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Food & Supplements

  • 4 Things You Must Know About BCAAs

    If you've ever walked into a supplement store or if you've ever browsed fitness websites, you have certainly seen the acronym 'BCAA'. Short for branched chain amino acids, BCAAs are one of the most important supplements you should be using if your goal is muscle building or weight loss. Let's take a look at the 4 things you need to know about BCAAs and why you should take them.

     

    1. BCAAs Come from Protein

     

    You sit down to a plate of chicken, brown rice, and broccoli. When you eat that piece of chicken, your body takes the protein and starts to break it down. It's trying to get to the thing that counts: amino acids. BCAAs come from protein-based sources. What's more, there are two types of amino acids: essential and non-essential. Your body can actually make non-essential amino acids from different vitamin, minerals, and other compounds. Essential amino acids must be ingested through whole foods or supplements.

     

    1. The Essential Amino Acids

     

    There are a total of nine essential amino acids.

     

    • Histidine
    • Lysine
    • Methionine
    • Phenylalanine
    • Threonine
    • Tryptophan
    • Isoleucine
    • Leucine
    • Valine

     

    Even though there are nine, only three are focused on for the purposes of fitness. When you're goals are muscle building and fat loss, the three essential amino acids to focus on are…

     

    • Isoleucine
    • Leucine
    • Valine

     

     

    1. The Benefits of Taking Amino Acids

     

    As mentioned above, amino acids are very important if you want to build solid lean muscle mass, support fat burning goals, or simply maintain your weight. Each of the amino acids supports one another in a large list of fitness related benefits including the following:

     

    • Promotes protein synthesis
    • Supports post-workout recovery
    • Helps to avoid muscle breakdown
    • Enhances fat oxidation
    • Promotes lean muscle tissue development
    • Boosts the immune system (1-4)

     

    1. The Best Sources of Amino Acids

     

    You always want to strive to reach your daily protein intake via whole foods. It is through eating whole foods that your body will respond the best to ingestion, digestion, and assimilation. Here are some of the best whole food sources for amino acids:

     

    • Eggs
    • Chicken
    • Salmon
    • Beef
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Greek yogurt

     

    With that said, supplementation has come a long way and there are many excellent supplements with a high rate of bioavailability. You can purchase a whey protein or plant-based protein supplement but if you want to skip the middle man, just buy BCAAs directly. It saves your body the process of breaking down the protein.

     

    • Buy it here

     

    Conclusion

     

    On par with whey protein, amino acids have cemented their importance in the world of health and fitness for years to come. Able to promote fat burning and muscle recovery, amino acids are easily one of the best supplements to invest in. Just remember that they are a supplement. You should be striving to get your dietary protein from whole food sources. A supplement is just that: supplementary.
    REFERENCES

     

    1. Mourier A, Bigard AX, de Kerviler E, Roger B, Legrand H, Guezennec CY. Combined effects of caloric restriction and branched-chain amino acid supplementation on body composition and exercise performance in elite wrestlers. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Jan;18(1):47-55.

     

    1. Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S.

     

    1. Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Sep;48(3):347-51.

     

    1. Norton, Layne, Layman, Donald. Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise. J. Nutr. February 2006 vol. 136 no. 2 533S-537S.
  • Top 4 Pre-Workout Ingredients You MUST Have

    Pre-workout supplements are no longer a rare option. Any time you walk into the gym, you're sure to see someone downing a shaker full of pink or blue liquid. Not too long after, that person has a fierce look of determination on their face. Pre-workouts dominate the fitness market but not all of these supplements are made the same. Let's take a look at the top 4 pre-workout supplement ingredients that you need to have in your shaker.

     

    1. Alpha GPC

     

    The first ingredient that you should be looking for is Alpha GPC. As a pre-cursor to the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine, it can help to increase your focus and put you in the zone during the workout. More importantly, Alpha GPC has been shown to increase your growth hormone levels. Why is that important? Growth hormone assists with muscle recovery and growth, which will promote your gains. (1)

     

    1. Betaine Anhydrous

     

    More commonly known as Betaine, this is more than just an amino acid. Betaine has been proven in several studies to be an effective way to improve your performance during workouts. In a study of cyclists supplementing with Betaine, it was only those who were taking the ingredient that saw marked improvements in overall power and athletic performance. (2)

     

    This ingredient is usually only found in supplements with a slightly higher price tag but we can assure you those few extra dollars make it worth it.

