All You Need to Know About Tempo Squats

tempo squats

Before you can understand tempo squats, how to do them and how to reap the benefits, you first need to know about tempo training. There are multiple variables that you can manipulate during training – the most common ones include repetitions, sets, intensity, and frequency. However, the one variable that’s easy to manipulate but frequently gets overlooked is tempo.

It refers to the speed at which a certain phase of a workout is performed. In its most basic form, tempo pertains to the period of time you subject a muscle to tension for one repetition. In a nutshell, tempo is all about repetition, speed and control. A slow tempo is used to achieve greater hypertrophy, whereas fast tempo is used to elicit a greater strength response.

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo training is divided into 4 phases of movement: eccentric contraction, pause (end ROM), concentric contraction, and pause (top ROM). If you take a look at a tempo prescription, the 4 phases are broken down into 4 numbers, with each number corresponding to a specific phase of movement.

In the sequence, the first number corresponds to the eccentric phase of the exercise. The second pertains to the pause or isometric phase; the third corresponds to the concentric phase of the exercise, and the last number refers to the time between reps. Here’s an example:

In this example, you are doing 4 sets of 3 with 75% of your max. Now for the number sequence in red – that means you’ll use 4 seconds to squat down, pause for 3 seconds at the bottom position, and use 2 seconds in between reps. You may have noticed that the third number (the concentric phase) is a zero. It means there’s no specific time for the concentric phase, so it must be done as fast as possible.

Now, Back to Tempo Squats…

Before you read on, you must have a clear idea what tempo squats are. Here’s an example: imagine yourself slowing down the eccentric (lowering) phase of your squat for 5 seconds, and then standing up (concentric phase) at normal speed. That’s tempo squatting! You time certain phases of the movement instead of doing it the traditional way.

Tempo Squat Benefits

In this section, we will discuss the benefits of tempo squats, although majority of the concepts can be applied to other tempo exercises, regardless of the movement. But before we proceed, here are a few tips to remember when performing tempo squats:

  • Use a clock or metronome because our inner clocks tend to be much faster, particularly when we are under load.
  • Stay tight throughout the squat. You can only use brute strength and can’t rely on momentum to bounce back up.
  • Breathe, but only at the top. This applies unless you had a long pause at the bottom of the squat. Take a deep breath at the top and try to hold until you reach the top again.

1) Develop Positional Awareness

Tempo work tends to expose any imbalances that the full speed of movement may be hiding from you. If you slow down the movement, you will be able to feel it and see the precise positions that your body is passing through. Slowing down the movement gives your brain ample time to analyze it and then allow you to make the necessary adjustments if certain imbalances or deficiencies exist.

2) Develop Better Movement Patterns

This is related to the preceding section. Slowing down the movement provides for better self-analysis. If the deficiencies are corrected and the right succession of movements is turned into a habit, you’ll be able to achieve better movement patterns. Quality must be your first priority. Do not strive to go faster and harder at the expense of good form. Also, bear in mind that intensity comes only after you are able to consistently demonstrate the proper mechanics of a movement.  

So, for newbies, there’s an opportunity to practice correct form and for the pros, tempo squats can be used to pinpoint problem areas and work on any weak links in technique. For instance, if you’re having difficulty in the bottom position of a front squat, you must spend more time in that position to help improve your technique and provide for greater improvements in the future.

3) Control Loading &Time Under Tension

This benefit is for those who are just starting out or those who are not fond of spending much time in the weights room. Tempo squats improve the ability to control loading while still making you work extremely hard. Initially, you may experience a tough time tapping into the psychological drive needed to move heavy weights. But over time, you’ll learn how to summon the will and because of the high time under tension needed during tempo work, the hypertrophic stimulus will kick in and you’ll develop bigger, more sculpted musculature.   

4) Engage Small Muscle Groups

Tempo squats tend to fire up muscles that are not often used during normal squatting. Small muscles that stabilize joints are activated toward the bottom of your squat. This is a phase of the movement that most people miss after using their stretch reflex and bouncing out of the bottom.

In addition, your core muscles get a hefty workout too when you do tempo squats. Your ability to stabilize your midline for that period of time under tension is arguably better for your core than any number of sit-ups that you can do on any given day.

Key Takeaway

The extra time under tension will induce greater fatigue. This means you must use lighter weights as compared to similar amounts of repetitions without the tempo. Refrain from doing high rep sets because of the additional time it takes to complete a set. You must also run a specific tempo for a couple of weeks. You won’t get much out of your training if you constantly change the reps, sets weight, and tempo – unless you’re changing the tempo in a linear fashion.

Subscapularis Exercises To Help You Bounce Back From Injury

Subscapularis exercises

The subscapularis is the largest and the strongest of the four rotator-cuff muscles that act on your shoulder, stabilizing it and facilitating inward rotation of the humerus. It is the most-used muscle in the shoulder. Let’s first discuss its functional anatomy before delving into the different exercises that you can use to target it.

What is the Subscapularis?

A triangular-shaped muscle located in the subscapular fossa. The name ‘subscapularis’ means under (sub) the scapula (the shoulder blade). The muscle originates beneath the scapula. Its fibers form a tendon that inserts into the should joint capsule and the lesser tuberosity of the humerus.

The subscapularis is innervated by the subscapular nerve and supplied by the subscapular artery.

Action / Function

Contraction of the subscapularis will cause internal (medial) rotation and depression of the humerus at the shoulder joint. In certain positions, it also helps in adducting and extending the shoulder joint.

The position of your arm has a significant effect on the actions caused by the subscapularis. For instance, when your arm is raised, the muscle pulls the humerus forward and downward; but when the humerus is in a fixed position, it causes abduction of the lower border of the scapula.

As part of the rotator cuff or intrinsic shoulder muscle group, the subscapularis plays a crucial role in stabilization of the shoulder by preventing anterior and superior translation of the head of the humerus.

Exercises for the Subscapularis

Now that you know the anatomy and function of the subscapularis, let’s go back to the meat of the matter and discuss the exercises for this particular muscle. Note that most of the exercises are for strengthening purposes.

Isometric Exercises

Performing isometric exercises that engage the subscapularis involves contracting it for 5-10 seconds at a time without any considerable movement on your shoulder joint. These exercises are typically recommended by physical therapists as part of a rehabilitation program for an injured rotator cuff.

Lay on your back and place your left elbow approximately 6 inches away from your side and flexed to 90 degrees. In this position your forearm should be pointing upward.  Place a thick towel next to your hip on the same side then internally rotate your shoulder to put your hand on top of the towel. Press downward for 5-10 seconds. Relax and then move your elbow 3 inches laterally, farther away from your side. Repeat the movement.

Do two more reps – once with your elbow on the same level as your ear and once with your upper arm pointing away from your shoulder. Repeat the same movements with your right arm.

Side-Lying Internal Rotation

You’ll need a table and a dumbbell for this exercise. Lie on your left side and hold the dumbbell in your left hand. Tuck your elbow into your belly, with your forearm pointing forward and extended over the edge of the table. Lift the dumbbell until your forearm touches your abdomen, then slowly lower it and repeat. Perform at least 8 repetitions, then turn over and switch arms.

Resistance Band Exercises

You can perform different resistance band exercises in order to strengthen the subscapularis. The first one is similar to the side-lying internal rotation exercise, but you do it from a standing position. Hold one end of the resistance band, with the other end secured to a sturdy object. The resistance band should be positioned at about the same height as your belly-button.

The second is the diagonal exercise. Stand with your right foot in front of your left and the free end of the resistance band in your left hand. Your left arm must be pointing sideways, with your elbow slightly flexed and your palm facing forward. Internally rotate your arm and move your hand downward to stretch the band until your left hand is in front of your right hip. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. Perform the same exercise with your right arm.

Push-up Plus

This is considered by many as the best exercise for the subscapularis muscle. Assume the push-up position, either from your knees or from your feet. Doing the exercise on your knees is a little easier.

