Why Am I So Hungry All the Time?

Why am I so hungry all the time? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Sometimes it’s real hunger and we need to eat but other times we are ravenous just 30 minutes after eating! What’s up? Today we’re taking a look at hunger, what causes it and what we can do to manage it.

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WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?

It’s crazy, right? You just ate a huge meal and an hour later, you’re starving. What gives? Why am I so hungry all the time?! You might feel like you’re always hungry, or maybe you’re not hungry at all until you eat, and then you’re ravenous, or maybe y0u just ate a huge meal, feeling totally stuffed, only to be hungry again shortly after. Your hunger is always there and often in charge of your whole day.

FIRST OF ALL, YOUR HUNGER ISN’T IN CHARGE

I’ve been there, guys. My hunger used to be in charge, big time. The slightest sensation of hunger and I was in a panic that I needed to eat and I needed to eat now. I’ve since accepted that my hunger is not an emergency. Hunger isn’t in control and you have the power to decide how to respond to it.

AM I REALLY HUNGRY?

If you’re reading this, chances are you aren’t starving. We are lucky enough to live in a part of the world where we have access to as much quality food as we need. Your body will be just fine if you don’t feed it at it’s beckon call.

I’m not saying don’t listen to your body. Often, we’re legitimately hungry and it’s time to re-fuel. However, sometimes what we’re experiencing isn’t true hunger. If we can develop a better understanding of hunger and use our common sense, we can determine if we’re truly hungry and need to eat.

Our bodies are highly intelligent and complex but they don’t always know exactly what’s best for us, so next time you find yourself “starving” when you recently ate a meal, it’s time to look a little further. In addition to feeling hungry, sometimes our brains come in with an appetite and ask for things we really don’t need. Say hello to cravings!

It can be challenging to make quality food choices if you’re always hungry. You arrive home from work ravenous and it’s tempting to grab the first thing you see rather than preparing a healthy meal. You ate a sugary breakfast that left your stomach asking for more just 30 minutes later so you decide to hit the vending machine. Feel too hungry, too often and it’s almost impossible to consistently make good food choices.

If you’re constantly battling hunger, eating quality food in the right amounts becomes difficult to maintain, so we end up making poor choices and so continues the cycle.

What might be missing in your diet and what aspects of your lifestyle could be improved to help manage hunger?

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WHAT CONTROLS HUNGER

Hunger is primarily controlled by hormones and hormones are affected by the what and how much we eat. There are a number of key hormones that affect hunger. Leptin and ghrelin are considered to be the “hunger hormones” but serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptides and glucagon also play a role.

Understanding how ghrelin and leptin work can help us get hunger under control and reduce the frequency and intensity of hunger sensations. Today, we’re just going to look at ghrelin because it’s the bad boy responsible for making you feel so damn hungry all the time.

WHAT IS GHRELIN?

First of all, I think ghrelin is an appropriate name for this hunger hormone, don’t you think? It reminds me of gremlin, or some pesky, little monster that lives in our bellies, always freakin’ hungry and demanding that we feed it. Rawr!

Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and is responsible for causing feelings of hunger, hanger and “I might die and/or kill someone if I don’t eat.” Ghrelin also encourages the body to store fat, particularly around the liver and abdominal area. Just what we’re looking for, right?

Luckily, we can tame hunger by controlling ghrelin levels though food and lifestyle choices. Ghrelin is affected not only by what we eat but by everything from stress to sleep, so approaching nutrition from a total wellness perspective can go a long way.

AGAIN, WHY AM I SO HUNGRY ALL THE TIME?!?

We know that ghrelin is responsible for causing us to feel hungry and that ghrelin levels are affected by our food and lifestyle choices. What is it exactly that we’re doing and eating that’s affecting ghrelin? Let’s look at how we can manage ghrelin, then look at what else can increase hunger.

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5 WAYS TO CONTROL GHRELIN LEVELS

  1. Avoid very low calorie diets.Heavily restricting calories (we’re talking 1000 calories per day or less) increases ghrelin production and abdominal fat storage. Your body is like, hey I’m starving over here! I’m gonna store every little bit of food I get, just in case I need it. This doesn’t mean you can’t reduce body fat though a slow and steady calorie deficit but extreme restriction of calories is dangerous for both your physical and your mental health.
  2. Eat fibre and high-volume foods.When the walls of the stomach experience stretching or pressure from high-volume, fibrous foods, ghrelin production is suppressed. Keeping the belly full of high-volume foods can go along way in managing hunger. I find including a few servings of vegetables at breakfast really helps keep me full throughout the morning.
  1. Eat more omega-3s. You can use an omega-3 supplementwith EPA and DPA and/or include plenty of foods in your diet that contain them. When we don’t get enough EPA and DHA, it can increase ghrelin production and thereby fat storage around the abdominal area. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has also been shown to boost leptin and reduce inflammation in the body.
  2. Support healthy digestion.A healthy gut can help control hunger and body weight. To promote healthy digestion, enjoy fermented foods and beverages, digestion-supporting foods, spices an d herbs and consider a probiotic supplement.
  3. Eat less fructose.Fructose raises ghrelin levels and suppresses hormones that trigger fullness. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat fruit but you try to avoid processed foods which typically have a high amount of fructose in them, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. There’s nothing good in there. Eat real food.

Ghrelin is also affected by stress, exercise and sleep, so always remember that total wellness is key!

Okay, we looked at how we can control ghrelin production but what else has an effect on hunger? Well, there’s one huge factor that not only causes hunger but neglecting to manage it can have a number of negative impacts on the body. Did you guess what it is? Yep, blood sugar!

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HOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS EFFECT HUNGER

Maintaining stable blood sugar is one of the most important jobs the body does for us and we don’t always make it an easy one. We sometimes overeat or eat too much sugar, creating spikes in blood sugar that our body has to scramble to correct. This is tough on the body and is at the root of diabetes, obesity and a number of other health concerns.

BLOOD SUGAR PEAKS AND VALLEYS

Hunger is triggered by low blood sugar and this triggering can happen whether you actually need re-fuel or not. If our blood sugar gets too low, our energy levels drop and we experience hunger sensations. Alternatively, high blood sugar can be toxic and dangerous for the body. Big spikes in blood sugar cause big crashes in blood sugar, which causes hunger, leading to overeating and poor food choices. Maintaining stable blood sugar through a healthy diet can go along way in reducing hunger.

WHAT CAUSES SPIKES IN BLOOD SUGAR

Well, it’s pretty simple. Eat foods primarily made up of sugar and you’ll experience a spike in blood sugar and consequent crash. High blood sugar can also be caused by overeating. When we overeat, our bodies go into overdrive to deal with an abundance of sugar.

As the body deploys insulin and quickly compensates to bring blood sugar levels back down, we experience low blood sugar shortly after eating. That’s your body sending you a message that you need to bring your blood sugar levels back up ie. hey, I’m hungry, feed me!

When we experience this kind of hunger it’s pretty clear we don’t need to eat again.We just ate. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Let your body deal with the effects of overeating before you give it more to handle.

HOW TO PROMOTE STABLE BLOOD SUGAR

There are plenty of ways we can assist the body in maintaining stable blood sugar. Blood sugar levels are always going to go up and down but the key is preventing big peaks and valleys. Eat a bunch of sugar on an empty stomach, spike your blood sugar, the body compensates, crashing blood sugar levels, the body sends you a hunger message, you eat again, the cycle continues.

