The Best Recovery Practices for Endurance Athletes

Best Recovery Practices

You know that sensation, when you have bottomless power, breathing is deep, and pushing hard feels so good? When you are strong, motivated, and invincible. These are the days when you slay your training and smash your race goals.

The secret to these training days and hitting race day in peak form is nailing your recovery.  Two recovery practices are foundational and must-not be missed:

 

Nutrition

Sleep

While there are many more accessory recovery techniques that can be used to complement nutrition and sleep, if you are not getting in the right nutrition and enough sleep, the accessory recovery techniques will have minimal advantage. You should focus your efforts on getting those two recovery habits perfected to get the most bang for your buck.

 

Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrition

For weekend warrior athletes training two to three times per week, following a normal daily nutrition plan with no special additions is sufficient for optimal recovery before the next training session.

For athletes training once per day or more often, refuelling for the next workout as quickly as possible is crucial. Refuelling accurately and consistently after workouts will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolster the immune system.

Athletes who optimize post-exercise nutrition will perform better in their next training session and accumulate more high quality sessions than athletes skipping post-exercise recovery fuelling.

There are two post-exercise recovery fuelling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is in the two to three hours post-exercise.

Short easy training sessions do not require special recovery nutrition. Athletes are best sticking to their daily nutrition plan with a normal whole foods meal after easy training sessions.

 

30 Minute Post-Exercise

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately on finishing a workout, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses with a sodium containing drink or water plus sodium containing food.

Estimate fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking 500 to 700 ml of fluid for every ½ Kg lost.

To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. For a 70kg athlete this would be 56g of carbohydrate and 14g of protein.

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein can be replaced with a commercial recovery drink, a homemade smoothie or with real food plus water.

Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, probiotics, medium chain triglycerides and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are good additions to a recovery drink or snack.

 

Two To Three Hours Post-Exercise

Continue your recovery nutrition two to three hours post-exercise by eating a whole foods meal. It is okay to eat earlier than this if you are hungry but do not delay this post-exercise meal more than three hours.

This meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, about 20g of protein and some fat. Dividing daily protein intake into four or more 20g meals has been shown to have a greater stimulus on protein synthesis than two big meals with 40g protein per meal or 8 smaller meals with 10g per meal.

A 20g helping of protein is the sweet spot to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

After a training session on a hot day, immediately cool your body down if your core temperature feels hot by drinking cool fluids, sitting in cool water or air conditioning and pouring iced water over your head. Cooling off will halt continued dehydration and increase your appetite.

 

The Benefits of Good Sleep

Studies have shown increasing duration asleep leads to increased performance and mental well-being in athletes. We also know chronic sleep debt impairs performance and reduces motivation to excel.

Foundation sleep recommendations for adult athletes are 8 to 10 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap between 2 to 4 PM. I know that is a tough call for most athletes to achieve along with all the other responsibilities of life.

Junior athletes need even more sleep with 9 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap in the afternoon.

 

Increasing Your Sleep Quality and Duration

Along with sleep duration, sleep quality and sleep phase also affect the regenerative qualities of sleep. Sleep quality can be improved by reducing disturbances by wearing earplugs and sleeping in a cool, dark room.

Following a pre-sleep routine of relaxing activities, avoiding light exposure from screens in the hour before bed, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after noon and alcohol in the evening may increase your sleep quality and duration.

Restless leg syndrome can occur in athletes with low serum iron levels and disrupt normal sleep patterns.

Exercising late in the day can make sleep elusive for some athletes. Summertime evening group training or local races make sleep especially hard to come by. Following up an intense evening session with inadequate sleep is a poor combination. Athletes losing sleep after these evening sessions are advised to switch their intense training sessions to the morning and put their evening hours towards lower intensity activities such as yoga, stretching, and massage.

 

Measuring Your Sleep

If you can measure it, you can improve it!

Use a sleep tracking app to measure your sleep duration and quality then identify factors that improve it. I was able to identify that red wine helps me fall asleep more quickly but it reduces my sleep quality and duration. I confirmed much to my dismay that avoiding screens e.g. laptops, TV, phones etc. in the hour before bed dramatically improves both my sleep quality and duration.

It is easier to sleep in the spring, fall and winter than mid-summer due to long days. Cover your bedroom windows with foil or install light blocking curtains to darken your bedroom and help extend your sleep time.

 

Accessory Recovery Techniques

After you have taken care of the big two, nutrition and sleep, there are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, rolfing, cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, supplements such as tart cherry juice, and more.

Stress reduction is one of the more important accessory recovery techniques. Trying to add too many accessory recovery techniques on top of an already busy schedule may add stress and be counterproductive. Pick a few accessory recovery techniques you enjoy and have easy access to, rather than trying to fit every single one of them into your schedule. For example, dipping your nightly sleep time below 8 hours to log 30 minutes in the sauna is not a good trade off.

 

Take Rest and Recovery Seriously

We are all busy. A common mistake many athletes make is to use their rest days to run endless errands and their recovery weeks to tackle bigger projects. One of my athletes built a deck behind his house in a recovery week! He ended the week sore and exhausted and we had to follow that week up with another recovery week in order for any quality training to get done.

On your rest days and recovery weeks, plan massages and lots of downtime, put your feet up and really unload fatigue. Recover as hard as you train.

 

Example of a Post-exercise Recovery Routine

  • Finish race or hard training bout and grab a recovery drink to sip during your cool down
  • Take a 10 minute ice-bath or cold river soak
  • Clean up and shower
  • 10 minute stretch
  • 20 minute compression legs such as Elevated Legs
  • 30 minute nap
  • Meal with 20g protein and a combination of carbohydrate and fat
  • Go to bed with enough time to get 8 hours of sleep

 

Eat well, sleep well and recover fast because your competitors probably are doing it!

 

References :

 Nutrition to Support Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Optimal Carbohydrate and Protein Replacement. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26166054

Post-exercise carbohydrate-protein supplementation improves subsequent exercise performance and intracellular signalling for protein synthesis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21522069

Nutritional strategies to promote post-exercise recovery http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116024

Sleep as a recovery tool for athletes  http://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2014/11/17/6066/

Sleep, recovery and human performance http://canadiansportforlife.ca/sites/default/files/resources/Sleep_Recovery_Jan2013_EN_web.pdf

The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3119836/

Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883392

 

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Top 5 Dietary Fat Myths Busted

By Kim McDevitt, MPH RD on August 28, 2017

top-5-fat-myths

Top 5 Fat Myths

The discussion around fats and our diet has gone across the spectrum and back again. There was a time when we were told to avoid fats of any form, launching the fat-free dietary craze and then we ran in the complete opposite direction, thanks to Atkins and the low-carb lifestyle, practically maxing out our dietary fat intake.

So where’s the line? How much is too much and what’s not enough? And, if you are going to eat fat, what foods are best? Because, you’ve likely heard, not all fats are equal.

