Amino Acids are talked of a lot in the sports industry, so what exactly are amino acids? Amino acids are basically small organic molecules which make up proteins, if you break down protein you will find amino acids linked together by longer chains.
Amino acids play a role in:
Biologically, amino acids are extremely important for almost all cellular processes in the body. The body requires amino acids to carry out daily functions ranging from providing cell structure, storing, carrying and transporting nutrients to waste removal. This influences important processes such as wound healing and tissue repair.
Amino acids are commonly referred to as “building blocks” of protein; they join via peptide bonds to form various types of protein in the body. There are twenty two commonly known amino acids, of which there are two main categories; essential and none-essential amino acids.
The body is able to produce thirteen of these amino acids from other amino acids combined with carbohydrates and nitrogen, the resulting amino acids are referred to as ‘none essential amino acids,’ as displayed in the table below. The remaining eight amino acids cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet, hence why they are termed ‘essential amino acids.’
None-essential Amino Acids
*Histidine is essential for babies and infants however not for adults.
Another important group that is popular amongst the sports industry is a group of four Growth Hormone Releases, these include; L-Glutamine, L-Ornithine, L-Arginine, and L-Tyrosine. The Growth Hormone is a substance produced in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which stimulates growth. Studies have displayed evidence that the combination of these four amino acids can help to stimulate the growth hormone.
Did you know the growth hormone has been found to be most active during the beginning phases of the night? Hence, why it is important to ensure you sleep at an appropriate time, so this means, lack of sleep can stunt release of the growth hormone, limiting growth of bodily tissues.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) BCAA's are made from three essential amino acids; Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These amino acids can be found in foods such as meats, pulses, legumes, nuts and dairy. Collectively these three amino acids make up 1/3 of skeletal muscle in the body.
It is thought that muscle uses amino acids more than any other nutrient and one of the main reasons BCAAs are utilised, is to prevent the breakdown of muscle, especially during intense exercise. This trio of amino acids is known to stimulate protein synthesis therefore, keeping the body in an anabolic state and facilitate repair post workout. Aside from the above, user’s report that the use of BCAAs may help to prevent the build-up of lactic acid, thus reducing muscle fatigue.
In order to get the most out of the BCAAs they are required at the correct ratio. The common consensus for BCAAs is a 2:1:1 ratio for those on high protein diet, athletes and those who train, however this may need to be altered for specific requirements.
In summary, it is important to have a varied balanced diet to ensure you obtain a full range of the amino acids, which are responsible for so many essential bodily functions.
Please note if you have any existing or suspected medical conditions, consult your healthcare practitioner before use of any supplements.
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There are three main fuels your body uses to obtain energy, Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. Carbohydrates are the more preferable fuel for the body and are used up first; stores usually last up to 12 hours. As we all already know fat stores last much longer, from 6 months to six years. When the body is unable to utilise carbohydrates or fats, protein is the last source of energy.
Carbohydrates are also a particularly important fuel for the brain and muscles. Carbohydrates should account for 45-65% of the recommended daily allowance for the average individual (this varies depending on goals). However, it is recommended to include complex carbohydrate in the diet and decrease the simple carbohydrates.
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) it is recommended to have 55 grams of protein per day or 0.8g per kg of body weight for the average individual (see Do you really need protein?). There is an established evidence base supporting greater appetite control when carbohydrate intake is replaced by/added to protein.
For some the carbohydrate requirement is higher, for instance athletes, highly active individuals and those looking to gain weight may wish to add in the extra calories with the addition of supplements such as Carbs Fast Energy.
Blood Glucose Regulation
Health professionals often use the terms Glycaemic index, simple and complex sugars, yet what does this all mean?
Glycaemic Index is a measure of the time taken for your body to metabolise carbohydrates into sugar (glucose). Glycaemic Load (GL) measures the amount of carbohydrate in a food alongside how quickly blood sugar levels are increased. Simple sugars are the sugars you would get from foods like cakes, biscuits, sweets etc. Complex carbohydrates normally refer to starches; these are carbohydrates that lead to the slow release of sugars (usually due to the fibre content) such as oats.
GI is measured on a scale of 0-100 (0 being lowest and 100 highest), any food that raises blood sugar levels rapidly (along with insulin secretion) is considered to be a high GL food. A GL of less than 10 is considered to be low and a GL of 20+ is considered high. Low GI foods are digested and absorbed slowly, leading to a steady release sugars into the blood. So what all this means is, if your blood sugar levels are more stable you are less likely to crave the ‘junk foods’ that provides our bodies with the quick and simple sugars.
