Wednesday, 26 March 2014

5 weight loss tips

Weight loss tips

Weight loss
Source: Flickr
Weight loss isn't easy, and it's usual to feel frustrated when you've been working out and dieting without results. There's a couple of simple things that may hold you back, and you might not even be aware what you're potentially missing. So if you've been stringent with your diet and exercise plans but the weight loss just isn't happening, it might be time to give these five easy weight loss tips a try.

Avoid low-fat diets

If you've started your diet out and you're already replacing the contents of your fridge and pantry with fat-free or low-fat alternatives, you may have been too hasty. When you cut out fat from your diet, you cut out something that your body needs to form healthy cell membranes and to function properly in many other ways. The fat you consume in food is just as essential as other nutrients, and when you cut it down in pursuit of weight loss, you cut out a necessary nutrient and reduce your well-being.

Source: Flickr
The biggest problem with this approach when it comes to losing weight however, is that low-fat and fat-free foods usually have more carbohydrates and additives to make up for the lack of fat. Many reduced fat products even have close to the same amount of calories as regular products. When you buy a reduced fat product, it doesn't necessarily mean it's low calorie, and the food industry loves to use marketing wizardry like this to confuse consumers. If you've been buying reduced fat products thinking they're better for weight loss, they're probably not.

When it comes to weight loss, a balanced diet is most beneficial. To effectively lose weight, you need to cut down on carbohydrates rather than simply removing all fat from your diet. Fat intake should be moderate and consist of unsaturated fats like olive oil. 20 - 40 grams of total fat is sufficient to keep you healthy but not impede weight loss. To this, add 1 - 2 grams of protein per each kilogram of lean body weight, and make up the rest of the calories in your diet with whole grain and low GI carbohydrates.

Source: Flickr

Use the glycemic index of food

The glycemic index (GI), of a food is a measure of the time it takes for your body to absorb the energy content of your food. Foods with a higher GI can be said to cause a spike to blood sugar which will affect the way you feel, causing you to feel sluggish and unsatisfied, whereas a low GI food will sustain you for longer and avoid peaks in your blood glucose levels.

Whole food
Source: Flickr
By far the greatest implication of the GI however, is the fact that by consuming foods that are lower on the scale, you give your body more time to actually use the energy that it is absorbing. Energy that isn't used will be stored as fat and lead to weight gain. If you manage your diet by choosing low GI foods, this will help you achieve weight loss. You will also avoid some of the feeling of hunger that occurs when you are dieting and exercising.

To find the GI of different ingredients and common meals, you can use resources like the GI tables that can be found online, such as Harvard's GI table, or the search feature of University of Sydney's Glycemic Index. Glycemic Index's search feature is invaluable because you can use it to find foods based on the GI of the food. You'll notice that foods like white bread have a higher GI than whole grain bread, and this just stresses the point that complex carbohydrates in whole grains are much more valuable to your health, not just for the fact that they contain more vitamins and minerals, but because they are less fattening. 

If you come across the term glycemic load, that is just a way of measuring a specific amount of the food against its carbohydrate content. A lower value is indicative of slower absorption here too, and the glycemic load can be useful to see how the GI measures up against an amount of the food that you would generally eat.

Eat more lean protein

Many people who go on a diet to lose weight make the mistake of cutting down their protein. This is usually be accident rather than intentional, because they will cut out fatty foods like meat and dairy that are high in protein. This is bad because when you expose your body to protein and caloric deficits during weight loss diets, it likes to consume protein from your muscles to use for more important functions, and to form glucose to fuel your brain.

Source: Flickr
Losing muscle is generally the last thing someone wants when they partake on a weight loss diet. Your muscle tone gives you the strength to perform every day tasks, as well as helping you achieve a more aesthetic appearance. When you aim to lose weight, it's likely you hope to reveal some of that hidden muscle tone, but that becomes irrelevant if you let it waste away whilst dieting. You've worked hard for your muscle and fitness, and you need to preserve it. Better yet, is that protein ramps up your metabolism after ingestion, so it preserves muscle and helps you burn more fat, thus allowing you to lose more fat.

To ensure that your muscle tone is protected and to boost your metabolism, you should be consuming at least 1 - 2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body weight. You can use this calculator to find an estimate of your lean body mass. To get this protein without adding in extra fat or carbohydrates to your diet, look for lean sources of protein like whey protein isolate, chicken breast, turkey, canned tuna in spring water, or skim milk. There's so many more sources of lean protein, and you can make many different recipes with them. For vegetarians, try whey protein isolate or make an omelette out of egg whites. For vegans, eat a variety of lentils, chickpeas, and beans with your meals.

Lean red meat
Source: Flickr

Eat more often

The idea that you would eat more often when following a weight loss diet might sound contradictory, but the idea is to eat more often throughout the day, yet eat smaller meals. This spreads your entire caloric intake and all your nutrients out over a greater period of time and allows your body to absorb it more efficiently. Along with the GI of food, this is another way to avoid peaks in your blood glucose and give you more time to actually use the energy you eat rather than have it stored as fat and slow down your weight loss.

Healthy snack
Source: Flickr
In order to eat smaller meals over the day, instead of eating three large meals as is conventionally done, you can eat six smaller meals, or divide it up in whatever way you see fit. The main point to drive home here is that you'll see better weight loss results if you aren't loading your body up with food all at once, and you'll feel fuller because of this.

A good way to do this is to reduce the size of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and eat three small snacks in between these meals. One snack between breakfast and lunch, one between lunch and dinner, and one after dinner before bed. A low-carb protein shake is an excellent way to end the day and it will provide you with ample protein whilst your body rests. When you sleep, you go into a period of fasting, so taking protein before bed can help maintain muscle and fuel recovery from your workout routines.