  • Push-Up Plus – Knees

Place your hands directly beneath your shoulders.  Keep the tension in your scapulae and mid back, then at the end position with your arms fully extended, push up a little harder by trying to move your body further away from your hands.           

  • Push Up Plus – Toes

Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner. Hold for a second before lowering your body. Start with 5 repetitions the progress to 10 reps. Start from your knees until you are comfortable, then progress to your feet/toes. Avoid collapsing through the mid back or dropping your head.

The 5 Best Keto Diet Apps of 2018

best keto diet app

In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular diet tracking apps of 2018, in particular, those that can be used to assist with the ketogenic diet. When you decide to start with keto, it can be tough to determine what exactly you need to eat, how much you can eat, and what macronutrients you are ingesting on a daily basis. This is particularly true since most people have lost in touch with their hunger cues.

In most instances, we eat because its meal time or it has been several hours since we last ate. Some experts recommend eating when you are hungry, stop when you are already full, and simply enjoy every mouthful. However, for you to get to that desired ‘keto’ state, you must keep track and count carbs and calories in order to get the hang of what is in your food and what you are putting into your body. So without further ado, here are five keto diet apps that will help you monitor your progress and discover new delectable recipes.

1) My Fitness Pal

When it comes to tracking macros, this is definitely one of the best apps out there. You’ll love it whether you wish to lose weight, get healthy, tone up, or try a new diet. No wonder it is the number one rated diet by Consumer Reports and PC Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Selection. It has also been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, CNET, NBC and more. 

All you need to do is scan a product using its barcode. The app recognizes more than four million barcodes! An alternative is to type the name of the food item or the name of the brand in the app’s search bar. Then indicate the amount of the food product that you’ve consumed. The app will show you a breakdown of the foodstuffs you ate including the quantity of carbs, fat and proteins. If you’ve set your personalized macros, you’ll get specific info about how much you should be having.    

My Fitness Pal will help you monitor your calorie intake and determine if your food choices are high in fat and low in carbs at the same time. The app boasts a massive database consisting of over six million foods, including international items and cuisines.

Here are some of the other notable features:

  • Recipe Importer: import the nutrition details for the recipes you cook
  • Food Insights: learn how you can make healthier food choices  
  • Restaurant Logging: instantly log menu items from your favorite restaurants
  • Calorie Counter: the app automatically calculates the calories in your foods, meals and recipes. 
  • Water Tracking: log water in ounces or milliliters; the app saves your recently logged amounts
  • Track All Nutrients: calories, carbs, fat, protein, fiber, sugar, cholesterol, etc.
  • Personalized Experience: come up with your own recipes, meals and save favorites

Subscription Pricing & Terms:

MyFitnessPal is free to download. If you decide to upgrade to MyFitnessPal Premium, two auto-renewing subscription options are available: $9.99/month and $49.99/year.

2) Carb Manager

The developers of the app claim that it is one of the most comprehensive and also the easiest carb-restrictive trackers and macronutrient counters in the market today. You can easily log in your meals and you can input data via voice, camera or search. The huge library of the app consists of more than a million science-verified foods. In addition, there is a barcode scanning feature that enables you to instantly pull data.

The Carb Manager plays several roles. First, it shows the most common restaurant dishes. Second, it has a net carb count for each recipe, so it is easier for you to stick to the primary objectives of the keto diet. Lastly, the app provides resources such as forums, e-books, a meal planner, and hundreds of recipes.

The app is perfect for keto dieters and for those who follow other low-carb eating regimen like Atkins, LCHF, and Paleo. Perhaps the best feature of the Carb Manager is the one that lets you take a photo of what you are eating and recognizing instantly what kind of food it is. In addition, it gives you all the important nutritional information.

Here are some of the other notable features:

  • A daily log of your diet and exercise
  • Quickly record your water intake
  • Set your net carbs and weight loss goals with the integrated calculator
  • Search over a million foods with macros and carb counts
  • Use the app’s search engine or scan a product barcode for immediate results
  • Choose from hundreds of exercises or create your own
  • Monitor your weight and body mass index (BMI) with simple charts
  • View detailed nutrition info for each day, including total carbs, net carbs, calories, fat, protein, and more.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The Carb Manager is free for download. You can find it on Google Play and on the iTunes store. For more advanced features, you can check out Carb Manager Premium. The subscription period is 1 year for $39.99, 3 months for $16.49, and 1 month for $8.49.

3) Keto Diet App

This is an amazing ketogenic diet tracker that a lot of people have tried. It provides a long list of great recipes that are easy to prepare. The developers regularly update the recipe database so users don’t get bored.

What’s really commendable about the Keto Diet app is that it will allow you to track all the foods you eat on a daily basis. You can easily monitor your calorie intake and many other facets of your diet. The app is not just about shedding off your excess pounds; it’s a tool that will help you in your bid to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Aside from restricting your carbohydrate intake, you’ll learn why it’s imperative to follow a whole foods based approach and incorporate healthy fat sources in your daily diet. 

A competitive advantage of the app is its automatic updates that indicate current values of your progress. Here are some of the other highlights of the app:

  • Keto Recipes: 300 low-carb, paleo and primal recipes plus more than 650 free recipes from the developer’s integrated keto blog.
  • Profile: You can set your carbohydrate limit and goals. There is an integrated Keto calculator to help you determine your ideal macronutrient intake. You can update your weight, body fat and measurements to monitor your progress.
  • Planner/Tracker: Schedule your meals with the app’s intuitive planner. Make your own diet plan using hundreds of included meals, restaurant dishes or create your own meals.
  • Progress: Monitor all aspects of your keto diet progress including weight, body fat, blood glucose, blood lipids, carbs, macronutrients, water intake, mood, energy, and body stats.
  • Expert Articles: Receive regular updates from the KetoDiet Blog, including success stories, diet tips, diet plans, weekly expert articles, and free recipes.
  • Keto Diet Guide: The keto diet approach explained thoroughly. Learn the science behind the diet and know more about ketosis. Discover why this dietary approach works well. Identify what foods to eat and which ones to avoid. Everything backed by scientific references.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

There is no subscription fee. You only pay $6.99 once and everything is included. You can find this app on both Google Play and iTunes store

4) Total Keto Diet

This app was developed by Tasteaholics, an online platform devoted to low-carb eating education and resources. It provides a wide selection of recipes and informative articles. The app lets you mark all your favorite meals and even create customized shopping lists.

An interesting feature of this app is that it allows you to share all your recipes with a chance to be featured in the app’s constantly updated recipe library. As of the time of writing, the Total Keto Diet still has some limitations but its developers vow to continue adding more useful features, including a macronutrient tracker. This app is essentially a one-stop-shop for everything related to the ketogenic diet.

Here are some cool features:

  • Hundreds of Keto Recipes and a lot more added every week.
  • Offline Reading for previously viewed keto recipes
  • Favorites Section & Favorites Counter where you can see the most liked keto recipes by all users.
  • Intuitive Ingredient Sorting which divides your shopping list ingredients by recipe.
  • Keto Diet Beginner’s Guide to help you understand all you need to know about the keto diet and get started right away.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The Total Keto Diet app is free for download on Google Play. However, you can only install it in Android devices.

5) Ketogenic Diet Plan

This keto diet app was specifically designed for newbies and beginners. Hence, it makes everything appear simple to understand. Not only is it packed with delicious recipes and excellent meal recommendations, but it also provides resources about keto diet principles, along with the rationale behind the carb-restricted approach.

This app will let you learn more about how to live healthily if you are a diabetic. Moreover, it offers complete access to a photo gallery that highlights users’ progress by posting before-and-after images. Lastly, the app provides tips on how to start the keto diet without experiencing the unwanted side effects.

Subscription Pricing & Terms

The app is free and you can download it on Google Play. But just like the Total Keto Diet app, it is only compatible with Android devices.

