Know more about caffeine

Coffee is the nectar of the gods.

Partially because the aroma of it is the planets best aphrodisiac and it tastes like a million angles are dancing on sunshine, but most importantly it contains caffeine.

Ok, this is probably a bit of hyperbole but coffee is one of the most popular beverages consumed in the world.

In fact, the average American drinks 3.1 cups of coffee per day and we spend approximately $40 billion on coffee each year1. That number is mind-boggling.

Caffeine has garnered a lot of attention in both the fitness world and in the research world due to a lot of the performance and health properties it can convey. Sadly, as with most health claims, many of the things you hear are like unicorns, they aren’t real.

Now since caffeine is one of the most consumed “drugs” on the planet I think we ought to set the record straight and clear up a few of the myths surrounding caffeine.

1. CAFFEINE DEHYDRATES YOU

People think that because coffee makes you pee it dehydrates you. I never really understood that logic, it is missing a lot of steps and doesn’t really make any sense when you think about it. For example, drinking water makes you pee but drinking water is how you hydrate.

The body’s fluid balance system is a lot more complicated than that. Honestly, sometimes journalists’ logic baffles me at times. This is where science is important. We can actually ask and answer the question of, “Does caffeine dehydrate you”?

Fortunately for us, several studies have looked at whether caffeine consumption actually dehydrates you. For example, one studied looked at a dose response of caffeine and diuresis (making more urine) and found that daily intakes of caffeine at 3 and 6 mg per kg per day over a span of 11 days does not have a real effect on fluid balance and hydrations status2.

Now that is great and all when considering the study was conducted with pure caffeine, but what about caffeinated beverages and all the other things that go with them? I am glad you asked. Here is a study that showed that black tea also doesn’t do squat as a diuretic and hydrates you just as well as water3.

2. CAFFEINE IS A GOOD FAT BURNER

Caffeine is marketed as a fat burner pretty heavily. The thing about it is that it can be a fat burner. . . but it likely doesn’t work the way you think it does.

The old version of caffeine being a fat burner goes something like this: caffeine causes fat cells to release fatty acids which is then burned for energy. This is kind of true but not really. The data is a little more complex than that.

When you really get down to the nitty gritty, it looks like caffeine increases lipid mobilization by a significant amount but most of that fat isn’t actually burned, about 75% of it is actually recycled, meaning it’s “released” from fat cells and then stored again without being used4.

So caffeine probably won’t directly increase fat loss but it may increase your training capacity, making increased fat-loss a byproduct.

In addition to the fact that most of the “mobilized” fat is simply recycled, caffeine loses its efficacy over time. Much like alcohol or drugs, your body habituates to caffeine and eventually it loses its ability to be stimulated by caffeine. At some point it becomes a “return to normal function” supplement.

If you take a second to think about this you realize how true it is. Think about the first time you had a cup of coffee in the morning and how alert and ready to go you felt. Now fast forward 15 years and think about how you feel like one of those zombies in The Walking Dead until that first cup of coffee kicks in and you feel a little more human.

If you abuse coffee/caffeine as much as I do it might take the whole pot to get you back to normal. . . I should probably take a caffeine break sometime soon.

3. CAFFEINE IS GOOD FOR PERFORMANCE

People often tout caffeine as the ultimate performance enhancer. This is true to some extent. It is the most effective, legal, ergogenic aid we have on the market, For example, people who are not habituated to caffeine can see increases in strength and power from pre-exercise caffeine supplementation.

Sadly, there is a very large “habituation” effect and caffeine loses its efficacy overtime. In fact, if you want to really maximize your caffeine you should cycle on and off it regularly. This is part of the reason you only get that “first time I took pre-workout feeling” once in your lifetime.

The other reason caffeine may not help your performance is the type of exercise you engage in. Caffeine is a known stimulate than can increase heart rate. In certain cases an elevated heart rate is actually a good way to ruin your performance.

In “metcon” style workouts where your goal is to sustain a relatively high workload for an extended period of time a higher resting rate will actually decrease your time to fatigue, which is the opposite effect of what you want.

Let me wrap this thing up in short, snappy sentences. Caffeine is awesome, coffee is my favorite source. It doesn’t dehydrate you. It isn’t the key to getting shredded.

It can help power production and fatigue in some situations but can hurt you during metcon style workouts. Cycling on and off is probably the best idea if you want to use caffeine to augment your performance.

The Key Mineral For Your Supplements

While magnesium is best known as a relaxing ingredient in the popular nighttime supplement ZMA, the benefits of magnesium are extremely impressive and extend far beyond sleep alone.

In this article you will learn everything about this key mineral and how regular supplementation can advance your health and even your physique, one step further.

BACKGROUND TO MAGNESIUM AND MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY

In the body, magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral and the second most abundant electrolyte. Magnesium is a key cofactor for over 300 metabolic reactions in the body.

Some of the primary roles of magnesium in the body include1,2,3:

  • protein synthesis,
  • muscle and nerve function,
  • blood glucose control,
  • blood pressure regulation,
  • energy production,
  • DNA synthesis,
  • muscle contraction.