Aerobic exercise

It may seem obvious, but aerobic exercises are the best way to burn fat, and a lot of people will go into a reduced calorie diet without placing enough emphasis on exercising. In order to get the most weight loss out of your diet, moderate aerobic exercise is important and should be done for at least 30 - 45 minutes per day. Aim to exercise at least 3 days of the week.

Aerobic exercise
Exercises that can be considered aerobic include anything that gets your heart beating. Walking, jogging, stairclimbing, jumping jacks, cycling, and swimming are all good exercises. To most effectively burn fat, you should be maintaining a heart rate between 50 - 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Exercising at this capacity burns more fat compared to other forms of workouts.

Another way to boost your weight loss with exercise is high intensity interval training. HIIT training a couple of times per week has been found to increase your body's ability to burn fat during exercise and strengthen the heart. The best part is, it only takes 7 - 12 minutes to complete a HIIT training workout and by combining it with regular aerobic exercise you can see even more results in your weight loss quest.

One stipulation here however is to not go overboard. Whilst a good amount of aerobic exercise is beneficial to weight loss and helps you burn fat, exercising for long periods of time or too often can lead to injuries and other problems. The worst case scenario is that in cases of over-exertion, your body will consume protein from your muscles to fuel itself rather than fat and carbohydrates. You want to lose fat and maintain muscle, so it's important to be sensible when exercising.

More information

  • Forskolin is a body composition supplement that can help you shed more fat. Not only does it increase fat burning potential, it boosts muscle gain and has a range of other health benefits.
  • Green tea can boost metabolism and help you reach your desired weight quicker. Discover this and the other benefits that green tea offers.
  • HIIT training helps you lose more weight whilst becoming fitter. You don't need to spend money on exercise equipment because it can be done anywhere and with only your own body weight. Better yet, it takes less than 12 minutes to complete a workout.

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Monday, 24 March 2014

High intensity interval training

HIIT training

Exercise equipment
Source: Flickr
Whilst high intensity interval training (HIIT training), has been around since 1970, it has made a remarkable resurgence to popularity over the past few years. The principle of HIIT is that you perform a number of different exercises at a high intensity with little rest. It is believed that this will dramatically increase fitness, reduce fat, and enhance your health in many other ways. 

What is HIIT?

HIIT is a cardiac training regime that requires you to perform multiple different exercises in the same workout session. These exercises form the intervals, and each interval in HIIT is comprised of a period of strenuous activity followed by a period of moderate intensity exercise. A warm-up exercise is performed prior to commencing HIIT, and the training protocol is finished up with a cool-down exercise.

Source: Flickr
Based on this protocol, one interval of HIIT training could include sprinting for 30 seconds, followed by 1 minute of walking or light jogging. You're allowed up to 10 seconds rest before commencing the next interval. The exercises you choose are largely up to you, with the only requirement being that there is a combination of strenuous and moderate exercises. 

Whilst there's a lot of variance in what is considered an appropriate length of time to complete the HIIT training session, the consensus here is to aim for about 7 to 12 minutes in total for the whole workout. HIIT training is meant to be short, and this makes it great for busy people who work long hours or don't have much motivation to work on their fitness.

Benefits of HIIT

HIIT is reported to have a number of benefits, including:
  • It is incredibly efficient and easy to find the time to complete a HIIT workout.
  • Improvements in endurance
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increases fat loss
  • Reduces cholesterol

HIIT improves endurance

High intensity interval training improves endurance in much the same way that moderate exercise over a longer period of time does. The difference is that the results are achieved much quicker than is possible through a moderate exercise regime.
HIIT training
Source: Flickr

In trials where HIIT has been compared to moderate aerobic exercise for up to 8 weeks, results showed that HIIT training improved oxygen capacity more than moderate exercise. Increases to the mass of the heart were similar with both types of exercise regime, but HIIT increased the amount of blood that the heart could pump by 10 percent.

HIIT boosts insulin sensitivity

In studies examining the effect of HIIT on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, it has been found that HIIT training can increase insulin sensitivity. The implications of this suggest that HIIT could be a means to prevent and control type 2 diabetes, which is caused by a decline in insulin sensitivity. 

Type 2 diabetes is currently treated with drugs like metformin, that decrease glucose production in the liver. These drugs, combined with an aerobic exercise regime and careful meal planning are the only way to control the disease and prevent the side effects of uncontrolled diabetes. HIIT training may be superior to moderate aerobic exercise, leading to greater control of diabetes and a decrease in mortality.

Source: Flickr

HIIT increases fat loss

HIIT training is thought to burn more fat than moderate exercise. Whilst performing 10 minutes of HIIT doesn't burn off as much fat as an hour of light walking, HIIT training has the benefit of continued fat burning for a few hours after the training is concluded. This is not the case with moderate exercise, which will burn fat during the period of exercise but cease to do so after conclusion.

Another benefit of HIIT training is that it appears to increase the body's ability to burn fat. This means that not only can HIIT burn fat for a sustained period of time after the exercise has ended, but that the body gradually learns to use fat more efficiently to provide energy. This benefit of HIIT leads to greater proportions of fat burnt compared to stored glycogen when performing any exercise afterwards. In fact, 7 sessions of HIIT over two weeks might be all it takes to start to see this kind of effect according to the results of this study.

HIIT lowers the risk of heart disease

HIIT training
Source: Flickr
HIIT can lower the risk of heart disease, as can other aerobic exercises. The effect of HIIT training may be more pronounced however, with noticeable increases to cardiac output and a strengthening of the heart

In conjunction with this, HIIT can reduce LDL cholesterol and increase beneficial HDL cholesterol, protecting you from artherosclerosis. In a society that is increasingly reliant on takeaway and processed foods full of saturated fat, this is important, and it can prevent the clogging of your arteries that happens when you have a few too many greasy burgers.

