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General Health & Fitness

  • Best time to exercise

    There is really no best time to exercise. It depends largely on the individual and what do you want to achieve through exercise. I believe you should exercise whenever you can, it really doesn't matter what time you do it, as long as you do it. Unless of course you are an elite athlete who wants to achieve that extra 0.5% gain in your performance during training. Even that I don't think it really matters, as professional competition schedules are generally not based on peak performance timing but rather on broadcasting viewership and organisational convenience. There is also no concrete scientific evidence to suggest that calories are burnt more efficiently at certain times of the day. However, for those who want to exploit the subtle differences between different exercise timings in the hope of maximising benefits, please read on.

    Morning exercise:

    Pros

    • Can improve sleep at night and hence promote weight loss (see my article about weight loss and sleep).
    • Morning exercise promotes consistency. People are more likely to keep up with the exercise schedule. If you have trouble with consistency, exercise in the morning.
    • Fat burning if exercising on an empty stomach.
    • Can boost energy and mental alertness for the rest of the day hence creating better mood and moral compares to that of people exercise in late afternoon.

    Cons

    • More prone to injuries due to slow metabolism and cold muscles. Need to stretch properly before strenuous exercise.
    • A lack of energy hence a reduction in performance/endurance if exercised on an empty stomach.

    Noon/early afternoon exercise

    Pros

    • Body is warmer than in the morning, body temperature is better regulated in the afternoon.
    • Better energy and endurance compares to morning.
    • Increased blood flow to the brain, which could be beneficial to afternoon duties.

    Cons

    • Unlikely to have enough time to exercise and eat.

    Late afternoon and evening exercise

    Pros

    • Highest body temperature (metabolism) at around 6pm.
    • Less likely to have injuries compares to doing exercise in the morning.
    • Highest muscular strength of the day.
    • Highest anaerobic and aerobic performance levels.

    Cons

    • Late night exercise may affect sleep as metabolism is stimulated during a time the body is trying to slow it down.

    While subtle differences have been detected between different timings of exercise in controlled scientific studies, the effects of these differences may not be measurable in the real world. The above pros and cons listed correlate with an average person's circadian rhythm. Everyone's different. Therefore, the best time for a workout should be the time that allows you to exercise regularly in accordance with your schedules and makes you feel the best.

  • It Takes More Than Muscle to Lift Heavy

    Neural adaptations can be responsible for different strength gains, despite similar muscle mass from person to person. Building muscle can be different from case to case. Now, there is scientific data to support this theory. Brain cells can be responsible for this as there could be more electrical signals sent to the muscle with higher repetitions and lower weight compared to lower repetitions with higher weight.

    Neural adaptations study and findings

    A 2017 study[i] made by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln build on empirical data and showed how neural adaptations can be responsible for different strength gains. These gains can be similar, regardless of the weights, but with different repetitions.

    Researchers took 26 men and chose leg extensions as the base exercise for the study. Two groups were formed. The first group used a load of 80% of the maximum weight they could lift. The second group used 30% of their maximum handled weight. While the first group did fewer repetitions, the second group performed the exercises with higher repetitions, due to the lower weights. After three workouts each week for a total of six weeks, researchers concluded that the heavy-load group improved voluntary activation by 0.15% while the light-load group improved voluntary activation by 2.35 percent. So what caused these results?

    In simple terms, muscles are activated by the brain through electrical signals. These signals are triggered by the neuron motor cortex. This then leads to muscle excitation which is responsible for contractions. These signals could be activated to a larger degree for those performing a higher number of repetitions. It is why the study found better strength gains for this group. Researchers concluded that training with higher frequency repetitions leads to better strength adaptations. This is constant for amateurs, average lifters or athletes.

    Of course, the research has vast interpretations and it could be a great base for further investigation. One of the areas which are critical to assess comes with fatigue. Researchers believe that simply lifting lower weights every day is more practical on the long-term. This is due to possible delayed muscle fatigue.

    The study can also be the ground for new research when it comes to joint impact and the training of the elderly. But even if the results are similar with different loads, the researchers do not exclude the possibility of training with heavy loads based on a low number of repetitions. For those who have busy lifestyles, this method of training remains a good option. People with busy lifestyles can also consume an amino acid supplement, as 9 out of 20 amino acids cannot be produced by the human body and they need to come from foods.

