No Guts, No Glory

Three foods to improve gut flora, decrease inflammation,

and speed recovery from intense training

Have you ever noticed the harder you train, the more prone you are to upset stomach, constipation or diarrhea, unruly cravings, or pesky colds and sore throats that just won’t go away? Exercise — especially intense, ball-to-wall, never-say-die exercise — generates a lot of what we call oxidative stress (a.k.a. free radicals) that tear down our defence system. And what part of the defence system gets attacked first? The gastrointestinal tract.

Your gut is a long, porous tube lined with fine hairs and a few layers not unlike your skin. The finger-like hairs and holes in these layers are very important, as they allow key nutrients to get into the blood stream for use in the repair and building of new muscle. All the good stuff you’re eating — salads, green juice, and souped-up smoothies loaded with branched-chain amino acids and berries — are absorbed here, in the intricacies of your gut lining.

As you’ve probably heard, your gut lining also houses bacteria, the good and the bad. You need the good to outnumber the bad if you want to function at your peak and stay healthy. However, bad bacteria are opportunistic little bugs, demanding to be fed refined carbs and bad fats and multiplying at alarming rates every time you give in. Stress of any sort, including vigorous exercise, also promotes overgrowth of harmful bacteria while weakening some of the good guys.

According to a 2012 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, prolonged, intense training spikes zonulin, a marker of inflammation that will naturally trigger an immune response. This immune response, if not disarmed with anti-inflammatory probiotics and a diet high in antioxidants, will promote a leaky gut. Food will fail to be broken down completely and absorbed, and what’s not absorbed can wreak havoc on your body, making you think you have food allergies when all you really have to do is heal your gut.

The truth is, when you’ve got good bacteria and a nutrient-dense diet on your side, you start digesting food better. You also eliminate toxins and byproducts of digestion more efficiently, freeing up energy to train harder, sooner. To improve gut health, dial down inflammation, and speed recovery, add these top naturally probiotic foods (beyond sugar-loaded yoghurt) to your everyday meals.


A gut-friendly pre- or post-workout drink, milk kefir contains a family of enzymes that enhance uptake of glucose by muscle cells. Your brawn gets fuel quicker while your gut bathes in its nearly 10 billion CFUs per millilitre. Try adding one cup of kefir to your smoothie instead of regular milk or water — it has about nine grams of protein per cup, too. A word of caution — steer clear of fruit-flavoured commercial kefir products. They can have sizeable amounts of added, deleterious sugar.



Sausage’s favourite sidekick offers many benefits to athletes. As opposed to regular cabbage, cabbage that has undergone lacto-fermentation is higher in B-vitamins like choline, a component of the memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Researchers from the Laboratory of Neuroendocrine Regulation at MIT have found that elite marathon runners deplete levels of choline by up to 40 per cent. This can affect endurance and most definitely can affect production of acetylcholine.

The vitamin C in sauerkraut is also more bioavailable than the vitamin C in regular cabbage, as the fermentation process breaks down the cellulose that houses this important antioxidant and immune booster. Vitamin C aids in the absorbtion of iron from non-meat sources, helping plant-based athletes rebuild iron stores after prolonged high-impact activities like running and plyo.

Combined with the one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of friendly lactobacilli species in a mere one gram of homemade sauerkraut, this cabbage with benefits tops the charts as an anti-inflammatory food that can boost gut and overall health during intense training.



This fermented tea boasts up to 100,000 CFUs per millilitre. Of course, this number varies from one batch to another, but if you haven’t tried kombucha yet, you are missing out on a bubbly treat! Few studies have been conducted on this age-old drink, but there are many anecdotes of sore knees and other joints feeling better after regular consumption of kombucha as a post-workout drink.  And while its texture may be initially off-putting, its plentiful list of benefits make it well worth getting used to.


By Lori Kennedy, RHN

Function Junction

How bodybuilders and athletes  are enhancing their performance through specialised treatments

Prevention of injuries is the only thing that carries more importance than the treatment of injuries — and how different types of exercisers approach this topic varies based on experience and level. The common non-athlete only realises there is a problem when they feel pain, whereas high-intensity athletes do not rely on pain to indicate a problem; they sometimes feel “off” when their muscles are not responding correctly during their workouts. This is why a growing amount of athletes are getting an edge on the competition by visiting clinical professionals who improve performance through the application of simple neurology principles.