HIIT - sample workout

  1. Light stretching and calisthenics to warm up
  2. Sprinting (30 seconds) - Walking (1 minute)
  3. Stair climbing (1 minute) - Squats (2 minutes)
  4. Jumping jacks (1 minute) - Crunches (2 minutes)
  5. Pushups (30 seconds) - Light cycling (1 minute)
  6. Light stretching to cool down

Is HIIT safe?

Because HIIT training requires you to exercise at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, HIIT isn't for everyone. If you suffer from heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or other chronic conditions that affect your ability to exercise, you'd be better off following a much lighter exercise program to avoid harming yourself. Additionally, anyone who isn't overly fit shouldn't attempt HIIT. HIIT training should only be undertaken by people who have acclimatised to a moderate exercise regime first.
HIIT training
Source: Flickr
As with any exercise regime, it's important to discuss HIIT with your doctor. It's best to have your heart and other systems looked over to make sure you are healthy enough to commit to HIIT training safely. Your doctor will be able to tailor an exercise program that matches your needs based on your own individual health. When approached like this, HIIT is very safe and you'll be able to attain all the benefits without causing yourself harm.

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Benefits of red wine

The benefits of red wine

Wine bottles
Source: Flickr
Red wine receives a lot of attention for being a particularly healthy form of alcohol, and this is definitely justified when you look at some of the benefits of red wine. When consumed in moderation, red wine can decrease the risk of heart disease, fight off free radicals, ease inflammation, and lower the risk of various types of cancers. The benefits of red wine may even extend to your appearance, giving you a clearer and more radiant complexion. So what are the benefits of red wine?

  • Red wine decreases the risk of artherosclerosis, which is a hardening of arteries that precedes heart disease
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Fights free radicals
  • Protects against mental decline
  • Helps prevent the common cold
  • Reduces the chance of having a stroke
  • Benefits your skin
  • May reduce the effects of aging and increase lifespan
  • Helps prevent tooth decay
  • Helps you sleep

Wine corks
Source: Flickr

Red wine benefits the heart

It's fairly well known that alcohol in moderation is good for the heart. Until recently however, the benefits of red wine to the heart were considered to be because of the alcohol content. Some of the latest research shows evidence beyond this, that compounds like resveratrol in red wine are able to benefit the heart in other ways.
Red wine
Source: Flickr
Worthy of particular note is the ability of red wine to decrease the risk of artherosclerosis. When arteries harden and thicken up from calcification and cholesterol deposits, they lose their flexibility and don't allow blood to flow properly anymore. Phenolic compounds in red wine inhibit the oxidation of lipoproteins that contribute to artherosclerosis, decreasing the buildup that leads to blockages. Basically, red wine helps prevent your arteries from becoming clogged.

In conjunction with the artherosclerosis prevention, another way that red wine benefits the heart is by inhibiting the synthesis of endothelin-1. This compound is a peptide that has a potent vasoconstricting effect on blood vessels. By preventing it from being formed, red wine reduces blood pressure. Other compounds like trans-resveratrol reduce platelet aggregation to thin the blood and prevent blood clots.

Red wine benefits the brain

The brain is the most important organ in your body. This is because it is everything that you are, and you need to protect it if you want to remain cognitively able as you age. Free radicals are the biggest threat to your brain and red wine is able to neutralise them. Antioxidants in red wine, like flavonoids and resveratrol eliminate free radicals before they can cause damage to your cells.

Red wine
Source: Flickr
Due to this effect, red wine is able to slow cognitive decline and dementia, because the brain remains in better condition as you age. It also has notable benefits towards stroke prevention and damage reduction. In the case of a stroke, red wine benefits the brain by protecting neurons and limiting damage. Red wine itself significantly reduces the risk of stroke occurring in the first place and may even prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Red wine reduces cholesterol

It's clear that red wine benefits the heart by preventing the oxidation of lipoprotein, but it has the added benefit of actually reducing low density lipoprotein levels (LDL cholesterol). Red wine decreases cholesterol in this sense by increasing the rate of elimination and reducing the production of LDL cholesterol. It also has the added benefit of reducing serum triglycerides.

The benefits of red wine for cholesterol don't end there however. Red wine may increase HDL cholesterol, and it is this form of cholesterol that prevents LDL cholesterol from damaging blood vessels and the heart. As such, red wine benefits cholesterol and the heart through many routes including cholesterol management, reduction of platelet aggregation, a lowering of blood pressure, and triglyceride reduction.

Red wine protects teeth

Red wine benefits the teeth in a way that can prevent tooth caries by removing streptococcus mutans. Streptococcus mutans is a bacteria that inhabits the mouth and metabolises sugars into lactic acid. This lactic acid causes the teeth to be demineralised, which in turn leads to cavities. Because the bacteria forms biofilms, it is incredibly difficult to remove it from teeth and antibacterial agents will often not be able to penetrate through the biofilm to kill the bacteria. Red wine breaks down these biofilms, kills the bacteria, and prevents it from forming new biofilm to adhere to the teeth.
Red wine grapes
Source: Flickr

Red wine fights aging

Red wine fights aging in several ways. It is able to improve the appearance of skin, protect the heart, reduce the risk of various cancers, and prevent cognitive decline from diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. Resveratrol might even be able to activate genes that increase longevity and lengthen the lifespan. Essentially, red wine could allow you to live longer, and reach old age in much better condition. 

Red wine benefits the skin

Red wine
Source: Flickr
Like all antioxidants, the polyphenols in red wine are beneficial to your skin. Red wine benefits the skin by reducing free radicals that damage the skin and cause it to look aged. By drinking red wine, your skin is protected from some of this age-related damage due to the antioxidants, keeping you looking and feeling younger. Resveratrol in red wine could even protect you from skin cancer according to the results of studies.

How much red wine is good for you?

To receive the most benefit from red wine, it's important to drink it in moderation. Alcohol in any form is beneficial in moderation, but loses the benefits as more is consumed. In the case of binge drinking or chronic consumption of higher amounts of alcohol, the benefits completely disappear and the alcohol becomes damaging to health instead.

