How Does Omega-3 Help the Body?

How Does Omega-3 Help the Body?

Omega-3 is a group of fatty acids that are essential for body functions. If you get enough of them, they can provide great health benefits. You can absorb omega-3 fats by consuming food. You can mostly find them in fish, seeds, oils and some nuts. A person who avoids these foods can choose to take omega-3 supplements instead.

There are three main types of omega-3 – ALA, DHA and EPA. Each comes with its own benefits, so combined, there are a lot of advantages to getting enough omega-3 in your diet! We’ve outlined these three types of omega-3 below:

ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid)

The body uses this type of omega-3 for energy. It is the most common omega-3 acid within the body. ALA is mostly in plant-based foods.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)

This type of omega-3 plays a key role in the maintenance of body systems, such as the brain and the liver. As this is most commonly found in animal products, someone who doesn’t eat a lot of animal products or is on a vegan diet may often look to supplement DHA in order to get enough of this fatty acid.

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid)

Perhaps the most important acid, EPA can largely be found in animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and helps to reduce inflammation. It can also be prescribed by doctors for patients due to its positive effects on mental health. EPA can help prevent depression and aid in day to day brain function.

Benefits of Omega-3 in the Diet

Cognitive Function and Sleep

Ample levels of omega-3 in the diet assist greatly with brain function and health when consumed on a daily basis. They can help the brain to rest and achieve greater levels of sleep, as well as deeper sleep. Omega-3 will also help boost a person’s memory when consumed regularly.

Lower Blood Pressure

A person with increased levels of omega-3 in their diet will have lower blood pressure. By reducing the strain on cells walls the circulatory system does not have to work as hard reducing a person’s blood pressure.

Skin Health

Sufficient levels of omega-3 in the body greatly aids in protection against the sun if overexposed for long periods of time. A person with a skin disorder may also look to supplement to increase omega-3 levels. They may even be prescribed this due to its effect on fighting conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.

Hair Health

Omega-3 helps increase hair growth. It helps against dry and flaky scalps and prevents against inflammation which is attributed to hair loss. Studies have also been carried out to support the belief that a person with high omega-3 levels can also begin to reverse hair loss if that person is suffering from baldness.

It is not possible for the body to produce omega-3, therefore it can only be consumed from food sources. A general recommendation of omega-3 in the diet by medical professionals is 250 – 500mg on a daily basis. This can change due to a person’s health condition, therefore it is important an individual seeks medical guidance before looking to supplement omega-3.

Mental Health

Not only can omega-3 help with brain functions like memory, it can also help with mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Studies have increasingly started to show that people with higher levels of omega-3 in their diet are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. And taking supplements can even alleviate their symptoms. Of the three main omega-3s listed above, EPA appears to be the most effective at fighting such mental illnesses.

Omega-3s in Your Diet

While a lot of health advice is to avoid fatty foods, omega-3 fatty acids are an exception! Getting enough of these in your diet is essential for optimal health. The best way to include omega-3s in your diet is to eat whole foods, like fatty fish, a few times a week. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or perhaps just don’t like to eat a lot of fatty fish, you may alternatively wish to take supplements. These are easy to get hold of, and are relatively inexpensive too.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-are-omega-3-fatty-acids#types

https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/vitamins-and-supplements/supplements/omega-3/5-surprising-reasons-need-omega-3/

https://www.heartuk.org.uk/low-cholesterol-foods/omega-3-fats

What is MCT Oil and Why is it Good for the Keto Diet and Health?

What is MCT Oil?

Medium-chain Triglycerides are a type of triglycerides with two or three fatty acids with an aliphatic tail of 6 – 12 carbon atoms. It is this tail that makes this type of fat interesting and has unique benefits. 

MCTs are found in palm kernel oil and coconut oil. These triglycerides can be isolated and are sold as MCT oil. MCT oil is 100% pure and ranges between the four different types of MCTs, which are categorised on the basis of the carbon tail size:

  • Caproic acid (C6:0)
  • Caprylic acid (C8:0)
  • Capric acid (C10:0)
  • Lauric acid (C12:0)

MCT oil is usually a mixture of Caproic acid, Caprylic acid and Capric acid. By combining these acids, they have a higher affinity to be absorbed into the liver.

How Are They Metabolised?

MCTs are much easier to break down by the human body due to the tail size. This results in the fatty acids being transposed to the liver at a faster rate, reducing the opportunity to be stored in fat cells. Once at the liver, they are converted to ketones. Ketones are created by the liver when it has to break down large amounts of fats.

How Do They Help the Keto Diet?

