Podcast #11 – Meet Your Macros: Fat

We are finishing up our series of casts to cover in a little more detail the three major macro-nutrients that you should be paying attention to. We’ve covered protein and carbs, now it’s time for fat.

For more detailed info on fats, check out Gavin’s Dietary Dossier:

Fats: The Old Villain

And chef Matt’s write up on cooking oils:

On the Subject of Fats

 

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Podcast #9 – Meet Your Macros: Protein

We will be running a short series of casts to cover in a little more detail the three major macro-nutrients that you should be paying attention to. First up is protein. the building blocks of your body.

If you would like even more information on what helps build up your muscles, check out some of our other posts:

Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Protein

Leucine and Driving Muscle Protein Synthesis

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.

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.

Reference

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