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.

***

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.

Weight loss and aging: Changes to your exercise routine that make it easier (Part 3)

This is the final part of a 3-part series on weight loss and aging. Part 1 talked about why weight loss is more difficult beyond 40 – metabolism slows down 5% per decade, lean muscle is lost, the hormonal landscape within the body is completely different, and all of the bad eating habits you picked up in your 20’s and 30’s start to catch up with you.

Part 2 discussed a few simple changes to your eating habits that can help overcome weight loss barriers. This article, Part 3, is about your exercise routine.

What follows are some general guidelines about how much you should be exercising, the kind of exercise you should be doing, and the exercise intensity you should strive for.

How much exercise do you need?

With age, exercise needs to compensate for decreased activity levels and a slower metabolism. Considering these two factors, a good goal is to exercise every day for a total of 2-5 hours per week, depending on your current fitness level. If you’re relatively inactive at the moment, start by walking 20 minutes per day and work your way upwards to an hour of exercise per day.

What kind of exercise should you be doing?

Sarcopenia – lean muscle loss with age – is a primary contributor to a slowing metabolism as you get older. Resistance exercise is your best weapon to combat sarcopenia and preserve lean muscle mass as you age.

Resistance exercise is the type of exercise that requires you to move your limbs against resistance. That resistance can take the form of your bodyweight (push ups), elastic bands (bicep curls), weighted bars (barbell bench press), or dumbbells (shoulder press). Resistance exercise should account for 50% of your total exercise.

Here are some good examples of resistance exercises to target your core (muscles in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back), your lower body, and your upper body:

Core exercises

  1. The plank

The plank is an exercise that activates the muscles of your deep inner core: the transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles that support and control your spine and pelvis.

To do a proper plank, start with your hands and knees on the floor. Then lower your elbows to the floor and step your feet back one at a time. Your elbows should be at 90 degrees and shoulder width apart. Your heels all the way up to the top of your head should be a straight line.

  1. The roll out

The roll out targets your entire core, including the ones in your lower back. It can be done with a dedicated roller, round dumbbells, a barbell, or a gym ball.

Kneel on the ground with the roller directly in front of you. Lean forward until the roller is directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core. Roll forwards as far as you can without your upper body sagging. Then, roll back to the starting position.

Lower body exercises

  1. Body weight squat

The bodyweight squat utilizes the quads, the glutes, the calf muscles, and several muscles of the core.

Start standing straight up with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned slightly outward. Slowly bend at the knees and hips to lower your body. Throughout the entire movement your heels should be flat on the floor. Keep moving downwards until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

  1. Stability ball hamstring bridge

The stability ball hamstring bridge primarily targets the glutes and the hamstrings.

Start lying flat on your back with your feet together, resting on the top center of a stability ball. Your knees and hips are bent at about 90 degrees in the resting position. The arms lie flat at your side pointing towards your feet. Keeping your arms on the floor and your back straight, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor. The aim is to create a straight line from your shoulder down to your knees. The knees stay bent 90 degrees throughout the exercise.

Upper body exercises

  1. The push up

A classic for a good reason. The push up is a multi-joint exercise that encourages core stability. A push up uses the abdominal muscles, the deltoids, the chest muscles, stabilizing muscles in the lower and mid back, the triceps, the forearms, and the biceps.

Start with your feet together and your hands shoulder width apart right beneath the shoulder joint. Your heels to the top of your head should form a straight line. Keeping your core engaged, bend at the elbows to lower your body down towards the ground. Keep going lower until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and return to the top.

  1. The bent over row

The main muscles used during the bent over row are in the back, the latissimus dorsi, and the rhomboids.

A bent over row can be done with dumbbells, a barbell, or elastic bands. Holding the dumbbells with your palms facing down (pronated grip), bend your knees slightly and move your torso forward by bending at the waist. Keep going until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor and your arms hang perpendicular. The back should be completely flat throughout the entire exercise. Keeping the torso and the lower body stationary, lift the dumbbells toward your chest, bending the arms at the elbow. Hold at the top for a brief moment, then slowly lower the weights back towards the floor.

All resistance exercise should be light with a goal of 10-15 repetitions per movement.

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This concludes our series on weight loss and aging. I hope you found it informational and useful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below or contact me directly. I’d love to hear from you and help you out.

Weight loss and aging: Changes to your diet that make it easier (Part 2)

Losing weight is tough. Add a slowing metabolism, lean muscle loss, and a changing hormonal landscape to the equation and it gets even tougher. Last week, in Part 1 of this series, we went into why weight loss gets more difficult with age.

This week in Part 2, we’re going to discuss how the obstacles associated with age can be overcome with simple changes to your diet.

