Rich and Beth Sumpter are both experts on physiology and nutrition. Both share a vast amount of knowledge in regards to optimising performance through training, eating and supplementation. Here you can enjoy their first installment in what promises to be a very educational journey!
How do you get maximum performance from your muscles?
There are many factors that contribute to muscle performance. For an endurance athlete it is essential that your muscles are correctly fueled prior to commencement of exercise - meaning that there is enough glycogen stored in the muscle tissue. The ability of muscle tissue to store glycogen means that it is readily available, and doesn’t have to be broken down in the liver. Glycogen is the primary fuel that your body uses, and if this is depleted the body switches to fats as energy, through a process called beta-oxidation. It is usually at this point that athletes experience “the BONK”. To prevent “the BONK”, take on carbohydrates during training and racing - to keep topped up. After a session there is roughly a 30 minute window where glycogen uptake is increased. At this time it is important to have a recovery shake, such as USNs RecoverXcell, as these are designed for this purpose.
What are the benefits of amino acids and branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) in recovery?
Not too hard an area! I’ll do my best to condense the information as there is a lot of it! To start with, what are amino acids? They are the building blocks of protein - long linear chains of amino acids, and are involved in many aspects of metabolism. There are 22 amino acids, but only 9 are classed as essential. The reason for this is that they have to be ingested, it is not possible to synthesis (create) them within the body - EVER. 35% of protein is based on the 9 essential amino acids. During exercise your body increases the rate of protein synthesis, but there is also increased protein break down. Unfortunately, the rate of break down is greater than the rate of synthesis. Studies have shown that taking amino acids after training increases protein synthesis, hence reducing muscle damage. As well as their role in protein, amino acids help to stabilise blood glucose levels and glycogen restoration during recovery - key points for athletes hoping to perform back-to-back sessions.
There are 3 BCAAs - leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are part of the 9 essential amino acids, with a key benefit that they are metabolised within muscle tissue, not the liver. Immediately the muscle can replenish protein levels, without going through the process of metabolism within the liver. As they are metabolised in the muscles BCAAs can make up for protein deficiencies in diet without detrimental effects to muscle. A low protein diet is not recommended, but vegetarians and vegans may struggle to consume adequate protein without paying special attention to their diet. BCAAs allow for optimal recovery, as well as reducing muscular fatigue. They have also shown to improve muscle strength at a greater rate then amino acids alone.
The takeaway points from this are that amino acids and BCAAs are extremely beneficial to training and recovery, and are essential for your body to function correctly and efficiently. It is possible to achieve this through diet, but athletes place a greater stress upon their body, and push it to their limits. Supplementation will help your recovery and subsequent performance. As always, consult a doctor if you have any concerns prior to taking new supplements.
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