You don’t need to immediately react to that hunger!

Ideally, we’d prevent these blood sugar spikes in the first place. Lets look at a few ways we can help promote stable blood sugar levels.

10 WAYS TO BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR

  1. Include healthy fats at every meal.Fats have the lowest impact on blood sugar levels and help increase satiety by slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood stream. Get those avocados and nuts into your diet!
  2. Eat enough protein. Compared to carbohydrates, protein is digested more slowly and when it’s consumed on it’s own, doesn’t create the spike in blood sugar that carbs do. Remember, low-sugar protein powder and bars are okay to help supplement protein but it’s important to include whole food protein sources in your diet.
  3. Eat a balance macronutrients at each meal to help slow down the digestive process. Carbohydrates are essential and typically make up somewhere between 40 and 60% of a healthy diet. The key is to include a balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein with every meal to help slow down their digestion and keep you full. That being said, sometimes we want quick digesting carbohydrates, for example, when we’re weightlifting or performing high-intensity exercise but we’ll look at that another day!
  4. Eat more non-starchy vegetables.These high-volume, fibrous veggies are digested more slowly than starchy vegetables and have a low impact on blood sugar.
  5. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can cause an immediate rise in blood sugar and then a large drop a few hours later. If you do consume alcohol, do so in moderation and with some food in your stomach.
  6. Include fibre with every meal.Similarly to fat and protein, fiber can help to promote satiety and help slow digestion, preventing spikes in blood sugar. Fiber also provides a range of other health benefits and is a very important part of a healthy diet.
  7. Excercise. Exercising on a consistent basis lowers your blood glucose and helps keep blood sugar levels stable.
  8. Start the day with a balanced, higher protein meal.Even though I love oatmeal and smoothies at breakfast, it’s important to include a balance of fats and protein. A good choice for vegans and vegetarians is a non-starchy vegetable scramble with tempeh or quinoa porridge with nuts and hemp seeds.
  9. Don’t skip meals. Eat balanced meals and snacks every 3-4 hours or so to help keep blood sugar stable and prevent overeating.
  10. Eat ceylon, or true cinnamon.True cinnamon has been shown to help balance blood sugar levels. Try mixing it into tea or coffee, using it in baking and other recipes, sprinkling it on hot and cold cereal and even using it to spice curries. There are a number of benefits to including ceylon over regular cinnamon in your diet, so while it’s a bit of a splurge, if you can get your hands on some, I think it’s worth it.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES AFFECTING HUNGER AND BLOOD SUGAR

Stress, exercise, dehydration and sleep all play a roll in hunger.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

Not managing our stress levels can cause cortisol levels to remain high in the body, effectively increasing our appetite. We’ve all been there. Stress eating, emotional eating, whatever you want to call it. High stress levels can effect our appetite, which is psychological drive that causes us to crave particular foods, not to be mixed up with real hunger. Mindful eating and bringing awareness to times you overeat can distinguish between appetite and true hunger. A food journal is often helpful in this case!

EXERCISE, HYDRATION AND SLEEP

As for exercise, daily movement promotes a healthy metabolism, proper digestion, helps to manage stress and of course, has wide range of other health benefits. Do it. Every day!

Dehydration is huge too, and you’ve probably heard it 100 times. Drink more water! As for sleeping, a lack of quality sleep may have a direct effect on how hungry we feel. Sleep duration has been found to reduce levels of leptin, an appetite suppressing hormone and increase levels of ghrelin, stimulating hunger. Not only that, a lack of quality sleep effects mood, recovery, memory, blood sugar and energy levels. I’ll be talking about my routine for a great nights sleep in an upcoming post. Don’t miss it!

NOW WHAT?

Alright! That was really fun to chat about. We talked all about ghrelin, how to manage it to control hunger and what we can do to promote stable blood sugar. Where to go from here….

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

When it comes to nutrition and fat loss, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the tools you need to succeed. Read, listen to podcasts, surround yourself with people who share similar goals and that you can learn from. The more we understand about our bodies and how powerful the food we eat is, the easier it becomes to consistently make quality food choices. That chocolate chip muffin might not be as appealing when you know it will cause a spike in blood sugar, causing you to crash and leaving you feeling hungry shortly after eating it, creating an endless cycle.

WHERE TO START

If that all seems overwhelming to you, don’t worry about it! Pick one thing to focus on. Maybe you start by including one omega-3 rich food in your diet every day. Or maybe instead of a whole chocolate chip muffin, you eat half along side a big tofu and vegetable scramble. Maybe you focus on getting to bed an hour earlier this week.

Improvement over perfection, guys. It’s a lifelong journey and it isn’t a linear one! These aren’t the rules and they certainly aren’t set in stone. Sometimes we’re going to eat the damn (vegan) doughnut. These are simply some steps you can take to help get a hold of your hunger. One step of a time, you don’t have to do all these things at once. Perfection only sets us up for failure.  Consistency and steady improvement are the golden ticket.

It’s never to late to educate yourself, improve your diet and keep striving towards your best self. When we feel good, feel comfortable in our skin and have plenty of energy, everything in life gets easier, so keep after it, guys!

Strive to be the best version of yourself, at any given time, with what you have.

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3 Reasons You Need To Change Your Protein Powder

Protein powders are as synonymous with fitness as tough workouts, competition and the need for recovery.

Even though the protein supplement market has been oversaturated and misunderstood, the reality is that: Human beings are protein machines.

All the way down to our DNA, you’ll find instructions for building our brain, digestive system, muscles, immune cells and so much more out of protein building blocks.

To build new structures, we must provide our bodies with the raw materials it needs to make it happen. You can’t build your muscle out of cheese fries and Doritos (believe me, I tried). And if your body is deficient in the protein building blocks it needs, you will breakdown faster and live a poorer quality life as a result.

The big issue in our world today is that we live in abnormally stressful conditions where our bodies have to work on high gear more often. More stress to fight, more infections to defend against and more need to build new brain and nervous system tissue than ever before. And don’t even get me started on how you need protein to build a sexified lean body… You already know that!

Though many people are adamant about getting in their protein supplement today for some of these reasons, many are unaware that the protein they are choosing may be doing more harm than good.

Here are 3 reasons you need to change your protein powder:

Digestion

The conventional go-to for protein powders for the past couple decades has been whey protein. For some people, this has worked out fine, but for many others this has been a stinky situation.

In the health & fitness field, whey protein is often referred to as “Gas & Blast” due to the unfortunate effects of causing more bloat, digestive distress and gassiness.

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I remember hearing an interview from Halle Berry back in the day when she was getting in shape for the movie Cat Woman (bad movie, but great body). She said to the interviewer that she’d be glad when she could back off on all the exercise and whey protein shakes she had to drink because of all the gas she was kicking out. (Wait, whaaat? Halle Berry farts?)

There are actually many reasons for these digestive woes. Unfortunately, many whey protein producers claim that their products are safe for those who are lactose intolerant because there is little to no lactose found in it (especially if it’s an isolate).

The problem with this is that even a small amount of lactose (milk-sugar) can be enough to set off a chain reaction of health problems. For those who are lactose intolerant (which you probably are if you’re not a baby and if you are a baby and reading this, great job!) just that small amount of lactose found in whey will go undigested in your digestive tract and trigger excessive activity with bacteria in your gut.

As a result, you end up experiencing the bloating, distended stomach and gassiness that are definitely not the sexy part about getting into shape.

