Tag Archives: health

Common Supplement Ingredients and what they do

If you are into losing weight, gaining muscle, or just being overall fit in your life you are probably going to need some supplementation at some point. While many people do advocate clean eating from whole food sources, and this is something I endorse as well, there is simply going to be a need for some additional help regardless of how clean you are eating.

Basically, the food sources today are not as good as they were in the past due to pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful substances. As well many people, through a poor diet, have effectively killed their good bacteria in their lower intestine making the digestive tract not nearly as effective as it once was in the past.

So if you intend to perform at your absolute best then it is important to get an education of what you are putting into your body at a regular basis. With that knowledge you can be a far more educated consumer and avoid some of the scams that seem to occur regularly with many supplement companies.

Consuming a diet that will aid in helping your lower intestine obtain the good bacteria it needs should be one of the first priorities if you are intending to lose weight or just become healthier again. To do this would not take a whole lot of work just a lot of fiber and a regular consumption of bioactive foods.

Since I did mention that you should become educated in what you are eating below you find a listing of some of the more common ingredients you will find in many supplements. Some of the ingredients you may find have little to no scientific basis and are used more of a marketing ploy to get you to buy their powder or supplement.

Dextrose – This ingredient is basically sugar, and your body does produce this naturally. However, you should be careful the total amount of sugar you are taking in your diet each day. Too much sugar can cause metabolic imbalances and thereby put you at risk for type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Many medicines, supplements, and other food sources contain dextrose as an ingredient. It is easily absorbed in the body and is used to help many medicines become metabolized in the body.

Whey Protein Concentrate – Supplementing your body with extra protein is crucial in order to maintain and build muscle mass. Protein is what your body thrives on when you are in a catabolic or muscle tearing stage. If you don’t break your muscles down they cannot build back up. In order for you to build up your muscle, and become stronger, and bigger, you need various protein sources.

Since whey protein is derived from milk sources this should be avoided if you are lactose intolerant. Alternatively if you can find a protein source from either rice, or other grains then you should be able to absorb that supplement. Another reason why you may not want to take this supplement if it has this ingredient is because you are a vegan; this would conflict with any vegan lifestyle.

Natural Orange Flavors – This is a flavor enhancer, you may see it as other natural fruit flavors. It is perfectly safe and is supposed to cover up some of the more medicinal tasting ingredients and make the drink mixture more palatable.

While many articles bemoan the practice of using natural oils and flavorings the essence of these ingredients come from whole food sources. As long as you are not consuming an inordinate amount of anything flavored with these substances you should be just fine. It turns out that even orange juice; even those brands that claim freshly squeezed use natural flavor enhancements in order to maintain the flavor.

There is a lot of clinical evidence that does seem to support this ingredient is safe. Just think of the many millions of people who wake up each morning and have a glass of orange juice, they seem to be doing just fine.

Citric Acid – This is used to preserve the flavor of foods and drinks. If you are drinking a supplement, probably a pre-workout drink, then you will see this ingredient listed. For many years this has been used to help flavor and preserve food. Typically, you will see that this is a white powder in its most basic form, so if you are using any sort of powdered drink then this very well may be part of the base for that drink.

Those that are allergic to orange juice or other fruit juices should avoid consuming this ingredient. There are alternatives, but not many. The whole supplementation industry uses this as one of its staple ingredients.

Carrageenan Gum – This ingredient helps to gel or make the other ingredients more stable, essentially this is a binder in any powdered drink. You can even find this on some of the shelves in the natural food stores; this is an alternative cooking ingredient for those that suffer from lower intestinal issues such as crones’ disease.

Currently this ingredient is one you can find globally, and that is not said often in any of the supplementation industry. Since this has undergone many years of clinical studies it is pretty safe to use and can be consumed on a regular basis by most people with little to no side effects.

Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine is a substance you will see in many supplements. In fact the monohydrate version is one that you can buy on its own and add to your own special blend in the morning or whenever you workout. The purpose of using Creatine is to help supply the body’s cells with energy from fat. Creatine occurs naturally in the body and is found often in the spinal cord as well as around many nerve endings.

