In Pursuit of a Better Stronger Male Body
Sports supplements is the focus for the The Zimmerman file in October and November. This issue will explore supplementation for two groups of males, those engaged in competitive high school sports and middle-aged men who are looking for supplements to increase lean muscle mass, strength, endurance, and heal from injuries. Let's begin with the younger group.
The Prep Athlete
Supplementation has become part of the formula for success among many high school athletes. According to a recent survey – funded in part by the National Institutes of Health – approximately 12% of boys aged 12-18 engaged in competitive sports said they used dietary supplements. The most popular are protein powders, however a growing number of young athletes are using creatine, branched chain amino acids, and various combinations of free form amino acids to gain strength, endurance and speed. Still, many question their effectiveness. Let's investigate.
Coaches’ opinions on supplements vary greatly. Some suggest protein to gain weight and strength, while others rely less on supplements and more on working smart and developing the necessary physical skills. In either case, there is one thing that all coaches agree on - keeping hydrated. Electrolyte replacement drinks such as Gatorade and Vitamin Water are popular among high school athletes, the latter being a better choice because it contains more potassium than sodium, which is a better balance between these electrolytes that are often depleted during workouts and team drills. Not surprisingly, little attention has been paid to how young athletes eat. A good diet is critical for top performance and many smart young athletes have caught on. The following guidelines can be helpful.
Dietary recommendations for high school athletes mirror the recommendations for all Americans including an emphasis on lean protein, whole grains and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. What’s unique about diet plans for prep athletes is the timing of protein and carbohydrate intake – carbs before workouts, protein after. Many parents are surprised to learn that their sons could not compete at the highest level if they chowed down on greasy, salty foods before competition or training. A common practice has been a pregame meal of cheeseburgers and fries, pizza and soft drinks, with sugary and salty snacks to provide bursts of energy. The problem with this strategy is that kids gain fat instead of muscle and energy bursts are often followed by sluggishness. A better plan is to have parents provide a pregame meal high in complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and water. Protein rich foods are best reserved for post game meals when building and recovery are needed.
Snacks of nuts, trail mix, fruit, raw vegetables, dried fruit, fruit, organic grain and nut or fruit bars, such as NOW Foods Virta Bars, Real Berry, Green, Omega and Tropical flavors, are more nutritious than candy and chips. Fruit, vegetables and nuts can help keep athletes fit as well. Strenuous training creates lactic acid and other metabolites that make the body more acidic. Fruits and vegetables, being alkaline, help neutralize the acid and reduce recovery time. The fruit and Virta Bars are also alkaline and help to reduce an acidic pH. They also add to daily servings of fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Supplement recommendations for prep athletes are very simple, a high quality protein powder such as NOW Foods Whey Protein with Glutamine plus a multiple vitamin and mineral. Although popular with high school athletes, weight gain powders are not a good choice because many are high in sugar. To build muscle, high quality protein is needed – not sugar. The true value of a protein powder depends upon the protein quality and having a high ratio of protein to carbohydrates.
NOW Whey Protein Powder with Glutamine is the ideal choice for high school athletes because it contains the highest quality pre-digested microfiltered powder for easy mixing and is made from whey concentrates and isolates. It is low in sugars and has an ideal protein to Carb ratio of 3.33:1. It contains important natural immune-building proteins plus 550 mg of pure free-form L-glutamine. Additional glutamine is important for young athletes because it is a key substrate for building muscle and it helps speed recovery. Glutamine enhances brain function and nerve response, which improves speed and skill. NOW Foods Whey Protein with Glutamine also contains potassium and calcium, two minerals that are particularly important for those engaged in competitive athletics.
A shake in the morning and one after practice or at least one hour before practice work well for young athletes and should be mixed with fruit or vegetable juice to help balance pH, particularly after weight training. Adding berries or other fresh fruit and yogurt enhances nutritional value. Try this recipe.
Fruit and Berry Power Shake
1/2 cup NOW Foods Whey Protein with Glutamine
1 cup orange, apple or grape juice
½ cup fresh berries (frozen is O.K.)
½ cup banana, peaches or other fresh fruit, cut up
½ cup plain yogurt with live cultures
1 Tablespoon NOW flax seeds
Directions: Place the juice in a blender container or shaker with lid. Add the protein powder, mix. Add the fruit, yogurt, flax seeds; mix and serve.
Special Two Multiple with Green Superfoods is a great multiple vitamin and mineral formula for high school athletes. One tablet should be taken twice a day with each shake.
Mid-life Sports and Anti-Aging
Things can get complicated for the mid-life man battling an expanding waistline, reduced muscle mass, low energy and sense of well-being, and perhaps lagging libido. A drop in hormone levels is as critical for men as it is for women, although the drop is gradual and less noticeable. One of the greatest concerns for men past 40 is prostate health. Nearly half of middle-aged men develop prostate problems sometime during their life. According to James Nagel, M.D. who is one of a growing number of doctors specializing in anti-aging medicine, testosterone is as essential for prostate health as estrogen is for vaginal health. Other concerns for men are increased fatigue, loss of lean body mass, increased risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, memory loss, bone loss, joint and back pains, irritability and depression. While it’s a good idea for any middle-aged man to have his hormone levels checked, a well-designed workout program and supplements may help raise hormone levels to those of younger men. Saliva hormone test kits are available from natural foods stores. You can collect your own sample and send it to be analyzed.
