The Science of Topical Fat Burning Creams

  If you want to know how and why topical fat burning creams help with weight loss and burn stubborn belly fat, then you’ll want to read this article. We all struggle with stubborn fat. Even the most genetically gifted athletes on the planet have nooks and crannies filled with little pockets of pesky body […]

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Benefits of Green Tea

Millions of people have enjoyed Green tea across the world for centuries. Created by lightly steaming leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, green tea was first brewed in China in 2737 BC. Since that time, it has remained a staple of the human diet since and has been revered in cultures across Asia. Over the […]

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How Stress and Cortisol Affect Weight Loss

A baby is crying in the night. Bumper to bumper traffic on the freeway. Debt collectors are calling for overdue bills. What do these three things have in common? They all are sources of stress in a person’s life. Stress is something that is a part of everyday life, for better or worse. Some of […]

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The Basics: A Beginners Guide to Fitness Terms

Entering the fitness world can be a frightening and confusing experience, akin to that of wandering about in a foreign land. In both instances, you’re inundated by words and expressions that have no meaning to you, but casually seem to be tossed around by those “in the know. Fortunately, when you enter the fitness realm, […]

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7 Ways Poor Sleep Hurts Fat Loss

If you want to know why sleep is so crucial for fat loss and why sleep deprivation stalls weight loss, then you want to read this article.

When it comes to losing body fat as quickly as possible, individuals tend to focus first on reducing calories and then increasing their training intensity (usually in the form of added cardio workouts).

This 1-2 punch works incredibly well for weight loss, but after a time, weight loss slows, and that “stubborn fat” won’t seem to get lost. In these instances, dieters look to reduce calories further and increase their amount of exercise. One area they never think to address, that’s secretly hampering their ability to lose weight rapidly, is sleep.

Look, we get it. Sleep is one of those things that most people think is only necessary for infants and geriatrics, and the population’s lack of interest in sleep is noticeable. Recent estimates suggest that adults sleep duration has decreased by 1.5-2 hours per night over the last 50 years.

And while you may not understand how or why sleep deprivation is hurting your fat loss results, it is big time.

Here, we review the various ways in which skimping on sleep handicaps your ability to lose weight quickly and easily.

So, let’s get started.

 

7 Ways Sleep Deprivation Hinders Fat Loss

 

Less Energy for Workouts

Weight loss is a matter of calories in vs. calories out. Burn more calories per day than you ingest, and you lose weight, it’s a simple as that.

One of the ways to increase the number of calories you burn is through exercise.

Generally, speaking the more quality sleep you get at night, the better you can perform in your workouts. Conversely, when you sleep poorly, you’re tired mentally and physically. Muscles don’t respond as quickly or powerfully. You don’t move as fast during cardio workouts, and you get winded that much easier when you don’t get a full night’s sleep.

While you can still get a workout in, it won’t pack nearly the calorie burn it would have you gotten quality sleep. [7]

But that’s not all.

Not only does sleep severely impair your ability to perform at your absolute best, but it also decreases your motivation and willpower to drag yourself to the gym for your working in the first place.

Fewer calories burned in your workout, while small compared to the rest of the types of thermogenesis going on in the body, but it still count towards your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

And, when you’re trying to lose weight as quickly as possible, every single calorie counts.

Therefore, if you want to accomplish the greatest amount of calorie burning possible during training, you need to get a solid 8-9 hours of sleep.

Increased Hunger and Cravings

Poor sleep doesn’t just affect energy output during training; it may lead you to consume more calories the next day.

The reason for this is a bit complex, but essentially, sleep deprivation disrupts the delicate balance of hormones that regulate appetite and satiety.

Leptin is the “satiety” hormone that is released by fat cells to tell the brain that you’ve had enough to eat. [1,2]

Studies have shown that chronically skimping on sleep leads to significant decreases in leptin, especially at nighttime. One study noted that after six nights of sleeping only 4 hours per night, individuals experienced a decline in leptin that was on par with where levels would be had test subjects reduced calorie intake by 900 calories per day. [3]

Here’s the fascinating thing, though.

Both groups of subjects (those deprived of sleep and those getting a full night’s sleep) consumed the same amount of calories and had approximately equal amounts of physical activity.

Compounding the issue is ghrelin — the “hunger” hormone.

When individuals get less sleep, there is an increase in ghrelin secretion, particularly at night. [4] Research has also shown that individuals lacking sleep were more prone to crave sweet, carbohydrate-dense foods as well. [5]

In other words, depriving yourself of sleep makes you hungrier and more prone to eat micronutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods (e.g., junk food).

Diet is the single most crucial factor when it comes to losing fat and body recomposition. Skipping just one night of sleep can have serious ramification on your ability to stick to your diet.

Reduced Fat Burning

In addition to being more likely to overeat the day after a short night of sleep, your body also burns less fat for fuel during the day. What does it burn instead?

For the answer to that question, let’s consider a 2010 study that measured weight lost when individuals slept 8.5 hours per night and 5.5 hours per night.

Ten overweight but healthy adults had their sleep monitored for two separate 14-day periods. Additionally, every two weeks, they followed the same weight loss diet.

On both occasions (8.5 vs. 5.5 hours of sleep/night), average weight loss was about the same (~6 pounds). However, for the two weeks that Researchers found that when dieters got a full night’s sleep, they lost weight consisted of a considerably higher percentage of fat. When subjects only slept an average of 5.5 hours per night, the fraction of weight lost as fat decreased by 55% and there was a 60% increase in the amount of fat-free body mass lost. [5]

In other words, while sleep deprivation may not reduce the total amount of weight you lose (provided you eat the same calories on the days you get a full night’s sleep as the ones you don’t), you lose more muscle and less body fat.

This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen when dieting as muscle retention is a primary goal of fat loss as it helps maintain a higher metabolic rate, meaning you can lose weight at a higher amount of calories.

Increased Fatigue During the Day

Not only does lack of sleep impair your ability to perform at a high level in your workouts, but it also makes you feel more tired and lazy during the day.

So, how do this general malaise and fatigue hurt your weight loss goals?

Well, when you look at the different ways, your body burns calories, one of the types of thermogenesis that’s often overlooked is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

NEAT accounts for the energy your body uses performing all of your daily movements and activities that don’t qualify as strictly exercise. For example, activities such as doing the laundry, walking the dog, even tapping your foot while you work or watch tv counts towards NEAT.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to move less the following day (on account of being tired), which decreases the number of calories you’re burning during the day, slowing the rate at which you lose weight. [7]

Increased Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a pretty infamous hormone. It’s most often associated with stress and the creation/retention of belly fat.

Like all of our hormones, cortisol has a specific purpose and is extremely useful at times, such as when a predator is chasing you. So, in moderate doses and the right time, cortisol can help you avoid becoming lunch meat for an angry T-Rex.

However, chronically elevated levels of cortisol, like those that come with consistently depriving yourself of sleep, are terrible for fat loss and returning to healthy sleep habits.

You see, when cortisol is released, it puts our bodies into a heightened state of alertness, which is the exact opposite of what you want at night when trying to go to sleep. Research has shown that when individuals were restricted to four hours of sleep per night, their cortisol levels the following night were significantly elevated and slower to decrease than subjects who got a full night’s sleep. [8]

Decreased Testosterone

Testosterone is the hormone most often associated with masculinity, manhood, and muscle growth. It’s also pretty well-known that cortisol and testosterone have an inverse relationship. When cortisol is elevated, testosterone is reduced and vice versa.

For quite a while, researchers have known that sleep loss led to lower testosterone production, but the didn’t know how much lower.

A 2010 study sought to determine just how severely a poor night of sleep impacted men’s testosterone levels. For seven nights (one week), ten healthy men in their 20s were restricted to five hours of sleep per night. Researchers noticed that the men’s daytime testosterone levels decreased by 10-15%, and the lowest levels of testosterone were in the evening. [9]

Researchers also noted that the men had overall less energy during the week of sleep deprivation, which as we discussed impacts your workout performance and non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

Impairs Immune System Function

Your immune system is your line of defense against microscopic ne’er-do-wells that seek to plunder and pillage your cells making your ill.

Unsurprisingly, when you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t work as well as it should.

Cytotoxic natural killer cells are a type of immune cell (antibody) that fight off antigens (toxic and foreign substances) and help repair tissue damage. However, when you regularly shortcut your sleep, the body’s immune response becomes compromised, natural killer cell activity drops, and inflammation rises. [10,11]

More specifically, levels of C-reactive protein significantly increase when you regularly skimp on sleep. In case you weren’t aware C-reactive protein (CRP) is a critical inflammatory marker used by doctors to assess a person’s risk of heart disease as well as get an idea of their systemic inflammation.

Being in a state of chronic inflammation leads to weight gain, reduces immune system function, and increases your risk for infection as well as other chronic diseases. [12]

Steel Dreams — The Solution for Bad Sleep

Suffice it to say that if you want to lose weight as quickly and efficiently as possible, then you need to sleep. There’s no sloughing it off until you are old and gray. Sleep impacts too many vital functions of the body as well as your ability to perform, recover and grow muscle tissue.

Due to the grave importance sleep plays in health, longevity, and your ability to be a badass in the gym, SteelFit has created Steel Dreams.

Steel Dreams is an all-natural, non-habit forming, sleep and recovery aid scientifically formulated to help reduce stress, quiet an overactive mind, and improve sleep quality and duration.

Sleep is critical, plain and simple, and Steel Dreams was created to help you get the most out of every minute of sleep every night so that you can perform at your best mentally and physically day after day.

