Feb 01

Why your body needs more than Gatorade post-workout

Posted on February 1, 2020 at 4:28 PM by Colin Keedy

What is Protein

One strand of protein is comprised of hundreds of small amino acids bound by peptide bonds. There are twenty types of amino acids; and, a protein may only be called complete when its string consists of every amino acid [4]. Examples of complete proteins are: red meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy. For vegetarians and vegans, fewer examples exist: peanut butter, quinoa, seaweed, and buckwheat are some of the only options [3]. Complete proteins are important because your body doesn’t create 9 amino acids, which are called the essential amino acids. You must consume these essential amino acids through an external source. Amino acids are necessary to counteract muscle protein breakdown (MPB) and facilitate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

Balancing MPB and Boosting MPS

Muscle protein synthesis is the process of facilitating skeletal muscle adaptations as a response to physical exercise. The anabolic effects of nutrition are driven by the transfer of amino acids directly into skeletal muscle proteins: what we eat facilitates MPS and regulates, diminishes MPB [1, 2, 6]. The most effective way to increase MPS and diminish MPB following intense physical exercise is to consume essential amino acids; more specifically, the essential amino acid leucine is paramount for proper recovery and growth [2].

How MPS and MPB are Triggered

The two determinants of MPS are exercise intensity and nutrient availability [1, 6]. MPS increases after a difficult bout of physical exercise – reps at 70 to 90% of one rep max; also, MPB occurs: a negative amount of net protein synthesis, protein degradation and BCAA oxidation [2]. Also, exhaustive endurance running reduces MPS significantly when compared to someone resting; recovery drinks with only glucose or sucrose don’t return MPS to a resting state, yet drinks with leucine only do [2]. Although, resistance exercise is not shown to decrease MPS; it drastically increases MPB, which results in a significant net loss of protein synthesis [2]. It remains negative until dietary protein or leucine are consumed: eat proteins with leucine after a workout to enhance muscle growth. Another way to trigger MPS is nutrient availability, if BCAAs are consumed in the absence of exercise, MPS occurs [1]. Essentially, muscle growth occurs if you make amino acids available.

Levels of MPS and MPB as Markers of Training Intensity

Recent research has developed methods of tracking exercise intensity by MPS and MPB responses; they are reliable methods considering both phenomenon are of finite duration [1]. The shift in MPB and MPS following a workout is a direct result of the workout intensity: the more intense the workout the larger the shift. Because of the linear timeline, appropriate timing when consuming essential amino acids is critical; consuming a quality protein source less than 30 minutes after a workout is shown to be most effective [1, 2]. And, quality protein should be consumed 48 hours thereafter [2]. 

Proteins and Their Leucine Content

A constituent of protein, leucine affects protein metabolism by regulating the translation initiation of protein synthesis, modulating insulin signalling, and providing a nitrogen donor for muscle production of alanine and glutamine [2]. Amounts of leucine vary according to the protein source: an 8 ounce T-bone steak yields 4.3 grams, 8 ounces of chicken breast yields 5.2 grams, a can of tuna yields 3.3 grams, one ounce of chicken liver yields .62 grams, 8 ounces of pork yields around 4.8 grams, one scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s Whey Protein has 2.5 grams, two tablespoons of peanut butter has .48 grams, 1 whole egg (61 grams) has .588 grams, 1 cup of great northern beans yields around 1.1 grams, 1 cup of whole milk has about .64 grams, and 1 cup of quinoa yields .48 grams [5]. The most cost effective source of leucine in the aforementioned list is the whey protein; on top of that, whey has been shown to be as effective as steak, chicken, and pork in fostering lean muscle development. You receive 29 servings of 24 grams of protein with 2.5 grams leucine for about 25 dollars. Standalone BCAAs may be purchased yet are more expensive per serving than protein powders.

Key Points

  • There are 9 essential amino acids that must be ingested to grow muscle.

  • Complete proteins contain all 20 amino acids. 

  • Eating complete proteins without training will cause MPS to increase.

  • Finding the proper weight and rep range is important to maximize the MPS response.

  • Although all essential amino acids are important, leucine seems to be the primary determinant in diminishing MPB and increasing MPS following a difficult bout of physical exercise.

  • MPS and MPB are reliable trackers of exercise intensity.

  • Protein powders with BCAAs may be the most cost effective way to consume leucine, at around 1 dollar per serving. 


  1. Atherton PJ, Smith K. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exercise. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590(Pt 5):1049-1057. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.225003.

  2. Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise; Layne E. Norton and Donald K. Layman

  3. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/What-Complete-Protein-Inquiring-Vegetarians-Want-Kno-165298

  4. https://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat/biomolecules/amino-acids-and-proteins1/a/chemistry-of-amino-acids-and-protein-structure

  5. http://nutritiondata.self.com/

  6. Tipton, Kevin & R. Wolfe, Robert. (2001). Exercise, Protein Metabolism, and Muscle Growth. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 11. 109-32. 10.1123/ijsnem.11.1.109. 