     

    1. Bioperine®

     

    As soon as the results of this ingredient's study were released, you saw it showing up in a variety of different supplements. The most notable type of supplement you find it in is pre-workouts. Bioperine® is the commercial name for black pepper extract. Does it have a direct influence on improving performance? No, BUT what it does do is amplify the bioavailability of the other ingredients.

     

    Your body won't always absorb and utilize ingredients like you want it to. That's where Bioperine® comes in. It's been shown to enhance the assimilation of other ingredients, ensuring your body does utilize those ingredients to the fullest extent. This is a great way to improve a cheap, low quality protein supplement as well. (3)

     

    1. Caffeine

     

    This shouldn't be a surprise as the primary reason people drink coffee is for the caffeine. This stimulant is one of the best ways to get focused and get serious during your workouts. Moderate caffeine use (in other words: don't overdo it) has been linked to a number of health benefits including the prevention of Alzheimer's but when it comes to fitness, it can't be beat.

     

    Caffeine has been tested time and time again and has always come on top as the best way to get energized for your workout. With that said, be wary of mega doses of caffeine in some of the new pre-workouts. (4)

     

    Conclusion

     

    Next time you're shopping for that pre-workout supplement, be sure to carefully scan the label for Alpha GPC, Betaine Anhydrous, Bioperine®, and Caffeine. It's these four ingredients that will help put you in the zone to crush your workout and see results.

     

    REFERENCES

     

    1. Tim Ziegenfuss, Jamie Landis, and Jennifer Hofheins. Acute supplementation with alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine augments growth hormone response to, and peak force production during, resistance exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008; 5(Suppl 1): P15. Published online 2008 Sep 17. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-5-S1-P15.

     

    1. Pryor JL, Craig SA, Swensen T. Effect of betaine supplementation on cycling sprint performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Apr 3;9(1):12. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-12.

     

    1. Vladimir Badmaev, MD, PhD, Muhammed Majeed, PhD, Edward P. Norkus, PhD. Piperine, an alkaloid derived from black pepper increases serum response of beta-carotene during 14-days of oral beta-carotene supplementation. Nutrition Research. March 1999. Volume 19, Issue 3, Pages 381–388.

     

    1. Hogervorst E, Bandelow S, Schmitt J, Jentjens R, Oliveira M, Allgrove J, Carter T, Gleeson M. Caffeine improves physical and cognitive performance during exhaustive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Oct;40(10):1841-51. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817bb8b7.
  • Want Muscle Size? Why You Need to Pair Creatine with Glutamine

    Supplementation is no longer considered a luxury option. Chances are that anyone you chat with in the gym is supplementing with something. When it comes to gaining muscle size, everyone knows that having a protein supplement is a requirement.

     

    What if you really want to ensure maximum size gains?

    What can you do that doesn't require breaking the law or endangering your body?

    The solution is simple, you pair up the two biggest names in the supplement industry to see real gains.

     

    Let's take a look at the benefits of creatine and glutamine and why they make the perfect supplement pair.

     

    Benefits of Creatine

     

    Your body naturally makes creatine but it's limited to about one gram per day. Creatine plays an important role in providing energy to muscle tissue. Stored within this tissue, it's released during high energy demands such as exercise. It's then converted to ATP and used as fuel to complete whatever energy demanding task you're doing.

     

    Creatine is also used for muscle recovery. Recent studies show that creatine was successful in reducing inflammation and muscle tissue damage post-workout. (1)

     

    Benefits of Glutamine

     

    The primary reason that glutamine is such a popular supplement is due to its ability to support muscle recovery, especially after intense workouts. Taken on a regular basis, subjects saw a decrease in post-workout inflammation and muscle damage. This benefit is extended on a hormonal level as glutamine is also used to prevent catabolic breakdown of protein in the body. In other words, it's a muscle sparing supplement. (2, 3)

     

    Why You Should Pair Them

     

    The name of the game is performance and recovery. You need to perform well if you want to achieve your fitness goals. This is especially true during high intensity workouts. If you're a bodybuilder, what good is it to throw in the towel halfway through your workout?