The body does produce this naturally from our food and from various amino acids such as L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Most of the Creatine found in the body can be produced from natural whole food sources, particularly red meat or even poultry. If you are vegan however you may be lacking in these amino acids so it may be beneficial to add this supplement to your diet to ensure proper muscle growth.

Some precautions should be known before consuming this supplement. With continual usage you can get some kidney damage, and if you already have kidney damage then this should be avoided outright. Many times these adverse effects are caused by consuming 2 to 3 times the amount the body would normally absorb during the day. To avoid any long term effects then it would be advised to cycle the use of this supplement and also to keep watch on any blood work for elevated signs of liver or kidney damage.

Tartaric acid – You can find this ingredient in many supplements. Typically this is used to help with the overall flavor profile. In fact you can add this to wine if for some reason the fermentation has caused the wine to go flat in flavor for some reason. In combination with some of the other ingredients listed you can see that the biochemists use this as a balancing ingredient in order to make the drink or supplement better tasting.

Without the addition of this ingredient you may find that any supplement you take would be like drinking down a glass full of chalk or some sort or poor tasting vomit inducing powder.

Lecithin – This is used as an emulsifier or an ingredient that would cause any powdery drink to be fuller in flavor. Since this ingredient is fully metabolized it is very safe to use and consume and has been in many foods for several decades if not longer.

Magnesium Oxide – This is used commonly as an antacid so it may be used to help you actually tolerate some of the other ingredients in the supplement. There have been cases with several drinks that in the initial testing phases the resulting effects were so bad that medical attention had to be called. So, if you have a weak stomach this can be used to help you absorb some of the other ingredients without feeling so bloated and sick.

Lohan Fruit Extract – This is a natural flavor enhancer. Essentially it is supposed to help whatever supplement you have taste sweeter and become more palatable. Combined with some of the other ingredients this fruit extract aids in the overall digestion of the drink or supplement.

Stevia Extract – Stevia is a naturally occurring sugar substitute and its extract has been used to give a sweet flavor without adding extra calories. Since this is a naturally occurring supplement you may find that it is easily absorbed by the body and does not cause any adverse side effects, at least nothing of major concern.

Silicon Dioxide – This is a preservative ingredient. Basically it helps keep all of the other ingredients from drying out and becoming tasteless and useless. You could consider this to be sand, in fact it is called sand by many chemists and rightfully so. Perfectly safe to eat or drink and nothing to be worried about.

Acesulfame Potassium – This is a calorie free sweetener that has been used for many years. While some have claimed it can lead to cancer the evidence to support this is dubious at best for the moment. Having been on the market for 15 years the long term effects of this ingredient have yet to be discovered. Your body does not absorb this ingredient and it quickly excretes it out in the urine, but some claim that some of this remains in the cells of your colon and lower intestines.

Beta Alanine – It has been said that this can help you power through your workouts. The claim is that this will help you get more energy in order to perform better at high intensity exercises or routines. This is a naturally occurring amino acid that attaches to Histidine which is claimed to give your muscles more energy in order to perform better.

You will experience a tingling feeling, at least most experience this, and that is completely natural. In fact many pre-workout supplements have this ingredient; if they don’t, then you can buy it separately to give you that extra boost.

Creatine Nitrate – This is another version of creatine mentioned above. While some may claim that the nitrate version is better there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. It very well could be a better version compared to the monohydrate version but there has not been any studies to tell one way or the other.

Arginine AKG – You will find arginine AKG along with creatine nitrate in many cases. The reason being is that this is claimed to help metabolize creatine nitrate. Again there is no proof of any benefit from using creatine nitrate or arginine akg so be wary of any claims of performance gains.

Niacin – This is a naturally occurring substance that our body needs. The benefit of consuming this ingredient is that it has been clinically proven to help lower cholesterol, at least the LDL. You may experience some flushing in the face and feel warm after you consume this substance. It’s not uncommon to experience some sweating roughly 45 minutes after you eat this supplement.

There are some types of niacin you can have that will not because you to sweat and be more flush in the face, and many times you will find that whatever supplement you have may use that version. After all you don’t want to continually explain to others why you may be sweating.

