BCAA, The Best Supplements for Muscle Recovery (updated July 2019)

The Best Supplement for Muscle Recovery-Bcaas

Introduction BCAA

The premise of bodybuilding is, essentially, “building your body,” or tearing the muscle fibers so that they can reform into bigger, more exaggerated muscles. Recovery from this hard style of training is paramount for significant amounts of muscular growth, but even if you’re eating according to your goals, warming up before a workout and stretching afterward, and getting enough sleep, your muscles still may not be receiving the proper amount of recovery they need. This lack of recovery can actually hinder your progress — and really, who wants to train sore muscles anyway. In comes branched chain amino acids, or BCAA. Branched-chain amino acids are the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine that are found in animal proteins, and are readily used during ATP energy production (especially during periods of high intensity, such as weight training). These three amino acids are categorized as “essential” amino acids because the body cannot make them itself and instead requires them through food intake.

Branched chain amino acids can be used for both muscle recovery post-workout and for muscle conservation and increased energy production during a workout. Both processes are essential for full muscular growth and repair.

Branched Chain Amino Acid
Branched Chain Amino Acid

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As I mentioned earlier, BCAAs aid in ATP energy production. This influx of free branched chain amino acids can be broken down even further into glucose (through gluconeogenesis), pyruvate, which aids in other ATP energy cycles, or other intermediates that the muscles can use for sustained energy. And because these free BCAAs do not first need to be broken down, they can supply your hungry muscles more quickly than an intra-workout carbohydrate or protein fix. In fact, an influx of BCAAs to the muscles during a workout can actually increase the number of available carbohydrates because of their conversion to glucose, which can help to prevent the decay of muscle tissue for energy.

(Once the body’s glycogen or conserved carbohydrate-based, energy stores are depleted, the muscles will start to catabolize the muscle tissue for energy. However, if BCAAs are supplemented during a workout, then this protein catabolism can be prevented!)

So yes, branched chain amino acids are essential for energy during exercise. But what about for muscle recovery? What can branched-chain amino acids do then?

Benefits of BCAA

For post-exercise, the same principles apply. Firstly, BCAA supplementation can help to speed up the process of muscle recovery because of the influx of free essential amino acids. Because these amino acids do not first need to be broken down from food, which can take the body hours depending on both the quantity of proteins and what else was eaten — typically, the body breaks down foods in order of fats, proteins, and then carbohydrates, so the BCAAs would take a while to reach the muscles — they can quickly be shuttled off to the muscles that are trying to repair themselves after an exceptionally grueling workout. This is why your muscles feel particularly sore after training, but let up after about a day or so: they have the help of branched-chain amino acids in their recovery!

In addition, the body needs to quickly refill its glycogen stores and cannot do so without a quick fix of carbohydrates — many sports athletes will supplement with white carbohydrates, such as cereals and rice. BCAAs work just as well, if not better, especially over a long period of time, because of the amino acids’ ability to be converted into glucose when needed or to remain as proteins to aid the muscles in their fight to recovery.

Branched-chain amino acids are also proven to improve protein synthesis over an extended period of time, which helps to contribute to overall muscle recovery. Since muscular growth is simply the reforming of torn muscle fibers, which are entirely made up of proteins, this improvement of protein synthesis through consistent ingestion of BCAAs can aid in overall muscle recovery. BCAAs have also been proven, through a study performed by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, to:

  1. Decrease reductions in muscle function, therefore improving performance over an
    extended period of time.
  2. Improve the body’s creatine kinase cycle, which also aids in the rapid regeneration of
    ATP during exercise.
  3. Increased plasma levels of creatine itself.
  4. Decrease DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which occurs as the muscle tries
    to repair itself in the immediate days post-workout.
BCAA
BCAA

Branched-chain amino acids are one of the more paramount supplements that can aid in muscle recovery — and, as a double feature, also aids in improving muscle function during exercise. Not only can BCAAs increase the amount of glucose supplied to the muscle during a workout, but they can also be used to decrease onset muscle soreness, decrease muscular fatigue, and prevent muscular damage (Larsen, 2016)!