From coast to coast, doctors and therapists are applying this scientific principle, which focuses on the reprogramming of the neuromuscular junction — or “function junction” — the point (or points) where the muscle tissue meets the nerve that controls its power and movement. Treatment providers like Ken Ansell and Garret Woynarski of Saskatchewan as well as Jason Lomond of Nova Scotia use the EXSTORE functional assessment system, along with treatments like electro-acupuncture and muscle release techniques to find problems and restore function in people of all levels of fitness.


The Role Of Overtraining

The effects of overtraining play a large role in neuromuscular junction injury, which can often cause the athlete to reach a plateau. Paul George, a Canadian national-level bodybuilder and online training consultant, explains what constitutes a plateau: “In my experience, hitting a plateau is the result of not taking in enough calories or not varying the workout enough — or both.” However, repetitive use (necessary to continue building muscle) can cause the neuromuscular junction to become injured, leading to decreased power, also known as a reduction in “neural drive.” Luckily, this affliction can be treated.


Performance Care In Bodybuilders

Restoring the neural drive is important for athletes because as it increases, so does the potential to improve performance. No one knows this better than national-level bodybuilding judge Rudy Jambrosic. Having spent over 18 years judging thousands of competitors, he can recognise a neuromuscular junction injury all the way from the judges’ pit at fitness contests. “We look for three things (in athletes): muscle symmetry, muscularity of the tissue, and conditioning or definition of the muscle tissue,” Jambrosic explains. He notes that in cases like this he usually sees one shoulder larger than the other when someone has a rotator cuff tear, or one hamstring dramatically smaller on one side in someone with an old lower-back injury.

And he understands this concept all too well. I first met Jambrosic two years ago when he visited my office with an upper trapezius injury. After performing my EXSTORE scan, I was able to locate the problem area — which turned out to be nowhere near the trapezius. “I was amazed that the problem ended up being in my serratus anterior muscle,” says Jambrosic. “Once that was corrected, within a few weeks the muscularity and size of my upper trap returned to normal. It was really quite remarkable.”


Athletic Case Study

The first athlete I met who truly understood and valued the concept of performance care was pro football player Garrett McIntyre. I first met him in 2009 while he was playing for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. For McIntyre, a functional chiropractic approach enables him to play at his best. “Throughout our gruelling seasons, my body gets out of balance,” he says. “Performance care keeps my hips and glutes firing all season, which maximises my performance and prevents injury.” In 2011, Garrett became a member of the NFL’s New York Jets and is now entering his fourth season with the team.

The concept of preventative treatment or performance care is not new, but it does differ from conventional approaches. As an athlete, it’s important to be aware of these signs and be proactive to minimise injury and maximise potential.


By Dr. Anthony Lombardi

Chasing the Mechanical Rabbit

Reward yourself the right way with splurges that do

your body good

With the warm weather finally setting in and sunny vacations on the brain, this is the time of year many of us start to find excuses to spend less time in the gym. But if you’re like most people and you spent those frigid winter months working
on your “beach body,” it seems like a shame to let all of that hard work go to waste. The following are a set of simple strategies that you can use to help
reward yourself for sticking to your routine, while the rest of the world has begun to slack off.


The Cheat Meal

This reward is by far the simplest goal you can set for yourself, but also the
one that may require the most conscious discipline. The summertime is full of backyard barbecues, rib festivals, and carnival food. If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to get caught up in all of this temptation and just give up altogether on trying to live a healthy lifestyle during the summer. But if you know ahead of time which events you’d like to be a part of, why not earn your right to indulge by putting in a little extra work at the gym? I always like to schedule a really intense leg day at the gym if I know I’ll be joining friends for all-you-can-eat sushi later that night. Sometimes thinking about those extra calories really pushes me to go for an
extra set.


The Long Weekend Getaway

The summer is full of long weekends, and with them usually come shortened gym hours that can throw a wrench in your normal routine. What you need to do is plan ahead, pick a weekend to get away, and just allow yourself to relax. Keeping that in mind, this weekend getaway may mean missing a workout or two while you’re gone, so make up for your absence by slotting in a few extra workouts leading up to your trip. If you’ve honestly pushed yourself to put in that extra work, you’ll need that relaxing time away to recover, and you can let your mind be at ease, knowing that one weekend of slacking off won’t ruin all the progress you’ve already made.


