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Food & Supplements

  • Ingredient Explained: Huperzine-A

    Every few months a new ingredient finds its way into the market, makes a bit of a splash, and then quickly disappears into the sunset, never to be seen again.

    Which is why we take notice when a slightly newer supplement not only sticks around for a good chunk of time, but also gets some quality evidence to support its use.

    Supplements like Huperzine-A, for example.

    Step 1: What is it?

    Huperzine-A is a naturally forming compound that is found in two types of moss, being:

    1. Chinese club moss (latin name Huperzia serrata) and;
    2. Fir club moss (latin name Huperzia selago).

    The reason I have indicated that Huperzine-A is relatively new to the supplement game is because it was first identified for medical use by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the early nineteen-eighties.

    With this in mind, it is much younger than many of the other Chinese herbs commonly used in supplements today. 

    Step 2: What does it do?

    Huperzine-A is classified as an “acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.” 

    Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme found in the body that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into smaller components (that are then used in the production of other compounds). 

    As such, the consumption of Huperzine-A can stop the breakdown of acetylcholine, leading to higher concentrations of acetylcholine in the body. This is important, because acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that delivers messages throughout the brain, while also impacting your neuromuscular system.

    In the brain it plays a key role in the maintenance of motivation, increasing arousal and attention, enhancing learning and memory retention, and is even involved in facilitating deep sleep states.

    Conversely, within the neuromuscular system, acetylcholine plays an important role in facilitating the contraction of muscles, as well as the dilation of blood vessels, by acting on neurons throughout the body.

    With this in mind, the supplementation of Huperzine-A appears to have some unique benefits.

    Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that its regular supplementation can reduce some of the more severe symptoms associated with Alzhimers and dementia, including memory loss and cognitive function [1].

    Secondly, research has shown that supplementing with Huperzine-A for as little as 4 weeks can improve learning outcomes, as well as improve measures of memory and general mental function [2], suggesting it may have benefits for skill learning.

    Lastly, Huperzine-A has also been shown to increase the power of muscular contractions [3]. This may have the potential to improve training performance in the gym, increasing long-term training outcomes.

    Collectively, these results suggest that this unique supplement may have merit when taken before your workout. 

    Improvements in cognition may improve workout quality, increases in learning capabilities may improve technique efficiency (via enhanced skill development), and boosts in muscular contraction may improve gym performance -- all of which could mean more gains.

    Step 3: How do I take it?

    In the research, Huperzine-A supplementation can range from 50 to 500 micrograms per day. As such, if you are interested in trying it out for yourself, we would suggest starting with a conservative dose of 100-200 micrograms per day and adjusting as needed.

    Research thus far indicates that Huperzine-A does not require food to be taken with food, and can be taken in a fasted state without any issues.

    Lastly, anecdotal reports suggest that there may be merit in cycling Huperzine-A, where it is taken for 4-5 weeks at time, and then broken up with 1-2 week periods where it is not taken at all. This is suggested to maintain tolerance to the compound, ensuring it does not become less effective over time. 

    Step 4: What are the top products?

    If you are keen on purchasing Huperzine-A, there are a couple of things you should look out for. 

    Firstly, check the dosage. Although Huperzine-A is commonly found in pre-workout supplements, it is typically underdosed. As such, you should make sure that your pre-workout contains 100-200 micrograms of Huperzine-A per serve.

    Secondly, stick with reputable brands. Although you might find an amazing deal on Huperzine-A on ebay, there is a genuine risk that it is heavily underdosed, or even contains a completely different (and undisclosed) compound. Stick with brands that provide regular lab tests on their website so you can be sure you are purchasing exactly what you should be.

    Lastly, have a look at online reviews. Make sure that other people have had a good experience with the supplement -- because that means you probably will too.

    And that is how you find the best Huperzine-A containing supplement on the market.