Some people will hop to vegan proteins like soy to avoid this, but end up jumping into another problem. Many soy proteins, for example, are hexane extracted. That’s hexane, as in gasoline, as in that’s explosive stuff, as in that’s just crazy!

So whether you are unknowingly choosing the conventional whey, or the typical soy alternative, you are not doing your digestion any favours. And the truth is, it’s not “You are what you eat”, it’s really, “You are what you digest.”

To wrap this digestion point up, internal distress, denatured amino acids and the potential immune response can lead to an increase in mucus production and hormone dysfunction. This can translate to an increase in allergies and asthma symptoms, skin breakouts (especially back acne aka bacne) and more frequent colds and infections. More than enough reasons to leave these lower quality protein sources behind.

The solution

The most digestible protein source that you’ll find for the human body is hemp protein. Hemp protein contains a unique blend of two soft, highly digestible proteins called edestin and albumin.

Globular proteins like edestin are regarded as the most bioavailable, usable sources of protein for the human body. The word edestin is actually from the Greek word “edestos” meaning edible. Hemp is actually the only known source of the powerhouse protein edestin.

Edestin has also been found to contain higher levels of essential amino acids than soy and you’ll also avoid the harsh extraction process used to turn the soy bean into a protein powder.

Toxicity

A Consumer Reports study found that several of the major whey protein powders on the market exceeded the safety limits for heavy metals recommended by the USP.

Heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury were found in surprisingly high amounts in protein powders and drinks you’d find on your local store shelves.

The most alarming were the amounts of arsenic and cadmium. Exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver and prostate. It’s a strong immune system depressant and shown to damage blood vessels and other cardiac tissues.

Cadmium is also a known carcinogen. It’s proven to damage DNA and also disrupt DNA repair systems that help prevent cancer in the first place. These heavy metals are bad business. But the question is, how did they get into the protein powder in the first place?

This goes back, again, to the misinterpreted saying, “You are what you eat”.

Not only is it deeper than ‘you are what you eat’, but when it comes to the animal proteins you consume, it’s really, “You are what you eat ate.”

The health of the animals that provide you with the protein you consume is of the utmost importance. Toxicity becomes more concentrated as you move up the food chain, accumulating in the tissues of the animal and transmitting over to the animal’s meat, organs and bodily fluids. In this case, it’s the whey made from milk.

If the animals themselves are eating an abnormal diet, then the milk they produce will be far less safe to consume. Did you know that only a small fraction of a whey proteins on the market are from cows that actually eat grass?

The vast majority of whey protein products are from cow’s who’ve been given a diet of soy and/or corn. Not sure if I’m the only one that noticed, but cows can’t shuck corn… And I’m pretty sure that they can’t cook beans either. It’s just those pesky hooves that they have… They’re just not that graceful in the kitchen.

Bottom line is, when you give cows food that they have not evolved eating, they get sick just like humans do. This is also the reason that most conventional whey products are from cows that have been treated rigorously with antibiotics. This destroys their immune system and leaves them susceptible to every disease under the sun. But hey, that won’t affect you when you drink their milk… Nah, I’m just kidding. Of course it will!

Add to the mix that you are consuming the whey from potentially hundreds of different cows in one jug of protein powder, you can imagine the not-so-pretty number it can do on your immune system.

You are what you eat ate. If the cows are consuming GMO corn and soy grown in soil that is saturated with unnatural fertilizers (which contain dense amounts of heavy metals) it’s no wonder that studies are finding the heavy metals in the whey. It’s just how the system works.

The Solution

To get out of that system and get a protein supplement that’s exceptionally more safe, it’s a good idea to shift over to a plant-based protein. There’s going to be less toxicity because it’s lower on the food chain, but you want to get one that still packs the protein punch that you would find in an animal source.

Hemptons utilizes a rich and complete protein derived from organic hemp seeds. You’re no longer going to have to be concerned about nefarious pesticides and heavy metal laced fertilizers making their way into your body. Hemptons’ Hemp Protein contains all of the essential amino acids and all three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), making it one of the most potent sources of plant protein in the world. You’ll get the protein that you need and none of the stuff you don’t.

Dense Nutrition

The protein you choose should never be deficient in the co-factors that actually make it work. Protein doesn’t function by itself in the human body.

Nothing functions independently in nature. Everything depends on something else to give it life and make it work.

Most protein powders on the market are so heavily processed that they give no regard to this fact. Vitamins and minerals found in the food, blah, who needs ’em! Antioxidants and neurotransmitters, please, who said any of that stuff is important?

The vitamins, minerals and immune factors that would be found in a cow’s milk (intended to give to its baby) are all but destroyed in the processing practices of most whey protein companies.

You are not left with anything close to a complete food… You are left with, well, protein and none of its friends (and protein is definitely not a shy little introvert … it likes friends)

Soy, on the other hand, has been found to absorb plenty of nutrients from its environment, but an abnormal amount of the wrong stuff. One study on protein-rich soy infant formula found that it contained up to 200 times more manganese than natural breast milk. You probably know that manganese is an essential nutrient for the human body, but consuming it in excess has been linked to reduced brain function and even Parkinson’s Disease.

Soy is a plant that has this unique affinity to absorb excessive manganese. This could be a good indicator that it’s not an appropriate human food. Add to the mix that it’s extremely high in estrogen compounds and trypsin inhibitors that actually block the uptake of proteins and the case is pretty clear that soy is not the standard that we want to subscribe to.

The Solution

Hemp protein provides a safe variety of minerals and trace minerals that make the protein more useable by the human body.

Hemp contains healthy amounts of magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium as some of the highlights. All with critical roles in brain function, blood building, the immune system and muscle function as well.

In nature, hemp contains nearly the exact ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s that are ideal for the human body. Research indicates that we need a 3:1 to 4:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 respectively.

In our world today we are bombarded with foods that contain extremely high levels of omega 6’s (the pro-inflammatory fatty acids) and not enough omega 3’s (the anti-inflammatory fatty acids). Hemp contains a ratio of approximately 3.38:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and no other food is this identical. This is yet another reason why hemp looks to be an amazing food for human beings.

At 35 percent protein by weight, hemp is a naturally high protein food that provides the most useable source of protein for the human body. It’s a food that we all need to incorporate as we move forward in our health and becoming the best version of ourselves.

So to answer the question: What is the best protein powder? Clearly, hemp protein stands head and shoulders above all other conventional protein powders in digestibility, assimilation, safety and nutrient density.

Here’s to a better protein, better performance and better health for years to come!

Does Nutella cause cancer? A deeper look

Written and published By Kamal Patel at examin.com

Last week was abuzz with headlines ranging from …

“Nutella causes cancer!” to …

“Don’t worry, Nutella doesn’t actually cause cancer!”

Which one is correct?

Neither. Here’s what the research actually said. If you’re in a rush, read the blue boxes or the end of the post. If you’re curious, read the whole thing. It’s super interesting, we swear!

What did the research say?

A report came out in May of 2016 from a European food safety agency. Under review were some potentially carcinogenic compounds found notably in refined palm oil. And Nutella contains refined palm oil.

So why did all the buzz happen seven months after that report? Because the Italian maker of Nutella, Ferrero (which invented the chocolate-hazelnut spread in the 1940s and currently uses about a quarter of the world’s hazelnut supply), decided to start fighting back this month, responding to outcry and proposed regulations in Europe. And the media took note.

