How to Kick-Start Your Diet and Workout Plan After a Holiday

It’s inevitable – It happens every year, to everyone; and no, we’re not talking about taxes. You’re exercising regularly, adhering to your diet, and steadily losing weight. Then the holidays come, and everything goes off the rails. You told yourself you’d only have “a bite” of dessert, and next thing you know, you’re three cookies […]

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The Best Core Exercises to Protect You from Injury

Stepping into the gym, most people are focused on growing their biceps, increasing their bench press, or taking countless selfies by the mirror. While each of these has their place in the gym, except the selfie nonsense that is, there’s a glaring omission from most athletes’ training regimen — core training. Ask the typical gym […]

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Why Carbohydrates are Ideal Post-Workout

So often in the fitness community, we’re told to avoid cheap carbs and simple sugars like white bread, candy, cookies, cake, and soda for a couple of reasons. They’re calorically dense and nutrient-poor They spike insulin levels They raise blood sugar levels They promote fat storage They lead to energy crashes They are easy to […]

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Collagen 101: What it is and What it Does

If you’re looking for information about collagen, congratulations! You’ve arrived at your destination. Collagen is one of the big buzzwords tossed around these days regardless if you’re talking about health, fitness, beauty or bodybuilding. There are collagen supplements, supplements to improve collagen, collagen creams, lotions, and even foods you can eat to boost collagen. Collagen […]

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Complete Guide to Cupping and its Benefits

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1526418752473{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Cupping is an age-old remedy that’s been historically used to treat a variety of ailments. Recently, it’s come back into the limelight and if you’re like many people, you’re wondering what all the fuss is about. What is cupping? Is cupping effective? Is it backed by science? How many cups do you […]

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How to Break a Weight Loss Plateau

All fat loss journeys start off the same way — you’re steadily dropping pounds each week and all you’ve really done is cut back on the amount of “bad” foods you’ve been eating all the time. The number on the scale keeps falling and weight loss seems all too easy. All of a sudden after a few weeks of enjoying this “effortless weight loss” everything comes to a grinding halt — the scale number stopped going down, you’re not losing fat anymore, and you’re wondering what in the world possibly went wrong!

Technically speaking, you’ve done absolutely nothing “wrong”, but you have hit the inevitable weight loss plateau, just like millions of other people have during their own fat loss journey. While that might not seem comforting in the least bit, then maybe this will — plateaus were meant to be BROKEN, and with these five tips, you’ll have a number of ways to break through your plateau and re-ignite your fat loss once again!

5 Ways to Shatter Weight Loss Plateaus

  • Re-calculate calories

    The reason you’ve hit a weight loss plateau is that unfortunately your metabolic rate slows down as you lose more and more weight. The simple truth is that your body uses a certain number of calories to maintain your original starting weight. As you lose weight, your body carries less mass, and in response, your metabolism downshifts to accommodate the reduced caloric demand. Research shows that for every pound of weight you lose, you’re burning 6.8 fewer calories on average. [1]

    To compensate for your lower energy needs, you’ll have to recalculate your macros and caloric needs each day. A good guideline to follow when dieting is to re-evaluate your caloric needs every few weeks as the weight continues to drop, and in all likelihood, you’ll have to reduce calories further to continue losing weight.

    However it’s important to not drop calories too far, too fast as that could lead to another fat loss plateau. That brings us to the next plateau buster, which can be used in lieu of or in tandem with reducing calories.

  • Increase Exercise Intensity or Frequency

    If you don’t want to drop calories any further or are so low that you can’t really afford to lower your calories, another option to restart fat loss is to increase the intensity and / or frequency of your exercise routine. Remember, weight loss comes down to calories in versus calories out. By increasing your caloric burn each day through exercise, you’ll rev up your metabolism sparking new fat loss.

  • Cycle Calories

    Calorie cycling is a style of eating where you alternate between high and low-calorie intakes for different days of the week. This method of eating is especially useful when trying to burn those “last five pounds” and often only used when all other plateau-busting measures have been exhausted. By alternating your daily intake, you’re preventing your body’s metabolism from getting too accustomed to a set intake, and thereby stopping your by from lowering its metabolic rate and instilling a weight loss plateau. In other words, think of calorie cycling as “metabolic confusion” for your body. By constantly changing things up, your body never really adapts to one set intake.

  • Manage Stress

    Dieting is a stressful enterprise, and sometimes, it gets a bit too much for even the most even-keeled individuals. When you’re stressed, you increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can trigger food cravings like you wouldn’t believe. On top of that having chronically elevated cortisol levels can promote fat gain, especially in women, and make it incredibly difficult to build or maintain muscle mass. [2,3]

    Therefore, finding ways to reduce or control stress is essential to maintaining steady weight loss. If you find you’ve been at a plateau for over 2 weeks, consider re-evaluating your situation in life. Are you more stressed than usual? Are there other factors outside of dieting stressing you out?

    If so, find ways to work around or improve the factors causing you stress, and once they’re addressed, watch the fat loss continue on at a steady pace!

  • Take a break

    As strange as this may sound, sometimes your body and mind just need a break and “reset.” Dieting for prolonged periods of time is taxing to your body and mind, and no amount of tip or trick will break the weight loss plateau.

    If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t figure things out, try eating back at maintenance calories for a week or two, then restart your diet eating at a caloric deficit and you’ll be surprised to find out that weight loss has started all over again. Sometimes, the body just needs a break from the stresses of dieting to readjust, reset, and reignite its fat burning mechanisms.

References

  1. Schwartz A, Doucet E. Relative changes in resting energy expenditure during weight loss: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2010;11(7):531-547. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00654.x.
  2. Moyer AE, Rodin J, Grilo CM, Cummings N, Larson LM, Rebuffe-Scrive M. Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obes Res. 1994;2(3):255-262.
  3. Warne JP. Shaping the stress response: interplay of palatable food choices, glucocorticoids, insulin and abdominal obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2009;300(1-2):137-146. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2008.09.036.

Diuretics 101: A Complete Guide to Dropping Water Weight

Water weight — everyone has it, some more than others, but no one really likes it. Water weight covers up the lean, sexy, flat stomach you’ve worked so hard to get, and no matter how much cardio, calorie cutting, or caffeine chugging you do, nothing seems to get rid of it.

Diuretics are often used to help flush unwanted water weight from the body, but they’re a controversial topic, especially in the world of bodybuilding and modeling.

What do they do? Should they be used? Are they safe? How do you know if you should even consider them?

We’ve got all that answered and a whole lot more, including the best natural diuretics you can find right in your house ahead in our complete guide to helping you get rid of that unwanted water weight!

What are Diuretics?

Diuretics, also known as water pills, are medications used to enhance water and salt removal from the body through urine. They’re commonly used to treat high blood pressure, but diuretics also find use in the treatment of numerous other conditions including:

  • Tissue swelling (i.e. swollen feet, ankles, legs, etc.)
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cirrhosis
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Kidney stones
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

How do Diuretics Work?

When discussing prescription grade diuretics, they typically fall into one of three categories:

Osmotic Diuretics

Osmotic diuretics are injectable drugs that act directly on the kidneys by instructing them to remove anything and everything that enters. These diuretics don’t discriminate between certain minerals (sodium, potassium, etc.). They remove any and all water entering the kidneys.

Osmotic diuretics essentially override the normal, natural function of the kidneys, and can lead to renal failure, if misused.

Potassium-Sparing Diuretics

Potassium-sparing diuretics are milder in their actions than the osmotic diuretics described above, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own disadvantages. Names, potassium-sparing diuretics reduce sodium and water reabsorption through the kidneys and expel them through the urine.

However, unlike osmotic diuretics that eliminate everything, potassium-sparing diuretics retain potassium. But, too much potassium can be hazardous as is too little, as too much potassium in the body, in extreme cases, can lead to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or sudden death.

