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Category Archives: Sports Nutrition

Carbohydrates, protein supplements, and muscle recovery products for cycling and endurance sports

Winter Cycling: Food and Drink

Note: This is the tenth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

You probably won’t be cycling as fast or as far in the heart of winter as you would during the summer, but riding through snow and ice can burn a lot of calories. My heart rate monitor and Cyclemeter iPhone app do a decent job of calculating how many calories I burn during normal rides, but I don’t think it is possible for even the best power meter to accurately reflect the calories you burn during the winter—there are just too many variables. Even if you don’t get very thirsty during winter rides you still need to drink a lot or you will get dehydrated; and if you are going to ride for more than 90 minutes you need to take in an appropriate amount of carbohydrates (based on your speed and weight). In this article I am not going to focus on what tho eat or drink as much as I am on how to keep those items from becoming solid blocks of ice during your ride.

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

The colder it gets outside the faster your water bottle is going to freeze. The problem is not confined to your water freezing—before that happens the valve on your water bottle is probably going to freeze shut, so even if you have 18 ounces of liquid in your bottle you still won’t be able to get a drink. One solution is to use a Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle instead of the water bottle you use during the warmer months. The Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle is a 100% food-grade stainless steel bottle with high performance vacuum insulation. The folks at Klean Kanteen claim this bottle with insulate hot beverages for up to six hours, and iced drinks up to twenty-four hours. The six-hour time frame for hot beverages is accurate if the bottle is stored at room temperature, but outside in near zero degree weather it is not going to last that long. However, if will keep you liquids drinkable for at least four hours. Since this is a wide mouth bottle you never have to worry about a small valve freezing shut in the winter. However, you will need to stop your bike in order take off the cap and get a drink (that’s not uncommon in winter cycling).

The Klean Kanteen bottle will fit in most bicycle water bottle cages. However, these bottles are a bit wider than normal bicycle water bottles, and if your water bottle cage is made of aluminum it will scratch the Klean Kanteen bottle to pieces in no time at all. To keep from scratching my bottles I replaced the aluminum bottle cages on my winter bikes with a flexible composite cage. Since most composite cages have a small “lip” to keep the water bottle in place, I took a Dremel rotary tool and removed the “lip” so the bottle would slide in easier. The 20-ounce Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle retails for $28 and is available in several colors, including Black, White, Wild Raspberry, Blue, Gray and Brushed Stainless. This product comes with a lifetime warranty (see the Klean Kanteen Website for complete details).

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Now that you know how to keep your drinks from freezing during a ride, what drink is the best to use? I enjoy hydration mixes from both Skratch Labs and Osmo Hydration—most of the their drink mixes taste great either cold or at room temperature, but very few drink mixes taste good warm. Fortunately, Skratch Labs has recently introduced a new flavor that is designed for both winter and summer use, Apples and Cinnamon, and this mix tastes great when served cold and even better hot! When mixed with hot water the flavor reminds you of a cup of warm apple cider.

Another one of my favorite winter drinks on the bike is hot tea with honey. I always use decaffeinated tea because tea has a diuretic effect and that effect is compounded with caffeine (and when the temperature is well below zero you don’t want to stop to answer the call of nature any more than is absolutely necessary). This is one time when you don’t have to be shy about how much honey you add to the tea—you need the carbs!

Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle, Certified Kosher and Organic

Honey Stinger Organic Chocolate Waffle

For several years I’ve taken Honey Stinger Waffles with me on nearly every bike ride and can’t imagine cycling without them. If you have not tasted a Stinger Waffle your life is sad and lacking. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, these are the best tasting items you will ever consume on a bike! Each waffle has 160 calories, offers 21 grams of carbohydrates, are all organic and certified Kosher. Two packages of waffles take up about the same amount of room in your jersey pocket as a single Clif Bar. As the outside temperature drops these waffles become brittle. The best way to keep the waffles soft is to put them in a jersey pocket under your cycling jacket. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees (which is most of the time in the winter) I put these waffles in my jacket pocket along with a chemical hand warmer. These waffles taste great at room temperature, but when you are riding on a snowy day and pull one out of your jacket that has been warmed up, well, you have a treat fit for a king!

