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Hack Your Muscles: Comparing the Best Post-Workout Beverages

Hack Your Muscles: Comparing the Best Post-Workout Beverages

    It’s May, and for most people that means its time to get serious about getting your body into better shape. Prime beach weather is closer than you think, and you’re probably starting to get serious about hitting the gym regularly. But overdoing your workout can do more harm than good. In fact, your athletic performance starts to suffer once you lose about 2 percent of your body weight due to profuse sweating…and that takes less effort than you might think.

    If you plan to work out for over 60 minutes, you need to drink something more substantial than water afterwards. Lose too much water from exercising, and you can start to experience cramps, dizziness, and headaches as your body has to go into overdrive to keep your core temperature stable and your heart functioning normally as your blood begins to thicken to dehydration. And if you don’t rehydrate properly, you might find that your muscles are weak the next day, impairing your ability to lift weights.

    If you’re trying to sculpt a beach body, it’s important to drink the right post-workout beverage to rehydrate, replenish lost nutrients, and consume adequate protein to promote muscle growth. Plain water is good, but some other product might be better. But the diet aisle of your local supermarket has got dozens of post-workout hydration beverages to choose from. So which one is right for you?

    NOTE: The assessments below are based on my own opinions, personal experiences, and research. None of the products/companies mentioned below provided samples for review or have otherwise influenced the content of this article.

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    Milk

    Okay, so maybe suggesting milk after a workout makes you think of Will Ferrell in “Anchorman,” moaning “Milk was a bad choice!”

    And while the idea of chugging milk after a hard workout on a hot day might sound miserable, it has been argued that milk is a great beverage to quaff after hitting the gym. In a lot of ways, milk has it all: carbohydrates, electrolytes, calcium and vitamin D…and the all-important protein.

    According to Emma Cockburn, a lecturer at Northumbria University in northeast England, “The damage caused by exercise leads to a breakdown of the protein structures in your muscles, but that doesn’t happen until 24 to 48 hours later.” If you drink milk right after training, it will be digested and absorbed by the time your body needs it to repair muscle damage. It’s worth remembering that Michael Phelps famously chugged milk between events at the Beijing Olympics.

    Sports Drinks

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    There are as many types of fruity flavored sports drinks as there are brands of soda, and sadly, they both often have similar amounts of sugar. While they can replenish vital electrolytes, vitamins, and fluids, all that sugar post-workout can leave you feeling more jittery. Whenever possible, opt for a reduced calorie sports drink over the regular kind, as this will have less sugar, and therefore fewer calories.

    Cheribundi

    Cheribundi’s “Whey Cherry” tart cherry juice contains phytonutrients, anthocyanins, phenolic acids…in other words, compounds that refuel a tired body, reduce inflammation from over-exertion, and aids in muscle recovery. Whey protein is added for an extra muscle building benefits, and the cherry juice gives you 100% of your daily needs for a number of B vitamins. An 8 oz. serving has 160 calories. The taste takes some getting used to, as it is very tart, but the health benefits are worth it.

    SmartWater

    If you want electrolytes after a workout but are trying to reduce your caloric intake, consider zero calorie SmartWater, which consists only of vapor distilled water and electrolytes (Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, and Potassium Bicarbonate, to be specific.)

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    It doesn’t contain any protein, as in some other sports recovery beverages, but for exercise that is less about building muscle and more about maintaining tone or losing excess pounds, it can still be a good choice for rehydration, and is still superior to plain tap water.

    Beer

    According to a study at Granada University in Spain, a pint of beer is better at rehydrating the body after a workout than the same amount of water. Researchers argue that the carbon dioxide in beer helps quench thirst faster than water, the carbs in the beer replace calories (generally between 90-150 calories per serving in beer) burned during exercise, and trace salts and sugars in the beer replace lost nutrients.

    On the other hand, alcohol can have diuretic properties, so don’t rely on beer alone. If you want to experiment with beer as a post-workout beverage, perhaps try a beer after having a small amount of water, and follow the beer directly by an equal amount of water.

    Conclusion

    To stay well hydrated for exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you:

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    Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
    Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (0.12 to 0.23 liters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. You may need more the larger your body is or the warmer the weather is.
    Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight you lose during the workout.

    How you choose to hydrate is completely up to you. Whether you need low-cal refreshment, or a heavy dash of protein to aid in muscle recovery, the good news is that there are plenty of post-workout recovery beverages for you to sample.

    What do you drink after a hard workout? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

    The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It? The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity? How to Diagnose the “Phantom Cursor” Issue on Your Mac Extreme Minimalism: Andrew Hyde and the 15-Item Lifestyle 6 Easy Tips for Living with 100 Items or Less

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    Last Updated on November 15, 2019

    Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

    Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

    Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

    How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

    Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

    The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

    Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

    Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

    When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

    Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

    Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

    The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

    Shocked? Well, I was too.

    The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

    When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

    On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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    Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

    Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

    Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

    Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

    Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

    It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

    Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

    As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

    In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

    A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

    Your metabolism is like your bank account.

    To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

    Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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    What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

    That’s exactly how your body reasons:

    More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

    Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

    Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

    For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

    Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

    Foods That Increase Metabolism

    Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

    Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

    Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

    • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
      When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
    • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
    • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
    • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

    Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

    To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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    1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
    2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
    3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

    Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

    Sugars and Carbs

    Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

    Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

    Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

    Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
    • Dried fruit
    • Commercial and packaged corn
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • All sorts of candies and lookalike
    • Packaged fruit juices and purees
    • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
    Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
    • Bread and flour-based products
    • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
    • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
    • Potatoes and potato starch products
    • Oatmeals and other grains
    Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
    • All berries except strawberries
    • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
    • Sweet potatoes
    • White rice
    • All green vegetables

    Fats

    Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

    Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
    • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
    • Lard
    • Gmo oils
    • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
    Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
    • Nuts
    • Meat fat
    • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
    • Seeds
    Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
    • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
    • Avocado
    • Coconut oil
    • Butter (organic)
    • Egg yolks (free-range)
    • Bone marrow

    The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

    Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

    Proteins

    Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

    Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

    Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

    Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

    For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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    Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
    • Cheap whey proteins
    • Soy proteins
    • GMO meat
    • GMO eggs
    • Packaged meat
    Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
    • Canned tuna
    • Canned fish
    • Canned meat
    • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
    • Farmed fish
    Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
    • Free-range meat
    • Free-range eggs
    • Wild meat and fish
    • Whey protein isolate
    • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

    Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

    Other Foods and Supplements

    Cold water

    Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

    This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

    MCT Oils or Powders

    Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

    You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

    Caffeine

    Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

    Green Tea

    Green tea

    is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

    Bottom Line

    In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

    For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

    Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

    And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

    Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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