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General Health

  • 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

  • Pregnant and Weightlifting? 4 Things You Should Be Using

    It’s the best of time; it’s the worst of times. Yes, we’re referring to pregnancy. While it is truly a privilege to bring forth a life into this world, those 9 months your little guest spent cosily tucked away in your womb were far from easy.

    From the pain, to the morning sickness and feeling of lethargy, pregnancy can take a toll on you, especially when you are trying to maintain a normal workout schedule. But does that mean that they don’t mix? Not at all. Many of today’s successful female athletes continued to work out at an intensity mirroring that of their pre-pregnancy days, and went on to have healthy pregnancies and bouncing babies.

    So where do you start? Like any sensible plan that helps you achieve your physique goals, diet needs to remain a central tenet for success. Specific nutritional requirements often open up (and by that we mean, frequently larger portions are necessary), making it important for you to take the necessary steps to fortify your diet, often times by well-timed supplementation.

    Wondering which supplements are best for you and the baby developing in your womb? Let’s take a look at them now.

    Folic Acid

    Also known as vitamin B9 in the olden days, folic acid isn’t often discussed nowadays outside of its importance to the developing foetus during pregnancy. In reality, folic acid possesses an important dual function for both the baby and the athletic/physique goals of the mother, at this time and even when not pregnant.

    During pregnancy, ensuring sufficient consumption of folic acid helps to reduce the likelihood of neural tube defects occurring[i] (which affect healthy development of the brain and spinal cord), help prevent spina bifida, and significantly reduce the possibility of congenital heart defects developing[ii].

    It is important to start supplementing with folic acid the moment you find out you are pregnant, as it is of greatest benefit during the first trimester of pregnancy. Ideally, even before you find out you are pregnant if you are actively trying to conceive.

    When it comes to helping you stay fit during pregnancy, folic acid supports healthy protein synthesis and DNA replication, important steps to accruing lean muscle mass. Plus, it also assists with amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism[iii], meaning that your body uses these macros more efficiently.

    If you are trying to avoid gaining an immense amount of extra fat during pregnancy, folic acid can be considered best in class for both you and your baby.

    During pregnancy, it is recommended most often to consume about 1mg folic acid daily, although adverse effects aren’t usually observed at higher doses than this (up to the point of about 15mg).

    Iron

    Women intricately know the importance of iron, especially since it is lost in blood monthly as part of their menstrual cycle. This is why supplementation is important in women, far more so that it is in men.

    When a woman becomes pregnant, however, the need for exogenous iron is increased even further. Sure, menstrual bleeding stops for the duration of pregnancy, but in turn the need is increased owing to the fact that a child is developing within the womb.

    During pregnancy, the body uses a large amount of iron in the production of blood cells and other cellular components for the unborn child, while simultaneously still being necessary for the health and wellbeing of the mother.

    This is why fatigue is extremely common during pregnancy, notwithstanding the fact that carrying around an extra 10 kg or more is a burden in its own right.

    Supplemental iron will also go a far way in helping to ensure that you are capable of completing your workouts[iv]- both resistance and aerobic varieties, without feeling winded or compromising oxygen delivery to your precious on-board cargo.

    A woman’s blood volume increases 30 to 50 percent during pregnancy, so it should make sense that you need to consume additional nutrition to assist with the synthesis of blood.

    Most prenatal formulations supply about 15-17 mg iron per serving, though pregnant women require closer to 27 mg daily[v]. For this reason, and after discussion with your physician, a recommendation of an iron based supplement is fairly common. Good ones supply between 24 and 30 mg per pill.

    Raspberry Leaf

    It’s surprising when you find out that most people have never heard of raspberry leaf before, especially since it was very popular in Europe a few centuries ago, possessing proven benefits towards a healthy pregnancy.