Red wine
Source: Flickr
Red wine benefits your health the most when you consume it in moderation and on a daily basis. For men, this means 1 - 2 glasses of wine a day, or 1 glass of wine a day for women. This amount provides the optimum benefits without causing you harm from excessive alcohol intake. Any more than this will start to negate the benefits.

Which red wines are the healthiest?

When it comes to the type of red wine you consume, this has important implications towards the benefits. To receive the most antioxidants and active beneficial compounds, you should be drinking full-bodied red wine. Lighter and sweeter red wines have a much lower concentration of beneficial compounds and won't provide you with the maximum benefit.

Cabernet sauvignon is thought to be the most concentrated form of the beneficial compounds in wine. Durif and pinot noir are also beneficial, but less so than cabernet. If you don't particularly like full-bodied red wines, the lighter wines will still offer some benefit, but they are much less beneficial. It may be better to acquire a taste for full-bodied wines to really reap the health benefits of red wine.

Red wine
Source: Flickr

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Green tea for weight loss

Green tea fields
Source: Flickr
Most people find weight loss difficult. They find that whilst they may be sticking to a stringent diet and exercising regularly, they just aren't burning fat. If you're one of these people, you can improve your results by drinking green tea for weight loss. Not only will your diet really kick off, you'll also benefit your health in many other ways.

The many benefits of green tea

So what can green tea do for you? Green tea has been show to:
  • Boost weight loss and increase metabolism
  • Decrease cholesterol
  • Protect the body from oxidative stress
  • Help prevent cancer
  • Decrease the risk of diabetes
  • Decrease the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease
  • Benefits the teeth


Green tea for weight loss

Green tea
Source: Flickr

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the majority of the energy you use every day is consumed to fuel your metabolism. In this sense, no matter whether you are resting in bed or out for a run, you are always burning calories.

The average male has a basal metabolic rate that equates to a calorie expenditure of 1690 calories a day (7100 kilojoules). This is the average requirement for the human body to maintain itself, and this number doesn't take into account any exercise or other activity. The activity you do perform throughout the day is an additional expenditure.

Drinking green tea for weight loss provides you with a weight loss benefit of between 5 - 17 percent according to studies. This boost is modest and can help you lose up to 2 pounds extra over the course of a month without performing any extra exercise or reducing your calories further. More importantly, green tea is able to achieve this by increasing the rate at which your body burns fat, by increasing your metabolism.

Unlike other supplements that help you burn fat, the main active fat burning ingredient in green tea isn't a stimulant and it won't make you feel jittery. This compound is a powerful antioxidant called Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG), and there is evidence that it can even reduce the risk of several types of cancer. Whereas drugs like ephedrine increase weight loss by stimulating your central nervous system and bodily processes as a whole, EGCG increases fat loss without speeding up your CNS. The lack of a CNS stimulant effect makes side effects very unlikely, whilst you can enjoy the weight loss benefits of green tea.

Green tea
Source: Flickr

How to use green tea

If you enjoy drinking tea, it may be beneficial to switch to drinking green tea. A couple of cups of green tea every day will help you lose weight, prevent cancer, and reduce your cholesterol. If you don't particularly care for green tea however, or you want to avoid the additional caffeine to your diet, you may benefit most from green tea extract.

If you prefer drinking green tea for weight loss, you'll likely want to know which green tea is best for this purpose. Firstly, it does definitely have to be green tea, rather than black or oolong tea. All forms of tea have unique benefits, but it is only green tea that benefits fat loss to any great degree. This is because EGCG and other catechins are converted into different antioxidants through oxidation as the tea ferments into black tea.

Black tea does still have a small amount of EGCG, but it pales in comparison to the amount of catechins in green tea. Green tea itself can also vary in EGCG, and some varieties contain more catechins than others.

Which green tea is best for weight loss?

Gyokuro tea is the finest green tea in Japan
Buy now

Not all green tea is created equally, and certain varieties of green tea are shown to contain much higher concentrations of beneficial antioxidants. In most cases, you will find that sencha and gyokuro contain the highest concentration of EGCG, as well as the highest concentration of antioxidants overall.

Gyokuro tea is also well known for its unique flavour and very high concentration of theanine, the relaxing anti-anxiety compound that helps allow tea to stimulate your brain without causing jitters or any other the other usual side effects of caffeine. For this reason, gyokuro is easily the best choice as it offers several benefits overall. On top of this, it is known as the finest green tea, and as Japan's finest tea.

As far as the taste goes, gyokuro has a detectable umami taste, as well as a natural sweetness. This is related to the way it is produced. Because the gyokuro is shaded for a few weeks before harvesting, the amino acid concentration is increased and this gives it a rich flavour profile and the natural sweetness it is known for.

Green tea extract for weight loss

Green tea extract is an extract of green tea where the antioxidant catechins have been concentrated and the caffeine is often removed. If you're watching your caffeine intake, check the green tea extract's label before you purchase any product to ensure the caffeine has been removed. Caffeine free green tea extract will still increase metabolism and help you burn fat.

Now Foods green tea extract
Buy now
To receive the most benefits, any green tea extract you take should be standardised to 50 percent EGCG, and the other antioxidants should be listed as a percentage to show you the breakdown of nutrients. One to three capsules of green tea extract at 250mgs of EGCG per day is a healthy way to increase your weight loss.

For tailored advice or if you have any confusion over the dosing, it is best to see a doctor before commencing green tea extract, just like any supplement. Your doctor can also give you additional advice to help you start an exercise plan, and will be able to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other markers to help track how well your weight loss is going. These markers should generally decrease when you lose weight. You will begin to feel and look healthier when this happens.

