L-Carnitine Tartrate For Athletic Performance

I am personally a big fan of l-carnitine supplementation. This amino acid compound, consisting of lysine and methionine, can be found in a couple of different forms. This article discusses L-carnitine tartrate, which is the form known to benefit athletic performance and recovery.

There are a couple of important points to consider when supplementing with carnitine. First of all, insulin must be present in the body for carnitine to enter muscle. One way of taking carnitine is to ingest carnitine with carbs so that there is an insulin release, but another effective option is to ingest carnitine with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids optimize cell membrane health, thus making cells more sensitive to insulin. Carnitine serves as a delivery system for fatty acids, so if carnitine levels are high, more fatty acids will be shuttled into cells to be utilized for energy.

Conversely, when carnitine levels are low, fewer fatty acids are moved into the cells and are instead stored as fat. Supplementation with carnitine before intense exercise, especially cardio, will switch the focus on burning fat rather than utilizing glycogen stores, resulting in longer sessions before glycogen stores are depleted. In addition, the presence of carnitine inhibits production of lactic acid, so recovery from intense exercise is more rapid.

Carnitine is not only an excellent performance supplement, it also serves as an excellent means of addressing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, characterized by diabetes, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol, can be countered by carnitine’s ability to induce fat loss, prevent atherosclerosis and minimize the development of diabetes. After several months of carnitine supplementation, carnitine levels reach a level at which energy production and performance are enhanced. For this reason, it is best to consider carnitine an essential supplement in your daily regimen rather than as something taken only periodically.

Take 500 to 2,000 milligrams of l-carnitine tartrate daily, along with omega-3 fatty acids, for best results.

Why We Crave Bad Foods

Most of us have certain food cravings, and for some of us, those cravings can be frequent and incredibly strong. Scientists have determined that there is a biological basis for food cravings, so those cravings may be next to impossible to avoid. First of all, our prehistoric ancestors had to deal with a very limited supply of calorie dense food because they had to hunt for it. They constantly dealt with a feast or famine lifestyle, a stark contrast to modern times, in which plenty of food is readily available.

Programmed To Crave

The prehistoric human brain would respond to a sudden caloric intake by releasing serotonin and dopamine, both of which created a sense of well-being. This release of brain chemicals also occurs in modern humans. In addition, meals which are high in fat and sugar result in decreased production of stress-related hormones.

The bottom line is that our brains are programmed to crave and seek foods which are high in calories, fat, carbs and salt, just like our ancestors, who rarely had meat protein, and only after a successful hunt. It’s no surprise that fatty, caloric foods are associated with feelings of contentment, especially since we tend to have more cravings when we are anxious or under stress.

According to research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, three regions of the brain (hippocampus, caudate and insula) light up when a subject craves a certain food. In another study, by Adam Drewnowski, PhD, when pleasure-sensing opiate receptors in the brain were blocked, subjects no longer craved sugary or high fat foods.

How To Control Cravings

Though carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap in recent years, it is the combination of carbohydrates with fat and salt that appears to be the winning combination for foods which spark cravings. Prime examples are pizza, French fries, and macaroni and cheese.

Individuals who have a greater degree of willpower are usually best off with having a small serving of the food they crave, which satisfies the craving. However, some people lack the ability to control the desire to indulge in cravings, and tend to binge on decadent foods. In such cases, the best thing to do is to avoid stocking those foods entirely.

White Rice

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Anyone who grew up in a household which was managed on a shoestring budget can relate to the concept of adding an inexpensive, bulky carbohydrate to meals to increase their volume. My entire childhood was punctuated by the ubiquitous presence of glutinous Japanese sticky rice. In fact, the only times I did not consume white rice with dinner were when my mom decided to heat up Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese, Stouffer’s Lasagna, or pot pies (Swanson and Banquet were the two brands she bought…she ended up purhcasing whatever was on sale). When we had the mac and cheese or the lasagna, we would split the dinner, and she would serve frozen veggies on the side.

