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Yohimbine itself can potentially induce fat loss

Yohimbine Benefits and Uses

Yohimbe has been a hot topic in weight management for performance sports. The claim is simple: Yohimbine supports fat loss. Let’s break that down…

The herb Yohimbe, technically dubbed Corynanthe Yohimbe, comes from the bark of the Yohimbe tree that grows in Cameroon, Zaire, and Gabon. Yohimbine is the major active constituent of the bark, with the active ingredient being yohimbine hydrochloride.

Researchers have studied Yohimbine for some time and it is one of the few supplement components with laboratory backed results. It’s not a silver bullet, but in the world of supplementation, it has demonstrated results.

How Yohimbine Works

Yohimbine acts on the adrenergic receptor system in fat cells and regulates thermogenesis. It works against the alpha-subunits of the adrenergic system – the units that work against fat burning. Yohimbine inhibits the alpha-subunit’s ability to suppress fat burning.

Yohimbine itself can potentially induce fat loss vicariously through the release of adrenaline; adrenaline itself is an activator of beta-adrenergic receptors. Beta-adrenergic receptors increase the activity of the enzyme adenyl cyclase – which further supports fat burning. However, the effect of Yohimbine on adrenaline appears to fade after two weeks of supplementation.

Research Results

Studies suggest a fasted state improves the effect of Yohimbine supplementation. The working theory is that later in the day, the impact of food on insulin levels lowers Yohimbine’s effectiveness. In one study, two groups exercised for 21 days and consumed the same diet; one group received 10mg x2 day of Yohimbine supplementation, and the other a placebo. At the end of the 21 day period, the Yohimbine group showed an average of 2% body fat loss, compared to the placebo group. Further, a 2002 study suggested a pre-workout is the most effective supplementation for Yohimbine. The conclusion is that consuming Yohimbine supplementation in a fasted state prior to exercise appears to have the greatest effect on fat burning.

Suggested Use

Dosages of 0.2mg/kg bodyweight have been successfully used to increase fat burning without significant implications on cardiovascular parameters like heart rate and blood pressure. This results in a dosage of:

  • 14 mg for a 150lb person
  • 18 mg for a 200lb person
  • 22 mg for a 250lb person

Individuals with a higher body weight should exercise caution, since yohimbine may over stimulate an unprepared cardiovascular system. While yohimbine supports fat loss, when supplementing yohimbine for the first time, always start with a half-dose and assess tolerance before proceeding.

As a note of caution, research has also shown:

  • Yohimbine can cause extreme anxiety in individuals predisposed to anxiety. The supplement may trigger manic psychosis or suicidal episodes in people with bipolar disorder
  • Yohimbine can interact with a large amount of neurological medications and should not be used in conjunction with these medications without consultation with a doctor
  • The actual vs labeled dose of yohimbine in many supplements can range from 25-150%

Always check with your medical provider before incorporating supplementation into your diet.

– Train Hard!

 

protein benefits whey casein soy

Protein Explained

Protein, along with fat and carbohydrates is a macronutrient required by your body. Specifically, it is key to building bone, muscle, cartilage, skin, and blood. For anyone looking to add mass, notably lean mass to their physique, understanding the benefits of protein for muscle development is critical to success.

The science of protein

Proteins are composed of long chains of amino acids linked by peptide bonds. This macronutrient serves as the transport mechanism for iron, vitamins, minerals, fats, and oxygen within the body, and is the key to acid-base and fluid balance.

Essential amino acid composition, digestibility, and bioavailability determine a specific food’s protein quality. Combinations of amino acids make up all proteins. There are nine essential amino acids – those that cannot be made by the body itself. Additionally, there are another eleven nonessential amino acids – ones that the human body can make on its own. Generally, animal products contain all of the essential amino acids.

Muscles and tissues require protein to undergo the beneficial process of repairing and rebuilding, to overcome the muscular and structural damage caused by resistance training. Protein repairs this damage, in turn enabling muscle development and growth.

Protein types

Whey

One of two major milk proteins. It is the liquid remaining after the milk has been curdled and strained. There are three varieties of whey – protein powder, protein concentrate, and protein isolate. All provide high levels of essential and branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine).