Ketones are the primary source of the Ketogenic Diet. This diet is when the nutritional intake of fats increases and carbohydrates, the body’s regular energy source, is reduced. When this occurs the body is starved from its usual source of energy and other pathways are opened to assure energy expenditure is met. This is known as ketosis. When the body undergoes ketosis, providing there is no calorie surplus, the body will use the fat stores more frequently and can lead to fat loss. 

MCT oil is extremely beneficial to the Keto Diet as it is a fat source that can be broken down quickly. It can also be used as an energy source. This is the equivalent of sugar in a regular, carbohydrate-based diet. Sugars are broken down quickly to glucose and can then be converted to ATP. ATP is the body’s main energy source when not in state of ketosis. Therefore when on a Ketogenic diet, MCT oil can be used as a quick source of energy should the body need a boost. 

Health Benefits

There are numerous benefits which MCT oil provides! Here are the notable benefits, and why so many people opt in to take these fatty acids:

Promote Weight Loss

MCT oil has shown that it has the ability to release two hormones which promote the feeling of fullness in the body. These hormones are known as Peptide YY and leptin. Therefore if MCT oils are consumed in the morning, this can lead to eating less food during lunch and dinner. This results in the body entering a calorie deficit. If this is met on a regular basis, the body will use other energy sources to compensate. This should then lead to weight loss.

May Reduce Lactic Acid Buildup

Lactic acid buildup occurs when vigorous training happens and your body does not have enough oxygen to breakdown glucose. This can result in cramping and burning sensations in the muscles. This in turn could mean that you are not able to train as hard after this period, until the body repairs itself. A study was conducted where athletes took MCT oil in the morning with food before going cycling, and test results showed that they had less lactate levels than the athletes who did not take MCT oil. This means that completing the same amount of exercise, MCT oil could have the ability to prevent lactic acid buildup. Your body can thus train harder during sessions and be able to recover quickly.

Has Antimicrobial and Antifungal Effects

MCT has been shown to have antimicrobial and antifungal effects in several studies. Coconut oil, which contains significant amounts of MCT oil has been shown to reduce the outbreak of Candida albicans on the skin. Candida is a common yeast which can cause skin infections and thrush. MCT oil has also been shown to combat against other harmful bacteria such as Clostridium difficile in test tube studies. Although promising, majority MCT research completed for immune support is completed in vitro, which means that the studies are completed in environments which are not in the human body. 

Conclusion

MCT oil has the potential to become a significant supplement which anyone may want to take to help them on their fitness and health journey. With its ability to promote fat loss, sustain energy throughout the day and preventing lactic acid buildup, it is clear to see why athletes and other fitness enthusiasts have adopted MCT oil in their diet.

The Healthy Hub Picks

A Guide To BCAA Supplements

What are BCAAs?

BCAA stands for branched-chain amino acids. These are a group of the essential amino acids; valine, isoleucine and leucine. You can find these in food and in supplement form. Many  athletes or sports enthusiasts use the latter, in order to aid in the growth of muscles and boost sporting performance. We’ve taken a look at each of these in more detail below:

Valine

Valine assists the body in muscle growth and repair as well as assisting the body in maintaining the immune system. Unlike other amino acids, the muscles process valine as opposed to the liver. You can also use it as an appetite suppressant. It is additionally in some medications for its assistance in insomnia and anxiety disorders. Valine can be taken in supplement form or found in food such as milk, chicken and leafy green vegetables.

Leucine

As well as assisting in muscular hypertrophy, leucine is the most common amino acid found in the body. Contemporary studies would suggest that leucine consumed on a weight loss diet will help the body retain muscle mass while losing fat. It also assists the body in the regulation of blood sugar levels and reduces stress on blood vessels. You can find it in beef, eggs and chicken.

Isoleucine

This helps the body build muscle and repair body tissue. It greatly aids the body in performance in endurance training and recovering from strenuous exercise. Scientific studies would suggest that this amino acid is particularly effective at injury recovery and rebuilding damaged tissue. You can find it in foods such as eggs, turkey, chicken and fish.

Benefits Of BCAAs

As previously stated, amino acids help build muscle and recovery from injury. We’ve listed further benefits below:

Decreased Muscle Soreness

Amino acids help the body prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is the stiffness and acute pain and discomfort a person will feel when moving muscles 12 hours – 3 days after exercise. DOMS can be reduced because a person will limit the damage to muscle tissue while exercising.

