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General Health

  • All You Need to Know About Sweeteners

    When it comes to supplements, most of us pay close attention to the profile of the most predominant ingredients.

    Like, how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat they contain. Or with respect to pre-workouts, how much creatine, caffeine, l-tyrosine, beta-alanine, and citrulline malate they contain,

    You know what I mean?

    But most of us fail to take a detailed look at their other ingredients, like preservatives, colouring, and the big one, sweeteners.

    Artificial vs natural sweeteners

    When it comes to the sweeteners found in supplements, they can be broadly categorised as either Artificial or Natural sweeteners.

    We can think of both types of sweeteners as “sugar substitutes” that are used to make something taste sweet without the addition of calories that come with regular table sugar (get it… sugar substitute...).

    Natural sweeteners as those that have been created from naturally occurring compounds and ingredients. These sweeteners are often derived from plants, and provide very few calories per gram.

    On the other hand, artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes that are most commonly created in laboratories. These compounds are often known as “intense” sweeteners because they are a lot sweeter than sugar.

    Artificial sweeteners can be a useful alternative to sugar because they generally provide very few (and often zero) calories per serving.

    However, it is important to note that when looking at these two types of sweeteners, the names can be a little misleading.

    There are certain artificial sweeteners that are based upon a number of naturally occurring substances, such as herbs (or sugar itself), and then created in labs. On the other hand, some producers call their sweeteners "natural" even though they are heavily processed or refined.

    With this in mind, the natural vs artificial sweetener debate is often a stupid one, because most are safe for consumption and very useful in certain circumstances.

    Which is why we wanted to shed some light on the topic.

    The most common sweeteners

    There are a number of sweeteners that appear very regularly in supplements (amongst a number of other low-calorie foods) that have distinct pros and cons.

    With this in mind, we wanted to take a look at the three most common so you can identify what ones you think are best for you at an individual level.

    1.   Stevia

    When it comes to natural sweeteners, stevia is arguably the most common.

    Derived from the leaves of the stevia plant (“stevia rebaudiana”, for those of you interested in latin), this unique compound contains zero calories but is 200 times sweeter than table sugar.

    As such, it is a popular addition to supplements, as well as  being a common sugar substitute for people trying to lose weight. Interestingly, there is some evidence to suggest that stevia can also have some other positive effects on heath and function.

    In fact, research has shown that it can reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy and overweight individuals. This also appears to come with increased feelings of satisfaction and fullness after eating, even despite lower energy intake [1].

    Moreover, one study has also shown that stevia can lower blood levels of total cholesterol, LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol, while simultaneously increasing levels of HDL (or ‘good’) cholesterol found in the blood [2].

    Based on the research, most governing bodies have come to the conclusion that stevia sweeteners are safe for consumption for people of all ages, as long as they keep their daily intake below the recommended 4mg per kg of body weight.

    It is important to note that in a single study on rats, stevia consumption did lower testosterone levels and sperm count, although this finding was most likely due to the fact that they were taking more than ten times the recommended limit [3].

    Finally, people with asthma, eczema, or an allergy to plants in the Compositae or Asteraceae families may experience some allergic reactions to stevia. While rare, symptoms may include swelling and itching of the mouth and tongue, stomach pain, nausea, and even vomiting.

    All in all, stevia is a great sugar alternative that can provide a number of health benefits beyond just reducing calories -- you just need to be cautious if you have certain allergies to the plant families mentioned above.

    2.   Sucralose

    Sucralose is a zero calorie artificial sweetener, of which Splenda is the most common brand.

    It is often used as a sugar substitute in cooking and baking, while also being added to many food products worldwide (it is especially common in supplements). Sucralose is about 500 times sweeter than sugar, and doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste like many other sweeteners.

    It is arguably for this reason that it is so popular.

    As far as artificial sweeteners go, sucralose appears to be safe and well tolerated in the vast majority of the population.

    However, there is a small body of evidence suggesting that in a small subset of the population sucralose may increase blood sugar levels [4], and can potentially alter the state of your gut microbiome in a negative manner [5] -- albeit this appears to only occur in higher dosages.

    Moreover, some recent research would suggest that at high temperatures, sucralose may start to break down and interact with other ingredients (especially fat molecules), creating compounds called chloropropanols [6].