    References:

    1. Li, Jun, et al. "Huperzine A for Alzheimer's disease." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2 (2008).
    2. Sun, Qing-Qi, et al. "Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students." Zhongguo yao li xue bao= Acta pharmacologica Sinica 20.7 (1999): 601-603.
    3. Tang, Xi Can, and Yi Fan Han. "Pharmacological profile of huperzine A, a novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herb." CNS Drug Reviews 5.3 (1999): 281-300.
  • Ingredient Explained: Citrulline

    What is it?

    L-citrulline is the natural form of citrulline. The human body produces its citrulline. However, consuming extra citrulline can have significant performance benefits. It is found naturally in fruits such as watermelon and vegetables such as squash and pumpkin. 

    What does it do?

    Citrulline enhances nitric-oxide levels, which allows for blood vessel dilation. This, in turn, allows for more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to your muscles. Citrulline can also reduce symptoms of muscular fatigue. It plays a role in removing a fatigue-inducing compound called ammonia from your blood. 

    How do I take it?

    • Dosage

    6-9g is the recommended serving size of L-Citrulline Malate 2:1

    3-6g is the recommended serving size of pure L-Citrulline

    • Timing

    Citrulline typically takes 30-40 minutes to digest and enter the bloodstream. Therefore, to maximise its full benefits, it's a good idea to take it pre-workout.

    • Frequency

    There's no ideal frequency for citrulline. However, given the positive effects on performance, we recommend that you consume it before each workout session.

    What are the top products?

    We recommend that you find the best value for money citrulline malate product, i.e. look for a cost-effective price point! Just check the product's ingredient profile to ensure that it's 100% L-citrulline or L-citrulline malate.

  • Ingredient Explained: Carnitine

    Step 1: What is it?

    Acetyl L-Carnitine is an amino acid. It is commonly found in red meat, and supplements (usually referred to as ALCAR, LCLT or L-Carnitine). 

    Step 2: What does it do?

    Acetyl L-Carnitine assists in the production of energy. In particular, it helps your body transports fatty acids from stored body fat into the mitochondria of muscle cells, where it can be used for energy. 

    Although the body naturally produces L-Carnitine, dietary supplementation can increase the concentration levels of carnitine in the body. This means that supplementation might be beneficial for people deficient in carnitine.

    There are 3 main types of carnitine. All types act in the same way in terms of transporting fatty acids from stored body fat into the mitochondria of muscle cells to be used as energy. However, each different type has unique side effects which may render helpful.

    • Acetyl L Carnitine (ALCAR or ALCA): This form of carnitine converts to acetylcholine, positively affecting mood and concentration.
    • L-Carnitine Tartrate (LCLT): This form of carnitine is more commonly used in research. That is because this form has a more rapid absorption rate when compared to the other forms of carnitine.
    • Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine: May improve high-blood pressure via enhanced nitric oxide production when taken in high dosages (+5g per day).

    Step 3: How do I take it?

    • Dosage

    500mg - 1500mg per day

    • Timing

    30-60 minutes before exercise

    • Frequency

    Everyday

    Step 4: What are the top products?

    We recommend that you find the best value for money carnitine/acetyl l carnitine product i.e. look for a cost-effective price point! Just be sure to check the product's ingredient profile to ensure that it's 100% carnitine

  • Ingredient Explained: Glutamine

    Step 1: What is it?

    Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Glutamine is a building block for making proteins in the body. It's also needed to make other amino acids and glucose.

    Step 2: What does it do?

    Glutamine assists in recovery following physical stress, such as weight training, for example. Glutamine notably has anti muscle wasting, immune-supporting and digestive system benefits.

    Step 3: How do I take it?

     

    • Dosage

     

    To maximise glutamine’s holistic effects of muscle-sparing, digestion aid and immunity support, Amino Z recommends that you take 3g per day unless directed otherwise.

     

    • Timing

     

    Amino Z recommends taking 3g in a fasted state - 30-60 minutes before consuming a meal.

     

    • Frequency

     

    Every day - 3g. 

    Step 4: What are the top products?

    We recommend that you try to find the best value for money glutamine product i.e. look for a cost-effective price point! Just be sure to check the ingredient profile of the product to ensure that it’s 100% glutamine.