1) Become a weight loss marathoner

When you’re young, you approach weight loss as a series of sprints. Summer is coming, you lose ten pounds. Your best friend is getting married, you lose ten pounds. But winter rolls around and the shoes come off after the final dance and the weight goes right back on.

Your young body – being the well-oiled, high performance machine that is – responds to this kind of treatment because it can. So, you go through your twenties and most of your thirties learning the bad habits of yoyo dieting.

When you reach the tail end of your thirties, you begin to notice your tried and true diet strategies aren’t working as well as they used to. When you hit 40, they stop working all together.

You can’t be a diet sprinter anymore. After 40, your mindset has to change to that of a marathoner. When you’re older, it’s about doing the little things right day after day. It’s about baby steps. It’s about lifestyle change for the long haul.

2) No more late meals

People used to think that a calorie was a calorie no matter when you consumed it. And that the only thing that mattered for weight loss was calories in versus calories out. Research is changing people’s minds.

In 2013, researchers tested the effect of meal timing on weight loss. 420 people all at the same amount, they slept the same amount, and they exercised the same. The only thing that was different between the two groups in the study was the timing of their major meal of the day. One group ate it before 3 p.m. and the other ate it after 3 p.m. The group eating their major meal before 3 p.m. lost more weight than the group that ate their major meal after 3 p.m.

Another study looked at the effects of meal timing in healthy women. The participants in the study who ate lunch after 4:30 p.m. had a lower basal metabolic rate and glucose tolerance compared to the women in the study who ate their lunch at 1 p.m.

When you eat late – anywhere between dinner and bedtime – food consumed is more likely to be stored as fat.

Why this happens could have something to do with evolution. For our primal ancestors, food was scarce. Those who were able to store energy more efficiently would better be able to survive when food wasn’t available. Storing energy as fat is the most efficient way to store energy. One gram of fat holds 9 kcal of energy. Comparatively, one gram of protein or carbohydrates only holds 4 kcal of energy. These ancestors likely also ate in the evening under the cover and safety of darkness.

Those among our ancestors that ate in the evening and stored most of the food they consumed as fat had an evolutionary advantage, which means they survived to have offspring. We are descended from those offspring and have acquired the traits that made it possible for them to survive.

Another reason why eating late meals is associated with weight gain and difficulty losing weight has to do with the types of food eaten. People tend to crave sweet and salty in the evening, which tend to be higher in calories.

3) Meal quantities should change with age

With increasing age, eat less more frequently.

Large meals overwhelm the digestive system. You feel bloated as your body struggles to process what you just crammed into your stomach and blood sugar goes up and down like a roller coaster, dragging your energy levels and your mood along behind it. The bigger the meal, the bigger the crash afterwards. The bigger the crash, the more you’re going to crave sugary snacks to get you through the day.

As your body ages, the effects of large meals on the body is compounded.

Small meals less often stabilizes your blood sugar – indirectly your mood and energy as well – and maintains fatty acids in the blood at a constant level.

It also makes it easier to get all the nutrients you need in a day. One study conducted at the Queen Margaret’s University College of Edinbugh showed people who ate small meals more frequently on a regular basis ate healthier. The people in the study ate more fruits and vegetables and had higher levels of vitamin C and other nutrients than the participants who stuck to eating the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

4) What you eat matters

As you age, focus on consuming more protein and plants and less saturated fats.

Losing lean muscle is a problem with age, which makes adequate protein consumption to facilitate protein synthesis incredibly important.

Most animal fats are saturated and are solid at room temperature because they have a higher melting point than unsaturated fats. Foods high in saturated fats that should be avoided are products such as cream, cheese, butter, whole milk dairy products, and fatty meats. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are two plant products that are high in saturated fats.

Fats from plants and fish tend to be unsaturated and better for you. These are the ones you want in your diet as you age.

Sources and further reading

Why eating late at night may be particularly bad for you and your diet

Why eating little and often is best

“Weight Loss After 40” – Isagenix podcast

 

Weight loss and aging: Why it’s more difficult to lose weight with age (Part 1)

Maintaining an ideal weight is hard. It takes discipline. It takes dedication. It takes a lot of hard work. And that’s when you’re young.

Unfortunately, it gets even harder with age. By the time you’re blowing out 40 candles on your birthday, biology begins working against your weight loss efforts.

In this article, we’re going to discuss some of the features of aging that make weight loss more difficult. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series that will tell you why weight loss gets harder with age. Part 2 will cover some simple tweaks you can make to your diet and exercise routine that make weight loss over forty possible.

