When it comes to weight loss supplements and fat burners, the words “thermogenesis” and “thermogenic” are used extremely frequently. Based on the way these two words are splashed across advertisements, you’re led to believe it’s a good thing to boost, increase, or enhance. But have you ever wondered what thermogenesis means, or why you would […]Continue reading
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 […]Continue reading
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 […]Continue reading
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
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. 
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.)
- Congestive heart failure
- 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 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 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.
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:
- Muscle cramps
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:
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.
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.
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 , and is one of the primary reasons Hawthorn berries have been used to treat kidney problems.
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. Research has found horsetail to be as effective as prescription medications, 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.
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. 
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. 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, and, similar to other all natural diuretics, juniper is able to increase water removal without depleting potassium.
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]
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.
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]
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. 
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:
- Bell Peppers
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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Dizaye K. Antihyperuricemic and Diuretic Effects of Procyanidins Extracted from Crataegus Monogyna. Vol 6.; 2011. doi:10.15218/zjms.2011.0009.
- Pérez Gutiérrez RM, Laguna GY, Walkowski A. Diuretic activity of Mexican equisetum. J Ethnopharmacol. 1985 Nov-Dec;14(2-3):269-72.
- 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
- Gohari A-R, Saeidnia S. The role of herbal medicines in treatment of urinary tract diseases. Journal of Nephropharmacology. 2014;3(1):13-14.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76-7.
- Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 218-20.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293. doi:10.1007/s00345-002-0293-0.
- 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.
- 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.
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. 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.
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!
- 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.
- Hamdy O, Porramatikul S, Al-Ozairi E. Metabolic obesity: the paradox between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2006;2(4):367-373.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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. 
Cortisol hinders immune system function, making your more susceptible to illness, disease and infections. 
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. 
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. 
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Spencer SJ, Tilbrook A. The glucocorticoid contribution to obesity. Stress. 2011;14(3):233-246. doi:10.3109/10253890.2010.534831.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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. 
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 (“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. 
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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™.
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!
- 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.
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.  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. 
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 , meaning that eating seafood regularly may help slow digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and prevent cravings.
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.  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.
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.  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.
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Lu H, Meng X, Yang CS. Enzymology of Methylation of Tea Catechins and Inhibition of Catechol-<em>O</em>-methyltransferase by (−)-Epigallocatechin Gallate. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31(5):572 LP-579. http://dmd.aspetjournals.org/content/31/5/572.abstract.
- 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.
Every lifter has heard of, chased after, and, at one time or another, attained a raging muscle pump. First popularized by the great Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron”, the pump is a phenomenon sought by many and achieved by only the most deserving.
One of the foundational components to achieving a massive muscle pump during training is ample amounts of nitric oxide (N.O.). This molecule is much more than a pump enhancer though, it carries with it a number of benefits that enhance training, overall function, and even health!
Read on to see what this all-important molecule is and how it can benefit all aspects of your life.
What is Nitric Oxide?
Not to be confused with nitrous oxide (“laughing” gas), nitric oxide is an essential signaling molecule composed of nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) present in numerous tissues throughout your body. It’s plays a role in all facets of life, including:
- Regulating cell life & death
- Nutrient transport
- Immune system response
Benefits of Nitric Oxide
As a key regulator of blood flow (via vasodilation), nitric oxide plays a critical role in nutrient and oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, power output and velocity. Due to the range of actions N.O. performs, it’s no surprise that it offers a slew of benefits:
Nitric oxide’s most well-known benefit is in its role as a powerful vasodilator, which causes blood vessels to dilate (“relax”), promoting greater blood flow throughout the body, especially working muscles.  Greater blood flow to your muscles increases vascularity, fullness, and some monster-sized pumps.
Enhanced Oxygen and Nutrient Transport:
Compounding on the increased blood flow comes increased delivery of oxygen and other essential nutrients (such as amino acids) which enhances performance, recovery, and muscle growth.
Nitric oxide also helps avoid premature fatigue, enabling you to train for longer, and reap more gains from your workout. During high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting or sprinting, oxygen is depleted, leading to an accumulation of lactic acid, often felt as a “burning” sensation in your muscles, forcing to end your set.
