Creatine: Its many benefits beyond strength and power (Part 2)

Creatine has been a staple supplement in the gym bags of bodybuilding and weight training aficionados for decades. That’s because creatine acts as a storage vessel for phosphate in muscle cells, which makes ATP regeneration more efficient and gives muscles that extra bit of energy they need to push harder for longer.

For a refresher on creatine biology, check out Part 1.

Increased energy production means an increase in maximal strength and resistance training volume, leading to bigger gains and bigger muscle size.

Continued research into this wonder supplement has revealed a multitude of other health benefits. In this article (Part 2 of our series on creatine) we’re discussing the many health benefits of creatine supplementation.

  1. Creatine helps with hydration and thermoregulation

Creatine is osmotically active, which means it attracts water. And, since creatine is predominantly stored in muscle cells, water is drawn and retained there. Increased water within muscle cells means increased hydration status.

That alone is good for performance. But it also has another benefit: thermoregulation.

Your body has an optimal temperature. It lies between 37 and 37.8 degrees Celsius – a pretty narrow window. If your core temperature drifts beyond this range, it cannot function properly. Thermoregulation is the process that allows your body to maintain core temperature between 37 and 37.8 degrees.

Increased water retention in muscle cells can improve thermoregulation. The more hydrated your muscles, the better you can control body temperature.

  1. Creatine improves sprinting ability

Creatine supplementation can increase sprint performance.

Eighteen well-trained sprinters consumed 20 grams of creatine (or no creatine as a control) and their sprinting ability was tested in two ways: a 100-meter sprint and six intermittent 60-meter sprints.

Creatine supplementation increased sprint velocity in the 100-meter sprint test and reduced the total time of the six intermittent 60-meter sprints.

  1. Creatine improves endurance and speed

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the body. Increased glycogen storage means more potential energy in case it is needed during exercise. Recent research suggests creatine can improve glycogen synthesis. Because of this ability, creatine has attracted the attention of scientists studying endurance.

A group at Australia Catholic University sought to test the effect of creatine on endurance performance. The researchers gave 18 male cyclists and triathletes creatine, or placebo, combined with a diet either moderately high in carbohydrates or high in carbohydrates.

The athletes in the study were then subjected to long distance performance trials interspersed with short sprints.

The authors of the study were able to conclude that creatine leads to greater power in both moderate and carb-loaded groups. Creatine with a moderate carbohydrate diet increased muscle glycogen stores by 53%.

  1. Creatine enhances recovery and prevents injury

Studies show creatine supplementation leads to faster glycogen re-synthesis after workouts, less muscle cramping, and fewer incidences of muscle tightness or strain.

Fourteen healthy, male volunteers participated in a study testing the effect creatine supplementation has on glycogen re-synthesis after exercise. The men participating cycled to exhaustion. Then they took a creatine supplement or a placebo.

The group taking the creatine supplement had increased muscle glycogen in the 24 hours following the exhaustive exercise. Improved glycogen re-synthesis following exhaustive exercise could mean improved exercise performance during repeated exercise and an overall increase in training volume. Both of which could lead to enhanced physical gain.

Researchers at Baylor University looked at the incidence of cramping in NCAA Division IA football players over the course of a 4-month season. The athletes took 0.3 grams of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight once a day for 5 days. Then 0.03 grams per kilogram after workouts, practices, and games.

The athletes taking creatine experienced less cramping, muscle tightness, muscle strains, and total injuries compared to the players not taking creatine.

  1. Creatine leads to better bones and brains

In older women, creatine supplementation aids bone health.

Thirty-three women with an average age of 57 participated in a 12-month study. All women in the study took 0.1 grams of creatine per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Half of the women partook in a resistance training program 3 days per week while the other half did not.

After 1 year, the women who exercised and took the creatine supplement had a higher bone mineral density and had a better measurement on an indicator of bone strength.

How creatine is inducing these changes in bone isn’t definitive, but it likely is an indirect effect to creatine’s ability to stimulate muscle growth and development.

Creatine improves brain health in young and older populations. A systematic review of six studies looking at creatine and its effects on cognitive function suggested creatine can improve short-term memory and intelligence/reasoning in healthy people. Short term memory is your capacity for holding a small amount of information for a short period of time. The systematic review was not able to draw any conclusions on the effect of creatine on other aspects of cognitive function.

Low creatine levels in the brain has also been linked to mental fatigue. Creatine supplementation can increase mental stamina.

In a task involving repeatedly performing a mathematical calculation, participants who took 8 grams of creatine per day for 5 days leading up to the trial experienced less mental fatigue as a result of the test. After taking the supplement, they also had increased cerebral oxygenated hemoglobin, which suggests increased oxygen usage in the brain.

