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Everything you need to know about branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)

Everyone and their dogs are taking branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs.

The market is huge. According to a recent report, the market for protein ingredients is projected to reach 58.49 billion dollars by 2022. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 6%. That’s insane.

And we’re talking about a market that is already gigantic.

BCAAs are a big part of this protein market. And in this article, I’m going to tell you why. I’ll tell you what they are, what they do biologically, what the supplements do, why their so effective when you’re dieting, and when it’s best to take them.

What are they?

BCAAs refer to three amino acids in particular – leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And proteins are what make up the muscles that allow you to easily lift that 50-pound dumbbell at the gym.

Essential amino acids are amino acids that the body can’t make itself. That means we need to ingest them in our diet or get them from a supplement.

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BCAAs are important and have gotten a lot of attention from the men and women in the research world. Maybe more than any other supplement out there. They represent 50% of essential amino acids in food and make up 35% of the total amount of essential amino acids in muscle proteins.

Considering there are 21 amino acids in total and three of them represent this much, you can start to understand the importance they have in your body and why they’ve gotten so much interest.

Their biological function

BCAAS are essential amino acids involved in a myriad of functions within working cells.

They:

  • Contribute to energy production
  • Are important components of muscle proteins
  • Act as signaling molecules promoting protein synthesis
  • Increase antioxidant capacity

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Because they serve so many beneficial functions and are delivered straight to muscles (other essential amino acids are broken down in the liver), BCAAs have long been considered an effective nutritional strategy to prevent exercise-induced muscle damage and its consequences.

The idea is: if you can prevent excessive muscle-protein breakdown and promote repair (both functions BCAAs can do), then you can promote muscle sparing and growth.

What BCAA supplements do

There has been a lot of research done with BCAAs. They have been shown to have positive effects on:

Protein synthesis

BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis as well as the cellular machinery that carries out the process of protein synthesis. This means BCAAs increase the speed of protein synthesis AND the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis. They can produce more protein faster.

Protein breakdown

BCAAs reduce the rate of protein breakdown by decreasing the cellular machinery that breaks down protein.

Workout intensity

The proteins that make up the BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – compete with another amino acid, tryptophan, for entry into the brain.

You’ve probably heard of tryptophan before, it’s the amino acid found in turkey that makes you so goddamn tired after eating it.

Once tryptophan makes its way into the brain it is converted into the brain molecule (neurotransmitter), serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has many different functions on the brain, one of them being increased perception of fatigue during exercise.

Because BCAAs compete with tryptophan, an increase in one means a decrease in the other. So, when you have more BCAAs present, you get less tryptophan getting into the brain being converted to serotonin and less perceived fatigue.

This all comes together to allow you to work harder, longer.

Aerobic exercise

There is an increased time to exhaustion during prolonged exercise in untrained or lightly trained people. Athletes with advanced training don’t seem to experience the same benefits.

Fatigue

Alongside BCAAs effects on aerobic exercise, there’s also moderate evidence showing BCAAs decrease the mental fatigue associated with working out too.

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Why BCAAs are so effective when you’re dieting

While BCAA supplementation has positive effects on gaining muscle, it really earns its weight in gold by preserving the muscle mass you already have. Especially if you’re dieting.

Dieting is catabolic. When you’re dieting you’re in a state of calorie restriction, which can lead to muscle breakdown.

Basically, your body starts to break down muscle as an energy source. It does this because fat is the most efficient way to store energy.

One gram of fat has more energy than one gram of protein. For that reason your body wants to keep it around. Think of it like storage for a rainy day.

Your body wants to keep it around so bad it will break down muscle instead.

The proteins making up muscle are broken down into amino acids, which are then used as fuel.

What we also have is less muscle being made. Because you’re at a loss for energy, your body is going to slow down energy synthesis to preserve the energy that it has.

So, we have more muscle being broken down and less muscle being made. This can make it really difficult to lean out.

