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Article: Nutrition to improve your performance - Part II

Marc Romera

Entrenador personal y nutricionista, especializado en salud metabólica e integrativa.


As we saw in the first part of this article, to answer the question “What to eat around training to improve your performance?” We have to first attend to the context, which in a clear and summarized way, refers to the entire set of individual variables that condition the result.
For this reason, we were able to understand how depending on the amount of time one has between food and physical activity, as well as the objective of the training itself or even the type of diet and the result we pursue, the food options chosen may vary. and differ considerably.
Although we also point out that, in reality, modern science has denied on several occasions that there is a famous “anabolic window” where we must ingest a large portion of protein after training and during a specific period of time to initiate the processes of muscle recovery and growth and thus avoid losing muscle mass; Despite everything, there are still many people concerned about covering their nutritional and energy requirements regarding physical activity with guarantees.
As in the previous article we talked about nutrition focused on increasing sports performance or muscle mass, this time, we will focus on knowing the best options or alternatives to maximize fat loss.

To begin with, if your top priority is to improve your body composition and lose weight in the form of fat, the first variable that you should take into account and attend to is always the intensity of physical exercise.
From a physiological point of view, all those activities that have a sufficient supply of oxygen, that is, aerobic, of medium or low intensity, which in some way allow us to maintain physical or sports practice for a sufficiently long period of time, will use At first (specifically during the first 15-20 minutes) muscle glycogen and glucose as a source of energy, and as time progresses, using and depending increasingly on fatty acids. In this way, if we want to oxidize fats, two basic and essential requirements that must be met are the following:
  1. The first essential requirement is that there is sufficient oxygen supply. Oxygen is necessary so that fatty acids from triglycerides stored in adipose tissue (what we call love handles) can be oxidized, inside the mitochondria. Mitochondria are those parts of our cell that act as a kind of “power plant and that use the oxygen we breathe to convert energy from the food we eat. Therefore, the process of lipolysis and beta-oxidation of fatty acids only occurs in the presence of oxygen. If there is not enough oxygen, such as in all those intense physical activities (HIIT training, strength training, CrossFit, boxing, etc.) or anaerobic activities, our body would resort to glucose as a source of energy.
  2. The second essential requirement would be to have low levels of insulin and glucose. As I have already mentioned on previous occasions through my dissemination channels, the minimal presence of insulin, released as a result of the consumption of carbohydrates, would automatically inhibit (that is, prevent) the oxidation of fatty acids, since this hormone, It fulfills physiological purposes of energy storage.
Once this is clarified, if we take both factors into account, the first thing we will realize is that:
  • We are not interested in consuming carbohydrates before physical activity (as these would release insulin to a greater or lesser extent).
  • We must carry out activities that we can sustain over time, such as walking, running at a light pace, etc.
Therefore , one of the things you should keep in mind, from the outset, is that neither strength training, nor metabolic interval training, nor any other high-intensity physical activity such as spinning classes, boxing, sprinting, etc. , etc.: they oxidize fat directly.
Although it is true that they indirectly DO promote positive adaptations to achieve this goal, in practice it is better that you stay with this concept for now (in a future article we will talk about it in more detail).

1st CONCLUSION: if we want to maximize fat oxidation to lose weight, we must try to maintain a low-carbohydrate diet or even consider certain tools such as intermittent fasting, in order to minimize the action of insulin. In this way, low protocols
carb or the ketogenic diet have proven to be very effective strategies for fat loss, by considerably increasing satiety levels and, in turn, decreasing insulin levels.
Therefore, and ultimately, my recommendation before training would be:
  • Try not to eat anything, at least 2.5-3 hours before physical activity, in order to improve the oxidation of endogenous fatty acids and for our body to use its stored fat.
  • If the objective were to increase performance in this type of activities, we could include a source of quickly assimilated fats such as those from coconut oil or more specifically those from MCT oil. The medium chain triglycerides contained in this class of oils have been shown to increase the production of ketone bodies; molecules produced in the liver from dietary fatty acids that act as a kind of “super fuel” and significantly increase performance in aerobic activities. A practical way to incorporate them would be to make a “Bulletproof coffee” which is nothing more than coffee (or tea) along with a tablespoon (depending on your tolerance) of the aforementioned oil, at least 20 minutes before physical activity.

On the other hand, and in relation to proteins, it is true that in very long duration activities, such as running for example, there is a strong energy demand and in many cases (if the intensity of the exercise varies over time) we can run the risk of high consumption of amino acids by muscle tissue, so it would not be unreasonable to recommend ingesting an exogenous source of amino acids, either in the form of a supplement (about 20 minutes before training) or in the form of protein of solid foods, such as with our Fit Pro Oatmeal Bread (at least 2.5 hours before physical activity).