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and Flask

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and 5-Ounce Flask

I don’t normally like using carb gels in the winter because they are too hard to open with gloves or mitts on—and I hate taking off my gloves before I get home from the ride. However, Hammer Gel not only sells their product in individual packages, but also a 26-serving jug of gel for $20 (this comes out to just .77¢ per serving). You can use the gel from the jug to fill your own flask—but the Hammer Gel 5-Ounce Flask is your best bet—it is made of high-density polyethylene and has molded finger tip groves. This flask is incredibly easy to use while on the bike—I can get the gel out faster from the flask than I ever could with a single-serving package. In addition, small packages usually spill a few drops of sticky gel into my jerseys, but the flask seals lock-tight and you won’t spill a drop! I have been carrying this flask in the vest pocket on my jacket—when it gets colder I’ll add a chemical hand warmer to the pocket.

 
22 Comments

Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Sports Nutrition, Winter Cycling

 

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Paleo Diet: The Proof Is In The Blood Tests

Time For My Annual Physical

Time For My Annual Physical

Because I love my wife and want to spend many more years with her I go to my doctor every November for my annual physical. About a week before the physical I go to a lab to get blood drawn (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel, Lipid Panel, and Hemogram). The health care group I use is fairly sophisticated so I can see the results of the blood work less than 24 hours after the blood was drawn. If you ever wondered how a Paleo Diet would impact your health I can sum it up in one word: fantastic!

You’ve probably read articles or blog posts from people who claimed that the Paleo Diet caused them to lose weight, gain energy and give them a general feeling of awesomeness—but this is just anecdotal evidence and it doesn’t do much for me. I live in a world of facts. Many diet programs lead to weight loss, but often at the expense of overall health. The placebo effect easily explains the “increased energy” that many people claim comes for their new diet plan. I’ve been on the Paleo Diet for a little over three months and, yes, I have experienced weight loss, increased energy and a significant decrease in recovery time after strenuous exercise—but what impresses me the most are the results of my blood tests!

Before I explain the results I need to set the stage first. Thirteen years ago I was a morbidly obese workaholic and was experiencing more health problems than time would allow me explain here. The doctor I had at the time was a nice guy, but he was content to load me up with prescription drugs and send me on my way. Somehow I came across of copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution and it changed my life! I took up cycling, weight lifting and kayaking—and in just a few months I dropped most of my excess weight (and also dropped most of the prescriptions). As I became an endurance athlete I started eating healthier foods and have basically followed the Atkins’ Diet until three months ago.

Switching from the Atkins’ Diet to the Paleo Diet was not a problem at all—basically I just had to give up dairy products and cereal grains. The surgeon who repaired my esophagus back in June had already told me I needed to give up dairy products, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable after eating cereal grains anyway. So, switching to the Paleo Diet was easy.

In the past few months on the Paleo Diet I’ve eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with red meat, fish, turkey, chicken, sausage and bacon (mmm…bacon). In fact, about one-third of my calories now come from fats and protein. So, you have to wonder, what did eating all that meat do to my blood work? Drum roll please… not only did my cholesterol and triglyceride levels drop, but so did my fasting blood sugar level! None of these things were a problem with me before, but the point is that the numbers got even better on the Paleo Diet!

In the spirit of full disclosure I believe that the testing of cholesterol levels is probably the most worthless thing your doctor does (well, except for hanging up that stupid “Food Pyramid” chart in the waiting room). As a group physicians are among the brightest people in the country—but, in general, what they don’t know about nutrition could fill volumes! If your doctor wants to measure something that really impacts your health have them check your homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid—high homocysteine levels lead to vascular inflammation and is associated with low levels of vitamin B6, B12, and folate (more about this in a future article).

 
 

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Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast And Easy Paleo Recipes by Ivy Martin

Like a growing number of athletes, I follow a Paleo Diet—some people refer to it as a “high fat” diet, but I prefer the phrase “nutrient rich” since the emphasis is on vegetables, fruit, nuts and healthy portions of meat. My lovely wife is an incredible cook who can take just about any normal recipe and turn it into something that is both tasty and healthy (we sure have a lot of almond flour, flax meal, coconut oil and raw honey in the kitchen cabinets now). However, my wife works during the day and I am left to fend for myself at lunch—I work in my office at home in the mornings and usually go to my real office in the afternoons. I used to go out to eat at local restaurants for lunch, but I thought it would be easier to stay on my diet if I ate at home. Unfortunately, my culinary skills are pretty much limited to use on a Weber charcoal grill so I started looking for things I could make at home and when I found Cave Wraps: 40 Fast & Easy Paleo Recipes For The Best Damn Wraps Ever by Ivy Martin I felt like I had struck gold!