Reduce Fatigue

As well as muscle soreness after exercise, a person will often feel tiredness and exhaustion after strenuous exercise.  The body utilises BCAAs during exercise. It reduces the amount of serotonin converted in the bloodstream. This chemical is a contributing factor in fatigue after exercise.

Assist Those with Liver Disease

A person suffering from liver disease or illness will benefit with BCAA supplements or high levels of BCAAs in the diet. This is due to reducing the strain the disease has on the liver operating on a day to day basis and will decrease the likelihood of developing liver cancers.

Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Some evidence suggests that as leucine and isoleucine are linked to your insulin secretion increasing, which then leads to your muscles taking in more sugar from your blood, this could result in an overall decrease in blood sugar levels. However, the results seem to vary, mostly depending on the diet of the individual. Someone on a high fat diet, for instance, when combined with BCAA supplements, could develop an insulin resistance. 

Help With Weight Loss

As with blood sugar levels, the likelihood that BCAAs can help with weight loss may depend on diet. While some studies have shown that those consuming higher levels of BCAAs per day can lower the risk of obesity, the amount of protein eaten also differed, which likely influenced the results. 

BCAAs in the Diet

There are many benefits to a person taking BCAAs. These levels can be met when eating a well-balanced diet. A person unable to get adequate levels of BCAAs in their diet may then wish to supplement. It is important that the recommended dosage is not exceeded on the supplement and medical guidance is always considered. This is due to the harmful effects it can have, such as fatigue and nausea.

Sources

https://aminoacidsguide.com/Val.html
https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-use-leucine-for-weight-loss-3495727
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-bcaa#section3
https://blog.blenderbottle.com/all-about-bcaas-bcaa-benefits-uses-and-side-effects

A Guide to Vegan Protein Supplements

What is Vegan Protein Made From?

Vegan protein, like all vegan food, is free of animal-based foods, therefore is plant-based. Eating a vegan diet can be difficult for some people in order to still consume a lot of protein and build muscle. However, by being aware of different sources of vegan-friendly protein supplements, a person eating this type of diet can still make the same health and fitness progressions as any other diet and often lead an even healthier lifestyle.

Where Do Vegans Get Most of Their Protein?

While supplements may be needed, vegans can get a number of natural proteins in their diet. Common foods like lentils, tofu, peanuts and chickpeas have a high protein content, as do lesser known foods such as spelt and seitan. Seitan, which is made from gluten, is actually incredibly rich in protein. For every 100g you eat, you’ll get around 25g of protein. 

People often assume that there is not a lot of protein in plant based foods, but foods like seitan clearly show this is not the case! Plant foods can provide all the essential amino acids your body needs, which are the building blocks of protein. 

Vegan Protein Powders

As mentioned, many vegans choose to use supplements in addition to eating a protein rich diet. That way, they can ensure they get a healthy amount of protein. This is particularly important for those looking to build up their muscle mass. We’ve listed five of the most common vegan protein supplements below:

Pea Protein

This supplement is made through removing the protein from yellow peas and concentrating it into powder form. As well as being a good source of protein it is also high in iron. Typically this powder is blended together with almond milk or water and consumed after workouts or during the day. This is also a low-fat protein source. 

Soy Protein

This is consumed as a wholefood through eating soybeans or turned into a protein powder and consumed in a liquid form. When in powder form, it is washed through with water in order to remove sugar. It is a low-fat source of protein. There are many studies on soybeans that suggest it is not as strong at protein synthesis as whey and casein protein, although it is low fat. Therefore when building muscle or looking to eat a balanced diet, an individual should make sure they vary their protein sources.

Hemp Protein

Hemp protein is made into powder form by processing hemp seeds into powder form. It is then consumed in liquid form, by mixing with water or milk. This is popular among athletes or people wanting to consume a whole protein source. This is because it contains all nine amino acids as well as being high in fibre. It is high in antioxidants and is nutrient-dense. However, when consumed on a regular basis, due to its high fibre content, it can cause diarrhoea and bloating. 

Sunflower Seed Protein

Sunflower protein is usually consumed through grinding the seeds to powder form and consuming alongside a liquid. It is often consumed in bar form and also by eating the seeds whole. Sunflower seeds also help prevent heart disease and diabetes due to their anti-inflammatory nature. They are nutrient-dense but also high in calories, should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Brown Rice Protein 

A 28g serving of brown rice protein powder has approximately 22g of protein and just over 100 calories. Obviously this will depend on the brand, so it’s good to check the nutritional information before buying this powder. Some early studies have shown that brown rice protein could be just as effective in supporting muscle growth as whey protein, when you take it after weight training. One thing to look out for though is the arsenic levels of this protein – rice products often come with such contaminants. 