Anyway, back to the report. It focused on three specific compounds:

GE (Glycidol Ester) is the compound that gets most of the press. The GE content of palm oil is much higher than that of other oils.

3-MCPD and 2-MCPD can both be produced alongside GE, and can be harmful on their own.

The report found that GE is bad news, at least in animal studies. As a “genotoxin”, it can damage DNA, which is a causative step in the formation of cancer cells. 3-MCPD harmed the kidneys and male reproductive organs of the experimental animals. Data on 2-MCPD were scarce, so we won’t talk more about it.

A report from May of 2016 was revisited by the media in January of 2017, after the makers of Nutella launched an ad campaign defending its use of palm oil — a campaign spurred by Nutella being pulled off the shelves of some Italian supermarkets, and by potential regulations in Europe. The report looked at three potentially harmful compounds in palm oil, with the media especially focusing on GE (Glycidol Ester).

It turns out that babies are at the greatest risk of consuming too much GE, because some babies rely on infant formulas as their sole food source. And guess what can be quite high in GE? Yup, infant formulas. This is yet another reason why breastmilk is pretty great, though in some cases formulas are the only option to feed a baby.

The below chart, copied from the European agency’s report, shows two important points:

● Babies and children tend to consume much more GE (and 3-MCPD) than adults.

● Babies who drink formulas have it the worst off, with more than twice the average intake.

Hold on a sec! This whole Nutella scare may actually apply more to babies (particularly those fed formulas) than to adults. That’s because adults eat a variety of foods, whereas babies don’t. Older children aren’t off the hook, since they often eat a lot of snacks that can contain GE, and also eat a lot in proportion to their bodyweight in order to grow.

How serious is this cancer risk, exactly?

People absolutely love shrugging off cancer reports. Either that, or letting the report scare the heck out of them. We like to take the middle ground, as in the case of last year’s big red meat and cancerreport. So … how important is it for you to cut down on Nutella?

The full paper is massive (159 pages) and contains one little line that isn’t mentioned in the abstract:

The report looked at animal studies, mostly in rats and mice. None of the studies were in humans. This severely limits the conclusions that can be drawn from the data, for two reasons:

● We aren’t exactly like rodents. For example, they can make their own vitamin C out of glucose; we can’t, so we have to eat it. More to the point, cancer studies in rodents often don’t translate to humans, partly because rodents seem to be more susceptible to cancer.

● When you lack human data, you end up with really rough risk estimates. For GE, the report’s authors took the dose that caused cancer in rats and divided it by 25,000, then used that number as the “safe” level in humans. Without human data, though, it’s hard to know if this really, really large (and somewhat arbitrary) number isn’t overly cautious.

Finally, one should remember that, in real life, people don’t consume steady supplies of isolated compounds. Nutella is composed of several ingredients, and we eat it in combination with other foods, in different and varying amounts over time.

We lack human data on those compounds, so nobody knows how dangerous they really are. Given the discrepancies that can occur between rodents and humans with regard to cancer, the report might not apply all that well to us. That doesn’t mean you should eat refined palm oil or Nutella all day every day; it just means that the report was really just an initial step in the research.

Nutella versus other foods

The report was not a study of Nutella, and that’s what scaremongers don’t seem to understand. GE is formed at processing temperatures above 200ºC (nearly 400ºF). Nutella is processed at much lower temperatures specifically so as to reduce the production of contaminants like GE.

Plus the report explicitly states that between 2010 and 2015, GE levels in palm oils and other fats went down by half due to changes in manufacturing.

Nutella is produced at fairly low temperatures that minimize the production of GE. The report is of greater concern for people who eat refined palm oil that isn’t known to be produced at safe temperatures.

That doesn’t mean you should ignore the report, though. At the very least, you should ask yourself this question: Why was refined palm oil targeted? The answer: Because it is rich in a type of fat called DAG (diglyceride), whereas other oils have more of the normal stuff, triglyceride. And as far as the research group could tell, refined oils are the only direct source of GE in the human diet.

Smelly oils, like palm oil, often need higher heats to deodorize them, otherwise people wouldn’t use them as cooking oils and in food products. And while vegetable oils are somewhat low in DAG when fresh (around 1–3%), once stored and transported they can have double that amount even before refining.

Purified DAG oil was actually studied for genotoxicity back in 2005, with no link being found. Which may seem confusing, since purified DAG oil has around 80% DAG and palm oil around 10% — but genotoxicity tests can differ, as can refining processes. Anyway, purified DAG cooking oil was a big hit in Japan, under the name of Enova, and there’s been a decent amount of research into purified DAG potentially helping with weight loss and metabolic syndrome.

But wait, why don’t you see Enova on supermarket shelves anymore? Because it was voluntarily discontinued in 2009 due to potential toxicity concerns! In other words, it was a canary in a coal mine.

The high DAG content of palm oil is part of what makes it potentially harmful. People don’t use purified DAG oil anymore, but high-DAG oils could be a concern. If you don’t eat refined oils, nor foods that contain them, you don’t have to worry about this report.

DAG can’t produce GE without reacting with chlorine. In fact, 3-MCPD fits under the category of CHLOROpropanol, so chlorine is crucial to this story. Therefore, to be safe:

● Don’t cook your oils in chlorinated pool water (joke).

● Be careful when heating Splenda/sucralose (not a joke).

Splenda, a.k.a. sucralose, is a polychlorinated artificial sweetener. So it’s got chlorine in spades. While Splenda is safe according to current evidence, not much of that evidence is on heated Splenda. It turns out that heating Splenda could generate substantial amounts of the potentially harmful compounds we talked about above.

Other ways chlorine might figure in the equation aren’t that well researched. For instance, it’s possible that fertilizers containing chloride could make the problem worse, but there’s been very little research.

Heating Splenda (e.g. baking with Splenda) may generate chloropropanols. Researchers don’t know much about this, but keep it in mind if you’re a Splenda junkie.

Although palm oil has an especially high GE content, other oils can be a concern, too. Moreover, most people eat foods containing refined oils (e.g. potato chips and baked goods) more often than they eat isolated refined oils (e.g. sunflower oil), so those foods are the greater practical concern. The charts below (copied from the report) show GE levels per kilogram of foods and isolated oils.

Although palm oil has been singled out, other refined oils, whether in isolation (e.g. sunflower oil) or in foods (e.g. potato chips and baked goods), can also be a concern.

The bottom line

You probably just want to know the answer to this question: Should I worry? Luckily, the answer is similar to our takeaways from other reports.

If you eat a diet of mostly unprocessed plants and animals, you’re fine. Carcinogens are everywhere; it’s the dose that makes the poison. But if you eat foods containing refined oils on a daily basis, especially high amounts of refined palm oil, you may want to lower your intake.

High-heat processing is not very healthy, especially for oils; it can produce a variety of potentially toxic substances, from the ones mentioned in this report to other scary initialisms like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Again, of course, it’s the dose that makes the poison, so the occasional junk food or fried food isn’t a deal breaker.

Humans may eat unhealthy foods and live unhealthy lifestyles, but we’re not lab rats. The report covered only animals studies, which often don’t apply all that well to humans. We don’t know if humans detoxify these compounds differently from rats. We do know that, in our bodies, some of these compounds are conjugated to glutathione in order to neutralize them, and that glutathione is one of our bodies’ powerhouse antioxidants — the production of which is also supported by a healthy diet. So eat your greens!

