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Weight Loss

  • Spare Muscle while Incinerating Fat with BCAAs

    Whether this is your first time getting serious about weight loss, or your tenth time in the foray, one thing remains the same; calories count. Seemingly small and innocuous foods can have catastrophic caloric loads, making it extremely difficult for you to lose weight.

    Even the otherwise godly whey protein can cause problems as it relates to insulin control, leaving you in a rightful conundrum. Avoiding it should be the most obvious solution then, right? Not exactly.

    Protein is well-known to be the building block of muscle. Consume too little of it, and you can stand on the sidelines and watch as your precious gains whittle away. So what can you do?

    You can use a branched chain amino acid supplement, otherwise known as a BCAA supplement. Such supplements contains the 3 branched chain amino acids, 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine and valine, usually in an ideal ratio of 2:1:1.

    These amino acids do not present any sort of noticeable caloric load, at least if consumed straight and without additives.

    Wondering what makes these BCAAs so special? We thought you’d never ask.

    BCAAs Help Preserve Muscle Mass

    One of the most dreaded things about a calorie restricted weight loss diet is the fact that along with the unwanted blubber, a lot of precious muscle can be lost in the process. This can be very bad if you’re not careful.

    The reason? Catabolism. On the opposite end of the spectrum from anabolism, catabolism is a destructive process. It fragments large molecules (such as muscle protein, glycogen and stored fat) into simpler ones such as amino acids, free fatty acid fragments and glucose.

    When you’re restricting calories, your body finds them where it needs to. Holding on to muscle is not a high priority if calories are scarce.

    This is why you use BCAAs. These amino acids bolster anabolism and can maintain a neutral to positive nitrogen balance, which is what you want to keep your gains. A study[i] published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2016 confirmed this, as it compared glucose to BCAA administration while calories were restricted.

    Supports Fat Loss

    One surprising benefit of BCAA supplementation during a cut phase is the fact that it can actually help you lose more fat. Much of this benefit comes about as a result of the leucine present in the combination, which may be augmented further if combined with glutamine, another important amino acid.

    Although the reasons for this aren’t fully understood, findings positively corroborate with the use of BCAAs[ii]. The effects, however, appear to be more noteworthy in overweight and obese subjects[iii], compared to those that are highly trained.

    Can Help Mitigate Muscle Soreness

    Muscle soreness is an unavoidable consequence of exercise. It signifies muscle breakdown, and if proper nutrition is implemented, recovery. Dealing with DOMS- delayed onset muscle soreness, takes two very important variables, namely rest, and nutrition.

    On a calorie restricted diet, the nutrition aspect is likely to suffer. The end result? Prolonged pain. BCAA supplementation can help promote recovery and in turn reduce DOMS duration[iv]. In short- muscle damage should be followed up with some sort of nutritional recovery protocol, or you’ll be spinning your wheels without getting anywhere.

    May Help Offset Fatigue

    Fatigue is very real on a calorie restricted diet. Reducing calories will inevitably cause metabolic changes, which may be more mental/psychological than actually physical. BCAAs are surprising in this regard.

    Much of their benefit here is owing to the fact that they compete with tryptophan for uptake in the brain, and subsequently lower serotonin levels. High serotonin levels are associated with exercise induced fatigue, something you are dealing with much more frequently when restricting calories consumed.

    In Summary

    BCAAs should be essential fare if you’re serious about maintaining your muscle mass with shredding fat. They are helpful on so many fronts that it simply is counterproductive to avoid them. Be sure to look for a product that contains the BCAAs in the ideal ratio mentioned, and avoid those with flavourings and additives.

    [i] Dudgeon, W.D., Kelley, E.P. & Scheett, T.P. In a single-blind, matched group design: branched-chain amino acid supplementation and resistance training maintains lean body mass during a caloric restricted diet. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 13, 1 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-015-0112-9

    [ii] Stoppani J, Scheett T, Pena J, Rudolph C, Charlebois D. 2009 international society of sports nutrition conference and expo new orleans, la, USA. 14-15 june 2009. Abstracts. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):P1?P19. Published 2009 Jul 31. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-s1-p1

    [iii] Zemel MB, Bruckbauer A. Effects of a leucine and pyridoxine-containing nutraceutical on fat oxidation, and oxidative and inflammatory stress in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrients. 2012;4(6):529?541. doi:10.3390/nu4060529

    [iv] Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9:20. Published 2012 Jul 12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20

  • Know the Dangers of Keto Diet Before You Try It

    Who hasn’t heard of the keto diet? Famous for its weight loss benefits, going keto is more popular now than it was a decade ago.