Vegan Protein in the Diet

As with all food sources and supplements, there are positives and negatives of the consumption of vegan protein. It is recommended that where possible, a person looks to consume their protein from whole foods. However, this is of course not always possible. Therefore an individual can take supplements in order to reach the recommended daily intake for protein. A person should always stick to the recommended daily intake and consume the supplement in moderation. Otherwise you can experience discomfort or health implications.

Best Sources of Natural Protein

Protein

Protein is one of the 3 main Macronutrients, alongside Fat and Carbohydrates. These are the nutrients the body needs in larger quantities in order to function on a daily basis and aid the body systems to operate to an optimum level. 

Protein is utilised by the body in a number of ways. It aids in the recovery of the muscles and helps them to recover after a workout. It also helps repair damaged body tissue. This can be anything from a bruise or scrape to a muscle tear. Ample amounts of protein in the diet are therefore key in a balanced diet. It’s also important for an individual to know which sources to consume in order to meet the required daily intake.

It is important to be aware that protein is found in a large variety of foods, in varying amounts. Some of the best natural sources of Protein are shown below. 

Best Sources of Natural Protein

Chicken

As with all meats, chicken comes in a variety of different cuts. Chicken breast is most popular among health-conscious people This is due to it being high in protein and lower in calories than chicken thighs or legs. A typical skinless chicken breast will contain approximately 54g of protein. Fat content of chicken breast will change depending on whether it is fried, grilled or boiled. When consuming chicken on a regular basis, it is important to be mindful of its fat content and consider the calorie breakdown on packaging. Over-consumption may lead to weight gain and other health implications.

Eggs

Eggs contain a wide range of nutrients and are among some of the healthiest foods a person can eat. An egg contains 13g of Protein. They contain vitamins and minerals essential for bodily functions. Almost all nutrients in an egg are contained in the yolk while the egg white contains only protein. An individual consuming eggs on a daily basis should be mindful of the high-fat content in an egg yolk. It is therefore not uncommon among athletes or health-conscious individuals to eat only the egg white and remove the yolk before consumption, this is in order to take advantage of the high protein of eggs while not eating over the recommended daily amount of fat, which will have health implications.

Milk

Not only is milk high in protein but contains all the amino acids needed by the body in order to function and build muscle tissue. Studies indicate that if consumed after exercise, it greatly enhances muscle growth and repair. This would also make it a lower cost, easily accessible alternative to other post-workout foods. 250ml of Milk (1 cup) contains 8g of Protein, a person conscious of fat consumption can opt for skimmed or semi-skimmed milk while still getting a healthy Protein source. 

Beef 

Beef is a popular source of protein. A 100g serving of beef will contain approximately 25g of Protein. Beef is also a good source of iron and zinc. Along with other red meat, beef also tends to be high in fat, therefore cuts such as Sirloin are more suited to a health-conscious individual. As with all foods, it is important to eat Beef in moderation, studies indicate that the overconsumption of red meat has strong links to high cholesterol and bowel cancer. A person eating over 90g of Protein in the UK is deemed to be of high consumption and therefore would be recommended to reduce this intake otherwise would likely develop a health condition.

Natural Sources of Protein in the Diet

The recommended intake of protein per day for an adult is 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight. A person looking to increase muscle mass or assist the body in recovery from an injury may increase this amount, this can be done through eating natural protein sources. It is important to not just focus on the Protein content of foods and also consider other vitamins and minerals contained in the food when looking to eat a balanced diet.

HIIT Training 101

HIIT Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise performed in short bursts with periods of rest between intense energy expenditure. Due to the heavy workload and strain  when performing these exercises, the typical duration for such workouts is 30 – 45 minutes. Because of the short time frame to perform HIIT training, this can be a great method of training where an individual does not have a lot of free time.

Performing HIIT

As with all exercise, HIIT starts with a moderate warm-up period in order to prepare the body for exercise. An individual would then perform several intense repetitions followed by medium intensity repetitions/rest periods and then repeat. You should perform this intense form of exercise at your maximum exertion capabilities. 

Typical exercises for HIIT are aerobic exercises such as running or rowing where the intensity of exercise can be modified with the setting of a machine or by simply slowing down. 

Health effects of HIIT training

Cardiovascular Health

As with all forms of exercise, HIIT training performed on a periodic basis helps lead to a healthy heart and circulatory system. You can also lower blood pressure and reduce your heart rate.

