Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fish Oil for Bodybuilding Enthusiasts

Omega-3s will continue to top the list of health promoting supplements in 2014. Omega-3s, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have been well researched and may be recommended for improving athletic performance.

You may have already heard that omega-3s promote your heart health. Read about it here and here.  But what can omega-3s do for a bodybuilder like you?

1)         First of all, where can you find EPA and DHA?
Cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel and halibut are rich sources of DHA and EPA. Algae often provides only DHA.
If your diet does not include enough of these foods in a daily basis, you will need to talk to your sports dietitian about taking an omega-3/fish oil supplement. The FDA recommends that consumers not exceed more than a total of 2 grams per day of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids from a dietary supplement.

2)         Do fish oil pills help me increase my muscle mass?
A scientific article found that omega-3s work on preserving your lean mass during energy restriction, or in conjunction with aerobic exercise. It may help change your body composition. Another article found that fish oil supplements promote greater improvements in muscle strength in elderly women who performed strength training.
Omega-3s improve the work of insulin. One of the things insulin does is regulate protein formation. So omega-3s work indirectly with muscle mass synthesis (formation).

3)         What are other interesting functions of EPA and DHA that may work for me?
Research has shown an association of EPAs and DHAs intake with a reduction in inflammation. The decrease of inflammation may be linked to less muscle soreness, which means more lifting! 
 In addition, omega-3s have also been shown to increase blood flow to muscles in rats during exercise. More blood flow gives more oxygenated blood to work the muscle further. Another article from 2008 found that fish oil reduced heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. These results are saying that you may be able to exercise for a little longer than usual if you eat more fatty fish!
Lastly, some research found that DHA may also improve your brain function. It may help you get greater focus and alertness during your training sessions.

Conclusion: start eating more cold water fatty fish for a better athletic performance!

 Livia Ly
I'm a health enthusiast and a wellness activist. I'm a dietitian trained in Brazil and also a nutrition grad student in Chicago. ΡΌ

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Latest In Brown Fat Research, Don't Be Left Out In The Cold

UT Southwestern Medical Center researches have been  interpreting  how new fat cells are created.  There are two kinds of body fat.  White fat which acts as storage and padding around organs and brown fat.  Brown fat has been a hot research topic because it burns extra Calories.  By figuring out how to make more brown fat we can have an additional tool to fighting obesity. 

"Much of the current excitement in the obesity field stems from recent observations highlighting that, even as adults, we have the ability to generate brown fat cells in response to cold exposure. Unlike white fat cells that mostly just store fat, brown adipocytes keep us warm by burning fat at a high rate," said Dr. Philipp Scherer, Director of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research at UT Southwestern. 

Image Source:
Dr. Scherer reports that although we thought that brown fat was present in infants and mice, current research “points to the observation that adults also generate these cells when exposed to cold…The major finding is that the cold-induced adaptation and appearance of brown fat cells involves the generation of completely new cells rather than a retooling of pre-existing white fat cells into brown fat cells in response to the cold  (Science Daily, 2013).”

The research team now looks to take these findings and interpret them into clinical use.

Original Article From ScienceDaily:

 Gina Lesako RD, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator (those interested in writing for SCAN can email her directly at, resolve to increase your online exposure).  

She can also be found blogging at  Find her on SCAN:

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Does Caffeine Enhance Athletic Performance?

The fruit seed coffee beans are the mainstay of many countries economic sustainability. Furthermore, most people (52% of Americans including myself) depend on coffee for their energy daily. The popularity of caffeine is no foreign concept to athletes either. Most sports gels contain caffeine and I hear more and more people trying 5 Hour Energy Shots before competition and games, not to mention the $5.4 billion dollar industry of energy drinks. But is all this hype about caffeine hearsay, or is it worth downing a mug of joe before your next marathon?

Caffeine works similarly to other addictive drugs, say nicotine and cocaine, by blocking adenosine receptors. Caffeine crosses the blood-brain barrier and actually blocks blood flow by about 22-30%, thus blocking pain and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Metabolites of caffeine such as theobromineincrease the amount of oxygen and blood flow to muscles and theopyllineacts as a muscle relaxant that targets bronchioles (our lungs).

Caffeine's important mechanism of action as far as athletes are concernedcomes with its ability to spare muscle glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose, our body's preferred source of fuel, in the liver and muscles. Experimental studies have not reached a consensus on this puzzle, but some point to caffeine elevating free fatty acids in the blood, thus allowing the body to use fatty acids as energy instead of carbohydrates. Caffeine also impacts the enzymes that break down glycogen, thus sparing the glycogen. Calcium release is necessary for muscle contraction, and since caffeine stimulates this release, it has a direct effect on muscle fatigue.