BCAAs can be found at most sports supplement stores in a variety of flavors (including flavorless, if that’s your style). The only essential element when purchasing a BCAA supplement is that they contain ample amounts of all three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Without a hefty amount of each, the supplement cannot do much in terms of muscle recovery. But with all three, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

 

ZMA Review 2018 -Benefits & Side Effects (Updated July 2019)

How and Why of ZMA

What is ZMA?

ZMA is a supplement composed of zinc, magnesium, and aspartate. It also contains some amounts of Vitamin B6. When taken in the correct dosages, ZMA is mainly used as a sleep aid. In addition, it has also been linked to increasing zinc and magnesium levels in deficient peoples.

However, the product is mainly known in the fitness community as increasing testosterone levels in men. This is due to zinc and magnesium’s link to increase testosterone in both men and women in vitro. (However, most studies have only tested men.) However, studies show that ZMA only has a significant impact on testosterone levels that are already low. If your testosterone levels are healthy, chances are ZMA will not help. (source linked here.)

The Main Functions

Primarily, ZMA is used as a sleep aid. This is because of zinc and magnesium’s part in:

  • increased immune function
  • hormone regulation
  • normalizing sleep patterns
  • normalizing protein synthesis
  • reduced fatigue
  • protection from oxidative stress
  • improved exercise recovery

However, women are normally tentative to supplement with this supplement because of its link to increasing testosterone. While ZMA does increase testosterone in unhealthy males, its impact is too insignificant to really impact females.

In fact, everyone should be supplementing with ZMA, especially if they are: heavily active, have trouble sleeping, or are deficient in zinc, magnesium, or Vitamin B6. (However, these minerals and vitamins can also be supplemented individually. Ask your health care provider which is the better option for you!) But if you are heavily active, then ZMA will do more than increase zinc levels. It also helps with protein synthesis by promoting healthy sleep. Over time, this helps to increase muscle growth. It also protects the muscles and organ systems from oxidative stress, which have been linked to decreasing muscle density. Preventing this also helps muscle growth. So basically, supplementing with this supplement is another surefire way to make some gains. (source linked here.)

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How and When to Take ZMA

This supplement is taken as similarly as other supplements. For best results, take ZMA on an empty stomach. This will ensure maximum absorption because the body can immediately digest the ZMA. For even better results, do not supplement ZMA with additional zinc, magnesium, or copper. An overdose of any one of these minerals can be toxic to the body, even when naturally deficient in one or all of them. So stick to either additional supplements or ZMA. Or ask your doctor. Or both.

  • Women and ZMA

There is a stigma among women and increasing testosterone levels. The media has it that women with “too much testosterone” will become “bulky and manly”. This, however, is simply not the case. Women straying away from ZMA, for this reason, is also ludicrous because ZMA is only linked to increase testosterone in males who are deficient; no tests have been run on females. Besides, the benefits of This supplement should outweigh the overrun possibility of slightly increased testosterone levels.

  • Women and Testosterone
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Against popular belief, women contain some testosterone in vitro. Men also contain some estrogen (but no one ever really talks about that). However, testosterone is imperative to proper hormonal regulation, bodily processes, and everyday living. It’s simply the ratios of testosterone per gender that vary, not the hormone. For women who are looking to gain significant muscle mass, regulating their testosterone levels is even more important because it’s linked to muscle growth.

Testosterone is a hormone that is naturally produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands. For men, it’s naturally produced in the testes and adrenal glands. On average, women only produce about 0.5-2.5 nmol/L. Comparatively, men produce approximately 9-38 nmol/L on average, depending on the man’s size. Physically, women cannot handle much more than 3 nmol/L of testosterone. Even with additional supplementation, the female body will eventually cap out.