Increased Metabolic Rate After Exercise

The intense nature of HIIT training helps increase the metabolism of the body throughout the day having performed the exercise hours before. Therefore burning more calories and burning fat, while other exercises will only burn these calories while performing the exercise.

Muscle Hypertrophy

An increase in metabolic rate through the day causes the muscles to work harder through the day, therefore leading to increased endurance and muscle mass. 

Decreased Blood Sugar

Studies would support the fact that HIIT training reduces an individual’s blood sugar significantly more than less intense exercise, even when performed for longer periods of time. This helps reduce strain on blood vessels that transport blood to organs. 

HIIT for beginners

An individual new to exercise would usually consider a form of continuous exercise  before looking to try HIIT. An example of this would be running or another cardiovascular exercise for 40 minutes. Due to the intense nature of HIIT, a basic level of fitness is first required. This should stop the individual from becoming fatigued and unable to complete the workout. 

Once an individual has a basic level of fitness, they can consider implementing more intense phases to the exercise. For example, an individual running on a treadmill can increase the machine intensity for 30 seconds. They can then decrease the speed back to moderate exercise, and then increase speed again.

Someone who has recently recovered from an injury and is looking to get back into a regular exercise routine may want to start out with another training method. Or perhaps avoid HIIT altogether. That way, they can avoid aggravating an injury or overtraining, causing themselves harm.

The Healthy Hub HIIT Workout

Reece does a HIIT workout 5 times a week. He completes it first in the morning, to create a calorie deficit. He does an incline treadmill sprint for a total time of 30 mins. This consists of 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest, 30 times.

Reece’s recommendation is to warm up for 5-10 mins. Perhaps try a light jog and stretching. During the jog, work out the maximum sprint you can hold for 30 seconds at an incline of 5% to set yourself up for the HIIT training. You can also do it on a flat treadmill. However an incline will burn more calories and will support the knees better during the exercise. Aim for your heart rate to be at 70-90% of your max heart rate when completing the HIIT workout to gain optimal results.

Cardio Training 101

What is Cardio?

Cardio is a form of exercise which increases your heart rate and gets your blood pumping. You will find that part way through you will start breathing quicker and you’ll be getting your sweat on. When you think of cardio, you’ll probably think of running. It is almost certainly the most popular form of exercise that comes to mind when someone mentions the word cardio! But in fact, the word cardio relates to your heart, so any exercise that helps raise your heart rate will be considered to be cardio.

Why Cardio?

When you constantly complete cardio, it helps push your heart and lungs to work and overtime – this makes your heart become stronger. This should in turn lower your blood pressure. If you can commit to regular cardio this will help lower your stress levels, improve your stamina and obviously help keep off extra weight and build stronger muscles. 

Cardio Exercises:

There are a number of common cardio exercises you can try if you’re looking to build up your heart strength. We’ve listed a few common ones below:

  • Walking
  • Jogging/running
  • Rowing
  • Cycling
  • Climbing stairs
  • Skipping
  • HIIT workouts (burpees, squat jumps etc)

While some of these exercises require equipment, not all of them do. So if you’re not a member of a gym, or don’t have exercise equipment at home, perhaps try the more straightforward exercises, like walking, jogging and running. 

Other Benefits of Cardio:

  1. Helps With Your Sleep – Studies have shown that those who keep to a regular exercise routine can help with sleep problems.
  2. Strengthen Your Immune System – Results have shown that cardio and exercise increase specific antibodies in your blood (immunoglobulins). This then strengthens the immune system.
  3. Reduce Chronic Pain – Many sufferers of back pain have stated that low impact exercise (walking or swimming) helps with their endurance and dropping weight. This can in turn further relieve pain.
  4. Drop the Weight and Keep it Off – There have been studies that show exercising four or five times a week, aiming to burn 500 calories, can significantly help people to lose weight and maintain the loss. 
  5. Helps Manage Your Diabetes – For individuals suffering from diabetes, cardio can help manage your condition. When you exercise, you increase the utilization of glucose in your muscles. This can then result in you having an increased control of your blood sugars and ensure you have less blood sugar swings. 

How to Start:

Start off by setting yourself a realistic goal based on your current fitness level. For example, if you are new to running then it would be unwise to say you are going to run 5km in 20 minutes. A more realistic target would be aiming to complete it in 40 – 45 minutes. Once you achieve your initial goal, aim to hit this a few times before you pick your next target. When you look to improve your target each time, you will begin to improve your overall fitness and health.

So, whether you decide to walk for half an hour, swim 100 laps of your local pool or run for 10 miles, cardio will not only help improve your health but also help improve your mindset. 

