"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saucy Black Bean Recipe

I came up with this recipe one night, while trying to figure out what to make for dinner for my girlfriend and I.  It is quite healthy, containing healthy monounsaturated fats, high in fiber, and also containing low glycemic index carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, and black beans are a decent source of iron.  It is also vegan - if that is your thing.

2 cans black beans
1 large tomato (diced)
1 avacado (diced)
2 cooked ears of corn (off the cob)
1 cup of salsa
2 tbs vegetable oil (optional)
1 tbs chili powder
1 tbs garlic powder
.5 tbs onion powder
.25-1 tsp cayenne (depends how hot you like it!)
1 tsp cumin

The other nice thing about this recipe is that is fairly cheap to make, if you are a poor grad student like myself.

Because canned beans always contain so much salt, I like to wash mine after I open them.  Usually just in a normal colander.  Rinse 2-3 times with cold water, shifting the beans around to get most of the salt off of them.  Add 2 cans of rinsed and drained beans into a medium-large skillet with a coating of oil or cooking spray and heat over medium

I like to buy Michigan sweet corn and use fresh corn for this recipe, but I suppose canned corn would also work, as long as it is drained.

As beans are heating up, add the corn to the mix.

Next, add your diced tomatoes and garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cayenne.  I generally prefer the tomatoes to be cubed about 1/2-1 inch in size.  Mix gently and let the tomatoes stew.  This usually takes approximately 10-15 minutes.

Everything is stewing

Once the tomatoes are softened up, you're ready to add the salsa and avocado.  Add these into your mixture, stir gently so not to smash the avocados, and let stew another 5-10 minutes.

Salsa to help sauce it up

Avocado is full of healthy fat

Once everything is nice and stewed, you have a delicious dish ready to serve.  I'll eat this on its own, often garnished with some sour cream.  Another option is to serve this over rice.  It would probably even be pretty good eaten as a wet burrito. 

Budweiser really brings out the flavor of this dish

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hoka One One Stinson B Evo Low Review

By Jason Robertson

I had been considering getting a pair of Hokas.  While I couldn't find the correct size, Jason (who is also a shoe nerd) picked up a pair of the new Stinson B Evos, and I begged him for a review.  Enjoy!
Get the name right damnit!  Minimalist shoe label from the running store.

A little narrow in the toe box.  My left foot is larger than my right and pinky toe was slightly rubbing.  I was able to change out the standard-sized, left insole for the thinner one provided-no more rubbing and nice customization.  This was the only concern I had with the fit of this shoe.  The upper has great lock-down and provides day-long comfort.  It also has a taller (more volume) and slightly more narrow fit than, say, a MT110 or the Brooks Pure Grit.  I run a size 10 in those models and have found the 10.5 in Hokas very nice, in addition to the thinner insole in my left shoe.
Accessories:  Extra insoles and laces

Traction rocks on this shoe.  You can hear it grip on pavement and the dry hard pack we’ve experienced here in Northeast Indiana this summer.  It does lack the deep lugs of a Salomon Speedcross, but I’d say the rubber is on par with the MT110 for tackiness. I felt very secure on wet, downhill corners during my outings in the Smokies and no problems on wet rock (the Brooks Pure Grit really let me down on the slick rock during our last trip so I was very cautious and was pleasantly surprised with the Stinson B Evo).  This outsole also receives high marks for self-cleaning action.
Wear resistant, very tacky Hoka outsole, very nice!


Goes without saying…this shoe has lots of cush.  Confidence inspiring, feels like cheating, unfair advantage cush.  This shoe has allowed me, over the past month, to become a downhill bomber.   I’ve also, at the same time, been able to handle an increase in mileage as I’ve had time off from work this summer.  My legs have not had that “beat down” feeling they usually receive from such an increase into the 100 mile per week range. 