    In non-pregnant women, raspberry leaf is said to help alleviate symptoms of PMS, acting as a natural pelvic muscle tonic (Kegels anyone?) that alleviate abdominal cramping. This can be of great benefit if you experience severe PMS symptoms that impair your ability to hit the gym,

    In addition to this, is its more specific utility during pregnancy. Although used mainly in the late second and throughout the third trimesters of pregnancy, it can also be employed during the first trimester to reduce nausea and vomiting; better known as morning sickness.

    When consumed during the third trimester, it has been associated with a reduced incidence of complications during labour, such as the need for forceps assistance, and pre or post-term labour[vi].

    In like manner, there have been findings which point to it helping reduce how long labour lasts[vii], which is highly desirable as no woman wants to spend longer in excruciating labour pain.

    Fenugreek

    While not specifically beneficial to you while pregnant, it has excellent galactagogue properties-helping to stimulate breast milk flow.  This may be helpful if you’ve just had your first child and experiencing problems with lactation.

    Plus, fenugreek use at this time can help you get back in shape faster if you plan to hit the gym again as soon as you can, since it assists with improved blood glucose control, and even helps to suppress your appetite. This way, you’ll be back to beach body approved in no time!

    In Summary

    Pregnancy is sometimes considered uncharted waters when it comes to staying fit, but in general, as long as you do not try to go excessively hard at this time, it is a great idea to stay physically active. Supplements to help fortify your nutritional needs are especially important at this time, especially when it comes to iron and folic acid.

    Later on, recruiting the help of raspberry leaf to promote trouble free delivery of your now bouncing baby, and then fenugreek to stimulate copious breast milk production and a rapid return to form for you, and you’ve rounded out a solid squad for before, during and after pregnancy.

    [i] Imbard A, Benoist JF, Blom HJ. Neural tube defects, folic acid and methylation. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013;10(9):4352–4389. Published 2013 Sep 17. doi:10.3390/ijerph10094352

    [ii] Mao B, Qiu J, Zhao N, et al. Maternal folic acid supplementation and dietary folate intake and congenital heart defects. PLoS One. 2017;12(11):e0187996. Published 2017 Nov 16. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0187996

    [iii] Kim YN, Hwang JH, Cho YO. The effects of exercise training and acute exercise duration on plasma folate and vitamin B12. Nutr Res Pract. 2016;10(2):161–166. doi:10.4162/nrp.2016.10.2.161

    [iv] Houston BL, Hurrie D, Graham J, et alEfficacy of iron supplementation on fatigue and physical capacity in non-anaemic iron-deficient adults: a systematic review of randomised controlled trialsBMJ Open 2018;8:e019240. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019240

    [v] Brannon PM, Taylor CL. Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1327. Published 2017 Dec 6. doi:10.3390/nu9121327

    [vi] Parsons M, Simpson M, Ponton T. Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour:safety and efficacy. Aust Coll Midwives Inc J. 1999 Sep;12(3):20-5. PubMed PMID: 10754818.

    [vii] Simpson M, Parsons M, Greenwood J, Wade K. Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2001 Mar-Apr;46(2):51-9. PubMed PMID: 11370690

  • Probiotics: Little Friends that Equate to Big Gains

    When thinking of the road to building massive muscles, probiotics don’t often cross the mind. For that matter, many people are still in the dark about what probiotics even are- completely.

    So what exactly are probiotics, and how can they help you sculpt a world class physique?

    The Good, The Bad And The Germy

    The simplest way to explain probiotics would be to simply say that they are (mainly) bacteria. But don’t be alarmed- like everything else in life, there are good and bad sides to everything, bacteria included.

    Your body is actually habitat to an array of bacterial species, some of which are bad and look for opportunities to bring about ill-health, and others which are beneficial, such as the probiotics.

    The vast majority of your body’s probiotic bacteria reside in your intestinal tract, in both the small and large aspects of the intestines. A small amount of probiotic organisms are also fungi, though these are not often encountered in supplemental form.