What Are Net Carbs and How to Calculate Them

what are net carbs

Food manufacturers coined the term ‘net carbs’ during the low-carb craze of the past decade, in an attempt to further bolster the hype. It ensures dieters that they can eat sweet and salty foods without the need to count their actual carbohydrate load. The term, however, is not officially recognized by nutrition experts. There is no legal definition, so the Nutrition Facts labels of foods bearing it are not regulated by the Food & Drugs Administration.                                        

To date, whether to count totals carbs or net carbs remains a controversial topic, and because of outdated and conflicting information, determining how to compute net carbs can be quite confusing. Moreover, the net carbs labels on packed foods are not necessarily indicative of the number of carbs that your body really absorbs.

Fortunately, understanding how your body processes the various types of carbohydrates may help in attaining your target blood sugar level and weight loss goals. In this article, we will take a close look at the science behind net carbs and learn how to calculate them based on your food intake.

What Are Net Carbs?

Also known as digestible or impact carbs, net carbs refer to the carbohydrates absorbed by your body, including both simple and complex carbs. Whenever you eat food stuffs containing carbohydrates, most of the carbs are broken down in the small intestine into individual sugar units. The rationale behind this is that only individual sugar units can be absorbed by your body.

However, some carbohydrates cannot be broken down into individual sugars, while others are only partially broken down. These include dietary fiber and sugar alcohols, both of which can be deducted from total carbs when computing for net carbs.

How Your Body Processes Fiber

Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate with regard to its digestion and physiologic effects. Unlike sugar and starch, naturally occurring fiber is not absorbed in your small intestine because enzymes cannot break the bond between the sugar units. Consequently, fiber passes directly into your colon. Its fate after that relies on what kind of fiber it is.

There are two classes of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Roughly two-thirds of the fiber in your diet is insoluble, while the rest is soluble. Insoluble fiber leaves your colon unchanged, provides no calories and does not have any effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. In contrast, soluble fiber creates a gel that slows down the movement of food through your system and can make you feel full. When soluble fibers reach your colon they are fermented by bacteria into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs help in keeping your gut healthy and provides several other health benefits.

Note that soluble fiber does not appear to increase blood glucose. As a matter of fact, recent scientific studies suggest that its effects in the gastrointestinal tract help reduce blood sugar levels. Multiple studies have also demonstrated that soluble fiber may lead to increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control, and absorption of fewer calories.

How Your Body Processes Sugar Alcohol

Sugar alcohols are processed by your body just like it handles fiber, with some significant differences. A lot of sugar alcohols are only absorbed partially in the small intestine, and there are a lot of differences among various types.

According to researchers, 2 to 90% of sugar alcohols are absorbed by the small intestine. However, some are only absorbed briefly into the bloodstream and later excreted in urine. Moreover, these sugar alcohols can have different effects on blood glucose and insulin levels.

Below is a list of the insulin and glycemic indexes for the most common sugar alcohols. For comparison purposes, note that the insulin and glycemic index of glucose are both 100.

  • Maltitol: Insulin index 27 / Glycemic index 35
  • Xylitol: Insulin index 11 / Glycemic index 13
  • Sorbitol: Insulin index 11 / Glycemic index 9
  • Isomalt: Insulin index 6 / Glycemic index 9
  • Erythritol: Insulin index 2 / Glycemic index 0

By far the most commonly used sugar alcohol in processed food is maltitol. It is partially absorbed in your small intestine, while the rest is fermented by bacteria in your colon. Studies have also shown that it contributes 3-3.5 calories per gram, as compared to sugar which contributes 4 calories per gram. Maltitol has likewise been reported to increase blood sugar levels in diabetics.

In terms of net carbs, the best all around choice appears to be erythritol. Roughly 90% of it is absorbed in your small intestine and later excreted in urine. The remaining 10% is fermented to short-chain fatty acids in the colon, making it carb-free, calorie-free and unlikely to trigger digestive problems.

Studies have revealed that other sugar alcohols are also partially absorbed and can raise blood sugar, but to a lesser degree than maltitol. However, they appear to cause bloating and loose stools in a lot of people.

On the whole, it seems that sugar alcohols don’t have a considerable effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, although individual responses may differ, particularly among diabetics.

How to Calculate Net Carbs in Whole Foods

Naturally occurring fiber can be found in whole food. Hence, you can just subtract the fiber from the total carbs to determine the net carbs. For instance, an avocado contains 9 grams of total carbs, of which 7 grams is fiber.

So, 9 grams of total carbs – 7 grams of fiber = 2 grams of net carbs.

How to Calculate Net Carbs in Processed Food

  1. Net Carbs from Fiber

You can completely subtract most fibers from the total carbs displayed in the nutrition label. If you’re living outside the United States, note that the fiber has already been removed from the total carbohydrate line and is listed separately. However, if isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) is included in the ingredients list, you only need to subtract half of the fiber carbs.

  1. Net Carbs From Sugar Alcohols

In general, you can subtract 50% of the carbs from sugar alcohols from the total carbs listed on the nutrition label. An exception is erythritol. In case it is the only sugar alcohol in the ingredients list, you can completely subtract its carbs from the total carbs.

The value that you’ll get may be different from the number of net carbs shown on the product label, because many companies calculate net carbs by subtracting all fiber and sugar alcohol carbs.

The Pros

  • Less Restrictive – by calculating net carbs you’ll be able to widen your food choices.
  • Promotes Higher Fiber Intake – Foods rich in fiber promote fullness, reduce blood sugar and calorie absorption.
  • Lessens Risk of Hypoglycemia in Insulin Users – people taking insulin in order to cover all carbs without making necessary adjustments for high-fiber and erythritol-containing foods may experience a drop in blood sugar.

The Cons

  • Not 100 Percent Accurate – so far, it is not possible to calculate net carbs with pinpoint precision because of the varying effects of processing fiber, individual responses, and the mixture of sugar alcohols used in food products.
  • May Not Be Effective For Some With Type 1 Diabetes – although subtracting fiber carbs may help prevent hypoglycemia in some people with type 1 diabetes, others claim that calculating all carbs makes it easier for them to regulate blood sugar.
  • Can Lead To Increased Intake Of Sugar-Free Treats Excessive consumption of food labeled as “low in net carbs” may impede weight loss, increase blood sugar and cause other health issues.

At the end of the day, the decision on whether to calculate total or net carbs must be based on what really works best for you.

Conclusion

The debate as to whether it is more precise to calculate total or net carbs won’t end anytime soon. However, knowing how your body processes different types of carbohydrates can help in regulating your blood sugar, weight and overall fitness level.

Counting net carbs is one way to achieve this. Net carbs basically pertains to carbohydrates that are absorbed by your body. In order to calculate the net carbs in whole foods, simply subtract the fiber from the total number of carbs. For processed foods, subtract the fiber and a portion of the sugar alcohols.

Nonetheless, bear in mind that the “net carbs” shown on food labels can be misleading, and individual responses vary. In case you find that calculating net carbs results in higher than expected blood sugar levels, you may shift to counting total carbs instead.

The most important thing is to ingest the number of carbs that enables you to achieve your fitness goals, regardless of how you calculate them.

3 Ways to Test Your Ketone Levels

how to test your ketone levels

A ketogenic diet can be an immensely powerful tool in boosting mental acuity, losing overall body fat percentage, performing well athletically, and combating diabetes.  One thing that is often overlooked, however, is tracking the levels of ketones in your body.  Keeping tabs on your ketone levels and documenting them is paramount to fully taking advantage of any ketogenic diet, once you’ve entered a state of ketosis.

