Coffee, Wine, Bacon, and Fitness


The truth about some of your favorite indulgences

 

You’ve gotten into a consistent fitness routine and are finally starting to feel good about the healthy choices you are making! Often, we tend to adopt new favorite foods along the way. At the top of the list for many are coffee, wine, and bacon. These foods are dietary staples in the fitness community, and are usually considered somewhere in the category of “not bad enough to worry about and maybe even good for you.” It’s worth taking a deeper dive into the health benefits and potential pitfalls which can occur when eating these favorite foods.

 

Coffee

More than 450 million cups of coffee are consumed everyday in the United States alone. Coffee is also the world’s number one source of antioxidants due to widespread consumption and high levels of polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. Despite its amazing capacity to fight free radicals in our body, most people reach for a “cup of joe” each morning for one reason only – that energizing boost of energy!

Caffeine can be great before a workout due to the increase in focus, energy, and alertness, helping us feel ready to perform. It has even been shown to reduce pain associated with exercise, making it a powerful training partner. 

A cup of coffee can be beneficial post workout as well. When we exercise, our bodies utilize glycogen, a form of glucose stored in our muscles, as a fuel source. In one study it was observed that athletes who consumed caffeine with carbohydrates after exercise had 66% more glycogen in their muscles 4 hours later. This significant boost in glycogen storage means you have set the tone for success in your next workout in terms of available energy.

Challenges arise when the quantity and timing of caffeine consumption begin to interfere with rest and recovery. Caffeine has been shown to interrupt sleep even when consumed 6 hours before bed time. Individual caffeine sensitivity can vary from person to person, so listen to your body. Caffeine also acts as a diuretic, meaning the more coffee we drink, the harder we need to work to keep ourselves hydrated. 

Wine

Red wine has long been touted as “heart healthy” and the best choice if you do wish to drink. However if you are a competitive athlete, trying to build muscle, or on a mission to lose fat there really isn’t a place for alcohol in your diet. All alcohol is merely empty calories. Wine can also interfere with sleep, testosterone production, and put extra wear and tear on your already busy liver. However, If you do find yourself in a situation where a drink is fitting, red wine can be a better choice than cocktails or beers in terms of calories and sugar.

What about the heart health benefits and antioxidants in red wine, don’t those make a glass worth it a few times a week?

Yes and No. Mostly no…

The link between red wine and heart health is still unclear,  and a positive correlation between the two has not been found. Red wine also doesn’t seem to perform better than other alcohols in terms of cholesterol and heart health. Some of the hype around red wine comes from its resveratrol content. It is possible that resveratrol reduces LDL levels and prevents blood clots. Unfortunately, to reap these potential benefits requires drinking high quantities of alcohol, thus creating other potential health problems.  Resveratrol supplements may not be absorbed that well. Look for other good sources in foods like blueberries, peanuts, and plain old unfermented grapes!

Bacon

Bacon. Crispy. Crunchy. Delicious.

Is there any dish that can’t be improved by its presence?

Bacon may be the most controversial and beloved food in existence. In the wake of the paleo dietary movement and a shift in the way our country views dietary fat intake, bacon has become the “little cheat food that could”.

Bacon is made from pork belly and contains high levels of both monounsaturated and saturated fats. Bacon also contains oleic acid, found in other healthy fats like olive oil. The ratio of different fats in the diet, genetics, and lifestyle choices all contribute to how much saturated fat we can consume for optimal health.

While bacon may not be so bad for you after all, you have to be choosy. Consider the quality of the pork and the processing it undergoes during curing. The process generally involves curing cuts of pork belly with salt and sugar, then applying heat through a smoking process. There is also generally the application of some form of nitrates or nitrites to help preserve quality and appearance of the bacon.

When selecting your bacon product, focus on where the pork came from and how it was raised. The best brands will be pasture or humanely raised and organic. The ingredient list should be short and not too sweet. That means pork, water, sea salt, and a small amount of sugar in the form of brown sugar or maple syrup. If you see a long list of preservatives and words you don’t recognize, steer clear (true for all foods!)

Finally, some brands will use different sources of nitrates, and even if the brand claims to be nitrate free it will often contain an ingredient like celery powder which has naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates can convert to a carcinogenic compound known as “nitrosamines” under high temperatures. If you like your bacon crispy, then you increase the chance of consuming these compounds. Our body blocks the effects of these carcinogens in the presence of Vitamin C, so grab a slice of orange or grapefruit with your bacon to play it safe!

