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Supplements

  • Dextrose VS. Maltodextrin: The Ultimate Guide

    When it comes to maximizing the results of your training, optimising your recovery through nutrition is one of the most important factors. And one of the most effective ways to do this is through a carbohydrate powder.

    Now, two of the most popular carb powders on the market are dextrose and maltodextrin.

    But how do they work? And more importantly, is one better than the other?

    Dextrose and Maltodextrin

    As I have already alluded to, both dextrose and maltodextrin are carbohydrate powders -- but that does not mean they are exactly the same.

    Dextrose is the most commonly occurring natural form of glucose on the planet. It is made during photosynthesis by plants, which provides them with an immediate source of energy that they can use to perform their many physiological functions.

    As a supplement, dextrose is a “monosaccharide” (meaning it is made up of a single sugar molecule). Because of this it is what many would consider a “simple sugar”, in which it is very easily digested by humans.

    On the other hand, we have maltodextrin.

    While maltodextrin is still a type of carbohydrate powder, it is what is known as a “polysaccharide”. This means that it is made up of multiple glucose molecules stuck together, rather than just a single sugar molecule like dextrose.

    Dextrose VS Maltodextrin: Nutritional Information

    It should come as no surprise that both dextrose and maltodextrin powders are relatively high in carbohydrates -- I mean, that is literally what they are made from.

    But they do have one primary point of difference.

    Using the Amino Z dextrose powder as an example, it contains a whopping 27.3 grams of carbohydrates per 30 gram serving, all of which are derived from the simple sugar glucose. As a result, it contains no complex carbs, no fat, and no protein.

    On the other hand, while the Amino Z maltodextrin powder also contains 27.3 grams of carbohydrates per 30 gram serving, all of it is derived from complex carbohydrates. This means it contains no simple sugars, no fat, and no protein.

    Dextrose VS Maltodextrin: Absorption

    After consuming a complex carbohydrate like maltodextrin, they need to be broken down in your digestive tract into individual glucose molecules. These glucose molecules then need to pass through the wall of your intestine through specific glucose transporters, before entering your bloodstream.

    This same process of absorption still needs to occur to dextrose, but it does not need to be broken down because it is already as small as it can get.

    The key difference in carbohydrate types between dextrose and maltodextrin would make you think that both supplements have different absorption rates -- but this does not appear to be the case.

    Or at least, not in a big way.

    See, there are only so many Glucose Transporters found on the wall of your intestines. As a result, there is actually a ceiling on how fast they can transport glucose molecules into your bloodstream -- which sits at around 60 grams per hour.

    Because of this bottleneck (so to speak), both dextrose and maltodextrin are absorbed at the maximum rate of 60 grams per hour -- even when maltodextrin needs to be broken down into individual glucose molecules first.

    Dextrose, Maltodextrin, and their Associated Benefits

    With all this in mind, you might be wondering whether they offer any unique benefits from one another, and I would argue they both offer the same benefits -- especially when it comes to optimising recovery and muscle growth.

    Because both dextrose and maltodextrin are absorbed so rapidly, they both result in a rapid rise in blood sugar immediately after consumption. This increase in blood sugar causes a subsequent increase in the secretion of the hormone “insulin”.

    Now this is important.

    See, insulin is known as the energy storage hormone because it helps transport glucose and protein molecules from your blood and into your muscle tissue. This can increase the availability of these nutrients, enhancing muscle growth.

    In fact, research has shown that, via this mechanism, the supplementation of a carbohydrate powder like dextrose or maltodextrin after exercise can lead to vast increases in muscle protein synthesis, even if protein is not present  [1].

    Amazingly, this effect is actually magnified when they are combined with a fast absorbing protein powder [2].

    Taking all of this into consideration, it looks like both dextrose and maltodextrin cause an immediate increase in muscle protein synthesis after consumption. This can promote additional muscle growth, which is pretty important.

    Moreover, this increase in muscle protein synthesis can also expedite the recovery process after training. This could enhance the quality of your next training session, leading to further improvements in muscle strength and size over the course of a training block.

    Dextrose VS Maltodextrin: Taste

    As far as their effects on the body go, there is no real difference between dextrose and maltodextrin. In fact, it is likely that their impact on recovery and muscle growth are actually exactly the same.

    However, there is one area where they do differ slightly -- yep, taste.