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Do you take creatine? Let me know about your experiences with it in the comments below. Follow the blog and follow Healthy Wheys on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for notifications when new articles are posted.

Check in next week for Part 3 of the creatine series.

Sources and further reading

Why creatine could help you beat the heat

Not just for muscle building: Count the reasons you should take creatine

Creatine plus carbs gives endurance athletes breakaway speed

Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters

Creatine ingestion augments dietary carbohydrate mediated muscle glycogen supercompensation during the initial 24 h of recovery following prolonged exhaustive exercise in humans

Cramping and Injury Incidence in Collegiate Football Players Are Reduced by Creatine Supplementation

Effects of Creatine and Resistance Training on Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women

Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.

Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation

 

 

 

Creatine: The basics (Part 1)

Next to protein powder, creatine is one of the most used and trusted supplements available. It’s trusted because it has a mountain of scientific research backing up its safety and its efficacy. It was first identified and named in 1832 when a scientist by the name of Michel Eugene Chevreul isolated it. That was over 100 years ago.

More than one hundred years of research has taught us a lot about what creatine can do. One hundred years is also a lot of time for misconceptions and misguided opinions about creatine to develop.

In this series of articles, we’re going to dive deep into creatine supplementation. In Part 1 (this article) we’re going to delve into what creatine is and what its function is biologically. Part 2 will cover the many benefits of creatine supplementation – it does more than just increase muscle mass and performance in the gym, and Part 3 will cover supplementation guidelines. We’ll talk about how much you need and when you need it.

This is a perfect series of articles if you’re new to creatine supplementation or if you’ve already been taking creatine and want to know more about it.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring organic compound. Naturally occurring means it exists by nature without any artificial aid and organic means it is characteristic of living things. This means you already have creatine stored within your body, even if you’re not taking a creatine supplement.

creatine

Creatine is mainly stored in muscle cells. We know this because that’s where Michel Eugene Chevreul isolated it from when he first identified it – the word creatine is based on the Greek word kreas, which means meat – and because scientists since then have used more sophisticated means to locate it in the body. Based on their results, it has been concluded that 95% of creatine is stored in muscle cells, and the other 5% is in the brain, kidneys, and liver.

What does creatine do?

Creatine was first discovered in 1832. It wasn’t until the 1920’s, however, that scientists understood its function. That nut was cracked open when researchers discovered creatine phosphate and determined creatine supported energy production in working muscle.

To understand the role creatine plays in energy production, we first have to understand adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.

** For a more in depth look at ATP and the different ways the body produces it, check out some other articles on Healthy Wheys: The essential guide to your body’s energy systems **

ATP is a complex organic chemical. Its basic chemical structure is an adenosine nucleotide bound to three phosphates. The chemical bonds between the phosphates in ATP is where the energy cells need to function is stored. Breaking the bond between the second and third phosphate releases that stored energy for use. When that bond is broken, ATP becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate).

In muscle cells, the energy produced from the breakdown of ATP is used for muscle contraction. Without ATP and those bonds between the phosphates breaking, muscles can not work.

To produce more energy, ADP has to become ATP again. This is where creatine phosphate comes in. Creatine can bind and hold a phosphate in muscle cells. It then transfers the phosphate to ADP to make it ATP again. The more creatine you have stored in muscle cells, the more creatine phosphate and the more phosphate available for ATP recycling. More ATP recycling means more energy is available for muscles to use.

When you take a creatine supplement, more creatine finds its way into muscle cells. That means that more phosphate can be stored and the energy potential of the muscle increases.

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Let me know about your experiences with creatine supplementation in the comments. And give the blog a follow for updates when new articles are posted. Next week, in Part 2 of this series on creatine, we’re going to talk about the many health benefits of creatine on health and on performance in the gym.

Taurine: Frequently Asked Questions

Taurine is an organic acid found in large amounts in the brain, retina, and blood. It is a “conditional amino acid”, meaning it can be manufactured by the body when insufficient amounts are ingested from the diet.

Taurine has many different functions throughout the body and several uses in modern medicine. For example, it acts as a stabilizer of cell membranes and helps out a few different anti-oxidant defense systems; it is used to treat congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and liver disease; it is used in seizure disorders, autism, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder; and supplementation has been shown to improve performance in athletes. Some are a direct result of the actions of taurine, others occur through taurine’s influence on other molecules.

With so many different effects and applications, it’s easy to get confused trying to sort out what taurine does, and what it doesn’t do.

With this article, I’m going to tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about taurine.