As the name of the book suggests, there are 40 recipes for making wraps—most of the wraps use slices of thick meat (turkey, chicken, ham, beef, salmon, etc.) to hold the ingredients together instead of bread, but some of the recipes call for large pieces of Romaine lettuce leaves. I’ve made nearly every wrap listed in this book (all by myself) and, to quote the old GEICO commercial, they are “so easy a caveman could do it.” Not only are they easy to make, but they taste fantastic! The Maple, Bacon & Ham Wrap is better that any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had at a restaurant, and the Apple Festival Turkey Wrap is now my favorite meal! Bacon lovers rejoice—a lot of the recipes call for that blessed ingredient! Other frequently used ingredients include pecans, walnuts, maple syrup, apples, pineapples, coconut, honey, and eggs.

When I started trying to make these wraps I was having trouble finding high quality cut meats to use. It’s hard for me to believe, but some of the healthiest cut meats on the market are sold at Wal-Mart! The Prima Della brand uses whole muscle cut meats and are gluten-free, soy-free, and contain no fillers or MSG. Another good brand is Boar’s Head, but I’ve had trouble finding a store in my area that sells it. When you buy meat for your wraps you will want it cut thick, so tell the folks at the deli counter that you want either number three or number four thickness (on most commercial meat slicers the number one setting is very thin and the number four is about 1/8″ thick).

Cave Wraps: 40 Fast & Easy Paleo Recipes For The Best Damn Wraps Ever by Ivy Martin is a 93-page paperback book and has beautiful full-color photos to go along with every recipe. This book retails for $20, but I only paid $17 for it on Amazon.com. You can buy the Kindle edition for only $9.

If you are not familiar with the Paleo diet I would suggest you read the Paleo Diet for Athletes—this book really changed my life and way of thinking about nutrition.

 
26 Comments

Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Book Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement

If you are an endurance athlete you are probably already aware of the thirty-minute glycogen window that occurs immediately after strenuous exercise. This window of opportunity is when your insulin sensitivity is highest and your well-worked muscles will soak up nutrients like a sponge. If you consume a quality recovery drink within 30 minutes after a strenuous exercise your muscles will recover faster, you will build more muscle and shave off more fat during training. For several years I used chocolate milk as my recovery drink. However, after some medical problems earlier this year I decided to give up most dairy products which meant I had to find a new recovery drink. A few weeks ago I ordered six different name-brand recovery drinks and will be reviewing each of them over the next few months. The first recovery drink I tried was Ultragen Recovery Supplement by First Endurance.

First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement

First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement

First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement has 320 calories per 12-ounce serving. Each serving provides 20 grams of protein and 60 grams of carbohydrates. In addition to essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes, Ultragen also contains Branch Chain Amino Acid (BCAAs), the building blocks of the human body, and L-Glutamine for muscle tissue repair. See the Supplement Facts on the label below for complete details.

First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement

Nutritional Information For First Endurance Ultragen Recovery Supplement

As you can see from the label, Ultragen uses whey protein isolate instead of soy protein isolate. For the life of me can’t figure out why any man would want to consume soy protein isolate since the isoflavones found in it promote estrogenic activity.

I was highly impressed by how well the Ultragen powder dissolved in water! Some recovery drinks just clump together at the bottom of the glass, but this powder completely dissolved into the water in just a few moments. in addition, this product has a mild taste and is easy to drink (I bought the Tropical Punch flavor). Better yet, it does not have an aftertaste like most other recovery drinks.

Ultragen Recovery Supplement retails for $45 for a 3-pound container (15 servings). I bought mine from Amazon.com for $37, so this works out to just under $2.50 per serving. OK, so this is not the cheapest recovery drink on the market—but it tastes great and works well!

Important note for serious athletes: According to the First Endurance website, all of their “supplements are legal to use in any sporting event governed by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), the US anti-doping association (USADA) and by the UCI (Union Cycliste International). One or more of the aforementioned governing bodies govern all US Cycling, International Cycling, US Triathlon and International Triathlon.”

 
 

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Kosher Food For Jewish Athletes

When I review carbohydrate gels, protein bars or other energy products for athletes I try to give as much information as possible about the food sensitivities of various groups. While I would make a horrible vegan, I still mention whether a food product is “vegan-friendly” or not. Recently I started following the Paleo Diet, but even when I didn’t I mentioned when foods were “gluten-free.” Even though I am not Jewish I try to point out what foods are Kosher. I am a frequent traveler to the Middle East and the only country where I ever feel safe eating the food is Israel because kosher foods are sanitary. However, for Jewish people kosher food is more than just sanitary—for them it is food that conforms to the dietary laws as described in the Torah. Recently a visitor to this website said that he thought there were only two companies that made Kosher energy products. However, I’ve written a lot of product reviews for energy products over the past few years and was certain there were other kosher energy products on the market. Therefore, I decided to put together a quick list of kosher energy products for the benefit of Jewish athletes.