1) The older you are, the slower your metabolism gets

Your metabolism is the sum of all the life-sustaining chemical reactions that occur inside your body. These include the reactions that convert food to energy or building blocks for macromolecules (proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids) and those that lead to the elimination of nitrogenous wastes, which is vital for survival.

In ever day language, the word metabolism is often used as a synonym for metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy used in a given period of time. A day, for example. Metabolic rate is measured in calories. Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body uses at rest.

Basal metabolic rate decreases with age by approximately 5% every ten years after 40. If your resting metabolic rate is 1,200 calories per day when you are 40, your resting metabolic rate when your 50 would be about 1,140 calories per day. At 60, your resting metabolic rate would be approximately 1,000 calories per day.

A decreasing basal metabolic rate with age means you could start eating a surplus of calories on a daily basis without any change in your eating habits or activity levels. This could lead to unwanted weight gain. For example, if your average daily intake of calories from your diet was 1,700 calories when you’re 40, you would have a 500 calorie surplus to be used as energy to fuel bodily functions and activities. Eating the same number of daily calories when you’re 50, results in a 560 calorie surplus. When you’re 60, that’s a calorie surplus of 700.

Age Basal Metabolic Rate Calorie Surplus
40 1,200 500
50 1,140 560
60 1,000 700
70 950 750
80 900 800

Based on a daily intake of 1700 calories and a basal metabolic rate of 1,200 at age 40.

2) You lose lean muscle mass with age.

As you get older, muscles decrease in size, muscle fibers begin getting replaced by fat, muscle tissue becomes more fibrotic, muscle metabolism changes, oxidative stress increases, and the neuromuscular junction degenerates. The medical term to describe these changes is sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia occurs at a rate of approximately 0.5-1% per year after the age of 50. Sarcopenia has a significant impact on weight loss with age because lean muscle drives metabolism. The more lean muscle you have the higher your resting metabolic rate is going to be. The higher your resting metabolic rate is, the more calories you’re going to burn and the easier it’s going to be to lose weight.

Sarcopenia is just one of the factors contributing to a slowing metabolism with age.

3) Hormones change with age

For men, testosterone drops as you age. Testosterone is a steroid hormone. When you’re young it plays a key role in the development of the male reproductive organs and promotes secondary sexual characteristics like increased bone and muscle mass and the growth of body hair. After puberty and into adulthood, testosterone is necessary for sperm development, it regulates the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, and it enhances muscle growth.

Decreasing testosterone levels with age in men contribute to decreasing lean muscle mass – which impacts metabolism – and less of a drive be active. Both of these factors can make weight loss more difficult for men in the later decades of life.

For women, with age comes menopause. With menopause comes changes in three hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

Estrogen falls to a very low level after menopause. Low levels of this hormone are associated with hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bone loss, and vaginal dryness – many of the symptoms generally thought of during menopause.

Progesterone production stops after menopause and testosterone levels fall.

Changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone have profound effects on the rest of the endocrine system. After the menopause the entire hormone environment is changed. These changes affect metabolism, sleep, and activity, which all impact the ability to lose weight.

4) The consequences of bad eating habits are more pronounced

Life tends to be busier and more active when you’re young. Think about everything you did in high school: gym class during the day, extracurricular sports in the evening, walk home, walk around the mall. You were always moving.

Your twenties weren’t much different. You chase a career to a big city where walking or biking is easier than driving, you take a low paying job that requires you to run around like a chicken on cocaine, and you spend the weekends “out.” Kids may have even appeared in this decade, which makes you reconsider ever having thought you were busy before.

A busy lifestyle when you’re young and have a fresh off the car lot, new car metabolism allows you to get away with a lot. You can eat an entire pizza at 2:00 a.m. You can eat ice cream whenever you crave it. A carb heavy pasta dish isn’t going to affect you at all. And, when you want to lose weight, just about any diet works.

When middle age begins to appear on the horizon, you start slowing down. Weekends are spent with a martini on the porch visiting with your neighbour; you get promoted to a desk job where people are doing the running around for you, and you can afford that nice car and the parking spot downtown that allows you to drive to work.

Because of decreased activity, slower metabolism, sarcopenia, and hormone changes with age, little things in your diet that could be overcome when you were young start to matter once you hit 40. In middle-age, everything – good and bad – starts to count.

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A slower metabolism, lean muscle loss, hormonal changes, and bad eating habits are the main reasons losing weight after 40 is difficult. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Next week, we’re going to cover exercise and dietary changes you can use to lose weight at any age.

Sources and further reading

“Fighting 40s Flab” – WebMD

“Weight Loss After 40” – Isagenix podcast

Common adaptogens and athletic performance

Adaptogens are a class of herbs known for their ability to boost the body’s tolerance to stress, fatigue, and sickness.