There are three different types of ketones in the body:

  1. Acetoacetate
  2. Acetone
  3. Beta-Hydroxybutyrates

Ketone bodies are created when your body no longer has as high of insulin levels due to cutting carbohydrates out of a diet, for the most part.  Minimal carbohydrates with an emphasis on complex, slow-digesting carbs is the name of the game while on a ketogenic diet.  As you adapt to the diet, though, your body will begin to use the ketones more effectively, creating inaccurate results on a ketone test.  Initially, though, using ketone tests is effective in ensuring you are in a ketogenic state. Here are the 3 primary ways to test your ketone levels as you are initially entering into ketosis:

1) Urine Strips to Test Ketones

Some of the benefits of using this style of test are how affordable they are, how readily available they are at most local pharmacies, and how effective they can be in measuring ketone levels effectively.  Plus, they are fairly simple and easy to use, you just pee on them.  In the very beginning phases of this diet, the urine strips are the best method to use, and only when your body is processing ketones better does their efficacy fade away. 

2) A Blood Ketone Meter

This method is by far the most accurate and effective method but requires you to sacrifice a minuscule amount of blood to use it.  It is most effective in testing what is known as BHB bodies of ketones.  These ketones are known as the clean, pure, positive energy ketones. 

When thinking about this test, it is very similar to how one would test glucose in a patient suffering from diabetes.  A small prick on your finger, put the droplet of blood on a test strip, then use a device to measure the number of ketones.

This test is not for everyone, however.  If the sight of blood makes you woozy, then I’d advise against it.  Also, this method is fairly expensive, costing anywhere from ten to twenty dollars per test.  This method is the most effective, though, and is not affected by over-hydration the same way urine is. 

3) Breath Testing for Ketone Levels

When your body effectively metabolizes BHB ketone bodies it creates acetate ketone bodies.  While not as direct as the blood meter test, measuring acetate, or acetone, ketones can achieve close results to what your true blood ketone level is.  Breath acetate is measure with a device similar to a Breathalyzer, as seen with law enforcement officers while on a drunk driving call. 

This method is expensive, but you only need to by the ketone breath monitor once and it is reusable, contrary to the other aforementioned methods. 

Exogenous Ketones: Everything You Need to Know

exogenous ketones

Since they hit mainstream media in 2014, exogenous ketones have emerged as one of the most popular nutritional supplements in the market. However, just like any new supplement, there’s plenty of misinformation so it’s a must for you to find reliable data. This article has done much of the legwork for you and goes right to the meat of the matter as it pertains to the definition, types, and benefits of exogenous ketones.

First, Let’s Lay the Definition

Ketones serve as fuel for the mitochondria, a cellular organelle that generates energy for physiologic purposes. Ketones are important because they are the body’s alternative fuel source to glucose.

Exogenous ketones are produced in laboratories and transformed to supplement form for human consumption. In contrast, ketones produced by the liver are more appropriately referred to as endogenous ketones.

There are three ketones that your body synthesizes when you’re on a keto diet: acetone, eacetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB). The one present in exogenous ketone supplements is BHB.

Exogenous ketone supplements provide the body with an instant supply of ketones, even if you are not in a state of ketosis prior to ingestion. They increase blood ketone levels even in the presence of insulin, a hormone that inhibits ketogenesis.

If you’re new to ketosis and don’t know a lot about it, it is basically a metabolic state wherein your body utilizes ketones instead of glucose for energy.

Types of Exogenous Ketones

Ketone Esters – these refer to the raw ketone (BHB) that is not linked to any other compound. They can be used faster and are potentially more effective in raising blood ketone levels because the body does not need to cleave BHB from other compounds. However, there are some trade-offs. For instance, the taste is almost unbearable and gastric discomfort commonly occurs.

Ketone Salts – this is the type of exogenous ketone wherein the ketone body (usually BHB) is bound to a salt (generally sodium, calcium, potassium or magnesium). Ketone salts don’t increase ketone levels to very high levels but their taste is more manageable and the likelihood of encountering gastric distress is lessened to a greater degree. This is actually the type of exogenous ketone supplement that is recommended by most nutrition experts.

These naturally derived compounds are also sometimes referred to as “BHB Mineral Salts” or “Ketone Mineral Salts.” All commercially available ketone supplements are exclusively made from ketone salts.

MCT (medium chain triglyceride) Oil – this and other medium to smaller chain fats can also be used to raise blood ketone levels, although this is achieved via indirect pathway. While BHB from ketone salts or esters can be readily used for energy, MCTs must be transported to cells to be catabolized. The break down yields ketone bodies as the by-product, and this is the only time when MCT can be utilized for energy.

One of the major drawbacks to using MCT oil is that it does little in increasing blood ketone levels. It is also calorically dense, which means it is not a good option if you wish to burn fat and keep calories low.

Why Use Exogenous Ketones?

There are instances when going on a full keto diet is not realistic. It can be very restrictive and tough for a lot of people to follow. Some may feel low on energy. In these scenarios, it’s good to consider taking exogenous ketones as a means to reaping the benefits of ketosis.

If you’re an athlete, it’s likely that you’ll need carbs to perform at your peak. You will never be able to reap the full benefits of being on a state of nutritional ketosis because you’ll never be completely in such state. You’ll need carbohydrates to power your workout, but at the same time, you may need ketones to sustain prolonged physical exertion. This is where supplementation with exogenous ketones will prove beneficial.

If you happen to be a normal individual who’s following a ketogenic diet, there are often occasions when you eat foods or engage in certain activities that kick you out of ketosis. If you consume too much carbohydrates or proteins, you can take exogenous ketone supplements to quickly get you back into ketosis.

When to Use Exogenous Ketones

Obviously, exogenous ketones are best used in combination with a ketogenic diet to accelerate your body into ketosis and keep it there. But are there other benefits?

Weight Loss / Fat Burning

This is a widely known benefit that a lot of people are after when they consider trying a keto diet. Taking exogenous ketones won’t make your fat stores disappear like magic, but it will certainly get you into ketosis fast. Once you start taking exogenous ketones, your body will adapt and learn that it needs to use ketones for energy. When you’ve already used the exogenous ketones for fuel, your body will look for other sources of ketones. It will then turn to adipose tissue or fat. This is where you get to reduce fat stores and ultimately drop some pounds.

In relation to this, a recent study has shown that the hunger hormone called ghrelin was considerably lower after taking a ketone ester. It was concluded that exogenous ketone supplements also have the ability to delay the onset of hunger and lower your desire to eat.

Get Back Into Ketosis Fast

As previously mentioned, not a lot of people can comply with a strict low carb, high fat diet. If you’ve done ketosis before, you’re aware that when you get kicked out, it could take at least 2-3 days to get back in. Now there is an effective solution! You can take exogenous ketones to ramp your body back into ketosis quickly and effortlessly.

Taking exogenous ketones immediately after a meal tells your body that you prefer using ketones for energy in lieu of carbohydrates. Instead of going on a low carb diet for days, you can just take exogenous ketones to get back into ketosis. This is very convenient because you won’t have to go through the “keto flu” phase where you get to experience all the awful side effects. More about this in the succeeding section…

Avoid the Dreaded “Keto Flu”

When your body makes the shift from using energy from carbs to ketones, you may experience a lot of nasty side effects including bloating, feeling low on energy, irritability, fatigue and headaches. The rationale behind these is that your body is ‘in between’ burning carbohydrates and burning ketones. It has yet to become adept at burning ketones and synthesizing them from your fat stores.

During this stage, you can use exogenous ketones to ease the transition. You are essentially supplying it with an alternative energy source to get rid of all the unpleasant side effects. Without supplementation, your body will struggle in finding an efficient energy source.

Mental Productivity

The brain is protected by a highly selective barrier which filters blood components that can pass through. Since your brain utilizes 25 percent of the energy that your body expends throughout the day, you must see to it that it is adequately fueled. Note that glucose cannot pass directly across the so-called ‘blood-brain barrier.’ This is quite ironic because glucose is the brain’s primary energy substrate. Glucose molecules have to be actively shuttled across the barrier by proteins called GLUT-1.

When you ingest carbohydrates, blood glucose level fluctuates, and so does the amount of energy that can cross the blood brain barrier. This explains the condition known as brain fatigue or mental fog.

You may have noticed feeling mentally foggy after indulging in a meal that’s super rich in carbohydrates. What you experienced is the dip in energy and a plethora of metabolic processes trying to transport glucose throughout your body. An effective way to avoid this is to take exogenous ketones.