     

    More important than performing well is recovering well. Over training will put a stop to any fitness goal faster than you can imagine. The combination of providing your muscles with the fuel they need and the ability to reduce inflammation and support recovery is why these two industry giants need to be taken together.

     

    The Proper Way to Take Them

     

    Despite huge advancements in supplement technology, it's still recommended to perform a loading phase with creatine. The idea behind this is to completely saturate your muscles with 20 grams of creatine per day for 7 to 14 days. You could do 5 grams per day but that will take at least a full month to see the same results. It's best to take creatine following a workout when your body is primed to absorb it all.

     

    Glutamine can be taken at its normal 5 gram serving but if you are a serious bodybuilder or power lifter then you may want to consider 10 grams. It's best to take Glutamine on an empty stomach so do it as soon as you wake up.

     

    Creatine:

    • 20 grams for 14 days
    • 5 grams after that
    • Take post-workout

     

    Glutamine

    • 5 to 10 grams based on intensity
    • Take in the morning on an empty stomach

     

    Conclusion

     

    Creatine and glutamine have been stand alone supplements for decades. There's a reason that they are still around and still the most purchased supplements on the market. They've been proven time and time again to be an effective way to fuel your muscles while aiding in recovery. If you want to see serious results, then you need to be adding these effective and inexpensive supplements to your diet program.

     

    References

     

    1. Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.

     

    1. Piattoly, Tavis. L-glutamine supplementation: effects on recovery from Exercise. Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College. (4 – 9) August 2005.

     

    1. Calder PC, Yaqoob P. Glutamine and the immune system. Amino Acids. 1999;17(3):227-41.
  • Men and Vitamin D: The Top 4 Benefits

    If you're like most guys, every time you open your Facebook account, you'll see your wall flooded by fitness websites telling you which supplements to take to make you more of a man. With thousands of supplements on the market, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out which one you should be taking on a daily basis. What's more, most of the supplements that are recommended are usually a specific brand that's being sponsored. Rarely do you find a sponsored supplement backed by studies and research.

     

    Guys, if you want a clear cut, scientifically proven supplement to take, look no further than Vitamin D. Let's review the top 4 reasons why you should be taking this vitamin every day.

     

    1. Immune System

     

    With the weather changing, there's no better time to start taking Vitamin D. Unlike Vitamin C, which springs up everywhere around this time, Vitamin D has been shown to boost your immune response. Here's how it works: There are specific cells in your body that combat illness. These special cells utilize Vitamin D to work efficiently. If you aren't getting enough Vitamin D through food, supplements, and the sun, you may see yourself getting sick more often. Taking a daily dose of Vitamin D may help to improve your immune response and defend your body from the common cold among other illnesses. (1)

     

    1. Testosterone

     

    For men, having a low testosterone level can be more than an inconvenience in the bedroom, it can negatively impact your health in a big way. Symptoms of low testosterone include losing muscle mass while gaining fat mass. You'll feel more irritable and go through mood swings. You'll start feeling tired more often. Arguably, the worst symptom is low libido and poor bedroom performance. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to dramatically impact your testosterone levels in a positive way. (2)

     

    1. Mood

     

    Speaking of your mood, Vitamin D is an excellent mood booster. Have you ever noticed that you have more bad moods during the colder, winter months? Since it's so cold, you aren't going outside. Since you're not going outside, you aren't getting your daily rays of sunshine. Sunshine helps the body create Vitamin D. You need a healthy level of Vitamin D to stabilize your mood. Taking Vitamin D supplements has been shown to support your mood and mindset. (3)

     

    1. Muscle

     

    Last but not least, if you want to be ensuring your lean muscle tissue gains, then you need to be supplementing with Vitamin D. This important vitamin has been shown to support muscle building and fat loss. Studies show that those supplementing with Vitamin D demonstrated a higher level of muscle and a lower level of fat. If you're a guy who has the bodybuilding stage on his mind, remember that Vitamin D supports testosterone levels. Testosterone plays a critical role in building muscle mass. (4)

     

    Conclusion

     

    It doesn't matter if you are a gym rat or you just want to avoid the worst of cold season, taking Vitamin D is a smart idea. It has been shown to support your testosterone levels, balance out your mood, beef up your immune system, and support lean muscle. Find a quality Vitamin D supplement and talk with your doctor if you're currently on any other medications.

     

    REFERENCES

     

    1. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 19;357(3):266-81.