In fact, women have to be physically ill to handle significantly high testosterone levels. Most notably, high testosterone levels in women have been linked to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (POS). However, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is also linked to increased hair loss or growth, weight gain, acne, and/or menstrual problems, as well as increased testosterone levels. So, more than likely, you would know if your testosterone levels were becoming a problem.

Testosterone is an important hormone in women. Not only does it support muscle growth, but it also:

  • fuels sex drive
  • increases muscle density
  • increases bone density
  • aids in metabolism regulation
  • has some anti-aging effects

So the hormone you’ve been fearing this whole time can actually be the key component to most Cosmopolitan ads. Testosterone can help women to look younger and boost their metabolism, without deepening their voice or increasing chest hair production. Testosterone is wonderful! (source linked here.)

  • Is ZMA Safe for Women?
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The short answer is yes. ZMA should be taken by both men and women, especially if heavily active. As mentioned, ZMA has such beneficial effects that not including it in your daily regimen is more harmful than straying away.

Zinc and magnesium additions to the diet will not spike testosterone levels in healthy women. Or, if they do, it’s not insignificant enough amounts. Instead, adding ZMA will add to the many benefits of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 I’ve listed above. Why not bask in the benefits of improved sleep quality and hormonal levels? Or improved exercise recovery? Decreased fatigue? How about increased oxidative function?

Who Should Take ZMA?

In short, everyone should take ZMA. The benefits are too numerous to count, and it will definitely help more than it will hurt. So what’re you waiting for?

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Creatine Supplements: The Hows and Whys (Updated July 2019)

Creatine Supplements

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body. For short bursts of bodily stresses, such as exercise, the ATP-PCr Pathway is recruited. In this case, “PCr” stands for phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate). More specifically, the ingredient is released to help aid cellular function. The more creatine available to the muscles, the more can be released to adapt to stressors.

image @ www.rackcdn.com

How to Take Creatine

Food and Supplements

The ingredient can be found in some foods, such as eggs, meat, and fish. However, the amount in these foods is not normally enough to make significant differences in our energy pathways. Instead, ingredient can be supplemented into the diet in either powder or pill form.

image @ www.t-nation.com

There are also several different types of it available, but the cheapest and most abundant is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is normally sold in powder form and is mixed with water.

 

The body already makes enough for the average person, so quickly doubling that amount can lead to bloating, diarrhea, or nausea. Instead, a loading phase is necessary. When first adding a creatine supplement to your diet, start with 0.3g/kg of body weight for 5-7 days. Then, slowly increase by 0.03g/kg per day for about three weeks. The prescribed amount is typically 5-10g per day, depending on your size.

The only difference for the amount of creatine to take depends on your gender. Because males typically hold more muscle mass than females, they can ingest closer to 10g per day. Women, on the other hand, stay closer to 5g per day.

But be Warned!

It should also be taken with ample amounts of water. Creatine monohydrate is generally ingested by dissolving in water (don’t straight shoot it), but drinking enough water throughout the day is also imperative. Without, stomach cramping and bloating can occur.

If you take too much at one time, then diarrhea and nausea may occur. If this happens, spread out your 5-10g over the course of the whole day. The benefits will still occur, just without the nasty side effects.

Creatine Benefits

There are plenty of benefits to taking creatine daily. These benefits also apply to both men and women and can happen while taking 5g, 10g, or any amount in between per day.

  1. Increase Muscle Creatine Content — This one is self-explanatory. As you take in more creatine, your muscles are capable of holding more creatine.
  2. Increase Power Output — Because the ATP-PCR Pathway is recruited for power movements, increasing the muscle’s creatine load will also increase its power output. This is most handy for “fight or flight” movements initiated by the sympathetic nervous system, or for intense exercise (sprinting, powerlifting, etc.)
  3. Increase Weight — This is mainly from water retention. However, overall weight can increase as muscle density and strength increase. It is also linked to an increase in lean body mass. However, more studies show a weight gain due to water retention than lean mass.