It’s even more difficult when you add exercise into the mix.

Exercise tends to exacerbate the metabolic effects of dieting. Everything I’ve said in this section so far gets kicked up a notch with exercise.

The muscle preserving effects of BCAAs and their ability to promote protein synthesis tips the catabolic scale so you can preserve muscle while you’re dieting.

This means maximizing fat loss with the overall effect of losing a greater percentage of body fat than your friends that aren’t supplementing with BCAAs. It’s a miracle supplement if you’re trying to lean out.

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When is it best to take them?

BCAA supplements are best taken immediately after exercise to support muscle building and recovery.

I recommend something with at least 1800 mg of leucine and at least 800 mg of isoleucine and valine. These amounts of the BCAAs will make sure you enjoy all the benefits I’ve highlighted in this article.

Conclusion

From the research that has been done so far, it seems that supplementing with BCAAs increases muscle retention, maximizes fat loss, increases muscle building, increases aerobic endurance, and decrease mental fatigue while exercising.

You’ll experience the best results when you take BCAAs right after you workout at clinically relevant doses.

Let me know what you think about BCAA supplements in the comments.

If you’d like to know more, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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Meal replacement shakes – your best option for weight loss and weight management

If there is one universal truth in the weight loss and weight management industry, it’s this: Nutrition is key.

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It doesn’t matter how hard you work out, how many hours you spend in the gym, or how many calories you burn at spin class, you won’t get the results you’re after without proper diet and nutrition.

Another truth: Nutrition is often the biggest struggle. Most of us don’t get enough fruits and veggies as it is. Never mind trying to do so when you’re cutting calories.

And when you’re cutting calories and not getting enough nutrients, good luck feeling full and satisfied. You’re going to feel hungry all the time. And then you start snacking blowing all of your efforts to hell.

If this sounds at all like you, meal replacement shakes might be exactly what you have been looking for.

They work for a lot of people.

Read on to learn the differences between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes, how meal replacement shakes compare to heart healthy diets for weight loss and weight management, and how to get the most out of meal replacement shakes.

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What’s the difference between meal replacement shakes and protein shakes?

The difference between the two is quite simple, but very important.

Protein shakes are formulated to supplement your protein intake. Meal replacement shakes are designed to replace entire meals.

Protein shakes contain little to no carbohydrates, fat, or other essential nutrients. They are also low in calories.

Meal replacement shakes, on the other hand, have a wide range of essential nutrients, are rich in proteins, and contain carbohydrates. They have everything you need to replace a meal.

For weight loss, meal replacement shakes outperform a regular “heart healthy” diet

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A study conducted in 2014 by Dr. Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago of Applied Sciences did a direct comparison of meal replacement shakes versus whole food. Each was combined with a dietary plan of caloric restriction and intermittent fasting. The results of the study were published in Journal Nutrition.

The study consisted of two phases. The first phase was a two-week maintenance period. The second was an eight-week weight loss period.

The results of the study were astounding.

The participants drinking the meal replacement shakes lost more body weight, more fat mass, and more visceral fat than the group that did not.

Meal replacement shakes also decreased a lot of factors associated with coronary heart disease. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels went down. And so did heart rate, insulin, and homocysteine levels.

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The results of the study highlight a few things.

1) A quality meal replacement shake is essential

For optimal weight maintenance or weight loss you need a meal replacement shake that is going to give you everything you need.

That means the shake has:

If you’re skimping out on these things regularly you’re going to experience adverse health effects and you’ll constantly be hungry.

Some meal replacement shakes on the market are very high in sugar and use various mixtures of artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.

You don’t want these ones.

Too much sugar can urge you to eat more because of rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar. It kind of defeats the purpose of using meal replacement shakes to lose weight or maintain weight in the first place.

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  • Good protein sources

High-quality proteins are highly digestible and contain all the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle. This is critical, especially if you’re training and exercising.

