We’d all like to have more energy. Energy helps us get through our days much easier, and for those of us who exercise, we’d enjoy more productive workouts.
Aside from proper eating; which is the base for all health and performance attributes, there are an array of supplements available through The Life Extension Foundation which contributes to stamina and endurance. Before I get to explaining some of these products, let me back up a bit and discuss the food issue.
I’m sure by now you’re aware that improper eating habits burdens the body in so negative many ways. Digestion is sluggish. And assimilation is even worse, because what are you assimilating? Junky substances, right? And when our digestive systems our subjected to overloads, extra energy is needed for the adequate break down and assimilation of food rather than be available for daily chores and exercise.
After foods are broken down, they journey into the body awaiting a reassembling process. After permeating into the body they go to work on making new body tissues, repair damaged cells, and provides us with energy. Food moves through our intestinal tract with a process know as peristalsis. During peristalsis food particles permeate the surrounding intestinal linings and enter the bloodstream. It is in the intervascular spaces were food particles are transported to the various cites of the body to enact their roles of growth, maintenance and repair.
When burdensome foods are eaten, one will feel weak and sluggish. Internal energy is needed for the process of cleaning up after that junky meal instead of having the zest needed to play several matches on the tennis court, go running down the beach side, or just having the energy to play with your kids when you get home from work. Eating right contributes to the energy we all wish to attain. And it is those who have the most energy who are those who eat the best. Case in point.
As important as eating the correct foods is to providing abundant supplies of energy, eating at the correct time is just as important, especially if you’re a true performance seeker.
Contrary to what many may believe, the so-called pre-workout drink or meal is not the most effective way to fuel your muscles for performance. Sure, energy can be extracted from foods [or drinks] eaten close to a workout, but this energy is in the form of glucose which is a faster burning fuel than the fuel you can obtain when proper meal timing is conducted. If you are to rely on the so-called sports drinks to fuel your workouts with energy, as long as these drinks are consumed during regular intervals throughout your workout periods, blood sugar levels will remain consistent avoiding any crashes in energy and performance.
The body preferentially chooses to burn the most immediate fuel it has access to; most often, its glucose from meals or drinks consumed shortly before the activity. When glucose is not used as fuel, the body has the ability to convert it into a longer fuel source called glycogen which is shuttled out of the bloodstream and stored in the muscles and the liver were it awaits burning.
Most often, nonconverted glucose will turn to fat. This is why extremely high carbohydrate diets aren’t making us any leaner. But when glucose is consumed immediately after a workout; when fuel sources are depleted from the training session, the body shifts to a repletion mode and converts a much higher percentage of the carbohydrates (or sugars) consumed at these times into glycogen, the more powerful and longer acting fuel source.
During intense or long duration exercise periods the muscles and liver often become glycogen depleted. Glycogen is comprised of carbon (C), oxygen (O), and hydrogen (H), all molecules extracted from the carbohydrates or sugars we eat. When carbohydrates are eaten, through a specific metabolic process, the COH are broken off from these foods and reassembled in the muscles to form glycogen. Glycogen is used for short bursts of energy. The more glycogen you have the more short bursts you can perform in your weight workouts, tennis matches, etc.. And the more short bursts you enact in your training, the more glycogen is being depleted. When you fatigue from exercise, you can bet you’re low in glycogen.
The best time to replenish glycogen is immediately after a workout–I mean immediately. This is the time when your muscles are drained of their energy, glycogen that is. And the first metabolic objective mother nature has encoded is to replenish lost energy. Once energy is repleted the body shifts to a tissue repairing metabolism, also known as anabolism, which stands to reason why protein meals should follow carbohydrate meals. This refueling method increases the energy and performance for your upcoming workouts right after your last; it’s filling up you car with gas when it’s out of fuel but not necessarily going to drive it for some time. But the next time you get into your car you have a full tank of gas and can travel much farther by avoiding any unnecessary pit stops to refuel.
Waiting to consume a carbohydrate meal or drink as much as 15 – 30 minutes after exercise can dramatically narrow this glycogen repletion window of opportunity. And those who do not eat or drink a carbohydrate meal immediately after a workout are missing the ultimate opportunity to refuel themselves.
The best ways to restore glycogen is by consuming simple carbohydrates as exercise sessions are closing and (again) immediately afterwards. If you’re performing any type of marathon training sessions, or involve yourself in any other types of long activities, sip on carbohydrates frequently throughout, then after these sessions.
Carbohydrate drinks have become popular due to their convenience and taste. These products are high in the good simple carbs and are ingested very rapidly into the body. With their high glycemic response, simple sugars taken at these opportune time will combine with insulin and be shuttled into the muscles then the liver. If these carbs are taken outside the perimeters of training or exercise periods, excess body fat may develop as the muscles [most likely] will have already become filled with their glycogen needs and any spill over may accumulate as adipose tissue.