Let’s work through some of beliefs and notions and schools of thought around dietary fat, all while understanding one bottom line. Not all fats are not bad. But, the type of fat and how much fat you eat MATTERS.

Myth 1: No form of dietary fat is okay to eat

Yes, there are dietary fats that you should limit. These include avoiding trans-fats and saturated fats, due to their ability to raise cholesterol and potentially have negative consequences on your health . Avoid these fats by limiting your intake of foods that are high in these fats, including butter, meats, margarine as well as processed and deep fried foods.

However, these are not the only types of dietary fat. There are also “good fats” which include mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fat that includes Omega-3 fatty acids. When these are eaten in moderation and replace trans-fats and saturated fats, they have the potential to have positive affect on heart health.

Beyond heart health, dietary fat also helps with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, vitamin A,D, E and K.  Foods with this type of fat include olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, peanut butter and many nuts and seeds. Omega-3 ALA is a fatty acid that cannot be made in the body, therefore you must get them from your diet. Omega-3 ALA can convert into different types of fatty acids once in your body, These are known as DHA and EPA with plant based source being ALA. Walnuts, flaxseed oil and ground flax, chia or hemp seed are high in Omega-3s ALA.

Myth 2: Fat-Free Foods are a smart snack choice

There was a time when it seemed every food marketed and manufactured was fat-free or offered a fat-free alternative.  Fat tastes good! And fats are also slower to digest in our body (Mahan, Kathleen. et al (2012). Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Elsevier/Saunders. 13th edition.  , versus carbohydrates). So, with the removal of fat the addition of other ingredients including sugar, salt or other unhealthy ingredients occurs in order to make up for removed flavour, texture and taste.

Myth 3: Eating too much fat will make you fat

Along with the fat-free craze came the notion that the more fat you eat the more fat you will have on your body. While it is true that per gram fat yields higher calorie than protein or carbohydrate (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram), the type of macronutrient isn’t the root of the problem. Rather, overall total calorie intake and exceeding your daily calorie needs is likely to result in increased weight gain.

Myth 4: Eating fat will increase your risk of heart disease

While it is true that excessive intake of trans fats may increase your risk of heart disease, plant-based sources of unsaturated fat can help support heart health. Monounsaturated fats may positively influence cholesterol in the body  thus supporting heart health. These fats may help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body thus supporting heart health.  Good sources of monounsaturated fats include: avocado, olives, olive oil, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.

Myth 5 : So you’ve actually bought into the ‘fat-is-good’ craze but now you’re pushing the other end of the spectrum. How much fat is too much?

Today there are just as many articles out there promoting a high-fat diet as there are shunning it. And, thanks to many people seeing weight changes by restricting carbohydrates and increasing fats, it has become a popular way of eating. However, you can overdo it. As mentioned above, there are some fats you should be avoiding all together, others you should limit and some that you need to make sure you’re including!

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines help us navigate this by recommending the following:

  1. Consume less than 10% of your calories per day from saturated fat
  2. Total fat intake for adults age 19 and older should make up 20% to 35% of your diet. This means if you eat 2 000 calories per day around 500 of those calories should come from fat. Aim to hit this goal from the unsaturated good fats, like :
  • Avocados (monounsaturated fat)
  • Olives (monounsaturated fat)
  • Nuts (walnuts are rich in Omega-3s ALA)
  • Seeds (chia, flax and hemp seeds are rich in Omega-3s ALA; pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds are rich in monounsaturated fats)
  • Cold-pressed oils (Such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, hemp seed oil)

Master These 7 Tiny Swimming Improvements for Big Performance Gains

By Nick Meyer

What would give you the most time savings in an IRONMAN 70.3 or IRONMAN-distance swim? Would you say it’s the weeks of structured training and improving your cardiovascular efficiency or effectively performing open water drills and skills (i.e. sighting, pacing and navigation) more efficiently?

What if I told you that small skill improvements would give you more noticeable results? Indeed, by applying the theory of marginal or small one percent improvements to every aspect of your triathlon swimming, you can get the most benefit and time savings. These are in the form of open water swim skills and drills, tips, insights and advice for improving your swim stroke and technique, not numerous hours in the pool or lake.

If you can improve everything you do in the water by one percent, then the net effect is a much greater performance in the water than just cardiovascular efficiency alone.

This article will help you to apply this theory to open water swimming 70.3 and Ironman.

The Aggregation of Marginal Gains in Open Water Swimming

It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.

Almost every swimming habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time. It takes lots of perfect practice to ingrain movements into muscle memory, and into actions where our neuromuscular system eventually enable these patterns to become automatic. For every action in water, there is an opposite and equal reaction. This can be unforgiving at times, yet when performed correctly can help propel us forward with greater ease, speed and power through the water.

Meanwhile, improving by just one percent often isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the longer swims of an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3.

And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words). If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a one percent decline here and there—that eventually leads to a problem.

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There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.

So where can you find these tiny percentage improvements in your swimming technique for open water?

1. Sighting and Navigation

Did you know that you can add 20 percent or more to your overall open water swim race distance by not sighting effectively or often enough? We often see GPS swim tracks where swimmers have gone further than they expected. For example, swimming 2700m in a 1900m IRONMAN 70.3 swim due to poor sighting.

Sighting every six to eight strokes and checking on your navigation reference regularly is important to swimming and sighting effectively (and ensuring that you swim in a straight line). It’s best to sight on something higher like a darker tree, building, or spire, than a buoy in the water! Learning to sight efficiently while swimming in open water saves time and energy.

  1. Sight after you breathe, there’s more time for water to clear from your goggles, thus improving visibility, and less drag from pulling your head directly forward out of the water.
  2. Practice sighting off landmarks such as highly visible buildings or other structures on shore. Don’t rely solely on race buoys as they can be harder to see while in the water. In a race choose these landmarks beforehand while you’re warming up or during practice swims.

Practice sighting by turning your head slightly forward either before or after taking a breath. When sighting after a breath, you are more likely to rely on peripheral vision, which will also reduce drag.

2. Pacing for Open Water Swim Racing – Sprinting and Threshold Efforts

Being able to maintain and control your race pace under fatigue, and maintaining your technique becomes even more important in the IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN swim legs.

If for example your goal is to swim 3800m in open water in 64 minutes, the pace you want to hold for each 100 meters is a 1:36 pace. You want to be able to hold this pace throughout your 1,900m or 3800m swim distance.

Build up to this gradually over time, starting at 10×100, working up to 40x100m.

Many triathletes wonder if they should sprint off the start line of a longer swim race. Be aware if you haven’t conditioned your body for some sprints over a number of weeks that you’ll produce high levels of lactic acid during the initial several hundred yards of the swim, and as such you may not recover for 10 to 15 minutes. That is a lot of lost time  until you can swim at your target race pace again, and it is likely to have diminishing returns in your overall time.