If you’re looking for some general information about taurine and taurine supplementation, check out this previous article of mine.

#1: Is taurine a stimulant?

A stimulant refers to a compound that increases the activity of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), that is pleasurable and invigorating, or stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

On its own, taurine doesn’t seem to be a stimulant because it doesn’t fit these criteria.

While some studies have shown improvements in athletic performance and exercise capacity, this is likely occurring through taurine’s capacity as an antioxidant and membrane stabilizer, or through some function of taurine that hasn’t quite been identified yet.

Taurine is sometimes mistaken as a stimulant because a few studies have suggested taurine combined with caffeine improves mental performance. And because you’ll often find taurine listed as an ingredient in energy drinks.

#2: Is taurine a diuretic?

A diuretic is a compound that increases the production of urine.

It’s a little unclear as to whether taurine is a diuretic or not. I was able to find two studies saying it is, but one was done in hamsters and the other was super small.

The one study that was done in humans involved 8 patients with damage to their livers from liver disease. These patients had taurine added to their i.v. bag one day, had their urine volume measured, then had extra saline added to their i.v. bag the next day to serve as their own control.

A study with a sample size this small, which only included people with advanced liver disease, doesn’t allow you to draw too many conclusions. So, for now, the jury is still out on whether taurine is a diuretic.

#3: Is taurine a sleep aid?

In short, no.

Taurine is involved in the creation of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and it increases in the body with long periods of being awake. It also activates GABA(A) receptors in a region of the brain associated with sleep regulation.

These properties have led people to think that taurine is useful as a sleep aid.

However, the only study with good results suggesting taurine was useful for promoting sleep was done in fruit flies.

Studies done in rats showed minimal effects and the one study involving people didn’t show good results either.

#4: Can you take taurine before bed?

Taurine on its own is not a stimulant. So, yes, it can be taken before bed without any risk of disrupting your sleep.

Do be careful about other ingredients that might be appearing alongside taurine though. Often you’ll find taurine in energy drinks or pre-workout supplements, which contain caffeine and other stimulants that may make it difficult to fall asleep.

#5: Does taurine help with stress?

Taurine can be found in many different regions of the brain and can be taken in by neurons. In people, taurine levels found in the blood are related to depression.

One study examined the effect of taurine supplementation on chronically stressed rats.

The researchers supplemented rats with taurine before stress and measured changes in depression-like behavior, hormones, neurotransmitters, inflammatory factors, and neurotrophic factors.

The animals given taurine had decreased depression-like behaviors and displayed beneficial changes in many of the hormones and other factors measured. Based on the changes the researchers observed, they concluded that taurine may be involved in regulating the HPA axis (the master regulator of the stress response).

While these results have not been tested in humans, taurine does seem pretty promising in being able to help the brain cope with stress.

Conclusion

Taurine is found in many different parts of the body. Because it is so widespread, it plays many different roles in human physiology. Some science has discovered and characterized already, many remain active areas of research.

What do we know taurine does? Taurine is an antioxidant, it stabilizes cell membranes, it improves athletic performance and exercise capacity, it is beneficial for mental performance when combined with caffeine, it can safely be taken before bed, and it likely helps with stress management.

What doesn’t taurine do? Taurine is not a stimulant, it doesn’t seem to be a diuretic, and it is not a sleep aid.

Do you use taurine in your supplement stack? Have you had any personal experiences with it that don’t line up with what’s published about it in the science world? Let me know about it in the comments below. And please subscribe to the blog to get updates when new articles are posted!

Sources and further reading

Effect Of Taurine Supplementation On Exercise Capacity Of Patients With Heart Failure

The Effect Of Acute Taurine Ingestion On Endurance Performance And Metabolism In Well-trained Cyclists

A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being

Taurine-induced diuresis and natriuresis in cirrhotic patients with ascites.

Effect of taurine and caffeine on sleep-wake activity in Drosophila melanogaster.

Effect of taurine on ethanol-induced sleep time in mice genetically bred for differences in ethanol sensitivity.

Effect of caffeine and taurine on simulated laparoscopy performed following sleep deprivation.

Antidepressant effect of taurine in chronic unpredictable mild stress-induced depressive rats.

Popular diets most effective for burning fat

Macronutrients are a type of food required in large amount in the diet. They’re your carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Macronutrients are essential for many biological processes. One of those processes is generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy.

In this article, we’re going to compare how four popular diets (intermittent fasting, ketogenic diet, Whole30 diet, and the paleo diet) utilize carbohydrates, fats, and protein as sources of fuel.

Intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet

Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy where you alternate between periods of fasting and regular eating. Although it should be said that most intermittent fasting dietary programs use modified fasting (you’re allowed small amounts of caloric intake) rather than real fasting (abstaining from all caloric intake).