Nitric oxide boosting supplements, such as citrulline malate, can offset this fatigue and improve “athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to relieve post exercise muscle soreness.”[3,4]
One of the most crucial factors in accelerating recovery is flooding your muscles with the essential nutrients it needs to repair the damage done by your intense workout. How freely and easily blood flows throughout your body is the determining factor in how quickly those nutrients get to where they need to be.
Nitric oxide increases blood flow to the muscles and their surrounding tissues, which means more blood gets to your muscles quicker, supplying your muscles with the valuable muscle-building nutrients they need to GROW!
Faster recovery also comes with the added benefit of allowing you to train more frequently, leading to bigger and better gains in strength and size.
Enhanced Glucose Utilization:
Arginine is the amino acid that fuels nitric oxide production in the body. Research has shown that L-Arginine supplementation significantly improved the rate of glucose appearance, disappearance, and Researchers conducting the experiment attributed this improved glucose utilization to increased nitric oxide production.
As you’re probably aware, L-Arginine isn’t the most beneficial nitric oxide elevating compound in supplements; it offers terrible bioavailability. That’s why SteelFit includes Citrulline Malate along with Grape Seed Extract and Glutathione, three incredibly bioavailable compounds that support and enhance nitric oxide production.
Improved Cognitive Functioning:
Over the past few years, nitric oxide has received greater attention for its role in enhancing cognitive function. More specifically, scientists are investigating N.O’s impact on neurotransmitter production. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay signals between nerve cells in the brain to the muscles in our body.
Research published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research concluded that nitric oxide has a direct impact on the brain’s computational abilities of the brain. And, it also had an effect on memory formation and learning.  Basically, greater levels of nitric oxide resulted in heightened cognitive function and faster reaction times when performing mental tasks.
It’s also been suggested that increased nitric oxide production could play a contributing role in the prevention of cognitive decline, as well as Type II Diabetes. More research is needed to confirm these suspicions though.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest, and most concerning, health problems facing adults, both young and old, today. In addition to nitric oxide relaxing blood vessels, it also relaxes the smooth muscles of the heart, which causes a reduction in blood pressure, thereby supporting cardiovascular health and function. 
Having a healthy heart is also vital to exercise, as the healthier your heart is, the harder you can push yourself while training, leading to better performance and results in the gym.
Maximize Your Nitric Oxide Output
It’s clear that nitric oxide is a powerful ally for all aspects of your life — health, performance, recovery, and cognitive function. To make the most of your workouts, you must maximize your body’s natural nitric oxide production, and the best way to do that is with Steel Pump™.
Each serving of Steel Pump™ delivers proven nitric oxide boosting compounds, including Citrulline Malate, Grape Seed extract, and L-Glutathione, to improve blood flow, enhance performance, and generate some massive pumps. Don’t fall for another gimmicky NO-booster that’s laden with ineffective arginine. Invest in Steep Pump™ for the most epic pumps and performance you’ve ever witnessed!
- Harris MB, Mitchell BM, Sood SG, Webb RC, Venema RC. Increased nitric oxide synthase activity and Hsp90 association in skeletal muscle following chronic exercise. European journal of applied physiology. 2008;104(5):10.1007/s00421-008-0833-4. doi:10.1007/s00421-008-0833-4.
- Bailey SJ, Winyard PG, Vanhatalo A, et al. Acute L-arginine supplementation reduces the O2 cost of moderate-intensity exercise and enhances high-intensity exercise tolerance. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(5):1394-1403. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00503.2010.
- Perez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J strength Cond Res. 2010;24(5):1215-1222. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0.
- Alvares TS, Conte CA, Paschoalin VMF, et al. Acute l-arginine supplementation increases muscle blood volume but not strength performance. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab = Physiol Appl Nutr Metab. 2012;37(1):115-126. doi:10.1139/h11-144.
- McConell GK, Huynh NN, Lee-Young RS, Canny BJ, Wadley GD. l-Arginine infusion increases glucose clearance during prolonged exercise in humans. Am J Physiol Metab. 2006;290(1):E60-E66. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00263.2005.
- Paul V, Ekambaram P. Involvement of nitric oxide in learning & memory processes. The Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2011;133(5):471-478.
- Lewis SJ, Bhopatkar MY, Walton TM, Bates JN. Role of voltage-sensitive calcium-channels in nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2005;528(1-3):144-149. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.10.056.
