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Supplements

  • 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.

  • 3 Reasons that Men Need to Start Taking D-Aspartic Acid

    When you walk into your local health store, there’s a good chance that you’re overwhelmed by the vast number of powders and pills surrounding you. Many of these supplements make big promises but how many are backed by scientific research? The ones that are based on science are few and far between. If there’s one supplement that guys need to be buying, it’s D-Aspartic Acid. Let’s take a look at the top 3 reasons why D-Aspartic Acid needs to be on your kitchen shelf.

    1. Boost Testosterone Naturally

    Guys, once you reach the age of 30, your testosterone levels peak and then it’s all downhill from there. It will vary based on your lifestyle but experts agree that men will lose, on average, 1% of their total testosterone level each year after the age of 30. Doesn’t seem like much but this will add up faster than you think.

    Testosterone plays a role in a number of important processes in the body and when it’s low, you may suffer from the following:

    • Mood swings
    • Depression
    • Reduced muscle mass
    • Increased fat mass
    • Reduced quality in sperm
    • Decreased libido / sex drive

    Lucky for you, D-Aspartic Acid has been shown to promote higher levels of testosterone. In a ground breaking human-based study, D-Aspartic Acid was confirmed to effectively increase total and free testosterone levels. However, there is a catch. The subjects were all untrained guys. Those without much fitness experience saw leaps and bounds in their testosterone levels over a 90 day period.

    In another study, well trained young men only saw a boost within the first 12 days. After that, there was no change. What can you take away from this?

    If you are new to fitness and exercise or you’ve been out of the gym for months (or years) then by all means, supplement with a full 90 day supply. If the gym is your second home, supplementing with D-Aspartic Acid can’t hurt so giving it a try for 2 weeks may potentially allow you to see some benefit. (1-3)

    1. Increase Lean Muscle Mass

     If you have higher testosterone levels, then it’s going to follow that your body is primed to increase the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

    Testosterone is one of the most important hormones to support muscle mass gains. If you’re low in testosterone then you may watch in despair as your muscles shrink and your fat stores increase. Combined with a strict weight lifting regimen, D-Aspartic Acid may help to promote lean muscle gains via the increase of your natural free and total testosterone levels.

    Although studies are still pending to prove this, there are countless bodybuilders and gym goers who swear by D-Aspartic Acid. It’s safe, it’s natural, and it’s proven to work to boost your testosterone levels. Again, if your goal is muscle mass, it’s important to have an effective program aimed at muscular hypertrophy. It isn’t enough just to take DAA and hope for muscles to follow.

    1. Enhance Fertility

     Times have changed. Most guys are waiting to start a family. Wanting to establish a career and a stable home first, many guys aren’t having kids until their late 20s and early 30s now. Some men even get brave enough to try in their late 30s, early 40s. Regardless of when you are looking to have children, you’ll want to ensure that everything is working smoothly. One of the easiest ways to boost your fertility and the quality of your sperm is to supplement with D-Aspartic Acid.

    Studies show that subjects who took D-Aspartic Acid on a regular basis saw a dramatic increase in sperm quality and number. It’s not just that they had more sperm but they had better sperm. (2)

    Conclusion

    D-Aspartic Acid may be one of the best supplements out there for men. It’s been shown in a number of studies to effectively increase your testosterone levels while improving the quality of your sperm. Combined with a healthy diet and regimented exercise program, D-Aspartic Acid may also be effective in increasing your levels of lean muscle mass. To see the best results, you should take 6 grams per day.

    Do you supplement with D-Aspartic Acid?

    What results or benefits have you noticed?

    Tell us in the comments below!

     

    REFERENCES

      1. Topo E, Soricelli A, D'Aniello A, Ronsini S, D'Aniello G. The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2009 Oct 27;7:120. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-7-120.

       

      1. Gemma D’Aniello, Salvatore Ronsini, Tiziana Notari, Natascia Grieco, Vincenzo Infante, Nicola D’Angel, Fara Mascia, Maria Maddalena Di Fiore, George Fisher, Antimo D’Aniello. D-Aspartate, a Key Element for the Improvement of Sperm Quality. Advances in Sexual Medicine, Vol.2 No.4, 2012

       

      1. Geoffrey W Melville, Jason C Siegler, and Paul WM Marshall. Three and six grams supplementation of d-aspartic acid in resistance trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12: 15. Published online 2015 Apr 1. doi: 10.1186/s12970-015-0078-7.