  • Superfoods and Greens: The 4 Horsemen of Health

    Let’s be honest- can you truly say that you get the recommended amount of fruits or veggies daily? Since there is a high likelihood that the majority (and by majority, probably over 75 %!) of us will answer no, don’t you think that something needs to change?

    Yes, eating more REAL plant based foods is always best, but you probably won’t do that, so what’s the best option? The answer may lie in a good greens and superfood supplement.

    What Exactly Are Greens And Superfoods Supplements?

    The name actually says it all. These are supplements (oftentimes, in powdered form) that contain an array of plant based nutrients, from many of the most nutritionally dense sources on the planet, as well as some that are not often thought of as being superfoods.

    Reasons You Need A Greens/Superfoods Supplement

    Besides the very obvious fact that you are probably not getting enough greens in your diet, there are several distinct benefits to including more of them in your diet. These benefits include:

    Increased Dietary Fibre Intake

    The importance of fibre is sorely underappreciated. Much of the health of your digestive tract, and as an extension, your body as a whole, hinges on getting enough fibre. Sufficient daily consumption can help to offset the occurrence of constipation, helps support healthy probiotic cultures, and helps promote the speedy evacuation of solid waste (faeces).

    Not to forget the fact that soluble fibre binds bile acids and cholesterol and can help improve your blood lipid values, an important benefit if you consume a lot of red meat.

    Improves pH Balance

    The pH of the body is very important to overall health, and to an extent the degree of hypertrophy you experience. pH ranges from a scale of 1-14, with the lower ends of the spectrum representing acidic, and the upper end, alkaline pH.

    The body functions best at a pH that is neutral to very slightly alkaline (about 7.4), but sadly many of the foods consumed on the standard Western Diet are very acidic or acid forming. This can have far reaching implication on health, for example, as cancer is believed to thrive under acidic conditions.

    Many fruits and vegetables are naturally alkaline or alkaline-forming when consumed, helping to shift the balance of acid/base where it should be. Consuming superfoods/greens powders also do the trick, and help ensure that you can consistently get some of these nutrients in your diet on a daily basis.

    Anti-Oxidant Powers

    Oxidation is the bane of cellular existence. Excessive oxidative damage prematurely damages/destroys cells, and can even have far reaching implication to the DNA level, increasing the risk of an undesirable cellular mutation occurring.

    Superfoods and greens with a high ORAC (oxygen radical absorptive capacity) are capable of neutralizing more of these harmful free radicals, and in turn diminishing the effect it can have on your body.

    Free radicals can also attack your muscle gains, making this alone reason to get more greens.

    What Should A Good Greens/Superfoods Powder Contain?

    Wheatgrass

    Known as the king of all alkaline foods, wheatgrass is an excellent source of alkaline minerals[i]other health benefits as well, including improved digestion which bolsters nutrient absorption, and a metabolic boosting effect. And of course- it is a bonafide treasure trove of nutrients that warrant its inclusion in the first place. Wheatgrass easily checks all the boxes that make a superfood.

    Spirulina

    While it may sound strange to eat something such as aquatic algae, spirulina is one that can make you think again. Spirulina is basically a bacteria, but not the kind that is deleterious to your health.

    Instead, this blue-green superfood has a lot going on for itself. A tiny 7g serving consists of over 50% protein, as well as well as significant amounts of B vitamins and iron. Since bacteria aren’t technically animals, vegans everywhere can rejoice in adding this nutrient dense superfood to their diets.

    Most notably to athletes is the fact that spirulina can help improve performance. Studies have shown that it can help improve endurance[ii]endurance and resistance to fatigue[iv]other superfoods that often find themselves included in such supplements, thanks to their excellent benefits on health. These may include:

    In Summary

    Superfoods and greens supplements can be an excellent way to help fortify your diet, especially if you know that you should be doing more when it comes to eating plant based foods. While not a guaranteed solution for anything, consumption of more of these types of foods can contribute to you achieving your athletic goals and improving your health at the same time.

    They are a worthy investment in your future, so don’t discount just how important they are.

    [i]

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