Green tea benefits weight loss and your overall health regardless of whether you drink it or swallow it in a capsule, and the best part is that it's natural. If you're struggling to lose weight, give green tea a try.
Source: Flickr

Caffeine in green tea

Caffeine has a modest effect of its own on your metabolism. Generally, the use of caffeine increases your metabolism in some cases. Caffeine and EGCG consumed together may have a synergistic effect. However, if you need to avoid caffeine, or simply don't like consuming caffeine, you will still get the benefit of EGCG.

In this case however, decaffeinated green tea should be avoided as the decaffeination process can often strip out antioxidants. For this reason, decaf green tea is not useful for weight loss, because the EGCG content is much lower. If you're hoping to avoid caffeine, you should take a caffeine free green tea extract instead. This will give you the EGCG you want, without the caffeine that you don't want.

Weight loss tips

Still struggling to lose weight? Here's 5 easy tips to boost your weight loss without resorting to fad diets or dangerous stimulants.
If you're struggling to lose weight, there may be reasons why you're not making the weight loss progress you desire.

  • Are you eating less calories than you use?
    You can only lose weight if you are eating less than your daily requirement of energy. If you're struggling to lose weight, calculate your basal metabolism, add in activity and exercise expenditure, and make sure this is amount is more than the amount of calories you're taking in.
  • When dieting for weight loss, aim to reduce your diet by no more than 500 calories (2000kj) below your basal metabolism. Extreme calorie deficit won't help you lose weight faster, it will just damage your body. Slow weight loss is better than harming yourself, and you'll reduce the risk of stretch marks that way too.
  • If you're still struggling to lose weight no matter what you do, pay your doctor a visit and discuss the problem. Doctors are more than happy to help you improve your health and lose weight. It's part of what they do.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Whey protein benefits

Source: Flickr
Whey protein benefits your health in so many ways, and that's why whey protein is the top supplement for muscle gain. Taking whey protein will supercharge your workouts and lead to better muscle gains and a healthier body overall.

Benefits of whey protein

  • Whey protein increases muscle gain
  • Assists healthy weight loss
  • Benefits the cardiovascular system
  • Boosts the immune system

The most obvious reason to take whey protein is for the high quality protein that it contains, and the ease with which it can be consumed, but whey also contains other nutrients that can benefit your health in interesting ways. Active peptides in whey are able to support your immune system, help maintain a healthy heart, and even help lower your risk of cancer.

      Whey protein for muscle gain

      Whey protein benefits muscle gain by providing your body with a lean source of ideal protein. Because the protein from whey is complete, your body receives a balance of the right amino acids it requires to build muscle and support general well-being If you've been working out and haven't been seeing the results you were hoping for, whey protein may be the ticket you need to break through your plateau.

      According to the results of studies, whey protein is able to increase muscle gains in response to exercise, compared to exercise alone without supplementation. More importantly however, is that the consumption of whey protein leads to greater muscle gains than are possible through the consumption of a similar combination of amino acids.

      Whey protein is high in leucine, and high in branched chain amino acids in general. These amino acids are very important for muscle growth. Leucine itself is known to boost protein synthesis, increasing your body's production of muscle tissue after exercise and speeding up recovery. It is also able to stimulate muscle gains through mechanisms that other protein powders can not. When compared to other equivalent protein sources, muscle gains appear to be enhanced more by whey.

      If you're finding it hard to consume the necessary amounts of protein every day to build muscle, whey protein is an easy addition to make to your regular diet. You can't gain muscle effectively if you are not eating enough protein, and when you want the best protein, that guarantees the greatest muscle gains, whey protein is superior to other protein powders.

      Whey protein for weight loss

      Weight loss is another of the most important benefits of whey protein. To cause weight loss to occur, you must consume less calories than your body needs in order to burn stored fat reserves for energy. Eating less calories, and likely less carbohydrates, means that your body is more likely to catabolise its own muscle tissue if you don't watch your diet properly. 

      Whey protein benefits you during weight loss by sparing your hard-earned muscle gains and boosting fat loss to help you look slim and defined. In this 12 week study, subjects were divided into two groups. Both groups cut their calorie intake by one quarter, but one group supplemented with whey protein. The group that consumed whey protein experienced quicker weight loss, and more weight loss overall. They also lost significantly less muscle tissue than the non-whey group. This shows that whey protein can support weight loss and help you avoid the loss of your muscle tissue.

      Eating more protein is also beneficial during a diet because it helps to make you feel full and eliminate hunger. Protein is naturally more filling and satisfying than carbohydrates and fats, and it will help you to eat less. This makes whey protein the perfect snack during weight loss, because it's filling, healthy, and helps you to not only lose weight, but to keep your muscle.

      • Green tea for weight loss
        Green tea is an effective way to boost your weight loss results. Find out how it works and how it can help you lose more weight.

      Whey protein and cardiovascular health

      Whey benefits the heart in a couple of ways, although these benefits aren't widely known in the health community. The results of this study indicate that when 45 grams of whey isolate was consumed with breakfast in obese subjects, blood levels of triglycerides dropped by up to 27 percent. On top of this, the subjects that consumed whey protein isolate had a decreased risk of arterial blockages due to a reduction in lipoproteins. 

      The peptides found in whey protein also hold cardiovascular benefits. Whey peptides can reduce blood pressure, and these peptides survive digestion to have an active effect after whey is consumed. You can increase this benefit even further by choosing a whey protein powder that is high in active peptides.

      Whey protein benefits the immune system

      The immune system is important for protecting your body from foreign pathogens like bacteria and viruses, as well as threats like cancer. A healthy immune system benefits your overall health and prevents you from becoming sick and losing time in the gym or at work. Whey protein benefits the immune system by enhancing glutathione and making the immune system more effective. Whey is also a natural source of glutathione which boosts up your body's own levels of this important antioxidant.

      Not only do the peptides in whey protein support your immune system, but some of these peptides can even support your digestive system by decreasing the chance that pathogenic bacteria can grow and make you sick. Whey does this by supporting the beneficial bacteria like yogurt or probiotics. This is called a prebiotic, because it supports beneficial bacteria without containing them like yogurt does.