For a more in depth look into what adaptogens are and how they work, check out one of my previous articles here.

The role adaptogens play in increasing athletic performance, however, is less well known. In this article, we’re going to examine the scientific evidence surrounding some common adaptogens and their ability to improve athletic performance.

Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)

Roseroot increases time to exhaustion and VO2 max.

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise. Generally, the better shape you’re in, the higher your VO2 max is going to be.

A good VO2 max for a 30-year-old male is about 42ml of oxygen/kg bodyweight/minute. A good VO2 max for a 30-year-old female is about 32ml of oxygen/kg bodyweight/minute. To put these values in perspective, Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain’s VO2 max was reported at 88 mL of oxygen/kg bodyweight/minute. A highly trained athlete is that much more efficient at using oxygen than the average Joe.

The time to exhaustion test is quite simple. To perform the test, the participant must maintain a certain work rate. The time to exhaustion is the time between the beginning of the test and the moment the participant can no longer maintain the required work rate.

A study consisting of 12 healthy but untrained male and female participants tested roseroot’s effect on VO2 max and time to exhaustion. Participants took either one 100 milligram dose right before VO2 max testing or took a lower dose for 4 weeks. Both dosing regimes increased VO2 max and time to exhaustion.

A second study measuring VO2 max alone, wasn’t as promising. Fourteen males took roseroot for 4 weeks prior to testing. All the men were between the ages of 18 and 29 and were well trained. In this group, the roseroot had no effect on VO2 max.

One study has measured the effects of roseroot on power output.

Power is the amount of work that can be done in a given period of time. Work is a measure of energy transfer on an object. If, for example, a person moves a block along the ground, it means that person is doing work on that block. Power would be calculated by dividing the work done on the block by time.

The study measuring VO2 max and time to exhaustion in healthy untrained males and females also measured power output. No significant changes were noted.

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Eleuthero is Siberian ginseng. One study conducted in 1986 concluded that taking eleuthero can increase anaerobic running capacity. Anaerobic means in the absence of oxygen. It’s the type of running that would make you out of breath, like sprinting.

The study involved 6 trained men between the ages of 18-44. They each took 4 millilitres of a concentrated liquid eleuthero herbal extract for 8 days. Then, they performed a VO2 max test. The researchers also measured time to fatigue.

The men in the study who took eleuthero for 8 days before the test had a higher VO2 max and a longer time to fatigue.

While the study is well designed, the effect wasn’t robust, and it only involved 6 people. More researched is needed to make any definitive conclusions about eleuthero and athletic performance.

Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

Schisandra is a plant whose berry extracts have been shown to increase circulating levels of nitric oxide in 71 male and female athletes. Nitric oxide is a molecule naturally produced by the body that increases vasodilation – blood vessels widen to increase blood flow.

The men and women involved in the study took Schisandra prior to competition and the authors measured circulating nitric oxide in the athlete’s saliva. Based on this measurement, nitric oxide increased as a result of the supplement.

Maral (Rhaponticum carthamoides) root

Rhaponticum carthamoides is a plant source of ecdysteroids and is commonly referred to as Maral Root or Russian Leuzea. Ecdysteroids are a type of steroid hormone widely marketed to athletes as a dietary supplement. They’re advertised as being able to increase strength and muscle mass as well as reduce fatigue and ease recovery.

Rats fed 50mg/kg of ecdysone over the course of 28 days had a grip strength that was 18% stronger than the group that was not given any ecdysone. Grip strength or power output after rhaptonticum carthamoides supplementation has not been assessed in humans.

Adaptogens have a long scientific history of reducing fatigue and helping the body adapt to stress. Research into adaptogens increasing athletic performance is less mature. Despite the relative infancy of the field, the documented safety of common adaptogens like roseroot, eleuthero, Schisandra, and Rhaponticum carthomoides make them a worthy candidate for the supplement stack of anyone trying to bust through a plateau or reach a new personal best.

Sources and further reading

Roseroot

Eleuthero

Schisandra

Rhaponticum carthamoides

 

 

 

 

6 things you need in your diet for better brain health

The brain is the most important organ in the body. Without it, we can’t eat, breath, keep our heart beating, think, or experience the things in the world that make life worth living.

Despite how important it is, it’s often forgotten when it comes to nutrition.

Until recently, no one even realized what we eat could have any effect on brain function and health. Research in the last decade has completely changed how we think about diet and the brain.

Here are 6 scientifically backed things you need in your diet if you want to promote optimal brain health and prevent cognitive decline with aging.