With such a wide range of functions, magnesium deficiency is always going to be of serious concern. The United States daily recommended intake is 420 mg for men and 310 mg for women4.

Related: ZMA Supplements – Do They Improve Sleep & Test Levels?

At present, research estimates that at least 60% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily amount of magnesium in their diets. Remember, that the deficiency level is far below the optimal range for an athlete, or someone who wants to optimize their health and physique5.

The big issue around magnesium intake is limited access to natural sources. Although magnesium is a rather abundant mineral, there is no major food source that provides a high quality amount of magnesium. The foods highest in magnesium include unrefined (whole) grains, spinach, nuts, legumes, and potatoes. However, you would need to eat unrealistic amounts to get a high magnesium intake6.

Along with issues around obtaining magnesium naturally, there are a large number of factors that can reduce our rate of magnesium storage and absorption. Most notable of them are7:

  • Excess alcohol, diuretics, coffee, tea, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas), calcium, potassium and sugar.
  • Intense stress.
  • Drugs and some supplements (foscarnet, aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, cyclosporine, azathioprine, cisplatin, citrated blood, excess vitamin D).
  • Several health conditions (vomiting, diarrhea, renal transplantation, etc.).
  • Insufficient water intake.

The most common way to determine magnesium deficiency is by measuring total serum concentrations. A healthy range is between 0.7 and 1.05 mM8. However, most of the body’s magnesium is stored in bone, muscle and soft tissues, with only 1% of the body’s magnesium content stored in the serum9.

Therefore, unless severe magnesium deficiency is present, measuring serum magnesium concentrations is unlikely to be an effective way of diagnosing deficiency10. This means, it is possible that a large majority of the population is actually magnesium deficient, but not to the extent that it would be identified when measuring serum concentrations.

Severe signs of minor of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. If this deficiency continues and progresses, other issues such as abnormal heart rhythms, tingling, numbness, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures and coronary spasms can occur2,4.

MultiVitamin Increase

You’ve seen the headlines. One day no one needs to take vitamins, the next day, it turns out everyone needs them.

Just how important is it to take vitamins anyway and which ones are we to choose for best results?

If you’re a high performance athlete then you know you can be more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies than the average person.

Bodybuilders and other athletes place a heavy demand on their bodies and often restrict certain nutrients/foods to get lean. But doing this can actually create a barrier between you and that muscle growth you’re striving for.

So if you’re struggling with muscle growth, energy replenishment or even positive performance outcomes then you might just have a poor micronutrient intake.

WHAT ARE MICRONUTRIENTS?

Micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals and additional co-factors such as co-enzymes, are essential to life. Micronutrients make myriad biochemical processes happen. Pound down all the protein and carbs you want but chances are if your micros are not in the correct balance, you can forget about building quality muscle.

Frequently neglected among athletes are vitamins. There are 13 in the human body: 4 fat-soluble (A, D, E and K – stored in the body for long periods) and 9 water-soluble (8 B-vitamins and C – rapidly flushed from the body and excreted in urine).

Many feel that a complete vitamin intake can be achieved with a well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of fruits and vegetables. However, with an ever-growing list of environmental toxins depleting the body of essential nutrients, poor soil quality & food preparation methods, and daily stress compromising health it is unlikely that a desirable vitamin intake can be obtained through whole foods alone.

The demand is even greater for strength athletes, including bodybuilders. The collective stress of ongoing resistance training and nutrient restriction (for example, high sugar fruits pre-contest) coupled with environmental factors make a quality multi-vitamin a muscle-building mandatory.

WHY INCREASE VITAMIN INTAKE?

As of 2009 more than 2 billion people globally were affected by micronutrient deficiency.14With 50% of the general population at risk of vitamin D deficiency2 and 1 in 4 adults deficient in vitamin B12 it is clear that even in developed countries, the right nutrient balance can be very difficult to achieve.9

People with no vitamin deficiency symptoms, many believe they are getting their required vitamin intake through a well-balanced diet. But such diets are, in reality, less than optimal.

In fact, over time, the suboptimal intake of vitamins may result in a breakdown of the cellular metabolism required for the proper growth and functioning of bodily tissues and organs. Disease and illness may result. Physical capabilities will certainly decline.

Some people are at greater risk of vitamin deficiency. For example, aging populations are less capable of absorbing vital nutrients. In addition, athletes continue to suffer micronutrient depletion due to the rigors of intensive training.

Those vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies may simply choose to increase their intake of wholesome foods. While a well-balanced diet devoid of processed foods undoubtedly provides a solid foundation for continued good health, such an approach can still lead to subclinical vitamin deficiencies.

Today’s farming practices and pest control measures have been shown to significantly reduce the mineral content of soil and the vitamin content of produce.15, 16 Un-ripened fruits also lack certain nutrients. Processing and preservation can strip fruit and vegetables of valuable vitamins.

Nitric Oxide Supplements

Until you have achieved “the pump” you haven’t fully lived.