      • Probiotics and antibiotics
        Want to know more about probiotics and why you should take them whenever you need to take antibiotics? You can discover all the benefits and the importance of probiotics here.

      How to take whey protein

      Protein calculator

      Bodyweight (lbs) (kgs)


      Whey protein benefits your health the most when it's taken properly. In order to get the most out of whey, and increase your muscle gains, protein shakes or bars should be taken 30 minutes before resistance training so that it begins to be digested. This means that your muscles will be ready to take in amino acids right when they need it.

      If you're struggling to get enough protein every day, or you just want to use whey protein for its many other benefits, you can take several smaller servings over the course of your day to help boost your protein intake and improve your health.

      How much whey protein should you take?

      Protein is best consumed in smaller amounts, spread out over the day. Whey protein is no different in this regard. Your body doesn't store a large amount of amino acids at once, so this constant replenishment will ensure that it is being used effectively. Taking more than 30 grams of protein at any one time is usually a waste because the body won't absorb it all. A lot of it will be used for energy instead.

      Your total daily intake of protein from all sources, including whey, should be in the range of 1 - 2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass when following a muscle gain exercise regime. So if your lean body mass was 50 kilograms, you would need to consume at least 50 grams a day of protein from any source to support muscle gains and general well-being.

      The more active you are, the more protein your body requires. If you partake in strength training or endurance training, this will also mean you need a higher intake of protein. If in doubt, you can use the protein calculator above to gauge how much protein you should be consuming every day when training for muscle growth.To use it, simply enter your lean body mass in either kilograms or pounds and click 'calculate'.

      More supplements for lean muscle gains: 

      • Creatine
        Creatine is one of the best supplements for lean muscle gains and endurance because it supports energy production, but it also helps to boost muscle synthesis itself.

      • Glutamine
      • Glutamine is another supplement that you should use when trying to build muscle. This amino acid helps increase lean muscle growth, decreases fatigue and the recovery period, and benefits your immune system.

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      Sunday, 16 March 2014

      Benefits of glutamine

      This is part two of our top 3 supplements for lean muscle growth. Part one outlined the benefits of creatine for lean muscle gains, and can be found here. Now we'll look at the benefits of L-glutamine for supercharging your workouts and achieving better results.


      L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid present in the human body, and has many important roles in muscle function and growth. Whilst it's not an essential amino acid for humans and your body will form it from other amino acids in the protein you eat, levels of glutamine can be greatly reduced in cases of sickness, or just from regular resistance training. This is because training your muscles causes glutamine to be used up in the recovery and growth processes, and it takes a while for your body to return levels to normal. Glutamine supplements prevent this deficit and ensure your muscles always have enough glutamine.

      What can glutamine do for you?

      • Strengthens the immune system
      • Speeds up recovery
      • Boosts muscle growth
      • Reduces muscle loss

      Glutamine boosts the immune system

      Glutamine is an important component of the immune system. Adequate levels of the amino acid allow the immune system to produce cytokines and maintain healthy lymphocyte proliferation. When given to patients following a bone marrow transplant, surgery, or radiation therapy, glutamine helps ease the immunosuppression that occurs, and decreases both hospital stays and risk of infection.

      In people who take part in bodybuilding, glutamine levels often fall below normal because the demand for the nutrient overpowers supply. Supplementation with glutamine can help offset this imbalance and aid the immune system.

      Glutamine aids muscle growth

      Glutamine has two major benefits that lead to better gains and quicker recoveries. It can raise the plasma levels of bicarbonate and growth hormone. This can make a world of difference because:
      • Bicarbonate neutralises lactic acid formation. When you work out a muscle, lactic acid builds up and causes the classic burning sensation of soreness. This can limit the amount of effort you can exert. Because glutamine supplementation can increase levels of bicarbonate, there is more available to neutralise the lactic acid and reduce soreness, increasing the work you can do in the gym, and decreasing muscle recovery time and soreness.
      • Growth hormone fuels muscle growth. Working out itself causes growth hormone levels to increase, and glutamine can further raise these levels to enhance the benefits of resistance training.

      Reduces muscle loss

      When glutamine levels drop as a result of strenuous exercise, injury, or illness, muscle loss is increased. Supplementation of glutamine may help to alleviate this problem and prevent muscle loss. In cases where patients are given glutamine after surgery, the catabolism of muscle tissue is reduced compared to regular nutrition without added glutamine.

      If you're suffering through an illness, spend a lot of time in the gym, or due for surgery, glutamine supplementation can reinforce gains and prevent you from losing muscle mass.


      Glutamine should be taken in a dosage of 2 grams per day to support the body's natural reserves. In fairly sedentary people, this dosage is enough to boost bicarbonate and growth hormone reserves. If you exercise fairly often or are currently ill, you will benefit most from a higher dose of up to 5 grams per day to combat the loss that occurs after heavy exercise.

      Coming up next

      This three part series will conclude with a key supplement that can boost your gains and help you reach new levels of fitness. No other supplement is as highly used and praised, but many people don't realise just how many benefits it has.

      Part 1 - Creatine
      Part 2 - Whey protein

      Wednesday, 12 March 2014

      Creatine benefits

      If you're working out with the intention to build muscle and become stronger, you may not be putting your body into the optimum conditions to facilitate such a change. There's only so far you can travel before your gains begin to level off and stop progressing when your diet and supplements aren't in check. This is part one of a three part series of the best supplements to fuel your body towards a new level of fitness, and the best part is, they're proven to work.

      Creatine Monohydrate

      Creatine is well-known in the bodybuilding world, and has a respected and proven track record. The body uses creatine to fuel muscle cells by acting as a source of phosphate. Essentially, the more creatine available, the more energy available to your muscles to help them produce the strongest contractions and enable you to lift more weight. On top of this, creatine may even act to boost muscle growth by inhibiting myostatin, and can volumise the muscles to make them look larger.

