How low vitamin D hurts performance at the gym and in sport

Often, when you think of vitamin D you think of calcium and bone health. But it has many roles in the body besides promoting bone strength and growth: it’s involved in proper muscle functioning, strengthening the immune system, cardiovascular health, brain health, and much more.

Approximately 40% of the U.S. population does not get enough vitamin D. And only 44% of athletes reportedly meet their vitamin D needs.

These numbers could be even lower for those of us up here in Canada where temperatures are generally a little colder and we’re further away from the equator.

You might think, “so what?” Who cares if my vitamin D levels are a little low.

Vitamin D insufficiency can have some significant effects on your health and performance, especially if you’re an athlete or someone who works out regularly.

This article is going to dive into some of the science surrounding vitamin D in the athletic population to convince you that, unless you get sufficient vitamin D, you will never realize your full athletic potential.

But first…

How do you know if you’re low in vitamin D?

Having low levels of vitamin D can happen for a number of reasons. The most common ones have to do with your diet, how much sunlight you’re exposed to regularly, and the pigment of your skin.

Vegans are more likely to be deficient because most of the best dietary sources of vitamin D are from animals. These include fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.

To make vitamin D, your body needs to be exposed to sunlight. People who are mostly homebound, live a good distance north of the equator, or generally spend most of their time with their skin well covered by clothes are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Melanin is a pigment in the skin that makes it darker. Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Darker skin means more melanin, more melanin means less of an ability to make vitamin D. Less of an ability to make vitamin D means a greater risk of being vitamin D deficient. So, if you have darker skin, you’re more likely to have low vitamin D.

Recognizable symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are bone pain and muscle weakness. There are more subtle signs that are much more subtle and need to be diagnosed by a physician after they rule out other potential explanations.

How vitamin D deficiency affects your athletic performance

Vitamin D deficiency impacts athletic performance in two ways: 1) increased inflammation and immune system suppression leading to an increased risk of infection and delayed recovery from exercise and injury and 2) altered muscle strength and performance.

Increased inflammation and immune system suppression

The ability of vitamin D to influence the functioning of the immune system is no secret. It has been demonstrated many times before in animal and cellular studies.

Less is known about the affects of low vitamin D in the athletic and active populations.

According to one study, people who endurance train an average of 10 hours per week with low vitamin D levels experience more upper respiratory tract infections.

Upper respiratory tract infections involve:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Tonsillitis
  • Pharyngitis
  • Laryngitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Otitis media
  • The common cold

Other researchers have noticed a decrease in the immune system component Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA) in athletes with low vitamin D.

SIgA is an antibody critical in protecting the mouth and nose, the lungs, and the guts from invading bugs.

Low vitamin D can also make active people and athletes more vulnerable to viral infection.

Cytokines are substances secreted by immune cells that act on other cells of the body and help them do things like defend themselves.

Two cytokines in particular, called IL-10 and IFN-γ, protect against viral infections. These two cytokines are lower in athletes with low vitamin D.

Together, these studies tell us that unless athletes and active people get enough vitamin D, they could be at a greater risk of getting sick, which could interrupt training and could impact recovery and adaptation to training stimuli.

Decreased muscle strength and performance

Pretty much all we know about the effect of vitamin D on muscle strength and performance comes from studies where athletes were given a vitamin D supplement. To my knowledge, no one has framed a study looking at muscle strength or performance in athletes with low vitamin D levels.

In 2015 a study was published showing that a single dose of vitamin D was associated with a 13% increase in quad and hamstring strength.

Ballet dancers given vitamin D experienced improvements in vertical jump and isometric quad strength.

While it hasn’t been directly tested experimentally, it is quite plausible that decreased vitamin D levels in athletes and active people would result in decreased muscle strength and performance.

How much is enough?

More work needs to be done to determine a dose of vitamin D adequate to meet the needs of athletes and highly active people. Until then, we have to rely on the recommendations set forth by the US Institute of Medicine, which is deemed accurate for 97.5% of individuals.