The Shopping Spree

The end of the summer is always a busy time for everyone because it signifies the beginning of many new things. It could be going back to school, it could be refocusing on important projects at work, and for our style-conscious readers it signifies the start of a new fashion season. Regardless of what this time of year means for you, it’s usually time to go out and buy some new clothes. And whether you’re the jeans and t-shirt type or a trendy fashionista, new clothes shopping is always more fun when the clothes fit well. Promise yourself that if you put in hard work all summer and stay on track with your routine, your reward at the end of it all will be both looking and feeling great in some new duds. It may sting a little to have to pass on that second helping of potato salad, but it will be worth it every morning when you get dressed in your brand new clothes.


These are just a few examples of ways you can reward yourself for staying active this summer. Maybe some of these ideas speak to you, or maybe none of them do, but it’s important to find an idea that does and use that to stay on track. Your body will thank you!


By Jeff Steinberg

Restore, Recoup, Repair

Surviving The Pain Of Your New Year’s Resolution

Recovery is an essential component to any workout program. In fact, without proper recovery you are impairing your performance and hindering your ability to achieve any real results or make any further progress. Immediately following your workout, your muscles are depleted and flat. Nutrients that were present before exercise have been used up to fuel muscle contractions, metabolism, and aerobic and anaerobic processes. The great news is that this super-depleted state creates the perfect environment for optimal uptake. During this time, muscles are highly receptive to taking in the nutrients they need to kickstart recovery, which includes refilling glycogen, restoring lost nitrogen balance, and stimulating protein synthesis!

Over time, your body can adapt to the stress of a workout, but providing your system with a few supplements post-exercise can help decrease recovery time, reduce pain, and quickly reboot the muscle-building process. Supplementing with the right nutrients can help increase muscle energy storage for your next workout, help repair muscle tissue, and prevent tissue breakdown, while also keeping your joints stable and your immune system healthy for handling the stress you’ve just put your body through.

This article will review the essential recovery supplements to use not just for building muscle, but also for joint repair and nighttime recovery.

Muscle Recovery

When we talk about working out and recovery, the first thing that usually comes to mind is muscle repair. Throughout a workout, the components that are involved in muscle function and energy production, including glycogen and essential amino acids, get used up. Exercise causes muscle protein turnover — the rate at which muscle breakdown increases and muscle building decreases, resulting in catabolism, or the breakdown of lean tissue. As glycogen, muscle’s primary source of fuel, dwindles, the body will switch to using amines to maintain energy and make glucose — and even after a workout, this process will continue until the muscles get what they need. In order to halt muscle breakdown and ensure all your hard work in the gym doesn’t go to waste, you need to get the right post-workout nutrition. In fact, muscle-building processes will not turn back on until the right nutrients are present.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Branched-chain amino acids (or BCAAs) are the most important amino acids for building muscle. Several studies suggest that BCAAs can help delay fatigue and the onset of muscle soreness, as well as the markers of muscle damage associated with intense exercise. By ensuring that adequate amounts branched-chain amino acids are available to your muscles after training, you can help delay fatigue, guard against training-induced muscle breakdown, and expedite recovery.

The BCAAs include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAAs play an important role in maintaining and creating muscle tissue during and after exercise by stimulating pathways involved in muscle building. Leucine is by far the most important in regards to recovery and repair: its presence in the muscle determines whether or not the protein synthesis switch is turned on or off. Leucine activates two important pathways in the muscle cells — mTOR and P13K. They also help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain and decrease muscle fatigue. post-workout, take 10 grams of BCAA powder within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing.


Creatine is by far the most researched and effective muscle-building supplement, and although it is found naturally in the body, it is not in high enough amounts to elicit its muscle-boosting and energizing effects, so supplementing with creatine will help increase your body’s stores. As a result, more phosphocreatine is available, which means a greater amount of phosphate is available to help regenerate adenosine triphospate (ATp), the muscle’s energy source. The effect of supplementing with creatine is not only longer sets and more reps, but also gains in lean muscle and strength. If you are pushing yourself to complete your sets, you are definitely depleting your ATP stores; failure to replenish this energy can lead to fatigue and cause you to cut sets short during your next workout. Supplement with creatine post-workout, using 5 grams mixed with 5 to 10 grams of BCAA powder.