Caffeine's effects can be felt after 30 minutes of consumption and stay within the system for 4-6 hours. Actually, if you consume an afternoon latte, by bedtime only half of the caffeine has been metabolized and left your bloodstream. A good point to keep in mind if are interested in keep your sleeping habits regular, especially for training purposes. Although you may be able to fall asleep without problem, caffeine will interrupt your sleep cycle and the quality of your sleep.

Overall, experts do claim caffeine consumption to be advantageous for athletic performance. Benefits are reached when more than 3 mg caffeine per kilogram body weight is consumed, with max benefits around 6 to 9 mg/kg body weight. For a point of reference, a 12 ounce mug (the size of a tall Starbucks beverage) of drip coffee contains about 200 mg caffeine. Generally speaking, sports gels have 20-30 mg caffeine per packet.

Additionally, benefits of caffeine are noticed more when caffeine is consumed both before (no more than 60 minutes) and during activity, 4.3 ± 5.3% better actually. Studies also show that dehydration is not necessarily more worrisome with caffeine ingestion but that caffeine's benefits are better felt with water and carbohydrate consumption.

Caffeine still can benefit even us chronic users, but habitual caffeine drinkers will have more adenosine receptor sites, making caffeine's work a little more difficult. It may be best to abstain from caffeine up to seven days before the sporting event to feel the maximum effects the day of.

I actually participated in a study conducted by the University of Illinois that sought to determine the effects of caffeine on athletic performance. On two separate occasions, I ingested a pill - one caffeinated capsule and one placebo. There was a noticeable difference in my cycling effort. Although I am not a cyclist, I was able to exert myself to a much greater effort on the 2nd attempt. I can only assume this was after having the caffeinated capsule considering the results of the study showed that caffeine does in fact reduce leg muscle pain, allowing a greater cycling intensity because of blocked pain receptors. Titled "Effect of Caffeine on Leg-Muscle Pain During Intense Cycling Exercise," this study was published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

How bout those 
5 Hour Energy drinks? Although they do not contain the sugar of most other energy drinks, they are mostly caffeine (~138 mg) with a mega dose of B vitamins and some amino acids. Amino acids can enter the Krebs cycle, the second part of ATP production. B vitamins are necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins, thus helping with the conversion of carbs to glucose, giving us more energy. Side effects of too much B6 include nerve and muscle damage


Judelson, DA, Armstrong, LE, Sokmen, B, Roti, MW, Casa, DJ, and Kellogg, MD. Effect of chronic caffeine intake on choice reaction time, mood, and visual vigilance. Physiol Behav 85: 629-634, 2005.

O'Connor, PJ, Motl, RW, Broglio, SP, and Ely, MR. Dose-dependent effect of caffeine on reducing leg muscle pain during cycling exercise is unrelated to systolic blood pressure. Pain 109: 291-298, 2004.

Ganio, Matthew S; Klau, Jennifer F; Casa, Douglas J; Armstrong, Lawrence E; Maresh, Carl M. Effect of Caffeine on Sport-Specific Endurance Performance: A Systematic Revie. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23(1), 315-324, 2009.

Clark, N. Sports Nutrition Guidebook 3rd Edition. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2003: 102-103.
Ryan, M. Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes 2nd Edition. Boulder, Colorado: Velo Press; 2007: 197.

Melissa Majumdar, Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer, is an enthusiastic member of the Sinai Bariatric Surgery Team. She is currently finishing a Master's Degree in Applied Nutrition with a concentration in Fitness and Nutrition and hopes to share her nutrition knowledge with athletes. Since Melissa was a teenager, she has been passionate about nutrition, fitness, and helping others. She is excited to combine her interests to help her patients lose weight, accomplish their goals, and achieve ideal health and fitness levels.
Melissa graduated with honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied Dietetics and Hospitality Management. She completed the Sodexo Mid-Atlantic Dietetic Internship at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, and has since then worked with patients to manage diabetes, improve gastrointestinal complaints, achieve athletic accomplishments, lose weight, and increase energy. At Sinai, Melissa counsels patients during clinic on an individual basis, teaches pre- and post-surgery nutrition classes, and organizes and facilitates bariatric Strive to Succeed group meetings. She also hosts a Facebook page "Melissa RD" and blogs at" 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Low Carbohydrate Semantics