The current recommendation is an average daily intake of 10-20µg.

If you don’t get a lot of sun exposure, you live a good distance north of the equator, or you’re vegan, this number could be higher.

With these things taken into consideration, most experts agree that an average daily intake of 25-100µg should do the trick.


Vitamin D plays a significant role in general health. It is incredibly important for optimal performance in the gym and in sports because of its ability to reduce the risk of illness, prevent injury, and promote recovery and adaptation. Vitamin D supplementation has even been linked to increased muscle strength and performance in certain types of athletes.

Make sure you’re getting enough in your system by supplementing if you fall into one of the categories of people that could be at a particular risk for vitamin D deficiency. Or, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms commonly noticed with vitamin D deficiency.


The Health Implications of Vitamin D Insufficiency and Low Energy Availability in Athletes

Vitamin D Deficiency

How Much Vitamin D Should You Take For Optimal Health?

Adaptogens beyond stress, fatigue, and energy: A journey into improved cognition, well-being, and depression.

Adaptogens are a group of herbal supplements that have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions.

These miracle substances are most commonly known for their ability to prevent the physical and chemical effects of stress on the body, which leads to decreased fatigue, improved performance, and better stress regulation. But, some adaptogens go above and beyond helping in other areas of your life as well.

This article is going to dive into the role adaptogens (mainly eleuthero and roseroot) play in improving cognition, well-being, and depression.

For a primer on adaptogens, check out one of my previous articles. It should get you up to speed on what adaptogens are, a little bit about their history, and it will provide you with information about adaptogen’s ability to decrease fatigue and combat stress.

Adaptogens and cognition

Cognition is just a fancy psychology word that means “to think”. We use our cognitive abilities when we do things we typically associate with using our brain – math, playing chess, reading a book – but there are also some subtler forms of thought – interpreting sensory input from various places in our body, orchestrating physical actions, and empathizing with others that we don’t typically think of as requiring conscious thought.

But they fall under the umbrella of cognition, too.

Two adaptogens, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) are associated with increasing cognition. That is, they’re associated with being able to improve our ability to think.

Eleuthero is also known as Siberian ginseng. One study showed that 300mg of daily eleuthero supplementation for 8 weeks significantly improved cognitive function in an elderly population.

Roseroot has been more extensively studied for its ability to improve our ability to think: Four studies have linked roseroot supplementation with improved cognition.

In the first, 170mg of roseroot for two weeks was shown to improve performance on work-related tasks by approximately 20%. The participants in the study were physicians and the improvement in cognition observed in the study could be due to decreased fatigue.

The second study involved 82 people taking 200mg of rhodiola extract twice a day for four weeks. The participants in this study experienced increased social abilities and work function.

The third study examined students during exam time. The researchers tested the effect of 20 days of roseroot supplementation versus placebo on test scores in 40 students. They noticed taking roseroot improved test scores by 8.4% relative to placebo.

The fourth and final study examining the effects of roseroot on cognition looked at the effect of five days of supplementation (either 370mg or 555mg) on the capacity for mental work. This double-blind study of 121 participants showed that roseroot supplementation increased the capacity for mental work relative to placebo.

Adaptogens and well-being

Well-being is a measure that goes above and beyond the traditional definition of health.

It’s a term that incorporates the physical, the mental, and the social aspects of life to get an understanding of your feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, accomplishment, and comfort.

It’s probably the most scientific measure we have of asking “how happy are you” in a philosophical sense.

Roseroot supplementation, the same adaptogen mentioned in the previous section, has been linked to improvements in measures of subjective well-being in two separate studies.

The first study I’m mentioning here is one of the same studies showing an improvement in cognition with roseroot supplementation: the study testing the effects of 20 days of roseroot supplementation in students during exam time.

The researchers conducting this study also included a measure of the general well-being of the participants and noted an increase relative to the placebo group.

The second study was also mentioned in the previous section: the study testing the effect of 5 days of roseroot supplementation in military cadets.

The researchers in this study also included a measure of well-being and, much like the other study, noticed an improvement in well-being with roseroot supplementation.