Having said that, let's now look at what we should eat after physical activity.

Once the training or physical practice has been completed, as our goal will continue to be to keep fatty acid consumption high and, in turn, preserve muscle mass to avoid possible loss, my advice again is to avoid medium or high glycemic index carbohydrates, thus preventing the action of insulin.
Therefore, we could opt for several strategies:
  1. The first strategy would be focused on continuing with this window of fatty acid oxidation, delaying the time of intake, allowing our body to resort to its stored energy.
  2. The second strategy would be focused on consuming a sufficient amount of protein (greater than 30 g net of protein) in order to minimally release insulin (remember, protein also has an impact on this hormone, although less than carbohydrate) with the in order to quickly start the muscle protein synthesis process, without interrupting the fat loss process for a long time.
  3. The third, and final strategy, would be focused on ingesting a generous amount of protein through food, along with a source of fat and fiber (through vegetables) to provide the entire set of essential nutrients that we need and in turn , again minimizing the impact of the hormone insulin. In this meal, practically all proteins of animal origin would be valid, all vegetables and the contribution of healthy fats such as virgin olive oil, olives, nuts, avocado, etc.
  4. My favorite options:
  • Only water with minerals (to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes).
  • 30 g whey protein shake with organic vegetable, almond or coconut milk, with cinnamon.
  • Vegetables or varied vegetables, 150-200 g of animal protein (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, etc.) and a source of fat such as virgin olive oil, avocado, etc.
  • Low carb & high protein margherita pizza , with 22 g of protein per serving (150 g).
  • Protein bread , which is not only high in protein but also in fiber, with 1/2 avocado and 1 egg.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: we must also take into account our body composition. If we are people who are overweight or obese, probably by implementing a low-carbohydrate nutritional protocol and doing physical exercise of moderate intensity and long duration, we will lose much more weight (fat) than, for example, other people with a lower fat percentage and who have already used these protocols.

On the other hand, an additional tool, if we seek to amplify our fat oxidation and enhance the benefits of the training or physical activity itself, would be to carry out an intermittent fasting protocol (gradually and preferably under professional supervision), since this tool reduces even more. blood glucose (sugar) levels as well as insulin levels, allowing the elevation of other antagonistic hormones (with opposite effects) such as Glucagon and Catecholamines, which have a direct impact on the enzyme responsible for the oxidation of fatty acids (HSL).
If, in addition, you do not have hypertension problems and you are a person without heart problems, I would propose the following strategy:
Intermittent fasting + Physical exercise (fasting or not) + Coffee/tea + Exposure to cold + Low carbohydrate diet.

Exposure to cold has been shown to accelerate metabolism, stimulate the immune system and release a protein called “ Adiponectin ” that not only improves insulin sensitivity, but also facilitates “fat burning.”
For its part, the consumption of beverages such as coffee or tea not only increases cognitive capacity, attention, delays the appearance of fatigue and improves performance, but also increases the central nervous system, catecholamines and facilitates the oxidation of fatty acids.

Summary of "Nutrition to improve your performance" ( part I and II)
  • If the physical activity is intense, (we can add here that those that include weight lifting as well) it is better to consume carbohydrates beforehand.
  • If the physical activity is of medium or low intensity (or 100% cardio) and we want to oxidize fat, it is better not to consume carbohydrates.
  • If we want to increase sports performance or our muscle mass, it is better to take carbohydrates (glucose + fructose) along with protein (amino acids) after training.
  • If our goal is to maximize fat loss without losing muscle, it is better not to eat carbohydrates and eat enough protein post-workout.
  • If we want to improve our performance in aerobic activities, drinking a bulletproof coffee (coffee + coconut oil or MCT oil) can be a good idea.
  • If we want to amplify fat oxidation, we can drink coffee or tea before medium-low intensity physical activity on an empty stomach.
  • All intakes of the day are important.
  • Protein is the most important macronutrient for fat loss and muscle gain, so I recommend ranging between 1.5 and 1.8-2 g /kg of weight.
  • Regardless of the type of physical activity and the duration, hydration is a very important aspect to take into account (and even more so if it is done in a fasting state), so I highly recommend hydrating correctly ( 1.5 L ) and replenishing essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium or magnesium during sports activity.

That's it, today's article.

Soon in the future, we will delve deeper into the hormones, tissues and enzymes involved in the process of fat loss or muscle gain.

I hope you liked it and do not hesitate to share this article.

Marc Romera.

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