Most people find renewed motivation and hope in the new year and use this to focus on improved health, which usually includes a change in diet and nutrition. A focus on weight loss is the most popular approach for good reason: being overweight or obese directly influences your risk for chronic disease. However, in an effort to jumpstart weight loss and maintain motivation, many people focus on deprivation or removal of specific foods from their diet. This approach is not sustainable for most people (not all!) because behavioral and environmental factors are not taken into consideration. Removing that extra pint of ice cream, sugar laden cereal or nightly cookie binge is a respectable goal. One of the most popular regimens is to decrease or remove carbohydrates from the diet. However, when it comes to removing an entire food group one should be clear on what foods and nutrients they are actually eliminating.
 The term “low carbohydrate” is technically defined by a diet that is low in fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains. However, most people actually think or visualize a ‘low carbohydrate’ diet as one that eliminates processed foods. Since most people eat a substantial amount of processed grains (bagels, breads, pastries) there is a generalized mindset of ‘bad carbs’ and therefore, one should be on a low carbohydrate diet. Instead, most people should follow a diet that consists of non-processed foods. Processed food does not contain a lot of nutrients, however, grains like amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and whole oats contain B vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, B6,) folic acid, fiber, and fatty acids. This is one of the first clarifications I make when working with someone who is having difficulty losing weight and is interested in cutting out carbohydrates because they know someone else who had success doing so.

The most popular eating plan that focuses on unprocessed foods is the Paleo Diet. If you want to follow the Paleo diet be prepared to be prepared!  You have to make time to create most of your meals which could be a very significant lifestyle change. You will also need to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables you consume on a daily basis to fuel and recover from your workouts.  In addition, purchasing lean sources of protein can be costly, and if you are vegan or vegetarian the ability to consume complete proteins is limited if you avoid rice, barley, quinoa, or legumes. The Paleo Diet for athletes does allow whole grains and recommends consuming gels (other sports supplements) during workouts. This is because if your goal is performance, nothing beats a variety of simple sugars for fuel. If you are extremely focused on a “clean” diet and will not eat anything in a wrapper, there are whole food options available for during your workouts. However, it must be noted, that if the majority of your normal intake of food is not processed, using sports supplements during your training, isn’t “unhealthy.”  There are limits to what each persons’ digestive tract can handle and many cannot break down and assimilate the fuel necessary from whole foods during their training. This can be trained and improved over time if steps are taken to improve the integrity of the GI tract, but in the meantime, it’s okay to eat gels and chews according to what is necessary to fuel your workout.  

People experience weight loss quickly when first implementing the Paleo Diet due to under-eating and not having the “allowable” foods on hand when they are hungry. It’s best to reduce your training volume when first implementing this diet so that adaptation to training is not compromised.

If your goal is performance you need to develop a plan to consume carbohydrate before or during your workouts lasting longer than ninety minutes. Be careful not to cut out all grains or that chocolate chip cookie post long-run. Not focusing on recovery (eating carbohydrate post workout) will have repercussions (e.g. malaise, muscle soreness) in your next workout.

Recommendations on how to implement the Paleo Diet will vary depending upon your training volume, health history, and daily life schedule.  These variables are important because of the physiological adaptations that occur when you gain or lose weight, and become fit. In addition, each person has his or her own goals (performance, weight loss), and life-work routine that may change on a daily basis. Just like in an annual training (running, biking) program, when working with athletes, I build an annual nutrition plan. This is because even during a microcylce, or week of training, you may implement different nutrition strategies depending upon your workout. 

Regina Hammond, MS, RD ( hammond) is the Director of Nutrition at Trismarter Triathlon Coaching and Nutrition ( When she isnt running up Pikes Peak Regina is creating custom hydration and fueling plans for triathletes racing in 1/2, & full IM distance races and  ultra running events. Staying abreast of the latest research she believes in an individualized approach to nutrition. With a background in competitive swimming, biking and running, she understands what it takes to be a competitive triathlete and works with clients on performance fueling plans, periodized nutrition plans, weight loss, and behavior change.  Follow her on twitter (/reginahammondMS), facebook (/trismarter), or email her at

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Perfect Sports Diet for 2014

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to shape up your eating, please keep reading…
I have a lot of clients who set the goal of eating the perfect sports diet (no sugar, white flour, red meat, processed foods, etc.). These are the same folks who get mad at themselves for “cheating” if they eat a cookie or consider themselves “being bad” if they sneak a French fry. Sometimes they let their bodies become ravenously hungry because “there was nothing healthy to eat.”

As you make your New Year’s Nutrition Resolutions, I suggest you think about enjoying a sports diet that balances out to be about 90% “quality calories” and 10% “whatever.” That is, some days “whatever” might be an apple, and another day “whatever” might be apple pie with ice cream. Though you may deem pie to be a “bad food,” it can still be part of a good diet (and is actually quite delicious!)

Please remember: You need not eat a perfect diet to have a good diet. And also remember: eating anything is better than letting your body become too hungry because you were confronted with only “junk food” and ate nothing. On that day when you get stuck without any healthy food options, you’d be better off enjoying a candy bar for a mid-afternoon snack than abusing your body with lack of fuel. (Yes, living “too hungry” is abusive. Please don’t do that!)

With best wishes for a 2014 filled with enjoyable meals and balanced food choices.