  • Whey powder is 11 – 15% protein
  • Whey concentrate is 25 – 89% protein
  • Whey isolate is 90+% protein

Whey is rapidly digested and absorbed and has a remarkable ability to stimulate muscle growth. its high levels of amino leucine play a key role in muscle hypertrophy (excessive growth).

Casein

Casein gives milk its white color and accounts for 70 – 80 percent of milk protein. Casein exists in a micelle – that has a hydrophobic inside and a hydrophilic outside. During digestion, casein is released as the micelle breaks down. The casein released from multiple micelles then aggregates and is digested via proteolysis, the process by which proteins are broken down into simpler, soluble compounds. Digestion is slow due to the aggregation of casein, allowing the protein to provide a sustained release of amino acids – sometimes lasting for hours.

During resistance training, a workout that produces microtears in the muscle tissue will benefit from a ready supply of amino acids delivered from protein.

Soy

The most widely used vegetable protein is soy. It is one of the only vegetable proteins that contains all of the essential amino acids. Similar to whey, soy proteins can be consumed in three types:

Flour is 50% protein (baked goods)

Concentrate is 70% protein (nutrition bars, cereals, and yogurts)

Isolate is 90% protein (sports drinks, health beverages)

Although early studies suggested that soy might decrease LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, later research failed to confirm these hypotheses.

Recommended protein intake

The recommended dietary allowance is 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day. However, individuals in active training programs that incorporate resistance training should consider consuming 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg of body weight per day. In general, 10-35% of daily calories should come from protein. Those training in specialized programs, with consultation from nutritionists and registered dieticians, may find it necessary to increase.

If you use intermittent fasting, protein should be a key nutrient for your first meal of the day.

-Train Hard!

Best Triceps Exercises to Develop Size and Strength

The best triceps exercises to trigger growth and development are old fashion staples – ones you’ve seen in the gym dozens of times. But in a sea of online workout fads, we wanted to get back to basics and call out five exercises to develop your triceps.

The triceps muscle is the triceps brachii and is located in the back of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder. It consists of three heads and makes up about 75 percent of the arm. For most, it responds well to resistance training, it with reasonable work, you can add shape and size to your arms through triceps training.

So let’s get to the exercises:

close grip bench press

1. Close Grip Bench Press

This will put the emphasis on your triceps, although your chest is still working on this. Proper form is to keep your elbows in, hands closer together on the bar, and focus on the extension and squeeze of your triceps.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

triceps push down

2. Cable Tricep Pushdown (Extension)

This will put the emphasis on your triceps – the key is to keep elbows by your side and not jerk the cable when you start the motion. It should be smooth, up and down, all triceps. Focus on contraction when extended, and slow eccentric motion as you allow the cable to raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the triceps contraction phase): 1130

triceps dips

3. Dips

Another triceps motion that also activates the chest, but also your shoulder (deltoid) muscles. Whether you use a regular dip bar as pictured or an assisted machine – be careful on this one, as lowering too far can strain your shoulder joint. Keep this one focused on your triceps, and squeeze with each raise.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

 

overhead triceps press

4. Overhead Dumbbell/Barbell Extension

This really isolates your triceps and gives them a good full stretch during each repetition. Proper form is to keep your elbows in and forward; an e-z grip bar will work best for this if you want to use a bar versus a dumbbell. For a dumbbell, recommend using one, holding with both hands, as shown. You can also use a cable machine if you have the proper attachments. Focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the raising phase): 1130

5. Diamond Push-Ups

diamond push-ups

This really isolates your triceps and gives you an option to keep working on your knees if you hit failure using a full plank pose. As with the other exercises, focus on the contraction when you reach full extension.

Recommended tempo (starting with the lowering phase): 3010

Triceps appear to benefit from weights between 30 to 85 percent 1RM range, which comes to a weight that will enable 5 to 30 reps on a first set taken to failure. Working all the triceps heads, by varying exercises will also add to growth and size. Vary between low to moderate weight with higher reps, vs heavier weight for fewer reps. Additionally, try to keep your triceps exercises to no more than three per session – more is unlikely to add substantial development, and risks delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Whether you combine triceps into your “push” routine, or an “arms” workout, is up to you.

– Train Hard!

Great Abs and Core Exercises

Your core – abs, lower back, and hips. A key zone for stability in functional fitness, and one you should incorporate into your regular training regime using great abs and core exercises.