Cardio Workouts at Home

While it can be nice to get out of the house and do some cardio, this is not always possible. Or it might just be weather dependent! There are loads of workouts you can do from home though, which can help you lose weight and improve your mental wellbeing. We’ve outlined three exercises for beginners, intermediates and more advanced athletes below:

Cardio for Beginners 

  1. Jumping Jacks

You’ve probably tried jumping jacks before, even if it was just during P.E. at school. You begin in a standing position, with your arms down by your sides. You then raise your arms wide above your head, while jumping outwards. Your body will at this point resemble an ‘X’. You should then jump back into your starting position and repeat. 

  1. Jog on the Spot

This is as simple as it sounds! Just bounce on one foot to the other, raising your knees high, and swinging your arms from side to side. You may be surprised by how quickly this activity can raise your heart rate!

  1. Arm Circles

You can perform arm circles while sitting or standing, though it may be easier to do the latter! Simply rotate your arms in a circular motion, rather like swimming the backstroke or butterfly. Try and rotate your arms both clockwise and anticlockwise.

Cardio for Intermediates

  1. Climbing Stairs

Going up and down the stairs, especially if you take them two at a time, can be a great cardiovascular exercise. You can also increase your speed to really challenge yourself! And if you don’t have stairs in your property, you can buy an aerobic step, which you can step up and down onto. 

  1. Squat Jumps

With a squat jump, you bend your knees into a squat position, then jump into the air, extending your hips until your body is straight. Once you land back on the balls of your feet, you would go back into a squat, and repeat the exercise. To increase the difficulty, you can try out different arm movements.

  1. Skipping Rope

You may have heard that boxers use skipping as a technique to keep fit – it’s an excellent cardio exercise to perform if you have a rope and a bit of floor space! Simply skip in place, perhaps alternating between jumping on both feet and jumping landing on one foot then the other.  

Advanced Cardio 

  1. Mountain Climbers 

Mountain climbers can work the entire lower half of your body. Begin in a push up position, with your arms straight and your toes touching the floor. You then bring one knee forward, up towards your chest, bring it back down to the floor, and repeat with the other leg. 

  1. Bear Crawl

To perform a bear crawl, first get into a push up position. Then, while keeping your knees bent and off the floor, crawl forward by alternating your leg and arm movements. Make sure you keep your abs supported and your torso level. 

  1. Burpees

Like the above exercises, you start a burpee in a push up position. Keeping your arms straight, bounce on the balls of your feet to bring both knees up to your chest so you’re in a squat position with your hands still on the floor. Jump out of the squat, raising your arms in the air. You’ll then reverse this process, by returning to a squat, putting your hands back on the ground, and jumping backwards to get back into a push up position. You will then repeat this exercise to really get your heart pumping.

What is ZMA and Why Should I Use It?

What is ZMA?

ZMA, or zinc magnesium aspartate is a supplement that was created by Victor Conte. It is used primarily by athletes, gymnasts and bodybuilders. It contains a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. These compounds are known to be fundamental for homeostasis and for fitness.

It is claimed that taking ZMA enhances muscle growth and strength, improves endurance, recovery and sleep quality.

ZMA is designed to ensure that each dose will provide well above the Reference Daily Intake. This should allow the body the maximum opportunity to absorb the substrates. A typical ZMA tablet contains:

  • Zinc monomethionine: 30mg – 270% of the RDI
  • Magnesium aspartate: 450mg – 110 % of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 10-11mg – 650% of the RDI

What is Zinc and How Does it Help the Body?

Zinc is a trace element that is vital for a healthy immune system. It is known that a lack of zinc can make an individual more susceptible to disease and illness. The main roles are gene expression, and immune function. It also helps with protein and DNA synthesis, wound healing and growth and development.

Zinc plays a vital role in the immune system. The human body requires zinc to activate T-cells. These are some of the most important white blood cells in the human body. They are needed to fight against pathogens.

Research in 2016 from the University of Missouri also suggests that zinc is vital in the synthesis of insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a growth hormone. If levels are increased, it will result in better muscle growth.

Therefore with these vital roles that zinc provides the body, you should see better workouts. And the enhanced level of IGF-1 will mean you can reach your training goals faster.

Zinc can be found in abundance in meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds and nuts. Therefore if your diet is lacking in these areas, taking ZMA will assure your body gets the necessary levels of zinc. You can then ensure your immune system is working properly and your body has the best ability to create IGF-1.

What is Magnesium and How Does it Help the Body?

