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Myth Busters

  • Creatine use, safe or not?

    Many of my articles intended to debunk common myths surrounding the perceived effectiveness of certain supplements in the world of fitness. On the other hand, although sometimes the effects can be inconsistent, creatine generally works, there's no question about that and with the currently available scientific data to back this up, I am in no position to criticize its efficacy. However, the increase in strength and energy comes at a cost, kidney damage, liver problems, muscle camping, diarrhea, impaired thermoregulation and death just for starters. Or is it really?

    The well-publicized side effects of creatine are generally hypothesised theories based on how the supplement works inside the body under extreme doses. Creatine is an organic acid that is synthesized by the kidney, pancreas and liver to help to supply energy to the body by increasing the formation of ATP. Theoretically, creatine uptake in muscle can result in an increase in fluid retention hence may affect the body's fluid balance and ability to dissipate heat. On the other hand, the body needs to get rid of and compensate for the extra creatine consumed, which puts extra strain on the kidneys and liver. The association between creatine use and liver and kidney damage was thus made based on a few case reports and small changes in organ function indicators.

    The theorized side effects have their scientific merits. However, if used properly, hardly any of the proposed side effects of creatine have been confirmed in well-controlled, randomized studies conducted on healthy subjects. Of course, you should not use creatine if you have an underlining health condition, especially kidney or liver problems, and you should not overdose, which may result in unwanted side effects. But if you are perfectly healthy, not allergic to any of the contents in the supplement that you ingest, and follow the proper guideline of oral creatine supplementation, it is very safe.

    How much creatine should I use then? One should always strive to achieve the best results with the lowest dose possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, a typical loading dose could be anywhere around 9-25 grams daily (depends on body weight) with good fluid intake for 4-7 days and a typical maintenance dose would be 2-20 grams daily for 5 days up to 12 weeks depends on body weight. This is just a general guideline and you should always tailor your regime based on your own circumstances. But remember, the effect of creatine can be inconsistent between different people and if you feel that the creatine you are taking does not give the expected result, it may not be the problem of dosage but the efficacy of the supplement itself.

    All in all creatine is safe supplement to use when taken properly.

  • Calories are not created equal

    The balance of our body weight can be seen as an act of balancing energy input and energy expenditure. There are four subcomponents that contribute to energy expenditure: resting energy expenditure (the energy used to just stay alive), thermic effect of food (the energy needed to digest food), activity energy expenditure (energy used from doing activities) and total energy expenditure (the combination of the 3 above). Calories-in-calories out is the traditional model for weight gain and weight loss. Many professionals hold the belief that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what you eat. However, it has became more apparent that not all calories are created equal, some calories will make you burn more energy, through altering one or more of the 4 subcomponents of energy expenditure.

     

    A study conducted by Ebbling et al and published in the prestigious The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2012 compared the effects of three common diets, low-fat diet, low-GI diet and low-carb diet on energy expenditure. In contrast to the conventional recommendations, the study showed that the low-fat diet tested was probably the worst diet for weight loss and maintenance compared to the low GI and low carb diets. The authors concluded that low fat diet "produces changes in energy expenditure and serum leptin that would predict weight regain".

     

    In agreement with some available diet programs, the study showed that low-carb diet resulted in the highest resting energy expenditure and total energy expenditure in most test subjects compared to the low-fat and low-GI diets. Test subjects on a low-carb diet used on average 67kcal per day more resting energy than subjects on a low-fat diet and 29kcal per day more compared to those on a low-GI diet. The figures shown represented average data from all test subjects, there were of course exceptions, some people tested seemed to respond better and burn more energy on low-GI and low-fat diets. One has to choose what is more suitable for them based on their own experiences.

     

    Although low-carb diet is the most beneficial in terms of energy expenditure and a number of metabolic syndrome components, prolonged enforcement of this diet can increase the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. High cortisol levels may in turn promote fat gain, insulin resistance and cardiovascular diseases. Therefor, low-carb diet may not be a long-term solution to weight loss and maintenance.

     

    Low-GI diet on the other hand, appeared to be the most healthy and sustainable in the long run compared to the low-carb diet, even though the effect on energy expenditure was not as pronounced, it was comparable nevertheless and more effective than the low-fat diet.