It’s a situation all gym goers have encountered before and will inevitably face it again. You’ve just finished up another tub of pre-workout, and it’s time to get a new one. Now, you could keep using the same old, worn out tired brand of pre-workout you’ve been using for the past few months, but you’ve soured on its taste, and it doesn’t seem to have the same “pop” it used to.
So, rather than force yourself to double or triple scoop that same product to get any noticeable effect from it, why not spend a few minutes doing some searching for a superior option?
Sounds easy enough doesn’t it, just head down to your local supplement shop or pull up your favorite internet retailer and pick one out. The problem is, there are literally thousands of options for you to choose from when selecting a pre-workout, and no shortage of poorly formulated, overpriced ones waiting to steal your hard-earned money.
That’s where this article comes in. Ahead, you’ll find out why most other products on the market fail to do what a pre-workout should do (enhance your performance) and what are some “must have” ingredients you should be looking for the next time you go to drop some dough on a new performance enhancer.
Where Most Pre-Workouts Fail
There’s no shortage of reasons why certain pre-workout supplements seemingly have little to no effect whatsoever on your mood, focus, energy, or performance. Those reasons include:
- Under-dosed ingredients
- Ineffective ingredients (i.e. ingredients that don’t belong in pre-workouts)
- Too many stimulants (i.e. feeling “cracked out”)
- Not enough stimulants (no “kick in the pants” factor)
- Clumpy powder due to poor shelf stability of ingredients
- Terrible flavor (yes, how products taste does matter these days! There’s far too many great-tasting pre-workout that are equally effective for you to have to choke down some nasty powder.)
There’s a slew of other reasons why 99% of all pre-workouts you see on store shelves are downright terrible, and note worth the plastic they’re packaged in. But while we could go on forever about what’s wrong with the majority of pre-workouts, let’s get refocused on why you are here — to find out which ingredient you absolutely should have in your pre-workout!
Including these ingredients will have an immediate and noticeable impact on your workout, so without further ado, let’s dive into the essential pre-workout ingredients you MUST HAVE before hitting the gym!
Essential Pre-Workout Ingredients
Any pre-workout worth its salt must have caffeine. It provides the foundation from which all the other components of a pre-workout expand upon. Caffeine has stood the test of time and is renowned for its ability to increase energy, focus, mood, and motivation. But caffeine is much more than an effective central nervous stimulant, it’s also a valuable performance enhancer. Numerous trials have shown that caffeine improves endurance, stamina, time to exhaustion, strength, power, and pain tolerance. [1,2,3]
The key to caffeine is in finding the right dose for you. Pre-workout doses can range anywhere from 150mg all the way up to 600mg in a single scoop! The “sweet spot” for caffeine for most trainees tends to fall in the 250-300mg range. Find a pre-workout in that range, and you’ve taken your first step towards finding a great pre-workout. Steel Pump™ packs 300 mg Caffeine Per Serving.
Nitric oxide is a highly important signaling molecule that improves blood flow via vasodilation (widening of blood vessels). With greater blood flow comes increased nutrient delivery, improved waste removal, better performance, and bigger pumps!
The premier nitric oxide boosting compound on the market is citrulline malate. Formed from a combination of l-citrulline and malic acid, citrulline malate is a proven nitric oxide boosting ingredient. It’s even more effective than the old “go to” NO-booster L-Arginine. 
Citrulline malate has been heavily studied and shown to boost athletic performance, energy production, and endurance all while reducing fatigue. [5,6]
A vastly underutilized ingredient, Peak ATP is an exogenous form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) developed by TSI USA, Inc. that’s been shown to actually enhance cellular levels of ATP! Now, supplemental ATP is nothing new to pre-workouts, but the vast majority of these forms offer poor bioavailability, rendering them essentially ineffective. Peak ATP, however, has been shown research trials to be incredibly bioavailable and increase ATP levels. 
Studies demonstrate that Peak ATP provides a readily usable fuel source for muscles, improving their ability to contract with less fatigue.  Additional studies note improved body composition and lean mass as well as increased vasodilation (a.k.a. PUMPS). [9,10] Steel Pump™ contains 450 mg Per Serving, the clinically proven dosage.