So let’s get to it, and here are five key core exercises for your routine:

Plank

Plank exercise outdoors
Basic plank position

Simple, but it works. Variations keep the boredom away – side plank, reverse plank, knee tuck, etc. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and shoot for three intervals.

Bridge

Floor hip raise exercise lying on floor
Bridge, up position

Key is to focus on keeping your hips tucked under and lower abdominals engaged. Three sets, 10-15 reps.

V-Ups or V-Hold

V-Up motion, pausing at top
V-Up, top position
Static abs V Hold exercise
V-Hold

Perhaps not a beginner core moves, but ones you want to master. Already mastered them? Try holding a medicine ball or other weight with outstretched arms during the V-Up motion, or above your head during the V-Hold. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Leg Raises

Leg raises at the gym
Leg raise, top position, with crunch
Hanging leg raise at park
Hanging leg raise

No gym, then keep you back on the floor. Normally you want your arms at your sides, but, place your hands under your lower back if you have issues. Too easy? Add a crunch motion. Have access to a hang bar, or captain’s chair? Use those for leg raises, and up the work. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Superman (also known as Cobras)

Superman pose, arched position
Superman, arched position

Face down, arms in front – and arch your body up (like you’re flying). Add a twist, and bring your arms back as you arch – return them to forward as you lower your body to reset the motion. Three sets, 5 reps, hold for each up position. Be careful not to strain your lower back; listen to your body.

Keep these in your kit for great abs and core exercises, and add them to your routine. You will keep your core strong and tone – which is key to so many other areas of your fitness progress. If you are going to take on these exercises outside, be sure to maintain proper hydration as you crush your core workout!

-Train Hard!

 

Bigger Shoulders – 6 Exercises For Your Routine

Shoulders, for men or women, is a key part of the body to define your physique. They can show off strength and tone, and when sized right, create the taper that enhances the appearance of a slimmer waistline. Moreover, good shoulder muscle health and balance is key to good spine and neck posture.

All that said, they are also a muscle group many struggle to develop, despite being used in so many of our exercise motions and daily life.

Deltoid Muscles

Depositphotos_28192883_l-2015
Anterior (front) and Lateral (side) Deltoid Muscles.
Depositphotos_28192973_l-2015
Posterior (rear) Deltoid Muscle.

So whether seeking to enhance your physique, or develop muscles that assist in proper body mechanics, here are techniques to help get you bigger, fuller shoulders:

First, prioritize shoulders in your workout. If you want to focus on developing any particular body part, it needs to be a priority. Sometimes that can be done in the gym, and sometimes in the kitchen – often it is a mix of both. Bottom line, if you want to develop shoulders, you need to focus on them.

Try hitting shoulders twice a week, while limiting every other muscle group to one session, if you really want to blast their growth; this will force them to adapt and grow more than the other muscles. However, remember to strike a balance in your workout plan. Targeting shoulders, or any part is fine for a 5-10 week plan, but should not be the permanent design of your fitness routine.

Standing Barbell Press

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Approach a racked bar, with weight already loaded. Unrack the bar and step back. The bar should be resting in your hands right around your collarbone.

Motion: Tighten your core, tilt your head back, drive the bar above your head with equal exertion on each side. Exhale at the top. In a controlled manner lower the bar back to your starting point. (If too heavy on the lift, or you reach failure, step back, allowing the weight to come in front of your body, and perform a controlled drop of the weight; do not stay with the weight as it goes down, just control it away from your body, and let it go. Do not try and save heavy weight in these types of moves – let them go – it is not worth the risk of injury)

Arnold Press

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Hold a pair of dumbbell weights in front of your shoulders, palms facing your body – as if you had just finished a dumbbell curl.

Motion: In one fluid motion, press the dumbbells up and rotate the palms of your hand to face forward — keep lifting until your arms are extended straight above you. Exhale; pause and lower the weight back to the starting position.

Lateral Raise

Target Muscles: lateral deltoid

Set Up: Stand, or sit, with your core stable, arms extended down your sides, holding light to semi-moderate dumbbell weights. Palms face in, and elbows slightly bent.

Motion: Tighten your core, and raise your arms away from your body until your elbows are as high as your shoulders. Keep palms towards your body. Try not to squeeze during this motion – it can shift the focus onto your trapezius, which one, is not the focus of the exercise, and two, can risk neck strain if done incorrectly. Return your arms to the starting position.