Try this swim session and see how you feel. It will make you as strong as an ox, and as fast as a cheetah using positive split intervals.

SUPERSETS X 5

  • Swim a good warm-up and cool down with this session as this set is very tough and you need to be prepared to work very hard.)
  • 5 x 150m as 50m front crawl flat out, then straight into 100m at 80-85 percent effort with 60 seconds rest at the end of each 150m.

Great swimmers have a variety of speeds, including warm up, aerobic training speeds, lactate speeds and pure print speeds. Having knowledge and an inherent feel for what these are will help you in swim races, and in particular knowing whether to sprint in mass starts.

By learning what your race pace is (and how to hold onto it), by making minor adjustments to your technique, by drafting and sighting well, you can create valuable savings in the water.

One way to check if your pacing is on target is to see if you can do even splits (+/- 3 seconds) over 15 x 200 meters free at your race pace with 60 seconds rest in between. Work up to this pacing test over a few weeks.

3. Technique for Turning around Buoys Effectively

Do you feel like you lose your way a bit when turning around buoys in open water? Or, when you’re racing, are you filled with dread at the thought of being punched and kicked just as you’re about to breathe?

Try swimming slightly wider around the buoy away from the corner where everyone tends to congregate. Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly.

Depending on the race course, you may end up performing up to four or five turns around a buoy or other non-moving object in the water. You should be practicing to use these pace changes to your advantage.

  • Choose an object in the water to practice turns.
  • When approaching the turn, you should transition to one-side-only breathing with every stroke.
  • The side you breathe on needs to be facing whatever object you are turning around (another sighting drill).
  • Try to cut the turn as close as possible, which may require you to use short, choppy strokes.
  • Practice transitioning from a tight, choppy turn back into a long, relaxed glide, as you would do in the race.
  • Go for eight to 10 turn repeats.

Also practice doing “Crazy Ivan” turnarounds in open water, where you turn a full 360 degrees. Keep your strokes short and in the direction of your turn, keep kicking, and arc you body around the buoy. Over emphasizing the turn like this makes it easier in a race—and it’s fun too!

4. Drafting Techniques that Will Help Save You Time and Effort in a Race

You could save as much as 18 to 25 percent of your energy swimming in open water by drafting efficiently and effectively. This means you could save up to 90 seconds over 1900m, or three minutes over 3.8km!

By swimming in someone’s wake who is slightly faster than you, you’ll save quite a bit of your energy in open water, enabling you to swim faster than you would normally. Practicing swimming in close proximity to others will ensure you get used to this feeling.

There are two methods of drafting, one where you position yourself about 12 inches behind the swimmer’s feet, and the other where you swim close to the lead swimmer’s hip. Make sure you keep sighting in each position. Don’t necessarily trust that the swimmer you’re drafting is navigating perfectly.

However, by drafting effectively, you can significantly reduce your oxygen uptake, heart rate, blood lactate,  and rate of perceived exertion. Additionally, your stroke length is dramatically increased when in an ideal drafting position.

5. Mass Starts Techniques

Does a feeling of panic start to overcome you when you think about open water mass starts? There are several things you can do to manage these fears.

  1. Position yourself in the pack so you breathe toward the group. For example, if you normally breathe in a race to your right, start on the far left hand side. This way you’ll be out of the melee of the main group, and in your own space more.
  2. Float horizontally in the water prior to the start so you can get the best send off when the gun goes. This also gives you more space around you than a deep water “legs down” start position, limiting people swimming on top of your legs.
  3. If you don’t want to be a part of all those flying arms and legs, then plan your escape route before the race starts. Don’t start in the middle of the front. Start at the back, where nobody else will really want your space in the water.

6. Adapting to Wetsuit Swimming

Swimming in a wetsuit can give you between a seven and 10 second improvement over 100m than swimming without one. Also, as you go higher up the product range, the available technology helps you to swim faster and stay more stable and higher in the water.

The overall savings can be as high as two minutes for an IRONMAN swim, (The test group for this study were all tested with Race Zone 3 wetsuits, at the same heart rate, and perceived effort of exertion on the same size loop in a lake).

Practicing drills which make you feel slightly disorientated in the pool are very useful for distraction control and maintaining your rhythm and tempo when swimming in a race. This way you can also be accustomed to getting bumped about by other triathletes swimming in close proximity to you.

We would recommend the following swim drills to help you get the most out of swimming in your wetsuit:

  • Zips
  • Turnarounds
  • Barrel rolls and somersaults
  • Eyes closed with sighting
  • High elbow recovery
Zips Slide your thumb up your side from hip to armpit Promotes high elbow recovery
Barrel rolls While doing front crawl, keep kicking and rotate yourself 360 degrees mid stroke holding a lead arm in front for balance Body roll and power in core /obliques and helps develop muscles used in rotation
Turnarounds Practice turning around the “T” at the end of the lane in the pool first, then progress to open water. You’ll need to sight straight after your turn to re-align with your navigation point ahead quickly Teaches you to do buoy turns effectively in open water. Try to make them as tight and fluid as possible
Eyes closed swimming Practice this in a pool, in the middle 10 to 15 meters of the lane close your eyes to see if you can stay swimming straight (only if no one else is swimming in the lane, or in an organized club session) This shows you if your stroke pulls you to one side or is uneven, and you’re likely to do this in open water. If you do, sight more often (every 6-8 strokes consistently)
Chicken wings Touch your hands into your armpits High elbow recovery
Somersault Front somersault start in deep water, with 15 yards max effort, 35 yards easy. Repeat  6 times. 60 seconds rest in between each Good for distraction control and maintaining tempo / rhythm. These can be combined with barrel rolls for a real challenge to maintain our rhythm and tempo

7. Sea Swimming

The sea can present many different challenges to your normal swim stroke. For example, in choppy water, if you keep your fingers just above the surface of the water, then you are quite likely to have an unexpected wave come along and cause your hand to enter the water below your shoulder. In order to allow a reasonable stroke, you need to have a much higher recovery with your hand in open water.