Loop Diuretics

The third and final class of prescription diuretics comes in the form of loop diuretics. This also happens to be the class of diuretics most frequently used in the world of bodybuilding, with furosemide being the common one used by top level bodybuilders.

Loop diuretics are typically prescribed to treat high blood pressure and edema (fluid retention). They’re also used to rid the blood of toxins and hazardous foreign agents in the instance of blood poisoning.

Similar to osmotic diuretics, loop diuretics act directly on the kidneys and do no discriminate in which fluids or minerals are flushed from the kidneys, meaning they have a tremendous impact on the overall balance of electrolytes in the body as they remove sodium, potassium, calcium and water.

Side effects experienced with loop diuretics include thickening of the blood, drop in blood pressure, fainting, renal failure, extreme cramping, and even death (due to muscular cramping of the heart).

Loop diuretics are extremely powerful, and when they are used in conjunction with other water removal techniques employed during peak week for a contest, can have serious effects on your health and well-being.

Common Side Effects of Prescription Diuretics

Prescription diuretics are extremely powerful and have been known to lead to serious consequences when they are abused. Overall though, diuretics are safe when used appropriately.

Common side effects of diuretics include:

  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rash
  • Headaches

In the extreme cases, most often experienced in the world of bodybuilding, abuse of diuretics has resulted in several unfortunate and untimely deaths, not to mention the countless hospitalizations that have occurred in the days leading up to a big contest.

Who Should Use Diuretics?

Aside from physique competitors getting ready for the stage or models prepping for a photo shoot, diuretics are also frequently prescribed to individuals who are retaining too much fluid, a condition called edema.

How to Lose Water Weight

Eliminating unsightly water weight can be accomplished in a number of ways that don’t involve you taking some potentially hazardous chemicals. These diuretic alternatives include:

  • Decreasing or eliminating sodium from the diet
  • Increasing cardio workouts
  • Consuming greater amounts of water followed by a sudden and dramatic reduction in water intake
  • Drinking distilled water, free of any minerals or electrolytes
  • All natural, herbal diuretics

The Top 10 Best Natural Diuretics

Fortunately, if you are looking to shed some unwanted water weight either for beach season or the competition stage you don’t have to resort to a bunch of potentially hazardous pharmaceuticals. You can use the much safer, more natural water-ridding agents found in a number of plants including:

  • Dandelion

    While most think of the common dandelion as just a really pretty weed growing on the side of the road, it’s actually a pretty potent natural diuretic. Research has shown that dandelion increases activity of the kidneys as well as frequency of urination.[1]

    The reason dandelion is so effective at shedding water weight is its taraxasterol content, which are phytochemicals that support excess water secretion and improve the body’s natural detoxification processes.

    Perhaps best of all, dandelion also helps flush excess water without dehydrating you, as it is naturally high in potassium, a vital mineral lost in abundance when dealing with prescription diuretics.

  • Hawthorn

    A relative of the rose family, hawthorn is another powerful plant diuretic that reduces fluid buildup in the body, a key factor in treating congestive heart failure. Research has shown that the hawthorn can increase urinary excretion and flow [3], and is one of the primary reasons Hawthorn berries have been used to treat kidney problems.

  • Horsetail

    Historically used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, horsetail is an herb used to treat a variety of conditions including everything from ulcers to tuberculosis.[4] Research has found horsetail to be as effective as prescription medications[5], but with fewer side effects, making it a better alternative for removing excess water than prescription diuretics, especially if you may have experienced problems with prescription-grade diuretics in the past.

    Interestingly enough, horsetail can also be brewed as a tea, if you prefer to drink your diuretics.

  • Uva Ursi

    Also known as Bearberry, Uva Ursi contains a compound known as arbutin, which has been shown to exert strong diuretic effects in the body. The plant has traditionally been used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).

    Studies show the plant triggers a rapid release of fluid from the body through the urinary tract, decreasing water retention without putting undue stress on the kidneys. [6,7] Uva Ursi has also been used in the cosmetics field for its skin-whitening abilities due to its ability to inhibit melanin synthesis. [8]

  • Juniper

    Juniper’s use as a diuretic dates back to medieval times, and for good reason, and it’s been shown to have a rather potent effect on urine volume.[9] The plant has also been used to treat other ailments including gout, nerve pain, arthritis, and even the common cold.

    Juniper is able to increase urine volume due to a compound in Juniper called terpinen-4-ol[10], and, similar to other all natural diuretics, juniper is able to increase water removal without depleting potassium.[11]

  • Corn Silk

    We already know what you’re thinking….

    “Is this the same thread that gets stuck in my teeth when eating corn on the cob?”

    You bet it is, and addition to being a nuisance when trying to enjoy a delicious summer food, it’s also great for getting rid of that unwanted water weight. Historically, corn silk was also used to treat bladder infections, prostate inflammation, kidney stone formation, and even bedwetting. Today, corn silk is brewed in various cultures as a tea and consumed to treat these conditions.

    Modern research notes that corn silk reduces the symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as may even enhance glucose metabolism. [12,13]

  • Tea (Green & Black)

    Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage on the planet. Yes, even more than coffee or Red Bulls. Aside from helping you wind down after a tough day at work, tea may also be helping to eliminate some unwanted water weight, and studies have shown that both green and black tea exerts pro-diuretic effects in the body. [14,15]

  • Hibiscus

    Commonly found in well-maintained home gardens, hibiscus has more to offer than just the appearance of its beautiful flowers. Numerous studies have shown that the attractive flower exerts powerful diuretic effects and even boosts the filtration ability of your kidneys. [16,17]

    Similar to some of the other botanical diuretics we’ve discussed, hibiscus can also be brewed and consumed as a tea.

  • Urtica Dioica

    More frequently found under its easier to pronounce name, stinging nettle, urtica dioica is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant offering a wealth of benefits to you that extends beyond eliminating excess water. Some of these benefits including reducing inflammation, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing blood sugar.

    More pertinent to our discussion of its pro-diuretic benefits, stinging nettle helps remove remove excess sodium and water from the body by increasing urine flow. [18,19]

  • Celery

    Yes, a common household food and staple of numerous cuisines, celery also serves as an effective, all-natural diuretic. Research found it to exert antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering) and diuretic effects comparable to prescription grade diuretics. [20]

Other Top Diuretic Foods

Besides the ten all-natural diuretics detailed above, there are a few other more common foods you can add to your diet to help get rid of unwanted bloating and excess water weight. These foods include:

  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Garlic
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Onions

Basically, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, while removing salt-laden, hyper processed foods is crucial to losing that unwanted water weight.

Should I use Diuretics?

This is a loaded question, and it really depends on your particular circumstances.

If you’re 50 pounds overweight and just beginning a fat loss journey, diuretics are not the first thing you should turn to to fix your problem. A stout exercise program and clean diet are. But, if you’re a few days out from a competition or a big photo shoot, you’re certainly an ideal candidate for natural diuretics.

If you fall into the latter category, we’ve got just solution for you too!

Hydra Steel — The Natural Way to Lose Water Weight

The lean, ripped, and dry physique showcased by elite physique competitors and muscle magazine models can be your, and it doesn’t require any fancy filters, photoshopping, or angling. SteelFit has developed the ultimate fast acting and all-natural diuretic in Hydra Steel.

Using a mix of natural herbal supplements, Hydra Steel gets you ready for the stage or beach in only 10 days, without depleting those essential electrolytes you need to sustain performance in your workouts.

When it’s time to not only get lean, but absolutely bone dry, the only choice is Hydra Steel.