References

  1. “The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism.” Medscape, 28 Apr. 2005, www.medscape.org/viewarticle/502825.
  2. Margetic, S., et al. “Leptin: a review of its peripheral actions and interactions.” International Journal of Obesity, vol. 26, no. 11, 2002, pp. 1407-1433.
  3. Spiegel K, Leproult R, L’Hermite-Baleriaux M, et al. Leptin levels are dependent on sleep duration: relationships with sympatho-vagal balance, carbohydrate regulation, cortisol and TSH. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89:5762-5771.
  4. SCHMID, SEBASTIAN M., et al. “A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feelings of hunger in normal-weight healthy men.” Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 17, no. 3, 2008, pp. 331-334.
  5. Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259.
  6. Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(7):435-41.
  7. Knutson KL, Spiegel K, Penev P, Van Cauter E. The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Sleep Med Rev. 2007;11(3):163-78.
  8. Leproult, R., Copinschi, G., Buxton, O., & Van Cauter, E. (1997). Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep, 20(10), 865–870.
  9. Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-4.
  10. Irwin, M., et al. “Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans.” The FASEB Journal, vol. 10, no. 5, 1996, pp. 643-653.
  11. Irwin, M., et al. “Partial sleep deprivation reduces natural killer cell activity in humans.” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 56, no. 6, 1994, pp. 493-498.
  12. Pahwa R, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2018 Oct 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2018 Jan-.

Is Dairy Healthy? What Science Really Says.

If you want to know the truth about dairy, and whether or not it is healthy, then you want to read this article.

Milk — it does a body good.

No doubt you heard this statement said countless times across your lifespan. Whether it be splattered across billboards or as the tagline of the iconic television commercials popular in the 1980s, milk has always been and remains to be a staple food in the diet of many people as they grow.

As children, we are told that we need milk to have strong, healthy bones. As teenagers and young adults wanting to bulk up, we’re told to drink milk (as much as a gallon a day!) to support muscle building and recovery. As full-grown adults, many of us trade in our daily glass of milk for a delicious whey protein shake. And, those of us that still enjoy milk mix our protein powder into our glass of milk for the ultimate creamy, delicious, protein-packed treat.

Young or old, there is no denying that there is something special (possibly even irreplaceable) about a cold glass of milk (along with cookies for dunking).

These days (and for quite a few years, to be honest) milk is under constant attack. Some say milk is unnatural to drink as we are the only species to consume the milk of another. Others deride milk on the basis it’s laden with all sorts of potentially harmful chemicals, hormones, and indigestible proteins that will lay siege to your immune system, turn you into a mucusy mess, and maybe even lead you to severe disease.

So, what’s the real truth about milk? Is milk horrible for you, and more importantly, how did this childhood favorite become a persona non grata in certain circles?

That’s where we come in.

We’re here to discuss the facts about milk, specifically cow’s milk. We’ll separate myth from reality, and see what actual scientific research has to say about milk regarding health, wellness, weight loss, and muscle gain.

Before we get into the common reasons people give to avoid milk, let’s briefly discuss what is actually in milk.

What Is in Milk?

Milk is a fascinatingly complex food/beverage teeming with all sorts of compounds. After all, the primary purpose of milk (regardless of the species) is to provide a source of complete nutrition for a growing infant mammal. By definition, it must contain a host of essential and beneficial nutrient to support, sustain, and enhance life and development.

Speaking regarding percentages, milk is [1,2]:

  • 87% water
  • 9% carbohydrate (lactose)
  • 4% fat
  • 3% protein
  • 7% vitamins & minerals

Breaking these categories down a bit further, we see:

  • Protein — in the form of casein and whey proteins
  • Carbohydrates — lactose, which our bodies will digest into glucose and galactose
  • Fat — composed of ~400 individual fatty acids, though only 15-20 fatty acids make up 90% of the milk fat. Regarding saturated vs. unsaturated fat, milk is 65% saturated, 30% monounsaturated, and 5% polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Vitamins — milk contains both water-soluble Vitamins (B family and C) along with fat-soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, & K)
  • Minerals — Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Iodine, and Zinc

Now that we’ve got a bit more understanding of what’s in your typical glass of moo juice let’s look at the common complaints against the consumption of milk.

Top Reasons Given to Not Drink Milk

 

Humans Are the Only Species That Drink The Milk of Another Species

This is one of the major arguments used by the anti-dairy/anti-milk pundits, and it’s also one of the weakest.

First of all, nearly every diet out there except for vegan and vegetarian promotes the consumption of meat due to its high protein content and supply of essential amino acids that our bodies need to synthesize protein and build muscle.

If it’s ok for us to eat one part of an animal (its flesh), why is it not ok to eat another food from the same animal? After all, the milk from the cow is what provided the sustenance for it to grow its muscles which we then turn into steaks and hamburgers.

Already you can see the holes in this ship, but there’s more.

Despite what the “gurus” tell you, we are not the only species to consume the milk of another species. Research shows that western gulls and feral cats drink (steal) milk from northern elephant seals. [3]

One myth busted, let’s keep moving.

Drinking Milk Leaches Calcium from Your Bones and Causes Osteoporosis

Ever since childhood, we are told that it’s important to drink milk to grow strong, healthy bones. This, of course, is because milk is particularly rich in calcium.

Recently though, there have been claims sprouting up that drinking milk causes weak bones due to the removal of calcium from them.

The critical piece of evidence commonly cited by anti-dairy pundits is an analysis of 37 studies (which was funded by a pro-vegan organization, FYI) [4] asserted that dairy consumption was not associated with bone health.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in nutritional sciences to see there’s an apparent conflict of interest at play here with the study, but aside from that when approaching anything from a scientific frame of mind, you consider ALL of the evidence.

You do NOT cherry-pick studies only that align with your point of view. That’s not how scientists and individuals who claim to be “evidence-based” operate.

Another reason commonly pointed to in support of the “drinking milk weakens bones” myth is that since milk is high in protein when it is digested, it will increase the acidity of your blood.

To prevent your blood from becoming too acidic, your body draws calcium from your bones into your blood to neutralize the acid

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this idea lies at the core of the acid-alkaline diet, which promotes the concept that you should choose foods that exert an alkalizing effect in the body and avoid acid-forming foods.

However, there’s next to no legitimate scientific evidence to back this theory. Additionally, blood pH is not influenced by one’s diet (which means you can stop wasting money on those overpriced alkaline water systems, too.) If it was, you could eat the wrong foods at the wrong time and wind up dead.

Fortunately, the body maintains tight control over blood pH, much like it does core temperature. This is one of the primary functions of the stomach. It mixes the food you eat with all sorts of acids and other agents that make the food safe to continue transit through your body and for it to ultimately be absorbed.

Additionally, just because urine pH is acidic doesn’t inherently mean your body is in a state of ill health or metabolic acidosis. [5]

Furthermore, when you consider all of the evidence, the research is pretty clear in that dairy is bone-protective. [9,10] And, there’s also some other research showing that eating more protein also improves bone health. [6,7,8]

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to consume dairy or drink milk to have healthy bones, as there are many other familiar food sources the provide calcium. It’s just easier to hit your calcium and vitamin D goals if you do consume dairy.

What is Vitamin D essential concerning calcium?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our bodies can synthesize when exposed to direct sunlight. However, due to longer commutes, more time spent indoors working or playing, and living in areas that don’t receive a significant amount of sunshine for considerable portions of the year has led to a bit of an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency.

Why is this important?

Vitamin D is needed to synthesize many hormones in the body, including testosterone. And, it’s also required for your body to absorb calcium properly.

This is commonly why dairy has vitamin D3 added to it.

Now, let’s move onto the next reason the anti-dairy crowd give as proof of why you should avoid milk and dairy.

Milk is Laced with Hormones

Cows are typically injected with hormones to increase their growth and rate of milk production. Included in the hormones given to these cows is recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and bovine somatotropin (bST).

Cows that are given these injections increase the concentration of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in the cow’s milk. This has alarmed some people due to the fact that there is some research noting a link between IGF-1 and cancer.

And, as you’ve probably heard, these hormones are carried over into the milk sitting on your store shelf. It’s not as scary sounding as you might think.

First, the amount of these hormones that make it into the milk are meager. [11] This is because the majority of the hormones present in the milk directly after milking are destroyed during the pasteurization process. [12]

Furthermore, unlike other steroid hormones, which can be taken orally, IGF-1 and rBGH must be injected to exert any effects in the body. When consumed orally, IGF-1 and rBGH are destroyed during digestion.

In other words, drinking milk from cows injected with hormones doesn’t mean you are absorbing the hormones. Your body destroys them. So, unless you are injecting milk, you have nothing to worry about.

Regarding the IGF-1 — cancer link and milk consumption, it is true that drinking milk increases the body’s production of IGF-1. [13]

 But, that does not automatically translate to “drinking milk causes cancer because it raises IGF-1.”

IGF-1 is needed for cell growth and regeneration, which makes it a marker for assessing the progression of cancer as at its core, cancer is the uncontrolled multiplying of malignant cells.

However, there has yet to be any concrete proof that IGF-1 directly “causes” cancer. The peptide hormone is associated with various cancers but has not been found to be causative. [14]

Furthermore, a 2016 review of dairy studies and meta-analyses concluded that:

“Consumption of milk and dairy products probably protects against colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer. Dairy intake does not seem to be associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or lung cancer, whereas the evidence for prostate cancer risk is inconsistent. In women, dairy offers significant and robust health benefits in reducing the risk of the common and serious colorectal cancer and, possibly, also the risk of breast cancer. In men, the benefit of the protective effect of milk and dairy on the common and serious colorectal cancer is judged to outweigh a potentially increased risk of prostate cancer.”[15]

Suffice it to say another myth about drinking milk has been busted.

Milk and Chronic Disease

Media outlets (including social media) love to cause a frenzy in the hopes of attracting viewers. Given the controversy over dairy in recent years, it’s become relatively common to see news outlets and various other organizations make some outlandish claims about dairy, specifically that it increases the risk of several chronic diseases including:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Cancer
  • All-cause Mortality

When you get past the scare tactics, sensationalism, and fear-mongering, and read the published scientific literature, you see that dairy does NOT adversely impact health. It may benefit one’s health and resistance to chronic disease.

Multiple reviews have demonstrated that not only is milk not detrimental to your health it does do a body good.

Consider the conclusion from this 2016 review on dairy which stated:

“The totality of available scientific evidence supports that intake of milk and dairy products contribute to meet nutrient recommendations, and may protect against the most prevalent chronic diseases, whereas very few adverse effects have been reported.” [15]

In that same review, researchers also noted that consumption of dairy and milk was shown to improve body composition and support weight loss during periods of dieting.

