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Food & Supplements

  • 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.
  • What Supplements Should I Take Post-Workout?

    Post-workout nutrition is one of the most important aspects of helping you make progress towards your fitness goals. Without it, you are robbing yourself of some SERIOUS progress.

    But what are we supposed to eat after our workouts? Well, to answer that question, you have understand what is going on in our bodies after a workout is finished.

    The Muscle Breakdown

    During your workout, you are constantly placing stress on the muscles that you have been targeting during your training. As a result, your muscles have been broken down, and are in need of repair.

    So, as you probably already knew, the most important factor in your post-workout nutrition is protein. This allows you to fuel your body with the resources it needs to build and repair muscle, in preparation for your next training session (which should include some form of increased stress, via progressive overload).

    The best way to do this is with a whey protein shake, since it fills your body with high-quality, fast-acting protein. This will make an impact faster than any other form of protein, and is highly recommended for you right after your finish a workout. By doing so, you are taking advantage of the anabolic response your body is currently presenting.

    Now, filling your body with protein right after your workout is great. However, it can still be improved.

    How can this be done? Simple: it's time to combine protein with some carbohydrates.

    Time to Carb Up

    While carbohydrates have become the hated macronutrient in society, it is still widely known as an immensely beneficial nutrient to consume post-workout.

    So, why should you take carbohydrates right after a workout if carbohydrates are so despised?

    After intense exercise, it is known that your glycogen levels are also depleted. Re-filling these is important to give your muscles the energy they need, and carbohydrates are the perfect solution for this.

    In fact, good carbohydrate and protein meals post-workout have been proven to increase the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise1. This is because it helps to create a positive insulin response, which is the hormone responsible for the anabolic response your body needs in order to increase in size and muscle mass.

    Now, with this statement, the next question to inevitably come up will be, 'What type of carbs should I be taking in?'

    The answer: You should be taking in a mix of complex and simple carbohydrates. One is meant to fuel your muscles as quickly as possible, while the other is meant to help give you some more energy for a few hours.

    However, carbs are not THAT simple. You see, these are placed on the glycemic index, which is used to measure how the carbohydrates that you just consumed raise your blood sugar levels. When you look at this scale, you should take note of the high GI carbs, as these will have the biggest impact on your insulin levels. With this comes an improved anabolic response, which equals more potential for growth for you.

    One source that is often talked about is adding dextrose into your PWO shake. Dextrose is a form of glucose that is found in some foods, such as honey and fruits. Studies on horses have shown that doses of dextrose upon completion of intense exercise helps to increase the rate of muscle glycogen resynthesis2.

    Other good options to include would be carbohydrates from fruits and oatmeal, as these are both additions that mix nicely into your post-workout shake.

    Fuel for Gains

    Whatever you decide to do, just make sure that you are consuming a good amount of fast-acting protein and carbs upon the completion of your workout. Doing so ensures that you are giving your body the proper fuel it needs to begin repairing NOW, when the potential is at its highest. Without doing so, you are just leaving yourself at risk of reducing your progress significantly.

    1. Zawadzki, K.M., B.B. Yaspelkis 3rd, and J.L. Ivy. "Carbohydrate-protein Complex Increases the Rate of Muscle Glycogen Storage after Exercise." Journal of Applied Physiology 72 (n.d.): 1854-859. Web.
    2. Davie, A.J., D.L. Evans, D.R. Hodgson, and R.J. Rose. "Effects of Intravenous Dextrose      Infusion on Muscle Glycogen Resynthesis after Intense Exercise." Equine Veterinary Journal 27 (n.d.): 195-98. Web.
  • Benefits of Taking Creatine for Building Muscle

    Out of all of the supplements people can choose to help with their fitness journey, creatine has to top the list. It is the most heavily studied supplement out there, and the benefits are enormous.

    And yet, a lot of people are still confused about creatine and the effects it can have in regards to helping you build muscle mass. So, if you are one of those people, then look no further.

    Today's article was made to help you decide whether or not you want to give creatine a shot, and so that you can get an understanding about what it brings to the table. But before we dive in head first in helping you learn about the benefits, I wanted to take a moment to educate you on what creatine is.

    While this may not be the first question that comes to your mind, understanding what creatine is will help you understand why the supplement is so beneficial.

    What is Creatine?

    The chemical creatine is something that is found in the body, mostly residing in the muscles. Your body makes in during the process of protein metabolism, and it helps to provide energy for muscular contraction, which is how your muscles produce force.