     

    Altering the components of your diet based on how your respond to different foods can make a significant impact on the body's energy expenditure and consequently affects weight loss/maintenance. Reducing fat from your diet doesn't necessarily translate into fat loss. A low-carb diet may be an effective and safe short-term boot camp solution for some but may also be harmful in the long run for others. A low-GI diet might not have the impact of the low-carb diet but it may be good for weight maintenance. Different people will respond to different types of food differently and you will have to find what's best for you. Remember, not all calories are created equal.

  • Targeted fat loss

    targeted fat loss Is Targeted fat loss possible?

    Targeted fat loss, also known as spot reduction, has long been an intense area of focus by infomercials, fitness and supplement companies and sports magazines. The idea of target fat loss where you lose fat more readily in areas you exercise more seems to be reasonable and intuitive. It also appeals to the general public, as most of us tend to gain fat in certain areas while not others, causing the prevalence of "love handles" and "beer bellies" among us. The reality though, it's that the basic physiology of the human body prevents targeted fat loss from happening no matter what form of exercise you do, and this is why: Fat is stored in the human body as triglycerides, they have to be broken down into glycerol and free fatty acids and then enter the blood stream before can be utilized by muscle cells. This means that the fat burnt from whatever you do can come from anywhere in the body, not just the area you've worked on. Scientific studies conducted on athletes have shown that prolonged, intense work-outs targeted at one part of the body does not reduced the amount of subcutaneous fat in the trained area compared to the rest of the body. Fat loss is universal.

    The most effective way of losing fat is through good calorie burning exercises, for instance, high intensity interval training. Sit-ups alone don't burn enough calories, and while they can indeed improving your core strength, they do almost nothing to get rid of the fat on your belly. Fat loss cannot be targeted, if you want to lose weight, do exercise that burn the most calories.

  • BCAAs Protein Creatine

    BCAAs Protein Creatine - How and why we stack them:

    To get your results to go from average to enhanced, you must use the right supplements as a stack. A little BCAA and a little protein will still get you results. However, big changes can come from using the right portions in a stack.


    You can always count on BCAAs for... Essentially, BCAA's are just 3 of the essential amino acids you'll need to build muscle. However, they do play the biggest role in muscle growth and reparation. If you check out the label on your protein supplement, you'll find an amino acid profile listing milligrams of amino acids in each serving. This including the BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), valine, leucine and isoleucine. Protein synthesis occurs when there is both muscle energy (ATP) and bcaas ready and available. The muscle cells are then well equipped with enough energy to actually synthesize more protein, which is just what we want. Keeping your ATP level up will be hugely impacted by diet. We don't want to minimize the very important role that natural, whole foods play in your results. These stacks will simply play a fill- in role when something is missing! As mentioned before, most protein supplements do have small doses of bcaa's. We prefer a stand-alone BCAA supplement because it offers a targeted, concentrated version to be delivered directly to your muscles. You can take this throughout the day in smaller doses to keep your bcaa level up (particularly leucine) and keep the body actively synthesizing protein. Stacking BCAAs with Whey Whey protein isolate or concentrate is perfect for the post workout phase because it delivers a wide variety of amino acids at a rapid rate to the whole body. These are needed not just in the muscles, but also the tendons, ligaments, bone structure and other connective tissue to keep it recovering effectively. Stacking BCAAs with Creatine Since creatine is a non-essential amino acid, it means it is already produced by the body. As a result, your stack should be short term when adding creatine to the mix. A 4 week cycle with creatine is more than enough to see rapid results! Creatine works by increasing the amount of ATP in the system, both directly and indirectly. As we already know, the more ATP, the more energy during workouts. Plus, more ATP means more protein synthesis. As you're likely figuring out, it works as a sort of cycle. Continuing with your solid workouts and good nutrition, you'll see accelerated results. Tips to stack successfully: - Track progress with your training journal! Jot down when you start a new supplement to know how it has effected your results. - Drink a lot of water! This is especially true when supplementing with creatine! - Stay away from sugar and processed foods to decrease bloating and insulin highs and lows! Good luck and happy training!

  • Myths Under the Microscope - Final Discussion

    A discussion of the evidence put forth in parts 1 and 2 of the Myths Under the Microscope series, regarding the fat burning zone and fasted cardio myths.
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