Milk and dairy consumption was also associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: And the evidence also indicates milk has a beneficial effect on bone mineral density.

There’s more though.

A recent 2018 study published in The Lancet followed 136,000 people across 21 countries for roughly nine years. Researchers had subjects complete surveys notating their dairy intake. Those who consumed a higher amount of dairy exhibited lower risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke than those who consumed little to no dairy.

Furthermore, these associations held no matter if subjects consumed mostly low-fat or whole-fat dairy products. [16]

Again, this is epidemiological data, so it’s not concrete proof makes you healthy, but dairy consumption sure does not have a negative impact on one’s health.

Milk Causes Fat Gain

Milk has been recommended as a staple food for bulking up for decades. And plenty of people have put on a lot of weight (fat) while drinking milk (GOMAD diet anyone?).

And, if you’re struggling to gain weight, consuming some extra liquid calories can help you put on weight easier as liquid calories don’t pack the same satiety punch as whole foods.

However, this doesn’t mean inherently that milk causes weight gain, just like sugar, bananas, pasta, or any other single food doesn’t directly cause fat gain.

Consuming too many calories does.

Remember, weight gain is about calories in vs. calories out.

If you consume a diet consisting solely of the cleanest, gluten-free, sustainably sourced, organic food possible and avoided milk and dairy entirely, yet you still consume more total calories than you burn in a day, you will gain weight.

It’s as simple as that.

Milk (or any other food) does not directly lead to fat gain.

Many studies have shown that not only does milk NOT lead to weight gain, but it may also actually enhance fat loss and muscle gain. [17,18]

Additional research comparing calcium intake from dairy vs. pure calcium supplements notes that those who get their calcium from dairy experience significantly greater fat loss than those getting their calcium from supplements. [20,21]

Researchers believe that dairy contains several other beneficial bio-active compounds the promote extra fat burning which is not found in calcium supplements.

In regards to supporting muscle growth, dairy products contain whey and casein protein, both of which have been shown in research trials to enhance the anabolic effects of resistance training and support increases in lean muscle mass. [22,23,24]

Should I Drink Milk and Consume Dairy?

This ultimately is up to you.

Many people have trouble digesting dairy due to the lactose present in milk. The lactase enzyme is needed, and a significant portion of the population stops producing this enzyme between the ages of 2 and 3.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to stop consuming dairy altogether. They do make low/no-lactose dairy products, including various kinds of milk that have added lactase enzymes or the lactose has been completely removed.

Another option is to consume a separate lactase enzyme or source any of the dairy-alternative milk on the market.

A final option is to consume whey protein powder, such as SteelFit® Steel Whey. High-quality whey protein powders remove nearly all of the lactose present in milk during the filtration process. But it still retains many of the beneficial immune-boosting fractions naturally present in whey protein and milk.

The choice to consume milk (and to a greater extent dairy) is up to you. Provided that you can tolerate dairy, there’s no reason to avoid it aside from personal preference.

It does not leach calcium from your bones, won’t infect you with cow hormones, and it won’t increase your risk of all sorts of chronic diseases.

Milk may, however, help you lose weight and build muscle as well as help you to meet your micronutrient goals for the day as well.

References

  1. Dairy extension. (n.d.). Composition of Milk Key Terms. Cornell Education, 1–5. Retrieved from https://dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/sites/dairyextension.foodscience.cornell.edu/files/shared/Composition of Milk.pdf
  2. “Milk Composition | MilkFacts.info.” Home | MilkFacts.info, www.milkfacts.info/Milk%20Composition/Milk%20Composition%20Page.htm.
  3. Gallo-Reynoso JP, Ortiz CL. Feral cats steal milk from northern elephant seals. THEYRA. 2010 Dec;1(3):207-12.
  4. Lanou AJ , et al. “Calcium, Dairy Products, and Bone Health in Children and Young Adults: a Reevaluation of the Evidence. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  5. Fenton, T. R., & Lyon, A. W. (2011). Milk and Acid-Base Balance: Proposed Hypothesis versus Scientific Evidence. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 30(sup5), 471S-475S. doi:10.1080/07315724.2011.10719992
  6. Shams-White MM , et al. (n.d.). Dietary protein and bone health: a systematic review and meta-analysis from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. – PubMed – NCBI.
  7. Kerstetter JE , et al. (n.d.). Dietary protein and skeletal health: a review of recent human research. – PubMed – NCBI.
  8. JP, B. (n.d.). Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16373952
  9. RP, H. (n.d.). Dairy and bone health. – PubMed – NCBI.
  10. Caroli, A., et al. “Invited review: Dairy intake and bone health: A viewpoint from the state of the art.” Journal of Dairy Science, vol. 94, no. 11, 2011, pp. 5249-5262.
  11. Collier, R. J., and D. E. Bauman. “Update on human health concerns of recombinant bovine somatotropin use in dairy cows.” Journal of Animal Science, vol. 92, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1800-1807.
  12. Groenewegen, Paul P., et al. “Bioactivity of Milk from bST-Treated Cows.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 120, no. 5, 1990, pp. 514-520.
  13. Qin, Li-Qiang, et al. “Milk consumption and circulating insulin-like growth factor-I level: a systematic literature review.” International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, vol. 60, no. sup7, 2009, pp. 330-340.
  14. Meinbach, David S., and Bal L. Lokeshwar. “Insulin-like growth factors and their binding proteins in prostate cancer: Cause or consequence?.” Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations, vol. 24, no. 4, 2006, pp. 294-306.
  15. Thorning TK, Raben A, Tholstrup T, Soedamah-Muthu SS, Givens I, Astrup A. Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:32527. Published 2016 Nov 22. doi:10.3402/fnr.v60.32527
  16. Dehghan, M., Mente, A., Rangarajan, S., Sheridan, P., Mohan, V., Iqbal, R., Yusuf, S. (2018). Association of dairy intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 21 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet, 392(10161), 2288-2297. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(18)31812-9
  17. Stonehouse W, Wycherley T, Luscombe-Marsh N, Taylor P, Brinkworth G, Riley M. Dairy Intake Enhances Body Weight and Composition Changes during Energy Restriction in 18-50-Year-Old Adults-A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(7):394. Published 2016 Jul 1. doi:10.3390/nu8070394
  18. Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(4):735-47.
  19. Lu, L., et al. “Long-term association between dairy consumption and risk of childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 70, no. 4, 2016, pp. 414-423.
  20. Zemel MB: Role of dietary calcium and dairy products in modulating adiposity. Lipids 38:139–146, 2003
  21. Shahar, D. R., et al. “Does Dairy Calcium Intake Enhance Weight Loss Among Overweight Diabetic Patients?” Diabetes Care, vol. 30, no. 3, 2007, pp. 485-489.
  22. Joy JM, Vogel RM, Shane Broughton K, et al. Daytime and nighttime casein supplements similarly increase muscle size and strength in response to resistance training earlier in the day: a preliminary investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018;15(1):24. Published 2018 May 15. doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0228-9
  23. Wilborn CD, Taylor LW, Outlaw J, et al. The Effects of Pre- and Post-Exercise Whey vs. Casein Protein Consumption on Body Composition and Performance Measures in Collegiate Female Athletes. J Sports Sci Med. 2013;12(1):74-9. Published 2013 Mar 1.
  24. Volek, Jeff S., et al. “Whey Protein Supplementation During Resistance Training Augments Lean Body Mass.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 32, no. 2, 2013, pp. 122-135.

The Complete Guide to TeaCrine®

If you want to know what TeaCrine® is, what it does, how it synergizes with caffeine, and what are the benefits of TeaCrine® supplementation, then you want to read this article.

If you’re like most people, you start your day hitting snooze a time or two (or three), before finally dragging yourself out of bed and stumbling into the kitchen to turn on the coffee pot.

In just a few minutes, you are rewarded with a delicious black elixir that brings with it a rich, bold flavor, and (more importantly), the promise of energy, mood enhancement, and heightened cognitive function. (And yes, we realize you probably needed a sip of coffee to make it all the way through that previous sentence.)

What is it about coffee that makes us transform from a stumbling, bumbling drone into an individual ready to tackle the day head on?

Caffeine.

Caffeine is well-known for its prominent energy boost as well as the motivation it imbues in every one of us to get things done.

But, caffeine isn’t perfect. There are some potential downsides to caffeine, including habituation and the potential for a severe energy crash.

Recently though, a new compound has entered the supplement scene. One that mimics caffeine in form and function, but stands on its own and has a few things going for it that caffeine doesn’t.

That compound is none other than TeaCrine®.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you want to know about TeaCrine®, including how it can make your morning cup of coffee (or a scoop of pre-workout) that much better!

To understand what TeaCrine® does, how it works, and how it complements caffeine, we first need to begin by discussing the neurotransmitter adenosine.

What is Adenosine?

Adenosine is a nucleoside composed of adenine and d-ribose.[1] It’s naturally occurring in every cell of the human body and serves many critically important roles in the body, not the least of which is as a building block for DNA and RNA.

Adenosine acts as an adenosine receptor agonist, which is a fancy way of saying that when the adenosine molecule binds to the adenosine receptor, it switches it “on.”

Pharmacologically speaking, adenosine activates four types of adenosine receptors (A1, A2A, A2B, and A3) found throughout the nervous system.

It also induces relaxation of vascular smooth muscles by reducing calcium uptake. Adenosine does this by inhibiting the influx of calcium and activating adenylate cyclase in smooth muscle cells.[1]

Adenosine has also been found to act as a vasodilator in different vascular beds throughout the body as well as an analgesic (pain-reliever).

This versatile molecule also forms the backbone of the cellular currency of energy production — ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

And, to top it off, there’s also one other very important thing adenosine does — it makes us feel tired and sluggish.

As ATP is broken down, adenosine begins to accumulate in extracellular space. When enough of it builds up, it activates adenosine receptors (specifically A1 receptors) which inhibits the release of several important neurotransmitters, many of which are responsible for keeping us awake, alert, upbeat, and cognitively “with it.”