Top Tips for Sea Swimming

  1. Sighting in swell: You would have no doubt seen in the Olympics open water race, it a slightly different technique to sighting in flat water. Due to the size of the swell you’ll either need to lift your head higher, or sight on the crest of the wave. If it’s choppy be prepared to sight more, as the currents can move you around more than normal.
  2. Navigation: Sight on something that’s high if you can, or if swimming parallel to the beach, sight horizontally as well as forward to maintain your position.
  3. Bilateral breathing: It’s recommended to be able to breathe bilaterally while swimming in the sea, for two reasons. One is for making sure you hold your position in a group and to make sure the currents are not moving you around too much. Two, if you’re swimming a rectangular course and the swell is high, then sighting toward the beach going out and back, will stop you from swallowing lots of water— if you’re breathing in toward a wave rather than from away from it.
  4. Drafting in currents: If there is a current pulling you away from the first buoy, try angling yourself into the current more. So if the current pulls you to the right, swim more over to the left about 30 degrees, so you’ll then be drifting in an arc to the right spot to turn next to the buoy.
  5. Wading: Running in the water up to knee height, by flicking your feet out laterally and your knees inward slightly. Doing this will help you to run and keep your feet clear of the sea water and waves. This is much quicker than swimming at this depth.
  6. Dolphining: To get past the breaking waves, it’s best to use a dolphining technique. This involves a mixture of a butterfly swim technique, with launching yourself into a dive, touching the sea bed / sand with your hands and then pushing yourself back up again into a dive. Only do this until the water is about waist deep, after this it’s best to start swimming normally.
  7. Beach starts: You can have a lot of fun with this next exercise as long as you have a safe beach entry for practice. Be sure to check for submerged objects that you might not have otherwise seen when entering for your warm-up. If you’re with friends, divide yourself up into pairs and label yourself one and two while standing on the beach looking out to the water.Upon the command “Go!” attempt a safe beach entry into the open water using wading and porpoising skills. Once you are deep enough, swim 40 strokes away from shore before turning and swimming back fast to the beach, making sure you avoid any head-on collisions with any other swimmers in the process. Run up onto the beach and tag your partner. Let them do the same 40 strokes before you take over again and then each do 30 strokes, then 20 strokes, then 10 strokes.

Conclusion

By applying these small, one-percent gains from every aspect of your swimming technique, they can all add up to something fundamentally larger than the original whole you once knew as your swimming stroke! Let’s see how much we can help you improve your swimming technique and fitness over the next few months, so you can have the best swimming season yet.

 

About Nick 

Nick de Meyer is the author of Speedy Freestyle, a front crawl swim drills book, and he is a level 2 British Triathlon Coach.

How to Make the Jump from Marathons to Ultras

Marathons to UltrasAndrew Simmons – Lifelong Endurance

With more and more people signing up for ultra-marathons—are you starting to get the itch too? These guidelines will show you how to make the jump from marathons to ultras and give you some key tips for having the best race possible.

It All Starts With a Plan

Longer distances will require more time in many aspects. Make sure you have the time to commit to training. Starting with a good training plan or a coach and an idea of how many hours you can train each week is key. Take some time to find the right plan and the right coach to suit your needs and your training availability.

Know Your Time Frame

If you’re currently in good shape you can prepare for a 50Km in roughly 12 weeks. However, if you’re starting from scratch give yourself plenty of time, up to 24 weeks to prepare for your event. Add an additional eight to 10 weeks of training for events that are between 50Km and 100 miles in length.

5 Tips for Your Best Race

Run Where You Race – Or As Close As You Can

It can be hard to find trail access in urban areas, however it’s a pretty safe bet most ultras will take you off road and onto a trail. For some, finding a trail or technical section can require some creativity, but it is worth the extra effort and possible drive time.

Getting onto a trail and off the roads can beneficial in multiple ways; it helps break up training by taking you out of your comfort zone, gets you into new training situations and will require you to think on your feet. Thinking on your feet and even getting a little lost is a crucial part of long-distance run training and developing a strong sense of direction and the ability to cope in the event of a mistake is a necessary skill.

Take to trails in small doses if you’re not a regular trail runner. If you’re totally lost, remember that trail running offers the bonus of less impact on you and your body. Less impact and more time on feet will help increase your durability both mentally and physically. It won’t always be easy!

Throw Away Your Ego

The first thing you’ll notice is that kilometre splits and hitting very specific times go out of the window at first. If you think you’re going to run a consistent pace front to back in an ultra, you will come to a harsh realization at your first hill or technical section.

Ultra-marathons require a “manage it as it happens” approach. While a road marathon requires supreme fitness, an ultra requires similar fitness with the added challenge of solving problems as you run. Running down a steep technical hill with rocks and roots and then quickly back up a wet culvert requires good fitness and the ability to control yourself so you can get to the finish line in one piece.

Time on Your Feet Is King

This doesn’t mean you can’t use fitness markers to your advantage in a race. A majority of ultra-marathon plans are based on heart rate (HR) and require you to find a comfortable zone that you can run in and then endure for four to seven hours to complete the course.

Keeping yourself in an aerobic zone allows you to utilize onboard energy more efficiently and will keep you feeling fresh longer. Tip over your HR threshold a few too many times and you may find your race a lot tougher during those last 10 miles.

Mileage is not always the best marker when going off road; time on your feet matters more than the weekly mileage totals. You’ll find that if a majority of your work is truly aerobic, you’ll be running slower than you may have been in previous training build ups. This will require you to reframe what’s important in your ultra training. Looking at your total weekly hours and building up to more consecutive hours will be key to building yourself into an ultra-marathon runner.

Pressure Test The System

Ultra-marathon training on the surface simply requires you to run longer, pushing you out of your comfort zone mentally and physically. One of the biggest roadblocks for a successful first ultra is not having tested yourself at your race effort. You may find that you need to adjust for electrolytes after two to three hours, that you do better with solid food the first half of a race, or that you need to change shoes because your feet swell in warm temperatures. These small nuances can have a huge impact on your race—especially once you start looking at 50km and above races

Hydration and fuelling strategies should be tested on your long runs and you should start to note what it feels like when you’re dehydrated or low on fuel. Your long runs are your chance to try out new fuels. Learning how to work through a bad stretch in a long run is a vital learning experience in many ways!

A key component to your success is getting in the training but also replicating what you’re going to expect to see on race day; think about the terrain, major elements like long hills, extended descents or race day conditions like extreme heat or cold.

You’re Stronger and More Capable than You Think

It’s hard to imagine what running 50kms or more will feel like and I can’t even tell you what you will personally experience. To some that extra five miles is an eternity and to others it’s a natural and more comfortable progression.  Pacing yourself and taking the race aid station to aid station is going to help you break the race into manageable chunks. Give yourself a boost at each aid station as a reward, or imbibe in an aid station treat (believe me they have some amazing things at these trail races!).

An ultra requires mental persistence, self-affirmation and a belief that you can complete it. Many professionals utilize mantras to keep them focused and “in the zone.” Others like to use music, podcasts or other tactics to push the little monster out from inside their head. Using a motivational tool or pacer can be a huge help  toward ensuring your success on race day.

Recovery

First and foremost, ultras are longer than you’ve ever gone before. In both training and racing, you’ll be pushing your body into new territories.  This can come with its own aches and pains; post-race you’ll want to give yourself an extra seven to 10 days of low mileage on top of your normal marathon recovery protocol.

Following your first ultra you should allow yourself five days of low impact activity directly following and roughly 10 to 14 days before you return to your normal training or start to focus on your next event. Remember, the first one always takes the longest to recover from! In rare cases there can be minimal soreness; don’t let this fool you. Long distance racing takes a larger and more impactful metabolic, mental and physiological toll that can put you down for longer than you think.