    While this may not be a huge concern for most, there is some suggestion that a high consumption of chloropropanols may lead to an increased risk of cancer.

    It is also important to note that research would suggest that the issues with sucralose are only going to arise if you either use it in your cooking (i.e. high temperatures), or consume more than the recommended intake of 5mg for each kg body weight -- which is actually quite a lot.

    3.   Aspartame

    Lastly we have one of the most popular artificial sweeteners on the market -- aspartame.

    Aspartame is arguably the most commonly used sweetener when it comes to diet foods and sugar free alternatives because it's easy to make, extremely sweet, and contains absolutely zero calories per gram.

    Made from naturally occurring ingredients “aspartic acid” and “phenylalanine”, aspartame borders the line between natural and artificial sweetener. This is because while it is generally made in lab settings, aspartic acid is produced by your body, and phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that you get from food.

    Despite some common concerns amongst the population around aspartame causing cancer, these appear to be unfounded.

    The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted a review of more than 600 aspartame studies and found no reason to remove aspartame from the market. They also reported no safety concerns associated with normal intakes, indicating that it is in fact extremely safe [7].

    Recommended aspartame intakes generally sit between 40 and 50 milligrams per kilogram of body weight -- which is a lot.

    I mean, a can of coke zero contains 87mg of aspartame.

    With this in mind, a 70kg human would have to drink a whopping 32 cans of coke zero before exceeding the recommended daily limit.

    However, it is important to note that while aspartame is a great option for most of the population, it should be avoided by people who have a condition called ‘phenylketonuria’ or are taking medications for schizophrenia, as it may have some adverse effects in these individuals.

    Summary

    Sweeteners are one of the most common ingredients used in supplements like pre-workouts and protein powders to make them sweeter (duh).

    However, not all sweeteners are made equal.

    It appears that while all of them offer an effective way to reduce calorie consumption and keep you feeling satisfied, only stevia has extra positive effects on health. This would suggest it is the best option, with sucralose and aspartame coming in a close second.

     

    References

    1. Mishra, Neha. "An Analysis of antidiabetic activity of Stevia rebaudiana extract on diabetic patient." Journal of Natural Science Researc 1.3 (2011): 1-10.
    2. Suresh, V., et al. "Uses of stevia (Stevia rebaudiana)." J. Med. Plant 6.2 (2018): 247-248.
    3. Gholizadeh, Fatemeh, et al. "The protective effect of Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni on serum hormone levels, key steroidogenesis enzymes, and testicular damage in testes of diabetic rats." Acta histochemica 121.7 (2019): 833-840.
    4. Pepino, M. Yanina, et al. "Sucralose affects glycemic and hormonal responses to an oral glucose load." Diabetes care 36.9 (2013): 2530-2535.
    5. Abou-Donia, Mohamed B., et al. "Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats." Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A 71.21 (2008): 1415-1429.
    6. Bannach, Gilbert, et al. "Thermal stability and thermal decomposition of sucralose." Eclética Química 34.4 (2009): 21-26.
    7. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS). "Scientific Opinion on the re?evaluation of aspartame (E 951) as a food additive." EFSA Journal 11.12 (2013): 3496.
  • Flaxseed and Health: All You Need to Know

    I would argue that the word “super food” is thrown around a little too often if you know what I mean.

    Now, don't get me wrong -- there are a lot of foods out there that are full to the brim with potent vitamins and minerals that are great for health and function.

    But that doesn't make them super.

    In my mind, for a food to be considered “super” it needs to exhibit beneficial effects on your health that are greater than its nutritional content alone. It needs to offer something more than just vitamins and minerals.

    It needs to be something like Flaxseed, for example.

    What is Flaxseed?

    Flaxseed (or for those of you who speak a little latin, “Linum usitatissimum”) is a supplement derived from small seeds called “flax seeds”.

    These little seeds (also known as linseeds) are full to the brim with oil, and have been consumed by eastern countries for centuries, where they have long been promoted for their potent health boosting properties.

    More recently, however, they have become a staple in the diet of fitness enthusiasts across the globe due to their rich content of healthy fatty acids, high quality fiber, and abundance of other potent plant compounds.

    With this in mind, flax seed consumption has been linked to improvements in numerous aspects of health.

    Flax Seeds Benefits

    No matter how you choose to consume flax seed (we grind it up into a fine powder so that it is easily digested and nothing goes to waste), it can offer several unique benefits to your health and function.