    Because dextrose is a monosaccharide, it is much sweeter than maltodextrin. In fact, I have heard some people go as far as to suggest that it is even sweeter than sugar.

    While maltodextrin is certainly sweet, it is quite subtle compared to dextrose.

    This means that if you want to obtain the benefits of one of these potent carbohydrate powders and don't have a real sweet tooth, then maltodextrin could be a great option. And if you love sweets, then dextrose is a no brainer.

    Dextrose VS Maltodextrin: Mixability

    Like taste, there is a little difference between the mixability of the two.

    Because dextrose is a single sugar molecule, it is absorbed very easily into liquid. This means that it has very little chance of clumping together, and ultimately ensures a smooth shake every single time.

    On the other hand maltodextrin can be more prone to clumping -- particularly if it is mixed in something other than water (i.e. milk).

    While this is unlikely to have a huge impact on your choice, it could make a difference if you absolutely hate having clumps of powder in your post-workout shakes.

    Dextrose and Maltodextrin: When and How Much?

    If you are looking to maximise the benefits of dextrose or maltodextrin, then you could use it in a couple different ways.

    You could have a small portion (~30g) of either carb powder with protein about 60 minutes before your workout. This would ensure that you have adequate glucose available to fuel your training session, while also providing your body with a steady stream of protein during your workout.

    This could conceivably improve both performance and recovery -- which is integral for muscle growth.

    You could also have a moderate portion (30-60g) within an hour after finishing your training session. This would maximize muscle protein synthesis and cause a meaningful contribution to muscle growth. As alluded to above, combining this with a fast absorbing protein powder would increase this effect significantly.

    And if you wanted to be certain that you are optimizing the results of your training, you could do both.

    Summary

    Dextrose and maltodextrin are two of the most common carbohydrate supplements on the market -- and for very good reason too.

    They are both absorbed incredibly fast, both cause a substantial increase in muscle protein synthesis, and can both promote increases in recovery and muscle growth. In fact, their only real difference relates to taste, where dextrose is much sweeter in flavour.

    So, if you want to choose one, simply go with your flavour preference and reap the rewards.

     

    References

    1. Roy, B. D., et al. "Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training." Journal of applied physiology (1997).
    2. Tang, Jason E., et al. "Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men." Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 32.6 (2007): 1132-1138.
  • The Most Scientifically Supported Supplements for Muscle Growth

    Most of you going to the gym do so for one primary reason -- to build a lean and muscular physique. And the most important part of this comes down to being able to first build a decent amount of muscle.

    Obviously you cannot look muscular if you don't have much muscle tissue. But more than that, having more muscle tissue increases the surface area that your body fat has to cover, making you look more defined.

    In short, more muscle means a better physique -- under all circumstances.

    But, as you probably know, this can be easier said than done.

    Anyone who has been in the gym for more than 12 months will tell you that their first year of training was exceptional. All they had to do was touch a barbell and they seemed to pack on muscle.

    And then things started to slow down.

    The newbie gains ran out, and this whole “muscle building” thing became a lot more difficult. Training needs to become more precise, and you might want to take some supplements to give you that extra boost.

    Enter the most scientifically supported supplements for muscle growth:

    1.   Protein Powder

    When you eat protein, it is broken down in your digestive system into “amino acids” which are then absorbed into your body.

    This is integral.

    Amino acids are referred to as the building blocks of the human body because they are used to create every single one of your physical cells -- including those that make up your muscle tissue.

    Now, every time you lift weights, you place your body under mechanical stress. This stress tells your body to adapt so it can better handle that stress in the future. Over time, this causes your muscle tissue to grow bigger and stronger.

    But if you are not consuming enough protein. then this growth cannot occur -- leaving gains on the table With this in mind, protein powders offer the perfect way to increase your daily protein intake and contribute in a meaningful way to muscle growth.

    In fact, there is a large body of research demonstrating that undertaking a training program with the addition of a protein supplement will lead to much greater increases in muscle size than performing that same program without protein supplement [1].

    An important thing to note here is that because protein powders increase muscle growth by increasing your daily protein intake, they type is less important than you think -- so whether you want to go with whey, casein, pea, or soy, the choice is yours.

    Just make sure you get it in.

    2.   Creatine

    Creatine is a compound that is made in your body and stored in your muscle tissue, where it is then broken down and used for energy during intense or explosive exercise (like lifting weights, for example…).