Bent-Over Reverse Fly

Target Muscles: posterior deltoid

Set Up: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other, stand with your knees slightly bent. Bend at the hip joint, keeping your back flat, and core stable.

Motion: Lift both arms to the side with a slight bend in the elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Exhale. Control the weight back to the start position. This exercise does not require a lot of weight to be effective, if proper form is applied to full concentric peak motion, and slow controlled eccentric return to start position.

Upright Row

Target Muscles: anterior, lateral, and posterior deltoids

Set Up: Stand upright, holding a barbell using an overhand grip (palms towards your), or dumbbells in the same position.

Motion: Keeping core upright, raise the bar or weights to your shoulders, leading with your elbows. This needs to be a smooth motion; do not jerk, or over-exert in this motion, as it will risk shoulder injury. Pause in this top position; concentrate on the muscle contraction, and then slowly lower the weight back to the start position.

Front Raise

Target Muscles: anterior deltoid

Set Up: Stand upright, with feet about shoulder-width apart. Your arms holding weights should hang down, across your thighs, with palms facing down.

Motion: Tighten your core, and keep your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms upward, keeping them in front of you. Finish the concentric motion when your arms are parallel to the floor/should hight. Exhale, and perform a controlled eccentric motion back to the start position. Be careful with moderate to heave weight on this exercise, due to the leverage stress the motion places on your shoulder. It does not take heavy weight for this exercise to be effective.

As with any weight training program, ensure you properly warm up the muscles and joints prior to the actual weighted portion of the training. This will assist in injury prevention. As always, pain and discomfort in a motion is an indictor your should stop the motion. Consult your physician if you have any specific concerns about exercise.

Lastly, remember the gym is only part of your training. Proper nutrition and rest are also needed to develop, maintain, and achieve your goals. You cannot out train negligence in those areas. “Killing it in the gym” should also mean “killing it in the kitchen” and “killing it in recovery.”

-Train Hard!

7 Tips for Training with Problem Spots

Problem spots…the trick joint…old sports injury…

We know these by many names. They are parts of our bodies, that while not injured, pose challenges for those trying to workout and keep fit. These are not active injuries, rather part of the body that just do not work at 100% any more (likely from an earlier injury).

So how can we keep fit, and deal with these problem spots?

  1. It’s a problem for a reason. Something happened, and part of your body was forever affected. This is where we all need to work with our physician to ensure we understand the mechanics of the issue. Guessing at why something is an issue is not the same as taking effective training steps based on solid knowledge.
  2. Do not confuse a problem for an injury. Listen to your body on this – pain, swelling, immobility, etc are signs you have an injury. Maybe minor, maybe not. But you never train on an injury. You seek medical advice, rest, and recover. But you’ve had a bad knee for years – OK, but today your knee decided to upgrade its issues. Be smart, put aside the ego, and treat the injury.
  3. Warm up the area. Get the blood flowing in the the area through simple stretches, and low intensity resistance movements. Keep it simple and slow, until, and if, your problem area is ready to go. For example, you have a tricky shoulder and its chest day… Try doing 10 reps of just the bar, followed by 10 reps of 30% 1RM (One Rep Max) – this will warm up the shoulders, and put just enough tension to let you see if they are OK to add weight. Push-ups? Do them on your knees to decrease the weight. You get the idea.
  4. Apply progressive levels of exercise, vs large jumps. That problem area is going to benefit from steady, progressive adjustments in difficulty, speed, or resistance. Manage the increase in slow amounts. This will keep the area active and warmed up, but also not shock it with in increase that could result in injury. Remember, there is a reason that area is a problem.
  5. Know when to quit. Again, get the ego out of the workout. If you have a problem area, and it acts up – before or during a workout – call it a day with that area. We bet there are other parts of your body you can exercise. Or, change exercises. We want to stress, without control, ego can turn a sore joint into something worse.
  6. Apply proper rest. Have we mentioned those areas are problems for a reason? They will need more attention that other areas after the workout. Foam roller, muscle creams, ice, adequate time off, etc are all critical to ensuring that problem areas have time to recover and rest before your next session with them.
  7. Eat a healthy diet. Your body as a whole, not just the problem area, will benefit from the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals a healthy diet provides. Keeping beneficial fuel in the tank is vital to helping problem areas rest, recover, and get ready for your next workout.