Ketones are small enough to readily cross the blood brain barrier. This means you can have a continuous supply of brain energy, with no processing required. If you are not always in a state of nutritional ketosis, you won’t have a constant supply of ketones. This is the time when you can take exogenous ketones to get “on demand” fuel to your brain.

Endurance Exercise

When you subject your body to a higher level of physical performance, it relies on different energy systems with varying types of fuel. If you engage in workouts that require speed, your energy is typically coming from carbohydrates, specifically from glycogen.

However, the amount of stored glycogen that can be used for sudden, explosive movements is limited. Once your body runs out of glycogen, it can either synthesize more or start generating energy from fat. These two processes both rely on using oxygen for energy.

Here’s the catch: if you take exogenous ketones, your body can use it immediately and with lower oxygen utilization to produce energy. This works perfectly if you are doing endurance exercises, where a huge limitation is the amount of oxygen that can be utilized for energy.

Improved Athletic Performance

Exogenous ketone supplementation has been shown to improve energy efficiency and fuel sparing mechanisms. Remember that exogenous ketones can induce acute ketosis that can last for several hours. Moreover, this is possible without the need to deplete muscle glycogen stores. This is important because low muscle glycogen is mostly responsible for impairing physical performance.

The ‘carb-sparing’ effect from exogenous ketones, specifically BHB, inhibits the catabolism of muscle glycogen. This results in lower levels of lactate, a byproduct that is detrimental to physical performance because it causes muscle fatigues and soreness. The bottom line is that the less glycogen you use, the lower your lactate level would be and the longer you can perform at a high level.

Further, if you increase the intensity of your workout, for instance, fat oxidation reaches a certain limit and muscle starts burnings carbs for fuel. However, when taking exogenous ketones, your body won’t make the switch, indicating that ketones are being utilized instead. This is significant because exogenous ketones make your body less reliant on fat for fuel. Note that fat takes longer to process to produce energy than glycogen. This is precisely the reason why fatty acids are not the preferred fuel during intense physical activity. This can be beneficial for keto-adapted athletes engaged in strength training or high-intensity cardiovascular workout.

Future Applications and Research

The current research on exogenous ketones mostly focuses on health benefits and longevity applications. These synthetic compounds are showing a lot of promise with regard to cancer prevention and protecting neural tissue from degradation. The latter has far-reaching implications for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, epileptic seizures and Parkinson’s disease. Hopefully, future research will also concentrate on diet, weight loss and athletic performance so the full benefits of exogenous ketones can be realized in these fields.

The Ketogenic Diet vs Paleo Diet vs Atkins Diet

keto vs paleo vs atkins

The Keto, Atkins and Paleo diets are often grouped together as the ‘low carb fad diets.’ They have some similarities as well as significant differences. For so many years they have remained at the forefront of diet trends, but is one superior? Is one better suited for your body chemistry? Can you use them as a short-term strategy to kick-start better health and weight loss? In this article, we will delve into each type of diet and see if we can come up with some definitive answers.

The Ketogenic Diet

The keto diet is focused on the concept of ketosis and restricting carbohydrate intake. Out of the three diets covered in this article, it is the most technical but still it has amassed a large following. A lot of people prefer it because of its unconventional approach.

As a mainstream diet therapy, it is aimed primarily towards those who wish to achieve dramatic weight loss. However, it has also been shown to help in improving medical conditions like type 2 diabetes and cognitive ailments like Alzheimer’s. The Keto diet was actually developed in the 1920s to prevent and treat seizures. But today, it is best known as a rapid weight loss and fat burning regimen.

The reason Keto is more effective in promoting accelerated weight loss than most diets is that it prods the body to burn fat more efficiently by entering a state known as nutritional ketosis. It is a metabolic state wherein glucose – your body’s main fuel source – is not readily available for energy. As a result, your body turns to its secondary energy source: fat.

For your body to be able to burn fat instead of glucose, you must reduce the number of carbs you eat down to approximately 5% of your diet. At the same time, you need to increase your fat intake by as much as 70%. The significant lack of carbohydrates will force your body to burn fatty acids as fuel. This explains how rapid weight loss occurs.

Note that your body will burn as much glucose as possible when you’re first switching into a keto diet. It will turn to its glycogen stores and burn all that until it doesn’t have enough fuel from carbohydrates. Eventually, your body kind of starts to learn and switch over to burning fat. That’s when everything sort of accelerates, but during this process a lot of people feel pretty crappy for a few days until their bodies learn to burn ketones. Don’t confuse that initial poor feeling with the thought that the keto diet is not working. That’s to be expected because your body is going through a pretty major shift.

The Good:

  • The high-fat, high-protein foods will make you feel more satisfied.
  • You will lose weight fast, however, the initial loss is mostly water, but keep going and there’s a big payoff.
  • Protein is very limited, so your liver won’t end up processing it.
  • Your good cholesterol level will rise and the bad triglycerides will go down.
  • Your blood pressure will go down as well (but there’s a downside to this – see cons).
  • Some studies showed that the keto diet can improve the condition of women with PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome), improve acne, reduce cholesterol, and decrease seizures in epileptic children.

The Bad:

  • Ketosis can cause the body to catabolize muscle tissue for energy, making the diet inappropriate for those who want to build muscle. 
  • You cannot eat any fruit.
  • The keto flu: as previously mentioned, you may feel grumpy while your body adjusts to using ketones for fuel. (This can last from 2 -14 days).
  • The limited amount of fiber can cause constipation.
  • If you start with normal blood pressure, you need to make sure that it doesn’t go too low. Some nutritionists recommend drinking broth (for sodium) in the afternoon.
  • You need to watch out for dehydration. You may have to take a sodium and potassium supplement.
  • If you’re on medication for diabetes, hypertension, or other medical conditions, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor before trying Keto.
  • You’ll need to buy ketone urine testing strips to ensure that you stay in ketosis.
  • Being in a state of ketosis causes bad breath, and since the stinky odor does not come from your mouth, brushing won’t help.

 

The Atkins Diet

This is regarded as the granddaddy of the low-carb diets that took the world by storm in the 1970s. By 2004, when it was dubbed as the “Steak and Eggs Diet,” reports claimed that one out of 11 adults was on Atkins. The popularity and the nickname stemmed from the belief that you can eat limitless amounts of fat and protein, and as long as you don’t consume any carb, you’d still lose weight.

Since then, Atkins has evolved, but the concept remained the same: all kinds of carbohydrates cause spikes in blood glucose levels, and such spikes prompt the body to store fat. During the first phase of the diet, you’ll need to restrict your carb intake to just 20 grams. After induction, you will gradually add more fiber and nutrient-rich carbs back in, but only to a certain point. By the end of the diet, your daily carb allowance increases to 100 grams for maintenance. This is too high for you to stay in a consistent state of ketosis.

The Good:

  • Satiety: you won’t get hungry!
  • Eating fat and protein makes you feel more satisfied than indulging on carbs, so at least for the short term, you won’t feel deprived.
  • You’ll lose weight fast, although some of it will be water weight.
  • Atkins is somewhat easier to sustain because you’ll be allowed to gradually add some carbs back in.
  • You can indulge in a variety of snack bars, frozen meals, and shakes, which make compliance more convenient.
  • There’s empirical evidence that Atkins helps improve cholesterol and glucose levels.

The Bad:

  • The initial dramatic weight loss is mostly water, so you can’t expect to keep losing at the same pace, and once you eat carbs again, it will come back on.
  • Consuming too much protein can cause serious liver issues. This may also prevent you from going into ketosis, so you won’t lose weight.
  • Eating very limited amounts of carbs can, at first, make you feel grumpy and lethargic because your brain is taking time to adjust from processing glucose to ketones.
  • The line of foods and snacks that you are allowed to take often contain artificial sweeteners and other processed ingredients.
  • Atkins has gotten a bad rap because it makes it easy for you to pack in the unhealthy fats. It’s up to you to choose healthy fats to incorporate into your diet.