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be sure to enjoy your “healthy” vices in the most appropriate ways possible. If you have questions about nutrition and how other dietary and lifestyle choices are affecting your training we can help! Just email nutrition@crossfitpurgatory.com to schedule time with our Nutrition Coach, who can help you create a personalized diet plan to fuel the best you possible!

Maximize Your Macros:


A Consumer’s guide to Fat, Carbs, and Protein…

Diet and nutrition are a highly individual journey and no one answer is true or right for everyone. The simple fact of the matter is that when it comes down to it, you have to figure out what works best for you. However there are some overarching philosophy that can channel your approach to healthy eating. When you figure out a style and frequency in your relationship with food that works well you will notice improvements in energy levels, focus, mood, and of course physical performance.

Fats

Paleo, Ketogenic, and Atkins diet have helped change many of the negative perceptions of fat in the diet. As Americans a far bigger threat to our health is a diet that contain high sugar and processed foods.Fats are not only not bad for you but are an essential source of fuel and micronutrients that make us healthy. It’s important to choose the right types and amounts of fats in your diet that let you operate at your best.

The chemical structure of a fat or fatty acid determines what role it will play in our bodies. Based on this structure we are able to classify fats in certain classes that share similar characteristics.
Fats can be divided into saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are found in red meat and coconuts and up until recently have gotten a bad rap as culprits of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats are found in plant foods like nuts, avocado, and olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats include Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s which can be found in fatty fish, flax seeds, and walnuts and are associated with a variety of health benefits.

Fats are essential for energy requirements, hormone production, and make up the wall of every cell in your body. They are also directly related to our immune system and having the right ratio of fats is very important for a healthy inflammation response.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are found across a wide variety of foods and depending on the structure of the molecule our body will respond to eating carbs in very different ways. Carbohydrates have a direct relationship with the glucose levels or blood sugar in our bodies. When our blood glucose levels become elevated our body releases a hormone called insulin to store this extra energy for later when we might have a greater need for it. This glucose is stored in the muscle and liver in long chains known as glycogen or the glucose can be stored in adipose tissue to be utilized later (aka fat storage).

Your goal should be to optimize the amount of carbs that are being stored as glycogen and minimizing excess carbs that would contribute to fat stores. Selecting the right types of foods like vegetables are beneficial because they contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index measures how much a food increases our bodies glucose after consumption. High GI foods include white bread, white rice, and cereals. These foods can be very bad for your waistline, because if your body is not prepared to receive fuel and store it as glycogen they will immediately be stored as fat.
Our bodies can become insulin resistant and requires higher and higher amounts of insulin to store the glucose. Resistance training however, can increase our insulin sensitivity. That means that our cells are highly responsive to storing glucose when insulin is present. Focus on consuming low glycemic carbohydrates that provide key nutrients and avoid high sugar or refined ingredients.

Protein

Protein is found in and comprises most of the cells in our body. It is found in a variety of animal and plant sources. Protein is important because it contains amino acids, tiny molecules that are the building blocks of muscle and also used for the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Some of these amino acids are considered essential meaning they must be provided from a dietary source. Without these essential amino acids we will not be able to repair our tissues and certain vital processes will cease to happen.

Since protein helps us recover from and perform optimally during our workouts it is important to consume after a workout for muscle repair. Real food sources of protein include beef, chicken, eggs, and fish. Try to include these foods as staples in your diet. These foods have amino acid content that is similar to what our human body requires for repair. This is also known as the biological value of the protein. Vegetable sources of protein have a lower biological value and may lack one of the essential amino acids needed by humans. These foods must be strategically combined by vegans or vegetarians so they consume all the amino acids needed for tissue repair. As a vegan athlete it can be challenging to meet your needs without supplementation and can be difficult to get a full spectrum of key micronutrients.

Try to consume 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. For a 200 pound man (90 kg) that means 90 grams to 135 grams of protein per day. This will provide enough amino acids for your bodies daily needs. Unfortunately eating more protein doesn’t mean it automatically turns into muscle. Unused protein will be broken down and utilized as a fuel source by the body.

Hopefully knowing a little bit more about each of the macronutrients and how they act in your body will help you to make informed decisions. If you have more questions around a healthy diet give us a call today!