Nov 08

Got Milk? Gain Muscle, Get Thin!

Posted on November 8, 2019 at 3:55 PM by Colin Keedy

Removing Cause for Concern

Recently, the effectiveness of milk as a exercise supplement has been researched; the conclusions all center around one key idea: milk may be an underutilized exercise supplement. The supposed reasons are various: high sugar content, high fat content, acidification of bone, and presence of lactose being the most common; with the exception of having lactose intolerance, none of these supposed reasons have an ounce of truth [5, 12, 13]. Milk has a relatively low effect on glycemic load – even lower for protein powders, probably due to the fact that lactose is a disaccharide: a more complex sugar, it is also prebiotic: promoting gut health, and it has dietary fiber like properties which increase absorption of calcium and magnesium [11]. The fat in milk is the most complex of all natural fats; they do not pose the typical obesity risks associated with high fat content as they do not promote platelet growth in arteries or promote increased cholesterol levels [12]. The underlying properties of milk fat which facilitate those positive effects are the presence of short-chain fatty acids and medium-chain fatty acids which are important sources of energy for the muscles, heart, liver, kidneys, blood platelets and nervous system [12]. Milk does not cause metabolic acidosis and our bodies do not become acidified through “modern diets” [13]. Milk consumption will not result in osteoporosis and may be a key supplement in reducing susceptibility to it [13]. In reality, the only people who should consider not using protein are people with a lactose intolerance.

How Dairy Helps the Body

Dairy products: milk, protein powder, and greek yogurt contain leucine, calcium and vitamin D, which promote weight loss, increase lean muscle mass, and increase bone density [1, 2, 3]. Milk consumption stimulates muscle development by its promotion of muscle protein synthesis, which is likely due to the high amount of BCAAs in milk, around 25% of its protein content [1]. Leucine, a BCAA, inhibits fat mass synthesis, promotes fat cell breakdown, and increases fat oxidation in muscle cells [4]. Calcium and vitamin D have been shown to increase bone mineral density, suppress fat gain and accelerate fat loss [2,4]. There are many supposed reasons as to the mechanisms behind the results, but the myriad of results all point in one direction: milk will increase lean muscle, decrease fat mass, and increase bone density [5].

Use Dairy Immediately Following Training

High protein drinks are most important immediately following resistance training; it facilitates the balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown by enhancing the process of muscle protein synthesis [6]. What that really means is that if you fast following resistance training, a net loss of protein will result; conversely, if you supply the body with proper macronutrients post exercise, a net increase of protein will occur, namely: muscle protein synthesis [6].

Proper Supplementation

Supplementing milk results in greater amounts of fat free muscle mass, hypertrophy, and bone mass when compared to other sources of post exercise drinks like soy, almond, or sugary drinks like gatorade [1, 2, 6, 7]. Whey protein has been shown to be as effective as beef and chicken in increasing lean muscle mass, decreasing fat mass, and increasing strength [8]. Chocolate milk seems to be more effective in fostering recovery following long aerobic exercise when compared to carbohydrate only drinks, like: gatorade and powerade; it has unique effects on protein synthesis, leucine kinetics, and increases time to exhaustion [9]. Milk also has higher amounts of vitamins B12, D, A, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorous, and Riboflavin compared to other “post exercise drinks” [10]. Along those dietary guidelines, milk provides a significant amount of the aforementioned vitamins and minerals with a two cup serving – around 50%, which is the standard size of a powerade. So, if you want a gatorade, nut or bean milks after a hard run or intense weight training session, think about reaching for a milk instead.