 

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is probably the easiest of the three to understand. The concept is that our modern diet, which is loaded with refined foods and sugar, causes many diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The solution? Eat like our Paleolithic ancestors did and discard all processed foods, including dairy. If a certain food item was not available to a caveman 3 million years ago, then it should not be on your plate!

So basically, your diet will consist of meat, fish, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This is consistent with the notion that such food sources are ideally suited for humans instead of agricultural products and refined foods that came much later in our evolution. Some experts believe that our hunter-gatherer ancestors, in spite of their shorter life expectancy, were actually much healthier than we are. Give it a little thought and you’ll realize that they could very well be right! 

Unlike the Atkins and Keto diets, Paleo doesn’t eliminate all carbohydrates. However, you can’t have grains, legumes, sugar, or dairy. Nutrition scientists actually consider the Paleo as more low-glycemic than low-carb. This is not in line with the traditional dietary advice of the FDA, which recommends that majority of our daily food intake should come in the form of carbs.

The key in the Paleo diet is controlling your sugar cravings by eating maybe one or two apples, and that’s it. You can’t go hog wild and gobble dozens of bananas just to claim Paleo status because that won’t help your waistline. If you’re not sure as to what foodstuffs to avoid while on Paleo, take a look at this guide below:    

The Good:

  • Paleo focuses on the consumption of whole, nutrient-dense foods. You’ll be eating protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats (such as those from avocado, seeds and nuts).
  • There is no need to give up sweets, as long as they are natural like honey and maple syrup.
  • You won’t have to deal with counting calories, carb intake, or anything else.
  • It has been shown that low-glycemic diets lower blood sugar and cholesterol while reducing visceral fat.
  • It is higher in fiber and other nutrients than Atkins and Keto.
  • People with gut problems may find that eliminating dairy, wheat, and processed foods also gets rid of digestive discomfort.

The Bad:

  • Paleo is restrictive and hard to implement.
  • You’ll need to shop for ingredients and cook for every meal because it is difficult to eat out while on Paleo.
  • Be prepared to dig deep into your pockets: free-range poultry, grass-fed meats, and organic produce can get expensive.
  • Since there is no dairy, you’ll need to ensure that you’re taking in enough calcium.
  • Weight loss, if any, may be more gradual compared to Atkins and Keto.

 

Stacking Them Up

Below is a three-way comparison table that you can use as a guide when choosing which diet may be appropriate for you:

Ketogenic Diet

Atkins Diet

Paleo Diet

Goal

weight loss

weight loss

better health

Carb strictness

high

medium

low

Popularity

medium

low

high

Flu-like side effects

likely

likely

likely

Key benefits

effective fat loss

easier way to ketosis

more food choices

Main drawbacks

strict dietary constraints

not always effective

not focused on weight loss

 

One of the most significant gains that you’ll make with any of these diets is that you are cutting back on the trans-fats and harmful additives found in processed foods. You are also ridding yourself of your cravings for sugar. Note that it’s going to be tough and you are bound to experience keto flu in the beginning. It’s your body’s way of resisting change, but once it gets used to processing ketones instead of glucose, you’ll feel a lot better – healthier and more energetic.

One way to minimize the effects of the keto flu is to start with Paleo, switch to Atkins and then move to Keto when you are already used to low carbs. This way you can reap the benefits from all three. 

 

Conclusion

There is really no ‘one size fits all’ diet. Bear in mind that all three of these diet fads are not meant to work for life, and experts advocate Real Food For Real Life because they are well aware that in the long run, most folks will stick to an eating lifestyle that does not restrict what can be consumed, as long as they are doing it correctly. The Keto diet, and even Atkins, can work for you if you wish to lose a lot of weight fast. However, you must be cautious about the potential long-term risks. Paleo seems to be a safer long term eating lifestyle as long as you ingest all the necessary vitamins and minerals. It has also been proven to be effective for short term use, particularly among athletes. For these reasons, the Paleo diet is perhaps the one that is best to maintain on a long-term basis.

An Intermittent Fasting Guide for Women

intermittent fasting for women

Intermittent fasting or ‘IF’ has emerged as a popular method to get lean and lose weight. It has also been reported to boost energy levels, improve cognitive function, and increase motivation and stamina. Some even claim that it can protect against cancer. All these have roused the interest of health buffs and fitness enthusiasts the world over.

Although intermittent fasting does appear to offer some encouraging health benefits, its efficacy seems to be gender dependent. But in general, the effectiveness of IF boils down to human biology. While brief periods of fasting are regarded as safe for most people, the extended fasting times that come with IF can prove detrimental when it comes to a woman’s hormones. They can cause reproductive problems, trigger early menopause and may aggravate pre-existing medical conditions.

In this article, we will discuss the best methods for women so you can reap the positive aspects of IF without jeopardizing your health. Before we delve into the details, let’s take a closer look at what intermittent fasting is all about, how it really works, and the pros and cons of this diet trend.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a means of managing the timing of food intake to set periods spent in which the body is in a fasting state which prods it to use a different fuel source –  fat. Aside from this, blood glucose levels drop, growth hormone is produced, hunger regulating hormones (i.e. ghrelin and leptin) are normalized, the digestive system gets a rest, and detoxification becomes a focus.

The fasting state means taking a break in between meals. Such break is similar to evenings spent not eating but slightly longer, for instance 7 pm to 11 am instead of 7 pm to 7 am only. This implies that you are going 16 hours with no food in your system. It may seem incredibly difficult to accomplish, especially if you love to eat at night, but consider this: if you normally have dinner at around 7 pm and don’t eat anything till 10 am the following day, you are actually fasting because you’re going 15 hours without food. In essence, simply avoiding late night snack may be all you need to make IF a part of your daily routine.

Note that the type of fasting depends on your body, individual preferences, and what you are trying to achieve. A lot of people just skip breakfast, prolonging the period between dinner and their next meal. Others go for the more extreme challenge involving a multiday experience.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

In order for you to clearly understand the concept and principle behind intermittent fasting, you first need to know the difference between the fed state and the fasted state. When you eat regularly every few hours, you are in a ‘fed’ state, at which time your body is actively digesting, absorbing, and assimilating the nutrients from the food you eat. Note that accelerated fat burning is not the top priority here. Majority of us are in the fed state during the day, aside from the time when we are sleeping. The reason why IF can deliver certain health benefits is that it allows the body to go into the fasted state, which is the time when fat burning can accelerate.

As aforementioned, intermittent fasting means going without food for a period of 12 to 16 hours. This timeframe is referred to as your fasting window, during which you only ingest liquids like water, black coffee, herbal tea or broth. Some experts suggest taking supplements and drinking low-calorie green vegetable juices while fasting to maintain consistent mineral and vitamin intake. Others recommend that only water should be consumed. Just like other topics in the health and fitness realm, the rules surrounding intermittent fasting are quite subjective and will depend on who you ask.

If your fasting period is less than 24 hours, you will have an eating window. This would be the time assigned before you start your fast. For those doing intermittent fasting, the eating window is anywhere between 6 and 12 hours. By far, the most commonly observed fasting times are 12, 14, 16 and 18 hours. For instance, if you will practice a 12-hour fast, your eating window will be 12 hours. You may begin your eating window at 7 in the morning and end at 7 in the evening. You’ll break the fast the following day at 7 am.

While some IF fasting methods appear to be more intense than others (some lasting for more than 48 hours), the real beauty of intermittent fasting lies in the fact that women get to select and experiment with how long they fast. This does not only allow them to dictate how IF can fit in their lifestyle, but they also get to determine the fasting sweet spot that will help them feel best physically.

The Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting

A number of medical studies have proven that IF offers the following health benefits:

  • Increases energy
  • Increases lean muscle mass
  • Increases cell stress response which can boost resistance against certain diseases
  • Provides sustainable weight loss
  • Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Makes the body less insulin resistant and lowers diabetes risk
  • Improves cognitive function, concentration and memory
  • Strengthens the immune system and improves cardiac health
  • Boosts the production of neurotropic growth factor which is a protein that stimulates neuron growth, helping to make you more resistant to neurological stress and thus making you less prone to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s. 

Now, there’s a flipside to this that must be given serious consideration. Although intermittent fasting does offer certain health benefits, women’s bodies are known to be sensitive to signs of food deprivation, so IF is an entirely different animal. When a woman’s body senses that it’s headed towards starvation, it will automatically speed up the production of leptin and ghrelin – the hunger hormones that tells the body that it is hungry and needs to eat. Moreover, if there’s no ample food, the body will shut down the system that enables women to conceive another human being. This is the body’s innate way of safeguarding a possible pregnancy, even if a woman is not pregnant or attempting to conceive. It is not that you are deliberately imposing starvation upon yourself, but your body does not recognize that and it’s not aware of the difference between intermittent fasting and starvation. This is the reason why it activates a defensive mechanism. Hence, some of the cons owing to hormonal imbalances triggered by IF may lead to the following:

  • Fertility issues
  • Amenorrhea or irregular menstrual periods
  • Shrinking of the ovaries
  • Metabolic stress
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety and depression

Since the hormones of women are so interconnected, when one is negatively impacted the others are also thrown off balance. It is like a domino effect. As the body’s ‘messengers’ that regulate almost every function – from digestion to energy production and metabolism – you certainly don’t want to disrupt their normal rhythm. Having said all these drawbacks, you may be deterred from practicing intermittent fasting. But you can still do it if you take a more relaxed approach. When done within a shorter timeframe, IF can still help you lose weight and deliver health benefits without causing hormonal imbalance.

Options for Intermittent Fasting

The 5:2 Diet – Also referred to as the “Fast Diet,” it involves restricting calorie intake to 500 calories per day for two days a week while eating normally during the other five days. For instance, you may eat regular meals from Monday to Friday and eat 500 calories per day on Saturday and Sunday. This technique was popularized by Michael Mosley, a British physician and journalist, but there hasn’t been much research to support it. However, since food intake isn’t restricted during the fasting days, it can be an effective means to get used to fasting without shocking your system.

The 16/8 Method – Also known as the ‘lean gains method’, this is the most common type of intermittent fasting. It is a brief IF routine that is specifically used to target lean muscle mass and body fat. In essence, it means eating during a window of 8 hours per day – such as from 10 am to 6 pm – and refraining from eating during the remaining 16 hours. Experts claim that this is an easy diet technique that has helped a lot of women lose weight. Those who have tried 16/8 say they had been more productive during fasting hours because they spent less time stressing over food and more time directing their energy into important tasks throughout the day. Moreover, they didn’t have to restrict themselves to 500 calories, as demanded by other diet regimens, so long as they eat healthily during their 8 hour timeframe.

Alternate-day Fasting (ADF) – As the name suggests, you will fast every other day, but eat anything you want during the non-fasting days. This means you only restrict what you eat half of the time. It is a very effective weight control tool, especially among middle-aged women, and can help in lowering your risk of developing heart disease and type II diabetes. In addition, combining alternate-day fasting with endurance exercise can lead to twice as much weight loss compared to ADF alone and about six times as much weight loss than endurance exercise alone. With regards to diet composition, alternate-day fasting appears to be equally effective whether it is a low-fat or high-fat diet. Finally, studies revealed that a lot of women find ADF much easier to follow than conventional, daily calorie restriction.

Supplements to Take While Fasting

Intermittent fasting is effective, but it is by no means easy. If you’re among those who are trying to adopt this new eating strategy, consider taking supplements to help optimize the results. Here are the top supplements to take for women using IF as part of their diet regimen:

BCAAs: During the fasted state, you can’t take anything with calories. This can be very difficult especially if you are having a bad day and feel craving for food. It can also result in unnecessary muscle breakdown just to support the needs of the body. Branched chain amino acids can resolve both of those concerns. BCAAs will be zero calories and prevent muscle catabolism when consumed. They will also help satiate you till you reach your eating window. 

Multi-Vitamin: It is tough to get three meals during your eating window. The diet makes you restrict calories and this means a restriction of meals. You may miss out on some essential muscle building nutrients. Hence, taking a multi vitamin on a daily basis will be crucial to staying healthy while practicing intermittent fasting.

Pre Workout: If you fast and workout, you will definitely need some supplements to keep you going. You’ll need that extra boost of energy in the gym while you are in a fasted state. You just have to be careful and find a pre-workout supplement that has zero calories. 

Fat Burner: Most women who use intermittent fasting opt to do so to lose weight. The latest studies show that fasting can actually speed up your metabolism by approximately 20 percent. You can take a fat burner if you wish to augment this process and stay energized. It will also keep your energy level high while inducing more fat loss. 

*do not take a fat burner or other stimulants if you choose to do an extended fast

 

6 Benefits of Taking BCAA Supplements

benefits of bcaa

If you are serious about your fitness and overall health, you have perhaps come across BCAAs – an acronym for branched-chain amino acids. There are a lot of good reasons why BCAAs come up in discussions about building muscle and getting more out of your workouts. In this article we will discuss the benefits and why BCAAs must be a major component of your fitness strategy.

What are BCAAs?

The branched chain amino acid group consists of leucine, isoleucine and valine. They comprise 35 percent of the amino acids that make up skeletal muscles. All three are essential amino acids not synthesized by the body but are needed for survival. This means they must be ingested through diet or by taking supplements. They can be found in protein-rich foods, with high concentrations in beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and whey protein.

BCAA formulas and supplements have been around since 1996, but they have been primarily used for treating liver disorders like cirrhosis and hypoalbuminemia. Today, they are mostly used by athletes and bodybuilders to boost power output and energy levels. While leucine appears to play an essential role in moderating the health benefits of branched-chain amino acids, taking leucine alone is not the most effective way of supplementing BCAAs. Isoleucine and valine are equally important and the most effective supplements in the market today feature a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to the two other BCAAs.

BCAAs and Muscle Protein Synthesis

One of the primary roles of BCAAs is to induce cellular uptake of amino acids and stimulate protein synthesis. Note that muscle is made of protein so bodybuilders use BCAA supplements to maximize muscle gain from their workout routines. This is typically achieved by combining BCAAs with resistance exercises. The combo triggers the ‘mammalian target of rapamycin’ or mTOR signaling pathway which is crucial in muscle building.

The BCAAs’ protein synthesis stimulating property is also of paramount importance for individuals on a low calorie diet. Those trying to lose weight usually have to deal with loss of muscle mass as well as fat. BCAAs help in preserving muscle when caloric intake is restricted, resulting to more fat being burned and subsequently, a higher lean muscle to fat ratio.

Improved Endurance and Reduced Fatigue

Majority of amino acids can only be metabolized in the liver. BCAAs are an exception because they can be directly metabolized in muscle cells and then used to provide energy. It has been shown by scientific studies that loading up muscles with BCAAs prior to exercise can improve endurance and performance. The possible rationale behind this is that BCAAs increase the amount of fuel that can be converted by muscle cells into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which subsequently provides the needed energy for muscular contractions.

Branched-chain amino acids are also capable of reducing the mental perception of fatigue. BCAAs do this by competing with tryptophan for transport across the blood-brain barrier. Note that tryptophan serves as a precursor of hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) or serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for the feeling of tiredness and fatigue. Hence, high levels of BCAAs can lead to less serotonin being synthesized and thus a lower perception of fatigue, which in turn translates into improved endurance during training and fitness workouts.