The list of neurotransmitters inhibited by adenosine receptor activation includes[4]:

  • Acetylcholine (the “learning neurotransmitter”)
  • Dopamine
  • Noradrenaline (norepinephrine)
  • Serotonin (5-HT)
  • Glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter)

Now, let’s say that you do want to be awake, alert, and “with it.” It stands to reason that you would want to do something (or take something) to prevent or inhibit adenosine from binding to the adenosine receptors and making you feel tired, sluggish, and fuzzy-headed.

Enter adenosine receptor antagonists.

These compounds are structurally similar to adenosine and can bind to adenosine receptors, effectively “clogging” the receptor “docking station” and preventing the adenosine molecule from binding.

As a result of this inhibition, the other neurotransmitters can release and activate their respective receptors, allowing you to feel upbeat, alert, energetic, and cognitively on point.

The most widely consumed and well-known adenosine receptor antagonist is caffeine.

Each one of you reading this guide is familiar with caffeine and its stimulating, mood-elevating qualities.

You also may have experienced some of the minor “drawbacks” that come with regular caffeine usage as well.

The Drawbacks of Caffeine Usage

For all the benefits of caffeine, it isn’t a perfect molecule. Far from it in fact.

Here are a few of the most common downsides to caffeine consumption:

Habituation

The relatively rapid onset of tolerance accompanies chronic use of caffeine. What this means is that your body becomes accustomed to caffeine and to keep experiencing the “stimulatory” and mood-enhancing effects of the compound, you have to increase the amount you consume.

Specific properties, such as increased alertness or athletic performance, do not dissipate with continuous usage, but the “pow” factor and prolific mood elevation do.

This is why you many people choose to cycle off caffeine now and then…though no conclusive data is indicating that you need to.

Sensitivity

Some people just flat out do well with caffeine. Even just a little bit makes them feel on edge, anxious, and/or jittery.

While caffeine has many beneficial qualities about it, if consuming the slightest bit makes you anxious, nervous, or edgy, then it doesn’t matter. You’ll be too “off” to get any of the actual benefits from caffeine.

Energy Crash

Caffeine excels when it comes to providing a robust, immediate boost in energy. While it takes a good 45-60 minutes to reach peak levels in the blood, some individuals begin experiencing its stimulatory qualities with 15-20 minutes of ingestion.  As great as the surge in energy, mood, and motivation are, it can be short-lived, and the comedown can be rather harsh for some folks. Research notes that the euphoric “high” from caffeine lasts only around 2.5 hours.[5]  After the “high” from caffeine is over, there’s an abrupt “bottoming out” experienced by some that’s referred to as the “caffeine crash.” Notable symptoms of this condition include extreme tiredness, brain fog, irritability, and dozing off.

Sleep Disruption

Despite the “high” from caffeine lasting only 2.5 hours or so, it’s half-life is 5.5-6 hours. What this means is that if you consume 200mg of caffeine at 3 PM, by 9 PM your body still has 100mg of caffeine, it’s dealing with.

Now, for some users, this isn’t enough to disrupt their sleep, and they can nod off perfectly fine and good. However, for a great many people, consuming caffeine too close to bedtime negatively impacts their sleep, leaving them tossing and turning or up all night cleaning the house and watching Netflix.

Withdrawal

Of all the potential drawbacks to caffeine, withdrawal is without question the worst.

After weeks, months, and (for some) years of chronic caffeine consumption in the form of coffee, energy drinks, or pre-workouts, your body gets used to having its “fix” of caffeine each day.

When you decide to kick your energy addiction and quit caffeine, your body, for lack of a better term, “freaks out.”

Remember, caffeine is a drug, and like other drugs, it comes with tolerance and withdrawal.

What can you expect when quitting caffeine?

  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Assorted Other Unpleasant (non-critical) Symptoms

Now, with all the benefits (and drawbacks) there are to be had when supplementing with caffeine, it only makes sense for a person to ask — can we make caffeine better?

The answer is a resounding yes.

And it begins with TeaCrine®.

What is TeaCrine® and What Does It Do?

TeaCrine®, a patent-pending compound, has energy-boosting effects similar to caffeine, but without the jitters, crash and habituation that often accompany caffeine. It also delivers mental clarity, and improved motivation and mood. TeaCrine® contains pure theacrine, which is found in natural sources such as the kucha tea leaf.

TeaCrine® (1,3,7,9-tetramethyluric acid) is a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine that is naturally occurring in Kucha tea, Cupuacu, and Coffea robusta.

In addition to resembling caffeine’s structure, TeaCrine® also mimics the way caffeine functions in the body to a certain extent. Similar to caffeine, TeaCrine® also inhibits adenosine receptors[6], which improves energy and alertness.

However, that about the only similarity between these two energy-boosting molecules.

TeaCrine® also performs another cool “trick” that caffeine does — it enhances dopamine production.[6,7]

Dopamine, as you may or may not know, is the motivation and reward neurotransmitter that also plays critical roles in movement, mood, focus, and decision making. This means that TeaCrine® also imparts some nootropic benefits too.

But that’s not all.

Additional research into TeaCrine® notes that it can significantly lower serum total and LDL cholesterol levels.[6]

Best of all, TeaCrine® is incredibly safe.

Research has shown that it does NOT impact heart rate or blood pressure (the same of which cannot be said about caffeine).

Furthermore, the LD50 for TeaCrine® (the dose needed to kill 50% of a test sample) in mice is 810.6 mg/kg. In humans, this translates to roughly 4.0g for an individual weighing approximately 170 pounds (76 kg, to be exact).

How is TeaCrine® Different from Caffeine?

Given the similarities between TeaCrine® and caffeine, it makes sense to wonder in there is any real difference between them.

Both antagonize adenosine receptors, both increase dopamine, both enhance energy, mood, and focus.

However, the truth is that TeaCrine® and caffeine function very differently at the receptor level.

Caffeine attacks adenosine “head on” via orthosteric modulation. This effectively negates adenosine activity and prevents it from inducing fatigue.

TeaCrine® is a bit “softer” in its approach as it antagonizes adenosine via allosteric modulation. This of caffeine breaking down the front door of the house, while TeaCrine® slips through an open window. Both get you in the house, but one is considerably less dramatic and aggressive.

Some other significant differences between TeaCrine® and Caffeine is that TeaCrine® isn’t a stimulant from a cardiovascular point of view. It does not raise blood pressure or heart rate.

It also doesn’t come with habituation, the onset of tolerance, anxiety, jittery feelings, or the dreaded energy crash.

TeaCrine®’s half-life is ~20 hours, meaning its effects are incredibly long-lasting which is excellent for providing sustained energy, focus, and mood-enhancement, while not impacting sleep.

As proof of its non-habituation properties, researchers gave subjects 300mg of TeaCrine® per day for 8 weeks and found no evidence of dependency, tolerance build up, or withdrawal as is common with caffeine and other stimulants.[6]

And here’s the best part — it gets better with caffeine.

Research has shown that caffeine enhances the bioavailability and uptake of TeaCrine® into the body.[9]⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Various studies have shown that the combination of caffeine + TeaCrine®[6,9,11,12]:

  • Improves mental and physical performance superior to caffeine alone
  • Boosts mood, focus, and psychometrics greater than just caffeine
  • Offers excellent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Enhances energy levels for longer than taking caffeine alone

TeaCrine® Dosing

TeaCrine® is commonly dosed anywhere from 25-125mg in most dietary supplements alongside varying amounts of caffeine. It shines when dosed on the upper end of that range between 100-125mg.

At this does, it provides long-lasting energy, mood, focus, and productivity enhancement.

TeaCrine® Fun Facts

  • TeaCrine® is a patent-pending compound containing pure theacrine, which can be found in natural sources such as the cupuaçu fruit (Brazil) and kucha tea leaf (China).
  • TeaCrine® delivers energy, mental clarity, and improved motivation and mood without increasing heart rate or blood pressure.
  • TeaCrine® delivers energy and focus without the crash, jitters, or habituation typically associated with caffeine.
  • TeaCrine® and caffeine are perfect complements.
    Caffeine alone = 2 hours of energy
    Caffeine with TeaCrine® = 4-6 hours of energy
  • TeaCrine® is a pre-workout’s best friend. It is synergistic with caffeine by extending the feeling of energy, provides “cleaner” energy without the crash or jitters, and improves focus and concentration for real results.
  • Unlike caffeine, there is no habituation to TeaCrine® over at least 60 days.
    This means TeaCrine® gives you the same energy and focus on the 60th use as you get on the first use.
  • While caffeine and theacrine are structurally similar, they function very differently.
    • Caffeine is 1,3,7-Trimethylpurine-2,6-dione
    • TeaCrine® is 1,3,7,9-tetramethylpurine-2,6,8-trione
  • TeaCrine® inhibits adenosine receptors and activates dopamine receptors, which combine to decrease feelings of fatigue and boost motivation to exercise for longer, more focused workouts.
  • TeaCrine® is NOT a stimulant because it does not increase heart rate or blood pressure.   
  • TeaCrine® is a nootropic, meaning it’s a cognitive enhancer.
  • TeaCrine® is the ONLY research-backed, Informed-Choice, purity-assured form of theacrine in the world.
  • TeaCrine® is the best-selling Informed-Choice energy ingredient in the world.

The Bottom Line on TeaCrine®

Caffeine has long been synonymous with increased energy, focus, and athletic performance, which is why it’s a staple in the best pre-workouts and fat burners – such as SteelFit’s Shredded Steel™.

There’s no denying that caffeine is truly exceptional, but it’s not perfect.

TeaCrine® represents the perfect complement to caffeine that sidesteps many of the issues caffeine causes in individuals and brings with it a number of other benefits that caffeine doesn’t.

Pairing the two together creates a powerful 1-2 punch that provides extremely long-lasting energy, mood enhancement, and focus that helps you perform better mentally and physically for hours on end!