    1.    Enhance Weight Loss

    Flax seeds are absolutely full to the brim with what is known as “soluble fibre” -- which makes flaxseed powder an extremely useful weight loss supplement.

    Soluble fibre becomes really “sticky” when it is combined with water. This means that when you consume flaxseeds, they absorb the water in your gut, and form a thick substance within your stomach and digestive tract.

    While this may not sound like a good thing, it actually helps reduce hunger cravings by making you feel fuller for longer.

    With this in mind, research has consistently shown that supplementing with flaxseed can promote greater weight loss than simply diet and exercise alone. It is important to note that most studies recommend around 30 grams per day to receive the optimal weight loss benefits [1].

    2.    Reduce Inflammation

    One of the most interesting plant compounds found within Flaxseed aer known as “Lignans”, which have been shown to have a number of unique effects in the human body.

    One of which revolves around inflammation.

    Lignans act as a potent antioxidant, where they scavenge harmful free radicals from the cells of your body. They also prevent inflammatory compounds from circulating in the blood, reducing arterial damage.

    As a result, they have been shown to reduce systemic inflammation throughout your whole body [2].

    This is seriously important from a health perspective because it can lead to a reduced risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Moreover, from an exercise perspective, it may speed up recovery after exercise -- which is essential to making long term gains.

    3.    Lower Blood Pressure

    Above I mentioned that flaxseed is full of healthy fats -- to be more specific, it is full of “omega-3 fatty acids” which play an important role in regulating blood platelet function. When this is combined with the ability to reduce inflammation within the arteries, you have a recipe for success.

    In fact, research has shown that supplementing with flaxseed every day for 6 months can cause a marked reduction in blood pressure. In some cases it is even enough to move people from unhealthy to healthy ranges [3].

    While this is unlikely to impact the results of your training in the short term, high blood pressure is one of the most common issues to plague modern society, and is a known contributor to heart disease.

    As such, supplementing with flaxseed can keep your heart healthy well into your old age, which is key if you want to be lifting heavy things for the rest of your life.

    4.    Reduces Blood Sugar

    By reducing systemic inflammation, flaxseed supplementation has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels [4]. This can cause a subsequent improvement in insulin resistance, which can aid in the prevention of diabetes.

    More importantly, good blood sugar control is integral to not only optimising health, but also improving sport performance and recovery -- making flaxseed a good choice for those of us into this whole “training” thing.

    5.    Improves Digestion

    Feel free to let me know if this is too much information, but in my opinion, one of the worst things about bulking is the digestive discomfort that comes with eating an absurd amount of food.

    I mean, I get it -- you need to eat big to get big, right, but that doesn't mean your stomach will like you for it.

    AKA welcome to bloat city.

    Fortunately, the soluble fibre in flaxseed can facilitate the movement of food through your digestive tract, reducing bloating and stomach discomfort [5]. More importantly, flaxseed consumption has also been linked to improvements in digestive health, which can contribute to better nutrient digestion.

    I should note that because flaxseed can also blunt hunger when taken in higher dosages, you want to keep the dosage on the lower side (~25 grams or less per day). This will help digestion during a bulk without reducing your hunger.

    Does Flaxseed Have Any Side Effects?

    For the most part, flaxseed seems to be very well tolerated in most situations. In fact, some research has used up to 50 grams per day without any serious issues -- which is well above the recommended dosage of 10-30 grams per day.

    However, some people may experience some issues with flaxseed.

    While flaxseed can be very good for digestive health, if you do not consume much fibre, incorporating them into your diet too rapidly can lead to the onset of mild digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and nausea.

    It is for this reason that we often recommend starting at 10 grams per day and slowly increasing the dosage up to 20 or 30 grams per day over a couple of months.

    There has also been some research conducted in pregnant animals demonstrating that the lignans within flax may lead to decreases in fetal birth weight, and may even impair reproductive development of the fetus -- particularly if consumed during early pregnancy.

    While this research is in animals and uses extremely high dosages, it would be in your best interest to avoid flaxseed consumption if you are pregnant (you know, just to be on the safe side).

    Finally, the omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed can exhibit a mild blood thinning effect. While this will not be an issue for most of you, it could become problematic if you take blood thinning medication.

    As such, if you do take medication that can thin your blood, seek medical advice before supplementing with flaxseed.