Take this time to enjoy activities you missed out on during peak training and maybe sleep in a little and slowly introduce yourself back to training. After all, recovery is the second best part after the race itself!

Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?

Why am I so hungry all the time? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Sometimes it’s real hunger and we need to eat but other times we are ravenous just 30 minutes after eating! What’s up? Today we’re taking a look at hunger, what causes it and what we can do to manage it.

WhyHungry1

WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?

It’s crazy, right? You just ate a huge meal and an hour later, you’re starving. What gives? Why am I so hungry all the time?! You might feel like you’re always hungry, or maybe you’re not hungry at all until you eat, and then you’re ravenous, or maybe y0u just ate a huge meal, feeling totally stuffed, only to be hungry again shortly after. Your hunger is always there and often in charge of your whole day.

FIRST OF ALL, YOUR HUNGER ISN’T IN CHARGE

I’ve been there, guys. My hunger used to be in charge, big time. The slightest sensation of hunger and I was in a panic that I needed to eat and I needed to eat now. I’ve since accepted that my hunger is not an emergency. Hunger isn’t in control and you have the power to decide how to respond to it.

AM I REALLY HUNGRY?

If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t starving. We are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where we have access to as much quality food as we need. Your body will be just fine if you don’t feed it at it’s beckon call.

I’m not saying don’t listen to your body. Often, we’re legitimately hungry and it’s time to re-fuel. However, sometimes what we’re experiencing isn’t true hunger. If we can develop a better understanding of hunger and use our common sense, we can determine if we’re truly hungry and need to eat.

Our bodies are highly intelligent and complex but they don’t always know exactly what’s best for us, so next time you find yourself “starving” when you recently ate a meal, it’s time to look a little further. In addition to feeling hungry, sometimes our brains come in with an appetite and ask for things we really don’t need. Say hello to cravings!

It can be challenging to make quality food choices if you’re always hungry. You arrive home from work ravenous and it’s tempting to grab the first thing you see rather than preparing a healthy meal. You ate a sugary breakfast that left your stomach asking for more just 30 minutes later so you decide to hit the vending machine. Feel too hungry, too often and it’s almost impossible to consistently make good food choices.

If you’re constantly battling hunger, eating quality food in the right amounts becomes difficult to maintain, so we end up making poor choices and so continues the cycle.

What might be missing in your diet and what aspects of your lifestyle could be improved to help manage hunger?

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WHAT CONTROLS HUNGER

Hunger is primarily controlled by hormones and hormones are affected by the what and how much we eat. There are a number of key hormones that affect hunger. Leptin and ghrelin are considered to be the “hunger hormones” but serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptides and glucagon also play a role.

Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work can help us get hunger under control and reduce the frequency and intensity of hunger sensations. Today, we’re just going to look at ghrelin because it’s the bad boy responsible for making you feel so damn hungry all the time.

WHAT IS GHRELIN?

First of all, I think ghrelin is an appropriate name for this hunger hormone, don’t you think? It reminds me of gremlin, or some pesky, little monster that lives in our bellies, always freakin’ hungry and demanding that we feed it. Rawr!

Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and is responsible for causing feelings of hunger, hanger and “I might die and/or kill someone if I don’t eat.” Ghrelin also encourages the body to store fat, particularly around the liver and abdominal area. Just what we’re looking for, right?

Luckily, we can tame hunger by controlling ghrelin levels though food and lifestyle choices. Ghrelin is affected not only by what we eat but by everything from stress to sleep, so approaching nutrition from a total wellness perspective can go a long way.

AGAIN, WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?!?

We know that ghrelin is responsible for causing us to feel hungry and that ghrelin levels are affected by our food and lifestyle choices. What is it exactly that we’re doing and eating that’s affecting ghrelin? Let’s look at how we can manage ghrelin, then look at what else can increase hunger.

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5 WAYS TO CONTROL GHRELIN LEVELS

  1. Avoid very low calorie diets.Heavily restricting calories (we’re talking 1000 calories per day or less) increases ghrelin production and abdominal fat storage. Your body is like, hey I’m starving over here! I’m gonna store every little bit of food I get, just in case I need it. This doesn’t mean you can’t reduce body fat though a slow and steady calorie deficit but extreme restriction of calories is dangerous for both your physical and your mental health.
  2. Eat fibre and high-volume foods.When the walls of the stomach experience stretching or pressure from high-volume, fibrous foods, ghrelin production is suppressed. Keeping the belly full of high-volume foods can go along way in managing hunger. I find including a few servings of vegetables at breakfast really helps keep me full throughout the morning.
  1. Eat more omega-3s. You can use an omega-3 supplementwith EPA and DPA and/or include plenty of foods in your diet that contain them. When we don’t get enough EPA and DHA, it can increase ghrelin production and thereby fat storage around the abdominal area. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to boost leptin and reduce inflammation in the body.
  2. Support healthy digestion.A healthy gut can help control hunger and body weight. To promote healthy digestion, enjoy fermented foods and beverages, digestion-supporting foods, spices an d herbs and consider a probiotic supplement.
  3. Eat less fructose.Fructose raises ghrelin levels and suppresses hormones that trigger fullness. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat fruit but you try to avoid processed foods which typically have a high amount of fructose in them, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. There’s nothing good in there. Eat real food.

Ghrelin is also affected by stress, exercise and sleep, so always remember that total wellness is key!

Okay, we looked at how we can control ghrelin production but what else has an effect on hunger? Well, there’s one huge factor that not only causes hunger but neglecting to manage it can have a number of negative impacts on the body. Did you guess what it is? Yep, blood sugar!

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HOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS EFFECT HUNGER

Maintaining stable blood sugar is one of the most important jobs the body does for us and we don’t always make it an easy one. We sometimes overeat or eat too much sugar, creating spikes in blood sugar that our body has to scramble to correct. This is tough on the body and is at the root of diabetes, obesity and a number of other health concerns.

BLOOD SUGAR PEAKS AND VALLEYS

Hunger is triggered by low blood sugar and this triggering can happen whether you actually need re-fuel or not. If our blood sugar gets too low, our energy levels drop and we experience hunger sensations. Alternatively, high blood sugar can be toxic and dangerous for the body. Big spikes in blood sugar cause big crashes in blood sugar, which causes hunger, leading to overeating and poor food choices. Maintaining stable blood sugar through a healthy diet can go along way in reducing hunger.

WHAT CAUSES SPIKES IN BLOOD SUGAR

Well, it’s pretty simple. Eat foods primarily made up of sugar and you’ll experience a spike in blood sugar and consequent crash. High blood sugar can also be caused by overeating. When we overeat, our bodies go into overdrive to deal with an abundance of sugar.