    Neural adaptations are responsible for strength development in both low and high-intensity training and it goes to show that muscles are largely impacted by the brain and its electric signals. The research can be applied in different ways. For some people, it means that higher frequency with low weights can mean building muscle with reduced fatigue. But the traditional heavy loads with fewer repetitions should not be excluded. It is yet to be seen how these two types of training methods can be combined for more complex workouts.

    [i] N.M.D. Jenkins, A. Miramonti, E.C. Hill et al. (2017), Greater Neural Adaptations following High- vs. Low-Load Resistance Training, Frontiers of Physiology Journal.  Available at:

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00331/full

  • Vitamin A & Exercise: 3 Ways More Vitamin A Can Boost Results

    You know the term 'vitamins' because it's used everywhere: in fitness magazines, on your moisturizer, and, of course, on nutrition labels. Did you know that there are two types of vitamins? Water soluble vitamins, which you'll commonly find in mega doses such as Vitamin C during the cold season. There are also fat soluble vitamins, which, as the name suggests, rely on dietary and body fat to be transported and stored. If you are a very active person, you may be burning through more fat than you realize. This sets up a possibility of becoming deficient in fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A. Let's take a look at the top 3 reasons you should consider a Vitamin A supplement to support your fitness goals.

     

    1. Supports Bone Health

    Although Vitamin D and Calcium get all of the attention when it comes to your bones, not many people realize that Vitamin A also plays an important role in your bone health. Why does bone health matter during exercise? Weak bones are more prone to breaks. As you age, this can become extremely problematic as broken bones may never fully recover. You can support your bone health by engaging in weight bearing exercise and supplementing with Vitamin A. Weight bearing exercises help to increase bone mineral density while Vitamin A protects and supports overall bone health. (1)

     

    1. Alleviates Post-Workout Inflammation

    If you've ever exercised before, then you're familiar with the post-workout inflammation and soreness that follows you into the next day. This soreness is a form of inflammation caused by harmless microtears in the muscle tissue. From here, the muscle tissue will heal and recover stronger than before. Soreness doesn't need to pester you every time you work out. By supplementing with Vitamin A, you may be able to reduce post-workout inflammation, allowing you to jump back into the gym sooner without the trouble of soreness. (2)

     

    1. Boosts Immunity & Recovery

    Your immune system is always busy, protecting you and your body from harmful invaders. It also has to deal with the daily stresses of life. Over time, your immune system may weaken to the point where bacteria or viruses are able to sneak in and set up shop. No one likes being sick, especially when it keeps you from working out. Supplementing with Vitamin A may help to improve your body's immune response. This will keep you in tip top shape, allowing you to recovery efficiently and stay true to your gym schedule. (3)

     

    Conclusion

    There are plenty of vitamins and minerals that get attention when it comes to boosting your fitness life. Surprisingly, you don't hear much about Vitamin A. Studies show that supplementing safely with Vitamin A may help to boost your fitness experience. You may be able to avoid soreness, recover faster, support your bone health, and improve your health overall.

     

    Looking for a high-quality Vitamin A supplement? Check out all of your options with the complete Amino Z Vitamin A supplement collection.

     

    References

    1. "Vitamin A and Bone Health." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.
    1. L. M. O. Caram, R. A. F. Amaral, R. Ferrari, et al., 'Serum Vitamin A and Inflammatory Markers in Individuals with and without Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,' Mediators of Inflammation, vol. 2015, Article ID 862086, 6 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/862086

    3. J. Rodrigo Mora, Makoto Iwata, and Ulrich H. von Andrian. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008 Sep; 8(9): 685–698.

  • Creatine use, safe or not?

    Many of my articles intended to debunk common myths surrounding the perceived effectiveness of certain supplements in the world of fitness. On the other hand, although sometimes the effects can be inconsistent, creatine generally works, there's no question about that and with the currently available scientific data to back this up, I am in no position to criticize its efficacy. However, the increase in strength and energy comes at a cost, kidney damage, liver problems, muscle camping, diarrhea, impaired thermoregulation and death just for starters. Or is it really?

    The well-publicized side effects of creatine are generally hypothesised theories based on how the supplement works inside the body under extreme doses. Creatine is an organic acid that is synthesized by the kidney, pancreas and liver to help to supply energy to the body by increasing the formation of ATP. Theoretically, creatine uptake in muscle can result in an increase in fluid retention hence may affect the body's fluid balance and ability to dissipate heat. On the other hand, the body needs to get rid of and compensate for the extra creatine consumed, which puts extra strain on the kidneys and liver. The association between creatine use and liver and kidney damage was thus made based on a few case reports and small changes in organ function indicators.