Some might say, and mentioned by Marshall Ulrich in his review of Hokas, that having so much cushion could prevent or hinder the gains (i.e. muscle breakdown-healing, ligament, joint, tendon strengthening/changing) of running in a more minimally cushioned shoe.  I do wear and run in the Minimus 00, Kinvara and the Pure Grit a few times each week and know there is benefit in low slung shoes.  I recovered from an injury 2 years ago through a process of running barefoot and utilizing minimal shoes.  Not having a serious injury since, I want to maintain my form.  The Hokas have allowed for more vigorous miles to be put in each week and I believe they have allowed some strengthening in areas that lesser cushioned shoe might not.  For instance, pounding the down hills helped strengthen my quads.  I also noticed my ankles feeling a bit worked-similar to when I do barefoot speed work on the soccer fields.  The Hokas also allow for the same cadence and running stance that I have developed with my other lower shoes.  It is interesting to note that Playmakers have a minimalist label on the box as seen in my first picture.

Lots of cushion in these bad boys
Search out the sharpest stingers on the trail.  Nothing short of a 3” nail will hurt your foot.  I totally understand why Darcy Africa (a PI sponsored runner) would opt for the Hokas at Hard Rock, even when she has Isoseeks at her disposal.  4-4.5 hour run/hikes in the Smokies had my feet begging for more. Usually after the four hour mark of running trail, especially in the Smoky Mountains, my feet start letting me know that they’re feeling the rocks, roots and uneven terrain. No matter what I stepped on, I felt no pain.  I am very excited to try these out in some fall 50 milers and next year’s mountain 100’s.
Next to none.  This did make my left arch sing a little (same tightness I had with the MT100/101s).  After some foam rolling on the calf, all was well.  With such a well cushioned midsole, the Hoka is a stiff shoe.  You can’t roll it up like a Nike Free.  This is just fine with me.  The stiffness actually inspires quite a bit of confidence when rolling fast on the downs and the rockered shape of the shoe allows for a nice seamless foot strike to toe off.

·        Awesome cushion and protection.  I will never again have to choose what shoe I’ll wear on a run over 3 hours…or question whether or not to bomb a downhill.
·        Great drainage.  After the several crossings we did in the Smokies, I was very impressed.  This shoe, surprisingly, drained and dried as well as a pair of 101s, which in my opinion; earned the title for the quickest drain/dry shoe.
·        Nice alternate insole/lacing options (comes with quick lace intact-laces optional, but you have to cut the quick lace in order to remove).
·        Overall fit and wear.  I plan on wearing this shoe through next summer and have no concerns about this shoes making it to 1,500 miles-seems very durable at this point. Also, the fit and drop of the shoe does not interfere with wearing my other shoes.  I simply throw on the extra cushion, no worries about a large ramp angle when switching to a more cushioned shoe. 
·        Weight claims.  I read from several sources that these shoes weighed in anywhere between 9 and 10.5 ounces for a men’s size 9.  The shoes I purchased, a size 10.5, weighed in at 13 1/8 ounces on my extremely accurate food scale.  This is about the weight of a pair of Cascadia 6s in the same size.  Interestingly enough, I planned to buy a pair of Cascadia 7s.  I tried on the Hokas 1st, ran around the store, ran a 5k with Scott Jurek(! Stopped in on his book tour) in a trial pair then tried on the Cascadias.  They felt very flat and unresponsive comparatively.  I dropped the extra $60 for the Hokas. 
          The Hokas do a good job of feeling lighter than they really are.  Just        looking at them, you would think they are heavy clodders.  Upon picking        them up they feel uber light.  Same thing happens when running in      them.  They have such a good bounce and energy return, that they seem          to shrug off some ounces and feel about the same weight as a pair of Pure Grits.
·        Cost.  These are the most expensive in my shoe quiver and gave me the most wife feedback.  But, if they last as long as I think, cost will be a mute point.  Plus, they do come with extra laces and another set of insoles allowing a more customizable fit.

Writer Bio
My name is Jason Robertson (33 years old).  I’ve been married for 15 years, have 3 kids and teach middle school Language Arts.
I grew up riding/racing dirt bikes and fell in love with running in ’09 after finally getting the right pair of shoes on my feet, ridding myself of shin splints, and completing my first 50k. 