References

  1. Rácz-Kotilla E, Rácz G, Solomon A; The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on the body weight and diuresis of laboratory animals . Planta Med. (1974)
  2. Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15(8):929-934. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0152.
  3. Dizaye K. Antihyperuricemic and Diuretic Effects of Procyanidins Extracted from Crataegus Monogyna. Vol 6.; 2011. doi:10.15218/zjms.2011.0009.
  4. Pérez Gutiérrez RM,  Laguna GY, Walkowski A. Diuretic activity of Mexican equisetum. J Ethnopharmacol. 1985 Nov-Dec;14(2-3):269-72.
  5. Danilo Maciel Carneiro, Ramias Calixto Freire, Tereza Cristina de Deus Honório, et al., “Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail) in Healthy Volunteers,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2014, Article ID 760683, 8 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/760683
  6. Gohari A-R, Saeidnia S. The role of herbal medicines in treatment of urinary tract diseases. Journal of Nephropharmacology. 2014;3(1):13-14.
  7. Beaux D, Fleurentin J, Mortier F. Effect of extracts of Orthosiphon stamineus Benth, Hieracium pilosella L., Sambucus nigra L. and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. in rats. Phytother Res. 1999;13(3):222-225. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199905)13:3<222::AID-PTR447>3.0.CO;2-P.
  8. Zen J-M, Yang H-H, Chiu M-H, Yang C-H, Shih Y. Selective determination of arbutin in cosmetic products through online derivatization followed by disposable electrochemical sensor. J AOAC Int. 2011;94(3):985-990.
  9. M. Denise Dearing, Antonio M. Mangione, William H. Karasov; Plant Secondary Compounds as Diuretics: An Overlooked Consequence, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 41, Issue 4, 1 August 2001, Pages 890–901, https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/41.4.890
  10. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76-7.
  11. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 218-20.
  12. Guo J, Liu T, Han L, Liu Y. The effects of corn silk on glycaemic metabolism. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2009;6(1):47. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-6-47.
  13. Ahmed Salih Sahib S. Use of Aqueous Extract of Corn Silk in the Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection. Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology. 2012;1(2):93-96.
  14. Manodeep Chakraborty, Jagadish V. Kamath, and Ananya Bhattacharjee, “Potential Interaction of Green Tea Extract with Hydrochlorothiazide on Diuretic Activity in Rats,” International Scholarly Research Notices, vol. 2014, Article ID 273908, 5 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/273908
  15. Abeywickrama KRW, Ratnasooriya W, Amarakoon AMT. Oral diuretic activity of hot water infusion of Sri Lankan black tea (Camellia sinensis L.) in rats. Pharmacogn Mag. 2010;6(24):271-277. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.71788.
  16. Jiménez-Ferrer E, Alarcón-Alonso J, Aguilar-Rojas A, et al. Diuretic Effect of Compounds from Hibiscus sabdariffa by Modulation of the Aldosterone Activity. Planta Med. 2012;78(18):1893-1898. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1327864.
  17. Alarcón-Alonso J, Zamilpa A, Aguilar FA, Herrera-Ruiz M, Tortoriello J, Jimenez-Ferrer E. Pharmacological characterization of the diuretic effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa Linn (Malvaceae) extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;139(3):751-756. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.005.
  18. Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293. doi:10.1007/s00345-002-0293-0.
  19. Tahri A, Yamani S, Legssyer A, et al. Acute diuretic, natriuretic and hypotensive effects of a continuous perfusion of  aqueous extract of Urtica dioica in the rat. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):95-100.
  20. Moghadam MH, Imenshahidi M, Mohajeri SA. Antihypertensive Effect of Celery Seed on Rat Blood Pressure in Chronic Administration. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2013;16(6):558-563. doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2664.

What Are Feeder Workouts?

Typical resistance-training recommendations are as follows:

  • Train a group of muscle intensely and don’t train it again for another 48-72 hoursOR
  • Assault one muscle group with everything you have and don’t train it again for another 5-7 days, or until you’re not sore.

No doubt you’ve heard these same recommendations, or something very similar to them, at one point or another in your lifting career. The reality is, neither of these recommendations hold much water and these “rules of lifting” may actually be holding you back from bigger and better muscle gains.

What if you could actually work the same muscle group(s) on consecutive days and have it not inhibit recovery, but actually promote growth?!

You’d probably think we were crazy.

Well, there’s a little something called feeder workouts, and it may be just what you need to bring up those lagging body parts once and for all!

What are Feeder Workouts?

Feeder workouts are “mini” workouts completed completely separate from your regular workout. In other words, the day after a heavy lifting day, you do a separate workout later that day or, ideally, the following day targeting those exact same muscles you hit on the previous day but for only 3 sets using very light weight and lots and lots of reps.

For example, let’s say on Monday you trained your pushing muscles (i.e. chest, shoulders, and triceps). Then, on Tuesday, before or after your normal training routine you do your feeder workout for chest, shoulder, and triceps. This feeder workout would contain primarily isolation exercises that allow you to really concentrate on the target muscle using very strict form and high reps.

An example feeder workout for your push muscles would be:

  • Pec Dec = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Lateral Raise = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Dumbbell Skull-Crushers = 3 sets, 50-100 reps

Now, jumping right out of the gate performing 50-100 reps in a single set, even using very light weight is incredibly taxing both mentally and physically — the burning sensation that sets in during feeder workouts is unlike anything you’ve experienced before!

The goal of these feeder workouts isn’t to pulverize the muscle and blast it into oblivion. These mini workouts should be looked at low intensity pump work, with the goal being to drive as much nutrient-rich blood into the muscles you trained the previous day. Remember muscle grows when stimulated, not annihilated, no matter what the gym bros tell you!

Why Feeder Workouts work?

  • Extended Protein Synthesis

    Feeder workouts prolong, or extend, the amount of time increased muscle protein synthesis occurs in a muscle group. Normally, when a muscle group is trained, protein synthesis is elevated for roughly 24 hours and returns to normal levels around the 36-hour post training mark.

    By performing another mini workout 24 hours after the first one, you prolong the increased protein synthesis occurring in your muscle by another 12-24 hours.

    The catch here, is that growth will only occur if you’re fueling properly. You’re only going to grow and promote repair and recovery if you’re consuming ample protein and eating at a caloric surplus.

  • Improved Mind-Muscle Connection

    Simply put, the human body gets better at things it does frequently. If you want to get better at pull ups, you need to start doing pull ups more often. The reason for this is that you’re increasing training volume, which your muscles adapt to by growing bigger and stronger, but in addition to getting stronger, you also establish a stronger mind-muscle connection, or an increased “awareness” of which muscle should be working during a given exercise.

    Feeder workouts are especially great if you struggle feel certain muscle groups firing during a lift. For example, don’t feel your lats working while doing pull ups (along with the other muscles of the back), performing a feeder workout the following day of straight-arm lat pulldowns may strengthen your mind-muscle connection to your lats, which translates to better lat recruitment during your subsequent pull up workouts leading to better workouts and bigger gains!

  • Shoring up Weaknesses

    Following your heavy lifting day, the trained muscles are incredibly responsive to less intense or traumatic training methods, i.e. light weights, high reps. This is great for bringing up lagging muscle groups that may be holding back your heavier compound movements.

    For example, if you struggle with the lockout portion of a bench press or overhead press, performing lighter weight, higher rep tricep work the day after your heavy presses, using very strict form while focusing on the contraction, will bring strengthen your triceps and translate to better performance in your heavier compound lifts.

Feed to Grow!

Feeder workouts are rarely discussed when discussing muscle growth. However, they represent an incredibly effective way to increase training volume without overtaxing your central nervous system (CNS) or muscles the way that high volume, high frequency heavy lifting programs can. Remember to keep the feeder workouts light and high rep but limit each exercise to 3 sets and only ONE exercise per muscle group. Coupled with a proper muscle-building diet, you’ll be astounded at how quickly your weak points become your best assets, all thanks to feeder workouts!