With these steps, you should be able to manage exercising with a problem area. But remember – one, never, never, exercise on an injury, and two, your best source of advice on this is going to come from a medical professional who can diagnose your specific issues.

-Train Hard (and Smart)!

Vitamin D Benefits: Science or Hype?

First, what is Vitamin D exactly?

Vitamin D is required for the regulation of the minerals, calcium, and phosphorus found in the body. And in addition to calcium, it is an important aspect of maintaining proper bone structure.

Natural sunlight exposure is the easiest and most reliable way for most people to get vitamin D. Normal exposure of the hands, face, arms, and legs to sunlight 2-3 times a week for 10-30 minutes is sufficient time to produce enough vitamin D. The necessary exposure time varies with age, skin type, season, time of day, and other factors. During periods of sunlight, vitamin D is stored in your body fat and then released when sunlight is gone.

Vitamin D’s ability to help build strong bones by increasing the body’s absorption of calcium and phosphorous is long known. However, recent years have seen it associated as a defense against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mood swings, and depression. But current studies are now altering our understanding of this vitamin, and while not diminishing its importance to our body’s health, may be challenging some decades-old hype.

In 2014, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers recruited and studied the vitamin D effects in over 25,000 healthy U.S. adults over 50 for an average of almost 5 1/2 years. The study concluded that vitamin D supplements did not lower the risk of cancer, stroke, or heart attack.

And in early 2019, researchers published an analysis of prior studies on the link between vitamin D supplements, cancer risk, and survival. The analysis found no link between supplementation and reduced cancer risk; however, studies suggested that taking vitamin D supplements may lower the risk of dying from cancer by 13%. The study did not determine if the potential vitamin D supplement effect actually caused the body’s own immune system to improve and fight cancer, or if the supplement was directly responsible. In contrast to these possible positive results, a recently published Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial (VITAL) noted that in a large study of more than 25,000 participants that those taking a vitamin D supplement did not lower rates of heart attack, stroke, or cancer. However, among people who later developed cancer, those who took vitamin D supplements for at least two years had a 25% lower chance of dying from their cancer compared with those who received a placebo.

Possible Assistance in Weight Loss

There is limited evidence vitamin D levels may affect one’s ability to lose weight.

In a 2009 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, some participants taking daily calcium and vitamin D supplement were able to lose more weight than subjects taking a placebo supplement.

Possible Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Respiratory Inflammation Risks

An April 2020 article in the periodical Nutrients, suggests vitamin D can reduce risk of infections.

According to the article’s researchers, vitamin D supports mechanisms that can lower viral replication rates and reduce concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce lung inflammation that typically leads to pneumonia, as well as boosting concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Again, there are mixed results on this too, as several observational studies and clinical trials did not observe any effect from vitamin D in reducing the risk of influenza.

Foods highest in vitamin D on wooden background.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Foods that provide vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks

Depositphotos_45202029_xl-2015

Vitamin D Supplements

While research is ongoing, there are benefits from taking vitamin D supplements to promote bone health; however, large amounts of vitamin D are not required to get the benefit.  Notably, a 2010 study published in JAMA showed that intake of very high doses of vitamin D in older women was associated with more falls and fractures.

But too much vitamin D (or any supplment) can create risks. Taking a supplement that contains too much vitamin D can be toxic in rare cases. It can lead to hypercalcemia, a condition in which too much calcium builds up in the blood, potentially forming deposits in the arteries or soft tissues. It may also predispose women to painful kidney stones.

Vitamin D2 and D3

The most important forms of Vitamin D for the human body are D3 and (to a lesser extent) D2. If you select to take vitamin D supplements, choose a quality supplement and eating some foods fortified with D3.

Time Under Tension: Attacking Your Muscle Growth

Time under tension (TUT) is the amount of time that a muscle or group of muscles is under stress during a set. The reported advantage from TUT is that by focusing on the duration muscle fiber is under stress, rather than a movement repetition count, the intensity will result in gains in muscle size and strength.

The general consensus is that increasing TUT will maximize hypertrophy by increasing the muscle fiber breakdown that occurs during the workout. Thus, hypertrophy may improve if one lifts lighter weights for a longer period of time than to use heavy weights for fewer reps.