As the body deploys insulin and quickly compensates to bring blood sugar levels back down, we experience low blood sugar shortly after eating. That’s your body sending you a message that you need to bring your blood sugar levels back up ie. hey, I’m hungry, feed me!

When we experience this kind of hunger it’s pretty clear we don’t need to eat again.We just ate. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Let your body deal with the effects of overeating before you give it more to handle.

HOW TO PROMOTE STABLE BLOOD SUGAR

There are plenty of ways we can assist the body in maintaining stable blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are always going to go up and down but the key is preventing big peaks and valleys. Eat a bunch of sugar on an empty stomach, spike your blood sugar, the body compensates, crashing blood sugar levels, the body sends you a hunger message, you eat again, the cycle continues.

You don’t need to immediately react to that hunger!

Ideally, we’d prevent these blood sugar spikes in the first place. Lets look at a few ways we can help promote stable blood sugar levels.

10 WAYS TO BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR

  1. Include healthy fats at every meal.Fats have the lowest impact on blood sugar levels and help increase satiety by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Get those avocados and nuts into your diet!
  2. Eat enough protein. Compared to carbohydrates, protein is digested more slowly and when it’s consumed on it’s own, doesn’t create the spike in blood sugar that carbs do. Remember, low-sugar protein powder and bars are okay to help supplement protein but it’s important to include whole food protein sources in your diet.
  3. Eat a balance macronutrients at each meal to help slow down the digestive process. Carbohydrates are essential and typically make up somewhere between 40 and 60% of a healthy diet. The key is to include a balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein with every meal to help slow down their digestion and keep you full. That being said, sometimes we want quick digesting carbohydrates, for example, when we’re weightlifting or performing high-intensity exercise but we’ll look at that another day!
  4. Eat more non-starchy vegetables.These high-volume, fibrous veggies are digested more slowly than starchy vegetables and have a low impact on blood sugar.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause an immediate rise in blood sugar and then a large drop a few hours later. If you do consume alcohol, do so in moderation and with some food in your stomach.
  6. Include fibre with every meal.Similarly to fat and protein, fiber can help to promote satiety and help slow digestion, preventing spikes in blood sugar. Fiber also provides a range of other health benefits and is a very important part of a healthy diet.
  7. Excercise. Exercising on a consistent basis lowers your blood glucose and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
  8. Start the day with a balanced, higher protein meal.Even though I love oatmeal and smoothies at breakfast, it’s important to include a balance of fats and protein. A good choice for vegans and vegetarians is a non-starchy vegetable scramble with tempeh or quinoa porridge with nuts and hemp seeds.
  9. Don’t skip meals. Eat balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours or so to help keep blood sugar stable and prevent overeating.
  10. Eat ceylon, or true cinnamon.True cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels. Try mixing it into tea or coffee, using it in baking and other recipes, sprinkling it on hot and cold cereal and even using it to spice curries. There are a number of benefits to including ceylon over regular cinnamon in your diet, so while it’s a bit of a splurge, if you can get your hands on some, I think it’s worth it.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES AFFECTING HUNGER AND BLOOD SUGAR

Stress, exercise, dehydration and sleep all play a roll in hunger.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Not managing our stress levels can cause cortisol levels to remain high in the body, effectively increasing our appetite. We’ve all been there. Stress eating, emotional eating, whatever you want to call it. High stress levels can effect our appetite, which is psychological drive that causes us to crave particular foods, not to be mixed up with real hunger. Mindful eating and bringing awareness to times you overeat can distinguish between appetite and true hunger. A food journal is often helpful in this case!

EXERCISE, HYDRATION AND SLEEP

As for exercise, daily movement promotes a healthy metabolism, proper digestion, helps to manage stress and of course, has wide range of other health benefits. Do it. Every day!

Dehydration is huge too, and you’ve probably heard it 100 times. Drink more water! As for sleeping, a lack of quality sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel. Sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone and increase levels of ghrelin, stimulating hunger. Not only that, a lack of quality sleep effects mood, recovery, memory, blood sugar and energy levels. I’ll be talking about my routine for a great nights sleep in an upcoming post. Don’t miss it!

NOW WHAT?

Alright! That was really fun to chat about. We talked all about ghrelin, how to manage it to control hunger and what we can do to promote stable blood sugar. Where to go from here….

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When it comes to nutrition and fat loss, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the tools you need to succeed. Read, listen to podcasts, surround yourself with people who share similar goals and that you can learn from. The more we understand about our bodies and how powerful the food we eat is, the easier it becomes to consistently make quality food choices. That chocolate chip muffin might not be as appealing when you know it will cause a spike in blood sugar, causing you to crash and leaving you feeling hungry shortly after eating it, creating an endless cycle.

WHERE TO START

If that all seems overwhelming to you, don’t worry about it! Pick one thing to focus on. Maybe you start by including one omega-3 rich food in your diet every day. Or maybe instead of a whole chocolate chip muffin, you eat half along side a big tofu and vegetable scramble. Maybe you focus on getting to bed an hour earlier this week.

Improvement over perfection, guys. It’s a lifelong journey and it isn’t a linear one! These aren’t the rules and they certainly aren’t set in stone. Sometimes we’re going to eat the damn (vegan) doughnut. These are simply some steps you can take to help get a hold of your hunger. One step of a time, you don’t have to do all these things at once. Perfection only sets us up for failure.  Consistency and steady improvement are the golden ticket.

It’s never to late to educate yourself, improve your diet and keep striving towards your best self. When we feel good, feel comfortable in our skin and have plenty of energy, everything in life gets easier, so keep after it, guys!

Strive to be the best version of yourself, at any given time, with what you have.

Milk is for Babies

March 17, 2017 by

milkWhen Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked if he drinks milk, he famously answered that «milk is for babies», implying that it’s not good for adults to consume this white liquid. To most people, this statement probably seems highly controversial, and based on their knowledge, incorrect. They may have been consuming cow’s milk their whole life and have been led to believe that milk is a very healthy food; a belief that has likely been imprinted in them by the dairy industry – which has done a remarkably “good” job of convincing the public that milk is the perfect food, for adults and children alike – and government nutritional agencies – which typically recommend that everyone should consume low-fat dairy products.

Not everyone is on board the ship that holds these beliefs though. Some people, myself included, are a lot more skeptical when it comes to the healthfulness of milk. I actually think Arnold hits the nail on the head with his statement. He may have been half-joking, but the fact is that milk is indeed for babies. There’s no doubt that milk is the perfect food for a growing child. It’s not the perfect food for an adult though.

What role does milk play in the mammalian diet?

The milk of each mammalian species here on Earth was designed by evolutionary forces (e.g., natural selection) to support the growth and development of the young of that species. It was obviously not designed to promote health or longevity in members of another species.

This basic fact is often left out in discussions about milk. Instead of taking a step back and asking what role milk plays in our diet, dietitians typically jump straight into the specifics and examine what types of nutrients and other compounds that are present in the white liquid we call milk.