    Creatine is also found in certain foods, including fish and meats. In short, it is simply a chemical that your body already produces, and is also available to you through some foods. So, taking the supplement doesn't mean you will be introducing your body to some foreign chemical. You are simply adding on to the existing levels that your body already produces, or gets from your daily nutrition.

    More Muscle, More Power, More Everything

    Creatine supplementation can improve power, muscular strength, and work capacity1. This means that creatine can literally help you in all aspects of weight lifting in regards to lifting faster, heavier, and longer. How's that for some benefit?

    There is a lot of reasoning that goes into this, and that's the main objective of this part. I just now told you the #1 benefit creatine brings to the table, and it's a big one. But how does it do this?

    Well, if you read the part about what creatine is, then you noticed that it is something that already resides in our body, mainly in our muscles. It is responsible for helping your muscles produce force through contraction.

    So, what happens when you bring in the supplement? More creatine gets shuttled into the body, and allows you to produce more force during your training. But it doesn't stop there. It also helps to increase your workout intensity, since you are able to not only train harder due to more strength, but you also experience increases in muscular endurance.

    In turn, this allows you to place more stress on the muscles than you could otherwise, which results in increased progress (assuming your nutrition is on point). When you put this in the perspective of this occurring during each workout you have, you start to realize the massive effect it can have on building muscle mass over longer periods of time.

    Now, let's add the other factor into the equation: increased muscular power. So, not only can you lift heavier and lift longer, but you are now also able to lift more explosively. When this occurs, you receive an increase in performance.

    Let's take the deadlift for example. Pulling heavy weights off the ground with no momentum involves both strength and power. When creatine is involved, you are not only able to pull heavier weight off the ground, but this also takes effect because you are able to generate that force quicker than you would without creatine supplementation.

    Increase Your Potential

    I just wanted to quickly state that while creatine is an amazing supplement, it doesn't work for everybody. Some just experience bloating, and others don't experience anything at all.

    But if you haven't tried it, you need to give it a shot. By doing so, you could be adding the strongest tool to your arsenal, and significantly accelerating your progress.

    1. Earnest, C. P., P. G. Snell, A. L. Almada, R. Rodriguez, and T. L. Mitchell. "The Effect of Creatine Monohydrate Ingestion on Power Indices, Muscular Strength and Body Composition." Acta Physiologica Scandinavica (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
  • Why Adding BCAA's With Whey Protein Makes for Better Results

    When you are trying to find the best supplements to help you build or preserve muscle, whey protein is the first thing that comes to all of our minds. And rightly so! It is a fantastic supplement that has a multitude of benefits.

    However, if you study any of the fitness professionals who 'walk the walk,' you will notice another supplement that they all are taking (and praise).

    That supplement is called BCAAs, which stands for branch-chained amino acids.

    How BCAAs Earn Their Worth

    BCAA's are a fantastic tool because they are among the most versatile supplements that exist. While whey protein can have benefits in terms of both muscle gains and fat loss, BCAAs have PROVEN effects on both.

    Since we are talking about adding them with whey protein, we will talk mostly about muscle building benefits.

    First and foremost, BCAAs promote protein synthesis, which is the process for which muscle growth begins. This is done through a process called mTOR, which is started by leucine, the most important BCAA.1 This shows that taking BCAAs are a fantastic way to start up protein synthesis.

    Another fantastic benefit of BCAAs is that they are not only very beneficial for protein synthesis, but they also act as an immediate energy source. You can use BCAAs as a pre-workout, and it will help you train more intensely, and for a longer period of time. In turn, this allows for more work to be done to your muscles, thus further contributing to your progress. While this may not be as direct of an impact as the protein synthesis effect, it still contributes to your improvement in performance, which contributes to accelerated results.

    Ok, But What's The Difference from Whey Protein?

    BCAAs are also in whey protein, which is why many just decide to take in more whey protein. While this can obviously be beneficial, the impact isn't the same.

    The amino acids in whey protein take several hours to be absorbed into the bloodstream, while the regular supplement BCAAs do not require digestion. This means that they are immediately absorbed, and have a much larger spike on amino acid levels. This equates to a faster impact on protein synthesis, and also explains why they can also be used as an immediate energy source for your workouts.

    Not Only Do They Build Muscle…

    … They also prevent muscle breakdown, which is a FANTASTIC advantage, whether your goals be geared towards muscle building or fat loss.

