The benefits of regular exercise are numerous. Through multiple clinical trials, man has been able to deduce how exercise benefits the body and prolongs life. It reduces the probability of cardiovascular disease a leading killer disease in some countries in the developed world. It also helps keep obesity at bay and enables people across the age divide to maintain flexibility and independence over their lives. Exercise is also beneficial for mental well being in that it reduces the risk of getting depression.
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Many people have taken the prerogative to enroll in some sort of exercise programme. Due to lack of adequate information, not all individuals who partake in regular exercise are able to glean maximum benefits from their training programme. Time spent during exercise is an important factor. However, it is not the determining factor when it comes to how much an individual will benefit from the physical activity. Nutrition is an essential component of any exercise programme. This article aims at empowering the reader with information on how to maximize benefits from an exercise programme.
PROVEN BENEFITS OF EXERCISE.
Exercise prolongs life. People who engage in moderate to difficult exercise routines elongate their lifespan by one to four years (Jonker 2006: Franco 2005). Exercise also adds value to those additional years. Through health benefits to the lungs, heart and muscle, exercise ensures that a person not only lives long but is still productive in those extra years. Aging is a natural process of life. With time, the health of an individual deteriorates. This increases the risk of developing chronic health conditions. The good news is that regular exercise such as walking 3 hours per week can ward off the onset of some of these chronic health conditions (Chakravathy 2002). Exercise enables a person to have a better outlook of themselves, elevates self esteem and reduces the risk of getting depression (Elvasky 2005: Schetchman 2001).
In recent years chronic non communicable diseases have formed a substantial portion of the disease burden in the world. In people with conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, stroke, myasthenia gravis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, exercise improves the standard of life (Stout 2001: Rochester 2003). Regular exercise spells out more benefits when it comes to metabolism of sugar in the body. It enhances plasma glucose control, can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes and if one develops the disease, it reduces the risk of death from complications in the cardiovascular system(Golden 2004: Virtartaite 2004: babyak 2001: Suh 2002: Church 2004: Short 2003: American Diabetes association 2003: McFarln 2004.
Menopause results in decreased bone density. This is because of reduced estrogen levels in the body. Estrogen is bone protective. Post menopausal women are thus at higher risk of fractures because of weak bones. The fractures are more common at the hip joint and the femoral bone. Exercise has been shown to increase bone thickness and hence stronger bones in women of this age group (Cussler 2005: Kerr 2001). Osteoarthritis is a common skeletal disease that comes with advanced age. It affects joints in the body. Weight training and aerobics exercise has been shown to enhance balance in older people with knee osteoarthritis (Messier 2000).
Exercise is not only for the adults. Exercise during childhood and teenage years ensure stronger bones later in life. Exercise during pregnancy is a healthy habit. Through it, an expectant mother is able to influence the size of her infant (Clapp 2003).
METABOLISM, GETTING THE ENERGY WE NEED.
Various metabolic processes interplay to ensure that body functions are maintained at optimum. These metabolic processes are affected by exercise. Once food is ingested, it undergoes digestion in the alimentary canal. With the aid of enzymes, the food is broken down into its basic components which are glucose, lipids and amino acids. Energy in the body is derived primarily from glucose. In the absence of glucose, fat is the alternative for energy production. Proteins derived from muscle mass are the least favored option when it comes to energy production. Breakdown of proteins requires a lot of energy. Ammonia is a byproduct of protein breakdown and it has harmful effects on health. In the setting of protein breakdown, damage to body organs and systems is inevitable. It also impairs the effectiveness of an exercise programme.
Energy in the body is produced in the form of ATP. ATP production occurs in the mitochondria which are found within body cells. ATP is utilized in the body in various ways. It provides the energy required to power every energy consuming process in the body. It is also essential body building. It provides the energy required for repair of tissues and growth. Cleaving of a phosphate molecule from ATP to form ADP is the chemical reaction that releases energy.
Nutrition and exercise are thus closely related. The role of nutrition is to provide enough energy to the muscles during the exercise and recovery period. It is important to know how muscles utilize energy during exercise. ATP is the first line energy source for muscles during contraction. However the amount of ATP stored in the muscle at any given moment is only adequate for one contraction. During exercise, rapid synthesis of ATP is therefore necessary to sustain the additional contractions. Creatinine phosphate is a molecule stored in muscle that facilitates the synthesis of ATP. This too has its limitations. This is because the stores of creatinine phosphate in muscle are also quickly depleted.