Consuming low GI foods is not just a recommendation for diabetics; however experts advise incorporating low GI foods into the diet can also be beneficial for anyone aspiring for a healthy balanced diet.
Complex carbohydrates release energy slowly, and usually contain a greater fibre and multivitamin/mineral content in contrast with simple carbohydrates. Examples include; wholegrain varieties, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, beans lentils and green vegetables. Additionally, the fibre content with complex carbohydrates help increase your satiety levels.
For those of you looking to find complex carbohydrates in a supplement form Three Phase Mass is a unique formula consisting of both slow and fast releasing carbohydrates.
Please note if you have any existing or suspected medical conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding consult your healthcare practitioner before use of any supplements.
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Back to Basics, Energy Expenditure vs. Energy Intake
Weight loss is one of the most popular topics discussed when it comes to health and nutrition. Many of us are after that ‘magic pill’ to help shed the pounds fast, unfortunately no such pill exists. For several of us, weight loss is more a physiological challenge as well as a lifestyle change. Arguably, the most difficult step is acknowledging that change is needed.
There are many supplements available on the market that can help increase the number of calories expended, alongside a healthy balanced diet and exercise however; it is unlikely these will yield results without the latter. So let’s go back to the basics and look at exactly how weight loss and weight gain occurs in the first place.
Theoretically, weight loss occurs when the energy you intake, which is generated by food you consume, is less than the energy you expend (calories expended via physical activity see image below).
When energy intake is equal to energy expenditure, this is when weight maintenance is achieved. Indeed, there are many factors that can intercept this process for example genetics and hormonal conditions, yet despite this a healthy diet can actually be beneficial in controlling such conditions.
The typical male needs approximately 2,500Kcal (10,500kJ) a day to maintain weight. For females the intake is slightly lower at 2,000Kcal (8,400kJ) a day. In order to lose weight this figure would need to be around 500 calories less a day.
For example; the typical male would need to consume 2000 calories instead of 2500 calories. This would result in approximately 1lb weight loss per week; this rate of weight loss is considered to be healthy weight loss. The same concept applies for weight gain, an additional 500 calories a day would need to be consumed, resulting in 1lb weight gain per week.
Thermogenic products can help to catalyse the number calories expended. Typically a thermogenic formula will consist of stimulants such as; Green Tea, Caffeine and Raspberry Ketones. The theory is thermogenics increase the body’s heart rate and elevate body temperature thereby increasing the amount of calories expended.
Not everyone fits the typical example above therefore, to tailor to your own needs there are a few calculations you can do. The amount of energy you require varies from person to person and is reliant upon your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), Physical Activity Levels (PAL) and other factors such as age, gender and height.
BMR is the amount of energy needed to maintain everyday bodily functions such as; breathing and keeping the heart pumping. You can calculate your BMR using the following:
BMR for Males = 66.47 + (13.7 x weight [kg]) + (5 x size [cm]) − (6.8 x age [years])
BMR for Females = 655.1 + (9.6 x weight [kg]) + (1.8 x size [cm]) − (4.7 x age [years])
Energy expenditure = BMR x Physical Activity Level (PAL)
Sedentary Individual: 1.4
Moderate Intensity = 1.6/1.7
High Intensity = 1.8-1.9
Protein and Weight loss
It takes the body longer to digest proteins compared to carbohydrates therefore, protein increases satiety levels (makes you feel fuller for longer) and can help to promote more balanced blood glucose levels. This is why snacking on high protein snacks can facilitate weight loss. Maintaining steady blood glucose levels is an important aspect for a healthy lifestyle and relevant in maintaining your desired weight. The reason for this is rooted in the importance of steady blood sugar levels.
When your blood sugar levels (glucose) fluctuate, this can cause cravings for simple carbohydrates/sugars such as sweet, sugary foods. This is why consumption of these types of foods can potentially lead to weight gain, affect dental health and lead to numerous other complications (see Body Fuel: How Carbohydrates Affect Appetite?)
Top Tip - Don’t cut out all your fats, replace the ‘bad’ fats with ‘good fats’ such as Olive Oils, Fish Oils, Coconut Oil. Switch your baking methods, instead of frying try baking, steaming or stir frying instead.
In essence, weight management is largely determined by the number of calories you expend or intake, with negative energy balance resulting in weight loss and positive resulting in weight gain. As explained above, taking care of your diet and getting the correct balance is crucial to achieving your desired physique.
Good vs. Bad Fat
Fat had become the modern criminal of the food world, always in the media accused of being responsible for a different disease every time. Is fat really bad? Are all fats the same? The answer is no to both. Read on to find out why.