1) Green Tea

Green tea comes from a type of small tree called Camelia Senensis. When its leaves and leaf buds are steeped in hot water, catechins dissolve from the plant into the water. Catechins are biologically active and are responsible for medicinal effects associated with green tea. There are four main types: EGCG, EGC, ECG, and EC.

EGCG: (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate

EGC: (-)-Epigallocatechin

ECG: (-)-Epicatechin-3-gallate

EC: (-)-Epicatechin

EGCG is the most abundant and the most well researched. It makes up 60% of total catechins. EGC is the second most abundant and makes up 20%, followed by ECG (14%) and EC (6%).

Studies suggest brain activity increases for up to 2 hours after it is ingested, and rats injected with EGCG have lower anxiety and perform better at learning and memory tasks.

Catechins has three described molecular targets: COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase), NADPH oxidase, and 67-kDa laminin receptor. It’s unclear whether the effects on brain activity, anxiety, learning, and memory are linked to these molecules.

COMT is an enzyme that generally prevents excessive elevation of other molecules. Catechins inhibit and facilitate COMT, which means the action of catechins on COMT likely relies on the conditions at the specific time.

NADPH oxidase is an enzyme that produces free radicals. Catechins inhibit NADPH oxidase, which could reduce oxidative stress.

67-kda laminin receptor is highly expressed on cancer cells. Scientists have yet to learn if the association between EGCG and this protein is activating or inhibitory.

2) Gingko Biloba

Gingko biloba is a large tree originally found in China. Its leaves contain phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, flavonoid glycosides, terpene trilactones, biflavones, and alkylphenols. All of these phytochemicals can be found in gingko leaf extracts.

Gingko biloba is the most commonly ingested herb for brain health. It can prevent neurons from dying and being damaged by the protein involved in Alzheimer’s disease (β-amyloid protein); it reduces anxiety, stress, and depression; improves attention; and it improves memory and cognitive performance in older adults with cognitive impairment or decline.

Gingko biloba activates the pregnane X receptor (PXR).

PXR senses the presence of toxic substances and responds by increasing the expression of proteins that can detoxify and clear toxic substances from the body. Supplements with gingko could promote detox.

3) Turmeric

Turmeric is a flowering plant. Its roots are commonly used as a spice in curry, but the yellow pigment, called curcumin, found throughout the plant has medicinal properties.

Turmeric and curcumin are both packaged as supplements.

Curcumin is associated with increased BDNF, which may be beneficial for nerve growth. It also reduces the negative effect of stress on memory, reduces anxiety in some people, and improves depression.

Curcumin has many targets. It influences the function AP-1 and inhibits mTOR, DNA polymerase λ, focal adhesion kinase, Src, p300, thioredoxin reductase, lipoxygenase, tubulin, 17beta-HSD3, 5-α reductase, and glycogen synthase kinase-3β.

4) L-carnosine

L-carnosine is a building block of protein naturally produced in the body. It helps maintain the proper function and development of muscle tissue, the heart, the brain, and many other parts of the body.

In the brain, L-carnosine performs several different functions: it protects against free radical damage, helps maintain normal brain function, and plays regulatory roles. Researchers think the role this molecule adopts depends on the area of the brain, the brain cell type, and the biochemical mechanisms controlling it.

While it’s unclear how L-carnosine works in the brain, it is clear that it works. L-carnosine prevents damage that occurs as a result of stroke; it prevents symptom development in Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy; and it aids learning and cognition.

5) Lipoic Acid

Lipoic acid is a mitochondrial compound. Mitochondria are organelles found within all cells of the body. An organelle to a cell is what the heart is to the body. The heart is an organ that helps the whole body function. An organelle helps the cell function.

Mitochondria produce the majority of the energy the cell needs. Lipoic acid is highly involved in the production of this energy.

As a supplement, lipoic acid protects against neurological decline that comes with aging. It is thought to do this mainly by preventing free radical damage, which increases as the body ages.

6) Citicoline

Citicoline is a nucleotide found naturally in the body. A nucleotide is one of the building blocks of DNA and RNA, but in this case the nucleotide citicoline is acting as an intermediate in the biological pathway that produces phospholipids (the structures that make up the lipid membrane of cells).

Scientists have been testing citicoline as a treatment for several neurological conditions. These include traumatic brain injuries, stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and brain aging. Results have been quite promising.

The molecule is likely working by stabilizing cell membranes of cells in the brain, reducing free radical damage with its antioxidant capabilities, and stimulating the release of beneficial neurotransmitters.

Sources and further reading

Green Tea – Examine

Gingko Biloba – Examine

Turmeric – Examine

L-carnosine

Lipoic Acid

Citicoline