What is Visceral Fat?

There comes a time in every person’s life no matter how hard they train, how well they eat, or how genetically-gifted they may be, when they need to lose weight, or more specifically fat. But, what gets lost in the fat loss frenzy is the fact there are two types of fat in the human body.

When people typically think of losing fat, they’re almost always referring to subcutaneous fat. Subcutaneous means “under the skin” and it’s the type of fat that’s all over your body directly under your skin. It’s the type of fat that’s part your unwanted jiggles and unsightly wiggles when moving. Subcutaneous fat is the fat discussed when bulking, cutting, and recomping. But, there is an even more insidious fat that resides deep down in our bodies, that brings much more severe consequences that just a squishy figure.

We’re talking about visceral fat.

Visceral Fat 101

Visceral fat is the fat that’s stored around the organs primarily located in the abdominal cavity, i.e. the liver, pancreas, and intestines. Whereas you can see, touch, and even pinch subcutaneous fat, visceral fat is a silent killer that lines beneath the abdominal wall, making it harder to see and even tougher to burn off. And while subcutaneous fat might give you a lackluster physique, it’s not nearly as life-threatening as visceral fat is. In fact, high amounts of visceral fat are associated with increased risks of developing heart disease, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia.[1,2,3]

Science has yet to uncover the reason visceral fat is so much more harmful than subcutaneous fat, but one theory that’s gaining traction is that visceral fat release fatty acids and pro-inflammatory compounds into portal vein, where these compounds enter the liver.[4] This “infects” the blood and causes problems with steatosis (adipose degeneration) and insulin resistance, which leads to further health complications.

How to Lose Visceral Fat

While visceral fat sounds like pretty scary stuff, fortunately, research has shown that it responds pretty well to standard protocols used to burn off unwanted subcutaneous fat.[5,6,7] Some of the ways you can limit or reduce visceral fat accumulation on your body is:

  • Remove all trans fats from your diet
  • Lift Weights
  • Perform High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Limit alcohol (i.e. no heavy drinking or “binges”)
  • Reduce stress (cortisol)
  • Get sufficient sleep each night

You can also enhance your body’s fat burning abilities by using the right supplements, such as Steel Core™ features proven ingredients such as Grains of Paradise (Aframum melegueta) (Paradoxine®) which is a spice belonging to the ginger family that stimulates brown adipose tissue, boosting metabolism and increasing thermogenesis while decreasing visceral fat in the lower abdomen.

Takeaway

Fat, no matter which kinds, isn’t just ugly, it’s downright detrimental to your health. The good news, is that it’s relatively easy to lose. All you have to do is put in the work, in the form of proper diet, exercise, and recovery and you can limit the amount of fat on your body and promote a leaner, stronger physique and a better quality of life!

References

  1. Klein S, Fontana L, Young VL, et al. Absence of an effect of liposuction on insulin action and risk factors for coronary heart disease. N Engl J Med. 2004;350(25):2549-2557. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa033179.
  2. Hamdy O, Porramatikul S, Al-Ozairi E. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2006;2(4):367-373.
  3. Matsuzawa Y, Shimomura I, Nakamura T, Keno Y, Kotani K, Tokunaga K. Pathophysiology and pathogenesis of visceral fat obesity. Obes Res. 1995;3 Suppl 2:187S-194S.
  4. Rytka JM, Wueest S, Schoenle EJ, Konrad D. The Portal Theory Supported by Venous Drainage–Selective Fat Transplantation. Diabetes. 2011;60(1):56-63. doi:10.2337/db10-0697.
  5. Rice T, Hong Y, Perusse L, et al. Total body fat and abdominal visceral fat response to exercise training in the HERITAGE Family Study: evidence for major locus but no multifactorial effects. Metabolism. 1999;48(10):1278-1286.
  6. Dutheil F, Lac G, Lesourd B, et al. Different modalities of exercise to reduce visceral fat mass and cardiovascular risk in metabolic syndrome: the RESOLVE randomized trial. Int J Cardiol. 2013;168(4):3634-3642. doi:10.1016/j.ijcard.2013.05.012.
  7. Irving BA, Davis CK, Brock DW, et al. Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2008;40(11):1863-1872. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181801d40.

What is Cortisol and Why Reducing it is Good

Do you find yourself constantly tired, stressed and not enjoying things you previously did? Are you experiencing unexplainable weight gain even while adhering to a solid diet and workout regimen?

What you’re experiencing, most likely, is high cortisol levels. Not familiar with this hormone or why having high cortisol levels is a bad thing, especially in terms of fat loss and muscle gain? Don’t worry, we’ve got all the information on this important hormone ahead as we look in-depth at all there is to know about cortisol.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is your primary “stress” hormone. It’s released when you’re faced with any sort of threat, attack or perceived harmful event. Following this acute stressor, the hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system which ignites the “fight or flight response.”

At times, cortisol is a very necessary and useful, i.e. when getting chased by a cheetah in the wild. However, when cortisol levels get out of hand and are elevated for prolonged periods of time, that’s when things start to go awry.

Problems with High Cortisol Levels

Over the last 15-20 years, science has revealed some rather alarming side effects as a result of chronically high cortisol levels, including:

  • Fatigue

    Cortisol interferes with normal production of other hormones, which disrupts sleeping patterns and leads to physical and mental fatigue. [1,2]

  • Impaired Brain Function

    Elevated cortisol levels contribute to “brain fog” or mental cloudiness. It can also interfere with memory formation and recall too. [3]

  • Illness

    Cortisol hinders immune system function, making your more susceptible to illness, disease and infections. [4]

  • Accelerates Aging

    Not only does stress increase your chances of getting sick, it also accelerates the aging process at the cellular level. The telomere is the outermost part of the chromosome. As you age, the telomeres gradually shorten over the years. Telomere length has also been associated with age-related diseases and longevity.

    New research shows that individuals experiencing high levels of depression or chronically elevated cortisol levels exhibit shorter telomere lengths than control groups, leading researchers to the conclusion that stress plays a contributing factor to accelerating the aging process. [5]

  • Chronic Complications

    Being stressed all the time is also a contributing factor in the development of several severe chronic health complications including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. [6]

  • Weight Gain

    Last, but not least, worrying all the time and being stressed increases appetite, encourages unhealthy eating habits, and perhaps worst of all, signals your body to shift your metabolism from burning fat to storing it [7,8], thereby making that “stubborn” fat all the harder to lose

As you can see, being stressed and having high cortisol levels is no laughing matter. Now, let’s look at few ways to keep cortisol levels in check and promote better fat burning and health.

How to Reduce Stress

  • Exercise

    Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and for many people a daily means to getting away from pressure. In the short term, exercise does temporarily increase cortisol levels, but it’s an essential part of the muscle-building process and will return back to normal in the ensuing hours following your workout.

    The key to managing exercise and cortisol is in the amount of exercise you do. If you’re overtraining and under recovering (i.e. training 3x per day and not sleeping), your cortisol levels will become chronically elevated since you never give your body the down time it needs to restore homeostasis. Following a properly designed exercise routine ensures you’re getting all the benefits of exercise (and cortisol), with none of the drawbacks.

  • Learn to Relax

    Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to just chill out and relax. What do we mean by relax? We’re talking about using various relaxation exercises as a means to lessen cortisol levels and gain a little bit of self-control so that you’re not as easily stressed out when things go sideways in life.

    Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, massage therapy, yoga, listening to calming music, drinking tea, and even reading have been shown to dramatically reduce cortisol levels.[9,10,11]

    Not a fan of yoga, that’s ok, there are countless relaxation techniques out there, try one until you find one that suits your fancy and practice it regularly.