Honey Stinger Energy Bars

Honey Stinger Energy Bars

My favorite manufacturer of energy products is Honey Stinger. According to their website, all Honey Stinger “protein and energy bars are Kosher certified” (OU-D). This includes the Honey Stinger Waffle (this stuff is great!) and the Honey Stinger Energy Bars.

Jelly Belly Sport Beans

Jelly Belly Sport Beans

A few years ago Jelly Belly, the world-famous manufacturer of jelly beans, came out with Jelly Belly Sport Beans, a nutritional product for athletes. Each one-ounce package of Jelly Belly Sport Beans has 100 calories. Every serving also provides 25 grams of carbohydrates, 80mg of sodium, 40mg of potassium, along with a small dose of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. Their website says, “Both regular Sport Beans and Extreme Sport Beans® have received the respected certification of the Orthodox Union. Look for the OU Kosher symbol on our Sport Beans bags.”

Clif Bar Seasonal Flavors

Clif Bar Seasonal Flavors

I have been an avid consumer of Clif Bars for over ten years. Clif Bars are made with 70% organic ingredients, but without high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, or artificial flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. I don’t know if all of their products are kosher, but their website has Pick & Choose ‘Em page where you can see a complete list of their kosher products (and it is a long list).

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix was developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team. He created this product “from scratch” because he thought he could improve on the usual pre-packaged hydration products that were already on the market. A 16-ounce serving of this mix has 80 calories and provides 20 grams of carbohydrates, along with 60mg of calcium, 45mg of magnesium, 310mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium. According to their website, “The food plant in which Skratch is processed is Kosher approved by The Scroll K—Vaad Hakashurs of Denver.”

Hammer Gel

Hammer Gel

As carbohydrate gels go, Hammer Gel is one of the least expensive gels on the market. The primary ingredient in Hammer Gel is maltodextrin, a long-chain complex carbohydrate—this provides for a steady release of carbs without the “sugar rush” found in some gels. According to their website, the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc) has kosher-certified the following Hammer Nutrition products: Hammer Gel, HEED Perpetuem, Hammer Soy, and Sustained Energy. In addition, two of their products are Kosher Dairy Certified: Recoverite Hammer, and Whey Protein.

Pacific Health Laboratories has a complete line of sports drinks, energy gels and recovery products. According to their website the following products have OUD kosher certification: Accelerade, Accelearde Hydro and Endurox R4. However, Accel Gel, Endurox Excel, 2nd Surge, and Accel Recover are not kosher.

I’ve not written a review for this product yet, but Picky Bars are a wonderful new product for athletes! These energy bars are gluten-free and dairy-free. They have a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio and are great on long bike rides! According to their website, these bars are “made in a facility that is dedicated gluten and dairy free—plus Kosher certified.”

 
16 Comments

Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Sports Nutrition

 

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Hammer Gel from Hammer Nutrition

If you are heading out on a bike ride of 90 minutes or longer you need to carry some form of carbohydrates with you. I am a distance cyclist and it is very rare for me to go on a ride of under 90 minutes, so I consume one package of commercial carbohydrate gel 15 minutes before I leave home, and then another package every 30 minutes as I am riding. In addition, I normally drink one 20-ounce bottle of a sports mix every hour. My goal is to take in about 300 calories per hour while I am on the bike. There are many great commercially made carbohydrate gels on the market, but recently I have been buying a lot of Hammer Gel. While I am never going to settle on just one brand of carb gel, I think Hammer Gel is something all cyclists, runners or other endurance athletes ought to consider.

Hammer Gel

Hammer Gel

The primary ingredient in Hammer Gel is maltodextrin, a long-chain complex carbohydrate—this provides for a steady release of carbs without the “sugar rush” found in some gels. Each single-serving package (33g) has 80 to 90 calories, depending on the flavor. These gels also contain sodium and potassium in varying amounts, depending on flavor, and a small amount of Amino Acids (L-Leucine, L-Alanine, L-Isoleucine, L-Valine). These gels are gluten-free, vegan friendly, MSG-free, and Kosher Certified (and delicious).