    Final Thoughts

    While I am hesitant to give away the “superfood” title too easily, I am pretty convinced that flaxseed fits the bill.

    With the ability to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, enhance digestion, reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and promote weight loss, they truly are a potent health boosting supplement.

    If your goal is to lift weights, be healthy, and stay jacked will into your nineties, then flaxseed would be a worthy addition to your diet -- just make sure you implement it slowly and do not exceed 50 grams per day -- or your stomach will let you know about it.

     

    References

    1. Mohammadi?Sartang, M., et al. "The effect of flaxseed supplementation on body weight and body composition: a systematic review and meta?analysis of 45 randomized placebo?controlled trials." Obesity Reviews 18.9 (2017): 1096-1107.
    2. Hallund, Jesper, et al. "The effect of a lignan complex isolated from flaxseed on inflammation markers in healthy postmenopausal women." Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 18.7 (2008): 497-502.
    3. Rodriguez-Leyva, Delfin, et al. "Potent antihypertensive action of dietary flaxseed in hypertensive patients." Hypertension 62.6 (2013): 1081-1089.
    4. Mani, Uliyar Vitaldas, et al. "An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus." Journal of dietary supplements 8.3 (2011): 257-265.
    5. Cunnane, Stephen C., et al. "Nutritional attributes of traditional flaxseed in healthy young adults." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61.1 (1995): 62-68.
  • Shiitake Mushroom Supplements: Are they all they’re cracked up to be?

    The supplement industry is rife with misinformation. Every way you turn there is a flashy new supplement staring you in the face, promising to do everything from make you jacked to cure the common cold.

    The kicker?

    Some are MUCH more effective than others.

    With this in mind, there is reason to believe that when it comes to general health and function, those supplements derived from natural compounds are going to offer you the most bang for your buck.

    These supplements tend to be full of the natural vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and thrive. Moreover, some even contain unique antioxidants and plant nutrients that can improve your ability to function.

    And one of the most impressive may be Shiitake Mushrooms.

    What are Shiitake Mushrooms?

    Shiitake mushrooms have been a staple in eastern medicinal practices for centuries, where they were purported to improve health, stave off disease, and promote longevity and function. Even in modern day, they are considered to be a superfood in Japan and China, where they are used regularly as both a common cooking ingredient and as a medical remedy.

    With this in mind, Shiitake is one of the most popular edible mushrooms on the planet, consumed in both food and supplement form.

    In western medicine, Shiitake mushrooms have been garnering some attention of late, where researchers have been exploring their ability to help treat a variety of diseases, including cancer, chronic infections, and cardiovascular disease [1].

    Shiitake Mushroom Benefits

    The key reason that shiitake mushrooms are believed to be so beneficial to health is because they are full to the brim of unique types of bioactive compounds known as polysaccharides, sterols, and terpenoids.

    These unique compounds enhance your body's immune response and reduce inflammation, while simultaneously acting as potent antioxidants [1].

    With this in mind, there is evidence to suggest that Shiitake mushroom supplements can have some serious benefits for your health and function.

    1.    Improved Immune System Function

    Arguably the biggest benefit that comes from Shiitake mushrooms relates to their ability to boost the function of your immune system.

    As I alluded to above, Shiitake mushrooms contain several unique compounds that interact with your body. Two of these compounds that are of particular interest are known as “lentinan” and “beta-glucans” which collectively support your immune system.

    In fact, research has shown that people who supplement with 5-10 grams of Shiitake mushrooms daily see large improvements in the activity of their white blood cells, in conjunction with enhanced gut immunity [2].

    As a result, Shiitake mushrooms appear to offer the perfect option to stave off illness and keep you training hard year round.

    2.    Enhanced Cardiovascular Health

    In conjunction with their ability to boost immune health, a large number of the compounds found in Shiitake mushrooms also have the ability to improve the health of your cardiovascular system.

    Three of these compounds in particular (Eritadenine, Sterols, and Betal Glucans) act to inhibit the production of cholesterol, block the absorption of cholesterol in your gut, and lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood -- all of which are integral to keeping your heart healthy and staving off cardiovascular disease.

    Amazingly, one recent study in rats demonstrated that, even when consuming a super high fat diet, shiitake mushroom supplements can inhibit plaque build up on the walls of arteries, while also lowering blood pressure and cholesterol [3].