  • Supplements

    The final “easy” fix to help get cortisol under control is by using supplements proven to help lower the cortisol response. Specifically, we’re talking about adaptogens. These potent herbs are old-world remedy that have modern science backing proving their efficacy at improving the body’s response to various stressors and significantly lowering cortisol levels.

    Adaptogens including ashwagandha, rhodiola, maca, and eleuthero are some of the most effective and popular options for those seeking to reduce stress but don’t want to turn to prescription pharmaceuticals. Adding these botanicals to your daily supplement regimen can do wonders for your health and stress-response. Both Steel Core™ and Steel Hard™ are formulated with clinically proven KSM-66® Ashwagandha.

Takeaway

Cortisol is an essential hormone, but left unchecked can spell bad news for even the healthiest individuals out there. Fortunately, there are methods for dealing with stress safely and naturally. All it takes is some time and effort on your part to work around your stressors and find a more peaceful way to deal with them.

References

  1. Pistollato F, Sumalla Cano S, Elio I, Masias Vergara M, Giampieri F, Battino M. Associations between Sleep, Cortisol Regulation, and Diet: Possible Implications for the Risk of Alzheimer Disease. Advances in Nutrition. 2016;7(4):679-689. doi:10.3945/an.115.011775.
  2. Powell DJH, Liossi C, Moss-Morris R, Schlotz W. Unstimulated cortisol secretory activity in everyday life and its relationship with fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review and subset meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(11):2405-2422. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.07.004.
  3. Het S, Ramlow G, Wolf OT. A meta-analytic review of the effects of acute cortisol administration on human memory. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005;30(8):771-784. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2005.03.005.
  4. Buford TW, Willoughby DS. Impact of DHEA(S) and cortisol on immune function in aging: a brief review. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab = Physiol Appl Nutr  Metab. 2008;33(3):429-433. doi:10.1139/H08-013.
  5. Mikael Wikgren, Martin Maripuu, Thomas Karlsson, Katarina Nordfjäll, Jan Bergdahl, Johan Hultdin, Jurgen Del-Favero, Göran Roos, Lars-Göran Nilsson, Rolf Adolfsson, Karl-Fredrik Norrback. Short Telomeres in Depression and the General Population Are Associated with a Hypercortisolemia State. Biological Psychiatry, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.09.015
  6. Chiodini I. Clinical review: Diagnosis and treatment of subclinical hypercortisolism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(5):1223-1236. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2722.
  7. Spencer SJ, Tilbrook A. The glucocorticoid contribution to obesity. Stress. 2011;14(3):233-246. doi:10.3109/10253890.2010.534831.
  8. Vicennati V, Pasqui F, Cavazza C, Pagotto U, Pasquali R. Stress-related development of obesity and cortisol in women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(9):1678-1683. doi:10.1038/oby.2009.76.
  9. Matousek RH, Dobkin PL, Pruessner J. Cortisol as a marker for improvement in mindfulness-based stress reduction. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2010;16(1):13-19. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2009.06.004.
  10. Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, et al. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci  Off J Ital Neurol Soc  Ital Soc Clin Neurophysiol. 2017;38(3):451-458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8.
  11. Riley KE, Park CL. How does yoga reduce stress? A systematic review of mechanisms of change and guide to future inquiry. Health Psychol Rev. 2015;9(3):379-396. doi:10.1080/17437199.2014.981778.

How to Optimize Muscle Soreness

We’ve all felt the thrill (and relief) after crushing a workout. You hit PRs, you made gains, and worked up one heck of an appetite. You feel large, in charge, and on top of your fitness game; that is until, the debilitating soreness from that intense workout slams you in the face!

Yes, the feeling of utterly dominating your workout is indescribable, but those miserable DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) are accompanied by some many expletives that even a sailor would blush.

Isn’t there some way you can rock a hardcore workout, yet still be able to get out of bed without feeling immense soreness in the days after? Of course there is! It’s all about optimizing recovery!

Ahead, we’ve got several tips and tricks for you to crush soreness just like you crushed your workout. With these tips, you’ll recovery faster enabling you to get back in the gym day after day and keep those gains coming.

First Things First

Before we get to the recovery hacks, it’s important for us to stress that these recovery hacks won’t be nearly as effective as they could be if you’re not already doing the things you should be doing. We’re talking about eating the proper amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs to repair and build muscle along with getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep each and every night. Without those two things, the rest of these tips won’t do much good.

So, make sure to properly fuel your body before and after training. And, make sure to get a solid night’s rest every night. Those two things go a long way to ensuring adequate recovery, but for those days when you really take it to your muscles at the gym, these tips will be a life saver.

Recovery Hacks to Crush Soreness

  • Ice Baths

    Following a grueling workout, you’re drenched in sweat. What better way to kick start the recovery process, and cool off at the same time, than taking a dunk in an ice bath?! The reason ice baths accelerate recovery is that immersing your body in ice cold water constricts your blood vessels and reduces swelling. Once you get out of the ice bath, your body immediately begins to warm up, blood vessels dilate, and fresh nutrient rich blood rushes into your muscles, delivering the essential amino acids they need to repair and grow while simultaneously removing metabolic waste products. Research confirms this too, noting that cold water therapy aids recovery and reduces markers of muscle damage. [1]

  • Foam rolling

    Foam rolling, a.k.a. self-myofascial release (SMR), is a fancy way of describing a self-administered remedy for sore muscles. Utilizing anything from a tennis ball to a PVC pipe, foam rolling works by applying pressure to the “trigger” points in your muscles that are causing the aches and pains. “Rolling” over them, or remaining on those painful spots until they loosen, helps restore the smooth, supple, elastic nature of the muscle.

    Exercise breaks down and knots up your muscles. Foam rolling is used to return them to normal. You can do foam rolling before or after your workout, or the days following your workout for when those knots that accumulate during the week.

    Just be careful if you’ve never done any sort of foam rolling before, it can be rather excruciating at times. For this reason, it’s best to start with the softer foam rollers and tennis ball and gradually work your way up to the lacrosse ball and PVC pipe.

  • Massage

    Similar to foam rolling, getting a deep tissue or sports massage can do wonders for relieving muscle soreness in the days after a tough workout. Make sure drink plenty of fluids following your massage, as deep tissue massages in and of themselves can leave you just as sore as your workout did!

  • Compression Gear

    No doubt when watching sports, you see athletes of all kinds wearing compression sleeves on their arms and legs. You’ve probably wondered why in the world, they have these goofy looking sleeves on.

    It’s because compression sleeves (“garments”) can aid recovery. They also can boost performance too. The reason these sleeves work is that they increase circulation by squeezing and compacting (“compressing”) the muscles in your arms and legs. Doing so delivers more oxygen and nutrients while aiding waste removal. Research has shown benefit to using compression garments, but there’s also so showing it doesn’t offer too much benefit. [3,4,5]

    If you’ve exhausted all other options for enhancing recovery, then compression sleeves might be just the thing you need.

  • Active Recovery

    While the thought of doing additional exercise while your crippled with soreness sounds as pleasing as a root canal, doing some form of light exercise the day after your workout can help offset soreness. Performing light, active recovery activities such as hiking, walking, or even yoga can help promote increased blood flow, which helps flush out soreness.

    Bear in mind though, that you don’t want to push the envelope too hard with these active recovery days. The goal is to just get moving, get the blood flowing, and mildly elevate your heart rate. You’re not trying to break any records here, folks. Going too hard on your active recovery activities only serves to hinder the natural recovery processes of the body, prolonging the amount of time you’re sore.