All of our other meals featured a mound of white rice which occupied the majority of the plate’s surface. If we had broiled hot dogs, there was rice. Scrambled eggs and rice. Broiled chicken and rice. Vienna sausage and rice. Pan fried SPAM and rice. The occasional steak or lamb chop treat and rice. Sukiyaki (one of only two dishes my mother knew how to cook) and rice. Meatloaf (the other dish my mom could make from scratch) and rice. I even had Campbell’s soup with rice, and was so accustomed to eating soup with rice, that I was always thrown off when I would go to a classmate’s house and encounter soup being served as a precursor to the main course, not the actual main course, and sans rice.

Despite the fact that I was raised in a very low income household, and ate processed foods almost constantly, I was a very happy child and never felt that I was being deprived. I was more astonished and disgusted by the ultra wealthy children I went to school with, because I thought they lived in a false world, one which was based almost exclusively on possessions and financial wealth. A number of my classmates were pretentious, unpleasant brats who were so brainwashed with a sense of entitlement that they probably got kicked around by life when they had to navigate through it on their own.

White rice was such an important part of my life that once I moved out of my mom’s as an adult, I quickly got a rice cooker. I was so unhappy with the small Hitachi cooker I got, that I almost ran cartwheels when someone gifted me with an 8-cup National cooker (that cooker is still with me, almost 30 years later). For those of you who are Japanese, you can probably relate to that need to have a National, Tiger, or Zojirushi cooker! The nicest Zojirushi rice cookers are quite fancy now, as you can see here:

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And yes, I still covet a Zojirushi rice cooker!

Now that I am very carb conscious, I avoid white rice on most days, but there are carb spike days in which I allow myself to indulge in jasmine white rice. Why? Because white rice is one of my main comfort foods. It ties me to my Japanese heritage, and it reminds me of my humble upbringing.

When The Hunger Beast Strikes

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Every once in a while, I will experience hunger that never seems to subside, no matter how much I give into my body’s insistence on foraging for food throughout the day. Since this type of insatiable hunger is exceedingly rare for me, I generally will allow myself to indulge in greater amounts of fuel than what I would normally eat. I usually take strong hunger impulses as a sign that my body actually needs the fuel, and that I might be lacking in some nutrient. Sometimes a killer leg workout will spark this mad hunger, and other times it might be a cleaning spree which causes my appetite to ramp up.

I almost relish the times that my body craves food like this, because I am usually not too excited about food. When I was in my teens, I went through anorexia, and feared many foods. Though I became a bit of a foodie in my twenties, exploring gourmet foods whenever I could, I had to adopt an “eat-to-survive” attitude once I reached my thirties, as a result of the rigorous medical training I underwent. During medical school and internship, I lived by the credo, “Eat when you can, use the bathroom when you can, sleep when you can”.

Then in my forties, the world of competing caused me to fall in love with some of the foods which I had demonized back in my teens. Though I rarely cave into the powerful lure of chocolate, desserts, pizza, and fried foods, I definitely learned to appreciate them during my competitive years. These days, I can stock chocolate, nuts and nut butter in my house without fear that I will go hog wild constantly and consume them all in one sitting. They are even relatively safe when the hunger beast strikes.

When I experience hunger which I cannot satisfy, I do NOT turn to unhealthy foods. Instead, I keep eating clean meals like chicken and green beans. However, I will often feel just as hungry after eating a meal as I did when I reached for the meal in the first place! When that happens, I will wait about a half hour, then snack on something relatively healthy, such as a small handful of almonds, or some lowfat cottage cheese, in hopes that my hunger will abate.

However, all bets are off if the hunger beast is around on my carb spike day! There have been numerous times in which the two have coincided, and during which I have allowed myself to eat pasta, bread, a large amount of rice, or some other carbohydrate rich food. The aftermath of such a carb bump is that my weight will actually DECREASE 2 or 3 pounds the next morning. This is one of the reasons why I encourage clients to have a moderate bump in calories and carbs every now and then, to spark the metabolic furnace.