How does TUT do this?

TUT’s results may be through creating a hypoxic environment in the working muscles. The premise follows as such:

  • Resistance training with weights produces a buildup of metabolites in the body,
  • At the same time, muscle contractions cause blood vessels to condense and restrict the blood flow to working muscles

It is the lack of blood flow oxygen that creates a hypoxic environment for your muscles, and a 2010 study from the Mie University Graduate School of Medicine showed that hypoxic muscle environments actually enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy.

Applying TUT to your workouts

  1. Focus on the eccentric part of the muscle movement. Eccentric is the lowering, or “anti-contraction” part of the muscle movement. Slowing your eccentric motion will cause an increase in micro-fiber muscle damage, thus encouraging more growth.
  2. Focus on intensity. You need to be lifting heavy enough to fatigue the muscle. Consider ranges 60-80% 1 RPM.
  3. Drop sets until fatigue. It’s about time, and failing to finish a set works against it. So if you hit your limit too soon with the weight, drop to a lower amount, and keep repping out until you finish the set.

Apply TUT to bodyweight movements centers around slowing down the eccentric part of the movement. For example, lower yourself in a push-up using a 4-6 second count, before exploding back up. Same with a squat – slow lower, power back up. Resistance bands work for this too.

Hopefully you now understand enough include TUT in your fitness toolkit.

-Train Hard!

 

Creatine Supplements: Effects on Muscle Performance

There are a lot of articles out in the fitness world that talk about the wonders of creatine supplements. Many supplement companies not only have creatine as a standalone product, but include it in pre-workout mixes.

So this stuff must be great, right? As we did with our Pre-Workout article, we’re going to try to give you simple, yet science based take on creatine to help guide you in your health and fitness decisions.

So what is creatine, and how does it work?

Let’s start with the science – adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the most basic form of energy in your body’s cells. It plays a fundamental role in metabolism and muscle function.

Biochemically, ATP is a nucleoside triphosphate, which indicates that it consists of three components: a nitrogenous base (adenine), the sugar ribose, and the triphosphate.

In muscle performance, ATP acts in the following manner with myosin, which is a motor protein best known for its role in muscle contraction:

  • ATP prepares myosin for binding with actin by moving it to a higher- energy state and a “cocked” position.
  • ATP must bind to myosin to break the cross-bridge and enable the myosin to rebind to actin at the next muscle contraction.

Mechanism of muscle contraction.

For training, or any intense muscle activity, your muscles typically store only enough ATP for 8–10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. After this, your body must produce new ATP to match the demands of your physical activity.

Simply put, this is why you can burst few short periods of energy and muscle movement, but cannot sustain those levels.

We’re getting to the part about the creatine…

A study by the Centre for Human Sciences in 2000 showed that fatigue sustained during short-term, high-intensity exercise is associated with the inability of skeletal muscle to maintain a high rate of anaerobic ATP production from phosphocreatine hydrolysis – and that the ingestion of creatine monohydrate at a rate of 20 g/d for 5-6 d was shown to increase the total creatine concentration of human skeletal muscle by approximately 25 mmol/kg dry mass, some 30% of this in phosphorylated form as phosphocreatine.

Moreover, the study showed that a loss of ATP during heavy anaerobic exercise was found to decline after creatine ingestion, despite an increase in work production. These results suggest that improvements in performance are due to parallel improvements in ATP resynthesis during exercise as a consequence of increased phosphocreatine availability.

Short version – Creatine supplements increase your body’s stores of phosphocreatine, which in turn helps support your body’s ability to create ATP and replenish the depleted supply to continue fueling muscle activity.

Other Creatine Benefits

Increase in the water content of your muscle cells.

Increase in repetitions and weight loads of training sessions.

May reduce muscle breakdown and assist in post work out recovery.

Lastly, a study in 2010 from the Department of Sport Science was conducted to determine the effect of resistance training for 8 weeks in conjunction with creatine supplementation on muscle strength, lean body mass, and serum levels of myostatin and growth. The researchers found that creatine increased muscle mass when added to an exercise regimen and resulted in a “significant decrease in serum levels of myostatin,” which is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth.

So that’s it – creatine helps your body maintain its ATP levels, which in turn help muscle output, recovery, and growth.

Does that mean you should take it?