    Taking a creatine supplement ultimately increases the amount of creatine stored in your muscle tissue. This extra creatine provides an extra ‘reserve’ of energy that you can draw on your during exercise.

    As a result, supplementing with creatine can improve your gym performance in a couple of different ways.

    Firstly, it can cause an immediate increase in strength, meaning you can load a little bit extra on the bar. Secondly, it can improve your weight training performance at lower loads by increasing the number of repetitions you can do per set.

    For example, without creatine you might be able to bench press 80kg for 8 repetitions. But with creatine, you might be able to bench press the same weight for 10 repetitions, or even 85kg for 8 repetitions.

    Both increase the amount of total volume you perform each training session, which can lead to greater improvements in muscle size and strength over the total duration of a training program [2].

    It is honestly one of the most effective muscle boosters on the planet.

    3.   Beta-Alanine

    Beta-alanine is another compound that is found in your muscle tissue. Functionally, it combines with another specific compound called “histidine” to form something called “carnosine”.

    So, how is this relevant to you?

    Well, carnosine actually reduces the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscle tissue during exercise, which staves off fatigue. This has obvious implications for your ability to perform strenuous exercise.

    Under normal circumstances, the amount of beta-alanine stored in your muscle is much smaller than the amount of histidine. This impairs your ability to make carnosine, limiting your capacity to buffer lactic acid.

    As such, supplementing with beta-alanine increases your body's carnosine production, improving your fatigue resistance during exercise.

    Much like creatine, this means beta-alanine supplements increase the number of reps you can perform at moderate loads [3]. Over the duration of a training session, this increases training volem, which can again promote long-term improvements in muscle growth [4].

    Importantly, beta-alanine works via a completely different mechanism than creatine, making them the perfect compliment to one another.

    4.   Carbohydrate Powders

    Next up we have carb powders -- which most commonly come in the form of dextrose or maltodextrin.

    These types of carb powders are made from simple sugar molecules that are very easily digested. As a result, their consumption causes a rapid increase in blood sugar, which in turn, causes a rapid increase in insulin secretion.

    Insulin is the hormone that is almost entirely responsible for shuttling glucose and protein molecules into your muscle cells. And because these compounds are used to repair and grow muscle tissue, this can have a profound impact on muscle growth.

    In fact, simply consuming a simple carbohydrate powder after training has been shown to cause a notable increase in muscle protein synthesis (the process of building new muscle tissue) even without protein [5].

    And when it is combined with a fast digesting protein like whey, this effect is magnified significantly [6].

    With this in mind, carb powders are not actually used to create new muscle tissue. But because they facilitate the movement of protein into your muscle cells after exercise, they can increase muscle protein synthesis and enhance muscle growth.

    This makes them a great post workout option to go with a high quality protein powder.

    5.   Caffeine

    Last, but certainly not least, we have caffeine.

    Caffeine is a compound found in plants that acts as a stimulant.

    After consumption, it quickly enters your gut and digestive tract, before being rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. From here, it is transported to your liver, before making its way to your brain.

    Once in your brain, caffeine interacts with a number of different receptors, which leads to reduced sensations of fatigue and tiredness, combined with increases in mental acuity, alertness, and focus.

    And these effects carry over to the gym.

    A recent review evaluated the findings of 21 meta-analyses (a study that combines the results of multiple studies) and came to the conclusion that the supplementation of caffeine can cause significant improvements in strength, endurance, and power [7].

    Like creatine and beta-alanine, this improved performance in the gym can create a large increase in training volume -- which further contributes to muscle growth.

    So, if you are after a scientifically supported supplement to take immediately before you train, look no further than caffeine.

    Summary

    Maximising muscle growth requires you to have both your training and nutrition on point. And even then, it can be a real challenge. Which is why taking a couple of scientifically backed supplements can provide you with a boost and make the process a little easier.

     

    References

    1. Morton, Robert W., et al. "A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults." British journal of sports medicine 52.6 (2018): 376-384.
    2. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):33. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
    3. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 43(1), 25-37.
    4. Kern, B. D., & Robinson, T. L. (2011). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.
    5. Roy, B. D., et al. "Effect of glucose supplement timing on protein metabolism after resistance training." Journal of applied physiology (1997).
    6. Tang, Jason E., et al. "Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men." Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 32.6 (2007): 1132-1138.
    7. Grgic, Jozo, et al. "Wake up and smell the coffee: caffeine supplementation and exercise performance—an umbrella review of 21 published meta-analyses." British journal of sports medicine 54.11 (2020): 681-688.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Caffeine

    Caffeine is without a doubt the most widely used psychoactive compound on the planet.