Just a brief list of some of the more common ingredients

The list above is just a brief list of some of the more common ingredients you will find in many supplements. Of course each one of these ingredients could merit an article on its own, and I may very well do that in the future. However, just keep in mind that you should only consume a supplement when you know you have your diet in check and you just want that extra boost.

Working out intensely can be exhausting for your body, which is why you should get enough rest and eat well. Doing otherwise will greatly hinder your results and thereby cause you to go back into your bad habits again and not experience any of the health benefits that a daily exercise habit can give you.

My struggle with Keratoconus

Many people who know me understand that I suffer from a somewhat rare eye condition called Keratoconus. While somewhat rare this condition can lead to blindness. It is just fact, you have to understand and deal with the worst case scenario here, doing otherwise is just showing a lack of maturity.

For myself, I have been advised by three separate cornea specialist that a transplant in my left eye is truly the only way to go forward. Now, while I struggle with the ultimate decision to go through with this surgery if I should happen to do that I will then record what happens here on this blog.

As well, there are not that many resources for people who may be interested in weight lifting, or other intense exercising such as Crossfit and dealing with a corneal transplant. Since there are so few resources available, then I will attempt to record what I am able to do after the surgery. It is my understanding that the healing time could take up to one year for the eye to fully heal.

Now that does seem like a long time, but I am sure after a while I will be less and less restricted so it may not seem that bad. There are other’s who have had this surgery before and unfortunately never really made a true account of what happened, that is a shame because that would have been a great resource for many other’s.

As bad as this disease may be I am fortunate enough to be living in a country where there are experienced surgeons who can handle this situation. While the technology to help with this particular ailment is always improving it is astonishing to me that there is yet to be a cure for this disease. Some of the solutions are a bit primitive in my eyes and just don’t seem to really get to the root of the problem.

Today I spent the morning searching various forums and websites for people who may be in the same situation, unfortunately there are not that many. So hopefully my blog can act as an aid for those who also struggle with this disease.

Food Journals – Why use them?

Food journals are a great tool to help you lose weight or help you with any athletic goal you may have. These are used frequently by the most successful athletes and those who have dropped their body fat percentage rapidly. Once you can see how the food you are eating is affecting your health and your performance then it should be fairly easy to make the changes you need.

Why Recording Your Food Keeps You Accountable

Unfortunately, many people today have horrible eating habits. These habits are the result of many years of self abuse. Truly understanding this can be difficult. If you know ahead of time that you will have to record that chocolate cheesecake you just ate then you are probably less likely to feel tempted. As well if you are in a group of peers that will give you a lot of grief for doing so then that can be even more incentive to avoid eating like that.

Losing weight can be tough. It can be even more difficult if you don’t have a support system to help you through it. That is why you should not only record the food you eat on a daily basis but also get yourself an accountability partner. The idea behind an accountability partner is to rely on someone to hold you to your goals you have set.

Free Food Journals Online

An online food journal is perhaps the best route to go with in this case. The reason being is that you can easily share your food journal with whomever you want. As well, since these websites are used by thousands of people the amount of food that they keep track of is immense. So if you don’t know the macros of something you ate for lunch you can probably rest assured someone has put that meal in the website beforehand.

One of the best online food journals used by millions is myfitnesspal.com as this is used by many who go through various online weight loss programs. Since this is free to use you don’t have to worry about any monthly charges or anything like that, and many people experience great results just by contributing to the community that is already there.

If that is not something you like or would like to try a more feature rich website there are alternatives such as fitday.com and my-calorie-counter.com to name a couple. Fitday.com has the ability to set up a customized food plan for you, so that is definitely advantageous. However, there is something about meeting someone in real life that just seems more personal.

Many people have smart phones that they use each day. One of the benefits of having an online food journal is that you can easily track what you eat by entering in your food through your phone. As well if  you combine that ability with instagram you can be held accountable for everything you eat. That can make a big difference when you want to really shed those pounds.

Figuring out where you want to be

No matter how much food you track on a daily basis it would make little sense if you didn’t have a plan or goal in mind. Figuring out the reasons why you want to lose the weight is just as important as your daily excercise routine.

