Sunday, April 19, 2015

Real Food Alternatives To Gels

Annie's Cheddar bunnies - "stolen" from my son
Last week I wrote about how latest published research show that fast food from McDonald's is just as good for recovery compared to Gatorade, Cytomax and PowerBars etc.

But what about your long exercise sessions or when you race half marathon distances and longer? You definitely will require some nutrition along the way or you'll risk hitting the dreaded wall.

No way you can or should wolf down fries, hamburgers daily while training since it is not nutritionally sound long term.

Gels, PowerBars, Sport Beans are not exactly my thing. So now that I'm not racing anymore, I can share with you what I eat when I've had enough of the gels, PowerBars etc.

Let me discuss some whole food alternatives you can use to fuel yourself in your longer training sessions or races.

Firstly, they should fuel well you without making you bloated or make you wanna go to the toilet. For me, I find that simple carbohydrates, less protein and fat with low fibre work best.

Well, everyone's system is different and others may be tolerate more fibre, but not me. I'll end up running to the nearest petrol station toilet or bushes if I can't find a toilet when I consume too much fibre before running.

The food you train/ race with should be easy to transport. No chance of you eating spaghetti while out riding with your regular cycling group right?

Last point, to be able to fuel yourself sufficiently, you'll need between 30-60 grams of carbohydrate every hour (depending on how hard you train and how much you weigh). You can of course mix your "real food" with a sports drink, gel or bar if you like too.

Here's my list of real food that works - for me anyway. I always carry a large banana with me on long bike rides (probably tough to bring on a run though).

On a long run, I find that raisins and cashew nuts (it has higher fat content though) work well for me. I'll put them in a zip lock bag or wrap them in some aluminium foil. I love zip lock bags! Even my wallet is a zip lock bag. Waterproof- great if you're caught in a thunderstorm. I find that sliced apples work well for me too.

I've been using a zip lock bag as my wallet since 1997.
Sometimes I take a packet of my son's Snackimals. They all taste much better than gels and bars.

Snacikmals- my son's favourite
Hope I gave you ideas for some other real food options.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fast Food Just As Good For Recovery As Sport Supplements

Picture by Mike Prosser from Flickr
I'm not saying you should pig out after your race or exercise session at McDonald's with their fries, hot cakes, hash brown or even a Coke etc, but a newly published study found that fast food from McDonald's is just as good for recovery and subsequent performance as sport supplements.

In the study, athletes performed two separate tests on a stationary bike. After finishing a 90-minute bike session that included some tough intervals, the subjects underwent muscle biopsies to measure their (depleted) levels of glycogen.

For the next four hours, they rested in a chair while consuming either of two meals - fast food or sports food supplements. After doing another leg biopsy, they did a 20 km time trial to confirm that their muscles were replenished.

The fast food consists of Hotcakes, fries, hash brown, a hamburger, orange juice and a Coke from McDonald's. Total calories was 1330.

The sports food consists of Gatorade (20 oz), Kit's Organic PB bar, Clif Shot, Cytomax (10 oz), PowerBar and PowerBar energy chews. Total calories was 1303.

A week later, the subjects repeated the tests while eating fast food if they ate the sports food the first time and vice versa. Subjects were informed about the the two types of meals and could see the packaging and labels etc.

The meals were similar in carbohydrates, protein, fats and calories, about 70 percent carbohydrate and 10 percent protein.

Both protocols produced similar levels of glycogen resynthesis (recovery), glucose and insulin response and time trial performance.

The researchers were most surprised to find nearly identical blood data, and nearly identical time trial results regardless of whether they consumed fast food or so called sports supplements.

They concluded that fast food in the right amounts can be just as good (and much cheaper) for recovery as compared to sports nutrition products/ supplements which costs a lot more.

I guess this is similar to the drink chocolate milk for recovery post I wrote a while ago showing that chocolate milk is as good for recovery as Gatorade and superior to Endurox which is much more expensive.

I don't know about you, I prefer real food any time.


Cramer MJ, Dumke CL et al. (2015). Post-exercise Glycogen Recovery And Exercise Performance Is Not Significantly Different Between Fast Food And Sport Supplements. Int J Sp Nutr Exer Metab. DOI:

Fries - my favourite for recovery- but frown upon by my wife though.

Picture by xioubin low from Flickr

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Low Carb Or Low Fat?

Picture by USDA from Flickr
Which diet is more effective at losing weight? Low carb or low fat? There is so much written recently on losing weight so how do you sift through all that information presented?

Well, let me sum up a gold standard study done recently for you. This is probably a one of its kind of study done in a controlled environment where all subjects lived in a metabolic ward for six days during the study which allowed the researchers to strictly control their diets.

There was no exercise done during the study but all the subjects participated in both parts of the dietary trials after a cooling off period between the diets. The 19 subjects were young, obese but healthy men and women who followed a 30 per cent carb/ 49 per cent fat or 72 per cent carb/ 7 percent fat diet.

On their normal diets, the subjects consumed about 2720 calories a day. During this study, this dropped to 1920 calories. This is identical for each participant regardless of whether they were on the low carb or low fat diet.

The results were split. The low carb diet yielded greater weight loss, but the low fat diet yielded greater loss of body fat, which is considered the more important outcome.

If you like analysing numbers, the low carb eaters lost 4.8 pounds, including 8.32 ounces of body fat while the low fat eaters lost 2.86 pounds but lost 13.9 ounces of body fat. To sum up, the low carb eaters lost 46 per cent more body weight, but the low fat eaters lost 67 per cent more body fat.