    The battle between these good bacteria- the probiotics, and the pathogenic bacteria residing in your body is a daily struggle, but one which you can help out with by fortifying your body’s natural probiotic colony numbers via supplementation.

    Wondering which probiotic strains you should be focusing on? Let’s check them out now.

    Lactobacillus Acidophilus

    Commonly known as just acidophilus, this strain is by far the most common and frequently discussed probiotic. Arguably, this is the supplement that started all the interest in probiotic consumption as a way to bolster digestive, and in turn- overall health.

    There are many probiotics classified as being Lactobacilli (plural for Lactobacillus), but acidophilus possess unique strengths. For instance, a study published in the Journal British Association of Sport and Medicine in 2006 found that administration of acidophilus helped to correct immune deficits characteristic of athletes with a chronically fatigued/ over trained status[i].

    Of course, there are also many other benefits of acidophilus that are shared by other probiotic strains.

    Bifidobacterium Bifidum

    Arguably the second most common probiotic out there, the human body actually starts out with a huge proportion of this species; around 80% at birth, but which decreases to between 2 and 14% during adulthood.

    But what makes this probiotic different from acidophilus, or any other for that matter? One of its primary selling points would have to be its ability to enhance immune function[ii], meaning that you get ill less frequently.

    Less sick days means fewer missed workouts, and even if do did get sick, the illness is usually self-limiting and brief.

    Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

    Another member of the lactobacillus family, this is where things start getting very interesting (no offence to you guys that came before!). In particular, is the way that that it is able to make a dent (literally) on your waistline, as it has been revealed that it possesses anti-obesogenic properties[iii], reducing inflammation, blood glucose dysfunction[iv] that contributes to weight gain, and supporting healthy liver function which can impair effective metabolism of fat.

    Another study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014[v] found that supplementation with a probiotic rich in Lactobacillus rhamnosus was actually able to initiate weight loss in obese men and women, though its effect was more consistent across women who were able to lose weight and maintain the weight loss.

    Leptin levels were also reduced, which is good in the case of obese subjects as leptin resistance is most frequent in this class.

    Lactobacillus Reuteri

    It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, we finally arrive at the probiotic that can directly help influence the muscle gains you make from your hard work in the gym. Although not one of the bigger, well-known probiotics, Lactobacillus Reuteri is likely to be of greatest interest to strength athletes, especially when combined with other probiotics.

    But how exactly does this strain help with your muscle building goals? One primary way – cortisol modulation. You see, cortisol and testosterone are not friends[vi], but rather exert actions that are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to muscle homeostasis. Cortisol is concerned with breaking down of tissue (catabolism), while testosterone favours the accrual of new tissue (anabolism).

    These two hormones also share what is known as a negatively inverse relationship, in that as one goes up, levels of the other goes down. Lactobacillus Reuteri is able to reduce cortisol levels, having the effect of indirectly causing testosterone to flourish.

    While most of the studies concerning Lactobacillus Reuteri have been conducted on rodents, there is anecdotal evidence that many of its benefits on male health holds true. For instance, in rodents, a study conducted by MIT in 2014 found the following after adding Lactobacillus Reuteri to the drinking water of the rats, they had:

    • Larger testicle size when compared with control
    • Higher luteinizing hormone levels, in turn signalling for an increased production of testosterone
    • Improved sperm count and mobility
    • Reduced effect of age related testicular atrophy in mice[vii], which coincides with reduction in natural testosterone production

    Another study, this time conducted in men and published in the Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism in 2013 found that daily supplementation of Lactobacillus Reuteri over the course of 13 weeks resulted in an average increase in serum vitamin D levels by 25%[viii].

    This is noteworthy because in men, higher vitamin D levels is positively associated with greater testosterone synthesis.

    Universal Benefits Of Probiotics

    Beside these specific sport centric benefits of probiotics, there are other noteworthy ones such as improved digestive health, reduced inflammatory burden and risk of intestinal cancers, decreased likelihood of experiencing autoimmune conditions affecting the digestive tract, lowered risk of developing gastric ulcers owing to the bacteria H. pylori as well as improved nutrient status and psychological well-being.