 

5 Things to know about weight-loss

tofattorun

There’s so much information/misinformation about losing weight. Here are the things nobody told me; the things that I wish I’d known when I started losing…

Throw Away Your Scale

No, seriously. Throw it away. For me (and I think for many people), the scale was just a way to torture myself and continue my cycle of treating myself poorly. Gain a Kg? I thought I was awful and should just stop eating at all. Lose a Kg? I’m great and should celebrate by eating a pizza. The natural up-down fluctuation of our body weight shouldn’t drive us crazy, but it can and for a lot of us, it will.

Still want to use the scale as a tool and not a crazymaker? Use a scale at the gym, or that one at the supermarket. Just don’t keep one in your house. It can be very addictive and it’s frankly a bad way to rate your progress. I can fluctuate up to 2 kgs in a given day due to water/food, glycogen retention and a lot of other issues. Weigh yourself at the same time of day in the same clothes, no more than once a week. Buy a tape measure and measure every two weeks. (Taking pictures once a month is something I really wish I’d done!) Rejoice when your pants fall down …  and, throw away your scale.

Fitness is a three-pronged approach.

You need to do cardio, weight training and flexibility training. Just do cardio and you’re on your way to skinny-fat. I see plenty of women who just do cardio and they look alright in street clothes, but when they come into the spin room, they’re just as jiggly as someone who could stand to lose a few. Just do weights and don’t incorporate flexibility training and you’re on the way to bunchy town: short, tight muscles that don’t feel or look good. Just do flexibility training and you won’t burn many calories. I do cardio, yoga and weights. This also goes a long way in preventing workout burnout. I shudder at the mere thought of just doing an hour on the treadmill every day. Boring. Mix it up. Your body and your sanity will be better for it.

What you eat is really, really important.

Remember, you cannot out exercise a bad diet … ever!

You can lose weight eating packaged, processed food with little nutritional value. But, yuck. You’ll be hungry. The portions won’t be large, the nutrients will be lacking and you’ll feel deprived.  Most nights for dinner, I have an enormous salad. Ten cups of greens, a homemade dressing with olive oil and lemon juice (or balsamic) and sometimes I throw in some chicken or seafood, or nuts or a bit of white goats’ cheese. I struggle to get that enormous bowl up to 450 calories. It’s huge.

Moral of this story? Eat your vegetables, eat your lean protein sources (and occasionally not so lean—good fats in moderation are a good thing). Eat a handful of nuts. A teeny-tiny ounce of nuts takes the edge off your hunger for hours. Remember, moderation – a handful only because just 28g of nuts is nearly 200 calories. But, nuts have it all going for them: They’re portable and they keep you full. Keeping those nuts handy will save you from many a low-blood sugar induced eating frenzy.

Calories equal energy. That’s its definition. Choose calories that are full of energy and nutrients, not full of chemicals and rubbish. Anything that’s marketed as “good for you” (I’m talking to you, 100-calorie packs) most likely isn’t. If it needs marketing (when was the last time you saw a TV commercial for an apple?), it needs to be sold. Don’t believe me? Just Google around and find some cigarette ads from the 1940s, when those were marketed as healthy and natural. The 100-calorie pack is the low-tar cigarette of our generation. Be smarter than the food industry. Eat foods with one ingredient. That’s my best diet/health advice in one sentence.

The diet and fast food industry want you to stay fat.

Any “get-thin quick” scheme is just that. They want you to “get results” and then pack the pounds back on and come back because “it worked so great the last time.” Any diet that you can’t be on the rest of your life is a bad one. You can’t repent for a month and suddenly never gain weight again.

Any industry depends on repeat business to keep afloat. The diet industry is no different. If diets worked, everyone would go on one, lose weight and keep it off and never have to shell out any money ever again. The same holds true for the processed/fast-food/chain-restaurant food industry. They want you addicted to their food, craving more and coming back. They don’t care that what they’re selling can make you fat and kill you. They just want your money.

Now, I’m not perfect. From time to time, I indulge in junk food. But it’s rare and it’s an indulgence. I hardly ever want it anymore, though, because it makes me feel awful. I can’t believe sometimes that it used to be the cornerstone of my diet.

You will go into mourning for the old you.

I’ve saved this for last because it was the most shocking to me. I lost 25 kgs, became a fit and healthy person and then got really, really depressed and didn’t know why. On some level, I finally realized, I missed my old life. I missed going out and not caring what I put into my body (it was fun at the moment). I missed feeling bad about something and knowing that as soon as I got that ice cream home it would all go away. I missed being invisible once I started getting more attention (especially from the opposite sex).

After I lost the weight, my life as I knew it was over. I got divorced from food as a coping mechanism. Food was, for a period in my life, my best friend. I had to mourn that loss. I had to spend time figuring out who this new person, who would rather go for a walk than for pizza, was. I lost friends in the process (I made new ones after a while). I had to re-learn how to cope with emotions. I had to learn that it was okay to cry rather than eat. I had to learn that it was alright to say I was upset about something out loud, using words rather than food. I had to learn that it was perfectly well and good to stand up for myself rather than eat. I had to learn how to do a lot of things rather than eat. If your change is true and lifelong, you will most likely go through this process, too.

Accept it as part of the journey you’re taking.

Best Testosterone Boosters That Build Muscle Faster

 

besttestosteroneboostersman550

Testosterone is the most important hormone in your body for building muscle and getting stronger.

If you want to get jacked and make your training count, you should be doing everything you can to support your testosterone levels. The best testosterone boosters can be a good way to do it.

Some guys are genetically gifted, they will grow and grow, year on year. Other guys can drink tons of protein shakes, eat loads of steak and potatoes and switch up their workout and they still can’t grow.

A testosterone booster is designed for guys like this, hard gainers. It can be the secret to pushing past the barrier and activating new muscle growth.

Okay, so what do they actually do?

Some guys seem to think the only real way to raise your testosterone level is with steroids or pro-hormones.

However, the best way to boost testosterone safely is to take a combination of natural supplements.

 

This will help with :

  • Aiding Testosterone Production – This relies heavily on processes in the brain and the endocrine system. The needed components to accomplish this aren’t necessarily included in everyone’s diet.
  • Increasing Free Testosterone – About 60% of the T-Levels in a man’s body are bound to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). When bound, this testosterone loses it’s anabolic potency and can no longer be directly used. T-Boosters decrease the production of globulin, freeing up testosterone availability.
  • Decreasing Estrogen – In the body, an enzyme known as the aromatase is responsible for the production of estrogen, even if it means converting testosterone to produce it.

This is the highest form of bullshit. Getting real for a second, testosterone boosters are not as powerful as the synthetic stuff, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective.

Research over the last few years has discovered a number of natural ingredients that have been clinically proven to raise and support testosterone levels. Without the dangerous side-effects of steroids or pro-hormones.

We’ve dug deep and found the most effective ingredients available right now, all with real clinical studies behind them:

daaD-Aspartic Acid

An essential amino acid to the testosterone boosting process – through a reaction with the brain, D-AA helps the body release a multitude of hormones. These include the luteinizing hormone (regulator of the testes), follicle stimulating hormones and perhaps most importantly, growth hormone – a key muscle builder.

There have also been studies that believe D-Aspartic Acid to be an effective component for removing rate-limits of testosterone synthesis1.

Oyster Extract

Potentially one of the most effective testosterone increasing ingredients out there. Oysters hold a lot of zinc, up to 10 times more than the amount you’ll find in a steak. Zinc, like D-Aspartic Acid is great for releasing those luteinizing hormones and help out with raising serum testosterone levels.