  1. R Josse, Andrea & Phillips, Stuart. (2013). Impact of Milk Consumption and Resistance Training on Body Composition of Female Athletes. Medicine and sport science. 59. 94-103. 10.1159/000341968.
  2. Maltais, Mathieu & Perreault-Ladouceur, Joëlle & Dionne, Isabelle. (2015). The Effect of Resistance Training and Different Sources of Postexercise Protein Supplementation on Muscle Mass and Physical Capacity in Sarcopenic Elderly Men. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 30. . 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001255.
  3. R Josse, Andrea & E Tang, Jason & Tarnopolsky, Mark & Phillips, Stuart. (2009). Body Composition and Strength Changes in Women with Milk and Resistance Exercise. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 42. 1122-30. 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181c854f6.
  4. Sun, Xiaocun & Zemel, Michael. (2007). Leucine and Calcium Regulate Fat Metabolism and Energy Partitioning in Murine Adipocytes and Muscle Cells. Lipids. 42. 297-305. 10.1007/s11745-007-3029-5.
  5. Thorning, Tanja & Raben, Anne & Tholstrup, Tine & Soedamah-Muthu, Sabita & Givens, Ian & Astrup, Arne. (2016). Milk and dairy products: Good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence. Food & Nutrition Research. 60. . 10.3402/fnr.v60.32527.
  6. Roy, Brian. (2008). Milk: the new sports drink? A Review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 5. 15. 10.1186/1550-2783-5-15.
  7. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters
  8. Sharp, Matthew & Lowery, Ryan & Shields, Kevin & R Lane, Jason & Gray, Jocelyn & Partl, Jeremy & W Hayes, Daniel & J Wilson, Gabriel & A Hollmer, Chase & R Minivich, Julie & Wilson, Jacob. (2017). The Effects of Beef, Chicken, or Whey Protein Post-Workout on Body Composition and Muscle Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research. . 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001936.
  9. Lunn, William & Pasiakos, Stefan & Colletto, Megan & E Karfonta, Kirstin & W Carbone, John & Anderson, Jeffrey & Rodriguez, Nancy. (2011). Chocolate Milk and Endurance Exercise Recovery: Protein Balance, Glycogen, and Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 44. 682-91. 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182364162.
  10. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/69/2
  11. Schaafsma, Gertjan. (2008). Lactose and lactose derivatives as bioactive ingredients in human nutrition. International Dairy Journal. 18. 458-465. 10.1016/j.idairyj.2007.11.013.
  12. Micinski, Jan & Zwierzchowski, Grzegorz & Kowalski, Ireneusz & Szarek, Józef & Pierozynski, Boguslaw & Raistenskis, Juozas. (2012). The effects of bovine milk fat on human health. Polish Annals of Medicine. 19. 170–175. 10.1016/j.poamed.2012.07.004.
  13. Fenton, Tanis & Lyon, Andrew. (2011). Milk and Acid-Base Balance: Proposed Hypothesis versus Scientific Evidence. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 30. 471S-5S. 10.1080/07315724.2011.10719992.

Sep 18

The healthy white powder?

Posted on September 18, 2019 at 5:18 PM by Annette Braun

What is it?

Creatine is considered an ergogenic aid: it aids in increasing performance capacity, the efficiency to perform work, the ability to recover from exercise, and/or the quality of training thereby promoting greater training adaptations [2]. Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. It’s a substance found in protein sources like meat and fish. It’s not a “pre-workout” stimulant, so it won’t make you jittery and it has no known toxic effects in controlled doses [1]. It won’t increase water retention, damage your kidneys, or cause muscle cramps [1].  Its supplementation has been shown to increase total creatine and phosphocreatine levels in the body; on that principle, it should increase performance during short bouts of hard exercise [3].

How does it work?

When you exercise, fuel stored in the body is used converting ATP into energy which becomes useless ADP; phosphocreatine then reacts with the useless ADP to restore our muscle's fuel source, ATP [5]. Essentially, ATP acts as gasoline does to an automobile; the key difference is the human body has a system inside which replenishes the gasoline. We have a relatively small gas tank, which means a small amount of ATP is stored in muscles. When creatine is helpful is a reflection of the training duration, creatine is used to resupply ATP following short bouts of exercise less than approximately 30 seconds. Therefore, creatine supplementation isn’t exactly the most helpful thing for long distance runners or long distance cycling. Once our small ATP reserves have been depleted, if we don’t rest, they don’t replenish. When replenishment doesn’t occur, fat becomes the primary fuel source.

Why should I use it?

Creatine is a cornerstone component of resupplying energy during short bouts of exercise [5]. If you are looking to boost performance during workouts and aren’t supplementing creatine, it may benefit the progress of any weight training program and anaerobic exercise. It has been reported to increase maximal strength and work performed (5-15%), single effort sprint speed (1-5%), and repetitive sprint performance (5-15%) [2]. Creatine also adds a statistically significant amount of muscle retention, even after a period of detraining [3]. Although meat contains creatine it’d be difficult to eat enough to reap the full benefits. It’s also a relatively inexpensive supplement; for a 5g daily amount, a reasonable range is anywhere from 10 to 30 cents per serving. At 5g daily, a 600g container costs around 15 dollars and would last about 4 months.

Final Thoughts

Creatine is a natural substance derived from meats. It has been shown aid performance during short bouts of high intensity exercise including weight training and sprinting. It increases fat free body mass, phosphocreatine stores, and workout performance. It's very safe and cheap.


  1. R. Poortmans, Jacques & Francaux, Marc. (2000). Adverse Effects of Creatine Supplementation. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.). 30. 155-70. 10.2165/00007256-200030030-00002.

  2. Kreider, Richard. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance training adaptations. Molecular and cellular biochemistry. 244. 89-94. 10.1023/A:1022465203458.

  3. Branch, John. (2003). Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition and Performance: A Meta-analysis. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism. 13. 198-226. 10.1123/ijsnem.13.2.198.

  4. G Burke, Darren & Chilibeck, Philip & Parise, Gianni & Candow, Darren & Mahoney, Douglas & Tarnopolsky, Mark. (2003). Effect of Creatine and Weight Training on Muscle Creatine and Performance in Vegetarians. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 35. 1946-55. 10.1249/01.MSS.0000093614.17517.79.

  5. Ruden, Timothy Mark, "Effects of oral creatine supplementation on performance and muscle metabolism during maximal exercise " (1995). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 312.