If you have never walked out of the gym with your biceps feeling like they are going to explode, your whole life has been a lie.

I’m only half kidding here. Well, actually I am not kidding at all; the pump is the best.

In fact, there is a whole class of supplements that were originally designed to help you achieve the pump, known today as nitric oxide boosters.

More recently, nitric oxide boosters have been utilized in wider applications as they are meant to increase blood flow.

Increased blood flow can improve nutrient delivery to muscle tissue, allowing you to train longer, harder, recover better, and makes achieving the elusive pump easier.

While most nitric oxide boosting supplements contain a plethora of ingredients, there are really only a few things you need to know about to really understand NO boosters.

WHAT IS NITRIC OXIDE?

So before we go any further we should probably fill you in on what the heck nitric oxide is and why the heck you would want to boost it.

Nitric oxide causes vasodilation. This effectively increases blood flow which can increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles. Essentially, vasodilation gives your muscles more go juice.

L-ARGININE

The Quick and Dirty: Arginine is an amino acid that is turned into nitric oxide in the body. In theory arginine should improve blood flow and thus improve performance and enhanceyour training.

Currently, the results are mixed and we don’t have a slam dunk case for it. This supplement may be a case of “responders vs non-responders” and some self-experimentation may prove that it is an effective supplement for you.

The Deeper Dive: The real science from studies done on L-arginine studies indicate that it does get taken up into the body and that nitric oxide boosting supplements with L-arginine do effectively increase arginine levels.

However, the increase of arginine levels in the blood doesn’t always translate into efficacy for blood flow or improvement in work capacity. One study has shown that arginine supplementation increases levels of arginine in the blood but does not increase levels of nitric oxide or muscular blood flow, nor does it enhance muscle protein synthesis.1

Yet, another shows that it increases blood volume but not strength performance.2

Even longer term supplementation of arginine appears to be largely ineffective. 7 days of supplementing with 12d/day of an arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate supplement showed that it did indeed increase plasma levels of L-arginine but had zero effect on hemodynamics or blood flow.3  More studies have shown no meaningful or significant increase in training capacity.

Currently, the evidence suggests that L-arginine may increase circulatory blood flow, but does not consistently or meaningfully increase training performance. No it isn’t all doom and gloom as when you look deeper into the research it appears that there are definitely “responders” and “non-responders” (I looked at a lot of papers and made assumptions based on means and standard deviations).

Perhaps it is time to enter a brand new era of NO boosting and find something that is more effective.

HOw to protect pharma monopolies

The Food and Drug Administration has historically been the one federal agency that has wreaked havoc on the nutritional supplement industry, imposing rules and regulations that hamper, harass and strangle supplement manufacturers and sellers.

Now the Justice Department is joining the fray, as noted by the Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA), an advocacy group that promotes sustainable health through various natural means, including through the use of nutritional supplements.

In recent days, the group said, Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a video about supplements for National Consumer Protection Week (a quick read of her bio shows that she’s a Harvard-educated lawyer, but there are no medical qualifications listed in her resume, so what makes her an expert in nutritional supplements is a bit of a mystery).

Since she obviously is no expert on this subject, we have to assume that she’s relying on others for her information – or, as ANH-USA said in an action alert, “she must be relying on distortions and untruths she has been fed by other agencies of the government such as the FDA and Centers for Disease Control.”

For example, the group noted, Lynch, in her video, warns consumers against “ingesting substances whose safety and efficacy are not guaranteed” via an FDA study – as if this biased agency is supposed to be the gold standard for nutritional research or otherwise not compromised by presidential (read donor) politics.

“Dietary supplements caused zero deaths”

As ANH-USA has pointed out in response to others who have made similar statements, the FDA does not do its own research, it relies on industry studies to reach decisions about whether to allow new drugs and treatments to come to the market. And most of those studies are done by the drug makers themselves, not independent (and unbiased) researchers.

“No independent review is done to check the industry’s results, which has led to all kinds of manipulation and sometimes disastrous outcomes (see the examples of Vioxx and Avandia). And after approval is granted, the actual medicine itself is never tested, even though it may be manufactured in Chinese plants or other faraway locales,” the advocacy organization said.

In fact, so-called “FDA approval” has never been a guarantee that a product is safe. That should be obvious given that, even when properly prescribed, prescription drugs are responsible for about 1.9 million hospitalizations per year and about 128,000 deaths, ANH-USA said, citing the most recent statistics.

And that is just for hospitals. Deaths outside of hospitals would greatly contribute to the overall total if those were counted as well.

“In stark contrast, dietary supplements caused zero deaths in 2013, the last year reported,” ANH-USA reported.

In addition, Lynch makes the claim that supplements “endanger public health” because they allegedly contain harmful ingredients. Let’s examine that.

Like all industries, of course, the supplement industry contains some bad actors. But even at that, supplements that may contain some unsafe ingredients are already “adulterated,” meaning the FDA has a responsibility to remove them from the market and prosecute the manufacturers.