Prevention of Muscle Loss During Endurance Exercise

Aside from improving endurance, BCAAs have been shown to be effective in preventing muscle loss during long-duration exercise. For instance, it was discovered that trained athletes who engaged in a 24-hour long exercise test that involved 12 cycles of cycling, running and kayaking experienced a considerable amount of muscle protein degradation and exhibited signs of metabolic stress associated with muscular damage. Moreover, there was a significant drop in plasma level concentration of BCAAs through the course of the test, which is associated with muscle loss. Experts suggest that providing simultaneous nutritional support of BCAAs will prevent the breakdown of muscle fibers by increasing the energy-burning pool so amino acids don’t have to be released from muscle tissue.

Decreased Muscle Soreness and DOMS

Multiple studies involving both trained and untrained individuals show that BCAAs are capable of reducing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in response to endurance and resistance exercises. As such, BCAAs are now considered as the gem of workout supplements because they allow the body to train more often at higher intensities by reducing post-workout soreness and preserving the integrity of muscle cells.

Increased Testosterone and Decreased Cortisol

Studies have revealed that taking BCAA supplements has a positive effect on the hormone balance in the body. In particular, BCAAs appear to boost the levels of testosterone while concurrently decreasing cortisol levels. This is perfect for those who want to lose weight and build muscle mass. Testosterone stimulates protein production and muscle gain while cortisol serves as the body’s primary response to stress, and one of its major functions is to increase the amount of glucose in the blood. It achieves this by shoring up the level of free amino acids produced by the catabolism of muscle protein. The liver then converts the free amino acids to glucose.

While cortisol plays a crucial role in the body’s ‘flight or fight’ response, its effects are detrimental in the long run. A decreased level of cortisol and an increased level of testosterone lead to the effects that most people want – an increase in muscle mass and the loss of body fat.

Increased Insulin Release

Recent clinical studies have spurred a lot of excitement regarding the potential use of BCAAs in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. The metabolic disorder is characterized by insulin resistance, which results in the disruption of the blood glycemic balance. Regulating glucose levels in the blood is one of the main functions of insulin, a hormone secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas. High blood glucose is the stimulus for insulin secretion. There is always a low level of insulin in the blood, but the amount increases as blood glucose rises. Similarly, as the level of blood glucose falls, the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas goes down. Insulin is very important because it affects the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. Multiple studies have proven that BCAAs, specifically leucine, prompts the pancreas to produce and release insulin. BCAAs have also been shown to exert a stabilizing effect on blood glucose levels.

Conclusion

Branched-chain amino acids have a lot of known and proven health benefits aside from simply serving as the building blocks of proteins. These amino acids are beneficial to athletes and bodybuilders because they stimulate protein synthesis and prods the body to build muscle tissue. They have the capability to improve endurance during training and exercise. BCAAs are also of utmost importance to those who wish to lose weight because they help in preserving lean muscle while on a calorie restricted diet. Finally, BCAAs help in keeping glucose levels constant and striking a balance between anabolic and catabolic hormones.

L-Arginine vs AKG Supplements

L-arginine vs akg

L-arginine is the natural form of arginine that is found in food, although manufacturers are capable of synthesizing it to produce L-arginine dietary supplements. On the other hand, L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate or AAKG, is a nonessential amino acid that plays a crucial role in making nitric oxide in the liver. It is also manufactured as a complex dietary supplement containing alpha-ketoglutarate which is a salt derived from glutaric acid.

About L-Arginine

L-Arginine is regarded as a semi-essential amino acid, because while the body normally produces sufficient amounts of it, supplementation is sometimes required. The body uses L-arginine to synthesize proteins, enzymes and biochemicals like creatine. It is also used by cells lining the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide and stimulate vasodilation, thereby increasing blood flow. Although a small quantity of nitric oxide is constantly produced, its levels can rise by as much as a thousand fold in order to boost oxygen and nutrient delivery throughout the body.

About Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AKG)

Alpha-ketoglutarate serves as an intermediate in the citric acid cycle, which is the body’s primary means of producing energy and raw materials. AKG ingested as a supplement enters the citric acid cycle, producing energy or other products like L-glutamine which is a major component of muscles. L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate or AAKG combines the benefits of both substances. It breaks down in the intestines into AKG and L-arginine and is essentially the same as taking both separately.

Uses

Physicians prescribe L-arginine supplements for the treatment of cardiovascular disorders like angina, hypertension and congestive heart failure. It has likewise garnered widespread attention for its use in treating patients suffering from impotence (i.e. erectile dysfunction), cataract, type 2 diabetes and peripheral blood flow problems like intermittent claudication.

AAKG is less commonly used for clinical purposes, as manufacturers prefer to market the supplement to athletes, specifically bodybuilders and weightlifters. AAKG can increase short term nitric oxide levels which results in a muscle growth environment in the body. This is achieved by increasing the rate of blood flow to working muscles, which in turn leads to increased glucose uptake, oxygen and nutrient delivery, power output and muscle velocity. AAKG also amplifies muscle-growth signals for faster gains in lean mass and to accelerate both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers for greater strength and increased endurance.

In addition, L-Arginine prods the production of growth hormone or somatotropin, a chemical produced by the anterior pituitary gland that promotes growth and plays an integral role in metabolism. Growth hormone is popular among athletes because it helps in building lean muscle mass and increasing strength. When used in conjunction with your fitness program, AAKG can support myodilation or the expansion of muscle tissue.

Another benefit of AAKG is its function as a precursor in the production of creatine and glutamine. Daily AAKG supplementation has been shown to increase the creatine and glutamine stores of the body. This may result to improvements in strength, stamina and recovery times. Some athletes take alpha-ketoglutarate to improve peak performance because it helps the liver in breaking down the by-products of muscle exercise like ammonia.

Effectiveness

L-arginine is most effective when used to increase the levels of nitric oxide for the treatment of congestive heart failure. Its efficacy is supported by three small double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. As for AAKG, supplementation has been extensively researched in different laboratory settings. A study conducted in 2006 and published in the “Nutrition” journal revealed that trained men taking AAKG managed to increase their one-repetition maximum (1RM) for bench press after two months. However, the validity of the result has been questioned because the men did not show any increases in aerobic capacity and body mass to accompany the reported strength gains.

It may well be that AAKG supplements are more impressive when integrated into an overall amino acid supplement to increase blood flow and help build muscle. What is certain is that there is a significant increase in nitric oxide synthesis whenever arginine is released into the bloodstream. When more nitric oxide is present, enhanced work capacity, extended muscle pumps and improved recovery times are more likely.

Dosage

There is no standard dose for L-arginine. Studies have utilized various quantities for different conditions. A common dosage is 2 to 3 grams taken three times per day, but higher and lower doses have also been tested. Those with burns, infections, protein malnutrition, rapid growth, and other conditions may require supplemental arginine.

L-Arginine alpha-ketoglutarate supplements are sold in pills, tablets or powder. The recommended dosage is 2 or 3 tablets taken once or twice a day on an empty stomach. Most physicians suggest taking the tablets in the morning and at least half an hour before workouts. In powder form, the recommended dose for AAKG ranges from 1500 to 3500 milligrams. Experts believe that it is more beneficial to mix the powder with creatine-based products.

Safety

L-arginine is considered safe to take since it is the natural form of arginine that you can normally obtain in foods like dairy products, meat and poultry. According to experts from New York University, most people can tolerate arginine in doses of up to 20 grams per day. However, L-arginine supplements may stimulate acid production in the stomach, alter potassium levels and interfere with herpes treatment. Moreover, due to potential alterations in blood flow or pressure, it is imperative that you only take L-arginine supplements with your physician’s supervision, especially if you are pregnant or have cardiac, renal or endocrine disorder. Rare but serious side effects that required hospitalization have been reported in a very small number of people. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience allergic reactions, bleeding, persistent headache, or changes in vision.

AAKG supplements are also generally regarded as safe to take, though some have been found to contain additives and contaminants. According to registered dietitian Ellen Coleman, in most cases such contaminants are the consequence of poor manufacturing processes, but there are instances when they are deliberately adulterated with chemicals such as anabolic steroids to boost the performance of the product. Again, it is always advisable to seek your physician’s advice before starting L-arginine and AAKG supplementation.