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Carbohydrates and Protein Help Weight Lifters

If you want to become very strong, you should lift heavy weights, eat carbohydrates before you lift and eat plenty of protein afterwards. Normal amounts of insulin help muscles grow, and eating carbohydrates causes your blood sugar to rise, which, in turn, causes your pancreas to release insulin. Taking in large amounts of protein after a workout helps muscles to recover faster from hard exercise, so you can do more hard work and grow larger and stronger muscles (Journal of Physiology, Volume 573, 2006).

To increase muscle strength, the weights you lift must be heavy enough to cause muscle burning while you lift and your muscles to feel sore on the next day. The soreness is caused by damage to the muscle fibers themselves. Most athletes quickly learn to lift lighter weights on as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away, and then lift very heavy weights again. The faster muscles heal from hard workouts, the more quickly you can go back to lifting heavy weights and the stronger you will become.

Insulin brings protein building blocks, called amino acids, into muscles to increase the rate of healing. Eating carbohydrates raises blood insulin levels. Protein is the building blocks for all tissues, particularly muscle. So the faster and more protein you can bring into muscle fibers, the more quickly they heal and the faster you can go back to your heavy lifting program.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does exercise lower homocysteine?

Yes; a recent study from multiple medical centers shows that a regular exercise program helps to lower high blood levels of homocysteine. (European Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2006). Everyone agrees that high blood levels of homocysteine increase your risk for heart attacks, but at this time, nobody knows why. More than 200 papers show high blood levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk for heart attacks, strokes and dementia. However, three recent studies show that lowering blood levels of homocysteine does not prevent these conditions. This has disturbed many researchers because they cannot explain how lowering a risk factor for a disease does not help to prevent that disease.

It may be that homocysteine does not cause heart attacks, strokes or dementia, but is just a marker associated with them. For example, homocysteine comes from methionine, an essential amino acid found primarily in meat. Meat is also a rich source of saturated fats which are known to increase risk for heart attacks and strokes in people who ingest too many calories. So, lowering homocysteine does not prevent heart attacks, strokes and dementia because homocysteine does not cause these conditions. However, lowering saturated fats does help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Saturated fats are harmful to a person when he gets too many calories. Dietary saturated fats go to the liver where they are broken down to 2-carbon units. If the body has enough calories, the liver uses these 2-carbon units to make cholesterol. On the other hand, if the liver does not get enough calories, the 2-carbon units are burned for energy to carbon dioxide and water and never form cholesterol. Exercise helps to burn calories. So exercise uses up calories that would other wise have been used to manufacture cholesterol. Stay tuned; the issue is not settled.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Is food more fattening at night than in the morning?

Probably. For four to six hours after you finish eating a meal, your body produces a lot of energy to help digest, absorb and process the food. This extra energy produces heat and uses up extra calories that otherwise may have ended up in your body as fat. When you exercise, your body produces extra heat because more than 70 percent of the energy used to power your muscles is lost as heat. Your temperature continues to stay elevated and you continue to burn more calories for several hours after you finish exercising. If you are active after you eat, your body burns more calories than if you are inactive after you eat. Most people are far more active after they eat breakfast than after eating supper, and therefore the food that you eat in the morning is less fattening than what you eat in the evening. To maintain your waistline, eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for supper.


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June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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