    image @ www.zazozh.com
  4. Increase Hydration — When you start to ingest more creatine monohydrate, you need to drink more water. By doing this, your daily water consumption will increase, and you will become more hydrated. Huzzah!
  5. Increase Anaerobic Capacity & VO2 Max — Daily ingestion has been linked to minor increases in anaerobic capacity. The ATP-PCr Pathway is utilized without the aid of oxygen, so strengthening this system will help increase anaerobic capacity in most athletes. Increased creatine will also lead to more oxygen that can be taken up by the muscle. This leads to increased muscular capacity, which is beneficial for intense exercise.
  6. Decrease Fatigue / Increase Muscular Endurance — It is linked to increased energy production in muscle cells. With an increase in creatine phosphate in the body, the muscles will have an increased energy store. Thus, the muscles are capable of completing more work and the time to fatigue increases.
  7. Decrease Muscular Damage — As the muscles increase anaerobic capacity, they also become more capable of doing work. They become more efficient, thus decreasing their chances of injury.
  8. Increase Testosterone — Muscles require testosterone to grow and function. An increase in muscular capacity will increase serum testosterone in the body.
  9.  Increase Glycogen Resynthesis — Glycogen Resynthesis is the time required by the muscles to replenish glycogen stores. By increasing your daily intake, your muscles become more efficient at replenishing their glycogen stores. This makes them fatigue more slowly and increases their capacity for work.

    image @ www.s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

In all, it is a powerful and highly beneficial supplement to add to your daily regimen. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most cost-effective supplements available to date and has more than enough benefits to make up the price. However, remember to slowly increase your intake and to drink plenty of fluids while supplementing with it . Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

Best Supplements for Fat Loss (Updated July 2019)

Best Supplements for Fat Loss

Best Supplements for Fat Loss

When trying to lose weight, there is always the debate of supplements. Mostly, are they needed, how much, and what types are best. However, supplements are not the king of fat loss. This notion goes against a lot of popular opinions. In fact, supplements are never wholly needed. They are there to supplement the diet, not the other way around.

 

Fat loss is the simple equation of calories in versus calories out. Or, in other words, how many calories you burn in one day versus how many you consume. So let’s say that your daily intake is around 1,700 calories. This is how much it takes to maintain your current physique. If you eat less than 1,700kcal. that day, say 1,500, you are in a 200kcal. deficit. Over a period of time, that can add up to 1,000kcal. in a week, and 4,000kcal. in a month. Overall, you’d lose approximately 1lbs. of body fat per month, since one pound of body fat is 3,500kcal.

Now, let’s say that you ate an extra 200kcal. per day instead. Over time, you would be in a surplus of 1,000kcal. per day and 4,000kcal. per month. So overall, you’d gain approximately 1lbs. of body fat per month.

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Fat loss or gain can be done without the aid of supplements. Can supplements help? Of course. There are certain supplements that aid in metabolism and fat store utilization. They are not, however, essential to losing overall body fat. That simply comes from a negative caloric intake over a long period of time.

Disclaimer!

Let’s not be rash about this caloric deficit, though. Cutting your calories by 500kcal. or more per day takes a huge toll on the body. Every day the body is dependent on the amount of food you eat. If your body maintains around a certain number of calories, then drastically cutting this energy intake slows your essential bodily systems.

The body, after a few days or weeks of this deficit, will go into Starvation Mode. This attitude is the shutting down of any bodily system that does not have the direct purpose of keeping you alive. Some processes that are affected are:

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  1. Blood circulation slows
  2. Body temperature decreases
  3. Sex drive decreases
  4. Sex hormone production stalls
  5. The decrease in bone growth and density
  6. Slowed digestion/metabolism
  7. Drying skin
  8. Hair thinning
  9. Disrupted sleep

Make sure that when utilizing a caloric deficit that you do so with the help of a professional. Bodybuilding and/or strength coaches, a nutritionist or dietician, or your doctor can help to set the right deficit for you if losing weight is a priority! (source linked here.)