This approach is very common in nutrition, regardless of what type of food that’s being investigated. This is unfortunate, because this approach doesn’t really give us a good answer as to whether or not it’s healthy to consume the food in question.

The fact that a specific food is high in certain vitamins or minerals or low in certain nutrients that are believed to cause us harm doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a healthy food. It’s important to see the forest for the trees. If we stand too close to the object under investigation, we’ll be able to closely inspect its composition and details; however, we may be unable to see the big picture of things.

Milk, regardless of what animal species it’s derived from, contains an impressive repertoire of nutrients, growth factors, hormones, and bacteria. These compounds are there for a reason; they didn’t just happen to be there by chance, which seems to be what some people think.

Here’s what a recent review paper had to say about the role milk plays in the mammalian diet:

Milk plays an exceptional role in the beginning of mammalian life and performs its biological function by delivering its amino acid hardware and exosomal microRNA software. These messengers of milk have only one primary mission: to activate and maintain mTORC1-dependent translation and other mTORC1-mediated anabolic effects during the period of postnatal growth and postnatal metabolic programming.

Mammary gland-derived exosomes transmit a sophisticated array of microRNAs that function as a “Trojan horse”, like a retrovirus infection, to “transfect“ the newborn infant with maternal microRNAs that modify infant’s gene expression at the level of posttranscriptional regulation [9,293,294]. In this context, milk is best viewed as each mammalian mother’s nutrigenomic doping system, accelerating postnatal anabolism, cell growth, and cell proliferation of the offspring. (1)

The unique properties of milk

Milk is a very special food. It is produced with the exact purpose of nourishing a growing child. Over evolutionary time, the milk of each species here on Earth has evolved, changing in its composition and nutritional characteristics. These changes have occurred as a result of selective forces acting upon the natural world.

Milk is also an extraordinarily dynamic food: it can change a lot in a very short time. These short-term changes are shaped by mother-child interactions. You may find it surprising to hear, but research has shown that a lactating mother can respond to her child’s needs by altering the production of antibodies and other compounds found in her breast milk (2). This is obviously not something she does consciously, but rather something that occurs naturally as a result of signaling between the mother and child.

This process clearly highlights that milk is a food that’s specifically produced for babies. It is tailored to provide babies with all the nutrients, microbes, and immune-enhancing substances they need to grow into healthy, strong adults that are able to reproduce themselves one day. Because that’s of course the fundamental reason why evolution “bothered” to design a white liquid that provides “everything” that young, fragile infants need to grow and survive in the big, scary world we find ourselves in; it helps them pass on their genes.

“But… I’ve heard that we’ve adapted to drink milk. If I’m not lactose intolerant, why shouldn’t I drink milk?”

I often come across people who make the case that we have adapted to drink milk. In support of this statement, they present evidence showing that a large proportion of the population in many European countries is able to digest lactose without experiencing gastrointestinal distress. In other words, they have a lactose-persistence phenotype.

What a lot of these people fail to recognize is that natural selection doesn’t select for health, but rather for reproductive success. The fact that you’re able to digest and make use of the nutrients in milk without experiencing any acute health problems doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy for you to drink milk.

Lactase-persistence alleles didn’t spread in European populations because those people who were able to digest lactose lived longer, healthier lives than those who weren’t capable of breaking down this milk sugar, but rather because the former had a higher reproductive success than the latter. I.e., they got more surviving offspring.

This isn’t surprising, given that milk is a very nutritious food. Particularly during times of scarcity, it would have been a significant evolutionary advantage to be able to digest milk.

Often, health and reproductive success are linked; but not always. For example, some chronic diseases develop primarily late in life and have little impact on reproductive success. It’s therefore important that we don’t confuse evolutionary fitness with physical fitness. If a trait confers increased reproductive success, it will spread, regardless of how it affects the health of the organism. As we’ll see in the next section, milk consumption has been associated with a range of adverse health effects. Since most of these health effects have little impact on evolutionary fitness, natural selection doesn’t pay them much attention.

Some of the problems with milk

I’ve talked quite a bit about the problems with milk here on the blog in the past. Let’s briefly summarize the core points…

  • Milk has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases and health disorders
    Milk seems to play a role in the pathogenesis of several chronic diseases and health disorders, including heart disease, insulin resistance, acne vulgaris, and Parkinson’s disease (1, 3, 4, 5).
  • Milk is packed with substances that are not a natural part of the adult human diet
    Milk contains a wide range of hormones, bioactive peptides, and other similar compounds, some of which breach the gut barrier and induce adverse health effects (3).
  • Pasteurization and homogenization may change the structure of some of the nutrients found in milk
    Pasteurization and homogenization can force milk casein and fats into new configurations that make the proteins stackable into fibers/amyloids (6). These milk protein fibers may play an important role in diseases such as type I diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease (6).
  • Milk is extremely high in calcium
    Contrary to what dairy lobbyists want you to believe, the fact that milk is very high in calcium could actually be a bad thing, as an abnormally high intake (from an evolutionary perspective) of calcium may cause mineral imbalances and increase the risk of heart attacks, among other things (3). Moreover, several large meta-analyses have shown that calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women or men (7, 8, 9). One of these analyses even found that calcium supplementation may increase hip fracture risk (8). Yes, calcium is important, but maybe we’re better off getting it from green vegetables?
  • Cow’s milk consumption may adversely affect bone health
    Recent research suggests that regular consumption of milk and other dairy foods may increase the risk of osteoporosis (10). In other words, milk may actually weaken our bones, as opposed to strengthening them.
  • The macronutrient characteristics of milk differ markedly from that of other foods
    Milk (e.g., cow’s milk) is unique in that it contains whey protein, casein, and the disaccharide lactose, as well as many other special nutrients. It’s undoubtedly beneficial for a growing mammal (e.g., a calf) to take in these compounds; however, the scientific research indicates that it’s not beneficial for an adult human, which is not surprising, given that these nutrients are a novel component of the adult human diet. A low intake of these nutrients is unlikely to do much harm; however, a high intake may certainly do. Casein has been shown to trigger opioid-like effects in the brain (one of the main reasons cheese is so addictive) (11, 12); whey is very insulinogenic, may destabilize the gut microbiota, and promote the development of acne vulgaris, among other things; and lactose has been linked with premature cataract formation (3). If that wasn’t enough, milk also contains high concentrations of saturated fat (About 60% of the fat in milk is of the saturated kind).

Milk is a growth stimulant

Another problem with milk that I haven’t talked much about here on the blog in the past has to do with the impact it has on growth and development. Given that milk’s role in the mammalian diet is to support and promote the development of the young, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that milk has been shown to stimulate growth. In children, there’s a strong association between cow’s milk consumption and linear growth. Children who drink a lot of cow’s milk as they grow up tend to become taller than those who don’t (13, 14, 15).