Magnesium is known to be needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. The most important roles of magnesium are regulating calcium, relaxing skeletal muscles, energy production, regulating heart contractility and cleaning the bowels.

Research has been conducted into the effects of lowered magnesium levels in athletes. This concluded that heart rate and breathing rate increased in a standard training session in comparison to when the body had its Recommended Daily intake in magnesium. The researchers found that magnesium plays a vital role in the synthesis of ATP. This is because it assists the enzymes which create it (ATPases). As the athletes did not have the required amount of magnesium to cope with the body’s demand for more energy, heart rate and breathing rate had to increase to maintain energy levels. 

Therefore with this specific role in producing ATP, the body’s main fuel source, it is vital that magnesium levels are at an optimal level. You can then ensure training can be maximised.  Your body can also deal with the energy demand. This will result in an increase in endurance for stronger and harder workouts. This in turn will allow you to reach your goals faster! 

Magnesium is commonly found in grains and nuts. So if you don’t get enough of these in your diet, ZMA is a great supplement to support you.

What is Vitamin B6 and How Does it Help the Body?

The B vitamins are a class of water-soluble vitamins that play a vital role in cell metabolism. B vitamins work with enzymes that are involved in the cellular metabolism system. This system creates and releases energy which is vital for growth homeostasis across all systems of the body. Vitamin B6, known as Pyridoxine, has a significant role in macronutrient metabolism too, as well as the creation of red blood cells. Red blood cells transport the body’s oxygen and act as neurotransmitters. These are the body’s quickest way to communicate with other cells from the nervous system.

Vitamin B6 is known to have a vital role in the production of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the protein which gives red blood cells the ability to transport gases around the body. When you have a low haemoglobin count, it means that the body can’t carry as much oxygen to the working muscles of the body when training. It can therefore limit your ability to train harder as your body won’t be able to cope with the oxygen demand your body needs.

Vitamin B6 is found in pork, poultry fish eggs cereals and vegetables. They are thus widely available. However, if you are restricting any of this nutrition or you are aware that your haemoglobin count is low, ZMA contains a whopping 650% of Vitamin B6. So taking this supplement will give your body every opportunity to create the haemoglobin your body needs for a good workout!

Summary  

ZMA is supplement which is popular throughout the fitness industry. This is because it contains a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are three compounds known to be fundamental for homeostasis. It’s claimed that ZMA also enhances muscle growth and strength, improves endurance, recovery and sleep quality.

Do Sunbeds Give You Vitamin D?

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids that are responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It’s sometimes referred to as the sunshine vitamin, because it’s produced when your skin encounters sunlight. The most important compound in this group is Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is vital for the body as it regulates the calcium and phosphorus levels in your blood. You need these to ensure you have healthy bones and a strong immune system. 

How Does Your Body Absorb Vitamin D?

The human body is able to absorb vitamin D through the small intestine. This is the most common route of absorption for most minerals. Vitamin D is then transported to the liver via the bloodstream and is converted to 25(OH)D, otherwise known as Calcidiol, the primary form of circulating vitamin D. Few foods contain vitamin D naturally, therefore food manufacturers have created fortified foods which contain enhanced levels of the vitamin. An example of these foods are cereals and dairy products. 

Foods that contain naturally higher levels of vitamin D include salmon, egg yolk, prawns and sardines.

Your body is also able to create vitamin D to help regulate the body. Vitamin D falls under the category of a steroid hormone. It originates from the skin and the liver and kidneys and produce it. 

When the skin is exposed to the sun, UVB, an ultraviolet wave that is emitted from the sun, triggers a biochemical reaction. This initiates the production of vitamin D. Cholesterol is the precursor in this process and you can find it in the skin. It is transformed into 7-Dehydro-cholesterol and when exposed to UVB radiation it then becomes cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3). At this stage, like the food source, it is metabolised in the liver and kidneys.

Benefits of Vitamin D

Along with the primary benefits of vitamin D – regulating the body – there are other benefits of getting enough of this vitamin. For instance, vitamin D may play a role in fighting various diseases. These include heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and even the flu. 

Vitamin D is also said to help with depression. Studies have shown that vitamin D may assist with regulating your mood, and can therefore help alleviate the symptoms of those suffering from depression. In a study of people with fibromyalgia, researchers found that those experiencing depression and anxiety were more likely to also have a vitamin D deficiency. 

Clinical trials have also proven that strong levels of Vitamin D can boost weight loss. In one study, subjects taking vitamin D supplements were able to lose more weight than other subjects taking a placebo. The scientist behind this study claimed that the extra calcium and vitamin D suppressed appetite. 