    In Summary

    Probiotics help demonstrate that your gut and brain are inextricably linked, by virtue of the vagus nerve – the largest nerve in the human body. This is why you experience a nervous gut when you are anxious, and how improving the health of your digestive tract can lend itself to enhanced brain function.

    One important note to clarify is the fact that not all probiotics require refrigeration prior to being opened. This is because differences in manufacturing, such as the use of a freeze-drying technique, can add stability to products until they are exposed to room temperature and air after tearing the seal.

    It is also important to choose a product that guarantees a certain number of probiotics per bottle/serving, represented as CFU, or colony forming units.

    As for the best probiotics to choose, a lot depends on your current diet, and what you expect them to do. Acidophilus and bifidum are great entry-level probiotics, being the most common in your intestines, but if you’re looking for more sport specific benefits, reuteri and rhamnosus may be better picks.

    The world of probiotics is large – we merely touched the surface of the many species that exist. The important thing is to ensure that you support the healthy colonies residing in your gut- don’t wait for a problem to make an intervention.

    [i] Clancy RL, Gleeson M, Cox A, et al. Reversal in fatigued athletes of a defect in interferon gamma secretion after administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus. Br J Sports Med. 2006;40(4):351–354. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2005.024364

    [ii] Langkamp-Henken B, Rowe CC, Ford AL, Christman MC, Nieves C Jr, Khouri L,Specht GJ, Girard SA, Spaiser SJ, Dahl WJ. Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 results in a greater proportion of healthy days and a lower percentage of academicallystressed students reporting a day of cold/flu: a randomised, double-blind,placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2015 Feb 14;113(3):426-34. doi:10.1017/S0007114514003997. Epub 2015 Jan 21. PubMed PMID: 5604727.

    [iii] Pothuraju R, Sharma RK, Chagalamarri J, Kavadi PK, Jangra S. Influence of milk fermented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus NCDC 17 alone and in combination with herbal ingredients on diet induced adiposity and related gene expression in C57BL/6J mice. Food Funct. 2015 Nov;6(11):3576-84. doi: 10.1039/c5fo00781j. Epub 2015 Sep 1. PubMed PMID: 26327356.

    [iv] Park KY, Kim B, Hyun CK. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG Reverses Insulin Resistance but Does Not Block Its Onset in Diet-Induced Obese Mice. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 May;25(5):753-7. PubMed PMID: 25433553.

    [v] Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, Emady-Azar S, Lepage M, Rezzonico E, Ngom-Bru C, Berger B, Philippe L, Ammon-Zuffrey C, Leone P, Chevrier G, St-Amand E, Marette A, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr.

    2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003875. Epub 2013 Dec 3. PubMed PMID: 24299712.

    [vi] Cumming DC, Quigley ME, Yen SS. Acute suppression of circulating testosterone levels by cortisol in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1983 Sep;57(3):671-3. PubMed PMID: 6348068.

    [vii] Poutahidis T, Springer A, Levkovich T, Qi P, Varian BJ, Lakritz JR, Ibrahim YM, Chatzigiagkos A, Alm EJ, Erdman SE. Probiotic microbes sustain youthful serum testosterone levels and testicular size in aging mice. PLoS One. 2014 Jan

    2;9(1):e84877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084877. eCollection 2014. PubMed PMID: 24392159; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3879365

    [viii] Jones ML, Martoni CJ, Prakash S. Oral supplementation with probiotic L. reuteri NCIMB 30242 increases mean circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D: a post hoc analysis of a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Jul;98(7):2944-51. doi: 10.1210/jc.2012-4262. Epub 2013 Apr 22. PubMed PMID: 23609838

  • Sleep for Gains: The Top 6 Supplements to Ensure Muscle Building Sleep

    If you ask veteran strength athletes what the most underrated aspect of the muscle growth equation is, without a doubt they would all say that it has to be sleep. Even though sleep is one of life’s simple pleasures, far too many people just take it for granted.