2) There is no substitute for planning

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A major reason why the study conducted by Dr. Varady was such a success is because of the regimented dietary schedule.

Meal replacement shakes are part of the equation. Not the whole answer.

In this study, the shakes were used in combination with calorie restriction and intermittent fasting.

Both experimental groups consumed a calorie restricted diet for the first 6 days of the weight loss phase. On the 7th day, they fasted.

There are many ways to combine intermittent fasting and calorie restriction. This is just one. Contact me and I can tell you more.

3) Ease of use is huge

Meal replacement shakes work in part because of the convenience factor they are associated with. They fit really well into the fast-paced, busy lifestyles most of us have these days.

During the course of the study, Dr. Varady noticed many of the participants enjoyed the meal replacement supplements because of their convenience.

The prep is minimal, cleanup is virtually non-existent, and you can be confident knowing you’re supplying your body with everything that it needs while also cutting excess calories out of your diet.

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As Dr. Varady said, “If a diet is hard to do, people aren’t going to do it for very long.”

Conclusion

In a lot of cases, meal replacement shakes are healthy alternatives to satisfying your appetite with junk food. And they’re a lot better than skipping a meal altogether.

Whether your find yourself too busy to sit down and have a real lunch or you’re looking for a good weight loss solution, a meal replacement shake is a good option. You don’t have to worry about nutrients and caloric intake, you can just down a shake that will satiate your hunger and you know contains everything you need to fuel your body and help you get, or stay, lean.

Let me know what you think about meal replacement shakes in the comments.

If you’d like to know more, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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Pre-workout supplements: What you want and what to avoid

There’s no better feeling than the one you get after a good workout.

Your emotions are running high, stress is low, you’re on top of the world.

But, maybe you find yourself in a bit of a rut right now.

Either you’re up early, out of bed before the sun rises or you’re getting there after a long day of work. Sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough motivation in the world.

And getting to the gym is only half the battle. Real progress is only made when your workout is intense and long enough.

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To break yourself out of a rut or to make sure you get the best bang for your buck when you are in the gym, a pre-workout supplement could be the answer you’re looking for.

A pre-workout supplement will help you up your intensity and grind out a difficult workout. It could help you get you the gains you want.

Where do you start? What separates the good from the bad? What ingredients do you want in your pre-workout and which ones do you want to avoid at all costs?

I’ve got you covered. Read on and find out everything you need to know.

What are pre-workout supplements?

Pre-workout supplements are supplements taken before you exercise. That’s really all they have in common.

The ingredients in each one can vary quite a bit depending on the brand.

Pre-workout supplements generally claim to increase:

  • Energy
  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Lean muscle gains

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But, not all of them can effectively do this.

What you want your pre-workout to have

Ingredients that prime the mind for exercise

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Your mind is your most powerful ally when it comes to a good performance in the gym. It can also be your biggest enemy.

You want a pre-workout supplement that gets you in the right mind space to crush it.

Pre-workout supplements can help you get there by priming your brain for increased mental focus and activity. Supplements that do this have a moderate amount of caffeine in them.

Caffeine before exercise has been shown to increase overall performance, make the workout seem easier, and make it more enjoyable.

I say moderate amounts of caffeine because there are some pre-workout supplements on the market that contain way too much. These ones, which I can tell you from firsthand experience, leave you with the jitters and battling a major energy crash.

Ingredients that prime the body for stress and recovery

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Alongside ingredients that prime the mind for exercise, good pre-workout supplements also prime the body to withstand the stresses of exercise and to recover from it.

I’m talking adaptogens, creatine monohydrate, Nitrosigine, and citrulline.

For more on adaptogens, please check out this article.

Adaptogens are part of the nutritional support your body needs to handle stress.

And exercise is a form of stress.

Not in the negative sense you probably think of when you say you’re “stressed out”. But, in a positive way. Exercise stresses the body and the body adapts by growing and becoming more efficient. The stress from exercise is what makes you stronger.