Whey Protein Isolate Or Hydrolysate

When you’ve finished your last set, your muscles are depleted and emptied of aminos. Whey isolate and whey hydrolysate contain a high concentration of branched-chain amines and amino peptides that are absorbed fast into the muscles cells. Compared to other whey proteins, whey isolate and hydrolysate promote greater increases in BCAA blood levels, resulting in increased cell volumization and faster stimulation of protein synthesis. The peptides from the hydrolysate can be transported via the pepT1 located on the gut wall. In fact, the peptides can bypass the slow digestive process that regular proteins undergo and pass directly into muscles where they can regain a positive protein balance in the muscle to ignite protein synthesis quickly. Hydrolyzed proteins can be absorbed in as quickly as 10 minutes, making them a perfect post workout protein supplement choice. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of whey protein isolate or hydrolysate with a high degree of peptide fractions immediately after your workout to help facilitate the recovery process.

Joint Recovery

Just like muscle tissue, your joints experience damage during exercise, undergoing an inflammatory response to repair damage. However, joints are not as resilient as muscle tissue, and over time the lubrication and cartilage that protect the joints begin to wear thin, causing stiffness and pain. Healthy joints maintain strong cartilage tissue, have a lower risk of stress fractures, and an increased mobility and lubrication in the joint. This is important for people who exercise regularly, like athletes and bodybuilders, but keep in mind that joint deterioration can occur not only as a result of overuse, but also as a byproduct of the aging process. Joint supplements can alleviate joint discomfort and pain caused by inflammation, and are also good to use as a preventative measure. These supps generally work by one of two mechanisms: by blocking the production of inflammatory cytokines that cause pain, and by increasing the amount of available nutrients that are needed to keep the joint strong and lubricated. Dosing should always be based on the product recommendations and should never exceed the maximum recommended dosage.


This is a structural component found in cartilage and is involved in maintaining the flexibility and mobility of joints. This amino sugar is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans, which are major components of joint cartilage. Glucosamine may help to slow cartilage degeneration and repair connective tissue; it can also increase sulphate uptake and boost the body’s production of synovial fluid, the joint’s natural lubrication. One of the downsides of supplementing with glucosamine is the high dose needed: for best results, 500 mg must be taken three times per day.


This is a primary structural component that exists within the cartilage in the joints. It is a glycosaminoglycan or amino sugar. Its presence in the joint can help with reducing pressure, while also decreasing inflammation, stimulating the synthesis of proteoglycans and hyaluronic acid, while also slowing the catabolism of cartilage by inhibiting enzymes and other compounds that can cause damage. It is often combined with glucosamine and used to treat osteoarthritis and joint inflammation. Just like glucosamine, it also requires a heavy dose of 500 mg taken three times per day.

By Lauren Jacobsen

Don’t Crack Under Pressure


Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Stress

Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When we feel anxious about a deadline or interview, we are motivated to perform to the best of our ability. Stress also regulates blood pressure, insulin release, fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism; but, when it begins to interfere with the normal functions of the body, it can be unhealthy.


How It Works

When we sense stress, the adrenal glands secrete the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. The body jumps into “protection mode” and sends all of its resources to the brain to decide how to deal and to vital organs such as the heart and lungs to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. “Protection” continues as long as we detect a threat. Growth, repair and rebuilding processes are shoved into the backseat along with digestion, reproduction and immunity.


Your Top Modes Of Defense

1. Exercise

2. Food

3. Supplements


1. Exercise or Eat

In the heat of the moment, emotional eating is definitely the wrong reaction to stress. But, it’s natural says registered holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos (21). The problem is that eating under stress causes us to gain weight. After all our digestive system isn’t fully functioning when we are stressed and unfortunately, it often gets stored in the midsection. Exercise is a much better choice. With time, healthy habits develop and your body will learn not to react so severely to stressful situations. Exercise can train your body to have a built-in coping mechanism against anxiety.


Exercise Guidelines

Stress can conquer our efforts at the gym. A stressed body eats muscle, performs more poorly and has less energy. We should workout when cortisol levels are high. Naturally they tend to be the highest in the morning and drop off with the exception of small spikes throughout the day (mayoclinic). Strength training sessions are something that should ideally be separate from cardio sessions, to reduce the length and stress of workouts, although the benefits of exercise are available regardless of intensity. Aim to complete your sessions 3-6 hours before bed.


2. The Right Ingredients

A little cooperation goes a long way. When we work with our bodies in choosing the foods they need, they will help us roll with all the punches that can come our way.