Adaptogens and depression

Depression is a medical illness that can creep its way into just about every aspect of your life. It negatively affects how you feel, think, and act.

It’s estimated that 1 in 15 adults suffer from depression and 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some point in their lives.

The adaptogen roseroot has been linked to being able to decrease depression in one double-blind study.

The study, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, tested the effects of 42 days of roseroot supplementation in patients diagnosed with depression.

They measured depression using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD) questionnaire and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI).

Roseroot supplementation improved scores on the HAMD rating scale by 30-35% and by 50% on the BDI.

How to take eleuthero and roseroot

Eleuthero can be found in supplements as root, stem, and leaf extracts. The dose in the study showing improvements in cognition was 300mg per day. So, if you want to experience cognitive benefits as a result of eleuthero, you should look for supplements with at least this much in them per serving.

The doses used in the studies involving roseroot ranged from 100mg to 680mg. To experience the benefits associated with roseroot on cognition, well-being, and depression, you need to take at least 100mg of roseroot per day.


Adaptogens have gained a decent respect for their ability to help manage stress, fatigue, and energy.

As research continues to develop, we learn more about their other functions.

Benefits of eleuthero and roseroot beyond stress, fatigue, and energy have solid scientific backing. Do you supplement with either of these? What has your experience been like? Let me know in the comments below!

If you found the post informative, please give it a like and follow the blog for updates when new articles are published. You can also find Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.







When fathers exercise, kids are healthier: how this works

Men listen up!

The lifestyle you’re living right now is having huge effects on the lives of your children; even if they’re not born yet.

A new study is telling us that male exercise habits before conception impact the health of offspring well into their adulthood.

You read that right.

If you exercise right now, your unborn child will end up healthier than if you didn’t.

If you’d like to learn more about the findings of this study, keep reading. I’m going to cover the details of the study and break down the biology that makes this connection between father and unborn child possible.

The research

Here’s a link to the original study published in the journal Diabetes earlier this week. Please check it out.

It’s been shown before that the development of type 2 diabetes and poor metabolic health in children can be linked to the crummy diets of the parents.

What Dr. Kristin Stanford – a physiology and cell biology researcher at the Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center – and her team of researchers wanted to know was how exercise in males affects the health of the offspring.

As a tag on, they also looked at the effect a high-fat diet in males had on offspring.

They answered these questions by observing glucose metabolism, body weight, and fat mass in offspring from males placed in four different conditions before they were allowed to breed and produce offspring.

  • Some males were fed a normal diet, then not allowed to exercise
  • Some males were fed a high-fat diet, then not allowed to exercise
  • Some males were fed a normal diet, then allowed to exercise as much as they wanted
  • Some males were fed a high-fat diet, then allowed to exercise as much as they wanted

The male mice from each of these four conditions were then paired with a female, they got jiggy with it, babies were produced, and those babies grew up and their metabolic health was observed.

The results were incredible.

Male mice that exercised produced offspring that had improved glucose metabolism, decreased body weight, and decreased fat mass. And these effects lasted long into the adulthood of the offspring.

If that wasn’t incredible enough, the researchers showed that exercise even counteracted the effects of a male high-fat diet!

How this works

The researchers who conducted the study think this is working mainly through something called epigenetics (we’ll get more into this in just a second).

But first, we need to know a little bit about genes and DNA.

The basics of genes

You’ve probably heard of DNA before. If you’ve watched anything like CSI or Jurassic Park you’ve heard the term before.

DNA is the basis of all living things. DNA is a molecule that provides the basic information living things need to live and function.

The easiest way to think of DNA is to think of it like the blueprints of a house.

The blueprints of a house give you all the information you need to build that house. DNA contains all the information you need build and maintain a living thing.

DNA is organized into slightly bigger structures called genes.

In our house-blueprint analogy, genes would be the same as blueprints for individual rooms within the house – it’s a way of organizing a massive amount of information.

