Pre and Post Workout Support
Electrolytes, L-Carnitine and Protein
You’re active. You exercise outdoors whenever the weather permits, and you hit the gym when it’s not so nice out. But are you properly fueling your body before and after your workout?
PRE WORKOUT SUPPORT
Let’s begin with one of the most important things to get right before you start your workout: hydration and electrolyte balance. Electrolyte-enriched products—including water, tea, juices, gels, tablets, and bars—are ideal when you exercise. But who needs them? Why? And when?
Electrolytes are minerals in the body and compounds that bind to them to create salts, such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulfate. Electrolyte molecules are positively or negatively charged, which allows them to carry electrical impulses that transmit nerve signals which work to contract muscles. Sounds important, right? It is! If this weren’t working properly, you’d cramp or seize up. And that – as we all can attest to – is painful. Electrolytes also work to maintain fluid and acid-base balance – even when not exercising - making them an invaluable health asset at any time.
Sweating is the body’s way of ridding itself of heat, but unfortunately this rids us of electrolytes too. Training in hot weather is when you are most likely to need electrolyte replacement. Muscle cramps are one hint that electrolytes may be running low - when you’re sweating a lot.
For most of us, a normal diet provides more than enough electrolytes to meet the body’s needs. But there are times when electrolytes from food alone may not be enough. For light exercise in moderate climates, replenishing water without electrolytes is likely sufficient. But when temperatures rise or workouts are prolonged, more electrolytes may be lost through sweat than can be replenished through your diet. Drinking water alone is often not enough.
Most electrolyte replacement products provide mainly sodium and potassium since these are lost in the largest quantities when we sweat. We only lose very small amounts of magnesium. But keep in mind that since magnesium is essential to relax the muscles, it is important not to get too low. One way to get magnesium into you after an intense workout is to have an Epsom salt bath. Taking an Epsom salt bath helps restore magnesium and sulfate in your system as they are absorbed through your skin.
There are a lot of natural health products focused around electrolytes. For healthy adults, sports drinks are most popular for electrolyte replacement, but if you’re working out with weight loss in mind, watch the sugar content! Most people don’t need the extra calories. Also try and select those that don’t have artificial colours and flavours.
Besides electrolytes, L-carnitine (an amino acid) is something you may want to try prior to exercise that can improve your athletic performance naturally. This is a good supplement to take if you participate in endurance activities, such as running. It helps with transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria (the energy manufacturing site in all of our cells). L-carnitine which is normally manufactured by the human body, and has the ability to increase work capacity may make exercise more productive, particularly among people carrying too much fat tissue. The body needs the amino acids lysine and methionine, vitamin C, iron, niacin, and vitamin B6 to produce carnitine.
So now you’re hydrated, electrolytes are full, you’ve got an L-carnitine boost and now it’s time to work out. But, everyone wants to know what the best fat burning workout is. The answer is simple: the one that has the highest metabolic cost. In other words- the workout that burns the most calories.
Most folks think that simply exercising burns a lot of calories, but the truth is the number of calories burned during an exercise session is usually not that high. It is what happens after your workout is finished that matters most.
EPOC stands for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”. Basically this means the amount of calories your body burns in the 23 hours following your workout. The higher the EPOC, the greater the fat loss. Guess what has the highest EPOC effect? Resistance training! Yup, not the treadmill or stairmaster – but, rather weight training. So the next time you’re at the gym try a circuit - a form of body conditioning or resistance training using high-intensity aerobics which targets strength building and muscular endurance and satisfies your cardiovascular training requirements all in one.
POST WORKOUT SUPPORT
So, after you’ve had the workout of your life, here is what you do to replenish.
The amino acid L-Glutamine in orange juice helps improve post workout recovery. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and your muscles rely heavily on it to maintain size. The other benefit of the amino acid glutamine is that it also supports your immune system. But what about the right protein?
Whey protein is fast and easy to digest, and provides all of the amino acids you need for recovery. Our bodies rely on nutrition to make certain amino acids – some it can make on its own – and whey is ideal for meeting all essential amino acid needs. What is important is that whey also supplies branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which research shows, will help muscle recovery after intense workouts.
One alternative to whey protein is casein. The main difference is that casein is slower to digest. Some research suggests that casein may beat out whey in terms of promoting strength and lean body mass gains in people following a structured weight-training plan. Preliminary research shows casein seems to have more of a time release effect, delivering amino acids to the muscles over time.
Rice protein on the other hand is hypoallergenic – it is less likely to create sensitivity or allergic reactions. It is a plant source making it appropriate for vegetarians. One interesting advantage is that rice protein contains a high proportion of arginine, an amino acid known to dilate blood vessels, possibly enhancing blood flow to muscles, but can’t supply all of the essential amino acids as it isn’t a complete protein. Some products will combine rice protein with proteins from other sources (soy, milk, pea, etc) which make it complete.
Soy protein is also a form of plant protein that provides all essential amino acids, making it a good option for vegetarians. Soy protein comes in two basic forms: soy protein isolate and soy protein concentrate. Soy protein isolate is the most highly purified form, and has a minimum protein content of 90%. Soy protein concentrate contains a few more carbohydrates, and its protein content falls in around 70%. Concentrates tend to cost a little less, but if you find soy protein concentrate doesn’t agree with you, try isolate, which is easier to digest.
Pea protein is yet another form of plant protein that supplies a unique array of essential and non-essential amino acids. It is especially high in lysine and arginine. Lysine can help absorb calcium and form collagen - the building block of connective tissue such as bones, cartilage, skin, tendons. Lack of lysine can lead to fatigue, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, agitation, bloodshot eyes, slow growth, anemia, and reproductive disorders.
My favourite post workout protein still comes in the form of “real food” over protein powders or bars. A piece of roasted chicken or egg protein is ideal for those looking to lean up and build muscle. Egg has a very high protein efficiency ratio (PER) - a measure of how well our bodies can use any particular form of protein. The higher the PER, the more efficiently our bodies can use that protein when we eat it. Egg protein is a complete protein, a good source of essential and branched chain amino acids, and has a surprisingly high PER. If you’re vegan, remember that all you need to do is mix a high protein grain with a bean or legume and you have 100% protein. One of my favourites is a half cup of black rice with ¼ cup of lentils and ¼ cup of Mexican red beans. These three combined have some of the highest protein value as well as pack a tremendous antioxidant punch (which helps to sweep off the mess of inflammation that follows any intense workout).
Keep in mind that for the most part, your body won’t use much beyond 30 grams of protein at a time, so it doesn’t make sense to load up with more than this. Not to mention it can be tough on your kidneys if you overdo it.
Fuel up and get at it my friends!