Dynamic Arts - Nutrition

Nutrition for athletes starts off simple enough. A diet consisting of 60-65% carbohydrate, 20-25% fat, and 15-20% protein is considered suitable for high performance.

Fats should be liquid at room temperature like walnut oil, peanut oil, olive oil and other vegetable oils. Butter and margarine are not so good. Don't eat lard!

The best sources of carbohydrate include bread, pasta, cereals, vegetables, rice and other grains, and potatoes.

Proteins are provided by meat, eggs, fish, beans and nuts.

The easy parts are fat and carbohydrate. You can hardly fail to get enough if them if you eat enough. Protein, on the other hand, is a more complex tale, especially for vegetarians.

Protein

First off, your muscles are made of protein. To be stronger, you need more muscle. 

To build muscle requires exercise and an abundance of the substances in your body which can make new muscle. Exercise creates damage in the form of micro-tears in the muscle, and through a complex sequence of events, the damaged muscle gets replaced by new tissue. When there is more new tissue than old, you get stronger. More new tissue requires the building blocks in free supply.

Protein in foods comes in two classes: complete or incomplete.

Essential and non-essential proteins

Some proteins are essential in that they must be digested. Non-essential proteins are the ones that can be recreated from other proteins by the body's natural processes.

Complete and incomplete proteins

When all of the essential proteins are together in a food (e.g. meat) then they are said to be complete protein sources. Other foods, beans or nuts, do not have all of the essential proteins and are called incomplete.

However, it is easy enough to make complete proteins by mixing foods, e.g. beans and nuts, macaroni and cheese.

The white rat and the man

Proteins in the body are continually broken down and replaced. A white rat will replace half of the protein in its body in 17 days. A man will replace half of his protein in 80 days. (This does not mean a man will replace all of his protein in 160 days).

How much protein should I consume every day?

Recommendations vary. For a 10 stone person (63kg), an at rest person would find 50g protein per day quite sufficient. To build muscle, recommendations go up to around 150g per day.

10g of protein per stone, or 1.3g per kilogram is probably sufficient. Any excess will be expelled by normal digestive means.

When do I eat my protein?

Protein or protein supplements should be eaten on waking up, after a workout, and before going to bed.

Bodybuilders have six protein meals a day to ensure their body is supplied with all of the (complete) protein required for their growth. When the body does not have an immediate supply of complete protein to replace muscle, it must break down another part of the body.

How much exercise do I need to do?

Recent studies have shown that moderate exercise and good nutrition can build strength as much as a lot of exercise with the same nutrition.

Exercising every other day allows damaged fibres to be replaced, ready for new exercise. Exercising when muscles ache or are sore will not create the same benefits.

Protein supplements

Always check the packaging to see how much protein there is. Some sports shakes or powders have only 25% protein, and a lot of carbohydrate. Protein supplements have around 75% protein.

However, taking a 75% carbohydrate, 25% protein supplement immediately after training will increase recovery time, and therefore build more strength.

Do I need a supplement?

It depends what you eat.

An egg contains 6g of protein, but the yellow part has a lot of cholesterol, so you should eat only the whites if eating a lot.

Many foods, such as cereals, flour, bread etc, have 10% protein.

The key to eating enough protein seems to be milk. If you drink a lot (semi-skimmed rather than full fat) you get lots of protein. Milk has around 3g per 100ml. Yoghurts and other milk products also contain protein.

Most meats are around 20% protein, but red meats come with a lot of bad fats and cholesterol.

Tofu, a soybean product has 20% protein.

Soya flour has 40% protein, compared to 10% for wheat flour. Soya flour can replace one third of the wheat or corn flour in any recipe.

You can buy processed soy products which have up to 50% protein.

I eat a seeded batch bread which contains lots of seeds, and has 6g of protein per slice.

Most nuts have protein, but also a lot of fat. Peanuts contain 25%, almonds 23%.

Meat replacement products made from algae have similar protein levels to meat, but some allergic responses have been noted.

Drinking milk

Milk gives you lots of good things, but remember that it is meant for things to grow into cows or goats or whatever. Too much milk can be bad for you, but you'll have to look elsewhere to find out why.

Full fat milk gives you a lot of fat, but not all that fat is bad. For example, CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid - well, you asked), a fat present in full fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and T-Bone steaks, has been shown to give some surprising strength gains.

Types of muscle

There are three types of muscle, the so called normal, and two types of fast twitch muscle which create explosive power. A predominance of one or the other makes little difference to your static strength, which is dictated solely by cross sectional area.

The balance of types of muscle fibre is genetically determined. Muscle is increased by the existing fibres gaining volume rather than growing new fibres. To exercise fast twitch muscle fibres, you must exercise explosively to bring these fibres into play, as at low intensity, only the slow twitch fibres are used.

Creatine

Creatine is a protein which supplies muscles with energy. It is produced naturally by the body, but some benefit in the length and intensity of training can be gained from creatine supplements.