    While the ketogenic diet has been shown to be an effective tool for weight loss, performance enhancement, and cognitive health, most people aren’t getting the complete picture. Let’s review the dangers of keto diet that are not commonly addressed with a focus on what the science tells us.

    Long-Term Sustainability

    There is no denying that the ketogenic diet can promote a successful weight loss. Numerous studies have demonstrated how effective the keto diet is at triggering a higher level of fat burning while improving other cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and heart rate.

    But the hallmark of weight loss success is not whether you can lose the weight; it’s all about whether or not you can keep it off and maintain your results. While the ketogenic diet may be effective for your initial weight loss, it might not be the best option for long-term weight management.

    One study placed obese subjects on the ketogenic diet for two years, and no other study has attempted this length of time yet. In fact, this study is the foundation for supposed long-term keto studies. This presents the bigger issue of not knowing what long-term health effects may appear when following the diet for five, ten, or twenty years.

    Researchers in another study pointed out that the keto diet might provide short term benefits in weight loss, but that it is not possible to successfully stay on the keto diet for a long period of time. This will inevitably result in weight lost becoming weight gained.

    Higher Risk of Mortality

    Followers of the ketogenic diet aren’t shy about exclaiming their love for the keto essentials: bacon, cheese, and steak. Unless you’re following a vegan or vegetarian-based ketogenic diet, the bulk of your calories will most likely come from animal sources. Studies suggest that those diets favoring animal proteins and fats over carbohydrate-based options may reduce life expectancy.

    One study followed subjects, tracking their dietary intake, beginning in 1987. For almost 30 years, researchers collected data and paid close attention to the relationship of diets with 30% or less in carbohydrate sources and diets with 70% of more coming from carbohydrates. Those on low-carb and high-carb diets had a higher rate of mortality than moderate-carb diets.

    One exception was low-carb diets that focused their protein and fat sources from plants including vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils such as coconut oil. Those subjects who consumed more plant sources were found to have a longer life expectancy.

    Environmental Impact

    There is a lot of misinformation being spread when it comes to the impact of the keto diet on the environment. According to the United States-based EPA, cattle agriculture only accounts for 1.9% of global greenhouse gases. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation. With that said, depending on where and how you purchase your ketogenic grocery list, it is possible to have a higher carbon footprint.

    Take note of where your ketogenic choices are coming from. Meat and vegetables that are produced in other countries are going to require more fuel to reach you, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, depending on where they are produced, these international products may have hormones, fillers, and preservatives.

    Buy your keto groceries as local as you can in order to reduce the resources being used. You can visit local farmer’s markets or butchers, but confirm everything is grown on site, or no more than 25 miles away.

    Another way to reduce your carbon footprint on the ketogenic diet is to buy in-season produce only. While it’s tempting to buy whatever fruits and vegetables we want year round, those items are most likely coming from another country.

    Dangers of Keto Diet: Is Keto Right for You?

    The ketogenic diet has become a go-to resource for weight loss and with good reason: it works. Assuming you are able to properly enter and maintain a state of ketosis, the keto diet has been shown to promote a high level of fat loss, helping many achieve their weight loss goals.

    Through all the fanfare, many have unknowingly ignored a few serious concerns and dangers of keto diet including the reality of long-term sustainability, increased risk of mortality, and environmental damage.

    Have you tried the ketogenic diet? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below!

    References

    1. Dashti HM, Mathew TC, Hussein T, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004;9(3):200–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/
    1. Masood W, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2019 Mar 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/
    1. Seidelmann SB, Claggett B, Cheng S, Henglin M, Shah A, Steffen LM, Folsom AR, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Solomon SD. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2018 Sep;3(9):e419-e428. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30135-X. Epub 2018 Aug 17.
    1. “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Sept. 2019, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions.
  • The Keto Conundrum: Why Keto Dieting May Not Be Best For You

    If you’ve made the decision to start living a healthier life, chances are pretty high that you’ve encountered, or even embarked on the keto diet before. While on the surface the keto diet promises insurmountable weight loss and a healthier, sexy body, turns out it’s not all peaches and cream.