    Although these results still need to be replicated in humans, it suggests that shiitake mushroom supplements will keep you jacked and training well into your old age.

    3.    Better Oral Health

    Most of you train in the gym so you look better, but there is more to looking nice than simply being jacked (although that is a large part of it…).

    Yep, I am talking about your smile -- and nothing says “nice smile” like good oral health.

    In all seriousness, the compounds found within Shiitake mushrooms have been demonstrated to inhibit the growth of the nasty bacteria that leads to gum inflammation and periodontitis [4]. Moreover, research has also indicated that shiitake could prevent the formation of plaque by protecting the enamel surface of your teeth [5].

    Did someone say aesthetic?

    4.    Potential Anti-Cancer Effects

    Finally, some of the compounds in Shiitake may also have a preventative effect on cancer.

    Building on what was discussed above, Lentinan has been shown to help prevent the formation of cancerous tumors by enhancing the function of your immune system [6]. Hell, it has even been shown to slow the growth of leukemia cells [7].

    While most of this research has been conducted in lab based cell studies, the results have been promising enough for eastern medical professionals to recommend its consumption alongside chemotherapy during cancer treatment.

    Again, while this may not make you any bigger, it could keep you training well into your golden years -- which is a pretty big deal if you ask me.

    Take Home Message

    Shiitake Mushrooms really are a superfood.

    With the ability to increase immune system function, enhance oral health, prevent heart disease, and even reduce your risk of cancer, they are a great option if you are looking to boost your health and longevity in the iron game.

    And really, isn't that what we all want? To be jacked into our nineties?

     

    References

    1. Finimundy, Tiane Cristine, et al. "A review on general nutritional compounds and pharmacological properties of the Lentinula edodes mushroom." Food and Nutrition Sciences 2014 (2014).
    2. Dai, Xiaoshuang, et al. "Consuming Lentinula edodes (Shiitake) mushrooms daily improves human immunity: A randomized dietary intervention in healthy young adults." Journal of the American College of Nutrition 34.6 (2015): 478-487.
    3. Yang, Hyun, et al. "Lentinus edodes promotes fat removal in hypercholesterolemic mice." Experimental and therapeutic medicine 6.6 (2013): 1409-1413.
    4. Ciric, Lena, et al. "In vitro assessment of shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes) extract for its antigingivitis activity." Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology 2011 (2011).
    5. Avinash, J., et al. "The unexplored anticaries potential of shiitake mushroom." Pharmacognosy reviews 10.20 (2016): 100.
    6. Meng, Xin, Hebin Liang, and Lixin Luo. "Antitumor polysaccharides from mushrooms: a review on the structural characteristics, antitumor mechanisms and immunomodulating activities." Carbohydrate research 424 (2016): 30-41.
    7. Patel, Seema, and Arun Goyal. "Recent developments in mushrooms as anti-cancer therapeutics: a review." 3 Biotech 2.1 (2012): 1-15.
  • The Surprising Benefits of Vitamin C

    There are heaps of different vitamins and minerals your body needs to function effectively. Subsequently, being insufficient in any one of these nutrients can cause serious declines in performance, and even your health.

    Interestingly, there is some evidence to suggest that supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals beyond the ‘normal’ level that your body needs to function can provide additional benefits.

    And this is especially true when it comes to Vitamin C.

     

    What is Vitamin C?

    Vitamin C (also known as “ascorbic acid”) is an essential vitamin that plays a myriad of roles in the human body. It is considered “essential” because it cannot be made with your body, and therefore must be obtained through your diet.

    As far micronutrients go, Vitamin C is arguably the most well known due to its ability to prevent sailors at sea dying from scurvy -- a horrible disease that is caused by Vitamin C deficiency.

    In addition to being able to prevent the onset of scurvy, Vitamin C is hands down the most potent antioxidant found in your blood. This is because it is “water soluble” (meaning it dissolves in liquid) and can subsequently scavenge the harmful free radicals found in your blood very easily.

    Due to its potent effect as an antioxidant, Vitamin C has been said to improve immune system health, stave off inflammation, and prevent several chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, and even obesity.

    But is this really the case?

    Vitamin C Benefits

    As I have already alluded to, Vitamin C is one of the most potent antioxidants in your body. Moreover, it supports numerous physiological processes in your body -- all of which means that its supplementation can be extremely beneficial.