Although there are plenty of good carbohydrate drinks on the market, in my opinion, the best ones contain long chain glucose polymers, sugars with a special configuration and glycemic rating. After some simple carbs are consumed, complex carbohydrates should be eaten for the first two meals after each workout. Some great food sources of complex carbohydrates are rice, potatoes, grains, pastas, and beans.
Your protein window of opportunity begins approximately 60 – 90 minutes after exercise cessation and lasts for many hours thereafter–this depends on the intensity of the workout. Since exercise depletes glucose and glycogen, the body’s most immediate nutritional need after exercise is [again] carbohydrate.
After that, consume your protein as the body is switching from a fuel replenishing phase into a tissue rebuilding phase also know as anabolism. Never consume a protein food or drink to close to a workout. Protein, at this point, will not act as a fuel source for your workout and may hinder performance.
Chromium Picolinate: As mentioned, when sugar enters muscle cells it is synthesized there then converted into glycogen where it is retained and used as fuel. Insulin plays a major role in moderating sugar metabolism however the muscles of many people are insensitive to insulin to varying capacities. This is why so many people get or stay fat when they’re eating healthy meals consisting of fruits and complex carbohydrates. Insulin transports sugars to the tissue cites, but often times the muscles reject much of the delivery, returning the rejected sugar back into the bloodstream where it can eventually turn to fat.
Tissue sensitivity for insulin is enhanced when sufficient amounts of chromium are present in the body. In its picolinate form, chromium is a micronutrient that shuttles more sugar into the tissues cooperating with insulin as the chaperones of fuel.
The best times to use chromium picolinate is during high carbohydrate meals. As noted, the body prefers to replenish depleted glycogen after exercise. So by supplementing a good carbohydrate meal (drink or meal) with chromium will ensure more glycogen repletion and less accumulation of body fat. Additionally, those who use chromium picolinate regularly experience better shape and tone as their muscles are holding more energy inside the tissues.
L-Carnitine: Like chromium, L-carnitine has a similar action. But instead of shuttling sugar into the tissue cites, L-carnitine shuttles fat. Inside each cell contain organs called mitochondria. The mitochondria are often referred to as the cells factories were fat is processed to be burned as fuel. An analogy is that mitochondria are like the fireplaces in your home, while the logs represent the fat. As long as you shovel the logs into the fireplace, they will be metabolized and create heat and energy. If the logs cannot enter the fireplace, there’s simply nothing to burn. And the logs will never be burned as long as they stay outside the fireplace.
L-carnitine acts as the shuttling agent that grabs the logs and tosses them into the fireplace. More scientifically, L-carnitine attaches itself to fat and chaperones it into the mitochondria.
Fat is the longest acting source of energy, a source that’s almost impossible to run out of. Sugar, on the other hand, can be depleted in just a few seconds or minutes of activity–try an all out 100 meter dash and see how much energy you have remaining. When sufficient amounts of L-carnitine are present in the bloodstream fat will consistently be delivered into the mitochondria and used as fuel.
The best times to take an L-carnitine supplement is 1 hour before exercise and immediately afterwards. Once inside the body, L-carnitine will start to recruit fat and begin transportation to the mitochondria. When exercise ceases, and energy requirements subside, L-carnitine will continue to shuttle fat into the mitochondria were it can be stored for future use.
Velvet Deer Antler: Soviet sports scientists began experimenting with velvet deer antler extracts on athletes as a natural [and safe] anabolic steroid alternative. Findings indicated an increase in work capacity, decreased skeletal muscular fatigue, improved mental functions, and increased recovery from training.
One controlled studied found that antler extracts improved performance in athletes on an exercise cycle from 15 kg/m dynamic work to 74 kg/m, a considerably large increase.
In his work with athletes, Arkady Koltun, M.D., Ph. D., a former Soviet sports scientist states, “Information gathered from Siberian scientific research institutions demonstrated that using antler extracts on athletes exhibited neurotropic (nerve growth) benefits as well as myotropic (muscle tissue growth) effects. Using this substance enhances innervation for skeletal tissues, important for maximal athletic output. Soviet research also shows that nervous system depression after exhaustion restored much quicker”.
As a proven booster of the immune system, circulatory system, and endocrine system, antler extracts have been contributing to great health for centuries. Recently, antler use has penetrated Western nutritional and medicinal sciences. The applications on athletes has established a reputation as a natural and safe performance enhancing substance that is (currently) not in jeopardy from any IOC ban.
Antler use is beneficial for both strength and endurance athletes…for both anaerobic and aerobic systems respectively. Antler contains the bioactive constituents that exhibit myotropic and neurotropic properties while at the same time, benefits the central nervous and circulatory systems. In fact, Oriental doctors use antler extracts to increase hemoglobin and blood volume. With an increase in circulatory fluid, more efficient oxygen utilization results in greater endurance.