8 Foods to Reduce Stress On A Cellular Level

#1 Broccoli

Chock-full of antioxidants, this coniferous veggie helps to protect brain cells against free radicals or oxidants in the air, from fatty food digestion and from the body’s metabolic processes. One cup of broccoli has an Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of 3,632, meaning it can absorb and destroy a lot of these brain toxins that can cause fatigue, brain clutter and stress. Aim for 3,000 to 10,000 ORAC points daily.


#2 Hummus and Crackers

Low carb diets are a request for stress because they prevent the brain from making enough serotonin. We need at least 130 grams a day says Somer. With as little as 30g of carbs, we can get a serotonin boost to become calmer, happier and more prepared to take on any stressful situation within 30 minutes.

Eat small portions throughout the day to keep serotonin and NPY levels, the neuropeptide that  will entice you to have some carbs.


#3 Bananas

Vitamin B6 in bananas helps to correct abnormally high cortisol levels at night. A medium banana contains about 30g of carbs; the ideal amount to have before bed to fall asleep faster and wake up refreshed and ready to go. Sleep is an important stress buster and lack of it, stimulates the stress hormone. It also prevents us from making enough human growth hormone for muscle building and repair.


#4 Tahini

Derived from sesame seeds and a key ingredient in baba ghanoush, tahini butter contains the mineral magnesium. It can be drained from the body during stressful times and cause irritability and reduce our ability to cope. Tahini provides 58 mg of magnesium (14% RDA) per tablespoon.


#5 Protein Powder

Hydrolysed milk proteins are ingredients in both isolate and concentrate powders. Hydrolysed simply means that the whey and casein proteins have been broken down and digest quickly. The label may also say hydrosylate. The proteins calm the brain’s stress response pathway in response to physical, psychological, emotional, or environmental stress. Naturopathic doctor, Natasha Turner suggests 75-300mg per day to “take the edge off”.


#6 Strawberries

Just half a cup of strawberries contains 47mg or over 50% of the recommended daily intake of the immune system protector, vitamin C. Vitamin C concentration is highest in our stress glands and can be completely diminished within 20 minutes of their stimulation. Strawberries contain flavonoids, which increase the vitamin’s activity in the body.


#7 Brown Rice

Building a diet full of low glycemic index (GI) carbs is an excellent choice for stress prevention! “Your body’s insulin becomes more efficient at normalising blood sugar and moving amino acids into the muscles and out of the blood,” says Somer. “This leaves more tryptophan behind to enter the brain and convert to serotonin.” This brings us clearer thinking and better problem solving, reasoning skills and moods. Choose carbs with a GI of 55 or less, like brown rice.


#8 Salmon

Fish is an important source of B vitamins that can support less stress. Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is beneficial to endurance athletes or people prone to other types of stress, because it supports adrenal function. The adrenal glands secrete stress hormones to help our bodies adapt to stress. Vitamin B12 may improve mood and mental function and may be also be obtained in an injectable form.


3. Proper Supplementation

To get all of the vitamin E we need daily, we would have to eat eight cups of almonds. Therefore, without proper supplementation, we might be weak against the effects of stress if we rely on diet alone.

Natural supplements such as GABA, taurine, 5-HTP, melatonin, and L-Theanine, can help to reduce anxiety and stress and promote a better quality sleep in a number of ways. They might calm or stabilise the mind, block adrenalin or stimulate dopamine and serotonin.


Herbal Remedies

Relora: Helps zap cortisol and increases DHEA, the hormone for anti-stress and anti-aging. It also prevents conditions associated with stress like poor immunity, sleep disturbances, insomnia, high blood pressure, hot flashes, weight gain and loss of vitality.


Ashwagandha: May be helpful in cases where insomnia and/or restlessness are caused by the stresses of overworking. It may increases mental and physical performance.


St. John’s Wort: A selective serotonin uptake inhibitor that slows the breakdown of the feel good hormone serotonin.


Passionflower: Combined with valerian, an anti-anxiety herb that may help decrease the stress hormone NPY, responsible for enticing you to eat carbs, and increase the activity of GABA, an inhibitory transmitter with a calming effect that boosts serotonin and dopamine.


Holy Basil: Helps reduce cortisol. Helps the body adapt to stress and balances blood sugar.


Rhodiola: May regulate mood by stimulating serotonin and dopamine.


Phosphatidylserine (PS): May curb stress hormone release that causes nighttime worrying and protect the brain and muscles against cortisol causing memory loss, concentration and muscle tissue deterioration.








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