    Billions of people use caffeine every day to wake themselves up in the morning, boost their mental acuity in the afternoon, or increase their exercise performance before training and competitions.

    But are those the only benefits of caffeine? And does it have any side effects?

    What is Caffeine?

    In short, caffeine is a compound found in plants that acts as a stimulant.

    With this in mind, most people obtain caffeine on a daily basis in coffee or tea. The two plants that produce coffee beans are “Coffea arabica” and “Coffea canephora”, while “Camellia sinensis” is the plant that produces tea leaves.

    As many of you would be aware, caffeine can also be found in supplement form, where it is consumed as a powder.

    How Does Caffeine Work?

    Most of us know that caffeine has some impact on mental wellbeing and cognitive performance -- but what many don't know is how it works.

    After you consume caffeine (whether it be in tea, coffee, or supplement form), it quickly enters your gut and digestive tract, before being rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. From here, it is transported to your liver, before moving throughout your body in several different forms.

    After passing through the liver, caffeine can have an effect on a number of your organs -- but where it has the biggest impact is in your brain.

    Caffeine moves into the brain and starts attaching itself to certain receptors called “adenosine receptors”.

    Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that essentially acts to relax the brain, making you feel tired. Under normal circumstances, your adenosine levels slowly accumulate throughout the day, making you feel tired, thus facilitating your transition into sleep.

    However, when caffeine blocks these receptors, it stops adenosine from affecting your brain, increasing sensations of alertness.

    Moreover, once in the brain, caffeine also increases the levels of three key compounds that act in your brain and body, being adrenaline, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This further stimulates your brain, leading to increases in mental acuity, alertness, and focus.

    I should also note that these effects occur rapidly after consumption.

    In fact, caffeine will be in your bloodstream within about 20 minutes, and acting on the brain in full force within 60 -- which explains why your morning coffee is so good, so quickly.

    Caffeine Benefits

    We know that caffeine acts on the brain in a very potent manner -- and as a result, it can exert a number of different effects on your body.

    1.   Increased Mental Function

    It is well established that doses of caffeine as low as 50mg can increase mental alertness, leading to improvements in attention, reaction time, problem solving capability, short term memory, and judgement [1].

    Interestingly, these effects appear to be more pronounced in individuals who don't regularly drink caffeine, or in people who are sleep deprived.

    All of which suggests that caffeine can make an extremely potent stimulus if you are in need of a mental boost.

    2.   Improved Exercise Performance

    In conjunction with its potent effects on cognitive performance, there is a huge body of research clearly demonstrating that caffeine can have some seriously powerful effects on physical performance too.

    A recent review dove in and evaluated the findings of a whopping 21 meta-analyses (a study that combines the results of multiple studies) on caffeine and various measures of physical performance.

    And what did they conclude?

    That caffeine can cause significant improvements in strength, endurance, and power [2].

    Now if you are training to get as big and strong as humanly possible, this is important because it means taking caffeine can increase the amount of reps you can perform, or the amount of weight you can lift -- which over time, will lead to substantial improvements in strength and size.

    So, if you want to get jacked, caffeine could play a role.

    3.   Promotes Fat Loss

    One of the more interesting effects of caffeine are related to its potential impact on fat loss -- which is why it appears in practically every over the counter fat burner on the planet.

    Because caffeine is a stimulant, it has the capacity to increase metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of energy you burn to maintain your normal physiological processes). Within this,. It also helps mobilise fat for energy.

    In doing so, it can ultimately make it easier to lose fat [3].

    Now, the caveat here is that caffeine will not do it all for you. Fat loss is the result of maintaining a sustained energy deficit over a prolonged period of time -- however, it does appear that caffeine can make creating this deficit easier.

    4.   Prevents Parkinson's Disease and Dementia

    Our last benefit sits slightly outside the realm of exercise and training, but that does not make it any less impressive.

    Two of the most common issues to plague modern society is Alzheimer's disease and dementia. These issues result in notable age-related declines in cognitive function, leading to a loss of independence, and at times, an early death.