    But why? It could simply be due to the fact that sleep is seen as unproductive work, since those hours spent lying in bed could be used to work out or do something that feels more “tangible”.

    However, while those may seem like logical reasons to avoid sleep, there are millions of other people that do appreciate the importance of sleep, but just can’t get an adequate amount of it owing to reasons such as anxiety, stress or neurochemical and hormonal imbalances.

    But make no mistake – without sufficient sleep, you are never going to get where you want to be in regards to strength, musculature or leanness.

    But help is at hand, as there are very effective and safe natural options you can take to optimize your circadian rhythm for restorative sleep. Here are some of your best bets.

    Valerian root

    One of the best natural sleep aids in the world, the root is the primary source used to deal with insomnia and anxiety. But how exactly does Valerian root help?

    Much of its sleep promoting properties relates to how it interacts with the neurotransmitter GABA, which promotes feelings of calmness and tranquility as levels in the brain increase. Valerian root (but more specifically one of its constituents known as valerenic acid) inhibits the breakdown of this neurotransmitter in the brain, enhancing natural sedation.

    Another way Valerian root is believed to help promote sleep is by reducing activity in a part of the brain known as the amygdala[i], which is associated with excitatory impulses caused by stress and brings on anxiety[ii].

    For reference, the prescription benzodiazepine medications (such as Xanax or Valium) work via a similar mechanism to introduce relaxation and sleep, but Valerian root is a much safer alternative and often used a therapy for patients in benzodiazepine withdrawal[iii].

    L-tryptophan

    L-tryptophan is an amino acid found in protein rich foods, but which possesses beneficial effects by promoting sleep. Found naturally in foods such as turkey, this amino acid is believed to be responsible for the drowsiness that in’s use after the classic American Thanksgiving feast.

    It makes sense to, as tryptophan is seen as the raw material for production of the very important 5-HTP molecule[iv], subsequently used in the synthesis of serotonin[v] and melatonin.

    Serotonin is most often associated with promoting a positive mood, when melatonin is known as one of the body’s natural sleep hormones.

    One of the most important functions of melatonin is in regulation of the body’s sleep-wake cycle otherwise known as its circadian rhythm. This is why it is believed that sleeping and waking a consistent time daily foster good sleep patterns, as melatonin can more easily contribute to ensuring restful sleep.

    Not to forget that serotonin itself affects many brain processes, including mitigating symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, each of which may impair sleep on their own.

    Magnesium

    Turns out that magnesium is much more important than for maintaining bone health, as it also plays an extremely important role in regulating sleep. Being magnesium deficient even interferes with sleep, as studies in mice have indicated insomnia and overall poor sleeping patterns in rodents deficient in the mineral[vi].

    More directly, magnesium helps to promote restful sleep as it is believed to have a regulator effect on melatonin[vii], a hormone that promotes restful sleep. In addition to this, ensuring you consume sufficient magnesium on a day-to-day basis is associated with a lower incidence of anxiety[viii], depression and cognitive inhibition, talk to be as a result of how it binds to GABA receptors to impair the effect of stimulating molecules.

    Whereas the sympathetic nervous system gets your body up and going, the parasympathetic nervous system – believed to be stimulated by magnesium, promotes calmness and relaxation.

    Hops

    Did you know that hops are commonly used in beer and is what is responsible for the bitter flavour? However, long before hops were made into everyone’s favourite alcoholic beverage, it was used to help promote sleep.

    While there aren’t many studies available to definitively pinpoint all of hops actions on sleep, one of the most important ones was published by Acta physiologica Hungarica in 2012[ix], and highlighted the fact that it sedative actions was as a result of its ability to increase the activity of GABA in the brain, inhibiting the nervous system and promoting sleep.