To get the most out of every rep of your workout, you need to be focused. Without focus, you’re mindlessly going through the motions, never really get the most bang for your exercise buck. Alpha GPC solves your focus follies by providing the body with a highly bioavailable source of choline.
Choline is an essential nutrient that’s used in a number of way by the body, but none is more important than supporting acetylcholine (the “learning” neurotransmitter). With more acetylcholine, you’ll have that dialed in feeling while training and a much stronger mind-muscle connection. 
Your Pre-Workout Solution
There’s a lot that goes into formulating an effective pre-workout. Don’t get duped into buying a product merely for the cartoon label or bargain bin price. Select a pre-workout supplement formulated by researchers who know the ingredient you need (and the doses needed) to produce results.
Steel Pump™ supplies the ingredients you must have in your pre-workout to enhance performance and set the stage for a PR-shattering pre-workout.
- TREXLER ET, SMITH-RYAN AE, ROELOFS EJ, HIRSCH KR, MOCK MG. Effects of coffee and caffeine anhydrous on strength and sprint performance. European journal of sport science. 2016;16(6):702-710. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1085097.
- Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807.
- Richardson DL, Clarke ND. Effect Of Coffee And Caffeine Ingestion On Resistance Exercise Performance. J strength Cond Res / Natl Strength Cond Assoc. February 2016. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382.
- Curis E., et. al; “Citrulline and the gut;”; Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care; September 2007
- Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Lord T, Vanhatalo A, Winyard PG, Jones AM. l-Citrulline supplementation improves O2 uptake kinetics and high-intensity exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Aug 15;119(4):385-95
- Pérez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22.
- Lu N, Wang B, Deng X, Zhao H, Wang Y, Li D. Autophagy occurs within an hour of adenosine triphosphate treatment after nerve cell damage: the neuroprotective effects of adenosine triphosphate against apoptosis. Neural Regeneration Research. 2014;9(17):1599-1605. doi:10.4103/1673-5374.141811.
- Rathmacher JA, et al. Adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP) supplementation improves low peak muscle torque and torque fatigue during repeated high intensity exercise sets. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012, 9:48.
- Wilson JM, et al. Effects of oral adenosine-5’-triphosphate supplementation on athletic performance, skeletal muscle hypertrophy and recovery in resistance-trained men. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2013, 10:57.
- Lowery RP, et al. Oral ATP administration improves blood flow responses to exercise in both animal and human training models. Presented at 10th Annual ISSN Conference. Colorado Springs, CO. June 2013.
- Marcus L, Soileau J, Judge LW, Bellar D. Evaluation of the effects of two doses of alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine on physical and psychomotor performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14:39. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0196-5.
In an ideal world, all the calories you eat on a daily basis would go to purely building muscle. Unfortunately for most people the calories you do eat each day lead to some muscle gain, and some fat gain too.
On the flip side when it comes to dieting, you’d preserve all of your lean muscle mass and lose only fat. Again, this isn’t an ideal world, and you’re bound to lose a bit of muscle when you diet, though there are certain things you can do (such as eating a high protein diet) that can mitigate the muscle loses while dieting.
The calories you do eat, or more specifically, the carbohydrates, you’re consuming aren’t going all towards building muscle, some are being used to increase your fat stores as well.
We’ve got some tips and tricks on how to manipulate your body’s partitioning of carbohydrates and other important macronutrients so that next time bulking season hits, you can maximize muscle growth while minimizing fat gains.
Carbohydrate Partitioning 101
Carbohydrate partitioning is the physiological process by which the body decides what to do with the energy you obtain from the carbs you eat. Basically, where does your body “put” the carbs you’re eating following meal time.
When you eat (fats, proteins, carbs), the calories from those foods are either immediately used for energy or stored for later use. Ideally, you’d prefer those nutrients be used to fuel performance and / or muscle growth rather than build up fat reserves. Genetics play a large role in how your body partitions nutrients, as well the interactions between the brain, CNS, liver, gut, and muscles. These interactions are governed by the various hormones in your body and the associated signals they send to each part of the body. The most important of all these hormones is insulin.
Going back to our ideal world, we’d prefer to have high insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle and low (or poor) insulin sensitivity in fat cells, which would drive more calories into muscle and less towards fat. This is especially important when trying to bulk or gain muscle. Conversely when dieting, we’d want to be a little insulin resistant.