    1.    Boosts Immunity

    Have you ever wondered why your grandma suggests eating oranges when you are sick?

    Vitamin C, baby.

    As we have already discussed at length, after consumption, Vitamin C enters the blood. Once in your blood, it picks up and removes harmful free radicals throughout your body. Within this, it also helps increase the functional abilities of your white blood cells.

    This, in turn, improves immune system function, making you less susceptible to disease and illness [1].

    If your goal is to get as jacked as possible, then getting into the gym consistently is key. And let me tell you, Vitamin C will keep you training, and making progress, all year round.

    2.    Accelerates Recovery

    In addition to scavenging free radicals, Vitamin C also reduces inflammation.

    As a result, it has been shown to reduce exercise induced muscle damage and facilitate recovery after training [2]. This means that if you are training multiple times per week, you can keep the quality of your sessions high -- which may contribute to long term gains in strength and size.

    However, it is important to note that some of this post exercise muscle damage (and the inflammation associated) has been shown to actually stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue. This means that when taken in extremely high amounts, there is reason to believe that Vitamin C could blunt training adaptations.

    This means that if you want to use Vitamin C to promote recovery without losing out on any gains, you need to make sure you stay within the recommended dosages.

    3.    Lowers Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure is one of the most common health issues to plague western nations -- and given that it can seriously increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack, it is bad news.

    Fortunately research has shown that Vitamin C supplements can reduce the stiffness of your arteries, increasing blood flow throughout your body. When this occurs over a long period of time through chronic supplementation, it can lead to lasting reductions in blood pressure [3].

    If you want to be lifting for a long time, then it looks like Vitamin C is going to be a pretty good choice.

    4.    Lowers Blood Cholesterol

    In conjunction with high blood pressure, having high blood cholesterol is also a key risk factor for the onset of heart disease -- with particular emphasis on “low density lipoprotein”(LDL) cholesterol.

    LDL cholesterol is known as “bad” cholesterol because it is what causes the accumulation of plaque on the walls of your arteries. This buildup is what increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

    But Vitamin C has been repeatedly shown to reduce LDL cholesterol, improving your health in the process [4].

    5.    Enhances Mood

    In conjunction with all these potent effects on physical health, it appears that Vitamin C can improve your mental health too.

    Vitamin C plays an important role in neural function. As a result, long term Vitamin C deficiency has been shown to cause nervousness and anxiety, while also contributing to emotional instability [5].

    With this in mind, its supplementation has been linked to improvements in mood and emotional wellbeing, in conjunction with reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety [6].

    Applying this to your training, there is reason to believe that supplementing with Vitamin C can keep you motivated to train hard and train often -- which is going to play a very big role in your long term training success.

    6.    Maintains Cognitive Health

    Lastly, Vitamin C has also been linked to the maintenance of cognitive health and function as you transition into older age.

    Research has shown that one of the main drivers of age-related cognitive decline, as well as things like dementia and Alzheimer's disease, is inflammation around the tissue of the brain, nervous system, and spinal cord.

    And remember what reduces inflammation?

    Bingo, Vitamin C.

    Taking this into consideration, people who consume higher amounts of vitamin C have been shown to have lower risk of experiencing declines in brain health and cognitive function [7] -- suggesting it has a serious protective effect.

    How Much Vitamin C Should I Take?

    So, this is where things get a little bit interesting.

    The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is 75mg for adult women, and 90mg for adult men. This would be considered the minimum amount required to maintain your health and avoid developing a deficiency.

    However, much of the research discussed above used much higher doses than that recommended here. In fact, most research showing positive effects of Vitamin C on health use between 1 and 6 grams per day.

    With this in mind, the tolerable upper limit is suggested to be around 2 grams per day -- although again, higher dosages have been used in the research with no apparent negative side effects.

    So what does that mean for you?

    In short, taking anywhere between 1 and 3 grams of Vitamin C per day should be more than enough to obtain all the health benefits above without the risk of serious side effects.

    Which leads us to our next point quite nicely.

    Side Effects of Vitamin C

    In most individuals, Vitamin C has been shown to be extremely safe -- however, there are a few circumstances where caution is advised.

    Supplementing with more than 500mg per day has been proposed to cause the development of kidney stones in people who are prone to them. This means that if you have a history of kidney stones (or people in your family do), it would be in your best interest to seek medical advice before supplementing with higher doses.