  • BCAAs

    We mentioned food being a critical component of optimizing recovery up top, but we need also need to discuss the role supplements can play in alleviating muscle soreness. One of the most well-researched and proven supplements you can use to stave off soreness and accelerate recovery are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

    BCAAs are a special group of amino acids primarily responsible for stimulating protein synthesis in the body. Numerous studies have shown that consuming BCAAs around your training can limit exercise-induced muscle damage, promote muscle protein synthesis, and accelerates recovery. [6,7] BCAAs can also help preserve lean muscle while training, due to the fact that exercise breaks down muscle tissue. This makes BCAAs all the more vital to optimal performance, recovery, and growth!

Accelerate Recovery with Steel Fuel

Recovery needs to be taken just as seriously as your training. Choosing the right recovery tools and supplements can be the determining factor in avoiding or facing soreness. Steel Fuel provides 5 grams of BCAA per serving in the research-backed 2:1:1 ratio that boosts endurance, reduces fatigue, supports muscle repair. Combined with a host of vital electrolytes, Steel Fuel provides the required fuel your body needs to perform and recover to the max!

References

  1. Ingram J, Dawson B, Goodman C, Wallman K, Beilby J. Effect of water immersion methods on post-exercise recovery from simulated team sport exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(3):417-421. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2007.12.011.
  2. Engel FA, Holmberg H-C, Sperlich B. Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing? Sports Med. 2016;46(12):1939-1952. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5.
  3. Born D-P, Sperlich B, Holmberg H-C. Bringing light into the dark: effects of compression clothing on performance and  recovery. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8(1):4-18.
  4. Hamlin MJ, Mitchell CJ, Ward FD, Draper N, Shearman JP, Kimber NE. Effect of compression garments on short-term recovery of repeated sprint and 3-km running performance in rugby union players. J strength Cond Res. 2012;26(11):2975-2982. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182711e0b.
  5. Stickford AS, Chapman RF, Johnston JD, Stager JM. Lower-leg compression, running mechanics, and economy in trained distance runners. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10(1):76-83. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2014-0003.
  6. Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008;48(3):347-351.
  7. 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. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.

Muscle Pumps – More than Just Aesthetics

The Pump is the stuff of legend. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger first mentioned its existence, the pump has been the goal of any individual who embraces a life spent with the iron.

While there’s no denying the pleasure and appeal of the pump, a debate has erupted between bros and science buffs as to whether or not getting a pump rolling during your workout actually has any benefit aside from inflating your ego.

So, does a pump help build muscle, or is it all show, no go? Let’s discuss!

Vasodilation

When pursuing the ever-elusive pump, lifters are ultimately concerned with enhancing vasodilation, the widening and relaxing of blood vessels. This widening or enlarging of blood vessels expands the diameter of the blood vessel and leads to some pretty incredible things. All of which are important for muscle building!

  • Increased Blood Flow

    A wider, more dilated blood vessel allows for greater blood to flow through it, which means more nutrient rich blood is transported to your muscles, delivering the essentials it needs to repair and grow.

  • Improve Nutrient Delivery

    Compounding off the previous point, blood carries with it essential nutrients used by your muscles to function, repair, and grow. With more blood reaching your muscle, more of these critical nutrients are supplied at a faster rate, leading to greater performance, endurance, and recovery.

  • Greater Oxygen Delivery

    Oxygen is one of the critical nutrients carried in the blood and used by your muscles to break down glucose and create the energy source for your muscles to perform known as ATP. More blood flow, leads to more oxygen delivery, supporting increased energy production during training for superior performance.

  • Massive Muscle Pumps

    The pump is a result of increased blood flow to muscle cells, which increases intracellular pressure. The result of this increased pressure is muscle cell enlargement manifested as sleeve-busting muscle pumps.

  • Improved Waste Clearance

    In addition to delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, blood is also tasked with the duty of removing metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide, urea, lactic acid) that accumulate as a result of physical exercise. Increased blood flow helps clear these byproducts more effectively, leading to better endurance and decreased recovery times while training.

  • Enhanced Hormone Transport

    Blood also delivers important muscle-building hormones like IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Growth Hormone, and testosterone to skeletal muscle cells during and after exercise. If you’re keen on making gains, you want more of these hormones delivered to your muscles!

  • Core Temperature Regulation

    Last, but certainly not least, blood flow also improves core temperature regulation. This helps prevent you from becoming overheated or dehydrated while training, ultimately enabling you to perform better for longer periods of time and make more gains!

Pumps and Hypertrophy

Building muscle (i.e. hypertrophy) is extremely dependent upon the net protein balance in the body, meaning, protein gain must be greater than protein loss in order for muscle growth to take place.

Remember that getting a pump increases blood flow, oxygen transport, and nutrient delivery to working muscles, which supports and enhances the natural anabolic processes of the body. Therefore, it stands to reason that increasing blood flow (getting a pump) may enhance protein synthesis and combat muscle breakdown, resulting in superior muscle growth.
But there’s more.

The body sees muscle cell expansion (increase in size) as a threat to the cell’s survival. The body responds by reinforcing the structure of the cell, which leads to increased size and strength.

As you can see, getting a massive pump while lifting is far more than purely aesthetics…it’s helping to grow too! In fact, research confirms this: “In summary, the results of our study demonstrate that net protein synthesis during amino acid administration can be doubled by previous performance of heavy resistance exercise. Moreover, the data suggest a link between the stimulation of protein synthesis after exercise and an acceleration in amino acid transport. The greater rate of transport after exercise may be due to the increase in blood flow.” [1]

What the researchers concluded is that physical activity (such as weight lifting) improves delivery of amino acids to your muscles, enhancing repair and growth. It stands to reason that further increasing blood flow, as a result of getting a pump, you can increase that amino acid delivery even more, leading to bigger and better gains that you would had you not gotten a pump.

Last but not least, getting a pump increases your mood, self-confidence, and motivation. There’s no denying the pleasure you feel from getting a pump rolling during your workout, don’t kid yourself. In your effort to maintain and increase your pump even more, you may find yourself grinding extra hard during your workout, which could lead to moving more weight or doing more reps, which leads to muscle growth!

Ways to Achieve a Pump

Yes, the pump is truly awesome, and for a number of reasons. There’s a number of things you can do heading into the gym to ensure that you’re guaranteed one monster pump while training.

  • Pre-Workout Supplement

    Heading into your workout, you need to be focused on making every rep count, squeezing the muscle as hard as you gain to drive as much blood as possible into the muscle and creating a powerful muscle pump. It’s not always easy to train this hard and with this much intensity day after day. That’s where pre-workouts come in. They provide everything you need to get focused and have a terrific workout. There’s no better option than SteelFit® Steel Pump™.

    Steel Pump™ includes a potent trifecta of ingredients to help you achieve and sustain a raging muscle pump all workout long. Utilizing proven pump-powering compounds including citrulline malate, glutathione, and grape seed extract, Steel Pump™ turbocharges nitric oxide production, blows open blood vessels, and gorges your muscles with blood making for some of the largest pumps you’ve ever experienced!

  • Carbs are you friend

    Carbs are often demonized in today’s nutrition landscape, but for hard-training athletes, they’re absolutely essential. Your body uses carbs to generate glycogen, which is the stored form of energy your muscles use during high intensity activities, such as weight lifting or running. When your body stores glycogen, it also stores some water along with it, which enhances muscle fullness and gives you more shapely and rounded muscles.

  • Don’t skimp on the salt

    Much like carbs, salt (sodium) is heavily criticized these days for all sorts of reasons. But, it’s one of the most critical minerals in the body. Sodium affects everything from nerve function to hydration and even muscle contractions. As such, it plays a vital role in getting a sleeve-busting pump.

    Having a salty snack pre-workout helps your body hold onto more water, which drives more fluid into your blood system, yielding bigger, better, and badder pumps!