Breakdown of glucose is responsible for replacing the depleted ATP and creatinine phosphate stores. A maximum yield of ATP is found when glucose is broken down In the presence of oxygen. This is called anaerobic metabolism. When oxygen is inadequate during glucose breakdown, lactic acid is formed. When the lactic acid builds up in muscle, it produces a burning sensation. The latter type of glucose breakdown is known as anaerobic metabolism and is common in exercises that are characterized by short bursts of activity.
If glucose is depleted in the course of exercise, the body utilizes fat and proteins as alternative sources of energy. After exercise, the body will need to replenish the ATP stores in the muscles. This is an activity with high oxygen consumption.
As mentioned earlier, anaerobic exercises are characterized by short bouts of activity. They are intense in nature and performed over a short period of time. They employ use of weights and are used primarily to build muscle bulk and strengthen muscles (Annianson 1981).
Aerobic exercises are utilized in endurance training. These types of exercises are characterized by sustained low level muscle activity. One of the primary benefits of endurance training is weight loss. It also confers cardio protective benefits. Aerobic and anaerobic exercises can be carried out simultaneously. This widens the benefits an individual can glean i.e. one is able to lose weight and at the same time build up the muscle bulk. This is known as interval training (Martini 1995).
MUSCLES AND AGING.
With age, the muscle bulk reduces and muscles progressively weaken. This process is independent of lifestyle and exercise regimes (Brosss 1999). The elasticity of the muscles diminishes with time and they become more prone to injuries (Bross 1999: Braumgartner 1998). Their regeneration potential also decreases and repairs take longer. However age should not be a contraindication for exercise. Strength can be restored to weakened muscles through strength training (Anianson 1981: Frontera 1992). With advancing age, exercise helps keep weight in check and thus wards of diseases such as diabetes. It is advisable for the elderly to engage in activities that are not strenuous (Martini 1995).
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED SO FAR.
- Benefits of exercise include weight control, prolonged life and mental well being.
- Metabolism is the process by which food is broken down to produce energy.
- Muscles utilize ATP for energy during contraction.
- Endurance exercises are cardio protective and result in weight loss while anaerobic exercises are utilized in building up the muscle bulk.
Andropause is the equivalent of menopause in women. It refers to the gradual decline of testosterone levels in men that occurs with age. Generally, 40-50% of men have low levels of testosterone by age 70 (Anawalt 2000). Symptoms experienced include decline in libido, heart disease and loss of bone and muscle. Growth hormone levels decline concurrently with those of testosterone (Karakelides 2005).
Supplementing growth hormone and testosterone to enhance exercise looks like a viable option. However studies that have focused on this issue have found data that is insufficient to support this practice (Anawalt 2000). The risk of hormone dependent cancers is higher in the elderly and therefore any supplementation of testosterone should be approached with caution. Hormone replacement therapy if needed should thus be carried out under the watchful eye of a qualified physician.
EXERCISE ENHANCING SUPPLEMENTS.
Various supplements enhance muscle function. They include;
Carnitine: this is an amino acid that aids in transport of fat into the mitochondria where it is broken down for energy production. Exercise capacity is enhanced when patients with kidney diseases or artery disease are given carnitine supplements (Baker 2001: Brass 1998).
Carnosine: carnosine is present in muscle. Concentration of carnosine in muscle is highest during exercise (Suzuki 2002). Exercise is associated with formation of free radicals from the oxygen utilizing processes that take place (Yang 2000: Boldyrev 1997: Yneva 1999: Nagasawa 1999). Carnosine destroys the free radicals and prevents them from oxidizing body cells. It also protects proteins by inhibiting cross linking (Hipkiss 1997: Munch 1995). During strenuous exercise, carnosine also acts as a PH buffer thus protecting muscle from oxidation (Burcham 2000).