    It is commonly found in supplements at a combined with Valerian root which is believed to have a synergistic action on it sleep and anxiety relieving properties[x].

    Lavender

    An aroma that is immediately associated with relaxation and inner bliss, Lavender holds true when it comes to its sleep promoting properties. One study conducted to investigate how effective lavender was indicated that even inhalation of aromatic components of lavender[xi] improved deep sleep (which is when muscle growth actively occurs), and reduced the frequency of awakenings during the night.

    And yes, even though overall sample size and quality of the studies were not top-notch, there is indelible evidence that it promotes relaxation since its constituents are believed to inhibit stimulate you neurotransmitters in the brain.

    Consumed, in the form of tea, lavender is believed to have a synergistic effect when combined with other anxiety reducing and sleep promoting herbs such as Valerian and chamomile.

    Rhodiola

    An adaptogenic herb, Rhodiola can positively contribute to restful sleep, especially when combined with other sleep promoting herbs.

    Have you ever taught you slept sufficient number of hours only to wake up feeling extremely fatigued? Rhodiola may be just the thing you need. Not only does it help to alleviate fatigue, but taken daily over the course of eight weeks, a study disclosed improvement in overall stress symptoms, as well as overall fatigue and feelings of in adequate sleep quality (otherwise known as burnout[xii]).

    We recommend giving Rhodiola a shot in conjunction with other popular adaptogen herbs such as ginseng and Ashwagandha Root for synergistic effect on stress reduction, leading to restful sleep.

    In Summary

    We always advocate fortifying your nutritional base above all else, which would mean priming your bed by ensuring that you consume sufficient magnesium. Adding a supplement that delivers L-tryptophan is a worthwhile investment as well, and subsequently going with herbs such as Valerian if such measures prove insufficient.

    Adaptogen herbs such as Rhodiola are always welcome in this stressful world we live in, and as you just read, even the simple act of spritzing a bit of lavender essential oil around your room at night can yield big dividends on your sleep bottom line.

    One thing is abundantly clear – when it comes to sleep, keep things as natural as possible. Do not rely on pharmaceuticals unless you have tried multiple natural remedies and are in desperate need of sleep.

     

    [i] Jung HY, Yoo DY, Nam SM, Kim JW, Choi JH, Yoo M, Lee S, Yoon YS, Hwang IK. Valerenic Acid Protects Against Physical and Psychological Stress by Reducing theTurnover of Serotonin and Norepinephrine in Mouse Hippocampus-Amygdala Region. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1333-9. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2014.3412. Epub 2015 Jul 15.PubMed PMID: 26177123; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4685497

    [ii] Benke D, Barberis A, Kopp S, Altmann KH, Schubiger M, Vogt KE, Rudolph U,Möhler H. GABA A receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action ofvalerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts. Neuropharmacology.2009 Jan;56(1):174-81. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.013. Epub 2008 Jun 17.

    PubMed PMID: 18602406.

    [iii] Poyares DR, Guilleminault C, Ohayon MM, Tufik S. Can valerian improve thesleep of insomniacs after benzodiazepine withdrawal? Prog NeuropsychopharmacolBiol Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;26(3):539-45. PubMed PMID: 11999905.

    [iv] Zagajewski J, Drozdowicz D, Brzozowska I, Hubalewska-Mazgaj M, Stelmaszynska T, Laidler PM, Brzozowski T. Conversion L-tryptophan to melatonin in thegastrointestinal tract: the new high performance liquid chromatography method enabling simultaneous determination of six metabolites of L-tryptophan by native

    fluorescence and UV-VIS detection. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012 Dec;63(6):613-21.PubMed PMID: 23388477.