      Creatine provides energy

      Your muscles need energy to contract, and creatine is naturally present in your body for this purpose. Supplementation has been shown to not only be safe, but to support the natural processes that fuel your muscles. This means that you can lift more weight, pump out more reps, and reach goals sooner because you're exposing your muscles to a greater stimulus than you otherwise could. Supplementation may even help to speed up muscle recovery after exercise

      Creatine inhibits myostatin

      Schwarzenegger's dog?
      If you've seen the animals that carry a genetic mutation where they do not produce myostatin, you'll know just how big a deal myostatin inhibition really is. Myostatin acts as your body's way of suppressing muscle growth. Resistance training causes myostatin levels to drop and muscle to grow, but it will always be there preventing you from easily gaining muscle from barely any work. The addition of creatine to resistance training, however, causes significant reductions of myostatin, thus enabling you to gain muscle quicker. No other supplement is able to effect myostatin like this, and until scientists are able to produce a real myostatin inhibitor that can block it to any decent extent, creatine remains as the only proven method to reduce myostatin.

      Creatine has a volumising effect

      When you consume creatine, each molecule of creatine absorbs water. This creatine is in turn absorbed into the muscle cells, and the added volume it produces can make muscles look bigger and more aesthetic. Whilst this is purely a cosmetic effect and the volumisation will cease should you stop taking creatine, bodybuilding is largely about aesthetics, so any boost to appearance is welcomed when creatine has other actual strength benefits too.

      How to take creatine

      Creatine will produce the best results when consumed in large doses of between 5 - 20 grams for a few days to load up the body's creatine reserves. After that, a lower maintenance dose of 5 grams can be taken on a daily basis to maintain the effects until you're finished using it. Whilst it is unlikely that creatine loses effect when consumed for long periods of time, you may see best results using it for a couple of weeks with a period of rest inbetween a creatine cycle.

      Creatine is safe for most people to consume, but if you have kidney or liver disease, or another form of chronic illness, you should consult your doctor before use, as excretion of creatine may cause problems when the kidneys aren't functioning properly. Consultation with a doctor or dietician is a good idea before starting any supplement as they will be able to tell you if your diet is well-balanced so that any gains aren't hindered by the food you eat.

      Coming up next

      This post is the first of a three part series. Coming up next is the second of our top 3 supplements to support lean muscle gains and power up your workouts.

      Read part two - Glutamine

      Read part three - Whey protein

      The problem with detox diets

      Detox diets are immensely popular, especially with celebrities. According to the claims, detox diets are meant to 'detoxify' the body. Essentially, companies marketing products to this tune will tell you that your body is brimming with toxic chemicals that accumulate through the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the water you drink, stressing your body and causing health issues. A detox diet is meant to flush all of these toxins out of your body and allow it to function better as a result.

      Do they work?

      The answer is a clear and resounding no. The idea that you could eat or drink a specific product and that product would be able to draw toxic waste out of your body is not much different to the old medical technique of leeching. Back in the days of old, before doctors really knew what they were doing, you would head on down to your friendly medical professional to have him apply a couple of hungry leeches to your body. The idea was that these leeches would draw out the 'bad blood' to cure you of whatever sickness ailed you. Detox diets are the modern rendition of this logic.

      The problem with detox diets is two-fold. Firstly, the toxins mentioned, don't necessarily exist in the first place. When you feel run-down and out of balance, you should first look at your diet, sleep hygiene, and levels of activity before you decide you have poison flowing through your blood. When you barely sleep before waking up to a full day's work, skipping breakfast and munching on junk food all day to keep going, there's your problem. Make changes to your general health regime and you'll likely be feeling ten times better before you even resort to the leeches.

      The second reason why detox diets don't work, is because the ingredients used to make a detox formula, have absolutely no ability to soak up said poisons, nor remove them from your body. Cayenne pepper may really make your curry stand out, or even boost your metabolism, but it certainly can't absorb toxic chemicals. The only real circumstance where a drug or nutritional supplement can remove something toxic from your blood, is in the case of heavy metal poisoning, where the use of chelating compounds like EDTA can speed up removal of heavy metals. Unless you've been intentionally drinking lead paint or sucking the cadmium out of old batteries, you certainly do not have heavy metal poisoning, nor will you likely ever experience it. It's not something that happens regularly.

      The lemon detox diet

      In order to stress just how fraudulent detox formulas are, it's helpful to examine one closely. The lemon detox is particularly famous all over the world, and many celebrities have endorsed commercial versions of the humble recipe, and humble it certainly is:

      "For a 2 Litre batch (preferred) 
       140ml of Madal Bal Natural Tree Syrup™
       3 ½ freshly squeezed lemons (about 140ml)
       2- 3 pinches of the Cayenne Pepper
       Approximately 1700ml of fresh or filtered water"

      This is the ingredients list for Pure Natural Health Australia's commercial lemon detox diet. If you will note the fancy sounding, trademarked 'Madal Bal' syrup, it is recognised on their website as being a combination of palm syrup and Canadian maple syrup. This is intended to "give you energy" during a lemon detox cleanse. The lemon juice is apparently the actual cleansing agent, and they state that "lemons have been used for thousands of years for their cleansing ability".

      Let's look at the formula from a nutritional standpoint. One hundred and forty millilitres of maple syrup is approximately 180 grams. Volume conversion information for palm syrup isn't as easy to find, but it's likely to be equivalent, so for simplicity's sake, we will treat the formula as if it was completely maple syrup. That 180 grams of syrup contains 120 grams of carbohydrates, over 100 grams of which is sugar. If carbohydrates have an energy conversion of 1700kj per 100 grams, that leads us to the amount of 2040kj (523 calories).