To give you an idea of how much information is required to create you and keep you up and running, the human body contains about 20,000 to 25,000 genes!

Most of these genes are exactly the same from person to person.

Only about 1% of genes in humans are slightly different (the DNA code making up the gene isn’t quite the same).

But, it’s the differences in this small number of genes that lead to one person being different from another.

The basics of epigenetics

Differences from person to person can also be controlled with something called epigenetics.

Epi- is a Greek prefix that means: “over, outside of, or around.”

So epigenetics means something “in addition to” the traditionally known way of controlling genes (aka slight variations in the DNA sequence making up genes that we talked about in the previous section).

Epigenetics involve altering gene expression without changing the DNA.

Again going back to the house-blueprint analogy, epigenetics is kind of like a contractor coming in and saying we’re not going to use certain parts of the blueprint but we’ll use others.

It’s an additional level of control.

A level of control that allows your body to respond to your environment and lifestyle.

Now let’s bring this full circle and talk about epigenetics and how it could be allowing dad’s exercise to influence the health of the offspring.

How male exercise impacts the health of the offspring

Each person contains two sets of genes: you get one set from your mom and one set from your dad.

The set of DNA from your dad is housed in the sperm.

As science is now discovering, epigenetic changes can be transferred on to the offspring.

So, when a male exercises, some genes that control glucose metabolism, body weight, and fat mass may be altered by turning some genes on and others off. These changes are occurring at the gene expression level in the dad before he’s even thinking of having a kid.

These beneficial, epigenetic are transferred on to the sperm the man produces.

These sperm then meet up with the egg and the DNA making up the offspring has the beneficial imprint of the father’s activities on it. This allows the child to experience some of those positive effects.

A Healthy Whey of life

I started Healthy Wheys to advocate for living a better, healthier life. It’s good for you, and, as we’re learning, it’s good for your family and the people around you too.

Science is now telling us that the way you live your life could impact the lives of children you don’t even have yet. If that’s not a reason to live a healthier lifestyle, I don’t know what is.

Please contact me if you’d like to start making some decisions that will lead to better health and wellness and a better lifestyle for you and your loved ones. It’s my mission in live to help you out.

Let me know what you think of the study in the comments! Are you an avid exerciser already? Do studies like this provide you with any added motivation?

Resources and further reading

Gene basics

Epigenetics basics

The published study


10 energy-boosting habits to incorporate into your daily routine

Energy is your most valuable commodity. Nowadays, the shortage of time, the responsibilities, and the challenges of day-to-day life are endless.

If you don’t have the energy to look at your day and say, “I’ve got this,” you can find yourself in a constant mental state of feeling behind – the fatigue and exhaustion set in shortly after.

And you can only have so many cups of coffee.

Maybe you’re trying to cut back on caffeine and are searching for alternative ways to boost energy. Whatever your motives are, here are 10 healthy, research-backed, habits that will help you boost your energy.

Have fun kicking today in the butt!

1) Meditate

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Nursing is an exhausting profession – mentally and physically.

In a study recently published in the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, a group of researchers tested the effects of 8-weeks of mindfulness based training on a group of 36 nurses. Throughout the course of the study, they measured the nurses’ ability to keep their attention focused and recorded brain activity during the task.

They found the energy required to maintain attention decreased as the nurses became more trained.

This study tells us meditation can boost energy by using less of it when we’re carrying out our day-to-day tasks.

2) Drink water

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Not drinking enough water decreases energy.

Scientists from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory showed that mild dehydration alters a person’s mood, energy levels, and ability to think clearly – even at rest.

Stay on top of your water game by drinking at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. If you wait until your thirsty, it’s already too late.

Boost your energy by staying hydrated!

3) Have a meal replacement shake for breakfast

Meal replacement shakes are great because they act as a full meal replacement (shocking, I know). Compared to a protein shake, which contains protein but minimal amounts of carbohydrate and fat, meal replacement shakes are packed with protein, carbs, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

When life is hectic, it’s easy to forego breakfast and rely on caffeine to get you through the morning. This inevitably leads to a late morning crash, however.