Fat is an important macronutrient in the body providing energy, protection to cell membranes and is involved with hormone-like activities. Fat is made up of small molecules called fatty acids which are categorised into saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. It is the saturated fat that is largely responsible for negative press, as it has been linked to causing conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Saturated fat can be identified by its state at room temperature; saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature. Health professionals advise replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats instead.
A type of fat that is now known to be harmful to health and has now been largely removed from the UK diet is Hydrogenated fats. Trans fats are formed when oil underdoes a process called hydrogenation to change the oil to a solid state. This ‘hard fat’ was then used in baking and helped to preserve the shelf life of the food it was contain in. Hydrogenated fats are no longer found in bakery as they were strongly associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
The fat which has constantly been in the limelight is cholesterol. Studies have observed a high intake of saturated fats is directly correlated with an in increase in blood cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol, HDL (good fat) and LDL (bad fat) cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol is considered as harmful as it accumulates in the blood vessels causing narrowing and blockages which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. Foods containing fat are composed of a mixture of fats; however some foods are composed of a higher proportion of saturated fats for example red meats.
Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. Mono and Polyunsaturated fats help in the maintenance of healthy blood cholesterol. These ‘good’ fats are found mostly in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, olive oil, rapeseed oil and avocadoes. Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats responsible for proving Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil) which has been associated with positive health benefits such as, improving cognitive function, maintaining heart health, psychological health and eye health.
Omega 3 fatty acids can also be found in sunflower oil, flax, linseed oil and walnuts. However, there is a catch. The human body can make most types of fats itself however the human body is unable to make Omega 3 fats acids. For this reason they are called essential fatty acids, the body has to obtain Omega 3 fatty acids from the diet. Although plant foods such as flaxseed oil is considered a source of Omega 3, at present it is unknown how much omega 3 is obtained from such food sources.
This is because the body has to convert the fatty acids provided by the plant oils into omega 3 fatty acids and at present there is no real way of measuring how much is converted then absorbed in the body. Currently the main sources of Omega 3 fatty acids witch conclusively provide a measurable amount of Omega 3 include fish oil and Algae. The fish obtain the Omega 3 from Algae therefore it is readily available for use once it enters the human body.
All fat is a rich energy source with 1 gram providing 37 kJ (9 kcal). The UK daily dietary saturated fat intake for adults in currently 30g for males and 20g for females, with total fat intake of 95g for males and 70g for females. In summary, as fat is the most energy rich macronutrient, it is still an important nutrient vital for health. It is best to ensure consumption of the right types of fat and that total fat intake does not exceed daily recommended amounts. Lastly, where fat is needed, try and replace ‘bad fats’ with ‘good fats’ such as fish oil and vegetable oils.
As summer waves us goodbye, many of us find we also wave goodbye to our healthy living methods too. As the cold approaches we are tempted to be less active, eat more energy dense foods and conserve energy like our ancestors of the Stone Age would. Yet, don’t be tempted to fall into the traps our biology sets, to go into hibernation mode. There are methods to fight against our natural hibernation instincts.
Cheat Your Brain
The use of protein can help prevent us from food cravings by increasing our satiety levels, making us feel fuller for longer. This is useful as many of us are tempted to eat calorific comfort foods as the colder days creep towards us. Similarly increasing fibre intake can be beneficial for digestive health as it is not absorbed by the body. There are 2 types of fibre; soluble fibre and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel (hence why satiety is increased) whereas insoluble fibre passed through the body.
Add variety into your diet by eating fresh fruit and vegetables seasonally. Eating seasonally supports your local community, provides fresh produce, provides a whole load of nutrients and saves money compared to buying off season. Additionally, you are also provided with a broader range of nutrients in your diet.
When it’s cold and dark the idea of going out for a run, getting ready to go gym or the thought of any form of physical activity can be unappealing. Try and keep yourself motivated to continue the exercise; it will help keep you warm on a cold winter’s day and will get you in shape for spring/summer. If your energy levels are low try taking a multivitamin or pre-workout to get you through the slouchy season.
Avoid Extra Calories
If you drink hot drinks as most people tend to in the winter, avoid added sugars. Replace with alternatives such as xylitol or stevia. Use sweet fruits in cooking instead of sugar such as pineapple. Replace saturated fats with healthier alternatives such as coconut oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil and fish oils. When attending parties remember, everything in moderation!