       

      1. G. D’Aniello, S. Ronsini, T. Notari, N. Grieco, V. Infante, N. D’Angel, F. Mascia, M. Fiore, G. Fisher and A. D’Aniello, "D-Aspartate, a Key Element for the Improvement of Sperm Quality," Advances in Sexual Medicine, Vol. 2 No. 4, 2012, pp. 45-53. doi: 10.4236/asm.2012.24008.
  • Mass Gainers: What They Are & When to Use Them

    There is often debate about whether it is harder to gain muscle or lose fat. This isn’t due to the actual physiological needs, but due to other individual factors, such as consistency, mental commitment, etc. When building muscle, however, people need to add some extra calories to their daily intake, and mass gainers are an excellent tool for this.

    When it comes to building muscle, one of these big difficulties is trying to consume enough calories. By providing your body with more calories than you burn every day, your body will use that excess energy to either build muscle, or gain fat. By consuming weight gainer shakes, you make this goal much more attainable.

    What Are Weight Gainers?

    Weight gainers are shakes that are loaded with calories and have been formulated for a nice balance in macronutrient ratios. Not every shake is the same, however, so it is important to understand that you need to choose one that fits your goals.

    For example, some weight gainer shakes are designed specifically with the macro split that is best suited for post-workout. This is because the body is in more of an anabolic state during that time, and these mass gainer shakes are formulated in order to give your body the best nutrients after your workout.

    Other varieties include mass gainer shakes that are more of a meal replacement, as well as others that just provide a solid, dense addition in calories to your daily nutrition plan you already have in place.

    Post-Workout Weight Gainers

    Post-workout weight gainer shakes will have little amounts of fats, and high amounts of carbohydrates. This is because your body needs to be fed fast acting carbohydrates post-workout, since your muscles are in need of fuel after being broken down during the course of your training session. These shakes often include creatine as well, which has been shown to have benefits in your fat free mass, and even 1-rep max1.

    Since you can take in more calories post-workout, these shakes will contain higher amounts of calories than you would see in other shakes, such as protein powder supplements. If you are looking for a boost that will help you with both your overall calorie needs, and your post-workout nutrition, then look for weight gainer shakes that contain higher calories.

    Meal Replacement Weight Gainers

    These weight gainers will hold less calories, but a more balance macronutrient ratio. While post-workouts really put emphasis on high amounts of carbohydrates, you will find that these types of shakes contain around the same amount of protein, but will hold more of a balance between fat and carbohydrate content.

    These shakes are beneficial if you feel that you just struggle to get your calories in from solid foods, but don’t feel that you have a flaw in your post-workout nutrition. While these shakes will be lower in total calories, they will still provide a high volume of calories that can be downed much easier, allowing you a quick boost to your total calorie needs.

    Conclusion

    Weight gainers are an excellent addition to your arsenal if you really struggle with getting your calorie needs in. They provide a quick boost, and do have multiple macro ratio formulas to choose from, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your situation. Keep in mind, however, that these should only be added when your nutrition is already dialled in. If you are struggling on the basics, don’t try to add in supplements.

    1. Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
  • Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate

    When you buy whey protein powders, you are probably looking to pack on some easy protein into your diet, and help reach your goals of building or retaining lean muscle mass.

    But do you know what’s in that whey protein powder?

    Whey protein has three main forms: whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. We are going to be comparing the differences between whey protein isolate and concentrate, so that you understand what makes them different.

    Concentrate vs Isolate: What’s The Deal?

    You’ve probably heard of whey protein isolate far more than concentrate, and it is the most important ingredient found in protein powders. While both are mixed in most protein powders, marketing will focus on the isolate side, due to its benefits.

    Whey protein isolate is more expensive that concentrate, due to its higher quality, higher biological value, and higher amount of protein per serving. When comparing the numbers of protein per serving, isolate brings in around 90-98% protein, while whey protein concentrate contains anywhere from 70-85% protein per serving.

    The rest of these servings is made up of fat and lactose. So, as a result of a higher protein percentage, whey protein isolate becomes the more pure option, as it reduces the amount of lactose and fat that is ingested.

    However, the biggest thing that is talked about with whey protein isolate is its absorption abilities.

    Isolate is a high quality, fast acting form of protein, and is the best of its kind. It fuels the muscles quicker for exercise, and helps them recover faster after exercise. This helps increase your potential of gaining muscle mass, or preserving lean muscle mass on a cut.

    Studies have shown that elderly individuals can still respond to the anabolic signals that come from protein ingestion, with the proper amino acids1. Because of the high amount of beneficial amino acids found in whey protein powder supplements, they are best known for providing a great jumpstart in protein synthesis, and thus are very effective at helping with the recovery and growth of lean muscle mass.