    [v] Birdsall TC. 5-Hydroxytryptophan: a clinically-effective serotonin precursor. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Aug;3(4):271-80. Review. PubMed PMID: 9727088

    [vi] Depoortere H, Françon D, Llopis J. Effects of a magnesium-deficient diet on sleep organization in rats. Neuropsychobiology. 1993;27(4):237-45. PubMed PMID:8232845.

    [vii] Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9. PubMed PMID: 23853635; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3703169

    [viii] Boyle NB, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. Magnes Res. 2016 Mar 1;29(3):120-125. Review. PubMed PMID: 27869100.

    [ix] Franco L, Sánchez C, Bravo R, Rodriguez A, Barriga C, Juánez JC. The sedative

    effects of hops (Humulus lupulus), a component of beer, on the activity/rest

    rhythm. Acta Physiol Hung. 2012 Jun;99(2):133-9. doi:

    10.1556/APhysiol.99.2012.2.6. PubMed PMID: 22849837.

    [x] Franco L, Sánchez C, Bravo R, et al. The sedative effect of non-alcoholic beer in healthy female nurses. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e37290. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037290

    [xi] Chien LW, Cheng SL, Liu CF. The effect of lavender aromatherapy on autonomic

    nervous system in midlife women with insomnia. Evid Based Complement Alternat

    Med. 2012;2012:740813. doi: 10.1155/2012/740813. Epub 2011 Aug 18. PubMed PMID:

    21869900; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3159017

    [xii] Kasper S, Dienel A. Multicenter, open-label, exploratory clinical trial with Rhodiola rosea extract in patients suffering from burnout symptoms. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017;13:889–898. Published 2017 Mar 22. doi:10.2147/NDT.S120113

  • Cold, Flu & Immunity: Safeguard Yourself Against Downtime in the Gym

    Has the dreaded cold and flu season reared its ugly head again this year? While typically restricted to colder (or wetter) parts of the year, it almost seems like you can pick up a cold or flu anytime these days.

    And that’s not completely untrue. The fact of the matter is that our immune system is constantly being battered by a host of microbial pathogens, in addition to fighting the internal battle with stress. Yes- stress is a major contributor to you falling ill often.

    For the aspiring or dedicated athlete, coming down with symptoms indicative of an illness are horrendous times. Sure, dealing with the sniffling, sneezing, coughing and a general sense of malaise is tough, but you will probably need to miss a few gym sessions in the process!!

    If you are silently screaming in your mind, good news is at hand. By fortifying your immune system with well-times nutritional support, you reduce the likelihood of experiencing dreaded downtime. It is a safe bet waging your immune system on the following:

    Vitamin C

    The quintessential cold and flu vitamin, the importance of Vit C cannot be overstated when cold and flu season rolls around. To be quite clear, vitamin C is not a wonder drug. It will not prevent you from becoming sick.

    BUT, it does definitely contribute to the rapid recovery from illness, shortening the duration or severity of the cold or flu. This is why it has remained a mainstay in managing illness for decades[i].

    Vitamin C has been found to help assist with recovery based on the fact that during illness, stores of this vitamin are rapidly depleted, which coupled with the fact that vitamin C is rapidly removed from the body by virtue of it being water-soluble, and you can see the importance of 28restoring what the body uses.

    The exact amount necessary varies widely from one authoritative source to another, with values on the lower side at 1-2 g daily being quoted, and on the other end of the spectrum being 18 g daily. The good news, however, is the fact that symptoms of overdosage are extremely rare, so you don’t have much to fear by consuming a fairly large dose.

    Consuming vitamin C daily is even more important in bodybuilders and strength athletes who subject their muscles to immense stressors and rapidly use this vitamin for buffering oxidation.

    Zinc

    A trace mineral that is extremely important to our overall health, being involved in a number of biochemical reactions. But apart from its importance is male sexual wellbeing and normal growth, we are particularly interested in what it brings to the table for your immune system.

    Similar to vitamin C, while it is necessary to be consumed daily, it does not do an exceptional job of preventing infections. It, however, helps accelerate recovery and reduce symptoms experienced during a transient illness.

