Flex Nutrition: Ask the Doc!

Jim Stoppani provides expert answers to your nutrition and supplement questions.
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Q: If I’m taking creatine, do I need to do the loading phase first? What is a typical loading phase?

A: You only need a loading phase if you want to see immediate results. A good loading phase should last five to seven days. Take 5 g of creatine four or five times per day. Definitely take creatine with protein and carbs, and on workout days make one of those doses with your preworkout shake and carbs, and another one immediately postworkout with your shake and carbs. If you don’t want to bother with the loading phase and still want to see immediate results, use a creatine that does not require a loading phase, such as Con-Cret or Kre-Alkalyn.

Q: When reading labels, how do I know if the carbs in the item are fast- or slow digesting? When the label says it has 16 g of fat per serving but then says it has only 4 g of saturated fats and 0 g of trans fats, does that automatically mean the rest are poly- and monounsaturated fats?

A: The packaging of a food that is a slow digesting carb should name one of these ingredients first on the list: whole grain, whole wheat, whole (other grain), stone-ground whole (grain), brown rice, oats, oatmeal or wheatberries. Also, the Whole Grains Council has developed the Whole Grain Stamp, which appears on products that contain at least half a serving (8 g) of whole grains per serving. Products with a full serving (16 g) of whole grains get the “100% Whole Grain” banner, to boot. Regarding fats, yes, the remainder would be poly- and monounsaturated.

Q: I take 40–45 g of protein and 5 g of creatine in my postworkout shake. What is the best source of carbs to take at that time: a supplement powder I could combine with my shake or a food source?

A: Postworkout, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are fastdigesting or high-glycemic carbs. For supplements, nothing beats Vitargo, a powdered complex carb supplement that actually digests about twice as fast as most sugars. Another option is simply dextrose powder. For foods, fat-free sugary candies are best. One company that stands out is Wonka. Many of their candies, such as Pixy Stix, Sweet Tarts and Bottle Capsare made with either dextrose or maltodextrin, which are both basically pure glucose and will spike insulin and drive amino acids, carbs and creatine into your muscles, and turn on muscle protein synthesis to stimulate growth. Slow-digesting carbs, such as most fruit, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, etc., are not the best choice, as they keep insulin levels low and steady.

Q: Is it possible to stay ketogenic with a 50-g glucose postworkout shake and just fibrous carbs the rest of the day? I would not want to compromise my muscle growth during this keto-cutting phase.

A: You really don’t need to worry about staying ketogenic when you go low carb. That was one mistake of the old Atkins plan. Although being ketogenic does ensure that you’re burning fat, that is more critical for those trying to lose bodyfat without exercise. If you work out regularly, you don’t need to be so restrictive with the carbs, as the workouts deplete your body’s stored carbs (glycogen). So, yes, I would recommend going with some fast carbs, like 30–40 g of dextrose with your postworkout protein and sticking to fibrous carbs the rest of the day.

Q: Is it true that higher levels of testosterone weaken the immune system? If so, what do you recommend to help keep the immune system strong? I am very active and follow a healthy diet with supplements, but still get sick about three or four times per year.

A: Yes, there is some truth to that, since testosterone is involved in controlling the T-cells. But instead of dropping your testosterone on purpose, I suggest you keep your muscle and boost your immunity with vitamin C (2–4 g per day), vitamin D (2,000–4,000 international units per day) and echinacea (500–1,500 mg per day).

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