Several factors go into controlling insulin sensitivity, and a large part of that is genetics, for better or worse. While there’s nothing you can really do about your genetics, there are a few other tricks you can utilize to enhance your body’s insulin sensitivity, setting the stage for maximum muscle gain and fat loss.
Ways to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
Intense exercise is by far one of the best ways you can enhance insulin sensitivity. Muscular contractions improve insulin sensitivity, as does being glycogen depleted, which occurs as a result of exhaustive exercise. For this reason, timing the bulk of your carbohydrate intake around your training window (pre, intra, and post workout) can do wonders for your natural carb partitioning abilities. Muscular contraction itself improves insulin sensitivity, facilitating glucose uptake into the cell.
Just be sure the rest of the day to limit your starchy / sugary carb intake and focus more of fats, proteins, and fibrous veggies so you still hit your macros.
Optimize your Fat Intake
Inflammation negatively impacts insulin sensitivity, and is a key indicator of obesity and type 2 diabetes. The average person’s diet overly emphasizes omega-6 fatty acids and lacks omega-3 fatty acids (found primarily in fish). Such a gross imbalance of these essential fatty acids leads to a chronic inflammatory state, which torpedoes your insulin sensitivity and leading to a host of other health issues, mentioned previously. In fact, it’s believed that the average person has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1, when ideally it should be 1:1.
To start restoring some balance to your life invest in a high quality fish oil supplement and start eating cold water fish like Wild Alaskan Salmon, Albacore Tuna or Mackerel more frequently.
Being stressed all the time elevates cortisol levels and wreaks havoc on your autonomic nervous systems (ANS). Without getting into the nitty gritty, when your ANS is out of whack, there is an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems which leads to fatigue, high blood pressure, disrupted sleep, increased protein breakdown, and insulin resistance. None of these are good for optimizing insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle.
By chilling out and de-stressing, you promote optimal function of the ANS and promote a healthier insulin response across your body.
Supplement Ingredients to Enhance Carbohydrate Partitioning
After you’ve put the other tips from this list into action, you can invest in a nutrient-partitioning supplement that enhances your body’s nutrient intake and protein turnover, such as Steel Core™.
Ingredients such as Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) helps shift glucose into muscles and away from fat cells, increasing energy and reducing stored fat. ALA, when consumed with Carbohydrates, will partition those carbohydrates to muscle tissue and away from fat tissue. The distribution of nutrients towards muscle and away from fat either maintains or increases lean muscle and decreases body fat.
You’ve been told throughout your life how important it is to drink enough water and stay properly hydrated, but have you ever stopped and really considered how much water you actually drink on a daily basis or why you need to drink so much water each day?
We’ve all been told at one time or another to drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but is this number backed by any science or is it just an old wives’ tale? What if you’re consuming water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables? Do those count towards your daily water intake totals?
Chances are you’ve pondered these questions and several others in regards to drinking water and maintaining your hydration levels. Ahead, we’ve got the basics on hydration and how (and why!) proper hydration is essential for optimal performance.
Grab your favorite sipping glass and let’s get going!
Before covering why hydration is important to performance, we first need to answer the question of how much water you need on a daily basis.
The answer isn’t eight, 8 oz. glasses of water (if things were only that simple). The truth is, every individual is different. An ultra-marathoner’s water needs are very different from the sedentary grandma knitting in her cottage. Moreover, each individual’s water needs are impacted by their age, gender, environment, activity level, and any previous/current health issues.
The human body is composed of approximately 60% water. So, you know that water is pretty crucial based off that alone. The human body can survive for a few of days without water, but not much beyond that. Simply put, without water your body shuts down — metabolic processes cease, core temperature increases, cognitive function decline, muscles don’t fire as they should, and that’s not even the worst of it!
Here’s all the different ways your body uses (and loses) water each day:
- Urination / excretion
- Evaporation from the lungs and skin and lungs (respiration and perspiration)
- Beverages (water, coffee, tea, milk, etc.)
- Food (vegetables, fruit, etc.)