Exactly how long you fast for and how often depends on the particular program you’re on.

There’s time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, and Ramadan intermittent fasting.

  • Time-restricted feeding means you only eat during specific hours of the day. The window typically ranges from 6-12 hours each day.
  • Alternate-day fasting means you fast every other day.
  • And Ramadan intermittent fasting means you fast during the daylight hours.

People generally like intermittent fasting because of its flexibility and because it is easier to maintain for the long term.

The ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high fat diet. The goal is to essentially replace all the calories you were getting from carbohydrates with calories from fat.

Like intermittent fasting, there are several different types.

  • The standard ketogenic diet is very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat.
  • The cyclical ketogenic diet is like the standard ketogenic diet, but with periods of high carb “refeeds”.
  • The targeted ketogenic diet allows you to add carbs around workouts.
  • And the high-protein ketogenic diet is the standard ketogenic diet, but with high amounts of protein instead of moderate amounts.

Let’s look at the way these two diets affect how your body generates energy. I grouped intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet together because they both have a similar effect.

Your body relies on ATP to fuel the biological processes that make life as we know it possible. That’s just a rule. There’s no diet that can change the amount of ATP we use or don’t use.

What a diet can change is how ATP is generated.

Your body can create ATP from four different sources: creatine phosphate, carbohydrates, fats, and protein. And it will always do it in that order. If there is creatine phosphate around, your body will generate ATP from it. If there are carbohydrates around, your body will make ATP from that. Then it moves on to using fat as a source of ATP generation and, as a last resort, protein.

Carbohydrates can be found circulating in the blood and stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.

When you’re fasting or you’re on the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are limited. Since it’s the preferred method of generating ATP, your body will use up what’s available in the blood. Once that’s gone, glycogen stores will be converted to glucose and that will be used up.

Then, your body has no choice but to mobilize fat stores and use them to create ATP. The energy has to come from somewhere.

The Whole30 diet

The Whole30 diet was developed in 2009, riding the wave of the New York Times bestselling book, The Whole30.

The rules are relatively simple: for 30 days avoid real and artificial sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods, and treats (stay away from the sour dinosaurs!). Abstaining from all of these foods for a month supposedly eliminates cravings, restores a healthy metabolism, heals the digestive tract, and reduces systemic inflammation.

The diet isn’t so much about what you do eat, it’s about what you shouldn’t be eating.

What you can eat on the Whole30 diet are moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs. Lots of vegetables. Some fruit. And lots of herbs, spices, and seasonings. The general idea is that the less ingredients, and the more pronounceable those ingredients are, the better the foods are going to be for you.

The Whole30 diet shouldn’t really alter the macronutrients your body uses to generate ATP. Without the refined sugar and heavily processed carbohydrates, you’re going to avoid fast spikes and heavy drops of blood sugar levels. But, there still will be glucose circulating and enough carbohydrates coming in from your diet (the fruits and vegetables that you’re eating) to replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscle.

The paleo diet

The paleo diet is designed to resemble what human hunter-gatherers ate eons ago – cause apparently they knew what was up when it comes to human nutrition.

The diet is based on eating whole foods and leading a physically active life.

The paleo diet is a lot like the Whole30 diet, there’s just fewer restrictions on the relative proportions of what you can eat.

First, things you have to avoid when you eat paleo:

  • Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Some vegetable oils (soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, safflower oil)
  • Trans fats (found in things like margarine)
  • Artificial sweeteners

You can eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils. In any amounts you want to.

In terms of macronutrients you rely on, eating paleo puts you in the same boat as the Whole30 diet. It really depends on what eat (and their relative proportions) of the food your allowed to consume.

You can be paleo and have a high carb diet. You can be paleo and have a low carb diet. You could be paleo and be ketogenic or do intermittent fasting too. The macronutrients you use to generate ATP (whether it’s biased towards carbohydrates or fats) all depends on the amount of carbs in your diet and how often you’re eating those carbs.

Conclusion

There are lots of diets out there. Ultimately, which one works best for you depends on who you are, your lifestyle, and your goals.

Of the most popular diets, intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet are the two that will most effectively burn fat as a source of energy. I prefer intermittent fasting because it is really adaptable and there is a lot of science backing up its health benefits.

Here’s a good article to check out if you’re interested: Intermittent fasting: Surprising update.

 

 

 

 

Do you need carbohydrates? A nutritional panel weighs in.

We are all trying to find an edge, something that will take us and our performance to the next level.

That edge takes the form of supplements. It takes the form of new training regimes. It takes the form of sport psychology.

