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By Wina Sturgeon, Adventure Sports Weekly (TNS)

When an athlete trains, proper nutrition for the workout is essential. The timing for consuming supplements or food is even more important. The goals are to replenish your muscles, eliminate potential free radicals created by exercise, and help your body recover more quickly and thoroughly from your training.

So let’s first start by getting rid of the most common myths. Yes, protein is good for muscle growth. But all the protein in the world won’t build muscle by itself. If you just eat protein, but don’t exercise, your muscles may not be hungry enough to absorb it. So some of that protein will be stored as fat. Your body will be more ready to metabolize protein after a muscle-depleting workout. It helps repair and develop muscle and other tissues.

Second big myth: What the nutrition experts say about workout supplements is carefully researched and always correct. Wrong! A lot of so-called experts come up with a controversial opinion about training nutrition just to get some personal publicity. That’s why you may come across conflicting opinions about a supplement.

Take creatine, for example. It’s used by many bodybuilders and hardcore gym rats to increase lean muscle mass and strength. But a few “experts” are now declaring that the benefits of creatine aren’t proven, and the supplement can have possible negative side effects.

However, the popular online site Bodybuilding.com describes a peer-reviewed study showing creatine is startlingly effective when consumed in a timely fashion, writing, “A 2006 study done by Australian researchers reported that weight-trained subjects taking a protein, carbohydrate, and creatine shake immediately pre- and post-workout for 10 weeks experienced an 80 percent greater increase in lean muscle mass and about a 30 percent greater increase in muscle strength than subjects taking the same supplements in the morning and at night. The pre-and-post group also lost body fat, whereas the morning-and-night group didn’t.”

One caution about creatine should be noted: it causes your muscles to absorb and hold water in your other tissues, which may cause cramps and lower performance unless you take in extra liquid before a workout to allow for that effect.

Another timely tip: Most athletes know that amino acids help prevent excess muscle breakdown when taken both before and after exercising, especially anaerobic exercise like resistance work. The reason is because these supplements skip a step to get to hungry muscles more quickly than protein. The reason? Protein must first be turned into amino acids before it can be metabolized by muscle tissue.

One important nutrient to take about half an hour before a conditioning session is Vitamin E. It works as an anti-oxidant to stop production of the free radicals often produced by hard exercise. There’s not enough room in this column to explain the destructive chain reaction produced by free radicals, but it’s a topic worth researching for yourself if you don’t yet know about the process.

Another great pre-workout substance acts as a performance enhancer: caffeine. It helps stimulate the metabolism and even acts to help burn more fat during a workout. But if possible, take it in pill form or in coffee, rather than in an energy drink. Those drinks have a lot of other ingredients you may not wish to consume. Give your body at least half an hour to metabolize the caffeine before you start exercising.

One important fact for those lifting weights to remember: carbohydrates are an important part of your workout nutrition. Endurance athletes usually know that ‘fast-acting’ carbs provide the energy needed to improve or maintain athletic performance. This is not an excuse to consume a sugar-laden candy bar. Try a snack of bread, whole grain cereal, rice or pasta to get your carbs, and take them during your workout.

Finally, the most important part of timing: nutrition scientists agree that a ‘refueling’ meal must be taken quickly after a training session, because that’s when the body is most ready to absorb those nutrients. The quick absorption period only lasts for about 45 minutes, so get ready to chow down a protein heavy steak or burger with high-carb potatoes as soon as you leave the gym or track.

Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.

(c)2015 Adventure Sports Weekly. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: via Flickr

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

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