Exercise for Anti-Aging Benefits
In my book The Anti-Aging Solution, my doctor co-authors and I outlined a sports program for anti-aging benefits. The program calls for 10 minutes of stretching to warm up, followed by 30 to 40 minutes of cardio which raises growth hormone and testosterone levels. Follow the cardio with a maximum of 40 to 45 minutes of weight training, which continues to raise GH and testosterone levels while reducing insulin. After 40 minutes, GH and testosterone hormone levels begin to decline and insulin and cortisol levels start increasing. Working longer will sabotage the hormone benefits of exercise. Conclude with a 10 minute stretch.
The Anti-Aging Solution contains specific dietary plans for men of different weights and ages. It calls for a high protein, moderate carb, and moderate fat program. Plant source protein is preferred and it is easy to achieve ideal levels with a diet rich in vegetables, legumes and lean animal proteins such as fish and poultry.
Men require fewer calories as they age and have to make adjustments by cutting serving size and increasing nutrient dense foods such as whole grains, healthy oils, fresh fruits and vegetables while decreasing nutrient deficient snacks and junk food. Men do better with small frequent meals that emphasize protein and keep glucose and insulin levels steady. Most men find that they can maintain consistent energy and feel less sluggish when they follow this plan. Surprisingly, most shed extra pounds in the process.
Physical activity produces more free radicals which are a natural by-product of an exercise induced faster metabolism. A good daily multiple such as Adam for Men should contain high levels of antioxidants with natural beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition, high levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 keep homocysteine levels in normal range, thus reducing one the principal risk factors for cardiovascular disease. NOW’s Adam for Men also contains prostate protective nutrients, ZMA, and adaptogenic herbs that help combat stress. It also contains vitamin B-6 coenzyme – an important activator of muscle growth.
Nutrient-dense protein shakes made with NOW Foods award-winning Whey Protein Isolate are recommended for men. Whey Protein Isolate Powder packs 25 grams of protein and only 1 gram of carbs into each scoop. It is enriched with branched chain amino acids (BCAA) that are the catalysts for building and regenerating lean muscle and preventing its breakdown. Approximately 35% of the amino acids in muscle are BCAAs. Make protein shakes with fresh fruit and fruit juice instead of milk and use them after workout or for breakfast. The above shake recipe works well with whey protein isolate.
Creatine is a source of instant muscle energy. An amino acid derivative, creatine is popular because it produces quick results and helps eliminate soreness and fatigue by driving the waste product ammonia from the body. Creatine is also effective in helping to heal tendon and ligament tears. It’s important to double water intake when using creatine because water is the vehicle that eliminates the waste creatine has released. Take creatine before and after workouts.
ZMA is a combination of zinc and magnesium that provides highly bioavailable forms of these two minerals. Zinc is a catalyst for over 300 enzymatic reactions that include DNA repair enzymes and those that build new tissue. Magnesium catalyzes reactions that provide energy, controls neuromuscular function, and regulates heart function. ZMA can be taken along with a favorite multiple, but it is also included in Adam.
To balance hormones, several supplements are useful. Tribulus terrestris is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries to restore normal hormone levels without hormone replacement therapy. Men over 60 can benefit from supplementing with either of the natural precursors of testosterone, DHEA or 7-Keto.
Some sound supplement advice comes from Tim Kurtz, nutrition trainer for the Grill and Nutrition Centers in the Boston area. He tells clients that if they want to increase lean mass, they must do resistance exercises. Supplements alone won’t do the trick. Tim has found it takes 15 minutes of resistance exercise at least two times per week to make any gains.
Recovery from Injury or Joint Problems
Older athletes generally have more injuries than younger ones. Part of the reason is that the lubricating fluid in joints becomes thin. Hyaluronic acid is the precursor of the sticky fluid known as glycosaminoglycans. Joints that creak and grind are in need of lubrication.
Tendons and ligaments wear out with overuse and supplying the raw materials from which they are built helps restore function. These are glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin and MSM. Cofactors for the reactions that build connective tissue are manganese and vitamin C. Both are in the Adam formula.
Joint pain can be reduced or even eliminated with a fatty acid product called Celadrin. This remarkable substance alleviates pain and speeds healing by reducing inflammation and swelling. Clinical evidence has shown that Celadrin increases range of motion, improves strength and flexibility and helps reduce discomfort quickly. In many cases, the patient had been incapacitated for a long period of time. As advised previously, stretching is extremely important to maintain joint flexibility and range of motion.
D-Flame is first-aid for recent injuries, over exertion or stress to muscles and joints. It contains a potent blend of supporting agents including herbs, antioxidants and minerals that reduce discomfort and help initiate recovery.
Specific Advice for Athletes and Men’s Fitness
John Urban is an award-winning bodybuilder at NOW Sports. He is available to work with you and answer your specific questions, and has years of experience working with competitive athletes. Give John a call at 800 999-8069 extension 243. Or, drop him an email at john.urban [at] nowfoods.com.
For hormone test kits, visit your local natural foods store. Medical advice on your test results can come from your physician or by contacting Profile Health, which is listed in the resource section of The Anti-Aging Solution: 5 Steps to Looking and Feeling Young. You can find it at local natural foods store as well as from online booksellers.
Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2005-2015. Published with permission. Marcia Zimmerman, M.Ed., CN, is one of the natural product industry’s foremost authorities on nutrition, wellness and human health. Marcia Zimmerman is not affiliated with avivahealth.com.