References

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=60961, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/60961
  2. “Adenosine.” ScienceDirect.com | Science, Health and Medical Journals, Full Text Articles and Books, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099542808607510.
  3. Jacobson, K. A., & Gao, Z.-G. (2009). Adenosine. In L. R. B. T.-E. of N. Squire (Ed.) (pp. 83–95). Oxford: Academic Press. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008045046-9.00627-6
  4. Sperlágh B, Vizi ES. The role of extracellular adenosine in chemical neurotransmission in the hippocampus and Basal Ganglia: pharmacological and clinical aspects. Curr Top Med Chem. 2011;11(8):1034-46.
  5. Magkos F, Kavouras SA. Caffeine use in sports, pharmacokinetics in man, and cellular mechanisms of action. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2005;45(7-8):535-562. doi:10.1080/1040-830491379245.
  6. Taylor L, Mumford P, Roberts M, et al. Safety of TeaCrine®®, a non-habituating, naturally-occurring purine alkaloid over eight weeks of continuous use. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13(1):1-14. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0113-3.
  7. Feduccia, A.A., Wang, Y., Simms, J.A., Yi, H.Y., Li, R., Bjeldanes, L., et al. Locomotor activation by theacrine, a purine alkaloid structurally similar to caffeine: involvement of adenosine and dopamine receptors. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2012;102(2):241–248.
  8. Access O. Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) Conference and Expo. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14(S2):31. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0188-5.
  9. He H, Ma D, Crone LB, et al. Assessment of the Drug-Drug Interaction Potential Between Theacrine and Caffeine  in Humans. J Caffeine Res. 2017;7(3):95-102. doi:10.1089/jcr.2017.0006.
  10. Geethavani G, Rameswarudu M, Reddy R. Effect of Caffeine on Heart Rate and Blood Pressure. Int J Sci Res Publ. 2014;4(2):1-4.
  11. Wang Y, Yang X, Zheng X, Li J, Ye C, Song X. Theacrine, a purine alkaloid with anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities. Fitoterapia. 2010;81(6):627-631. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fitote.2010.03.008.
  12. Kuhman DJ, Joyner KJ, Bloomer RJ. Cognitive Performance and Mood Following Ingestion of a Theacrine-Containing Dietary Supplement, Caffeine, or Placebo by Young Men and Women. Nutrients. 2015;7(11):9618-32. Published 2015 Nov 19. doi:10.3390/nu7115484

How to Develop a New Healthy Habit

If you were like most people when New Year’s Day arrived you set out on a quest to revamp your daily life. Whether it be diet, exercise, relationships, or work when the new year starts each of us is imbued with a sense of motivation to make things better than they were last year.

Unfortunately, this strong initial motivation and excitement fizzle within a few short weeks, frequently resulting in millions and millions of unfilled resolutions.

NOT THIS YEAR!

In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to create new healthy habits and make them stick!

Even better, the tips we’ll outline in this article aren’t just useful for helping you stick to your New Year’s Resolution. You can also use these pointers to help establish any other new habit (and/or break old ones) as well as help you achieve any other personal, physical, or financial goal, too!

Let’s get started.

8 Tips to Make Those New Habits Stick

 

Focus on One Thing at a Time

We’ll be completely honest, establishing a new healthy habit can be hard – really, really hard. Even the most internally motivated people struggle from time to time by embracing new things and integrating them in their daily lives.

This is also what makes breaking old habits so hard. All humans, even the most flexible are all resistant to some extent or another to change.

Developing a new habit takes time, commitment, and effort.

As such, we recommend you take things slowly and try to focus on building your new healthy habits one at a time. Trying to instill too many new habits at once or break too many old ones at once is setting yourself up for failure as well as a great deal of frustration and hopelessness.

By focusing on creating, developing, and nurturing one good habit at a time (no matter how small it may be) sets you up for success and the likelihood that it will stick for good.

As a bonus, anytime you accomplish a goal in life, your body rewards you with a dopamine hit. Dopamine, in case you weren’t aware, is the happy hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when completing a task.

Dopamine also helps motivate us to get started on a task and focus on the work it takes to complete that task.

Use the surge of dopamine released from establishing your first new habit to fuel you for the second one, then the third one, and so on.

Take Things Slowly

In line with the previous point, another crucial tip to keep in mind when trying to build a new habit is to take things slowly.

What do we mean by “slowly”? Well, let’s say that your goal is to clean up your diet.

If you’re like most people who try to go about revamping their diet, they try to completely overhaul their diet in one fell swoop.

Any junk food is removed from the house, the takeout menus are thrown away, and the new meals are comprised of baked chicken, boiled rice and steamed broccoli.

Even the most stalwart clean eater would be tempted to ditch such as dull, unimaginative, restrictive, and bland diet.

Rather than try to build Rome in a day, start your road to a healthier nutrition plan by making small changes one at a time. Start by breaking the larger goal of wanting to eat better into several small ones.

For example, your first week, aim to consume at least 2-3 servings of vegetables per day.

The second week keep eating the 2-3 servings of vegetables and add to it that you will consume enough protein each day.

The third week keep your habits from the first two weeks in place and then remove one “bad” thing from your diet.

Say, for instance, you’re used to having two full sugar cans of soda during the day, a candy bar, and then some ice cream at night before going to bed.

Your goal this week is to remove one of these indulgences.

So, if you “have” to have your candy and ice cream, then switch to diet soda, or if you can remove soda all together.

The fourth week, continue to phase out the “dirty” foods and phase in healthier options.

These small changes compound on themselves and build momentum.

Some people may be able to go cold turkey and completely overhaul their diet in one day, but the vast majority of people do better with taking things slowly and making small changes one at a time.

Doing so also helps reinforce that you’re making long-term changes and not adopting yet another quick-fix fad diet that has you feeling deprived and itching to cheat.

Be Specific

This pointer isn’t relegated to New Year’s resolutions, weight loss goals, or financial dreams. It applies to everything.

If you want something, want to change some tendency you have (i.e., a habit), or want to develop a new way to do things, you have to be specific in deciding what you want and how you want to do it.

Using weight loss again as an example.

Don’t merely say, “I want to lose weight.”

While not entirely meaningless, failing to attach any metrics (amount of weight loss, date to have weight loss completed by, etc.) to your goal makes it less concrete, less definitive, and less likely that you will accomplish it.

Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” maybe say, “I want to lose 5 pounds in the next five weeks.”

This goal is both specific and has a timeline attached to it so that you also have that little bit of pressure and motivation to accomplish your goal before the due date.

Specificity also works with establishing other habits as well.

For instance, if you want to revamp your diet or spend less time browsing social media, don’t say “I want to eat better” or “I want to waste less time on social media.”

Instead, tell yourself, “I will eat three servings of green vegetables today and two pieces of fruit” or “I will only spend 30 minutes on Instagram only after I’ve completed my meaningful work for the day.”

Again, being specific gives you a more precise, more defined target to focus your mental and physical energies on, and helping you take another step towards developing and ingraining those healthy habits.

Make Sure Your Life Is in Order

Much of the advice given when it comes to getting things done in life or establishing new habits is “just do it.”

What this advice/mindset is essentially telling you is that “I don’t care what’s going on in your life right now. Just suck it up and do it.”

While this attitude might work form a small percentage of the population, for the vast majority of people, telling them to do “x” with little regard for the other factors in their life is a bit too reductionist in our opinion.

You see, forming new habits requires a considerable amount of determination and willpower, both of which run out after a certain point.

Trying to instill new habits amidst changing jobs, movings residences, having a baby, or a zombie apocalypse is a recipe for disaster. Each of these scenarios (along with many others) brings about a considerable amount of stress. Developing new habits is also stressful to a certain point.

You have a finite ability to tolerate and recover from stress before you crack.

When trying to create new healthy habits, make sure the rest of your life is in relatively good order. Nobody’s life is perfect, and there is always something bound to happen each day, but so long the things you have to do with are relatively “small potatoes” you can work your way towards developing those new habits.

Eliminate the “Have to” Mindset

For many people, whenever they seek to change something in their lives or create a new way of doing things, they approach it from a “have to” mindset, meaning they “have to” do “x” or “y” or “z”.

This “have to” mindset automatically creates a negative association with the new habit you’re trying to develop and puts you in a very defensive (potentially) hostile disposition.

People often say things such as “I have to eat vegetables,” “I have to lose weight,” or “I have to go visit my in-laws.”

Instead of looking at your new habit as a “have to,” embrace a more positive, opportunistic mindset by using the phrase “get to.”

Let’s say for example you struggle with wanting to go to the gym to exercise. The next time you set out for the gym, don’t tell yourself that you “have to” go exercise because it’s the right thing to do. 

Instead, say “I get to go spend an hour bettering myself mentally and physically. I’m becoming stronger, more resilient.”

If more superficial things motivate you when it comes to training, you could just as easily say, “I get to go build a better set of biceps” (or glutes, pecs, etc.).

This also translates to diet, family, or anything else. Switching your mindset from “have to” to “get to” creates a sense of opportunity with a potential reward at the end, both of which put you in a more positive state of being and more motivated to do whatever it is that you are about to do.

While it may seem silly at first, this small change in your attitude towards things will pay enormous dividends for embracing and establishing new habits in your life.

Visualize Success

Visualization is key to success with everything in life.

If you don’t believe that you are capable of achieving something, then you will not accomplish it. Plain and simple.

For example, let’s say you are attempting to set a new 1-rep max on the back squat. Before you step under the bar, you have to see yourself squatting full depth and standing back up. If you don’t know in your heart of hearts than you can lift the weight, then you won’t.

The same can be said of breaking a bad habit. If you cannot visualize yourself avoiding or stopping whatever it is that you’re trying to remove from your daily life, then you won’t.

In other words, you have to believe you can do something to accomplish it.

Visualize yourself performing the bad habit, and then envision yourself stopping. Next, visualize yourself performing the good habit. Finally, make sure to envision the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and reward you will feel at having set aside the bad habit and performed the good one.

Performing these mental exercises will set you up for success so that when you do put your plan into motion, your body will automatically go through the motions.

After all, the body follows where the mind takes it.

Visualize success in your new habit, and you WILL achieve it!

Get Support and Accountability

There comes a point in every person’s life when they need support emotionally, physically, or psychologically. Referencing on of the previous points above, we all have a finite amount of determination, willpower, and resilience. Sooner or later each of us will hit a sticking point where we need some help, encouragement, and support to overcome said obstacle and continue along our path of success.

Having a friend, significant other, or family member as your accountability and support buddy can do wonders for helping you stay on track with your goals and new habit formations.