So if you want to lose weight or gain muscle, or both, then you need to write these goals down so you can plan out your meals for the week. By not only planning your meals and tracking them you increase the likelihood of future physical success dramatically. This combination is what keeps those who are on stage competing in bodybuilding shows in shape all the time.

You must be able to accurately track what you are eating. In that regards you should buy and use a food scale. These scales are not that expensive, there are many which can be bought on amazon.com for under 30 dollars, so there really is no excuse not to use one. If you have a hectic job then knowing you are ready with your meals will help you mentally keep true to your goals.

Food journals are a necessary part of your overall weight loss and fitness journey. So many people neglect their diet and that is the reason why they don’t experience the same level of success of others who are on point with their diet at all times.

Crossfit – Is it safe?

The sport of Crossfit is starting to become really popular. As more and more people choose to participate in this activity the number of Injuries seems to rise accordingly. So then this begs the question of whether or not Crossfit as a sport or a means of getting fit is really safe or not. I am going to be taking a pragmatic viewpoint on this subject and try and examine both sides of the argument. Ultimately it will be up to you to decide if Crossfit is something you want to take on or not.

Sports and General Safety

Sports are by their very nature unsafe. By unsafe I mean you are not immune to getting injured. You are typically pushing your limits while you are competing against others. This level of competition is what sometimes results in people getting injured on the field or even while training.

All sports have their injuries. Football is one sport where people seem to get injured every single game. As that game is very physical and involves a lot of tackling and hitting into each other that just makes sense, it is expected.

So one could argue that sports by their very nature are just unsafe, it is the level of safety then we are really discussing. Relatively speaking any sport when taken up by a wide mass of people would naturally cause more injuries overall.

Crossfit compared to other sports

However, Crossfit on the other hand involves a lot of weight lifting, gymnastic moves, and other activities that people generally don’t associate with injuries. While people are getting injured every day in their gyms they are typically not in front of millions of viewers on television. But that is from the viewpoint of Crossfit as the competitive sport, but what about the people in your local box?

Those who choose to take on training in Crossfit do so typically because they are competitive in nature. So when they seem someone beating their time for the day’s workout of the day (WOD) they want to try and hurry up and that is when injuries occur. It is the point where form is sacrificed in order to beat someone else that is when Crossfit becomes dangerous and unsafe.

The principles of Crossfit are by their nature not particularly unsafe. In fact if you are always using proper form, always properly warming up, there would be very little likelihood of yourself getting injured.

Crossfit Exercises

Many exercises that Crossfit employs involves a lot of compound movements. The squat, push jerk, and the other Olympic lifts are dynamic and can be tough on the human body. Using proper form is crucial to avoid injury.

However, not all Crossfit exercises are particularly dangerous. You could create a wide range of WOD’s that just involve body weight movements and still consider yourself a Crossfit athlete. Many times the most difficult exercises involve relatively simple devices such as a jump rope, the double under is one such exercise that has a tendency to cause a lot of problems for many people.

Why is Crossfit becoming popular?

This sport or activity is becoming popular because many times people want to get healthy but don’t have a support system to help them through it. A group of people who are determined to better themselves each and every day is something that can be really compelling to those who have let themselves go.

Quite honestly those who attend a Crossfit box or gym are more likely to succeed in their weight loss goals. Not only will you have the peer pressure to improve but you will also be held accountable, those that can really thrive in that environment will be very successful.

But Crossfit is not about just losing weight, rather it is trying to forge yourself into the best athlete that you can. Sometimes you may need to have other programs available to ensure you are keeping yourself on track but this is a great way for truly overcoming any obstacle you may have in your life.

Some people attend their local boxes because they find their trainers to be very motivational and by that very nature they can succeed in other areas of their lives. After all just being healthy is great but having your entire life become better as a result is just a fantastic side benefit.

Final thoughts

So in conclusion Crossfit is no less safe than any other activity where you would put strain on your joints and muscles. The idea that this an unsafe activity is patently false, there are thousands of people working out nationwide at any one time and they are not all becoming injured. Just use some common sense and strive to avoid injury by training in the right way and in a preventative way so that your muscular system can handle the stress you are placing upon it.