    The theorized side effects have their scientific merits. However, if used properly, hardly any of the proposed side effects of creatine have been confirmed in well-controlled, randomized studies conducted on healthy subjects. Of course, you should not use creatine if you have an underlining health condition, especially kidney or liver problems, and you should not overdose, which may result in unwanted side effects. But if you are perfectly healthy, not allergic to any of the contents in the supplement that you ingest, and follow the proper guideline of oral creatine supplementation, it is very safe.

    How much creatine should I use then? One should always strive to achieve the best results with the lowest dose possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, a typical loading dose could be anywhere around 9-25 grams daily (depends on body weight) with good fluid intake for 4-7 days and a typical maintenance dose would be 2-20 grams daily for 5 days up to 12 weeks depends on body weight. This is just a general guideline and you should always tailor your regime based on your own circumstances. But remember, the effect of creatine can be inconsistent between different people and if you feel that the creatine you are taking does not give the expected result, it may not be the problem of dosage but the efficacy of the supplement itself.

    All in all creatine is safe supplement to use when taken properly.

  • Weight Gainers for Massive Gains

    Weight gainer supplements are often used to help the 'hardgainers,' those who struggle to put on weight due to their skinny size and fast metabolism, put on weight quickly. But if you aren't a hardgainer, should you consider using one?

    Weight gainers are good for those who are trying to put on some size and muscle to their current frame. Here are some things that you should know before you make the decision to use a weight gainer to help you achieve your strength and physique goals.

    Easier To Hit Calories

    In order to gain size, you need to be following the calories in vs. calories out rule. That is, you need to be eating more calories than you are expending throughout the day for a consistent period of time, and should be shooting for around 0.5 – 1lb added to the scale each week.

    However, when bulking, it can be very hard to consume all of these calories if you do not have a big appetite. And this is where weight gainer supplements shine.

    Men are usually the population that have the goals of adding large amounts of muscle and size on to their frame, and they have higher calorie demands due to physiological differences. Because of this, you often will see caloric needs that go up to even 3,500 calories needed per day in order to put on some size. Studies have shown that even male athletes in college use weight gainers to help them improve their sport performance1.

    Weight gainers become readily available, and pack on up to a thousand calories per shake. This makes this high amount of calories much easier to consume, rather than trying to ingest it all through solid foods. Weight gainers will give you a quick boost in reaching your high calorie demands, and will help you reach your goals easier.

    Specific Types Available For Fuel Post-Workout

    One of the hottest debates in the fitness industry is the topic of post-workout nutrition. Among these debates is the idea of refilling glycogen stores in the body after intense training bouts, as these are depleted during the training session. Refilling these with fuel allows your body to have the energy it needs to create an anabolic state to help your muscles recover and grow, priming you for improved performance in the next training session.

    Because of this, there are types of post-workout weight gainer shakes available. To find these, look for those that have a high amount of protein and carbohydrate content, while also having as little fat as possible in each serving. This ensures that you are sending enough protein to the muscles to start protein synthesis, while also sending enough carbohydrates into the muscle to refill glycogen stores, providing you with enough energy to properly recover. The rate of glycogen storage can be increased with both protein and carbohydrates in your supplement, since they work together, which primes your body to be in the anabolic state it needs for maximum muscle growth2.

    Bring In The Creatine!

    Creatine is the most intensively researched supplement on the market today, and the results show that creatine has many positive effects on strength, power, and overall performance. Creatine has been proven to improve power output and overall strength3. This makes creatine the perfect addition to an already impactful weight gainer, as the creatine works beautifully alongside fast-acting protein and carbohydrates.

    As a side bonus, you will no longer have to worry about buying creatine as a separate supplement anymore!

    Conclusion

    If you struggle to put on weight, or are searching for that edge you need to put on massive amounts of strength and size, then weight gainers are the answer you have been searching for. With their high calorie content, good nutritional value, and addition of other beneficial factors such as creatine, it's hard to ignore the impact these supplements can have on your fitness and sports performance goals!

    1. Froiland, K., Koszewski, W., Hingst, J., & Kopecky, L. (2004). Nutritional Supplement Use Among College Athletes and Their Sources of Information. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 104-120.
    2. Ivy, J. L. (n.d.). Glycogen Resynthesis After Exercise: Effect of Carbohydrate Intake. International Journal of Sports Medicine.
    3. Earnest, C. P., Snell, P. G., Rodriguez, R., Almada, A. L., & Mitchell, T. L. (n.d.). The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica.
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