It’s often assumed that this effect is beneficial. After all, we all want strong and tall children. There’s only one (big problem): Cow’s milk wasn’t “designed” to be a health food for the young members of the species Homo sapiens, it was designed to nurture and strengthen calves. I very much question the conventional idea that it’s good for children to drink milk because milk makes them taller.

Unlike what some people think, milk’s effect on growth can’t solely be attributed to its high nutritional value. Milk is capable of activating evolutionary developmental genes, such as FTO and MTOR, which are very important for perinatal programming. This signaling cascade is a natural part of the developmental phase of mammals and helps promote proper growth and development. However, it’s certainly not a natural part of adult life.

A solid body of research suggests that persistent activation of these signaling systems is a major health hazard promoting ageing and early onset of age-related diseases (1, 14).

Here’s what the review paper mentioned earlier had to say about this issue.

Daily consumption of cooled pasteurized milk thus allows excessive intake of milk’s amino acid hardware and milk’s gene-regulatory software, which in a synergistic fashion upregulate mTORC1 signaling enhancing mTORC1-dependent anabolism and mTORC1-dependent mRNA translation. It is becoming apparent that this unnoticed modification of epigenetics by milk consumption has had an enormous impact on modern human nutrigenomics 10,000 years since the Neolithic revolution.

… Permanent overactivation of mTORC1 signaling is the key mechanism driving mTORC1-mediated age-related diseases of civilization [16,17,18,19,67,89,287,293]. … Persistent milk signaling leads to alterations in cell homeostasis, ER stress, cellular malfunctions, organ damage and thus early onset of age-related diseases. (1)

The bottom line

I’d like to finish off with the quote below, which I feel nicely summarizes the main problems with cow’s milk consumption.

Persistent abuse of a developmental nutrient and programming system of another mammal such as Bos taurus, a species whose initial growth rate is four times that of humans, is thus a major pathogenic factor promoting the epidemic diseases of civilization [316]. Wiley was right when she pointed out that persistent cow’s milk consumption is a novel human behavior potentially exerting long-term adverse effects on human health [10]. Taken together: “No milk today, that’s what this message means, the end of obese and Western disease!”. (1)

5 Plant Based Foods That Have More Protein than Meat

Protein gets a lot of attention, especially in a plant-based diet where the issue of complete and incomplete protein comes into play, along with protein per amount of weight, which is something else to consider. For instance, we don’t need to combine foods as we once thought to form a complete protein (such as beans and rice). That protein myth died years ago, thankfully when we found out our bodies are capable of using all sources of amino acids to form complete proteins.

Not Just Grams … What to Consider When Measuring Protein

It’s also important to consider that amounts in grams aren’t the only thing that matters when measuring protein in a food. You should also consider what percentage of total calories protein makes up in a food. For instance, beef and animal foods are high in calories and though they contain a good size amount of protein, per amount of calories, beef and animal proteins (even fish) are higher in cholesterol-forming saturated animal fats, where most of their calories come from. Plant-based foods on the other hand, have fewer calories, a variety of sources of amino acids that form complete proteins in the body and per weight, their percentage of protein in the amount of total calories is relatively high.

Some plant-based foods are higher in protein percentage than others, however, so making sure to include a variety of plant-based foods in your diet is important for achieving the amount of protein your body needs. Beef contains 7 grams of protein per ounce for about 75 calories, so let’s compare some better plant-based options that don’t come with the health risks beef and animal proteins do.

Here are five foods with more protein per gram than beef that also come with a higher percentage of protein per amount of calories:

spirulinaPer gram, Spirulina is 65% protein, the highest amount of protein percentage of all foods. In just 1 teaspoon, you’ll get 4 grams of protein, which is unheard of for all other foods. Spirulina is also a great source of iron, providing 80 % of your daily needs in just 1 teaspoon and at only 30 calories. You can add this blue green algae to your smoothies to mask the taste and know you’re getting in a nice dose of B vitamins, protein, iron and vital trace minerals. Since it’s also alkalizing, spirulina also reduces inflammation, unlike animal foods that contribute to it.

spinach

Yes, the humble Spinach contains 51 % protein (about 5 grams per cup at only 30 calories). It’s also a good source of iron and Vitamin C. This much-loved green is also a great source of folate, an important vitamin for women that contributes to strength, brain function and reproductive health. Adding a couple cups of spinach to your smoothie, salad, wrap, soup, or any other way, is an easy way to sneak in 10 grams of protein without the need for a supplement powder whatsoever.

hempseedsHemp is one of the best, easy-to-use foods that’s rich in all essential fatty acids and all 20 amino acids. Per ounce (about 2 tablespoons)  has 10 grams of protein, is high in fibre and most of its calories come from beneficial proteins and Omega fatty acids. Unlike animal-based proteins and sources of fat, hemp is very alkalizing to the body and also boosts the mood and energy thanks to high amounts of magnesium. It can also increase metabolism due to it containing 45 % of your daily iron requirements in just one ounce. You can also use hemp protein, another fantastic way to get this whole food into your diet. We enjoy it in smoothies, raw treats, but you can even stir it into oatmeal and bake with it in place of flour if you like. Although, it is better to consume hemp raw (not cooked), as heat destroys the fatty acids.

broccoli

Per calorie, broccoli has more protein than beef, which about 4.5 grams per 30 calories. Broccoli is also packed with amino acids, fibre, Vitamin B6 to improve your mood and is one of the best vegetables linked to fighting cancer.

almondsAlmonds and almond butter both provide 7 grams of protein in one ounce, along with heart-healthy fats and Vitamin E. They’re also a good source of calcium and provide high doses of beneficial magnesium.

Peanut butter is another high source of protein, with 8 grams per two tablespoons of peanut butter. While higher in calories than beef per ounce, these nut butters are rich in amino acids per ounce and also recommended as a good source of plant-based protein.

 

Plant-Based, High Protein Smoothie

Combine all these foods into a smoothie for a crazy, high-protein meal that your body will love and one that will shock you in how great it tastes! You’ll never know it contains good-for-you veggies!

greenproteinsmoothie

Servings : 1 Large or 2 Smaller

Ingredients:

1 Cup baby Spinach

4 Frozen Broccoli Florets (gives it a surprisingly great thick texture and the other ingredients hide the taste)

1/2 Cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries or Blueberries

1 Tablespoon Cacao Powder (also a great source of protein and more iron than beef)

2-3 Tablespoons Hemptons Shelled Hemp Seeds

1 Tablespoon raw Almond Butter or Peanut Butter

1 Cup Non-Dairy Milk like Almond, Soy, Hemp or Rice Milk

Sweetener of choice – to taste (Stevia, 1/2 A Banana, A Date, A Fig, Raw Honey Or Maple Syrup)

 

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to your blender, blend together, decant and enjoy!