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

You may not get a lot of vitamin D, due to things like spending a lot of time indoors, having darker skin naturally, using sunscreen, or living in an area with high pollution levels. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, performing a blood test should be able to diagnose this. Symptoms may include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Tiredness
  • Severe bone and muscle pain/weakness
  • Stress fractures, particularly in the hips, legs and pelvis

If you are diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency, you will most likely be prescribed daily supplements. Your doctor may also have your bones x-rayed, in order to check the strength of your bones. 

Does This Mean My Body Can Produce Vitamin D From Sunbeds?

Studies have been completed to determine if this is the case. These studies have shown that it is possible to enhance the production of Vitamin D in the body being on a sunbed. This is due to the fact that they emit UVB radiation. This is the specific type of radiation that triggers the biochemical reaction explained above. 

However, as a method just to enhance Vitamin D intake, medical professionals advise against sunbedding. This is due to the other risk factors associated with sunbeds. UVA radiation creates the tanning effect on the skin. Consequently, we know it causes DNA damage and is carcinogenic. Therefore, as cancers and DNA damage are a high risk to human health, medical professionals will always recommend avoiding sunbeds to increase Vitamin D. They will instead advise other options to take.

Summary

The bottom line is that yes, your body can develop Vitamin D from being on a sunbed. The UV radiation emitted from a sunbed can start the process of Vitamin D production. However medical professionals advise the consequences of sun bedding are more severe than not having as much Vitamin D. So they recommend going outside to get natural sunlight or enhancing your levels by taking supplements.

How to Calculate BMR – BMR Calculator

What is BMR?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories the human body burns at a basic function to sustain life. This includes breathing, circulation, cellular processes and production. Understanding BMR is important, should you want to understand how your body functions at an energy expenditure value. You can then adjust your nutritional intake for whatever goals you want to achieve.

While you may have heard of Basal Metabolic Rate, you may not have heard of Resting Metabolic Rate (RBR). With the former, this is the amount of calories you need for basic functions, while RBR is the number of calories your body is burning while at rest. This is also referred to as Resting Energy Expenditure (REE). These two calculations do differ, but one should be an accurate estimation of the other. 

Why Do People Calculate It?

People calculate BMR so they can understand what calories are required to allow their body to function at a basic rate. This is so that they can add on the calories burned through day to day life, plus what is burned when working out. At this stage, a person will know how many calories they need to eat every day to maintain their current weight. Deviating from this figure will cause either weight gain (calorie surplus) or weight loss (calorie deficit). Factoring in macronutrients which are protein, carbohydrates and fats, it is a recipe to hit the goal you’re aiming for.

An example of this is a BMR of 1800 calories + 700 calories from day to day living. You can then add working out, which equals to 2500 calories per day. If you’re only consuming 2200 calories, that will put the body in a calorie deficit which will result in losing weight. An estimated figure is that a cut of 3500 kcal a week will lead to a loss of 1 pound of fat per week. This is an achievable amount if factoring in regular exercise.

BMR Calculator

BMR Equation 

Step 1) Using the Mifflin-St- Jeor equation below, by inputting your specific age weight and height, it can generate your BMR without an activity measure in a simple calculation. The measurements are in metric, therefore if you record your measurements in imperial, you will need to convert them to Kg and cm before inputting into the equation.

It is important to remember to calculate the values in the brackets before completing the equation

Mifflin-St Joe Equation

BMR (kcal / day) = (10 x weight (kg)) + (6.25 x height (cm)) – (5 x age (yrs)) + s (kcal/day)

Where is s is +5 for males and -161 for females 

Example – 27 year old male who is 1.82m and weighs 97kg

BMR (kcal / day) = (10 x 97 (kg)) + (6.25 x 182 (cm)) – (5 x 27 (yrs)) + 5 (kcal/day)

970 + 1137.5 – 135 + 5 = 1977.5 BMR (kcal/day)

Step 2) To determine your calorie requirements you will need to multiply your answer above by one the multiplication which fits your situation best.

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  • Should you be lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  • Should you be very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9

1977.5kcal x 1.375 (lightly active) = 2719kcal/day

Summary

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories the human body burns at a basic function to sustain life, this includes breathing, circulation, cellular processes and production.

Understanding BMR is an important factor to know should you want to be understanding how your body functions at an energy expenditure value so you can adjust your nutritional intake for whatever goals you are wanting to achieve.

People calculate BMR so they can understand what calories are required to allow their body to function at a basic rate so they can add on the calories burned through day to day life plus what is burned during working out.

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