    In fact, you could be setting yourself up for a very difficult time, or even open up other complications; a can of worms you do not wish to encounter. But why is the keto diet not good for you? In this article we explore the many pitfalls lying in wait for you.

    More Protein Is Not Better

    As the keto diet goes, you are mandated to restrict carbohydrates significantly; often limiting total intake to 50g (but often less) daily. As a result, you consume more fat, but frequently, more protein as well. But therein lies the problem.

    While intentions may be good, protein has a way of affecting your carbohydrate bottom line without you ever realizing it, via a process known as gluconeogenesis[i]. What is this fancy named thing? Simply put, it is the body’s way of finding carbohydrates by converting other nutrients into this precious commodity.

    Protein (amino acids to be precise) is often targeted for this process, and could help explain to you why you are failing to see any amount of weight loss despite your most rigorous carb restriction protocols. Of course, you will have an exceedingly difficult time entering/ staying in ketosis when this occurs.

    It Fosters Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders are the dark shadows lingering beside many seemingly normal people, but waiting for an opportunity to rear its ugly head. While at its core the keto diet may be well-meaning, often times the unhealthy relationship it can foster with food plays into the hands of eating disorders.

    Just think of it; by villainizing an entire group of foods as evil, psychological changes occur that can forge compensatory disorders. It’s not uncommon for orthorexia[ii], anorexia or bulimia to develop as a result, causing a person to become socially withdrawn at the thought of having to eat in public. Body dysmorphic disorder also becomes rampant, with the afflicted unable to ever be satisfied with the way they look.

    Wouldn’t it be much easier, and better for the mind and body to have a healthy relationship with good food instead?

    It’s The Original Fad Diet

    A fad diet is one which by definition gains extreme popularity over a short period of time, making promises of extreme weight loss or otherwise, and without the investment of any significant commitment. This is exactly why the majority of people that ever embark on the keto diet also drop out within a few weeks.

    It is extremely unsustainable. Yes, you will probably notice a reduction of body weight after stepping on the scale shortly after starting keto, but that initial excitement is short lived once you appreciate the fact that it is virtually all water weight.

    In turn, it contributes to the development of a yo-yo dieting pattern, one that is much more detrimental to your health than staying overweight from the inception (arguably). Yo-yo dieting causing negative adaptations ranging from your body becoming more receptive to storing fat (following a period of carb deprivation), to becoming less efficient at knowing when you have had enough to eat (leptin resistance).

    That, and the fact that heart disease and diabetes risk go up[iii] also paint a bleak picture why you shouldn’t jump into the keto diet just for the “fun of it”.

    It Can Be Downright Dangerous

    Not to burst your bubble here, but there is a reason why advocates of diet “training” always add the disclaimer to consult your doctor first, and that is because there is the very real risk of danger if you’re not careful.

    In the case of the keto diet, the risk is greatest to diabetics, which is a pity since it may seem so promising looking at it theoretically. However, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) - not to be confused with dietary ketosis, can be hard to distinguish by the untrained eye, and can lead to coma and death.

    DKA occurs when hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose) is present, but the body still proceeds to make ketones since insulin levels are low[iv] and unable to remove sugar from circulation. In turn, blood acidity rises as ketones accumulate (ketones are acidic), and a coma can result.

    Other people that should stay away (unless specifically advised by a healthcare professional) from keto include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and anyone with a gallbladder disorder or had their gallbladder removed.

    Does The Keto Diet Have A Future?

    Now that you’ve understood some of the real issues that plague the keto diet, it is also important to understand that there is a place for it in the lives of some people.

    For instance, there has been research done on it since the 1920’s that demonstrate mixed results when it comes to management of epilepsy[v]. It was able to reduce seizure frequency in adults and children alike who were not responsive to conventional medical therapy, in approximately 50% of cases.

    The keto diet may also act as a dietary adjuvant when receiving chemotherapy, as starving cancer cells of glucose may promote their death, even though there is also evidence that such cells can adapt to using ketones, too.

    In addition to these, there is limited scope in it helping to deal with neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and even ADHD management.

    In Summary

    The keto diet, as you can see, it not something that you should toy with because numerous adverts on TV tout it as the next big weight loss trend. It has real-life implications that are often realized a little too late.

    It is a much better long term plan to instead adapt a healthier lifestyle that includes wholesome foods from all the macronutrient groups, and not open the Pandora’s Box that is the keto diet.