Self-motivation can take you a long way, but we all have those moments of weakness when we don’t feel like going to the gym or want to deviate from our healthy eating plan.

Having an accountability part can provide support to help you overcome the temptation to deviate from your plan of action and help you stay on locked in on your goals.

Realize You Aren’t Perfect

Nobody is perfect.

During your journey to establish new healthy habits, you will have lapses in judgment and fall back into old habits, even if just for a moment.

When it happens (and it does to all of us), realize that it is ok. You are not perfect, and you will goof up from time to time.

The more important thing is how you rebound from your slip. Do you let your minor mistake completely derail your progress and send you spiraling down into your old ways, or do you take it as a learning experience and use the mistake as fuel for your internal fire to make you better the next time.

Remember, it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you rise.

The way you come back after falling off course says volumes more about your character, determination, and work ethic than a minor lapse here or there.

And remember to stay focused on the big picture. Do not let small things derail you from achieving your end goal.

Expect a few bumps along the way and realize they are there merely to make you stronger and more resilient.

Takeaway

As the new year begins, we are all excited for what lies ahead. In that excitement, we make all sorts of lofty goals, but very few of them are ever truly realized.

Use the tips in this guide to help you instill those new habits and achieve more this year than in any previous one.

The Complete Guide to Purple Tea

If you want to know what purple tea is, how it compares to green tea, and what the benefits of drinking purple tea are, then you want to read this article.

Tea has been a staple beverage of humankind for thousands of years. Black, white, green, and oolong, tea comes in countless varieties bringing with it a boost in energy and focus along with a reduction in stress.

Today, tea is synonymous with health and wellness due to the myriad of benefits attributed to its consumption, including:

  • Anti-Oxidation
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-Viral
  • Anti-Cancer
  • Anti-Hypertensive
  • Anti-Allergy
  • Anti-Mutation
  • Reduction of Elevated Blood Sugar
  • Inhibition of Platelet Aggregation
  • Improve Lipid Metabolism
  • Plus, Many More

Recently, a new variety of tea has landed, with some research indicating it may be even more potent than green and black tea, especially in regard to weight loss.

This new tea variety is purple tea, and we’ve got a complete guide to all things purple tea including what it is, how it’s different from green tea, and If you haven’t heard about this type of tea, that’s not surprising.

What is Purple Tea?

So, you haven’t heard of purple tea before?

That’s not surprising; it wasn’t available until a few years ago and only recently has it started to catch on with individuals beyond the ones involved with its production.

Purple tea is a variety of Camellia sinensis (the same tea leaf from which green tea and black tea is made) developed by the Tea Research Foundation of Kenya (TRFK) that is also currently cultivated in Kenya. [1]

Purple tea is grown in colder conditions than traditional tea leaves, typically at elevations between 4,500 – 7,500 feet above sea level. This cooler environment combined with the intense UV rays leads to the development of some rather unique properties in the tea leaves which distinguishes it from tea leaves grown in other regions.

Most notably, the intense UV exposure makes the leaves turn a reddish-purple hue. The reason for this color change is the presence of anthocyanins and polyphenols. In addition to giving the plant, its deep color, these compounds also help protect the tea leaves from damage. [1]

But that’s not all.

Antioxidants, polyphenols, and anthocyanins are important buzzwords in the health and fitness industry due to research noting the importance they play in combating oxidative stress and chronic disease caused by inflammation.

Similar to green and black tea, purple tea is rife with bioactive compounds, the five most prevalent are:

  • EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate)
  • GHG (1,2-di-Galloyl-4,6-Hexahydroxydipheno yl–D-Glucose)
  • Theobromine
  • Caffeine
  • ECG (Epicatechin Gallate)

Here’s a close up of how each of these chemicals looks [1]:

Purple Tea vs. Green Tea vs. Black Tea

 

Purple Tea Has More Antioxidants

Purple tea leaves are processed and prepared the same way as green tea leaves, and, while both plants contain the same five principal compounds, purple tea contains significantly higher levels of the potent polyphenols (GHG, EGCG, ECG) than green, black, or oolong teas. This also means that purple tea has higher antioxidant activity than green and black teas.

Research shows it has a free-radical scavenging rate of 52%, compared with 34% for green tea and 28% for black tea. And, in case you weren’t aware, the more free radicals that are neutralized by antioxidants, the lower the risk of systemic inflammation and chronic disease.

Purple Tea Contains Anthocyanin

Another big difference is that purple tea contains anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid most often associated with blueberries as it is the phytochemical responsible for giving plants and berries their notable deep, dark blue or purple color. Research indicates that anthocyanins may be helpful in the treatment of numerous diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and even cancer. [6]

Blueberries are particularly rich in anthocyanins, but purple tea contains significantly higher amounts of anthocyanins than blueberries — about 1.5% compared to 0.1% for blueberries. [1]

Purple Tea is Lower in Caffeine Content Than Green and Black Tea

Purple tea also differs from other varieties of Camellia sinensis in its caffeine content. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) has analyzed the caffeine contents of the different tea varieties and found that purple tea contains a lower amount of caffeine than green or black tea. [4]

What are the Benefits of Purple Tea?

Weight Loss

In addition to the abundance of free radical-fighting polyphenols, antioxidants, and anthocyanins present in purple tea, the plant is also receiving a great deal of attention for its potential ability to aid in weight loss and cut body fat.

Two small human trials using purple tea extract noted supplement aided weight loss and led to reductions in:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Fat Mass
  • Hip Size
  • Waist Size
  • Subcutaneous Fat Thickness

Subjects in the trials also experienced improvements in body composition and lean body mass. [4,5]

In the first study investigating the potential anti-obesity effects of Purple Tea extract, 11 male and 7 female subjects ingested 100 mg of Alluvia Purple Tea. All subjects had their body weight, body fat mass, waist, and hip sizes, and the subcutaneous-fat thickness of the abdomen and upper arms measured.

After four weeks of using Alluvia Purple Tea, subcutaneous-fat thickness in the abdomen and upper arms (two spots everyone struggles with fat) was significantly reduced. Female subjects also experienced a significant decrease in hip size as well.

The second study involved 10 men and used dried Purple Tea leaves instead of the extract. Men received 1.5-gram portions of purple tea as a hot brewed tea twice daily for four weeks.

In addition to improvements in BMI, body weight, body fat mass, abdominal fat, body fat ratio, muscle ratio, waist/hip size, abdominal fat thickness, researchers also noted a reduction of visceral fat.

This is important as visceral fat is closely linked with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Over the four weeks, the men lost roughly 1.76 lbs. and a little over an inch on their waist.

Several animal trials have also noted that Alluvia purple tea exerts anti-obesity effects and may help limit weight gain during periods of overfeeding.

Researchers believe that one the mechanisms of action behind the significant decrease in fat were due to the inhibition of lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fats for digestion and assimilation. By reducing the effects of lipase, the body’s ability to digest and absorb dietary fat from food is decreased, meaning it may help lower the number of total calories your body gets from the food you eat.

One other way in which Alluvia may aid fat loss is through improvements in fat metabolism. Animal studies indicate that GHG (one of the potent polyphenols is purple tea) up-regulated the expression of CPT-1A (Carnitine Palmitoyltransferase 1A), an enzyme many researchers believe to be the rate-limiting enzyme in the process of β-oxidation — the process by which fat is burned for energy. [1]

Supports Cardiovascular Health

In addition to the decreases in weight, BMI, and waist circumference (all of which promote health and lower risk of disease), subjects also experienced a reduction in LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides — indicating that Alluvia Purple Tea extract may confer some cardioprotective qualities as well.

Supports Cognitive Health

Additional animal research notes that Kenyan purple tea significantly improves the brain’s antioxidant capacity. Researchers noted that purple tea anthocyanins could cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), bolstering the brain ability to combat free radicals and oxidative stress. [7]

Purple Tea FAQ

 

Where Does Purple Tea Come From?

Purple tea was initially found as naturally occurring wild mutations of Camellia sinensis in China. Subsequently, a public/private partnership was founded in Kenya to identify and isolate this mutation, then find a way to produce Purple tea in mass quantity.

Purple tea is grown at elevations between 4,500 – 7,500 feet predominantly in the Nandi Hills region of Kenya. The cool environment combined with the intense UV rays of the high altitude led to the formation of anthocyanins in the tea leaves, which gives the plant its distinct purple hue.

Is Purple Tea Caffeinated?

Yes, purple tea does contain caffeine, but not as much as black tea or even green tea. Alluvia purple tea extract contains 4.5% caffeine.

How Do You Make (Brew) Purple Tea?

Purple tea is brewed similar to green and black tea — pour freshly boiled water over loose tea leaves and steep for 3-4 minutes. Purple tea is fairly “forgiving” in that if you let it steep an extra minute or two, it won’t develop the bitterness or astringency familiar with other teas.

Now, if you want to get fancy with your cup of tea….

  • Fill a kettle with a bottle or filtered water and bring to a boil
  • Pour the boiling water into a teapot, and then empty the water into a pitcher or bowl to cool.
  • Place one teaspoon (2 grams) of dried purple tea leaf into the teapot
  • Pour boiling water from the kettle onto the tea leaves until the teapot is half full.
  • Now, pour out this water, while retaining the tea leaves. (This is a “rinsing” of the tea leaves.)
  • Once the water reserved in the pitcher as cooled slightly (~160℉), pour it into the teapot.
  • Allow tea too steep for 3 minutes.
  • Pour tea into the pitcher through a fine mesh strainer.
  • You may choose to drink the tea now or perform a second (and third) infusion using the same temperature of water and steeping time.

Purple tea has a sweet, pleasant flavor and dark color. Many people trying purple tea for the first time describe it as having characteristics of both green and black tea, but without the grassy taste or tannin bitterness.

Where Can I Find Purple Tea Extract?

Chances are pretty good that your local tea shop or grocery store isn’t lining the shelves with purple tea. Now, you can quickly go and order some off the internet, but ensuring that you’re getting authentic, high-quality tea direct from the hills of Kenya can be a bit of a crapshoot.