The Best Fat Burning Supplements

There are a few key players that can aid in fat loss. While a strong diet is key, there are some supplements that will aid metabolism or help the body utilize fat storages for energy.

L-Carnitine

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L-Carnitine aids the mitochondria in improved energy production. During normal energy synthesis, the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the body, providing energy to the cells. L-Carnitine helps to decrease the effects of aging on mitochondria. It also increases the mitochondria’s fat-burning potential. Lastly, it’s also used as a stimulant, similar to caffeine.

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L-Carnitine can be found in many forms, including:

  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR), which is used for cognitive enhancement
  • L-Carnitine L-Tartrate (LCLT), which is used for power output during physical activity
  • Glycine Propionyl L-Carnitine (GPLC), which is used for blood circulation

This increase in mitochondrial energy also helps to boost brain power in some subjects, while giving others elongated energy. In fact, L-Carnitine’s main calling card is increased energy. (source linked here.) L-Carnitine gets this increased energy from the body’s fat stores. After being freed, the fatty acids are shuffled along to the mitochondria by L-Carnitine and utilized as oxidative energy.

L-Carnitine can be supplemented daily in doses ranging from 500-2,000mg. The dosage varies depending on the individual. In addition, all of L-Carnitine’s counterparts follow the same dosage guidelines and can also be taken daily, depending on your goals. (source linked here.)

Forskolin

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Forskolin normally works alongside L-Carnitine for fat utilization. The latter works to bring the fatty acids to the mitochondria. Forskolin works to release the fatty acids from the body’s fat stores.

Forskolin releases fatty acids by activating the enzyme adenylate cyclase, which then activates hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). Like any other lipase, HSL breaks down fat for energy by enacting lipolysis. Lipolysis is the complete breakdown of glycerides into fatty acids, which can be used as energy by the mitochondria. These fatty acids are released into the bloodstream, where they meet up with their powerhouse counterparts and give the body elongated energy.

In unscientific terms, Forskolin releases your fat from their body stores. When paired with L-Carnitine, these fatty acids are efficiently utilized as fuel. Studies even show that prolonged use improves fat burning during both training and rest. And, of course, helps to increase total fat loss over time.

Typically, Forskolin can be found with L-Carnitine as a single supplement. If not, take approximately 20-50mg daily. (source linked here.)

Caffeine

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Yes, your morning coffee can help promote fat loss. Who knew?!

Caffeine has been linked to increased energy production and fat oxidation, which increase it’s ability to metabolize fat. This has been linked to its stimulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) through that coffee-jolt we all know and love. Stimulating the CNS helps to release fatty acids from fat stores. It also promotes calcium absorption from the body’s calcium stores, which aids in muscle contraction. Both are extremely helpful when exercising for long periods of time.

Caffeine is also one of the most cost-effective fat loss supplements to date. As little as one cup of coffee before your morning workout can promote these benefits! Or, if you’re not a cup-of-joe fan, try pre-workouts. They normally contain roughly 120mg of caffeine per serving and aid in fat loss.

However, be warned: taking more than 400mg per day can start to have negative side effects. Imagine how you feel after a couple of large coffees during a rough morning. Eventually, you crash and your head hurts, and the same thing happens to your body. So stick to one to two servings every couple of hours. (source linked here.)

Green Tea Extract

Another cost-effective fat loss supplement is green tea extract. Like caffeine, green tea extract helps to utilize the body’s fat stores for energy. However, it also encourages brown adipose tissue thermogenesis, which is another form of fat utilization. This is due to the phytochemicals found in green tea; the main phytochemical, epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC), can increase fat oxidation by up to 33%!

There is one setback, though. Green tea extract has to be taken in a pretty pure form in order to have any real effect. Drinking green tea is great because it supplies some phytochemicals and antioxidants, but the proportions are not enough for fat loss. (source linked here.)

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