As with previous studies, this study confirms that low carb diets show rapid results. This may be due to large amounts of water lost from the body when carbohydrates are limited. This loss may not represent a true change in body tissue. If not maintained, this low carb weight loss advantage generally disappears after six to twelve months.

The researchers reported that their data suggest that the greater fat imbalance is likely to persist with the low fat diet leading to more long term body fat loss than the low carb diet.

Most weight loss and metabolism researchers suggest that the goal of a weight loss program should be to maximise body fat levels while minimising muscle loss. Why you will probably ask? Body fat (especially belly fat) releases hormones and enzymes that lead to negative health consequences. Muscles on the other hand releases health enhancing hormones. And exercise excels at this.

More reason for you to lose that beer belly.


Hall KD, Bemis T, Brychta RJ rt al (2015). Is A Calorie A Calorie? Metabolic Fat Balance Following Selective Isocaloric Restriction Of Dietary Carbohydrate Vs Fat In Obese Adults. Abstact from 2015 Endocrine's Society 95th Annual Meeting and Expo. Poster Board THR-553. Session THR 549-580. Thursday March 5, 2015.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew

For all you have done. Forever grateful.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Napping Increases Your Pain Tolerance

Napping or knocked out?
Well, here's a study showing a great reason for you to nap, if you can afford to take one.

If you haven't had a good night's sleep, consider a quick morning snooze instead. The quick catnap may not make you less sleepy but research shows a surprising benefit of a quick 30 minute snooze, subjects became less sensitive to pain.

In this study, researchers restricted the healthy subjects to just two hours of sleep. The subjects were then tested for pain tolerance with heat, cold and pressure on their upper back, lower back and thighs.

The subjects reported that their lower backs hurt more with heat and their upper backs felt worse with pressure compared to when they were well rested and not sleep deprived.

On another occasion, the subjects went through the same tests, albeit with two 30 minute naps in the morning and afternoon. The naps did not reduce sleepiness, in fact most subjects said they felt more sleepy after the naps.

What was surprising was that the naps restored pain sensitivity to previous baseline levels.

Bearing in mind that naps are not a substitute for a full night's rest, this may be indicative that napping may help recovery processes that occur during sleep including tissue repair and growth hormone release.

Not every subject in the stusy had the same degree of benefit and more research will be needed to confirm results.

My take on this? Try short 10-30 minute naps in the late morning (especially if you get up very early to train) and see if this helps your training. I find that if I nap in the afternoon it becomes more difficult for me to fall asleep that night.


Faraut B, Leger D et al (2015). Napping Reverses Increased Pain Sensitivity Due To Sleep Restriction. PlosOne. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117425.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why Your Doctor May Not Give The Best Nutritional Advice

Picture by DES Daughter from Flickr
While doing some research on the Mediterranean-style diet (that will probably be another post), I came across and read with interest an article in the Chicago Tribune. Of the many, many thousand hours that doctors spend training to become doctors, only 19 of those are devoted to studying nutrition.

Not surprising then that a study from the Journal of American College of Nutrition shows that 14 % of internal medicine interns feel they can talk adequately to their patients although 94 % feel it's their responsibility to do so.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against doctors nor do I claim to be an expert in nutrition. How can I be since I love eating chips and drinking Coke (although I very seldom indulge now after my accident).

For most people I know, doctors are their gatekeepers to health information. They know doctors are educated in their profession and are generally trustworthy. It seems then that a doctor's advice must be reliable. I guess some people think curing diseases/ illnesses" is the same as preventing diseases/ illnesses.

Let me be clear here though, my opinion is that this is a failing of the medical educational system and not the fault of our doctors.

One of medicine's basic tenets: "First do no harm." So doctors must make sure any treatment must not make a patients's condition worse. For nutrition, this usually translates into standard dietary advice.

Let me give you an example. A doctor is faced with the choice of giving a recommendation that's in line with the status quo such as limiting sodium (or salt) intake, or go against the norm by saying that you don't have to worry about salt intake.The doctor will usually avoid controversy and just say limit salt intake.

Also among other obstacles? In the same Chicago Tribune article, it is suggested that "many physicians are overweight themselves and may feel uncomfortable talking about healthy diet and physical activity when they themselves struggle with similar issues."

When faced with conflicting information, most of us deal with it in different ways. Some like my wife (bless her) are self-learners, they read voraciously until they can navigate through the noise. Most people may just default to someone they trust to tell them what to do.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

After You Donate Blood .....

..... you can race again in about 2 weeks, according to published research.

Picture by Howard Lake from Flickr
That's about how long it takes before you regain your pre donation levels.

A group of regular blood donor runners with normal blood levels did a 3 kilometre treadmill time trial in this particular study. The time trial was repeated 2, 7, 14 and 28 days after donating blood. Their haemoglobin (Hb) levels were measured on those sessions. Hb is a protein in the red blood cells that ferries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

3 days after giving blood, the runners were about 5.4 % slower before giving blood. 2 weeks after giving blood, the runners had regained the pre donation speed although Hb levels were still 5.9 % lower.

28 days later, the runners ran as quick as pre donation, but Hb levels were still lower (even though they were higher than after 2 weeks).
This study measured 3 kilometre time trial performance, bear in mind that fif you want to race well for longer events, you may take a longer time to regain your pre donation levels.

The researchers suggest that you can resume training the next day after giving blood, but wait at least 2 weeks before you rave again.


Zieglar, AK, Grand, J et al (2014). Time Course For The Recovery Of Physical Performance, Blood Hemoglobin, And Ferritin Content After Blood Donation. Transfusion. DOI: 10.11111./trt.12926.