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Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): this is an essential enzyme that is utilized in the process of converting food into energy. It is located in the mitochondria. Oxidation processes take place continuously in the mitochondria. This results in the depletion of CoQ10 enzyme (Lonrot 1995: Dimeo 2001: Geneva 2004). Dysfunction of mitochondria coupled with depletion of CQ10 is thought to be an important causative factor in the development of age related diseases (Wallace 2009). This also results in production of less energy and increased synthesis of oxygen radicals (Choski 2007). The radicals further damage the mitochondria resulting in a vicious cycle (Di Lisa 2009).
Shilajit: this is an organic substance harvested from biomass in the Himalayas (Schepetkin 2009: Goel 1990). It is famously utilized by ayurvedic practioners. It protects the body from illness and stress by acting as an adptogen. Advance in science has shown that it contains humic substances that enhance the flow of energy within the mitochondria (Agarwal 2007).
A study conducted showed that shilajit decreased the rate of ATP decline in heart, brain and muscle tissue when given to rats that had been subjected to strenuous activity (Bhattacharyya 2009. The rate of depletion of CoQ10 was also slowed. When administered together, shilajat and CQ10 were found to have a synergistic effect.
Shilajit contains two primary components that are essential for its function. These are fulvic acid and dibenzo-a-pyrones (DBPs). On its own, fulvic acid can initiate energy production in the mitochondria. It also prevents the oxidative damage to the mitochondria and transports DPBs into the mitochondria to aid in reactions that produce ATP(Piotrowska 2000; Ghosal 2006).
When the mice were given oral CoQ10 supplements in isolation, there was increase in the levels of the enzyme in heart, liver and kidney tissues (Bhattacharyya 2009). However, when DBPs were supplemented concurrently with the CoQ10, the liver stores increased by 29% (Bhattacharyya 2009).
Shilajit preserves ATP in the body. By ensuring that CoQ10 in the body is utilized maximally, it improves exercise performance. This was demonstrated in a recent study. People who took 200mg of Shilajit daily for 15 days had higher levels of ATP in the blood after exercise and the fitness score improved by 15%.
Creatine: supplementing creatinine is beneficial. It increases both the lean mass and strength of the muscles (Nissen 2003; Kreider2003; Gotshalk 2002). ATP production requires phosphate molecules. Creatine acts as a donor of phosphate and thus enhances ATP production. In the setting of anaerobic glycolysis, creatine delays build up of lactic acid in the muscles. Muscle is not the only body tissue that benefits from creatine supplementation. Studies have shown that creatine is of benefit in patients with neurological degenerative disorders and it enhances memory in the elderly (Wyss 2002; Beal 2003;
Tarnopolsky 2001; Matthews 1998; Tabrizi 2003; Laakso 2003; Yeo 2000; Valenzuela 2003; Watanabe 2002; Rae 2003).
Branched amino acids: the basic building blocks of proteins are amino acids. There are two types of amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized in the body and are only sourced from the diet. Non essential amino acids are those that the body can synthesis. Leucine and isoleucine are examples of branched essential amino acids that have been shown to enhance performance and prevent breakdown of muscle during endurance exercise (Workman 2002; Shimomura 2006; Ohtani
2006). Unlike carbohydrates supplements, amino acid supplements have been shown to increase muscle strength in the elderly (Scognamiglio 2004).
Glutamine: glutamine is an amino acid that is present in abundant amounts in the healthy body. Prolonged exercise, surgery or infection can decreases the levels of glutamine in the body. There is an increase risk of developing respiratory infections in athletes who engage in strenuous activity. This has been linked to reduced glutamine levels in the body as a result of the exercise (Castell 2002; Parry-Billings 1990). Supplementing glutamine in marathon runners had the effect of reducing respiratory infections (Castell 1996). When used in combination with glycine and L-cysteine, glutathione helps enhance synthesis of glutathione which functions as an antioxidant in the body (Rennie 1998). When levels of glutathione are low in the body, muscle tissue is broken down to supply glutathione. Supplementing glutathione will bar this from happening (Antonio 2002; Hankard 1996).
Metabolic whey protein: protein supplementation has been a popular practice among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Exercise may deplete body energy stores. Protein supplementation will therefore provide an alternative source of energy and prevent muscle breakdown. Mechanical muscle function was found to be greater in patients who had protein supplementation compared to those who had carbohydrate supplementation (Andersen 2005).