How to determine body fat percentage

There are many ways to determine your body fat percentage. The reasons why you may want to do so are varied, needless to say the less bodyfat you have the healthier you are perceived to be. If you are planning on entering into any type of bodybuilding competition figuring out where you are at the moment you begin to train for a competition is crucial to your success.

You can use a variety of techniques to give you an estimate of your body fat. These methods will range in cost and effectiveness. The cheapest way to do this is by using calipers. You can buy some calipers from various locations for under 20 dollars. I know Amazon.com has several different calipers for sale from 15 to 50 dollars. There are some digital calipers you can buy that will do the math for you, so that may be an option.

Using calipers

Most people use calipers and pinch different points on their body to give them some idea. Calipers are easy to buy and if you know what you are doing can give you a rough guess of what your body fat really is. If you don’t know how to use these then it may be best to go to some gym or other fitness facility that offers this service.

There are several good guides you can find online that will help you with this method. You will need to take measurements at various points around your body these include:

  • ·         Triceps
  • ·         Biceps
  • ·         Shoulder Blade
  • ·         Waist
  • ·         Thigh
  • ·         Calf

Using a 7 point method you can fairly accurately determine your overall body composition. While this can be used as a general guide it should not be used as the gospel truth. However, since this method is relatively cheap you can check yourself over several months to monitor your progress without too much hassle.

The accuracy of this method is really dependent upon the person doing it. If you should test yourself again using this same method and have lost body fat then that should be relative to where you started. Essentially if you are estimated to be at 12 percent when you started and then get measured again and are at 9 percent then you can rest assured that you most likely lost 3 percent of body fat. But, as I mentioned this is not a completely accurate method so while you may be measured at 9 percent body fat your body fat composition may be higher than that.

There is also a quicker 3 point method to determine body fat, but this is even more inaccurate than the 7 point method. But if you are in a rush for time then this may be the best way to go to see how you should be eating for the week or for the day.

Other more expensive yet more accurate forms of measurement

Using a hydrostatic tank can be a fairly accurate way to determine how much fat you are carrying around. This method involves dunking yourself in water and by using just the law of physics you can determine what your body composition is made of. Most of the time this will be manned by someone experienced in using this method and he or she will have a computer to assist in accurately determining overall body fat.

DEXA scans are supposedly the most accurate ways to determine bone density, muscle composition, and body fat percentage. These scans are not cheap, they typically run around 200 dollars if not more, but they are extremely accurate. Since this involves a lot of radiation it is not advisable to be used often, in fact maybe once or twice per year would be best.

If given the choice between the hydrostatic method and the DEXA method I would choose the DEXA method as that is the most accurate. Unfortunately, this method is very expensive so my second preferred choice is the hydrostatic tank. Either way both of these are highly accurate and will help you find your starting point so you will know how to modify your diet in the future.

The worst way to determine body fat percentage

Unfortunately there is some hype around bathroom scales that can supposedly tell you how much body fat you have. These devices are notoriously inaccurate and a complete waste of your money. Don’t bother buying any scale that offers this feature, it is just a waste of money.

Any device that relies on bioelectrical impedance analysis is somehow flawed as many of these devices seem to come out of the manufacturing facility flawed in one respect or another. Over time I would expect these devices to get better but unfortunately they just have not.

Another horrible way to determine overall health is by using a BMI calculation. This method is greatly flawed in that it does not account for muscle mass. So those who are very muscular can sometimes be wrongly labeled as obese. Clearly someone who has a body fat percentage less than 9 percent would hardly be considered obese in normal circles.

The reasons why body fat percentage matter

Body fat around your waist, arms, and other body parts really can determine your overall health in the long run. Unfortunately there are many people who have a lot of fat around their waist and as such are putting themselves at risk for various coronary heart conditions and cancer.

The leaner you are as an athlete the better you will perform, this is a direct correlation between your overall body fat and how flexible and mobile you are on the field. No matter what sport you play the better you can move around the faster you will be and that could be the difference between winning and losing.