    Now, while whey protein isolate is superior when it comes to purity and effectiveness, it doesn’t beat whey protein concentrate in every category. If you are on a budget, whey protein isolate may not be the best option. This is because it the more expensive of the two, due to its purity.

    It’s also important to remember that just because it is more pure, this doesn’t mean that it will give you noticeably more size and strength gains than whey protein concentrate would. It just means that there is a slight difference in quality between the two, and isolate just happens to be known for its effectiveness more so than concentrate.

    What Should You Choose?

    If you have the budget, whey protein isolate clearly is the better choice. It does have many more benefits than concentrate, and is the best fast acting protein out there.

    However, if you are tight on money, or just don’t think the difference is big enough to have that much of an effect on you, go with whey protein concentrate. It is more cost effective, and it isn’t going to leave you weaker or smaller.

    1. Hayes, A., & Cribb, P. J. (2008, January). Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 11(1).
  • The Power of Pre-Workout

    At some point in your fitness journey, you’ve probably considered taking pre-workout supplements. After all, they are some of the most well-known supplements in the industry today, and the benefits are continuing to grow.

    While some may fear the ingestion of any unknown chemicals or foreign substances, it is important to know what pre-workouts can provide you before going to any conclusions. Keep in mind, there are also supplement companies that create “natural” pre-workout supplements, which contain only natural ingredients. You can even create your own!

    Let’s take a look at what taking pre-workouts contain, as well as the benefits they provide for you.

    Pre-Workouts: What’s In Them?

    Many are concerned with these supplements, since they hear stories of people having cases of rapid heart rate, “jitters,” not being able to sleep at night, or crashing from exhaustion a few hours after ingestion.

    While these all have occurred, it is important to understand that user error needs to be considered as well. Most of the problems that people fear, such as a very high heart rate, is due to the consumer taking more than the recommended intake that is on the label. You should also take some time to build up to the recommended serving sizes, such as starting off with a half a scoop, instead of a full scoop.

    The main ingredients in pre-workout supplements are caffeine, beta-alanine, BCAAs, and (usually) creatine. The beta-alanine is what gives you the “jitters,” and the rest are normal supplements that you would otherwise have to stack on top of your pre-workout.

    Now let’s take a look at a few of the benefits these powerful supplements bring to the table.

    Pre-Workout For Increased Performance

    This is the #1 reason that people order these supplements. Pre-workouts come with a beautiful combination of supplements that have a high impact (BCAAs, creatine), and combines them with caffeine to provide an excellent energy boost.

    But now, on top of just having an energy boost, you have increased strength, endurance, and focus. One study showed the positive impacts that NO-Shotgun® has on performance, muscle mass, and body composition1.

    Increased Metabolism

    Because of the thermogenic effects pre-workouts have, they give you increased endurance, as well as using fatty acids for fuel. When this is done, you are helping to fight off any excess fat mass gain, due to your pre-workout supplement speeding up your metabolism.

    The side effects of these supplements is another reason your metabolism is boosted. This includes having more stamina, which allows you to train for longer durations during your training sessions. On top of this, you also have increased intensity, which allows you to exert more energy, and thus burn more calories.

    Pre-Workout for Improved Recovery?

    Remember when I said that BCAAs were included in most pre-workout supplements?

    Yeah, those things have a massive benefit on a number of variables.

    One of these variables includes muscle recovery post-exercise. After you finish working out, it is important to replenish and fuel your muscles, to help them recover and grow from the stress that was accumulated. But with the inclusion of BCAAs, you already have a head start on this.

    That is because BCAAs are responsible for protein synthesis, the process that is responsible for starting the recovery and growth of your muscles. When these are ingested prior to working out, they are already helping your muscles to repair and recover, since they are readily available in the body.

    Conclusion

    It is my opinion that everyone should try pre-workout supplements at least once. They are loaded with beneficial ingredients, provide an unbelievable improvement to your training sessions, and make you feel much more fulfilled and satisfied with your workout. Without them, you greatly reduce the chance of a bad training session.

    Don’t train fatigued and hinder your growth and progress. Instead, grab a quality pre-workout supplement, and watch the performance improve, and the muscle gains come piling on.

    1. Shelmadine, B., Cooke, M., Buford, T., Hudson, G., Redd, L., Leutholtz, B., & Willoughby, D. (2009). Effects of 28 days of resistance exercise and consuming a commercially available pre-workout supplement, NO-Shotgun®, on body composition, muscle strength and mass, markers of satellite cell activation, and clinical safety markers in males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
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