    Not only this, but it is heavily concentrated in helper T cells of the immune system, and can help limit the extent of inflammation that occurs following an infection as the immune cells unleash their onslaught against invaders. Think of it as helping to minimize “friendly fire”.

    Men do best with 25 mg of zinc daily, which is well above the RDI (we are talking about athletes, after all) since zinc is lost in sweat and ejaculate fluid. Try to avoid going over 50 mg daily, since at this level gastric side effects become quite pronounced without much additional benefit.

    The exception to this rule would probably be during active illness, when the use of zinc infused lozenges could help reduce duration of illness by up to 48%, according to findings published in The Journal of family practice in 2011[ii].

    White Willow Bark

    How often do you turn to good old aspirin stashed in your medicine cabinet? Not too often we hope, as frequent use can have negative effects on your health, but how about opting for a safer alternative when grappling with flu symptoms?

    Known as nature’s aspirin, white willow extract (represented as Salix Alba on many product labels) was the go-to source of salicin; one of the primary active constituents in aspirin, long before commercial preparation were available.

    In moderation, it is extremely safe and effective, helping to reduce fever and generalized pain[iii] associated with flu. It is also believed to exert a greater margin of safety when compared to aspirin, but that is potentially because a lower dose is usually consumed.

    Nevertheless, any supplement product that contains this ingredient will offer great support when dealing with a cold or flu.

    Quercetin

    One of the most abundant naturally occurring flavonoid antioxidants, quercetin is very useful in modulating immune function and the usual immune response. What this means is that in addition to reducing the impact of oxidative damage, it also demonstrates anti-histamine like properties which can be useful in dealing with allergies or airway inflammation.

    It is, however, not absorbed very well on its own, making it necessary to combine with other compounds such as vitamin C to boost its utility. A Dosage of 500 to 1000 mg daily is generally accepted as safe.

    Echinacea

    Echinacea is probably the closest thing to a vaccine pill that exists, as it possesses profound benefits for your immune system. A study published in the Journal of medicinal food in 2008 found that multiple species of the Echinacea plant enhanced immune function; both natural and that acquired via adaptation[iv], improving your resistance to common bacterial and viral pathogens.

    Echinacea is also one of the few supplements that you can take which actually reduces the likelihood of you developing a cold or flu in the first place; by a whopping 50% as a matter of fact. This and the improved recovery from illness makes for the perfect one-two punch.

    The exact amount of Echinacea you need to consume daily isn’t set in stone, but based on anecdotal reports the vicinity of 500 mg taken three times daily appears to confer good immune support.

    In Summary

    There are other supplements that you can use to bolster your immune system as well, including those such as turmeric extract, or Manuka honey and propolis; both exceptional products of nature’s busiest worker, the bee.

    A great starting point is to ensure that you are getting enough zinc and vitamin C, as their utility cannot be overstated when it comes to immune function, and overall importance. Top it up with Echinacea and you have a potent combination that can help see cold and flu season whizz right on by without you missing a beat!

    [i] Carr, A.C.; Maggini, S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 2017, 9, 1211.

    [ii] Rao G, Rowland K. PURLs: Zinc for the common cold--not if, but when. J Fam Pract. 2011;60(11):669–671.

    [iii] Wood JN. From plant extract to molecular panacea: a commentary on Stone (1763) 'An account of the success of the bark of the willow in the cure of the agues'. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2015;370(1666):20140317. doi:10.1098/rstb.2014.0317

    [iv] Zili Zhai, Yi Liu, Lankun Wu, David S. Senchina, Eve S. Wurtele, Patricia A. Murphy, Marian L. Kohut, and Joan E. Cunnick Enhancement of Innate and Adaptive Immune Functions by Multiple Echinacea Species.Journal of Medicinal Food.Sep 2007.ahead of printhttp://doi.org/10.1089/jmf.2006.257

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