     

    1. Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, Kuhn J, Dreier J, Obermayer-Pietsch B, Wehr E, Zittermann A. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1269854. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

     

    1. Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD, Mary Byrn, BSN, RN, and Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, RN, FAAN. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–393.

     

    1. Lars Rejnmark, PhD. Effects of Vitamin D on Muscle Function and Performance: A Review of Evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2011 Jan; 2(1): 25–37.
  • Creatine Types: Everything You Need to Know

    When supplementation first started to see a dramatic rise in popularity decades ago, your options were limited. Now, you can literally spend days going over all of your options. One of the classic supplements has evolved over time as well. Creatine has become a staple to every type of fitness enthusiast from the athlete to the weekend warrior.  The difference is that you have more to choose from than just Creatine Monohydrate.

     

    Let's take a look at the different types of creatine, their differences, and which one will serve you best.

     

    Proven Benefits of Creatine

     

    Before we discuss the differences between each form of creatine, let's quickly review the benefits that have been shown by science.

     

    Many studies have confirmed that creatine is an effective means of supplementation when it comes to supporting athletic performance. Creatine is used during high energy demands such as exercise. 5 grams of creatine a day has been shown to support these energy demands, improving intra-workout performance.

     

    Creatine is famously used by bodybuilders as a means to support lean muscle mass. Creatine does NOT directly increase muscle size. What it does is improve performance. Through better performance, your strength and power levels will increase. From this, you'll see better results in terms of muscle size. (1, 2)

     

    Now that we have our benefits laid out, let's take a look at the highlights between each type.

     

    Monohydrate

     

    This is the classic form of Creatine. Through leaps and bounds in supplementation technology, we now have a monohydrate without the bloating side effects that were commonly reported years ago. This is the subject of most studies so you can't go wrong with Monohydrate as it's extremely effective and inexpensive.

     

    Micronized Creatine

     

    Micronized is famous for having a smaller particle size. You're still getting Creatine Monohydrate but you'll need less of a dose. You'll notice the serving sizes are very small. It offers the same benefits as Monohydrate and it's been reported by companies to have a better absorption rate but this has never been proven in an official study. It's usually a bit more expensive than Monohydrate.

     

    Ethyl Ester

     

    This is Creatine Monohydrate that has an organic compound known as an Ester attached to it. Does this mean it's better for you? No. Creatine Ethyl Ester has been shown to be less effective than Monohydrate. It's reported to have a higher absorption rate but again, this has never been shown. Price wise, it's usually much more expensive than Monohydrate.

     

    Tri-Creatine Malate

     

    As the name suggests, Malate is made up of three Creatine Monohydrate molecules and they are combined by one molecule of malic acid. So what does this mean for you? Although studies have yet to prove this, it's been reported that the molecule of malic acid greatly increases absorption and assimilation resulting in better recovery, energy, and performance.

     

    Buffered Creatine

     

    You don't see Buffered Creatine as much but those few companies swear that it's superior to Monohydrate. It's claimed to be fully absorbed by the body without resulting wasting of the creatine product. One popular study proved this to be untrue. It was tested against the classic Monohydrate. The results showed Buffered Creatine was inferior to the bodybuilding original. (3)

     

    Liquid Creatine

     

    Finally, we have Liquid Creatine. You'd think being in liquid form would be beneficial for absorption and effectiveness but this isn't the case. Creatine is faster to breakdown in its liquid form, making it less effective.

     

    Conclusion

     

    Despite the big claims made by supplement companies, Creatine Monohydrate is still king. With Monohydrate you know what to expect because all of the studies have been based on it. It's proven and it's inexpensive so what more could you ask for? If I had to pick one more type of creatine to buy, it would be Tri-Creatine Malate but only if it's on sale.

     

    REFERENCES

     

    1. Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.

     

    1. Robert Cooper, Fernando Naclerio, Judith Allgrove, and Alfonso Jimenez. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 33. Published online 2012 Jul 20. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-33.

     

    1. Andrew R Jagim, Jonathan M Oliver, Adam Sanchez, Elfego Galvan, James Fluckey, Steven Riechman, Michael Greenwood, Katherine Kelly, Cynthia Meininger, Christopher Rasmussen, and Richard B Kreider. A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 43. Published online 2012 Sep 13. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-43.
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