That is a discussion between you, your health provider, and if available, registered dietician. But hopefully, with our comments, you are now better informed about one of the more prolific supplements on the market.

As always

-Train Hard!

 

The Pre-Workout Drink Dilemma

We have all heard it, either from your buddy at the gym, fitness crazy co-worker, or countless online videos – you should have a pre-workout drink before you work out. So if you are hearing it this much, it must be true, right? I mean you want gains and improvement, so this is what you do, or don’t you?

As a gym-guy, and certified trainer, I’ve heard this all too, and been asked by clients. So let me give you the answer up front – NO, you do not.

But wait, you say, I want to see results from the gym, don’t I need this? Again, I offer a simple answer – NO.

Humans have been exercising long before science and fitness companies came up with pre-workout drinks, and we seem to have produced plenty of well trained and in shape athletes. So if that is the case, why the hype around this mythical wonder drink, and should you take them?

Let’s start with the science:

Most pre-workout formulas contain some level of caffeine or a caffeine-like stimulant. There is a reason for that. Several studies have shown that taking caffeine can provide a physical boost before a workout. A 2012 study in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Resistance found that men who took caffeine supplements could lift greater weights compared with those using a placebo. Other studies indicate those that rely on increased cardio output can increase their aerobic capacity with a dose of caffeine. However, studies have also shown the benefits of caffeine decrease as an individual develops a tolerance.

Pre-workout drinks and supplements also likely contain creatine, which assists in energy production in muscle cells. It does this by creating a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions. According to a 2003 study, creatine supplementation during training has been reported to promote significantly greater gains in strength, fat free mass, and performance primarily of high intensity exercise tasks.

Other common pre-workout ingredients include the B vitamin niacin, which can cause sweatiness and blood flow to the skin, and vasodilators, such as citrulline, which widen blood vessels. Although studies don’t show that these ingredients increase muscle mass per se, the increased blood flow to the muscles may provide the user with that “pumped” feeling and look.

The Bottom Line:

Your body, on a healthy, macronutrient balanced diet, will have the energy it needs to power you through a workout. That said, today we try and push ourselves harder, both at work and at the gym. Getting extra fuel into our muscles to get in those extra reps, heavier lifts, and longer cardio sessions can make the difference on how you see results. If you want to always be able to push your workout to its limits, to go further, then I recommend a pre-workout drink. We also need to be honest with ourselves, in that today’s busy world, that an energy booster before the gym after a long day at work can also make the difference in how well we feel about our workouts too. And one thing I have learned working with clients, is staying focused on fitness is mostly based on the positive feeling one has towards it.

So what should you take? Before I get to that, let me start with what to avoid. Keep these out of your system prior to working out:

  1. Milk based drinks
  2. Sugar-based fruit drinks
  3. Alcobol
  4. Carbonated beverages
  5. Sports drinks

None of these offer anything that is going to fuel your body for a workout, and can have other issues for your health.

As for what to take, I get asked this too. It is usually, “hey, what will work for me?” The answer is surprising to most – all of them, and none of them. Yes, I said all of them, and none of them. While there are many common ingredients to each drink, the specific formulas vary – as does our physiology. So I recommend you try samples of different brands to see how you feel. You should feel energetic, not jittery. If you feel jittery, try another brand, as it is a sign there is too much stimulant for your body. Lastly, what works for you right now, at your age and health may not work at other times. So do not get stuck on one brand over the years – you will need to adjust as your body changes.

I’ve used a few over the years, and offer them as ones that I personally would recommend:

  1. Mr. Hyde Nitro X Pre Workout
  2. N.O.-Xplode
  3. Pre JYM
  4. Organifi Red Juice

The last one is a bit of a twist to this. It has 500mg of B12, which helps the body produce glucose – a key energy element for your body, and an endurance blend. Red Juice works for my body, and has other health benefits. I also sip an Xtend BCAA amino acid drink while working out to keep my muscles nourished.

Above all – pre-workout drink or not – stay hydrated with regular old water! It works wonders, and is essential for maintaining overall health and is critical for essential fluid replacement when exercising. Second, read the label of your supplement – most require 30-45 minutes to reach effect. If you drink your supplement walking in the door of the gym, you will be over half way done with your workout before it kicks in – and you’ll wonder why it did not seem to help.

 

 

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