As long as the hunger beast comes around only rarely, and you are in tune with your body’s needs, you should be able to indulge it without any issues.

Nutrient Timing

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If you are at all interested in optimal fitness, you need to be aware of what nutrients your body needs in order to build muscle and metabolize fat as well as optimize performance. This is better known as nutrient timing. Proper timing of the foods you eat will support hormone function and promote a lean and muscular physique, while eating the wrong foods at the wrong time will trigger fat deposition, loss of muscle, and longer post-workout recovery times.

When nutrient timing comes into play, the goal is to shift body composition so that fat loss and muscle gain are optimized and glycogen stores are maximized. Such shifts have long-standing health benefits which can effectively prevent development of major diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. One caveat is that consuming excessive amounts of food will result in fat gain regardless of nutrient timing.

During training days, you should consume higher amounts of protein and carbohydrate and decrease your fat intake. The general rule is to consume about 1 to 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight, with most of your carbs consumed post-workout. On your rest days, you should consume higher fat and protein while dropping your carb intake to about 0.5 grams per pound body weight. The rationale behind this is that you want to encourage higher insulin levels post-workout, but lower insulin levels at all other times.

You may want to bump up your carbohydrate intake a bit throughout the day if you are looking to gain muscle, since insulin stimulates growth or anabolism. You can also ingest carbs throughout the day if you are already lean and just want to maintain. However, if you are looking to lose body fat, you need to consume most of your carbs during and post-exercise, and consume mainly protein and fat during all other times.

MAW Nutrition Update!

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MAW Nutrition Inc. now has meals available! You can select 3, 4, 6, 8, or 10 ounce portions of cooked chicken, then customize the rest of the meal by choosing any one of the carb sources, and any one of the vegetable sources.

Check it out here: http://www.mawnutritioninc.com/category-s/1866.htm

As always, you can order a la carte selections as well. Be sure to use my discount code, NAITO10, for 10% off your order!

Are Post-Workout Carbohydrates Necessary?

Please check out my latest article for Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide!

You can access the original post here:

http://www.sportsnutritionsupplementguide.com/eating-plans/item/1532-are-post-workout-carbohydrates-necessary#.VfiGeBFViko

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If you have been lifting weights for a while, you have probably heard about the importance of ingesting simple carbohydrates during the critical post-workout window. The idea is that the insulin spike which occurs with carb consumption augments protein uptake and thus optimizes muscle building and repair.

However, there is a growing body of evidence which argues against this theory. One study which was published in Nutrition and Metabolism split older male subjects into two groups, one of which consumed only protein post-workout, while the other group consumed the identical amount of protein, with an added carbohydrate source in a 1 to 2 ratio. The subjects in the second group initially had an insulin spike and a greater uptake of protein into muscle tissue, but after several hours, both groups had the same uptake of protein.

Athletes who train several times a day may benefit from the faster rate of protein absorption which accompanies carbohydrate consumption during the post-workout window since they need to keep glycogen stores full for the next workout. However, the average person or athlete who only trains once per day will be able to replenish glycogen levels within a day or two, without any negative effects, as long as enough carbohydrates are consumed in the diet throughout each day. This is great news for individuals who cannot consume large amounts of simple carbohydrates, either due to diabetes or excess weight, because the overall absorption and uptake of protein is unaffected by carbohydrate intake.

Substances like whey protein induce an even bigger spike in insulin than carbs do, and the increase insulin levels from protein alone is adequate to inhibit the muscle breakdown which occurs post-lift. You might also consider employing a carb-cycle diet which consists of a low carb plan intermixed with one or two high carb days per week. The carb spike days will effectively replenish glycogen stores and keep your energy high for those intense lifting days, while the remaining lower carbohydrate days will boost growth hormone production.

REFERENCES: Hamer H, Wall B, Kiskini A, de Lange A, et al (2013) Carbohydrate co-ingestion with protein does not further augment post-prandial muscle protein accretion in older men. Nutrition & Metabolism 10:15.