Jason why so modest?  Jason has run over 20 Ultras, including 3 100 mile races.  Always up for a long run,  he is a constant source of inspiration and enthusiasm.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Quick Review of the Literature: Does caffeine enhance post-exercise recovery?


A very intriguing topic, often discussed in a wide range of magazines, from Men's Health, to Bicycling Magazine, to Runner's World.  As athletes we are constantly looking for methods to best refuel and rebuild our muscles after a difficult workout, and because caffeine has the ability to exert unique effects on metabolic machinery, it has constantly been a target for research.  One thing is fairly consistent throughout the literature, caffeine can improve exercise performance.  However, a quick google search revealed the above mainstream magazines touting the recovery-enhancing effects of caffeine, few of them addressed the fact that this is highly debated in the scientific literature (on a side note, the Bicycling magazine suggests incorporating 3.6 grams of caffeine per pound of body weight DO NOT DO THIS it is potentially lethal, I believe it is a type and they intended milligrams). 
            So, because I…  dislike overly simplistic one sided reporting of nutritional science, I have taken it upon myself to summarize recent scientific findings are available on the effects of caffeine on exercise recovery.  For the purpose of this summary is I will define recovery as increased glycogen synthesis, or increased activity of intracellular pathways associated with recovery, and finally altered secretion of hormones associated with the recovery process (insulin, IGF-1, testosterone, leptin, cortisol).
            Carbohydrates alone are not entirely sufficient to drive massive recovery when a person is near total glycogen depletion.  A plethora of data suggest that there is a platue on the efficiency of carbohydrates to fully drive recovery (1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour) as insulin levels will no longer increase, thus once carbohydrates are available in sufficient quantities, insulin levels tend  not increase further (1).  Similarly, and related, is the fact that once carbohydrates are available in sufficient quantities, muscle glycogen synthesis also plateaus.  Therefore, scientists have sought other nutritional strategies to further enhance muscle glycogen synthesis and/or muscle protein synthesis.  
            Although not universally supported (1), the addition of amino acids or protein to a carbohydrate rich recovery meal has been found to enhance insulin secretion, muscle protein synthesis, and in some cases also enhance muscle glycogen synthesis compared to carbohydrates alone (2-5).  Thus, this is the “Gold Standard” when it comes to recovery nutrition.  But I digress.
Interestingly, at rest, caffeine is known to have negative effects on glycemic control exerted by muscles (6, 7).  That is to say, caffeine diminishes the ability of muscles to respond to insulin signals to store glucose (carbohydrate).  However, this is at least partially abolished during and after exercise (6, 8, 9).  So then, does caffeine have a role in recovery?  In 2008, Pedersen and colleagues (10) said yes, and cited the fact that in their study they observed blood glucose levels to be elevated for a longer period of time in the group receiving carbohydrates + caffeine than compared to a group receiving only carbohydrates during the recovery phase.  This was further supported by their observation that glycogen synthesis rates were significantly higher in the carbohydrate + caffeine group 4 hours post exercise.  While the authors are unable to identify a mechanism for this observation, they speculate that this is achieved through increased intestinal glucose transport.  Based on this one result, indeed, there is some evidence to suggest caffeine may enhance recovery, if consumed with carbohydrates for 4 hours post exercise.  
However, this one study is somewhat of an outlier when looking at the entire breadth of work done on this topic.  In a more recent study performed based on the article published by Pedersen et al. using identical quantities of caffeine and carbohydrate, there was no difference in post-exercise blood glucose or insulin levels when comparing the group that received carbohydrates to the group that received carbohydrates + caffeine (11).  Furthermore, a study published in 2012 (perhaps the most complete study to date) which compared carbohydrates + caffeine, carbohydrates + protein, and carbohydrates alone, found that caffeine had no effect on muscle glycogen synthesis rates (12).  Furthermore, this study also investigated whether caffeine ingestion post-exercise increases intestinal sugar transport, and found that there was no change in the capacity of the intestines of their subjects (elite cyclists) to transport sugar (12).  
Indeed, these results are quite contradictory, and the positive results received much more attention from the media than did the negative/no effect results.  Perhaps one of the most overlooked differences between the 2012 study done by Beelen et al. and the 2008 Pedersen study, was the amount of carbohydrate supplied during the post-exercise window.  Study participants in Pedersen’s study received 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per hour, while participants in the 2012 Beelen study received 1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram body weight per hour.  This would indicate that athletes in the Pedersen study received a lower dosage of carbohydrate than those in the Beelen study.  Therefore, I believe this may be an explanation for the differences between these results.  
Further interpretation of these results can be that caffeine may enhance recovery when glucose (carbohydrates) are available in insufficient quantities.  I think that rarely do I consume the truly adequate amount of carbohydrates within the appropriate time frame to fully maximize glycogen synthesis (1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram body weight per hour).  For me that would be approximately 80 grams of carbohydrates per hour.  Usually I grab a chocolate milk or Gatoraide that may contain roughly 60 grams of carbohydrates.  In this case, carbohydrates alone may be insufficient to fully maximize recovery, and coingestion of caffeine could have a beneficial effect.  However, if carbohydrates are available in sufficient quantities, I believe (IMHO) caffeine ingestion will NOT enhance recovery, and because of the known ways in which caffeine diminishes insulin action, there is too much risk it may hamper recovery.  
Overall, the rate at which glycogen is synthesized after a hard workout depends on a huge number of factors.  For example, length and duration of the workout, total hydration status (which can effect gastric emptying), the level of glycogen depletion, insulin sensitivity, as well as hormones, can all significantly effect rates of glycogen synthesis.  