That’s not all, Oyster Extract also holds 59 elements of essential bodily nutrients such as vitamins, amino acids, Omega 3 & 6 and Taurine. It has also been seen to raise IQ, help out with strength gains and raise the immune system2.

Stinging Nettle

Working closely with Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, the nettle’s ‘lignans’ which make up part of the root binds with the SHBG in place of the testosterone. This allows more testosterone to be free in the body. It has also been seen to have aromatese inhibitor qualities to lower the estrogen production rate3.

Vitamin D3

Called a vitamin, but actually a hormone. D3 is 1 of the only 24 nutrients we need to stay alive. Vitamin D3 is absorbed from the sun, but usually, we don’t get enough of it.

As modern living keeps us constantly indoors – our supply to this hormone is limited.

D3 helps release luteinizing hormones which help release testosterone, follicle stimulating hormones and growth hormone. 5 to 10 Minutes of direct sunshine a day will help raise the amount of Vitamin D in the body4.

Ginseng

This extract has been rocking the testosterone world. Ginseng has the ability to boost Nictric Oxide levels in men. In doing so it allows blood flow to massively improve giving fantastic pumps during a workout.

It also decreases the body’s glucose levels, eliminating any worries about insulin interfering with the testosterone production process. The saponins in Gingseng also improve testosterone levels and the luteinzing hormone.

It’s the Asian Red Panax Ginseng form that is the most effective5.

 

Ingredient Warning

Stay away from a product with a proprietary blend in them. This is a group of ingredients all mixed together in various amounts. It’s bad because you don’t know how much you’re getting of each ingredient.

 

Are there any side effects?

These products are not steroids. They are completely natural supplements designed to deliver nutrients that the body needs to produce the most testosterone. They don’t cause any side effects. They will not give you the usual side effects experienced by guys taking steroids.

That said, check if you allergies to any of the above. Be responsible – if you are allergic to shellfish, use your noggin and don’t go scarfing down Oyster supplements.

As with all things make informed decisions by researching the products before embarking on a course.

 

Studies

  1. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19860889
  2. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519

           Study: https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

  1. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074486/
  2. Video: http://www.nsca.com/videos/expert_tips/the_vitamin_d_and_testosterone_connection/

           Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195

  1. Study: http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Ginseng_Helps_Regulate.shtml

            Study: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/9063034/reload=0;jsessionid=dnM5Kwqx09ut7hFOaNIQ.0

 

Top 5 Fitness Myths

top5FitnessMyths

 

There are a handful of fitness myths that have been around forever, regardless of how much scientific research there is to refute them. I believe that human nature is partly to blame – people tend to believe that which supports their own personal biases. The unfortunate downside to subscribing to these myths is that they can prevent you from being the getting the most from your fitness routine. Here are five of the top offenders:

 

Myth 1: People Who Exercise Frequently Can Eat Whatever They Want

Oh, if this were only true. One need to simply take a look around the gym to realize this is not the case. Fitness clubs are filled with people who exercise almost every day, yet they just can’t seem to lose weight. It comes down to simple math: It can be easier to keep 500 calories out of your mouth than it is to burn it off. Sure, exercise is a big part of the equation, but it is by no means a license to eat whatever you want.

 

Myth 2: If I Stop Working Out, My Muscle Will Turn to Fat

This myth, often the result of people witnessing professional athletes lose their physiques and gain weight after retiring from their respective sports, is easily refuted by basic physiology. A fat cell is a fat cell and a muscle cell is a muscle cell. One cannot turn into the other. The reason these athletes gain weight is the same as for everyone else: decreased activity and increased caloric intake

This is what it takes a 68 Kg person to burn approximately 100 calories :

Workouts:

Biking: 23 minutes of casual cycling

Cardio dance class: 15 minutes

Elliptical: 8 minutes

Jumping rope: 9 minutes at a moderate intensity

Lifting weights, vigorously: 15 minutes

Pilates: 24 minutes

Rowing machine: 13 minutes

Running stairs: 6 minutes

Running: 9 minutes of running at a 6 mph pace

Swimming: 15 minutes moderate intensity

Walking stairs: 11 minutes

Walking: 20 minutes of walking at a 3 mph pace

Water aerobics: 23 minutes

Yoga: 20 minutes

Zumba: 11 minutes

 

Sports and Leisure Activities:

Basketball, shooting hoops: 20 minutes

Bowling: 30 minutes

Dancing around living room: 20 minutes

Darts: 35 minutes

Golfing, carrying clubs: 15 minutes

Ice skating, moderate: 18 minutes

Kickball: 13 minutes

Mini golf or driving range: 30 minutes

Playing catch with a football: 35 minutes

Playing Frisbee: 30 minutes

Playing soccer, casual: 13 minutes

Skiing,downhill: 10 minutes

Softball or baseball: 18 minutes

Tennis (doubles): 21 minutes

Tennis (singles): 15 minutes

Treading water, moderate effort: 23 minutes

Volleyball, recreational: 26 minutes

Water skiing: 15 minutes

 

Yard Work:

Mowing the lawn: 20 minutes

Painting house: 18 minutes

Raking leaves: 23 minutes

Shovelling snow: 15 minutes

Washing the car: 20 minutes

Weeding the garden: 18 minutes

Everyday Activities:

Carrying an infant: 24 minutes

Cleaning, moderate effort: 26 minutes

Cooking: 34 minutes

Doing dishes: 40 minutes

Mopping the floor: 20 minutes

Playing with children: 23 minutes

Pushing a stroller: 35 minutes

Rearranging furniture: 14 minutes

Shopping: 38 minutes

Sweeping: 23 minutes

Walking the dog, 26 minutes

 

Myth 3: To See Results You Must Exercise Continuously For an Hour

Out of these 5 myths, this one is probably the most detrimental to the masses. The number one reason people cite for failing to exercise is lack of time. Many believe that, if you don’t allocate thirty to sixty minutes to work out, then it’s not worth doing at all.  Research suggests that three ten-minute bouts of exercise have the same benefits as one thirty-minute session. There is even some new research into the value of “micro-workouts,” bouts of exercise as short as sixty seconds, may help to support cardiovascular health.

 

Myth 4: Lifting Weights Will Make You Too Bulky

Many athletes avoided strength training for decades, believing that increased muscle size would inhibit movement and lead to decreased performance. The conventional wisdom was that lifting weights would be detrimental and building muscle was to be avoided. Many people still believe this to be the case. Today professional athletes in many different sports engage in some form of strength training to both support performance as well as help decrease the chance of injury. Many also add stretching into their routines to help maintain flexibility.

 

Myth 5: Women Should Lift Light Weights to Avoid Getting “Bulky”

It has been my experience that the fear of building “bulk” is one of the primary reasons far too many women either avoid lifting weights completely, or, if they do strength train, choose weights that are too light. Both need to change. The “overload principle” of strength training posits that to “change” a muscle you must adequately challenge it. Thus, choosing weights that are too light will not elicit meaningful adaptations. Lifting appropriately challenging weights, however, may confer a number of benefits including increased bone density, increased functional strength and an increase in muscle.

 

So, seek out information from reputable sources, ones who support their positions with peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Can Arachidonic Acid (ARA) work as a Bodybuilding supplement?