They’ll supply you with the energy you need to start the day. It gives you everything you need, and it’s one less decision to make in the morning as you head out the door.

4) Take a nap

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Naps are not for the lazy and unmotivated. Some powerful, famous people have effectively used a little midday shut-eye to keep themselves alert and effective. People like Margaret Thatcher, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein.

If it’s good enough for these geniuses, it’s good enough for you, right?

Sleep experts suggest 10-20 minute power naps are optimal for a quick boost of alertness.

Reset the system and close your eyes for a bit.

5) Take a walk

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Patrick O’Connor and Derek Randolph from the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia found just 10-minutes of walking or climbing a flight of stairs is more effective for boosting energy than a 50mg tablet of caffeine.

They published their results in the journal: Physiology and Behavior.

This study suggests a more effective way to beat the mid-afternoon crash may be to get up and get moving, rather than reaching for another cup of coffee.

6) Get enough sleep

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We are not a culture that values sleep. In the U.S. the average hours of sleep during the work week is 6 hours and 40 minutes.

Combine that with another stat saying only 10 percent of adults require less than 7 to 8 hours and it’s reasonable to conclude that much of the population is sleep-deprived.

Not getting enough restful sleep is detrimental to daytime energy. Combat this detriment by making sleep a priority.

Some healthy bedtime habits include maintaining a consistent bed time, cutting down on screen use in the few hours before bed, and cutting back on caffeine – especially in the afternoon.

7) Take a break

Want to do more? Do less. That is, take more breaks.

Research suggests we’re designed to work in cycles of energy expenditure and rest. We typically override signals to recover by slamming coffee, energy drinks, or sugar.

Just five minutes of recovery where you take the time to get up, walk around, or have a glass of water can do wonders for your energy levels and your productivity.

Some take this concept further by using the pomodoro technique. This technique involves setting a timer for 25-minutes of non-stop work, then allowing yourself 5-minutes of recovery before you put in another 25-minutes. And the cycle continues.

8) Exercise regularly


A counterintuitive way to combat fatigue and boost energy is to expend more energy.

The human body is incredibly adaptive. When you exercise, your body rises up to meet the energy challenge by making more energy available.

Low to moderate intensity exercise is the best for boosting energy levels.

9) Eat right

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Food is fuel. So, it’s not surprising that high-quality food leads to high-quality fuel and energy.

Keeping energy levels high requires a balanced diet including unrefined carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Get your vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and take a daily multivitamin to ensure you get all the nutrients you need.

10) Get outside

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Spending time outdoors is good for the body; it’s good for the soul.

In 2010, lead investigator Richard Ryan (Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry, and Education) of the University of Rochester published a study being outside in nature makes people feel more alive.

They also suggested that the boost in energy people experienced went beyond just what you would expect from physical activity and social interaction alone.


The daily challenges of life can be exhausting. Adopting a lifestyle that puts you in the optimal physical and mental state to meet those challenges can do wonders.

Experiment with one or a few of the habits I’ve listed here and let me know how they work for you!

If you liked the article, please leave it a like. If you’re interested in more content, follow the blog and find Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.



Quick guide: Taurine Supplementation

Taurine is a heart and blood healthy compound that provides many health benefits. It aids several anti-oxidant defense systems, it helps control blood sugar, reduces some forms of insulin resistance, and it has beneficial effects on kidney, eye, and nerve health.

Few people realize how much the normal diet contains: between 40 and 400 milligrams per day. That’s because you can get taurine from many different food sources. Things like chicken, beef, pork, and seafood all have abundant amounts of taurine in them. And, our body produces it too!

Athletes and your regular gym nuts are drawn to taurine because of its link to performance. Studies suggest just one daily dose of taurine leads to better endurance performance. But is it safe?

Taurine has gotten a bad rep in the last few years because of its link to energy drinks. More accurately put: because people abused energy drinks, everything they contained were deemed bad for your health.

I’d like to put your mind at ease.