Adaptogens help reduce and resist the effects of stress and improve the body’s capacity to perform under stressful circumstances.

Other ingredients a good pre-workout supplement has are creatine monohydrate, Nitrosigine, and citrulline.

Creatine helps you work out longer and harder by increasing the amount of energy available to working muscles.

Nitrosigine is a combination of the amino acid arginine and silicon. Together, they increase blood flow and improve delivery of oxygen to muscles.

Citrulline helps support better blood flow too. And it helps protect against muscle soreness.

When you have all three of these ingredients working together in the same supplement, you have a combination that increases your power output, decreases fatigue, improves blood flow, accelerates muscle gains, and improves performance.

A supplement like this can be boosted by with the addition of caffeine and the right combination of adaptogens.

What you don’t want your pre-workout to have

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You don’t need any unnecessary fillers.

A lot of the ingredients you find on some pre-workout supplement’s labels have zero scientific support. These are things like maltodextrin, artificial flavors and colors, and other stuff that won’t help you when you’re exercising.

You also don’t need artificial sweeteners or “proprietary blends”.

To be on the safe side, sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose should be avoided.

“Proprietary blends” are a mixture of ingredients whose specific amounts do not have to be stated on the label. Just the total amount of the “blend” has to be listed. Manufacturers often do this to keep their competitors from knowing exactly what is in their product.

But, that means you also don’t know exactly what you’re putting in your body. Don’t waste your time.

Lastly, check out the reviews.

One of the best ways to nail down a good supplement is to read the comments of people who have actually tried it.

A few negative reviews on a supplement isn’t something to get worked up over. But, if it has a grocery list of complaints from everyone who has tried it, move on to something better.

Conclusion

Pre-workout supplements are designed to prepare your body for better strength and power before exercise. Taking a pre-workout supplement before you work out gives your training a boost.

Pre-workout supplements that contain ingredients such as nitrosigine and citrulline deliver nutrients and oxygen to working muscles. Creatine, which is also an ingredient in many pre-workout supplements, improves your performance and reduces fatigue.

Caffeine can give you the mental boost you need to focus and adaptogens provide your body with the nutritional support it needs to handle the stress of exercise.

If you’d like to know more about pre-workout supplements, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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6 adaptogens that will help you combat stress and maintain your energy

Stress is something we’ve all felt. Most of us have probably been completely overwhelmed by it at some point in our lives.

It’s your body’s way of responding to demand or threat. In our primitive days stress helped us react to the giant jungle cat nipping at our heels and trying to tear us limb from limb.

Nowadays the threat might not be so immediate, but we still have the same biological wiring.

And it’s called the stress response.

The stress response is a state of increased mental and physical arousal activated when you perceive danger.

This kind of arousal in small doses is a good thing.

It can help you stay focused, energetic, and alert during emergency situations. It can also help you rise to meet new challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, it sharpens your concentration under pressure, and it keeps you on task when you’d rather be relaxing and watching TV.

Too much stress on the other hand, is a bad thing.

It can have detrimental effects on your physical and emotional well-being. Stress is an energy killer. And it’s intimately linked to fatigue.

Many of us don’t deal with stress in healthy ways. We resort to alcohol, stimulants, and comfort food. These unhealthy habits provide short-term comfort, but work against our health in the long run.

A healthy alternative for dealing with stress without the negative side effects are adaptogens.

What are adaptogens?

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Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements that can prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress on the body.

By counteracting these effects, they help prevent fatigue and maintain energy levels. Especially, when they’re taken in advance of a stressful event.

There are many different adaptogens. And they don’t all work the same way.

Adaptogens were first studied scientifically in the former Soviet Union.

The research scientists Nicolai Lazarev and Israel Brekhman were looking for a way to naturally improve strength, stamina, and energy in soldiers, athletes, and cosmonauts.

Much of their work was unknown to most of the world because of the Iron Curtain, which prevented open contact between the Soviet Union and Western countries.