    References:

    [i] Margriet AB Veldhorst, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Klaas R Westerterp, Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 90, Issue 3, September 2009, Pages 519–526, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.27834

    [ii] Nevin SM, Vartanian LR. The stigma of clean dieting and orthorexia nervosa. J Eat Disord. 2017;5:37. Published 2017 Aug 25. doi:10.1186/s40337-017-0168-9

    [iii] Strohacker K, Carpenter KC, McFarlin BK. Consequences of Weight Cycling: An Increase in Disease Risk?. Int J Exerc Sci. 2009;2(3):191–201.

    [iv] Yehuda Handelsman, Robert R. Henry, Zachary T. Bloomgarden, Sam Dagogo-Jack, Ralph A. DeFronzo, Daniel Einhorn, Ele Ferrannini, Vivian A. Fonseca, Alan J. Garber, George Grunberger, Derek LeRoith, Guillermo E. Umpierrez, and Matthew R. Weir (2016) AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGISTS AND AMERICAN COLLEGE OF ENDOCRINOLOGY POSITION STATEMENT ON THE ASSOCIATION OF SGLT-2 INHIBITORS AND DIABETIC KETOACIDOSIS. Endocrine Practice: June 2016, Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 753-762.

    https://doi.org/10.4158/EP161292.PS

    [v] D'Andrea Meira I, Romão TT, Pires do Prado HJ, Krüger LT, Pires MEP, da Conceição PO. Ketogenic Diet and Epilepsy: What We Know So Far. Front Neurosci. 2019;13:5. Published 2019 Jan 29. doi:10.3389/fnins.2019.00005

  • Too much food or too little exercise? The myth of weight gain

    Many have blamed the current obesity epidemic on the food and beverage industries, with the increased consumption of high-calorie foods and sugary drinks being the primary cause of our society's ever-increasing waistline. Although it is true that having a healthy and nutritious diet is important for weight control and a healthy life, researchers found it's in fact the lack of exercise that is the primary contributor of being overweight.

    The study, conducted by researchers from Stanford University and published in the American Journal of Medicine in July 2014 analysed US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1988 to 2010 and found that the average BMI increased by 0.37% per year in both men and women and the average waist circumference increased by 0.37% per year in women and 0.27% per year in men in the past two decades. The prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity has increased substantially, especially in young women aged between 18-39.

    Interestingly, in contrary to popular notion, the calorie intake remained steady in the past 2 decades; the daily carb, fat and protein consumptions had not altered significantly either. What changed was the significant decrease in the amount of leisure time physical activities in the general population. The percentage of people reported no physical activity had jumped from 19.1% to 51.7% for women and 11.4% to 43.5% for men between 1994 and 2010.

    The study also identified the prevalence of abdominal obesity in normal-weight women. Indicating women are more prone to gain weight around their waist than men on a population level, at least in America. Abdominal obesity can increase the risk of mortality even in young people with normal BMI. It is defined by waist circumference of 88cm and more in women and 102cm and more in men. This increase in waistline is primarily caused by a lack of physical activity.

    No one is denying that a healthy, balanced diet is essential for body weight control. However, the increased prevalence in obesity is not correlated with increased calorie intake, as we were made to believe. The ever-increasing waistline of the population is in fact associated with the ever-decreasing amount of physical activities we do. Your health is in your own hands. Be sure try to eat well, but more importantly, stay active. There are no shortcuts to good health, and nothing replaces good ol' physical activity.

  • Weight loss, a personal journey

    According to the World Health Organization, over 67% of Australians were considered overweight in 2007 (BMI greater than 25), doubling the figure in 1995. Being overweight and obese can lead to many health-related complications later in life and is costing the government tens of billions of dollars a year. On the other hand, people are spending billions of dollars each year on weight loss/maintenance related products and services and yet, the society as a whole is still getting fatter, with many failed to lose weight and reaching their targets.

    Even though the theory of weight loss can be simply put into one little equation of balancing calorie intake and calorie expenditure, it is not that easy to achieve. I know what it feels like, being handsomely overweight back in my early undergrad years and had experienced several failed attempts of shedding any fat. I eventually lost about 20% of my body weight aided by: the desire of wanting to feel good about myself and my health; a friend Jay (the now owner of AminoZ) who suggested to me that may be I should do a 12-week challenge with him; and being a scientist to be, my own version of the 12-week challenge.