Plant protein: vegetable protein is an important source of proteins for vegetarians. With advancing age, blood vessels tend to lose their elasticity and hence their ability to dilate. Pea protein contains arginine which is used in synthesis of nitric oxide. This is a compound that is essential for dilation and relaxation of blood vessels (Zhou 2001).l. Contrary to common belief some vegetables contain higher amounts of protein when compared to animal based sources of protein.
Polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC): muscle contraction is mediated by the nervous system. Information from the neural circuit is relayed to the muscle at the neuromuscular junction. Acetylcholine is the chemical mediator at this junction that relays this information. During exercise, PPC maintains plasma levels of choline which is a raw product used in the synthesis of acetyl choline (Buchman 2000). This ensures that there is continuous flow of electric information from the nerves to the muscles.
Vitamin D: it is common knowledge that vitamin D is essential for proper bone health. It has recently come to attention that it is also important for muscle health. Vitamin D helps maintain muscle bulk by preventing shrinking of muscle fibers. Research has shown that adequate vitamin D intake reduces the risk of osteoporosis and muscle atrophy in the long run (Montero-Odasso 2005).
D-ribose: D ribose is a molecule that is utilized during synthesis of ATP. Physical fatigue as a result of exercise is one of the chief reasons that puts off people from exercising (Annesi, 2005). During strenuous exercise, ATP levels in muscle can drop by up to 20% and it can take up to 72 hours for the muscles to replenish the ATP stores (Hellsten-Westing 1993; Stathis 1994). After exercise, many individuals feel spent. This has been linked to release of products of ATP break down into blood (Hellsten 1999). D-ribose will ensure that ATP levels in muscle are at optimum (Tullson 1988; Zarzeczny 2001). This will result in less fatigue after exercise and a person can happily look forward to the next exercise lesson. Exercise becomes an enjoyable activity instead of the drag many people have come to associate it with. D-ribose supplementation increases ATP stores in the muscle by up to four fold. This provides adequate reserve that can be utilized if need arises (Tullson 1991). D-ribose also enhances recycling of the products of ATP breakdown. This enhances the speed of ATP synthesis (Zarzeczny 2001; Brault 2001).
Muscles that are fatigued take longer to replenish ATP compared to well rested muscles (Hellsten-Westing 1993).. In 2004, a study showed that D- ribose accelerated the rate of recovery of ATP in muscle among sprinters (Hellsten2004).
The following protocols may also be of interest.
- Obesity and weight loss.
- Trauma and wound healing.
- Male hormone restoration.
- Female hormone restoration.
LIFE EXTENSION SUGGESTIONS.
- Creatine: 2 – 5 g daily
- Carnitine: 1000 – 2000 mg daily
- Carnosine: 1500 – 3000 mg daily
- CoQ10 (as ubiquinol): 100 – 300 mg daily
- Shilajit: 100 – 200 mg daily
- Branched-chain amino acids: containing at least 1200 mg L-leucine, 600 mg L-isoleucine, and 600 mg L-valine
- Glutamine: 500 – 1000 mg daily
- Whey protein: consider taking 20 – 80 g whey protein daily. It is most important to consume whey protein before and immediately after your exercise session to make sure adequate protein is available to depleted muscles.
- Plant Protein: 18 g protein from a blend of plants including pea
- Polyenylphosphatidylcholine (PPC): 900 – 1800 mg
- Vitamin D: 5000 – 8000 IU daily; depending upon blood levels of 25-OH-vitamin D
- D-ribose: 5 g, 1 – 3 times daily with food
Also, the following blood tests may provide helpful information
- Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy
- Female Comprehensive Hormone Panel
- Male Comprehensive Hormone Panel
- Creatine Kinase
information contained in this article does not intend to disregard advice rendered to individuals by qualified clinicians. Before commencing on any diet or exercise programme, a person should seek professional advice from a qualified healthcare professional. The protocols described in this article are for adults only. Before use of any supplement, a person should familiarize themselves with the product information provided by the manufacturer. This information pertains to the dose, administration and contraindications. The authors and publishers of this article are not liable to injury or damage a person may endure after use of information contained herein.
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