Hammer Gel is available in several flavors, including: Apple-Cinnamon, Banana, Chocolate, Espresso, Montana Huckleberry, Orange, Peanut Butter, Raspberry, Tropical, Vanilla, and Unflavored. My favorite flavor is Montana Huckleberry—it tastes a lot like blueberry (and huckleberries look a lot like blueberries). The Apple-Cinnamon and Raspberry are also great tasting, and the Tropical flavor has a bit of caffeine (25mg per serving), and the Espresso has twice that amount (50mg per serving). The only flavor I did not like was the Chocolate—it wasn’t bad, but it had a slight aftertaste.

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and Flask

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and 5-Ounce Flask

Individual packages of Hammer Gel sell for about $1.50 a your local bike shop, and a bit cheaper if you buy them by the box (12 packages of gel per box). As carbohydrate gels go, Hammer Gel is one of the least expensive gels on the market. However, if you really want to save some money you can skip the individual gel packs and buy a 26-serving jug for $20 (this comes out to just .77¢ per serving). You can use the gel from the jug to fill your own flask—but the Hammer Gel 5-Ounce Flask is your best bet—it is made of high-density polyethylene and has molded finger tip groves.

A few days ago I went for a Century ride (100 miles) with a couple of Hammer Gel flasks (one filled with Huckleberry and the other with Tropical gel). This flask is incredibly easy to use while on the bike—I can get the gel out faster from the flask than I ever could with a single-serving package. In addition, small packages usually spill a few drops of sticky gel into my jerseys, but the flask seals lock-tight and I didn’t spill a drop!

 
 

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Osmo PreLoad Hydration Mix

The hot summer temperatures are finally over in my area and now my morning bike rides start at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C). A few months ago when the heat index was running near 100 degrees (38 C) I was looking for ways to stay cool and prevent dehydration. Back in July, while I was watching the Tour de France, I saw Robbie Ventura interview Ben Caprom of Osmo Nutrition about their line of hydration products for athletes—the product that intrigued me the most was the Osma Preload Hydration Mix.

Osmo PreLoad Hydration Mix

Osmo PreLoad Hydration Mix

The Osmo PreLoad Hydration Mix is a pre-hydration drink designed for endurance athletes who exercise in hot conditions and is intended to reduce muscle fatigue and cramping. This product is a powder that you mix with water and drink thirty minutes before you exercise (some athletes also drink it the night before a big event). For the average man (150 pounds or more) you mix 2.5 scoops of the powder with 20-ounces of water. The “Pineapple & Lemon” flavor is rather mild and you can definitely taste the high sodium content of the mix—but if you make sure the product is served cold it doesn’t taste bad at all.

I used this product on many occasions this past summer on long bike rides on really hot days—and even though this is very subjective, I believe it helped me a lot. Not only did I not suffer the effects of dehydration that I would have expected from riding in such conditions, but I seemed to recover faster as well. Osmo PreLoad Hydration mix is not intended for daily use—it is for endurance events in hot weather.

I thought about trying to explain how pre-hydration works, but I couldn’t come up with anything better than the description on the Osmo Nutrition website. “Exercise, particularly exercise in the heat, places large demands upon the circulatory system. Concurrently, fluid and electrolyte losses and limited or inappropriate replacement during exercise further compromises performance; a 2% body water loss can equate to ~11% decrease in VO2max.  Pre-hydration with a high-sodium fluid has been shown to decrease cardiovascular and thermal strain, and enhance exercise capacity by several mechanisms: a) increased plasma volume—by the nature of increasing the amount of fluid available for circulation AND sweating/thermoregulation, a core temperature rise is impeded; b) the sodium+water combination reduces an osmoreceptor feedback mechanism, which further reduces core temperature rise.”

The ingredients list for the Osmo PreLoad Hydration Mix is fairly simple: Trisodium Citrate, D-Glucose, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sucrose, OsmoPL™ Beverage Base Blend (Sucrose, D-Glucose, Trisodium Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Potassium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Magnesium Citrate, Organic Compliant Flavor, Lemon Juice Powder, Lemon Oil, Monk Fruit Extract, and Organic Pineapple Powder. All Osmo Nutrition products are made with natural and organic ingredients—and all ingredients are both GMO and gluten-free.

A 9.2 ounce container of Osmo PreLoad Hydration mix retails for $25 (enough for twenty 8-ounce servings, or eight 20-ounce servings). For me this is a little over $3 a serving and I am not going to complain one bit! A few dollars for a product that will lower core temperature and increase exercise capacity is certainly worth it! You can order this product from the Osmo Nutrition online store or Amazon.com.

 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Product Reviews, Sports Nutrition

 

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