    However, there is evidence to suggest that those individuals who drink  between 3 and 5 cups of coffee per day during their middle years will reduce their risk of Alzeimers and dementia by approximately 65% in their older years [4].

    While there could be a number of reasons for this finding, it is believed that caffeine actually suppresses the production of a certain compound called “amyloid beta” -- which is believed to increase brain inflammation and contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

    Caffeine Dosing

    Now for the big question -- how much should you take?

    Well, most government health authorities across the globe agree that a daily intake of around 400mg is completely safe -- which generally equates to between 2 and 4 cups of coffee per day (depending on the size of the cup, of course).

    However, the recommendations for exercise performance are slightly different.

    In this scenario, guidelines suggest that you should take somewhere between 3 and 9mg of caffeine per kg of body weight approximately 60 minutes before you are set to commence training [5].

    For example, an 80kg individual would take between 240 and 720mg of caffeine to optimise performance.

    Now, the thing to note here is that the upper limit of this recommendation sits higher than what many government authorities would consider safe. As a result, opting for a dosage of somewhere between 200 and 400mg is going to be safe and effective for most individuals.

    With this in mind, if you are after a pre workout supplement that contains an effective dose of caffeine, it should sit within this range.

    Side Effects

    As most of you would be aware, caffeine is very well-tolerated when taken in amounts that align with the recommended guidelines. However, taking too much can result in some rather nasty side effects, including [6]:

    • Jitteriness and restlessness
    • Feelings of anxiety and nervousness
    • Becoming dizzy and losing balance
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • The onset of muscle spasms

    While most of the side effects do only occur in higher doses, we would recommend talking to a medical professional before supplementing with anything greater than 200mg -- just to be on the safe side.

    Final Remarks

    Caffeine is one of the most effective performance boosting supplements on the planet. With the capacity to improve mental acuity, boost strength, power, and endurance, enhance fat loss, and stave off dementia, it really can do it all.

    Just make sure you stick within the recommended dosages to optimise the results.

     

    References

    1. McLellan, Tom M., John A. Caldwell, and Harris R. Lieberman. "A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance." Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 71 (2016): 294-312.
    2. Grgic, Jozo, et al. "Wake up and smell the coffee: caffeine supplementation and exercise performance—an umbrella review of 21 published meta-analyses." British journal of sports medicine 54.11 (2020): 681-688.
    3. Tabrizi, Reza, et al. "The effects of caffeine intake on weight loss: a systematic review and dos-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials." Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 59.16 (2019): 2688-2696.
    4. Eskelinen, Marjo H., and Miia Kivipelto. "Caffeine as a protective factor in dementia and Alzheimer's disease." Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 20.s1 (2010): S167-S174.
    5. Goldstein, Erica R., et al. "International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 7.1 (2010): 1-15.
    6. Durrant, Karen L. "Known and hidden sources of caffeine in drug, food, and natural products." Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (1996) 42.4 (2002): 625-637.
  • Everything You Need to Know about Different Protein Powders

    When it comes to the wonderful world of supplements, protein powder is one of the few that should be considered a staple.

    From a pure health perspective, higher protein intakes have been shown to increase satiety, enhance body composition, and improve numerous markers of health. And let us not forget that protein is the key macronutrient responsible for building muscle tissue.

    As such, if your protein intake is insufficient, you are leaving gains on the table.

    The kicker here is that actually eating enough protein on a daily basis can be a challenge, which is why protein powders are so useful. By providing a high portion of protein without a meaningful amount of fat or carbohydrates, they offer the perfect means of increasing your protein intake in a quick and effective manner.

    But obviously there are many different types of protein powder on the market -- some of which are arguably better than others.

    Different types of Protein Powder

    As protein power has become more common amongst gym goers and the general public alike, there has been a rapid increase in the types of protein powders available. This has been done with the intent to meet the needs of everyone.

    However, it can make it hard to know what is right for you.

    Which is exactly why we want to give you some insight into what we believe are the six best types of protein powders, so you can make an educated decision.

    1.   Whey Protein Isolate

    Whey protein powder is derived from dairy, and is what we would consider to be a complete protein source.

    This is because it contains each of the nine essential amino acids that cannot be made in your body (and consequently must be obtained through diet), including the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine.

    All of which means it contains all the compounds your body needs to grow new muscle tissue.

    Whey protein isolate is the most refined form of whey protein that you can get. Because of this, it contains very little carbohydrates and fat, and a lot of protein per serving. For example, the Amino Z isolate contains a whopping 90 grams of protein per 100 grams, for only 1.2 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fat.

    Within this it is also digested extremely quickly (within 30 minutes), making it a great option for your post-workout shake [1, 2].

    2.   Whey Protein Concentrate

    You can think of whey protein concentrate as a less refined version of whey protein isolate -- because that's exactly what it is.

    Whey protein concentrate is also derived from dairy, and is also a complete protein source. However, because it is less refined (it undergoes less processing than whey protein isolate), it contains slightly less protein and slightly more fat and carbohydrate per serve.

    For example, the Amino Z concentrate contains 80 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, and 7 grams of carbohydrates, per 100 grams of protein powder.

    Because it is less refined, it is also digested at a slightly slower rate than isolate, although only by 20-30 minutes, which does not really have any practical relevance.

    I should note that while whey protein concentrate does appear inferior to isolate, it does offer one main benefit that many people find appealing, in that it is cheaper. In fact, it is probably the cheapest source of protein powder on the market [2].

    3.   Casein Protein Powder

    Next up we have Casein.

    Like the two protein powders we have already discussed, casein is derived from dairy and offers a complete protein source. In this respect, its macronutrient content is very similar to whey protein concentrate (the Amino Z micellar casein contains 81.5 grams of protein, 5 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.3 grams of fat, per 100 grams of protein powder).

    Where Casein is different from whey is in its digestion times [1].

    Casein is much slower to digest, where it can take up to 5 hours to be broken down and absorbed by your digestive tract. This ensures a slow stream of protein into your bloodstream, making it the perfect option before bed.

    4.   Soy Protein Powder

    One of the main issues people have with protein powders derived from both Casein and Whey is the fact that they come from Dairy. This makes them less suitable for people who are lactose intolerant, and completely unusable for people who follow plant based diets.

    Which is right where soy protein enters the picture.

    Soy protein powder, as you might expect, is made from soy.

    More specifically, it is made from soybean flakes that have had their fatty components moved. They are then washed to remove their sugar and fibre content, before being dehydrated and turned into a powder.

    Soy protein powder is one of the few plant based protein powders that is actually considered to be a complete protein. This ensures that it provides the full array of amino acids your body needs to build muscle [3].

    Most unflavoured soy protein powders contain about 90 grams of protein, 2 grams of fats, and 1 gram of carbohydrate per 100 grams of powder. Moreover, a serving of soy protein will be digested in about 3 hours, making it a great choice pre-workout.

    5.   Rice Protein Powder

    Next up we have rice protein powder.

    This is another great plant based option that is perfect for people who have a sensitivity to dairy, or simply follow a plant based diet. Most commonly derived from brown rice, rice protein powder is becoming an increasingly popular source of protein due to its high bioavailability.

    Now, something I do want to point out is that rice protein powder is the only option on this list that is not considered to be a complete protein source, because it contains very little of the amino acid “Lysine”.

    However, it does contain all of the super important Branched Chain Amino Acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), meaning it covers all your bases from a muscle growth perspective.

    One hundred grams of average rice protein powder contains 80 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates. And like the other plant based options on this list, it is digested in around 2-3 hours [4].

    6.   Pea Protein Powder

    Last on the list we have pea protein.

    Pea protein powder is also a complete protein source, meaning it gives your body all the nutrients it needs to build muscle. It’s macronutrient breakdown is also pretty good, with the Amino Z pea protein offering up 67. Grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbs for every 100 grams.

    Obviously this is not as good as whey, but that is to be expected.

    In terms of digestibility, pea protein takes a bit longer to digest than whey (around 2-3 hours). This means rather than being slammed immediately after you workout, it should probably be taken before you start training [3].

    Summary

    Thanks to some huge advancements in food processing technology we now have a myriad of different protein powders available to us. This is particularly important for those who follow a plant based way of eating.

    While the six protein powders on this list do not cover all the types of protein powders on the market, they do provide an excellent overview of the best ones -- giving you all the information you need to find one that is right for you.

     

    References

    1. Dangin, Martial, et al. "Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects." The Journal of nutrition 132.10 (2002): 3228S-3233S.
    2. Hulmi, Juha J., Christopher M. Lockwood, and Jeffrey R. Stout. "Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein." Nutrition & metabolism 7.1 (2010): 51.
    3. Hoffman, Jay R., and Michael J. Falvo. "Protein–which is best?." Journal of sports science & medicine 3.3 (2004): 118.
    4. Jäger, Ralf, et al. "Comparison of rice and whey protein osolate digestion rate and amino acid absorption." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10.1 (2013): 1-2.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Amino Acid Supplements

    Your body's ability to function effectively requires the successful interaction between thousands upon thousands of different molecules -- and none are more important than amino acids.

    Amino acids are a specific type of compound that play a myriad of different roles in your body. As such, if you are deficient in any one of them, then your ability to function can take a hit. Or worse, your health can even start to decline.

    Beyond health, there is evidence demonstrating that supplementing with “above average” amounts of certain amino acids can offer additional benefits -- especially if for those who want to get the most out of their training.

    What are Amino Acids?

    Without going into too much unnecessary detail, amino acids are organic compounds made from nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

    They are often referred to as the building blocks of the human body, because they are used in the production of structural components, including bone, muscle, and connective tissue. They are also used to build your body's cells, as well as create enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters.

    All of which means they have a direct impact on every facet of your health of function.

    Now, it is important to note that your body needs 20 different amino acids to survive. And while I would argue that all of these are important in their own right, only nine of them are classified as essential.

    The reason these nine are considered essential is because they cannot be made within the human body, and therefore must be obtained through the food that you eat. The essential amino acids are:

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

    As you might have guessed, the remaining 11 amino acids are known as non-essential amino acids because they can be made in your body using a variety of other compounds. The non-essential amino acids are:

    • Alanine
    • Arginine
    • Asparagine
    • Aspartic acid
    • Cysteine
    • Glutamic acid
    • Glutamine
    • Glycine
    • Proline
    • Serine
    • Tyrosine

    It is also important to note that during times of stress, illness, and recovery, some of these non-essential amino acids become “conditionally essential” because they are likely to be used at a faster rate than normal.

    Those that can become conditionally essential are Arginine, Cysteine, Glutamine, Tyrosine, Glycine, Proline, and Serine.

    The Best Amino Acid Supplements

    Now, as I alluded to above, there is a base level of amino acids your body needs to survive. These are either made within your body, or in the case of essential amino acids, obtained from the food you eat.

    However, there is evidence to suggest that supplementing with certain amino acids above this base level comes with additional benefits -- which is what we are going to talk about here.

    1.   D-Aspartic Acid

    D-Aspartic Acid (or DAA for short) is a variation of the amino acid “Aspartic Acid” that is found in small amounts throughout your body.

    Although DAA plays several different roles in your body, it has its largest impact on your neuroendocrine system -- where it can enhance the production of neurotransmitters, growth factors, and hormones.

    With this in mind, the supplementation of DAA has been shown to cause a significant increase in the secretion of testosterone [1], while also reducing the secretion of estrogen and cortisone [2], creating a better environment for muscle growth.

    Additionally, DAA has also been shown to increase muscle strength and power immediately after supplementation [3]. This simply means you are able to put more weight on the bar or perform repetitions per set -- both of which are essential to increasing strength and size.

    2.   Beta Alanine

    Beta-alanine is the supplement form of the amino acid Alanine, which is found naturally occurring in your muscle tissue.

    During exercise, alanine combines with another amino acid, “histidine” to form a unique compound called carnosine. During exercise, carnosine is used to buffer lactic acid, which staves off fatigue.

    With this in mind, beta-alanine supplementation increases the carnosine content of your muscle tissue, improving your tolerance to fatigue. This has in turn been shown to cause large improvements in muscular and cardiovascular endurance [4].

    While this may not sound that impressive, it can have a huge impact on the results of your training by allowing you to perform more to total reps per session -- which is integral to promoting muscle growth.

    In fact, its supplementation has been shown to increase muscle growth and fat loss significantly more when combined with a solid resistance training program [5].

    3.   Glutamine

    Next up we have Glutamine,

    This particular compound is actually the most abundant amino acid in the human body, where most of it is found inside your muscle tissue. Within your muscles, it helps promote the recovery and regeneration of muscle cells.