Works Cited

1.         Howarth KR, Moreau NA, Phillips SM, Gibala MJ. Coingestion of protein with carbohydrate during recovery from endurance exercise stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Apr;106:1394-402.
2.         van Loon LJ, Saris WH, Kruijshoop M, Wagenmakers AJ. Maximizing postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis: carbohydrate supplementation and the application of amino acid or protein hydrolysate mixtures. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72:106-11.
3.         van Loon LJ, Saris WH, Verhagen H, Wagenmakers AJ. Plasma insulin responses after ingestion of different amino acid or protein mixtures with carbohydrate. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jul;72:96-105.
4.         Berardi JM, Price TB, Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38:1106-13.
5.         Ivy JL, Goforth HW, Jr., Damon BM, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol. 2002 Oct;93:1337-44.
6.         Thong FS, Derave W, Kiens B, Graham TE, Urso B, Wojtaszewski JF, Hansen BF, Richter EA. Caffeine-induced impairment of insulin action but not insulin signaling in human skeletal muscle is reduced by exercise. Diabetes. 2002 Mar;51:583-90.
7.         Robinson LE, Savani S, Battram DS, McLaren DH, Sathasivam P, Graham TE. Caffeine ingestion before an oral glucose tolerance test impairs blood glucose management in men with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2004 Oct;134:2528-33.
8.         Yeo SE, Jentjens RL, Wallis GA, Jeukendrup AE. Caffeine increases exogenous carbohydrate oxidation during exercise. J Appl Physiol. 2005 Sep;99:844-50.
9.         Battram DS, Shearer J, Robinson D, Graham TE. Caffeine ingestion does not impede the resynthesis of proglycogen and macroglycogen after prolonged exercise and carbohydrate supplementation in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2004 Mar;96:943-50.
10.       Pedersen DJ, Lessard SJ, Coffey VG, Churchley EG, Wootton AM, Ng T, Watt MJ, Hawley JA. High rates of muscle glycogen resynthesis after exhaustive exercise when carbohydrate is coingested with caffeine. J Appl Physiol. 2008 Jul;105:7-13.
11.       Taylor C, Higham D, Close GL, Morton JP. The effect of adding caffeine to postexercise carbohydrate feeding on subsequent high-intensity interval-running capacity compared with carbohydrate alone. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab.  Oct;21:410-6.
12.       Beelen M, Kranenburg J, Senden JM, Kuipers H, Loon LJ. Impact of caffeine and protein on postexercise muscle glycogen synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc.  Apr;44:692-700.