      Considering that this 523 calories is meant to sustain you all day, when the average energy requirement is four times as much, it's already clear that deficits are starting to appear. Combine that with the fact that maple syrup has high amounts of manganese, and a little zinc, yet virtually none of the other vitamins and minerals, and that palm sugar is high in potassium and nothing else, and you can see that you're starving your body of food, and vital nutrients. The lemon juice really just adds vitamin C to this mix. It's enough to stave off scurvy, but you certainly won't be plundering the seven seas on a diet like this (I hear pirate jokes are in this season).

      Lastly, the cayenne pepper is said to boost your metabolism. There may be some truth to this, as the capsaicin present in chili has some weak evidence towards being able to increase fat loss, or at least reduce fat gain in a high calorie diet. The proof isn't substantial as of yet, and any effect can be considered mild. Basically, it's in there to add a little burn to the taste and give you the impression that it's burning off fat.

      So what can we ascertain from all this information? We can see that the entire formula is deficient in most of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs to survive, completely devoid of protein, and substantially lacking in calories. As such, the formula places your body into starvation whilst providing no protein to slow down muscle breakdown. You need around 1 - 2 grams of protein for every kilogram of body mass, just to maintain the muscle you do have, support hair and nail growth, keep your immune system optimal, and form skin. This formula has almost zero grams of protein. The tiny insignificant amount it does have is less than a single gram, and comes from the minuscule amount present in lemons. Have a look at this study where elderly women were fed a low protein diet and you'll see just how bad a diet containing no protein at all is. Furthermore, given that in incidents of brief starvation, as is the case with 3 days of use of the lemon detox diet, muscle is catabolised to form glucose to feed the starving brain, the muscle wasting is enhanced further. You will lose muscle and threaten the integrity of your immune system and body by eating no protein, and starving yourself with the small amount of calories present in the lemon detox will force your body to eat away at even more muscle to try and function.

      So in effect, the lemon detox diet itself, is fundamentally unhealthy because it:

      • Starves your body
      • Causes you to lose muscle
      • Weakens the immune system
      • Deprives you of most vitamins and minerals
      • Weakens hair and skin
      • Contains no fibre to maintain optimum digestive health
      • Does not allow any solid food 'for best results'
      This is a recipe for disaster. It's impossible to find anything good about the formula. The entire concept is utterly dangerous, reckless, fool-hardy...we'd run out of negative adjectives before we stressed just how ridiculous it is.

      The power of advertising behind the lemon detox

      When looking at the logistics of the lemon detox, it's clear that advertising is paramount to the proliferation of such a horrible product. The only reason anybody would take such a product, is because they're blinded by celebrity endorsements and testimonies. Let's have a look at some of the advertising for Pure Health's lemon detox diet:

      "Lose 3 - 6kgs in 10 days"

      This is true, because all your muscle will literally waste away, as will fat, because you're starving yourself. You're not dieting. You're not exercising to lose weight. You're starving yourself and your body is consuming its own tissue to survive.

      "Not eating may sound daunting, but it is much easier than you think. The Lemon Detox cleanse is a based on consuming liquid food. It is not a fast."

      The Oxford dictionary begs to differ, defining the act of fasting as: "Abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink...". Considering you're abstaining from all solid food, all protein, most vitamins and minerals, and 3 quarters of the energy your body requires to remain alive and well, it's probably safe to call the lemon detox diet a fast, but that's still not as accurate as saying it's starvation.

      "An overweight condition almost always corresponds to a toxic condition in the body."

      Poppycock! As the British may so aptly put it. Where's the proof? Not only are they marketing a method of starvation and bodily destruction, but they're making many other strange and baseless claims with no actual science to back it up. This is where science came to die. You put it lightly.

      How does the body actually remove toxins?

      The body has a highly efficient, and definitively proven method of removing toxins, and it doesn't require trademarked sugar solutions to achieve this. The liver is responsible for the breakdown of nearly everything that enters the body. It processes pharmaceutical drugs, the food we eat, and both natural and artificial poisons like pesticides and deadly nightshade. It is the great gateway to our blood stream, managing the metabolism of vitamins and minerals to usable forms, and the excretion of unwanted waste material.

      If you want to boost your body's ability to remove 'toxins', you need to look no further than your liver, and when you take something like the lemon detox diet that deprives your body of everything it needs, your liver begins to suffer because it doesn't have the nutrients it requires to perform its job properly. Starvation affects all organs, as energy deficits cause them to slow down to conserve energy. In this way, by placing your liver in such conditions, you cause it to be less effective, thus you actually decrease its ability to process waste.

      Be nice to your liver and it will reward you by functioning at optimum capacity. Provide it with all the vitamins and minerals, and enough energy to do its job and it will keep your body free of toxins. You can do this by eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly, whilst taking a supplement proven to benefit the liver, like milk thistle. Don't fall prey to detox diets because they really are absolutely terrible for your health. Good health will come from tasty nutritious food. You won't find it in the bottom of a jug of sugar.

      What does the body need to function correctly?

      In conclusion, it may be helpful to take note of the values in this list of vitamins and minerals and weigh them up against your current diet to ensure you're not becoming deficient in one of them. These are compounds your body needs to function, and to stay alive, as well as to be in optimum health and leave you feeling good:

      This chart shows daily requirements for vitamins and minerals - note the value for sugar is an upper limit for good health, and the chart isn't recommending to eat that much sugar, but rather that you should avoid eating more than that for optimum health.

      It's important to issue a disclaimer here of course. The chart above is to be used as a guideline only, and the information does not replace actual medical advice from a doctor. Depending on your individual condition, you may require more or less of a particular nutrient, as is the case with types of anaemia where the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12 properly. You should see a doctor or dietitian to help assess your health and individualise your dietary needs for you. Sparking the generation of a healthier world where people are more in-touch with their medical counsel and health is one of our primary goals.

      Read more about fad diets.

      Coming up next

      Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the top 3 proven supplements to help you build lean muscle mass, and provide you with the clinical studies and evidence to back them up.