Effects of Arachidonic Acid Supplementation on Acute Anabolic Signaling and Chronic Functional Performance and Body Composition Adaptations

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the superstars of the essential fatty acid world, and are found primarily in fish and seafood. A tremendous amount of research has investigated the impact of these fatty acids on health and exercise performance. They have been previously discussed in ERD #12 for their potential beneficial role in increasing strength and muscle protein synthesis.

Arachidonic1

Less researched is arachidonic acid (ARA, depicted in Figure 1), the omega-6 cousin to EPA that the body synthesizes from linoleic acid, the plant-based omega-6 found in nuts, seeds, and their oils. It can also be obtained in the diet from meat and eggs, albeit in small amounts.

Despite its lesser-known presence in the nutrition world, ARA is an incredibly important and prominent fatty acid in cell membranes. It is found at a level comparable to that of DHA in neural membranes, including in the brain, where it comprises 10-12% of total fatty acids. In skeletal muscle, ARA has been found to make up 15-17% of total fatty acids.

The body relies on ARA for inflammation, a normal and necessary immune response to repair damaged tissue. Specifically, ARA is the precursor to various leukotrienes, prostaglandins, and thromboxanes, collectively known as eicosanoids. While the majority of ARA-derived eicosanoids act to promote inflammation, some also act to resolve it (i.e., are anti-inflammatory).

Scientists hypothesize that ARA plays a central role in the adaptive response to strength training. After all, strength training causes an acute inflammatory response that’s necessary to build bigger muscles. For instance, two prostaglandins produced from ARA are PGE2 and PGF2α. Test tube studies performed with skeletal muscle fibers indicate that PGE2 increases protein breakdown while PGF2α stimulates protein synthesis. Other test tube studies have also found PGF2α to increaseskeletal muscle fiber growth.

In support of these test tube findings, research in young adults has shown that consuming non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) after exercise blunts the normal increase in muscle protein synthesis through suppressing the normal increase in PGF2α. In contrast, administration of NSAIDs to older adults has been shown to enhance strength and size gains in response to resistance training by suppressing other forms of inflammation in addition to the beneficial PGF2α. Regardless of outcome, this research does clearly indicate a role of ARA-derived prostaglandins in the adaptive response to exercise.

Arachidonic2

If blunting ARA-derived prostaglandin formation attenuates adaptations to resistance training in young adults, then perhaps the reverse is also true (as shown in Figure 2)—that increasing prostaglandin formation enhances adaptations to resistance training. Supplementation with ARAincreases the ARA content of serum phospholipids. This increased availability is associated with increased prostaglandin formation. Accordingly, the current study was designed to examine whether ARA supplementation affected body composition and muscle function in strength-training individuals. This study also used rats to evaluate the effect of ARA supplementation on anabolic signaling mechanisms.

Arachidonic acid is an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid synthesized in the body from linoleic acid and consumed in the diet from meat and eggs. The body relies on ARA to promote and help resolve inflammation, and some research suggests that blunting ARA-derived inflammation may attenuate skeletal muscle adaptation to resistance training in young adults. This study sought to test the opposite—whether ARA supplementation would enhance adaptations to resistance training.

Who and what was studied?

Arachidonic3

This study included two phases. Phase 1 is shown in Figure 3. It constituted an eight-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial involving 30 healthy, young males with a minimum of two years of strength training experience. Each participant was randomly assigned to consume two soft gels containing 1.5 grams total of ARA or placebo (corn oil). Instructions were given to maintain usual dietary habits and consume the soft gels about 45 minutes before training sessions, or whenever convenient on non-training days. Compliance via pill count was above 99% in both groups.

The supervised strength training program was performed three times per week on alternating days. Monday was lower body (leg press, leg extension, leg curls, and hyperextensions), Wednesday was back and biceps (bent over rows, lat pulldown, and barbell curls), and Friday was chest, shoulders, and triceps (bench press, military press, skull crushers, and barbell shrugs). Each exercise was performed for four sets of eight to 12 repetitions, and the weight was increased when a given weight could be lifted 8-12 times for all four sets with proper form. Participants were allowed to rest for two minutes between sets and three minutes between exercises. Repetitions were performed with a 3:1 concentric to eccentric tempo.

Before and about 48 hours after the last training session, participants were assessed for body composition via DXA scan, muscle thickness of the vastus lateralis (a muscle of the quadriceps), muscle strength (one rep-max bench press and leg press), and muscle power (cycle ergometer Wingate test).

Phase 2 of this study was an eight-day experiment involving rats who were fed once daily with either 1.2 milliliters of tap water or 44 milligrams of ARA dissolved in 1 milliliter of tap water. This dose of ARA is roughly equal to that used in phase 1 based on species conversion calculations. After eight days, the rats were subjected to electrical stimulation of one of their hind legs in order to mimic an acute strength-training stimulus (the other leg served as a control). Therefore, there were four groups: exercise or no exercise, plus either ARA or placebo. Anabolic and inflammatory signaling of the hind leg muscle tissue was analyzed three hours following exercise stimulation.

Partial funding for this study came from Molecular Nutrition, a company that holds the patent for and currently markets the ARA supplement used in the study, called X-Factor Advanced.

Resistance-trained males underwent an eight-week resistance training program while supplementing 1.5 grams per day of ARA or corn oil placebo. Body composition, muscle strength, and muscle power were assessed before and after the intervention. Additionally, rats were fed either plain water or ARA dissolved in water for eight days, and then had their right hind leg subjected to electrical stimulation to mimic strength training. After that, muscle tissue from both legs was analyzed for anabolic and inflammatory signals.

What were the findings?

Lean body mass significantly increased in the ARA group only (+1.6 kilograms; 3%), with almost no change in the placebo group. Similarly, while both groups significantly increased muscle thickness compared to baseline, the increase was marginally greater in the ARA group (8% vs. 4% increase; p=0.08). Neither group showed a significant change or difference from one another in fat mass.

Leg press 1RM was significantly increased in both groups without significant difference between them. In contrast, bench press 1RM (+8.7%), Wingate peak power (+12.7%), and average peak power (+13.2%) significantly increased in the ARA group only, leading to a significant difference in performance compared to the placebo group, which experienced no significant changes. When bench press and leg press 1RMs were combined to represent total-body strength, only the ARA group showed a significant increase.

The rat experiment revealed numerous significant changes from baseline in anabolic and catabolic signaling pathways, muscle protein synthesis, inflammatory gene expression, and muscle tissue gene expression. However, only two of these were significantly different between the ARA and control groups. The first was a significantly greater reduction in AMPK activation when ARA was combined with exercise as compared to the other three groups. The second was a significantly greater activation of GSK-3β (glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta) in the non-exercised leg ARA group, as well as a significantly greater reduction in GSK-3β after exercise.

ARA supplementation led to significantly greater increases in lean body mass, bench press 1RM, and power output than placebo. The rat experiment showed that ARA led to a significant reduction in AMPK and GSK-3β activation when ARA was combined with exercise as compared to the other groups. Other markers of anabolism and catabolism were not affected by ARA treatment, although they were affected by exercise.

What does the study really tell us?

The primary findings of this study were that eight weeks of ARA supplementation in combination with a resistance training program lead to significantly greater increases in lean body mass, bench press strength, and muscle power output than placebo in young, strength-trained men.

These findings are somewhat in contrast to previous research. The only other study to date investigating the effect of ARA supplementation on resistance-trained young men found that consuming one gram per day of ARA significantly increased Wingate peak power output by about 13% compared to placebo, but had no effect on changes in body composition or strength. There are important methodological differences between this and the current study that may explain why no effect on strength and body composition was observed.