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor, consultant, speaker (Philly 1/24; Pitt. 2/7; online 24-7) (books, handouts, PowerPoint talks)

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook NEW Fifth Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists   iPhone app: Recipes for Athletes

Friday, January 17, 2014

Increase Your Online Exposure in 2014 With The SCAN Blog

Are you a dietitian interested in nutrition communications?  Maybe you have a cool job or are a student pursuing your RD license?  Are you a blogger looking to increase your exposure (and want to recycle some old posts)?  Working on or researching an up and coming topic in food and nutrition?  Email Gina, SCAN blog coordinator at

Gina Lesako RD, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator (those interested in writing for SCAN can email her directly at, resolve to increase your online exposure).  

She can also be found blogging at  Find her on SCAN:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strength Training: A Fountain of Youth?

Like it or not, every one of us is getting older, day by day. Both fitness exercisers and athletes alike commonly wonder how aging impacts performance—and what they can do to retain youthful fitness. Here are six facts gathered from a workshop ( presented by Dr. William Evans, an exercise physiologist and expert on aging, muscles, and protein. Perhaps the information can help you chart a healthy course into 2014 and beyond.

1. The average person loses about 1% of their fitness per year. Aerobic capacity goes down, particularly after age 60. Staying active helps maintain a slighter higher ability to uptake oxygen than a non-athlete, but the rate of loss is the same.

2 We lose muscle as we age, starting as young as age 20, with a steady decline year after year. To treat this age-related loss of muscle, you need to lift weights or do other forms of resistance exercise. Yet, even strong athletes still lose some muscle with aging.

3. Body fat secretes adipokines (hormones) that have negative effects on muscle strength and contributes to increased inflammation, particularly after ages 60 to 70. Inflammation leads to heart disease and diabetes. Hence, fatness can be a powerful predictor of disability in people ages 50 to 75. Stay lean!

4. Muscle loss is the key reason why older people become frail and end up in nursing homes. When they stop exercising, they experience a steep drop in strength. The good news is they can do something about frailty: lift weights! In only12 weeks, 60- to 70-year-old men regained the fitness they had lost over 15 years. 

5.  Most strength gains occur in the first 3 months of starting a lifting program due to early neuro-muscular changes. The nervous system learns how to recruit muscles more efficiently and this stimulates more muscle cells.

6. Strength training helps prevent bone loss. In a year-long study with post-menopausal women, all of the women who lifted weights improved their bone health. Those who did not lift weights lost ~2% bone density in one year. Exercise is better than osteoporosis drugs—plus, you’ll get stronger! 

Here’s to good healthy and activity so you can enjoy “the golden years” sooner or later.

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor, consultant, speaker (Philly 1/24; Pitt. 2/7; online 24-7) (books, handouts, PowerPoint talks)

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook NEW Fifth Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists   iPhone app: Recipes for Athletes

1155 Walnut St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461
617.795.1875  Fax: 617.963.7408

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bread Banter: Gluten Sensitivity, A Quick Primer

Humans have been consuming wheat for 10,000 years.  There's a reason it's called the staff of life.  

Gluten and wheat sensitivity are driving gastroenterology doctors bananas (a gluten free food).  Popular foodie blogs are shedding wheat, more books come out on gluten sensitivity, and well, it's a bonafide food fad.  But what credible literature is really out there?  How is it diagnosed, can we eat a bagel again, and how many of us are affected?   

Gluten sensitivity is an actual reaction to gluten.  According to Dr. Alessio Fasano, medical director of the University of Maryland's Center for Celiac Research, "...we have scientific evidence that indeed, gluten sensitivity not only exists, but it is very different from celiac disease."  The draw back is that there is no biological marker for non-celiac gluten sensitivity at this time.  Also, a lot of people can consume small amounts of gluten with no issues unlike Celiac disease.  

Currently, an article on Celiac Central reported more on diagnosis: 

"Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is diagnosed by process of exclusion. Experts recommend that you first get tested for a wheat allergy and for celiac disease. If both of those are negative, then your doctor may recommend a gluten elimination diet. If symptoms improve on a gluten-free diet, then you likely have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

It is very important that a knowledgeable physician oversee this entire process, which can help to omit patients self-diagnosing themselves and to reduce the likelihood of a placebo effect occurring during dietary intervention."

The condition is rare in children, 1% of children have the sensitivity out grow gluten sensitivity whereas the estimated number of Americans according to Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News, reports about 7% of Americans or roughly 20 million people. 

Read more:

Clues to Gluten Sensitivity

Diagnosis Of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

Gluten Sensitivity Baffles Celiac Disease Specialists

Gina Lesako RD, LD is the SCAN blog coordinator (those interested in writing for SCAN can email her directly at, resolve to increase your online exposure).  

She can also be found blogging at  Find her on SCAN: