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  • Fat Hormone Influences Eating Habits Regardless of Hunger

    A study by researchers at the Department of Internal Medicine of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has shown that leptin, a hormone produced by fat tissue, influences our motivation to eat, regardless of hunger.
  • The Dangers & Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

    Creatine is a highly popular sports and bodybuilding supplement that can enhance physique and performance. We discuss the benefits of creatine, along with the various dangers of supplementing with creatine monohydrate.
  • New Supplements Worth Trying

    In the health, fitness and bodybuilding industry, there are a range of new supplements released all the time. Let's discuss two relatively new supplements that would be worth your while to test out.

    When I refer to "new" these aren't necessarily brand new supplements that have just hit the shelves. Rather, I am referring to relatively new supplements without conclusive scientific research behind them to back their claims. These supplements do show some hope with some of the research, but they are yet to be widely accepted as "highly effective". This is unlike supplements such as protein powder and creatine. However giving these new supplements a go really won't do any harm - they can benefit your general health anyway.

    New Supplements Worth Trying #1: Tribulus Terrestris

    Tribulus terrestris (or tribulus) is a herb that has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine. We recently published an in-depth article discussing the health benefits of tribulus and has been promoted as a remedy for liver, kidneys, and cardiovascular system complications.

    Tribibulus terrestris has been shown to have a profound positive impact on libido by boosting testicular testosterone levels. I wrote a tribulus review a while back where the benefits in this regard were quite obvious.

    Tribulus has become popular among bodybuilding circles as an ergogenic aid. There are claims that tribulus supplementation can assist in muscle development. The science is still sketchy with some research demonstrating strength increases.

    Whether or not this new supplement is effective for muscle growth is still up for debate. Yet it is a very popular supplement, so it may be worth your while trying tribulus (which can be found in our store).

    New Supplements Worth Trying #2: CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid)

    CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is a fatty acid supplement. These supplements do contain fat, just as you find in food. However CLA levels in our diet have decreased over the years and thus CLA supplementation can benefit our health in a number of ways because it presents anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherogenic, enhanced immune function and anti-diabetic benefits.

    Conjugated linoleic acid has been promoted as a weight loss supplement because there is emerging research suggesting that it promotes fat loss and can also enhance muscle development. The degree to which this is true is still up for debate, however this is quite a popular natural supplement.

    If you are interested in giving this new supplement a try, you can find CLA in our supplement store.

  • Does Protein Powder Work to Bulk Up and Build Muscle?

    Protein powder is the most common supplement available and is often marketed to help build muscle and bulk up. But does protein powder work - or is it just going to put a hole in your wallet?

    What is Protein Powder?

    Before we discuss the actual question, "Does protein powder work?", let's first identify what protein powder is, and what it is supposed to do in respect to building muscle and bulking up.

    Protein powder is a highly processed form of protein. There are many varieties of protein powders - egg, whey, casein, milk, soy, rice, pea based (and so on), all of which are derived from different sources, or have undergone different processes. The most commonly recommended protein powder when aiming to build muscle is whey protein powder. Let's discuss whey protein powder in more detail.

    Whey protein powder is milk derived. Milk is naturally around 20% whey and 80% casein. The concept behind supplementing with a whey based protein shake is as follows:

    1. Whey protein is the best quality protein available
    2. Whey protein is absorbed very quickly

    The quality of the protein that you consume is extremely important when you are seeking to build muscle. The greater the quality (measured by "biological value", or the degree to which your body can utilise these proteins for biological function), the better the protein is going to be to build muscle.

    The rate of absorption is also critical before and after your workout. Following an intense workout, your body requires a readily available source of amino acids in order to repair damaged muscle tissue and begin synthesising new tissues. Amino acids are the constituents of proteins, so it is important to have an available source at your body's disposal.

    Whole-food proteins cannot be absorbed anywhere nearly as quickly as whey proteins found in supplements - hence why whey protein powder can be an effective tool.

    Does Protein Powder Work?

    Coming back to the original question, it is important to understand that protein powder isn't a "special" supplement that will replace everything else in your fridge. Nor is it something that "does" or "doesn't" work in isolation. Rather, it is a tool used to enhance your results, in conjunction with an effective training regime, a good nutritional approach and proper recovery.

    It is important to never, without exception, view a supplement as "the holy grail" of accomplishing a particular goal. In this instance, it is important not to assume that with the inclusion of protein powder in your regime, you can expect to bulk up with minimal effort. Building muscle in any substantial amount is the result of a long-term and dedicated approach to your training and lifestyle in general.

    The addition of a protein powder to a poorly constructed lifestyle in regards to muscle gain will not be advantageous. For example, if you regularly consume junk food, train inconsistently, drink alcohol regularly and do not sleep properly, forget about having a protein powder after your workout. In all honesty, it will be a complete waste of your money. You would obtain far more benefit by eliminating the junk food and alcohol, sleeping well and establishing a structured approach to training.

    Meanwhile, if you are dedicated to accomplishing a muscle building goal in all aspects of your lifestyle and wish to give your body every opportunity to build muscle, a protein powder would be right up your alley. Supplementing with a protein shake would significantly boost your results by encouraging maximum muscle development following your workout and during the remainder of the day. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific literature to support this notion, which has been referenced extensively on this website.

    There are two primary options for pre/post workout supplementation that you should consider - Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) and Whey Protein Isolate/Concentrate blend (WPI/WPC). The Whey Protein Isolate is a slightly faster absorbing protein powder. However due to the additional manufacturing involved, the WPI is slightly more expensive than the WPI/WPC.

    Our most popular WPI/WPC powder is the Optimum Whey. Meanwhile, the most popular pure WPI powder is the AST Sports Science VP2.

    I do hope that this short article sheds some light on the topic of "Does Protein Powder Work?". Good luck with your muscle building goals!

  • Are Supplements Healthy & When Do Supplements Become Unhealthy?

    Supplements can be an effective tool to lose weight, build muscle or tone up. But at what point do supplements become unhealthy?

    The world of supplements can be a confusing one. There are hundreds of varieties of protein powders, amino acid mixes, fatty acids, carbohydrate drinks, veggie and fruit capsules, vitamins, minerals, multi-vitamins, joint formula's and so on.

    With so many supplements available, you could practically replace all your food with supplements. Note that this would be extremely expensive and science (let alone common sense) would tell you that this would be extremely unhealthy.

    Are Supplements Unhealthy?

    So at what point does supplementing with these products become unhealthy? It is okay to drink a protein shake every once in a while - or five times a day? Should you replace meals with meal replacement supplements? Or should you stay away from supplements altogether?

    Let's begin by defining when supplementing does become unhealthy. Extreme cases aside, in my opinion, this is when:

    • You consume supplements to replace whole-food meals regularly;
    • You rely on supplements as a primary source of nutrition

    The word "supplement" by definition is to "add onto" and not "replace". So as soon as your primary use of these dietary products shifts to replacing, rather than supplementing a whole-food diet, you are following unhealthy dietary patterns.

    Why exactly it is important to base your diet on whole-foods? Foods in their whole and unprocessed form are extremely nutrient dense. It is important to know that nutrients (which are essential for the normal functioning of the body) extend far beyond fats, carbohydrates and proteins. They not only encapsulate vitamins and minerals, but also include special nutrients known as "phytonutrients", or "plant nutrients". There are hundreds of phytonutrients and I do recommend that you read further on this topic in a recent phytonutrients article that we published.

    Whilst supplements may contain some vitamins, some minerals and even a very limited number of phytonutrients, no supplement can contain the same degree of nourishment obtained from a well rounded whole-food diet. This is a diet based on natural, unprocessed foods across all food groups.

    Supplements, Fitness Goals & Unhealthy Practices

    There is a general assumption within the bodybuilding community that the more protein consumed, the more muscle development one can expect. Whilst there is no conclusive scientific evidence to justify this belief, it is common practice to consume excessive amounts of protein powder each day as a substitute for whole-foods. This does have the potential to lead to serious health complications and of course, sub-optimal muscle development rates.

    A similar practice is commonplace within the dieting industry. Replacing whole-food meals with meal replacement supplements is often construed as a healthy and calorie-controlled alternative to facilitate weight loss. There are some primary concerns associated with such a practice:

    1. You are risking malnourishment by restricting your nutrient intake
    2. Excessive calorie deficit can lead to health complications

    The truth is that a healthy calorie deficit can be obtained through a whole-food diet without the need for "diet" meal replacements. This approach to nutrition will almost guarantee a greater micronutrient intake.

    Healthy Consumption of Supplements

    Supplementation can certainly be of benefit if you are trying to accomplish a health and fitness goal. If they weren't, we certainly wouldn't be selling them in our supplement store!

    As suggested above, it is important to integrate your supplementation regime into a whole-food diet in a healthy manner. Here are what I believe to be some healthy uses of supplements:

    1. Consuming a meal replacement occasionally for convenience
    2. Consuming a protein powder surrounding your workout and sparingly throughout the day in conjunction with whole-foods
    3. Taking a multi-vitamin, or specific vitamin/minerals to compliment a diet already rich in fruits and vegetables
    4. Using supplements for sports specific purposes to enhance results, without detracting from a well balanced whole-food diet

    Supplements do have unique advantages over whole-foods, such as faster absorption times, higher quality proteins, convenience etc. However these do not overshadow the fact that our bodies are built to consume whole-foods as a primary food source - not pills and powders.

    Be wise with your nutrition and your body will thank you for it!

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