Both studies recruited young men with strength training experience and had them undergo a resistance training program while supplementing ARA or placebo for about eight weeks. However, the dose in the current study was 1.5 grams per day compared to one gram per day in the previous research. Additionally, the previous study used a split-body linear periodization routine performed four days per week, which meant that each major muscle group was being trained more frequently (twice vs. once per week) with greater volume (six vs. four total weekly sets). Finally, the previous study used food logs to ensure that the participants were consuming at least two grams per kilogram bodyweight of protein daily, whereas the current study did not control for or monitor dietary intake.

It is difficult to conclude that ARA has beneficial effects on body composition and strength in light of the conflicting evidence between these two studies. What was the rationale for the resistance training program used in this study, as opposed to the previous study? And why would this study not ensure adequate protein intake, or at the very least monitor dietary intake? Although the fact that Molecular Nutrition funded both studies doesn’t at all invalidate the results, it’s possible for a follow-up study to have a slightly different study design and thus have increased chances of finding a significant. The first study didn’t show as promising results, and unfortunately it isn’t known which study characteristics might affect the eventual outcomes.

Of note, the authors of the current study note in their discussion that “the training in the current study was intentionally stagnated (e.g. non-periodized regimen) in order to induce a training plateau in those strength-trained males.” Additionally, it’s widely agreed upon that a protein intake of 1.2-2.2 g/kg bodyweight is necessary to allow adaptation to training for individuals at or above their energy needs (Phillips et al; Tarnopolsky; Phillips & Van Loon; ISSN & ACSM position stands). However, requirements may increase to 2-3 g/kg to offset the loss of muscle mass when the athlete is in a caloric deficit. Without controlling for dietary intake, we have no idea what the protein requirements to optimize muscle growth were for the participants, and the possibility remains that dietary differences in both protein and calories had an effect on the increased LBM with ARA supplementation.

Future research will be needed to investigate if 1.5 grams per day of ARA also has benefit when the participants are known to be consuming adequate protein and undergoing a periodized resistance training program designed to promote muscle growth.

Muscle power output appeared to benefit from ARA supplementation in the current and previous research. The mechanism for this finding remains to be determined. It is possible that ARA modulates neuromuscular signaling through its incorporation into cell membranes, similar to EPA and DHA as discussed in ERD #12. At least one study supports the notion that ARA increases neurotransmitter firing from nerve cells. More research investigating why ARA supplementation increases muscle power output is warranted.

The rat experiment found largely null findings with regard to the effects of ARA supplementation on anabolic and catabolic signaling pathways, muscle protein synthesis, inflammatory gene expression, and muscle tissue gene expression. Additionally, the previously mentioned trial found no significant effect of ARA supplementation on muscle protein content or gene expression, supporting the findings of the current study.

Nonetheless, a significant baseline elevation was observed in GSK-3β with ARA supplementation. GSK-3β was originally named for its ability to inhibit glycogen synthesis and regulate glucose metabolism, but recent evidence suggests it also plays an important role in cell signaling, cell division and growth, and cell death. How ARA increased GSK-3β remains to be determined, as do the short- and long-term consequences of such an elevation. Notably, some evidence has found elevated GSK-3β in the skeletal muscle of persons with type-2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Similarly, selective inhibition of GSK-3β improves insulin action and glucose uptake into skeletal muscle tissue.

ARA supplementation also significantly reduced AMPK activation when combined with exercise. It is well-known that AMPK activates in response to a deprivation of cellular energy, leading to, among other things, a reduction in protein synthesis and inhibition of the anabolic mTOR pathway. Again, the implications of this finding remain unknown, although it is plausible that this played a role in the significantly greater lean body mass observed with ARA supplementation. Still, there were no significant differences in other anabolic signaling pathways.

This study tells us that young men with resistance training experience may benefit from ARA supplementation through increased lean body mass, muscular strength, and muscular power. However, with only a single other study conducted to date investigating these outcomes with regard to ARA supplementation, drawing firm conclusions is difficult, especially because the other study found a benefit for muscular power only, and not body composition or muscular strength.

The big picture

It is well established that an imbalanced intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is associatedwith many chronic diseases that have an underlying inflammatory component, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. It has been estimated that humans evolved eating a diet containing a 4:1 to 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This ratio is at least 15:1 in the modern Western diet. In light of this, one could speculate how long-term supplementation of ARA may impact health outside of potential changes in body composition. According to the USDA Food Database, the richest sourceof ARA is boiled beef kidney, which provides 0.37 grams per 100 grams of kidney. To obtain the 1.5-gram dose of used in the study under review, one would need to eat about 400 grams or 14 ounces of boiled kidney daily. The next richest source is braised beef brisket. Yet, at 0.06 grams per 100 grams of brisket, one would need to eat 2500 grams or 5.5 pounds daily. It appears safe to say that the supplemental dose of ARA used in the current study is not realistically obtainable through the diet, something that has been touched on before when discussing animal-based trans-fat research in ERD Issue 14 and when discussing gluten research in ERD Issue 18.

As mentioned previously, it has been shown that supplementation with ARA increases the ARA content of serum phospholipids and that this increased availability is associated with increased prostaglandin formation. Therefore, it stands to reason that long-term supplementation might increase inflammation in the body. Whether this would beneficial or detrimental over the long term remains to be determined.

Other health effects are also unpredictable. On the one hand, supplementing with ARA could potentially have a negative effect on the brain through increasing the production of beta-amyloid, which is one of the key events that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, elderly Japanese adults (56+ years) have lower concentrations of ARA in red blood cell membranes than younger adults (in their 20s) after controlling for EPA and DHA content. And supplementation with 240 milligrams of ARA daily for one month among elderly people has demonstrated efficacy forimproving cognitive function while also increasing red blood cell membrane ARA content. Interestingly, elderly people who supplemented with 740 milligrams of ARA did not have increasedARA metabolites, meaning that it did not increase levels of inflammation.

The dose of ARA used in the current study is well above what anyone could reasonably expect to consume naturally in the diet. Evidence linking inflammatory diseases to an increased omega-6 to omega-3 ratio raises concern over the long-term effects of ARA supplementation. However, limited evidence has shown supplementation of ARA to benefit the cognition of elderly individuals despite a hypothetical plausibility for increasing Alzheimer’s disease risk. Clearly, long-term research on different health outcomes is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does regular exercise interact with ARA metabolism?

Some evidence shows that the ARA content of skeletal muscle fiber membranes is similar between endurance-trained and untrained individuals, but the trained individuals have more DHA and a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Additionally, both endurance training and resistance training do not appear to significantly alter the ARA content of skeletal muscle fiber membranes, but do significantly increase DHA content.

These findings give rise to more questions than they do answers. Why does exercise increase the proportion of DHA? Is this the result of increased usage of ARA, which is needed to stimulate inflammation and begin the recovery process? Or is this a protective adaptation that increases the ability to resolve inflammation through the anti-inflammatory metabolites of DHA?

What should I know?

ARA is a fatty acid that plays a central role in both promoting and helping to resolve inflammation. The current study showed that young men supplementing with 1.5 grams of ARA daily for eight weeks experienced significantly increased lean body mass, upper-body strength, and lower-body power output when combined with non-periodized resistance training program. However, the only other study investigating similar outcomes showed no effect on body composition or strength, but did support the findings of increased power output. Accordingly, it is difficult to draw conclusions until more research is conducted.