If you’d rather not waste time sourcing and vetting tea suppliers, but still want to get all the potential health and weight loss benefits of purple tea, our go to choice is Alluvia™ Purple Tea.

Alluvia™ Purple Tea is a standardized extract of purple tea containing 50% polyphenols, almost 10% EGCG, 1.5% anthocyanins, and 7.4% GHG.

SteelFit® Shredded Steel contains 100mg of Alluvia™ Purple Tea — the same dose used in the human studies noting improvements in BMI, body composition, and waist circumference.

Click Here to learn more about Shredded Steel and how it can help support your weight loss goals.

References

  1. Ltd, O. O. & F. C. C. (2013). Purple Tea Extract, 0–34.
  2. Yagi K, Goto K, Nanjo F. Identification of a major polyphenol and polyphenolic composition in leaves of Camellia irrawadiensis . Chem. Pharm. Bull. 2009;57:1284.
  3. Total polyphenols, catechin profiles and antioxidant activity of tea products from purple leaf coloured tea cultivars.” Food Chem. 2013 Feb 15;136(3-4):1405-13.
  4. Shimoda H, Hitoe S, Nakamura S, Matsuda H. Purple Tea and Its Extract Suppress Diet-induced Fat Accumulation in Mice and Human Subjects by Inhibiting Fat Absorption and Enhancing Hepatic Carnitine Palmitoyltransferase Expression. Int J Biomed Sci. 2015;11(2):67-75.
  5. Alluvia Purple Tea Overview. (2014), 914.
  6. Lila MA. Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004;2004(5):306-313.
  7. Rashid K , et al. “Kenyan Purple Tea Anthocyanins Ability to Cross the Blood Brain Barrier and Reinforce Brain Antioxidant Capacity in Mice. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.

How To Choose The Best Protein Powder for YOU

Protein powders offer a quick, tasty, and cost-effective way to satisfy your daily protein needs. They require no refrigeration and can be used to support any performance or physique goal, including weight loss, muscle gain, or general wellness.

But, many individuals struggle with deciding on which particular protein powder to purchase given the hundreds of options available on the market.

How do you know which protein powder is best suited to satisfy YOUR own personal health, performance, and physique goals?

That’s where this guide comes in.

Ahead, we’ll show you how to pick the best protein powder based on your needs.

But, before we get to that, let’s briefly review each of the different protein powder options you’ll encounter when searching for the perfect protein powder.

Types of Protein Powder

Whey Protein

Whey protein easily qualifies as the most popular option when it comes to choosing a protein. It’s a complete protein, rich in BCAAs, and high in leucine — the “anabolic-trigger” amino acid that stimulates mTOR and drives muscle protein synthesis.

Whey protein is one of the two proteins found in milk, accounting for 20% of the protein in milk, with casein accounting for the remaining 80%.

For a long time, whey was perceived as nothing but the useless, liquidy byproduct of the cheese-making process. Manufacturers soon realized that whey was incredibly rich in protein, particularly the BCAAs, and recycled their “waste product” into a staple commodity in the nutrition and bodybuilding areas.

Through the use of various processing, filtration, and isolation techniques, manufacturers are able to “refine” whey from the thin, milky liquid into the powder you mix into your shaker each and every day.

But, not all whey protein powders are created equal. In fact, there are three main “subcategories” of whey protein based on the amount of processing they undergo and the resulting protein content. The higher the grade of whey protein, the more protein it contains by mass.

Here’s a quick rundown of the various forms of whey protein you’ll encounter when searching for the best protein powder:

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

Whey protein concentrate is the least refined form of whey that also offers the widest range of protein content. Due to the limited amount of processing and refinement WPC undergoes, it also retains a higher amount of beneficial fractions lactoferrin and ɑ-lactalbumin.

Whey concentrates offer the best value in terms of cost, nutritional value, and protein content.

Speaking of protein content, concentrates may contain anywhere from 25 to 89% whey protein by mass. [1]

However, knowing the exact grade of whey concentrate in your given protein can be a bit tricky as manufacturers are not required to list which grade they use. A few companies, such as SteelFit® do as Steel Whey uses the highest quality whey protein concentrate in WPC-80. But, by and large, you’re not going to see the specific grade of whey concentrate listed on the supplement facts panel.

This usually means if a company is willing to tell you which grade of whey concentrate they include in their product, chances are very high that they are using the “good” stuff in WPC-80.

And this brings us to one of the “issues” with most protein powders that use whey concentrates — you’re not really sure what grade or quality of concentrate your getting.

For example, let’s say that a company decides to run its initial batch of protein and wants to deliver a high-quality product. As such, they’ll use WPC-80, which is the highest quality form of concentrate, containing 80% protein by mass.

However, after the first batch has sold out, then decide to create a second batch, but this time, they want to increase profits without increasing the price the consumer pays per tub. All the company has to do is change what grade of concentrate they use. For instance, they could use WPC-60 or WPC-70 and save a good bit of money on the cost of goods.

The consumer is none the wiser as he/she just sees that the protein powder contains “whey protein concentrate”. But, the supplement company just significantly increased their profits.

In theory, sure, the consumer could compare the protein, carb, and fat contents of the old tub to the newly purchased tub to see if there are any changes, but most people really aren’t going to do that. Although a discerning consumer might get a more explosive notification of the change in WPC quality if they start experiencing considerable amounts of GI distress, bloating, and/or flatulence — common side effects from the consumption of low-quality whey protein concentrates.

Concentrates also usually contain greater amounts of calories, carbohydrates, lactose, and fat than other forms of whey protein, but if you opt for WPC-80, you still get a high amount of protein with a small number of carbohydrates and healthy fats.

One other thing, if you are lactose sensitive (or outright intolerant), you may want to choose whey isolate (or another form of protein altogether). Concentrates generally contain more lactose than other forms of whey, which can lead to stomach upset and cramping for the dairy sensitive out there.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

Whey protein isolate is often advertised as the “purest” form of whey protein (from a protein content standpoint) as it must contain a minimum of 90% protein by mass. As a result, this means isolates yield a very high amount of protein with minimal amounts of carbohydrates, lactose and milk fat. As such, whey isolates are generally the better choice for individuals who are lactose intolerant, yet still want to enjoy the benefits of whey protein.[2]

However, whey isolate isn’t without its own set of limitations or “drawbacks”, similar to concentrate has its own “drawbacks” of a wide range of variability in protein content and higher lactose content.

The drawbacks to whey isolate protein is that in order for the powder to contain a minimum 90% protein by mass, it must undergo additional processing and refinement. With this added processing comes a loss in some of the immune-boosting compounds abundant in concentrates, such as immunoglobulins.

Isolates also tend to not have a thinner texture and less satisfying “mouthfeel” compared to whey concentrate, due to the decreased levels of fat and carbohydrates.

And finally, isolates generally cost more than concentrates do, again due to the increased amount of processing it undergoes.

As such, unless you’re very sensitive to lactose, whey concentrates are generally the best option for most people looking for the best blend of cost, protein content, flavor, and texture. This is why Steel Whey includes whey protein concentrate (WPC-80) — concentrates offer consumers a high protein content, yet low calorie and most affordable option to hit their protein goals for the day while delivering a thick, rich texture and immune-boosting fractions.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Hydrolyzed whey protein (whey hydrolysate) is the most processed, heavily refined form of whey protein. For all intents and purposes, hydrolyzed whey protein is essentially “predigested” via hydrolysis — a chemical process where enzymes are mixed with whey to partially digest and break down the peptide bonds linking the various proteins together.

As a result of this “pre-digestion” process, whey hydrolysate protein is incredibly rapid digesting, and quite frequently recommended by the gym bros as the “best” option for a post workout shake as the lightning-fast digestion should flood your muscles with protein and amino acids significantly quicker than whey concentrate or isolate.

However, research comparing whey protein, hydrolyzed whey, and casein found no significant difference in lean mass gains despite the wide variance in digestion speed.[6,7]

Hydrolyzed whey protein contains essentially no carbohydrates, lactose, or fat, which makes it ideal for those deep into contest prep or the extremely lactose intolerant.

Again, due to extra processing and use of chemicals, whey hydrolysates have a vastly inferior flavor, texture and mouthfeel compared to concentrates and even isolates. This is due to the fact that the enzymes used during hydrolysis leave the protein with a distinct “off”, chemical-like flavor.

Whey hydrolysate protein is also the most expensive of the three forms of whey protein, due to the increased amount of processing it undergoes and has virtually all of the beneficial, immune-boosting fractions removed.

At the end of the day, there’s never really a need to purchase hydrolyzed whey. They’re expensive, inferior tasting, and lack the beneficial compounds present in whey. If you’re severely lactose intolerant, you’re better off from a cost and taste standpoints choosing another protein altogether, such as pea or egg-based protein, which we’ll cover in a bit.

Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein has been thoroughly researched and, in addition to its ability to boost immune function, the bodybuilding staple has also been noted to help:

  • Increase muscle size and strength when used in combination with resistance training. [3,4,5,6]
  • Support fat loss — research shows that whey promotes feelings of fullness, which reduces hunger and helps you consume fewer calories during the day. [7,8]

Casein Protein

As we mentioned up top, casein accounts for the vast majority (80%) of the protein content of milk. It’s also been a staple pre-bed snack for athletes, bodybuilders, and personal trainers for quite a long time to help keep the body “anabolic” during your 8 hours of sleep.

The reason for this is that casein is incredibly slow digesting. In fact, research notes that casein protein can provide a steady supply of amino acids to your body for up to 7 hours![9,10]

Whey vs. Casein Post-Workout

Whey protein is frequently believed to be the best post-workout protein powder due to its rapid digestion; however, research has shown that casein protein can be just as effective as whey protein for enhancing muscle mass and reducing body fat.[11]

In other words, if you finish your workout and quickly realize that your tub of whey protein is empty, don’t panic. The anabolic window isn’t going to close on you, and you aren’t going to miss out on any big gains. Simply have a scoop of casein (or whole foods meal), and you’ll be perfectly fine.

Now, be aware that casein mixes up incredibly thick, several times more thick than whey protein. As such, if you are going to use casein as your post-workout protein shake on occasion, but don’t want a sludge-like consistency, you will need to add more water than you’re probably used to.