    Finally, one study also found that people who supplement with high doses of both Vitamin C and Vitamin E may increase risk of disease and illness -- although this appears to only occur in people who smoke [8].

    So, if you smoke, I would encourage avoiding supplementing with both Vitamin C and E at the same time.

    Final Points

    Vitamin C appears to be one of the most well tolerated supplements on the planet -- which is good news, because it has been shown to improve several important aspects of mental and physical health.

    If you want to boost your immune system, recover faster, and stave off a myriad of diseases, then look no further.

     

    References

    1. Carr, Anitra C., and Silvia Maggini. "Vitamin C and immune function." Nutrients 9.11 (2017): 1211.
    2. Braakhuis, Andrea J. "Effect of vitamin C supplements on physical performance." Current sports medicine reports 11.4 (2012): 180-184.
    3. Juraschek, Stephen P., et al. "Effects of vitamin C supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials." The American journal of clinical nutrition 95.5 (2012): 1079-1088.
    4. McRae, Marc P. "Vitamin C supplementation lowers serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides: a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials." Journal of chiropractic medicine 7.2 (2008): 48-58.
    5. Harrison, Fiona E. "A critical review of vitamin C for the prevention of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease." Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 29.4 (2012): 711-726.
    6. Kocot, Joanna, et al. "Does vitamin C influence neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders?." Nutrients 9.7 (2017): 659.
    7. Zandi, Peter P., et al. "Reduced risk of Alzheimer disease in users of antioxidant vitamin supplements: the Cache County Study." Archives of neurology 61.1 (2004): 82-88.
    8. Hemilä, Harri, and Jaakko Kaprio. "Vitamin E supplementation and pneumonia risk in males who initiated smoking at an early age: effect modification by body weight and dietary vitamin C." Nutrition Journal 7.1 (2008): 33.
  • Multivitamins: Little Nutrients For Big Gains

    How much time, and more importantly, money do you spend on multivitamins each month? Chances are you don’t give much thought to one, and end up just picking up any random multivitamin that seems good enough.

    In reality, you are actually short-changing the gains you could be making, since the average multivitamin is a far cry from the amounts of the nutrients that would be necessary to make a difference to your bottom line.

    Sadly, you may be well-versed in the latest trendy supplement development, but if you don’t spend adequate time researching good multivitamins, you’ve already set yourself up for a major disadvantage down the road.

    In this article we discuss exactly how and a good multivitamin supplement can help you excel, and the most important ones to keep your eyes on.

    Why Do You Even Need A Multivitamin?

    Most supplements that are referred to as multivitamins, are more correctly a combination of vitamins and minerals, although people tend to ignore the minerals for reasons not fully understood.

    The basic premise of taking a multivitamin is for nutritional fortification. That is, helping to boost the amount of a specific vitamin or mineral consumed on a daily basis, especially if getting it from real food is difficult. The hard truth? You are probably still not getting enough even if you think you are.

    Inadvertently, this ends up becoming a crutch to many people, since they believe that their diet can be subpar and a multivitamin will help make everything better. This is not true, since even the best multivitamins can only contain so much of anyone nutrient, making it necessary for you to still consume what you can from real food.

    With that said, well timed and thought out multivitamin supplementation can help you achieve your goals, especially if you take the time to look for one which contains nutrients that are specifically tailored to supply what you are looking for.

    Good multivitamins tend to contain adequate amount of the following:

    Vitamins

    Vitamin B

    The B vitamins consist of an entire family of related water-soluble compound with a primary role on the metabolism[i] of food consumed. While most multivitamin brands contain some amount of these vitamins, many simply under dose what they include to such an extent that you are unlikely to notice any benefit.

    Vitamin B needs are typically higher is vegans or hard training athletes who rapidly deplete these vitamins. They are also extremely safe, being water soluble, so you don’t need to worry much about adverse effects from consuming higher than normal amounts.

    Vitamin C

    Best known to help support the immune system, vitamin C can also reduce the impact of oxidative damage on muscles and help support your recovery[ii]. Not to mention that vitamin C also contributes to the synthesis of collagen, an important structural protein that helps to support joint and connective tissue.

    Vitamin C’S protective actions help limit excessive muscle breakdown, especially under hypocaloric states.