  • High Rep Training

    Low rep training is great for increasing pure strength, and can even benefit hypertrophy, but when it comes to getting your pump on, high rep training is what your focus should be. Training in the higher rep ranges (8-20 reps) keeps the muscle under tension for longer periods of time, driving more and more blood into the muscle (along with extra nutrients), creating a towering pump.

Get you Pump on with Steel Pump!

The Pump isn’t just for looks, it’s a valuable weapon in the quest for gains! The only way to ensure you get a pump each and every time you step foot under the bar is with Steel Pump™.

It’s an essential pre-training fuel the provides everything the mind and body needs to perform at its best no matter what the circumstances may be. One scoop of Steel Pump and your muscles will have everything they need to blow up and create a massive pump that will have you looking swole and making those epic gains you’ve always wanted!

References

  1. Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E122-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9252488

Electrolyte Role in the Human Body

The words hydration and electrolytes are thrown around an awful lot in the fitness and nutrition industries. Athletes are often recommended to properly hydrate and also replenish electrolyte stores in the human body, but have you ever given any thought as to what electrolytes actually do in the body, and what is their role in regard to athletic performance?

We’ve got all those questions answered and a lot more up ahead as we dive headfirst into the world of electrolytes!

What Are Electrolytes?

In the simplest sense, electrolytes are salt ions dissolved in a fluid that enables the fluid to conduct electricity. There are several electrolytes present in the human body, but the four we’re most interested in, particularly in regard to performance, are sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Sodium

Sodium (“salt”) is used first and foremost for the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume. It also maintains fluid balance and is vital to muscle function. Neurons and muscle tissue are stimulated by sodium activity, which means if you’re sodium-deficient, your muscles are sluggish to respond, fatigue sooner, and will inevitably cramp.

Humans require a bare minimum of ~500mg / day of sodium in order to function properly, yet most individuals consume roughly 3,000-4,000mg / day. The American Heart Association (AHA) salt intake be limited to 2,300mg or less, and ideally suggests adults consume no more than 1,500mg / day.

While it’s often reported that excessive sodium intake will lead to high blood pressure and assorted other cardiovascular issues, recent research indicates that high intakes of sodium may actually lower blood pressure. [1]

However, sodium requirements for athletes and lay people are vastly different, and if you’re training intensely, you definitely do NOT want to limit sodium!

Studies conducted in high-level athletes documents that they can lose as much as 8,500mg of sodium in two hours of training. Unconditioned individuals may lose even more when training in the heat.

The bottom line is if you’re training vigorously multiple times per week you’re burning through sodium reserves at a rapid rate and replenishing them is a must if you want to continue to perform at a high level!

Magnesium

Magnesium may be the least understood and discussed electrolyte in regard to the overall function of the human body. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is involved in more than 300 different reactions. Magnesium also happens to play a key role in DNA and RNA synthesis too.

Additionally, magnesium is also required for optimal nerve and muscle function, bone and teeth formation, immune system function, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Plus, it’s vital to maintaining a regular heartbeat and energy transmission in the body.

Magnesium can easily be obtained through the diet and is found in large amounts in nuts, leafy greens, tea, and coffee.

Potassium

Think of potassium as the “sodium balancer”. Whereas sodium is located outside cell walls, potassium is the primary electrolyte within your cells. Potassium is crucial to controlling heartbeat and muscle function. It also forms the other half of the electrical pump that regulates the balance of electrolytes in the cell and allows for conductivity. Due to this critical function, potassium also plays a role in neurotransmission, supporting communication between nerves.

Similar to sodium, potassium is significantly depleted during intense training. If you think it’s important to replenish sodium during/after training, potassium is as important as sodium, and potentially even more important since to regulates muscle contraction and neurotransmission. Potassium deficiencies can lead to cramping, fatigue, and injury, which further highlights its importance in regard to performance. Plus, potassium also helps your muscles store carbs for energy, which will certainly come in handy to longer and more intensely you train.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant, and well known, electrolyte, rivaled in notoriety only by sodium. You’re well acquainted with calcium’s role in regard to bone health and development, but you may be surprised to learn it also impacts your performance.

More specifically, calcium is vital to nerve impulse transmission, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. If blood levels of calcium are low, your body then leaches calcium from your bones, which can eventually lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

Electrolyte Consumption for Performance

Proper hydrated is always important, but even more so when talking about athletic performance. Did you know that even as little as a 2% drop in hydration levels can result in fatigue, cramping, and impaired brain function?

It’s true, which is why you absolutely must be properly hydrating around the clock, and especially in the time before, during and after your workout. Following are some guidelines to help you stay properly hydrated at all times

30 minutes Before Training

Step on a scale and weigh yourself, remember this number, you’ll see why in a moment.

Consume 16-20oz of fluid + carbohydrates and electrolytes from food or in the form of a sports nutrition supplement such as Steel Fuel™ All-In-One BCAA + Hydration Formula.

During Training

Consume 6-8oz of liquid (from water alone or mixed with BCAAs such as Steel Fuel™) for every 15-20 minutes of activity and remember to consume approximately 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour you’re training.

Post-Workout

Weigh yourself again and subtract this new number from your initial pre-training weight.

For every pound of water weight lost during training, consume 16-24oz water along with some electrolytes, which can be found in Steel Fuel™.

Wrap Up

Hydration isn’t just important in the hours pre and post training, it’s important in the days and weeks leading up to your big day of competition. Far too many times, athletes make the mistake of only slamming water in the hours leading up to the big game, and what they fail to realize is that your nutrition and fluid intake in the days leading up to the competition are as important as what you do immediately before the game.

No athlete wants to suffer the effects of hyponatremia, during or after competing, which is why this quick-reference guide was created. Use the information contained in here to fuel up properly and ensure your electrolyte stores never bottom out when you need them most!

References

  1. Moore LL, Singer MR, Bradlee ML. Low Sodium Intakes are Not Associated with Lower Blood Pressure Levels among Framingham Offspring Study Adults. FASEB J . 2017;31(1 Supplement):446.6-446.6. http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/446.6.abstract.

Top 10 Foods For a Flat Stomach

The past few months of diet and exercise have been tough. You’ve put in the work at the gym and the kitchen. The number on the scale is going down, but there’s a problem staring at you in the mirror… your belly doesn’t look any flatter than it did a few months ago. Sure, it’s a lot tighter and toned looking than it did at Christmas, but where’s the sleek, sexy stomach you thought you’d have had by now?!

While you’ve burned some fat and built some muscle, there’s still a problem lurking deep down inside your stomach, and it has to do with gut health. You see, that puffy look you have doesn’t have to do with fat, but rather water retention and bloating. The “fix” for that stuffy-looking stomach has to do with what you’re putting in your body each and every meal.

Consume the right foods, and you’ll look flat and fabulous. Consume too many of the wrong foods, and you’ll look more swollen than that Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

With that in mind, let’s focus a tidying your diet up even more than you already have with these 10 foods that will help beat the bloat and leaky gut and give you the slender stomach you’ve been dreaming about.

TOP 10 FOODS

1. Probiotic Yogurt
Yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and a host of other nutrients. It’s a tasty snack or the foundation of a great meal. It’s also a powerful ally in the fight to reclaim a flat stomach.
Yogurt is rich in certain bacteria, known as probiotics that can help restore more of the “good” gut bacteria. Too much of the “bad” type of intestinal bacteria can cause GI upset, leading to reduced function and a bloated, puffy look. [1] Consuming probiotic-rich bacteria fosters the growth of more good bacteria that improves intestinal motility, helping move things along and get you to a flatter tummy faster. [2]

2. Salmon
Seafood, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and even sardines, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to supporting cardiovascular health, omega-3’s may also be your ticket to a flat tummy!
Research notes that overweight individuals who consume fish daily improve their glucose-insulin response [3], meaning that eating seafood regularly may help slow digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and prevent cravings.