    I lost 13kgs during the first 12 weeks and my weight continued to decline for a further 10kgs in the next 3 months even after reverting back to a normal everything-rich diet from a somewhat high-carb, low-fat diet that I initially employed, which was not the best diet for losing weight as we now all know. My weight has since plateaued and remained stable and I have been enjoying the rewards of a new life since, feeling healthier, more energetic and fitter than ever. That was my third try at losing weight, both previous attempts had resulted in failure. So what did I do differently the third time around?

    I've never really thought about this question until recently, after seeing people going out of their ways practicing different diets and trying out varieties of exercise regimes in an attempt to shed fat and fail. I never bothered with what types of exercises I did nor did I care much about the contents of foods I ate, as long as they were "low fat". In fact, I was so unfit at the beginning, 10 minutes on the treadmill at the speed of 8km/h was enough to exhaust me for the rest of the day, that was pretty poor for someone who's close to 190cm in height, 8km/h almost feels like walking. I did try my best to avoid the obvious "unhealthy" food though, stuff like pizzas, KFC, creamy sauces and deserts, and tried to eat at home for as much as I could. However, one of my staple "healthy" diets at the time was to have an entire pack of pasta with an entire can of meat sauce from Coles in one meal…well, you get the idea.

    So here we go, no specialized weight loss exercises, no ultra scientific-diets, no pills and no ultrasonic fat busters (trust me, been there, done that), I became one of the privileged few who managed to lose weight effectively and stayed light. You might think I'm a special case, but I think not. There are others I know of who had also lost weight in a similar fashion and stayed there. This is not luck, as there are really no short cuts in weight loss, it is something else. What was different for me the third time around was that, this time, I took it personally.

    That's right, weight loss is a very personal journey. In order to be successful, one needs to go through the following eight stages:

    1. Recognition (wholeheartedly acknowledge the weight issue)
    2. Desire (the strong desire to lose weight)
    3. Justification (to understand the precise reasons for wanting to lose weight)
    4. Vision (to imagine yourself at where you want to be, in this case, after you achieved your weight-loss goal)
    5. Hunger (to crave about achieving the goal, enough for you to do something about it)
    6. Action (autonomous action driven by own desire)
    7. Discipline (continuously driven by stages 1-5)
    8. Reward (enjoyment of everything about yourself and life)

    As you can see, weight loss is a journey of self-acceptance, self- discipline and self-empowerment. It is all in our own psychology, and it is our own responsibility. The problem with many who tried but failed to lose weight, my old self included, is that, with so many products and assistance available to aid weight loss, we are squandering this responsibility to something/someone else. For many, this is the recipe for failure. Personal trainers, gym equipment, diets, even pills are there to assist you to lose weight according to your own personal circumstances. However, they are not the reason that you can/cannot lose weight. I've seen many complaining about certain weight loss products "doesn't work", and then the same people would move on and searching for weeks to find the next magical product that still "doesn't work". It's a vicious cycle. One cannot rely on anything else other than themselves to lose weight.

    Researchers from Cornell University conducted a simple study to investigate just how important a role phycology can play in weight loss. The study found that people who saw exercise as a chore were more likely to eat more fattening food to reward themselves post-exercise, and consequently rendered the exercise ineffective for weight loss. On the other hand, people who saw exercise as being "fun" were more likely to eat less and eat healthier. The findings of this study substantiated the notion that successful weight loss is a personal journey, and it's a difficult journey. Once the responsibility of this journey is in others' hands, you are likely to lose your focus in the face of difficulty, which would eventually lead to failure. You don't need to find exercise "fun", but you need to do it on your own terms, be proud about it and embrace stages 1-5 of weight loss as listed above.

    Please allow me to stress that it is absolutely fine if you seek help or use products, but only at your own volition. Consider helps and tools as mere assistants to your success rather than necessities. Remember, weight loss is a personal journey, and you will only succeed if you take the full responsibility yourself. One might ask if I was going to lose weight again would I employ a more scientific exercise regime accompanied by a more clinically proven diet? The answer is yes, only because I know better now and one should always make the most of their resources to maximize their success. However, following a better regime doesn't necessarily translate into getting better results. Many failed to lose weight even with all the help in the world while many others, myself included achieved our goals by following rather flawed exercise regimes and diets. I took the responsibility of my health into my own hands and did it because I wanted it and I did it on my own terms and it worked, it was personal and it is sustainable. I wouldn't want it any other way.

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