    As such, supplementing with glutamine has been shown to accelerate recovery after heavy weight training. This has the ability to reduce muscle soreness, keeping your training sessions of a high quality at all times [6].

    Moreover, glutamine is also used by your immune cells for energy. In this manner, its supplementation has demonstrated the capacity to improve immune system function, preventing disease and illness [7].

    Although glutamine may not be directly responsible for increasing muscle growth, it is essential if you want to make long term progress.

    4.   L-Tyrosine

    We are now going to move away from those amino acids that focus on muscle tissue, and head towards the brain.

    As its name so aptly suggests, L-Tyrosine is the supplement version of the amino acid Tyrosine. This important compound is used within your brain to produce two of our most important neurotransmitters, being dopamine and adrenaline.

    It is for this reason that it appears in practically every pre-workout supplement on the planet.

    Taking all of this into consideration, supplementing with L-tyrosine can enhance reaction time [8], boost attention, and even increase emotional wellbeing [9]. Amazingly, these effects have been shown to also contribute to improved exercise performance [10].

    In our mind, this is the perfect supplement to boost your mental performance in the gym.

    5.   L-Citrulline

    Last but not least, we have L-Citrulline.

    Now, you might have noticed that Citrulline does not appear on the list above -- but never fear, because there is a very good reason for this. L-Citrulline is actually the supplement version of Arginine. When you consume it, it enters the bloodstream and then moves into the liver. Once in the liver, it is quickly converted to Arginine.

    Once converted to Arginine, it increases the production of nitric oxide throughout your entire body. Now this is important because nitric oxide is a vasodilator -- in which it increases blood flow to your muscles.

    Via this mechanism, the supplementation of Citrulline has been shown to increase gym performance by improving the number of reps you can do each set, or even allowing you to add a couple of kilograms to the bar [11].

    Similarly, evidence suggests that citrulline supplements can also slow the accumulation of fatigue during exercise [12]. This leads to higher quality sessions, which over time, could conceivably increase muscle growth.

    Key Points

    Amino acids are arguably the most important group of compounds found in your body. They play a role in practically every single one of your physiological processes, while also promoting the growth and development of nearly all your body's tissues.

    As a result, supplementing with some of them can have some serious benefits, especially when it comes down to Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glutamine, Tyrosine, and Arginine.

    So, if you want to boost the result of your training, I would start with these guys -- just make sure you seek advice from a medical professional first (you know, just in case).

     

    References

    1. Topo, Enza, et al. "The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats." Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 7.1 (2009): 120.
    2. Falcone, Paul H., et al. "Consumption of a testosterone-boosting supplement is safe and lowers estrogen and cortisol levels." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 47.5S (2015): 338.
    3. Melville, Geoffrey William. Effects of d-aspartic acid on testosterone and training outcomes in a resistance trained population: findings from an acute dosing study, and a three-month training study. Dissertation. Western Sydney University (Australia), 2016.
    4. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino acids, 43(1), 25-37.
    5. Kern, B. D., & Robinson, T. L. (2011). Effects of ?-alanine supplementation on performance and body composition in collegiate wrestlers and football players. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1804-1815.
    6. Legault, Zachary, Nicholas Bagnall, and Derek S. Kimmerly. "The influence of oral L-glutamine supplementation on muscle strength recovery and soreness following unilateral knee extension eccentric exercise." International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 25.5 (2015): 417-426.
    7. Cruzat, Vinicius, et al. "Glutamine: metabolism and immune function, supplementation and clinical translation." Nutrients 10.11 (2018): 1564.
    8. O'Brien, C., Mahoney, C., Tharion, W. J., Sils, I. V., & Castellani, J. W. (2007). Dietary tyrosine benefits cognitive and psychomotor performance during body cooling. Physiology & behavior, 90(2-3), 301-307.
    9. Banderet, L. E., & Lieberman, H. R. (1989). Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans. Brain research bulletin, 22(4), 759-762.
    10. Tumilty, L., Davison, G., Beckmann, M., & Thatcher, R. (2011). Oral tyrosine supplementation improves exercise capacity in the heat. European journal of applied physiology, 111(12), 2941-2950.
    11. Gonzalez, A. M., & Trexler, E. T. (2020). Effects of Citrulline Supplementation on Exercise Performance in Humans: A Review of the Current Literature. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 34(5), 1480-1495.
    12. Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1215-1222.
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