Make It Fun
Lastly, and most importantly whatever you do whether it is cooking or exercising make it fun for you, if you enjoy what you do you are more likely to continue with it.
During the autumn/winter months there is one vitamin our body can be deprived of, that’s Vitamin D, commonly known as the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin produced when sunlight hits our skin (the main source of vitamin D is the sun). It can be obtained from a limited number of food sources such as oily fish and dairy however, the main source is the sun. Vitamin D is a vital vitamin for bone health as it is responsible for calcium absorption, so remember if your levels are low, you are most likely going to be low in calcium too, hence one of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency includes aching bones. Other symptoms include; low mood/mild depression, tiredness and fatigue, muscle and joint pain.
Although it is important to protect yourself from the suns rays, it is also important to get enough exposure to the sun each day. In the UK that is a difficult task, especially in the winter when daylight hours are reduced. According to experts in the UK ultraviolet light is only strong enough to make vitamin D during April to September (during the hours of 11am to 3pm). This means during half the year, if our vitamin D stores are not toped up during those critical moths, alternative measures are needed.
There are many other factors that can affect ones vitamin D status these are listed below:
How do you avoid a deficiency? A holiday in a sunny destination would top up your vitamin D levels; however, as much as taking a long holiday in a sunny destination abroad sounds like the perfect solution, for many of us it is not always an option. This is why during the winter months it is a wise idea to supplement with vitamin D as an insurance policy to safeguard against a deficiency. Yet remember, vitamin D is fat soluble therefore if you overdo the supplementation is can result in toxicity (so this means stick to the directed dose!). If you believe you have a deficiency or may be low in your vitamin D, ensure pay a visit to your doctor first.
We live in times of no time; lifestyles and work have made most of us busier than bees. This pace of lifestyle does not come without consequences. The increasing stress can play a role in reducing sexual desire; in fact studies have observed that hormonal and social or psychological factors influence sexual desire to a great extent. If you are one of those millions who are affected by loss of libido fear not Mother Nature may have the answer to your questions.
Tribulus Terrestris- Libido boosting plant?
Tribulus Terrestris is one of the emerging plants in the limelight for its potential libido boosting properties thanks to the naturally high Saponins content. According to studies,Tribulus Terrestris has been associated with an increase testosterone levels in response to supplementation, when used at specific concentrations. Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, it is theorised that Tribulus affects testosterone levels by increasing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). It is also thought Tribulus has blood glucose lowering properties which may indirectly affect testosterone levels. Although further research is needed to strengthen the literature, many anecdotal reports conclude this herb can be effective in enhancing energy levels and increasing libido in males and females.
ZMA- Supporting testosterone function
ZMA is a highly bio-available combination of the minerals; Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6. Zinc is an extremely important mineral that is essential for almost all bodily functions including the immune system, metabolism of fatty acids, protecting cells from oxidative damage, macronutrient metabolism, protein synthesis, assisting normal testosterone levels in the blood and much more. It is the role in testosterone production, fertility and prostate health which makes it particularly beneficial for men in relation to promoting normal function of the sexual organs.
Magnesium is the mineral responsible for relaxing your nervous system, combating the stress caused by everyday life. It can also help promote better quality of sleep for the same reason thereby addressing loss of libido due to sleep or stress related issues.
Vitamin B6 is also involved in many functions in the body from energy-yielding metabolism, fighting tiredness and fatigue to regulation of hormonal activity. At each to these can affect libido significantly, ZMA can help address each function.
Overall ZMA can contribute to testosterone production and prostate health maintains function of the sexual organs. However, ZMA can also be beneficial for recovery and muscle growth.
Dark coloured berries such as blackberries, blueberries and strawberries, can help to increase libido according to research. Anecdotally, berries have also been associated with aphrodisiac properties for centuries, for example the Amazonian Acai Berry is notorious for increasing libido. Berries are rich in antioxidants (including flavonoids), and known to be packed with vitamins and minerals to increase energy levels and alertness. Antioxidants can also be found in cocoa, red wine, green and black tea, fruits and vegetables.
L-Arginine and L-Carnitine
L-Arginine and L-Carnitine are amino acids both important for sperm production and function. It is also thought these amino acids may play a role in increasing blood flow to the genital areas. If concentrations of both amino acids are low, this can cause fertility problems in men, leading to stress low confidence and loss of libido. For this reason many supplements designed for erectile dysfunction/male sexual health will incorporate L-Arginine and L-Carnitine into their formulas.
Overall, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidants will to promote your sexual health. For those who find it difficult to meet their RDAs via the diet supplementation can help to fill your nutritional ‘gaps.’