    When in a caloric deficit, your body responds by becoming catabolic, in an attempt to gather more necessary energy. However, many find difficulties with keeping all of their hard-earned muscle mass during the 'cutting' phase.

    BCAAs prevent this due to their ability to promote protein synthesis. And, on top of that, they also reduce muscle damage post-exercise.2 This can contribute to less soreness, and also prevention of catabolism, which can still happen to individuals who are trying to gain muscle mass, but are not aware of whether or not they are eating enough to promote mass gain.

    1. Wang, X. (2006). The mTOR Pathway in the Control of Protein Synthesis. Physiology, 21(5), 362-369. doi:10.1152/physiol.00024.2006
    2. Howaston, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P. G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20
  • Fish Oil Benefits

    Fish oil has become extremely popular in the fitness realm, mainly due to the long list of benefits that research has discovered. Some of these include fat loss, preventing insulin resistance.. the list can go on and on.

    In fact, after you read this research long enough, you begin to wonder why EVERYBODY doesn't take in the recommended intake each day. The benefits are too good to ignore, and I want to share a few of them with you today.

    Fish Oil Fights Off Insulin Resistance

    Insulin is a very powerful hormone in our bodies that we try to manipulate for either fat loss or muscle gain. However, without a proper diet in place, insulin can quickly become your worst enemy.

    You see, insulin is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is the most powerful hormone for creating an anabolic state. On the other hand, however, it contributes to fat gain when too much insulin is being produced.

    When you are insulin resistant, you experience more of the negative side of insulin. What that means is that more fatty acids and glucose will be sent to fat cells in your body, which is something we all want to avoid.

    Enter fish oil.

    Studies have shown that fish oil can actually prevent insulin resistance, especially in high fat diets1. This is extremely important if you find that you are often feeling bloated, soft, or have noticeable fat gain when eating too much carbs or fats. Once you notice this, you can use fish oil to help prevent insulin resistance, and thus help yourself increase nutrition partitioning.

    Burn the Fat

    Since nobody wants to be fat, this is an obvious advantage. However, fish oil isn't directly related to burning fat, unlike some supplements that are designed specifically for that reason. But, this is what makes fish oil so great, as it has numerous advantages without being specialized in one thing.

    Fish oil can help burn fat because fats are a source of energy for our body, so it is used for fuel. When this occurs, it increases your metabolism. Studies have shown this to be effective in a calorie-restricted diet2. Combined with its abilities against insulin as I mentioned above, it becomes an effective fat-burning tool to have at your disposal.

    Fish Oil Reduces Inflammation

    Fish oil is an anti-inflammatory that does a great job at helping with your joint health. Those who are avid fitness enthusiasts know how beneficial this is, because you are destroying muscle tissue with each exercise session.

    Now, this can sometimes cause serious issues such as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which can set back your progress for weeks. Inflammation also slows down muscle growth by stopping protein synthesis, which means you are wasting sessions due to lack of recovery. With fish oil, this problem can be solved, and it can help keep you in an anabolic state. In fact, some studies have shown that it is more effective at reducing inflammation than flaxseed oil3.

    A Combination of Benefits

    When you look at just these 3 benefits, you start to see the other benefits fish oil has. For example, since it helps fight off insulin resistance, this helps to promote muscle growth. And since fish oil helps to protect your joints, this leads to improved recovery, as well as longevity.

    Fish oil contains a lot of small benefits that add up to build a very potent supplement that can keep you healthy. As an added bonus, it will also contribute to your brain health, and keep you in the game longer.

    1. Storlien, L. H., Kraegen, E. W., Chisholm, D. J., Ford, G. L., Bruce, D. G., & Pascoe, W. S. (n.d.). Fish oil prevents insulin resistance induced by high-fat feeding in rats. Science.
    2. Thorsdottir, I., Tomasson, H., Gunnarsdottir, I., Gisladottir, E., Kiely, M., Parra, M. D., . . . Martinéz, J. A. (n.d.). Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content. International Journal of Obesity.
    3. Duda, M. K., O'Shea, K. M., Tintinu, A., Xu, W., Khairallah, R. J., Barrows, B. R., . . . Stanley, W. C. (n.d.). Fish oil, but not flaxseed oil, decreases inflammation and prevents pressure overload-induced cardiac dysfunction. Cardiovascular Research.
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