- Metabolic processes (oxidation of carbohydrates, protein, and fats)
Water’s Roles in the Body
Water is absolutely essential, if you haven’t figured that out by now, here’s a list of several different bodily processes requiring water:
- Regulation of core temperature
- Production of neurotransmitters
- Oxygen delivery for the body
- Shock absorber for brain and spinal cord
- Joint lubrication
The list is much more extensive than this, but the previous topics serve to highly just how crucial water is for just about everything that goes on in your body.
Now, let’s see water’s role on performance!
Hydration and Performance
Water is critical to overall health, but it’s even more important to your performance as an athlete. In fact, even as little as a 2% drop in hydration can severely hinder performance. Your performance isn’t all that suffers when running low on water, being dehydrated also reduces your focus, concentration, strength, and power![3,4] Some research even shows that losing larger amounts of water (~ 5% of body weight) can decrease work capacity by as much as 30%!
There’s several reasons dehydration adversely affects performance:
- Elevated core temperature.[5,6]
- Decreased blood flow to skin (reducing sweating and heat dissipation)
- Reduced plasma blood volume (leading to lower stroke volume and increased heart rate)
There’s more though — dehydration also hinders cognitive function by decreasing focus, coordination, memory, attention and response time. You’ll also become fatigued that much faster and more sensitive to pain.
In other words, dehydration is the last thing a high-performing athlete wants while training or in the midst of competition.
Proper Hydration for Athletes
We still haven’t answered the question of how much water you need on a daily basis, and that’s because there is no “set in stone”, one size fits all answer for every individual. However, the American College of Sports Medicine’s has created a set of Fluid Replacement Guidelines for those involved in intense training:
- Pre Workout = 14 – 22oz of water 2 hours prior to exercise
- Intra Workout = 6 – 12oz every 15 – 20 mins of exercise
- Post Workout = 16 – 24oz of water / sports drink for every pound of weight lost during exercise
The last factor to account for when assessing hydration needs is what climate you’re training in. Water needs are very different for an athlete training in an air-conditioned environment versus one training in the mid-July heat.
Exercising outdoors in the heat increases sweat production and evaporation, which means you’ll need even more water (as well as some electrolytes) to replace what was lost via sweating. The same holds true for training outdoor in very cold environments.
Even though you’re not sweating as much as when in the heat, your body is still going through its water reserves like crazy trying to maintain your core temperature and power your mind and muscles through training. Plus, training in the cold might increase urine output and increase the respiratory loss of fluids.
Bottom line, even if you’re not that thirsty, make sure you’re getting enough water if you want to perform at your best!
Water is absolutely essential to all areas of daily life, including your performance. Make sure to drink enough pre, during, and post workout so that you’re not bonking during your workouts or dehydrated for the next day’s intense bout of exercise. Use the guidelines here as a starting point to assessing your hydration needs and feel free to increase based on your training volume and conditions!
Have a hard time drinking all that water? Put some Steel Fuel™ All-In-One BCAA + Hydration Formula in your water to sip on throughout the day as a fantastic alternative to sugary sports drinks or juices. Steel Fuel™ also features a Hydration Matrix to keep you preforming your best! This matrix includes: Taurine, Magnesium Glycinate Glutamine Chelate, Raw Coconut Water Powder, Sodium Chloride and potassium Citrate.
- Barr SI. Effects of dehydration on exercise performance. Can J Appl Physiol. 1999;24(2):164-172.
- Judelson DA, Maresh CM, Farrell MJ, et al. Effect of hydration state on strength, power, and resistance exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(10):1817-1824. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3180de5f22.
- Judelson DA, Maresh CM, Anderson JM, et al. Hydration and muscular performance: does fluid balance affect strength, power and high-intensity endurance? Sports Med. 2007;37(10):907-921.
- José G-A, Mora-Rodríguez R, Below PR, Coyle EF. Dehydration markedly impairs cardiovascular function in hyperthermic endurance athletes during exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1997;82(4):1229 LP-1236.
- Ogino Y, Kakeda T, Nakamura K, Saito S. Dehydration Enhances Pain-Evoked Activation in the Human Brain Compared with Rehydration. Anesth Analg. 2014;118(6).
Spend any time talking to trainers at the gym or browsing the aisles of your local supplement shop, and you’ll hear recommendations from numerous people stating how vital BCAAs are to your training. The problem is, you have no clue what a BCAA is, or what it really does.
