then be transported throughout the body and used as energy. Ever heard of muscle glycogen? Guess where that originates! Your body uses glycogen to fuel the glycolysis path. It fuels this until you reach the lactic threshold (feel the burn) and can’t go anymore. Then it repurposes as much as it can until you go again or it’s tapped out on resources. It is NECESSARY for performance!

So I’m expecting most of you have now Googled the GI to find out what to avoid. Here’s the beauty of it all… The GI was done on fasted individuals with solely a carbohydrate meal. Read that again slowly. This is part of the reasons behind one of my dietary recommendations. For a mixed meal (proteins and fats included in the meal), the GI is affected GREATLY. It is to the point that it is nearly pointless to follow. It can also be modified with a high intake of fiber because fiber is nearly impossible to digest (hence why it does a great job of “cleaning you out”). So always have your protein spread out evenly throughout your meals (for even more reasons that I will get into on my Muscle Protein Synthesis post). This will attenuate your GI “spikes” and will also help you feel satiated (protein is far more satiating than CHOs).

What about Gluten? Gluten is bad, right? Well, that is a difficult and “gray area” question. Now, I want to make a distinction before I go into details. Gluten is a protein composite made from gliadin and glutenin. This protein causes the dough that you eat (most often bread) to have a chewy, more “pleasing” texture. I placed this in the CHO category for the reason that it is in grains. For some people with Celiac’s disease as well as Wheat Allergies, gluten/wheat is TERRIBLE. It constitutes approximately 80% of the protein in wheat fruit.

Here is the kicker. Celiac’s disease has been diagnosed to approximately 1 out of every 133 people (or about .75%). [1] Most of that estimate hasn’t even been confirmed. What does this mean? Most of the people who have self-diagnosed it have misdiagnosed the issue. It is likely some other issue that hasn’t been investigated. For everybody else, gluten is perfectly fine.

The last subject I want to cover is fiber. Fiber is so important. So, so, so very important. I cannot stress this enough. If you want your digestive track to operate like a well-oiled machine, get in your fiber! A good estimate I’d say is that you need at least 35g a day and I would put the high end up in the 60-70g range. Fiber will help normalize the bowels as well as help them maintain healthy operations. You will also likely lower cholesterol as well as regulate blood sugar (see, toldja). [2]

I want to leave you with this tid bit. There isn’t an athlete out there whom I would not have carbohydrates as the highest consumed macronutrient for performance.

1. Celiac Disease Fast Facts. < http://www.celiaccentral.org/celiac-disease/facts-and-figures/ > National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA)

2. Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. < http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983 > Mayo Clinic

Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

I’ve decided to do a series on little nuances of a diet. There is a large difference between the terms dieting and diet. One is often represented by a caloric deficit and the other is what you consume. We’re going to focus on the latter and how the intake affects our performance.

“A calorie is a calorie.” We hear this all the time. While it is true (a calorie is a unit of measure for energy), it is still only half of the story. Let’s look at the other half for a protein.

What is a protein? Well, it is a macronutrient that is built from differing amino acid (AA) chains. These AAs are connected through peptide bonds. When a protein is synthesized, water is released and a bond has formed connecting the aminos. This is another reason why water is so important.

So why does this matter? Well there are twenty amino acids that matter to human biology. We have continued to split them into three groups; Non-Essential (NEAA), Conditionally Non-Essential (CNEAA), and Essential (EAA). The names are pretty self-explanatory, but basically the level of “essentialness” is derived from whether or not the body can come up with these AAs on its own without a direct consumption of it. The nine essential are the ones most commonly needed to be concerned about, because these are what your body cannot convert:

Of the nine EAAs, we are left with a very special subgroup; Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These three account for 35% of the EAAs in muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals. [1]

A protein is only a complete protein if it holds all twenty of these amino acids. That is to say, it holds a “complete profile of amino acids”. Incomplete proteins lack at least one amino acid. That is neither good nor bad because we have to just consume varying profiles to fill in the gaps.

This leads us to why we need protein. It is for muscle and ultimately body repair. I can dive further into what each amino will do (and I certainly plan on doing that with leucine), but this is a very general overview. You, all of you, need this macronutrient in your diet. Training is very stressful on the body.

This leads to a necessitated consumption to repair. Don’t neglect your intake. We can get into a discussion about absorption, synthesis, acidosis, renal issues (My personal concerns are not much, pretty discerned, very little, and next to none respectively), but it is undeniable that any  individual that desires to perform at a high level needs to not neglect this valuable macronutrient.


1. Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Naoya Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA (2004). “Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise”. J. Nutr. 134 (6): 1583S–1587S. Retrieved 22 March 2011