    Just don’t consume it immediately after your workout or you may lose much of the muscle breakdown necessary to elicit hypertrophy.

    Vitamin D

    Known as the sunshine vitamin, it is more correctly classified as a hormone, and has several benefits for the body that can enhance the accrual of lean muscle mass. Vitamin D also plays a big role on immunity and can help ensure that you don’t missed workouts owing to illness.

    There are no clear cut links between Vitamin D and muscle gain, but correlation is a strong indicator of benefit[iii]. In this case, it is the fact that men with higher levels of serum Vit D also display greater testosterone levels and muscle hypertrophy, compared with deficient men.

    Add that to improved bone mass density and calcium absorption and there should scarcely be a reason to not get more of this vitamin.

    Minerals

    They are arguably many more minerals than vitamins, with extremely variable roles in the body. While all minerals have a place in your diet, there are some of which can be considered more important than others. These include:

    Iron

    Iron is a key nutrient responsible for red blood cell synthesis, where it forms part of the complex molecules known as haemoglobin. The function of haemoglobin is to bind to oxygen molecules, where it is transported to parts of the body that needed. Iron also helps improve endurance and supports cardiopulmonary function in endurance athletes[iv]. Dietary iron deficiency can manifest in ways such as frequent tiredness, poor tolerance to cold, and all-round lack of energy.

    Magnesium

    Magnesium quickly ranks as one of the most essential minerals for athletes, helping to support energy levels, managing the effect of stress[v] on the body, and most notably- helping you get sufficient sleep, which translates to better muscle growth.

    Many people are actually deficient in this mineral, and it is no stretch of the imagination to assume that athletes may fare even worse because of additional loss via sweat. Most multivitamins contain only a basic amount of this mineral, but premium supplements take this into consideration when formulating their product.

    Zinc

    One of the most well-known and popular minerals when it comes to male health, zinc’s utility is almost limitless. From possessing the ability to help increase testosterone levels, improving your immunity and also being involved in virtually all of the enzymatic reactions occurring in the body every second of our existence, you can see how important it is to get enough.

    Men have it harder than most too; since zinc is lost in sweat, but also in ejaculate fluid during sexual intercourse. Shoot for 25-50 mg daily, since higher dosages are associated with nasty intestinal side effects.

    Calcium

    You know too well that calcium is important to the health of bones, but you may be less familiar with the role in plays in muscular health. Calcium is actually one of the primary driving factors that facilitate muscular contraction, as well as its ability to relax.

    Calcium also helps to improve the usage of fatty acids for fuel[vi] (making its potential weight loss benefits very useful), and also acts as a general transporter for many important amino acids and even creatine in part.

    In Summary

    A good multivitamin contains much more than the few we outlined above, but great ones tend to include a lot of what we need as athletes. Digestive enzymes, botanicals and even specific amino acids are also even included in some premium grade products and with good effect- they make a staple even more effective.

    Do not underestimate the importance of adequate micronutrient consumption.

    [i] Zheng, Y., Ma, A., Zheng, M. et al. B Vitamins Can Reduce Body Weight Gain by Increasing Metabolism-related Enzyme Activities in Rats Fed on a High-Fat Diet. CURR MED SCI 38, 174–183 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11596-018-1862-9

    [ii] Paulsen G, Hamarsland H, Cumming KT, et al. Vitamin C and E supplementation alters protein signalling after a strength training session, but not muscle growth during 10 weeks of training. J Physiol. 2014;592(24):5391–5408. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2014.279950

    [iii] Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011;43(3):223–225. doi:10.1055/s-0030-1269854

    [iv] Rubeor A, Goojha C, Manning J, White J. Does Iron Supplementation Improve Performance in Iron-Deficient Nonanemic Athletes?. Sports Health. 2018;10(5):400–405. doi:10.1177/1941738118777488

    [v] Golf SW, Happel O, Graef V, Seim KE. Plasma aldosterone, cortisol and electrolyte concentrations in physical exercise after magnesium supplementation. J Clin Chem Clin Biochem. 1984;22(11):717–721. doi:10.1515/cclm.1984.22.11.717

    [vi] Zhu, W., Cai, D., Wang, Y. et al. Calcium plus vitamin D3 supplementation facilitated Fat loss in overweight and obese college students with very-low calcium consumption: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J 12, 8 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-12-8

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