Sit back and take a deep breath, you haven’t missed out on any gains or gained any fat by not using them during your workout, but you could be missing out on some key muscle-building and recovery benefits by not using them while training. That’s where this no-nonsense guide to BCAAs comes in handy.
After reading this, you’ll know all the ins and outs of BCAAs and what they can do for you!
What are BCAA’s?
In the body, there are 20 amino acids used to synthesize proteins. String enough of these proteins together and you build muscle. The 20 amino acids can be grouped into two categories: essential or non-essential. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are the nine amino acids must be consumed through the diet, since the body cannot produce them. Non-essential amino acids are ones which the body can synthesize.
BCAAs, short for branched-chain amino acids, are a special subgroup of essential amino acid comprised of leucine, isoleucine and valine. The BCAAs get their name from the unique “branch”-like structure they possess. Together, the three BCAAs account for roughly 35% of your muscle mass, which is part of the reason why they’re so important!
BCAAs can be found in whole foods, particularly animal protein, of which dairy and meat are the most plentiful.
What do BCAAs do?
Due to their unique structure, the BCAAs can perform a rather neat “trick” in the body. Basically, rather than get sent to the liver for processing, the BCAAs are sent directly to your muscles where they are oxidized (“broken down”) for use as energy during ATP production. The BCAAs are converted into glucose, pyruvate, and various other intermediates required by the body, where they increase the availability of carbohydrates and protect muscles against exercise-induced catabolism (muscle breakdown).
Perhaps even more important than providing energy to your muscles, is the fact that BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth). So, not only are these three mighty amino acids great for preserving your muscles while dieting and training, they also help your muscles to grow bigger and stronger!
You’re probably thinking that you should be consuming BCAAs all the time, well, that’s not ideal either, as your body needs all 9 essential amino acids in order to build proteins, and consuming only the three BCAAs would mean you’re lacking in 6 other important amino acids. Plus, the other EAAs compete for the same receptors in your body as the BCAAs, so if you’re overloading on the BCAAs, you’re essentially bottlenecking your muscle building abilities.
It is important to maintain a steady stream of amino acids before, during, and after training though, as this provides the energy your muscles need to perform as well as prevent muscle loss and enhance muscle repair and growth.
When to use BCAAs?
BCAAs are most important to use for hard-training athletes who may be at risk for catabolism due to the intense nature of their workouts or those following a very low calorie diet. This essentially breaks down to three classes:
- Resistance-Training (Weightlifters): Resistance training is the key to getting bigger and stronger, but to do so requires you to breakdown your muscles so that they repair and grow. Using BCAAs before, during, and after your training provides the energy your muscles need to perform as well as stave off excessive catabolism, which could lead to significant muscle breakdown, i.e. lost gains.
- Endurance Athletes: Endurance athletes train for hours on end without getting in any form of nutrition, setting them up massive muscle loss. But, consuming some form of BCAA supplement while training prevents this breakdown and helps preserve lean muscle mass.
- Dieters: During periods of reduced calorie intake, your body is at an increased risk for muscle loss. In an effort to make up for the lack of calories you’re consuming, the body will cannibalize itself to get the required energy it needs to keep functioning. Consuming BCAAs (and ample protein) while dieting staves off catabolism, and ensures that you’re only losing fat and not muscle.
- Stimulates muscle protein synthesis
- Increases lean mass
- Prevents catabolism
- Improves endurance
- Enhances mental performance
- Accelerates recovery
- Reduces soreness
BCAAs are absolutely essential for optimal performance and muscle growth. Without these three amino acids, your ability to build muscle will be severely limited. But, with BCAAs by your side, your performance, growth, and recovery will be better than ever before.
- Md. Monirujjaman and Afroza Ferdouse, “Metabolic and Physiological Roles of Branched-Chain Amino Acids,” Advances in Molecular Biology, vol. 2014, Article ID 364976, 6 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/364976
- Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition. 1996;12(7-8):485-490.
- 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.
- Blomstrand, P. et.al. “Administration of Branched-Chain Amino Acids During Sustained Exercise – Effects on Performance and On Plasma Concentration of Some Amino Acids.” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology (1991), 83-88, Accessed November 20, 2014, doi: 10.1007/BF00235174