The Science of Stamina
Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge. The latest marketing gimmick is called “functional foods” - processed foods and drinks with powerful ingredients found in whole foods. They single out a specific ingredient found after some study then put a lot of marketing muscle behind it. However, many ingredients that are powerful in a whole food don’t work that when when isolated or cooked. My common sense tells me that natural, whole, live and organic foods already contain plenty of these ”nutraceuticals” and is the best source for them!
To get all the energy you need before and during exercise, you can top off€¯ or carbo load before an event, maximizing carbohydrate (glycogen) storage in the muscle. The glycemic index is the best measure for a food’s ability to gradually increase blood glucose levels. Foods with a moderate to low glycemic index (GI) evenly sustain blood glucose release and maintain fat oxidation, which saves muscle glycogen. The lower the GI, the better. This is especially important for pre-event fueling. Foods with a high glycemic index, especially just before an athletic event, may cause an undesirable GI spike, or hypoglycemia. Adding fiber, especially soluble fibers, protein and fat, also helps lower GI.
Some hold foods contain fructose, a simple sugar with a lower glycemic index (compared to glucose). Fructose is absorbed and metabolized relatively slowly in the body, especially in a natural food matrix containing complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Foods with a high GI can be used during and after an event. During intense exercise, muscles require quick, readily available energy and hypoglycemia is not a concern since insulin release is down, regulated during exercise. High GI foods may also help with post event recovery. It is important to drive anabolic processes to replenish glycogen and protein, especially for multi-event competitions. During extreme physical exercise, oxidative energy production uses more amino acids, particularly when there’s a shortage of glycogen. Protein quality is more important than quantity. This can be estimated from the Percent of Daily Value (PD) of protein on a product’s Nutrition Facts panel.
Live, raw foods are a natural, healthy, commonsense source of foods with a high GI. They also have lots of enzymes and oxygen, which your muscles need desperately during exercise. And they don’t have the toxins created by cooking that may inhibit muscle performance and stamina. In addition, fruits, veggies, and soaked/sprouted nuts and seeds are excellent sources of the most absorbable amino acids available.
1 Maughan, R.J. 1998. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 57:15-23.
2 Brouns, E., and Kovacs, E. 1997. Functional drinks for athletes. Trends in Food Sci. and Tech. 8:414-421.
3 Fallowfield, J. et al. 1995. The influence of ingesting a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage during 4 hours of recovery on subsequent endurance capacity. Int. Sports Nutr. 5:285-299.
4 Browns, E. 1997. Functional Foods for Athletes. Trends in Food Sci. and Tech. 8:358-363.
5 Smith JC, et al. 1998. Effect of oral creatine ingestion on rate-time relationship and time to exhaustion in high-intensity cycling. Eur J Appl Physiol. 77:360-5.
6 Zawadzki, et. al., 1992. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases glycogen storage. The American Physiological Society.
7 Pasman, W.J. et al. 1995. The Effect of Different Dosages of Caffeine on Endurance Performance Time. Int. J. Sports Me. 16:225-230.
8 Butterfield G., 1996. Ergogenic aids: Evaluating sport nutrition products. Int. J. Sport Nutr. 6:191-197.
Also see: Applegate, E. 1999. Effective Nutritional Ergogenic Aids, Int. J. of Sports Nutrition. 9:229-239
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