In this article you’ll learn about how taurine works to improve performance, how you should take it, and we’ll cover a few points on safety.

What is taurine?

Taurine is an amino sulfonic acid. It’s not technically an amino acid because it has some chemical structural differences.

You’ll find taurine most prominently in excitable tissues – cardiac tissue mostly (the stuff that makes up your heart). It also circulates systemically at lower levels.

As a molecule it is highly water soluble. This means it dissolves very efficiently in water and gets carried to the body’s tissues in blood plasma.

How does taurine improve performance?

Taurine is thought to contribute to improve performance mainly through its ability to protect against the effects of oxidative stress during exercise and its ability to increase fat oxidation during exercise.

Muscle contractions while your exercising create reactive oxygen species (ROS) – little molecules that have many deleterious effects, including reduced force generation and muscle atrophy.

ROS are damaging because they contain a wonky number of electrons. This wrong number of electrons makes the molecule unstable. Because things in biology crave stability, it reacts with whatever it can to make itself stable. The unfortunate consequence of this reaction is it sacrifices another molecules stability turning it into a free radical. Unstable molecules don’t function properly and can have many unfortunate effects within the cell.

They contribute to muscle weakness and fatigue, DNA mutations in muscle cells, lipid peroxidation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis and necrosis within muscle tissue. All these things combine to limit muscle’s ability produce energy and function optimally.

Antioxidants inhibit the oxidation of other molecules, essentially counteracting the deleterious effects of ROS.

Antioxidants step in and tell ROS to “cut the crap” and calm down. They do this by donating electrons to ROS and making them stable molecules again.

The structure of taurine allows it to perform this electron donating, ROS neutralizing reaction.

Taurine also contributes to performance by increasing the amount of fat oxidation during exercise.

Fat is the most potent source of energy for working muscles. Breaking down one gram of fat can produce 9 Calories of energy. In comparison, one gram of protein or carbohydrate produces just 4 Calories of energy. So, everything else held constant, breaking down fat will produce more energy than breaking down protein or carbohydrate.

Relying on fat for energy is more efficient and can definitely increase endurance performance.

Cyclists who ingested taurine before exercise experienced a 16% increase in total fat oxidation over the 90-minute course of their workout.

The increase in fat oxidation these cyclists experienced suggests they were able to use fat as an energy source to a greater extent than when there was no taurine ingested before the workout.

How to supplement with taurine

To experience the beneficial effects of taurine (e.g. improved performance), doses of 500 milligrams to 2,000 milligrams have shown efficacy. So you want to find a supplement that has at least 500 milligrams of taurine in it.

If you’re worried about taking too much, don’t be. Within reason.

The upper limit for taurine toxicity (2,000 milligrams) is much higher than necessary: high doses are well-tolerated. Up to 3,000 milligrams per day can be ingested with a low risk of experiencing side-effects.

Why taurine is safe

Several studies investigating the safety of taurine supplementation have been conducted. All demonstrated no safety concerns or serious adverse effects. This was noticed even in doses as high as 10,000 milligrams per day for six months straight!

Other studies have looked at 1,000 to 6,000 milligrams per day for as long as a year. They also noted no side-effects with taurine supplementation.

Taurine in moderate doses and without other stimulants (caffeine excluded) or alcohol is completely safe.

The negative health risks that have been tied to taurine are completely due to its abuse and its unfortunate association with energy drinks. Keep away from those and taurine is an excellent way to improve your performance in the gym, or wherever you choose to do your workouts.

Taking 500 milligrams once or twice a day will keep you on the healthy side of things.


Taurine is a compound found in many pre-workout supplements that can provide many health benefits as an antioxidant, and it can improve your performance by altering the energy substrate you most heavily utilize while you’re exercising.

In moderate amounts it has been deemed completely safe.

Thanks for reading and have a great week! Please leave your comments below and tell me about your experiences with Taurine! And, if you’re looking for more information on supplementation, give me a shout; I’d love to help you out.

As always, follow the blog for regular updates on amazing content, follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and like the article if you feel like it deserves it.