It also takes the form of diet.

We have become increasingly aware of the intimate link between the types of food ingested and its impact on performance.

Scientific studies on the ketogenic diet and low carb diets have exponentially increased in the past 10 years. While research has undoubtedly added to the growing body of knowledge regarding how the body metabolizes different sources of fuel and what the human body needs to function optimally, it has also muddied the waters.

Some scientists believe we’ve become so enamored with the next big thing in the diet world, that we’ve forgotten what we’ve already known for centuries: carbohydrates are essential for optimal physical performance.

Carbs are essential is a conclusion drawn by an expert panel who convened in 2018 to discuss the latest science on macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) needs for physical activity.

The panel consisted of Dr. Lawrence Spriet from the University of Guelph – a prolific researcher who studies the role of diet on exercise performance; Dr. Janet Rankin from Virginia Tech – a leader in the application of sports nutrition research and principles; Dr. Katherine Beals from the University of Utah – a certified specialist in sports dietetics; and Dr. Bob Murray – a former Gatorade Sports Science Institute director and researcher and lecturer in the area sports nutrition.

The panel agreed on the necessity of carbohydrates for physical performance, especially for high intensity exercise.

Do you do high intensity exercise? Then you need carbohydrates in your diet

More people than ever are doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and other forms of high intensity exercise. It cracked many published lists as one of the top fitness trends for 2019.

High intensity training allows you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, it increases your metabolic rate for hours after you’ve finished working out, it is associated with increased fat loss, and it can reduce heart rate and blood pressure. These are just a few of the known benefits.

High intensity exercise requires lots of energy.

Energy in the body is supplied in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is the biological molecule used by cells of your body as energy to do work. That work may be building new structures, breaking down old structures, and making your muscles move.

Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can all be used to generate ATP to do work. How they get there is different for each macronutrient.

Proteins are used to generate ATP as a last resort.

The path to ATP from protein looks like this:

Protein –> Amino acids –> Keto acid –> Acetyl-CoA

Acetyl-CoA sugar is then used to generate ATP.

The path from fat to ATP looks something like this:

Fat –> Free fatty acid –> Acetyl-CoA

Finally, the path from carbohydrates to ATP:

Sugar –> Pyruvate –> Acetyl-CoA

High intensity exercise requires the use of fast-twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are capable of breaking down proteins and fats to generate ATP, but they prefer carbohydrates because it is the only macronutrient broken down fast enough to support high-intensity exercise.

If you work out at a high intensity regularly, you definitely need carbohydrates.

Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates in the body. You can find it in the liver and in muscle.

Glycogen stores in fast-twitch muscles are the primary source of fuel during high-intensity exercise.

Data suggest that most athletes do not eat enough carbohydrates after they exercise to fully replenish glycogen stores.

If you don’t replenish glycogen stores, you end up with low glycogen in your muscle, your muscle has less fuel to generate ATP, and you cannot perform at your best.

The panel referred to a serious competitor who trained for four hours a day or more. They cited this competitor’s carbohydrate needs at a whopping 3,800 carbohydrate calories per day as required to maintain a high level of performance for an extended period of time.

Most of us don’t fall into this category of strenuous competition, but if you’re are an avid exerciser and doing high-intensity workouts on a regular basis, you are probably not fully replenishing your glycogen stores between workouts and your performance could be suffering as a result.

If you’re an avid exerciser doing high-intensity workouts on a regular basis and you’re on a low carb diet, your performance is definitely suffering during your workouts. You need carbohydrates to perform at your best.

How much carbohydrates do you need in your diet?

The panel of experts suggested 5-7 g/kg bodyweight for moderate exercisers and up to 8-12 g/kg bodyweight for very heavy exercisers.

Immediately before exercise and during exercise, high-carbohydrate foods and beverages are best. These are rapidly absorbed and provide muscles with the energy they need to maintain high-intensity performance.

Immediately after exercise, carbohydrate rich foods that can be quickly digested and absorbed can alter the hormonal environment in the body to support glycogen resynthesis.

Conclusion

The recent popularity of the ketogenic diet has led to many people avoiding carbohydrates in their diet. As more studies are conducted, research is synthesized, and critically evaluated the expert panel who convened in 2018 think we are going to relearn something about carbohydrates that we’ve known for decades: that they are essential for supporting high-intensity performance.

References and further reading

High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Conclusion

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.

Sources

https://examine.com/supplements/rhodiola-rosea/

https://examine.com/supplements/eleutherococcus-senticosus/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15207399

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11081987

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22228617

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10839209

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12725561

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17990195

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression

 

 

 

 

 

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