With the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, however, the information became available.

Since then, many people have used these natural supplements to combat the harmful psychological and physical effects of stress.

Here are 6 effective adaptogens proven to help combat stress, fatigue, and maintain energy levels.

  1. Wolfberry (Lycium barbarum)

Wolfberry is high in antioxidants.

It contains:

  • Phenols
  • Polysaccharides, vitamins A and C
  • Beta carotene
  • Lycopene
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamine
  • Selenium
  • Nicotinic acid

Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the cell damage that can occur when an organism is stressed and have been associated with lowering the risk of chronic diseases such as such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

  1. Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Eleuthero root is also known as Siberian ginseng. This herb is an adaptogen used to reduce fatigue.

It has been shown to improve physical performance during periods of high intensity exercise and preliminary studies in animal research suggest eleuthero root is neuroprotective, which means it can protect the brain from harm.

  1. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Rhodiola is also useful for combating fatigue.

It can significantly reduce the effects of prolonged and minor physical exhaustion; the conditions that generally result in burnout.

In addition to its anti-fatigue capabilities, rhodiola also can:

 

  1. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)

Ashwaganda is mostly noted for its ability to prevent anxiety.

However, it performs many other functions in the brain and the rest of the body too.

Ashwaganda has been shown to:

 

  1. Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)

Ayurvedic medicine has employed the use of bacopa for centuries in the treatment of epilepsy and asthma.

As an adaptogen it is used to improve cognition by reducing anxiety and improving memory formation.

Most of the scientific studies involving bacopa’s ability to increase cognition have been conducted in the elderly. However, there is research to support bacopa’s effectiveness in young populations as well making it a suitable adaptogen for people of all ages.

  1. Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Schizandra is known as the “five flavor berry”. This because it contains all five of the basic flavours. That is: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, and bitter.

It has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to nourish the kidneys and heart.

The majority of research on schizandra as an adaptogen was performed in Russia decades ago. And most of it cannot be accessed.

From the limited Western evidence available and research that can be accessed from Russia, schizandra increases work accuracy and antioxidant protection while also decreasing feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.

Are adaptogens safe for everyone?

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Generally.

There are a few groups of people who should talk to a medical health professional before using them, however.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician. Most adaptogens have not been adequately tested for pregnant and breast-feeding women so their safety under these conditions is not clear.

People who are taking other medications should also consult a physician or pharmacist when trying something to new to make sure there aren’t any potential negative interactions you may not be aware of.

Conclusion

Stress is a fact of life. We cannot rid ourselves of it.

But we can provide our body with the proper resources to better manage the physical response to stress.

Adaptogens are a healthy way to increase your capacity to deal with stress and improve your mental and physical performance.

Let me know what you think about adaptogens in the comments.

If you’d like to know more about adaptogens, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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Everything you need to know about cleanses

We’ve all felt it. You’re tired, feeling a little sluggish. Just gross all around.

It feels like something, or many things, in your body just aren’t running the way they’re supposed to.

What do you do?

If you’re like many people you go on a cleanse. A little reset for your body.

With this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about cleanses so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to do one.

We’ll talk about the scientific evidence regarding cleanses, how they work, what you should look for in a good cleanse, and what cleanses should be avoided at all costs.

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Do cleanses work?

Yes. Especially in terms of weight loss and weight management.

Cleanses that involve intermittent fasting for 24-48 hours have been reported as healthier and more effective than every other popular heart healthy diet.

A 15-month study designed to test the long-term success of using the Isagenix system on sustained weight loss and its effect on detoxification and metabolism was recently conducted by Dr. Paul Arciero of Skidmore College. The results were published in the journal Nutrients in 2016.

The study concluded that the system was more efficacious at improving body weight and composition (fat mass, abdominal fat, and lean body mass) compared to traditional heart healthy diets.

The results of this study support the plethora of anecdotal evidence out there.