3. Bananas
While bananas are high in sugars (natural sugars, that is), they’re also loaded with resistant starch, a stomach-friendly carb that digests slowly, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. On top of that, resistant starch also enhances fat oxidation, a.k.a. fat burning, and improves overall body composition. [4] Resistant starch also encourages your liver to switch to fat-burning mode, giving your metabolism a boost.
One last bit about bananas is that they are also chock full of potassium, which helps balance fluid levels in the body, decreasing the risk of bloating.

4. Cucumber
Cucumbers make a tasty addition to sandwiches, wraps, and salads. They’re low in calories and high in water, vitamin c and quercetin, a polyphenol that’s been documented to enhance gut barrier function. Quercetin exhibits a “sealing” effect in the gut due to its actions with tight junction proteins. [5] These junctions regulate intestinal permeability, which only allow the nutrients that we need to enter while keeping everything else out.

5. Herbal Tea
Herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, exert a relaxing effect on your GI muscle. By relaxing the muscles of the digestive system, you help your body dissolve excess gas, which eases digestion and helps reduce bloating — making your stomach look flatter.

6. Avocado
Avocados aren’t just for making a tasty dip for fried tortilla chips. They’re also great in salads, on sandwiches, or even layered in an omelette. Avocados contain lots of fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which keeps hunger at bay and supports gut health. Additionally, studies show that people who regularly eat the tasty fruit have smaller waistlines than those who don’t. [6]

7. Almonds
Nuts make a great on-the-go snack that don’t require any refrigeration or preparation. When reaching for a tummy-tightening snack, make sure almonds are the particular type of nut you reach for.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help combat hunger and burn body fat. Recent research found that individuals consuming almonds lost more body weight than those who didn’t. [7]

8. Eggs
You won’t find a more perfect source of protein than that of eggs. They’ve been a staple of bodybuilders for decades, and for good reason. They help pack on muscle, which ramps up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories during the day.
Moreover, eggs can also help fill you up, so you’re less likely to overeat and blow your diet. Research conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that egg eaters feel less hungry during the day than those who typically eat carb-heavy breakfasts, such as bagels. [8]

9. Green Tea
Consumed for thousands of years, green tea is an incredibly healthy drink that offers a number of benefits, including a leaner waistline. Green tea is packed with various polyphenols and antioxidants that combat inflammation, increase metabolism, and burn fat. Chief among these polyphenols is EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) which mobilizes stored fat to be burned for energy, by increasing noradrenaline in the body. EGCG inhibits an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, so by stopping the actions of that enzyme, EGCG preserves noradrenaline, leading to greater fat burning and weight loss. [9]

10. Ginger
Used in cooking, as an accompaniment to sushi, and even steeped as a tea, ginger is an incredibly versatile plant that’s been used for centuries to combat upset stomachs. In addition to soothing sour tummies, ginger also helps reduce cravings by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Ginger also helps boost metabolism and regulate cortisol levels, both of which contribute to a tighter midsection. [10]

References

  1. Casén, C., Vebø, H. C., Sekelja, M., Hegge, F. T., Karlsson, M. K., Ciemniejewska, E., Dzankovic, S., Frøyland, C., Nestestog, R., Engstrand, L., Munkholm, P., Nielsen, O. H., Rogler, G., Simrén, M., Öhman, L., Vatn, M. H. and Rudi, K. (2015), Deviations in human gut microbiota: a novel diagnostic test for determining dysbiosis in patients with IBS or IBD. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 42: 71–83. doi:10.1111/apt.13236
  2. Oskar Adolfsson, Simin Nikbin Meydani, Robert M Russell; Yogurt and gut function, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 80, Issue 2, 1 August 2004, Pages 245–256, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/80.2.245
  3. Albert BB, Derraik JGB, Brennan CM, et al. Higher omega-3 index is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and more favourable metabolic profile in middle-aged overweight men. Sci Rep. 2014;4:6697. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep06697.
  4. Higgins JA. Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2014;54(9):1158-1166. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.629352.
  5. Suzuki T, Hara H. Role of flavonoids in intestinal tight junction regulation. J Nutr Biochem. 2011;22(5):401-408. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.08.001.
  6. Fulgoni VL, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal. 2013;12:1. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
  7. Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris‐Etherton PM. Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults With Elevated LDL‐Cholesterol: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015;4(1). http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/4/1/e000993.abstract.
  8. Vander Wal J, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar N. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005). 2008;32(10):1545-1551. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.130.
  9. Lu H, Meng X, Yang CS. Enzymology of Methylation of Tea Catechins and Inhibition of Catechol-&lt;em&gt;O&lt;/em&gt;-methyltransferase by (−)-Epigallocatechin Gallate. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31(5):572 LP-579. http://dmd.aspetjournals.org/content/31/5/572.abstract.
  10. Mansour MS, Ni Y-M, Roberts AL, Kelleman M, RoyChoudhury A, St-Onge M-P. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: A pilot study. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 2012;61(10):1347-1352. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.03.016.

HIIT vs. LISS – Which Form of Cardio to Perform?

There is an endless debate going around the fitness community about which form of cardiovascular training is superior – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Proponents on both sides of the aisle aggressively defend their style of cardio as the best.

We’re here to explain the differences between the two, and which form you should be using to maximize your gains in the gym.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) is a low-intensity cardio workout usually calling for 30 to 60 minutes of exercising at approximately 60% of your maximum heart rate, a.k.a. Your “fat burning” zone. Advocates of LISS promote the idea that training in this manner promotes greater fat burning, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, and accelerates recovery.

The advantages of LISS is that it’s safer for out of shape trainees and comes with less strain on your joints, ligaments and connective tissue, and therefore a lower risk of injury. Additionally, LISS is easy to do basically anywhere. You can go walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or if you’re at the gym, you can use the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.

The downsides to LISS is that it’s incredibly time-consuming and something your body adapts to overtime, meaning that in order to get the same calorie burn from it, you’ll have to eventually increase the amount of LISS that you do. Plus, when dieting, LISS is more catabolic as opposed to high intensity interval training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a more demanding form of cardio training that alternates between periods of all-out maximum effort and low-to-moderate effort. Maximum effort intervals generally fall between 10-45 seconds, while the low-to-moderate “rest” intervals last between 30-60 seconds. These rest periods allow for complete replenishment of the Adenosine Triphosphate-Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) system.

The advantages to HIIT is that it’s incredibly time-efficient and great for not only stimulating muscle fibers in a similar manner as to that of weightlifting, but also enhances muscle building and preserves muscle better during periods of dieting. Compared to LISS, you’ll experience a greater metabolic boost for longer periods of time and burn a lot of calories for very little time.

The disadvantages to HIIT is that you cannot perform it every day like LISS. It’s simply too taxing to your body and CNS and can inhibit recovery and muscle-building if done too often. Moreover, not everyone is in good enough physical or cardiovascular condition to handle HIIT and there’s a greater risk of injury too., by doing high intensity work you are activating muscle fibers and anytime you activate muscle fibers you are primed for growth

Which Form is Superior?

Generally speaking, there isn’t one “best” form of cardio for all populations. Both have their place in a proper muscle-building, fat-shredding training program. HIIT is superior for fat loss and muscle retention during dieting and saves a lot of time. LISS is a great “alternative” to use in between resistance training sessions and HIIT session to still get some extra calorie burn without impairing CNS and muscle recovery. Plus, it’s also good from increasing blood flow to previously worked muscles and is an ideal form of “active recovery” to be used on rest days.

In the end, a combination of both HIIT and LISS can be used to promote body re-composition. How you blend the two ultimately boils down to your individual training and recovery capacity as well as your nutrition and performance / physique goals.