After a cleanse people generally report feeling better, having more energy, being more focused, and experiencing a general increase in their well-being. People definitely aren’t imagining these things.

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How do cleanses work?

Most likely through three different routes.

  • By removing the troublesome parts of your diet.

The vast majority of us consume a lot of food that isn’t good for us. I’m talking the high octane, nutritionally void comfort food that tastes oh so good. While this stuff is delicious, our bodies generally hate it.

Simply removing this crap from our diet could be responsible for a pretty significanthealthy wheys corey munegatto isagenix should i cleanse image 3 boost in the good feels when we go on a cleanse.

The second part of this are the foods that we may be sensitive, intolerant, or allergic to.

A lot of people have sensitivities to some food groups.

This may be because they’ve never made the mental association between their bad feelings and said food group. Or, it may be because the discomfort caused by the food group isn’t severe enough for them to warrant a behavioral change.

Either way, going on a cleanse and coincidentally removing a troublesome food group from your diet is another potential explanation for the positive results of a cleanse.

  • The mental aspects of a cleanse.

There is a strong relationship between the body and mind. If you need convincing, just look at the placebo effect.

If you do something that you believe is good for your body and believe will make you feel good, then it’s going to make you feel good.

Making the decision to start putting your health first and take care of your body by going on a cleanse is incredibly gratifying. Therefore, you’re going to experience some good feelings.

It’s also very fulfilling to discipline yourself and stick to a strict dietary regime for any length of time. Especially if you’ve had trouble in these areas of your life in the past.

  • They allow your body to do what it does best.

Giving your body a break from all of the bad food we generally consume gives your body a chance to catch up. It allows the cleansing organs we have to do their thing.

This natural process takes place in the kidneys and the liver.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs on either side of your spine, just below your ribs and behind your stomach. Each one is about 4-5 inches long and about the size of your fist.

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The kidneys remove wastes, control the body’s electrolyte balance, and control fluid balance.

Blood comes into the kidneys, wastes are removed, and filtered blood goes back into the body. Wastes removed from the blood are expelled in urine.

The kidneys are incredibly efficient at their jobs. A person can have as little as 10% of their kidneys working and they may not even notice that something is off.

The second natural site of cleansing in the body is at the liver.

The liver is much larger than the kidneys. It weighs about three pounds and sits on the right side of the stomach. It’s up in behind the rib cage.

It filters blood coming from the digestive tract before it allows it to move along to the rest of the body. Many things that come in from the digestive tract, such as chemicals and drugs that need to be detoxified, will be detoxified here.

Good cleanses, like the ones I’m going to discuss soon, provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to support the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself.

What does a good cleanse have?

Good cleanses provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to function optimally.

And the best ones employ bouts of intermittent fasting for 24-48 hours.

Cleanses to avoid

  • Avoid cleanses that are low in vitamins and minerals your body desperately needs.

Many cleansing programs are low in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins B-12 and D, calcium, iron, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Cleanses that rob you of essential vitamins and minerals aren’t going to support your liver and kidneys and allow them to do what they do best. And a cleanse that doesn’t provide the optimal conditions for cleansing, isn’t a good cleanse.

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Who should do cleanses?

People who are generally healthy and have no pre-existing medical conditions should safely be able to try a cleanse that isn’t too restrictive and is relatively short-term.

Conclusion

The latest research suggests cleanses that encompass caloric restriction and intermittent fasting are incredibly effective. They’ve outperformed all other heart healthy dietary recommendations out there.

Cleanses work to help you feel better by preventing the junk from your diet entering your body in the first place, by giving you a positive mental kick, and by allowing the natural cleansing mechanisms you have to do what they do best.

Anybody who doesn’t have pre-existing medical conditions will benefit from going on a cleanse.

That’s everything you need to know about cleansing. Let me know what you think in the comments.

If you’d like to know more about good cleansing options, please contact me, I’d love to help you out.

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