Milk Protein

Up to this point, we’ve covered the two protein in milk separately, as they generally are sold separately. However, milk and casein can be found together within the same protein powder, both as part of a protein blend (which we’ll cover later) or in the form of milk protein isolate.

Milk protein powder naturally contains both whey and casein in the standard ratios (20/80, respectively) that you find them in your daily serving of moo juice.

So, why would you consider using milk protein powder over drinking regular milk?

Well, you’d get more protein, and substantially fewer calories, fat, and lactose by using milk isolate protein powder than drinking milk.

Compared to straight whey protein, milk protein powder provides a “best of both worlds” approach for digestion speeds as it contains both whey and casein. This yields a protein with a digestion time somewhere between that of the lightning-fast whey and the ultra-slow digestion of casein.

Milk protein powder also typically has a thicker texture and more satisfying “mouthfeel” than those of whey isolates or hydrolysates. Again, this is due to milk protein isolates containing a mixture of whey and casein. And, similar to whey protein and casein protein, milk protein powder is a complete protein source providing all nine essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.

Egg White Protein

Eggs have a reputation as nature’s “perfect” protein due to the fact that the breakfast staple scores a perfect 100 on the biological value ranking scale.[1] Biological value (BV) is a measure of how efficiently our bodies can absorb and use the nutrients we ingest.

Basically, outside of whey protein (which has a biological value of 104), egg protein is about as ideal as you can get when it comes to consuming protein.

To create egg protein powder, egg yolks are separated from the whites. From there, the whites are dehydrated, pulverized, processed, and ground into a fine powder. Powdered egg whites can be consumed just like whey protein (shakes, smoothies, oats, etc.); however, you should be aware that egg protein powder tastes “eggy”, so getting used to the flavor might take a while for some of you.

Due to the fact that egg white protein tastes like eggs, it’s most often included as part of a protein blend along with whey, casein, and milk protein.

Egg protein powder is also a great alternative protein powder for the lactose intolerant as it is completely lactose-free.

Soy Protein

For quite a long time, those not wanting any dairy or other animal-based proteins (beef, chicken, etc.) turned to soy protein as their protein powder of choice.

The reason soy was the de facto dairy-free protein powder of choice is that it is one of the few plant sources that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.

However, soy protein fell out of favor, particularly with men, due to the belief that eating too much of it would increase estrogen levels and lead to gynecomastia, a.k.a. man boobs.[16] This man boob myth stems from the fact that soy contains isoflavones which are phytoestrogens, plant-based compounds that act similar to estrogen.

However, the fears of budding are mostly overblown as recent research has shown that the  “soy makes man boobs” fears were overblown. When consumed within reason, soy does not negatively impact hormone levels or serum testosterone. However, studies have shown that soy protein does support muscle growth and strength development, though. [17,18]

Another reason to consider supplementing with soy protein powder is that studies note it supports heart health.[19] And to top it off, soy has a Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) score of 100, meaning it has incredibly high bioavailability and ranks alongside whey and egg proteins as one of the most efficiently utilized proteins for our bodies.[20]

Pea Protein

Continuing with the plant-based proteins is pea protein.

Yes, there is such a thing as pea protein powder, and in terms of amino acid profile, it’s a surprisingly good protein powder too.

The vast majority of plant-based proteins are “incomplete” proteins, meaning that they are lacking or deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. Because of this deficiency,  different plant proteins have to be blended together (think beans and rice) to address the amino acid inadequacies naturally present in each plant protein. Combining these different proteins creates a complete protein, and this is why most plant-based proteins are found as blends of multiple plant proteins.

Pea protein, however, doesn’t suffer from these deficiencies. Similar to soy, pea protein powder is a complete protein providing all nine EAAs needed for muscle repair and growth, which makes it a top choice for vegan athletes looking to optimize protein intake.

As an added bonus, pea protein is lactose-free, making it ideal for the lactose intolerant crowd.

Compared to whey protein, pea protein has been found to be just as effective as whey for building muscle[12], and it surpasses whey and rivals that of casein in terms of satiety and feelings of fullness.[13]

Similar to soy protein, pea protein has also been found to support cardiovascular health. Research suggests that consuming pea protein may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as blood pressure.[14,15]

The “drawback” to pea protein powder is that, well, it kind of tastes like peas and has a rather distinct the earthy, dirt-like texture. Due to this, pea protein powder is usually blended with other plant proteins to cover up its “unique” texture and flavor.

Other Plant-Based Proteins

While pea protein and soy protein are the two most well-known plant-based proteins, there are a number of other non-animal-based proteins you’ll find on the shelf, including:

  • Brown Rice Protein
  • Hemp Protein
  • Quinoa
  • Alfalfa
  • Chia

The main drawbacks to plant proteins is that they usually are lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids, and they have inferior taste, texture, and mixability compared to whey or casein. Plant proteins are notorious for having a chalky or dirt-like taste and texture along with a rather unpleasant mouthfeel.

Still, if you want to avoid animal-based proteins, plant protein powders can be just as effective for satisfying protein requirements and physique goals, but they will not taste as good, and they are generally more expensive, too.

Protein Blends

When browsing through all the various whey protein options on the shelf, you’ll soon realize that quite frequently a protein will contain more than one form of protein. Whey protein isn’t just sold pure concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate. Whey protein powder also is available in the form of whey protein blends.

As you might guess, a whey protein blend is a protein powder containing a mix of concentrate, isolate, and/or hydrolysate. This creates a protein powder that contains a higher amount of protein than your average whey protein concentrate, while also containing fewer carbohydrates, lactose, and fat than powders containing only whey concentrate.

Whey protein blends also allow you to get the thicker texture, better flavor, and superior “mouth feel” of concentrate while getting the higher protein content of isolates.

Now, it’s also important that we mention that protein blends extend beyond just blends of whey protein. In fact, protein blends can contain any and all of the animal- and plant-based protein sources outlined above, including:

  • Whey Protein
  • Casein
  • Egg White Protein
  • Beef Protein
  • Chicken Protein
  • Brown Rice Protein
  • Pea Protein
  • Plus Many Others

Protein blends offer you a “jack of all trades” approach to protein, where you get a good mixture of slow, intermediate, and fast digesting proteins, which provide a staggered and sustained release of amino acids into the bloodstream. This also has the added benefit of greater satiety than consuming just whey protein, which may help limit mindless snacking between meals.

However, the drawback to protein blends is that you never really know how much you’re getting of each individual kind of protein if that sort of thing is important to you.

Now that we’ve gone over the various kinds of protein powder available to you, let’s find out how to choose the best protein powder.

What is the Best Protein Powder?

Here’s the thing — there is no such thing as a “best” protein powder for every person all the time. That being said, you can find your own personal “best” by answering several simple questions:

Is the Protein a Complete Protein Source?

Simply put, if you’re looking to find the best protein powder that money can buy, you want to purchase a protein that is a complete protein, meaning it contains ALL nine of the essential amino acids your body requires to build proteins.

While you could make an argument that so long as you’re consuming a variety of foods during the day, whether or not your protein powder supplies all the amino acids needed for protein synthesis isn’t a big deal. And that’s very much true.

But at the same time, if you’re trying to optimize protein intake and muscle protein synthesis, you want a protein powder that is a complete protein. Furthermore, the whole point of purchasing a protein powder is for the protein, so don’t you owe it to yourself to purchase the best quality protein powder you’re budget allows?

Yes, you do. Your muscles sustain the beating you put them through week after week in the gym, so yes, they deserve the best stuff you can get. And in this case, the “best” protein powder is one that provides a complete protein.

The best protein powders also have a high PDCAAS rating and biological value as well. Any of the animal-based proteins (including whey protein) easily fit the bill of a complete protein that also offers high biological value and plenty of mTOR-activating leucine.

Is the Protein Powder High-Quality?

While it can be tempting to buy the protein powder that is on sale (BOGO, anyone?) or the one that advertises the highest protein content per scoop, we’d caution you to pause for a second and really look closely at the entire product label.

By that, does the protein powder state whether or not it is 3rd party tested for quality and purity.

Does it list exactly how much of each kind of protein it contains? 

Is it cGMP certified?

Does the list of ingredients include any added free form amino acids?

If you answered yes to this last question, DO NOT, we repeat, DO NOT buy it. The reason for this is that if the protein powder you are considering purchasing contains added free-form amino acids (l-glutamine, creatine, l-taurine, l-glycine, etc.) there is a very strong chance it is spiked.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty (that’s for another article), protein spiking is a tactic used by supplement companies seeking to pull a “fast one” on consumers. Added free form amino acids allows companies to artificially inflate the protein content by tricking the nitrogen test that is used to test the protein content of various protein powders.

Again, if you see added free form amino acids and the product label DOES NOT make a distinction between whole protein and added amino acids, you’re probably holding a spiked protein, meaning you aren’t getting as much protein as the label states.

Steel Whey™ DOES NOT contain added free form amino acids and is NOT spiked. It contains only 100% pure WPC-80 whey protein concentrate — the highest quality whey concentrate available.

Can You Tolerate Dairy (Lactose)?

A certain percentage of the population lacks the lactase enzyme in their bodies which is required to properly digest lactose — the principle carbohydrate contained in dairy. If you are lactose sensitive or outright intolerant to all things dairy, then you’re better off choosing a non-dairy protein powder such as pea protein, egg white protein, beef protein, or any other non-cow derived protein powder.

If you’re only mildly lactose sensitive, you may be able to get away with using a WPC-80 protein powder or whey isolate.

Another option may be to use a digestive enzyme blend so that you can “have your whey and eat it too.”

Are You Vegan or Do You Avoid/Limit Animal-Based Products?

In light of the current obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome epidemic, more and more people are adopting a plant-forward diet while limiting their use of animal products. Concurrent with this is also a rise in the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle for a multitude of reasons.

If you are one such person, all dairy-based proteins (whey, casein, milk), egg white protein, beef protein, and a majority of protein blends are not in line with your diet. As such, you’ll need to source a plant-based protein powder or plant protein blend.

The Bottom Line on Choosing the Best Protein Powder for YOU

The takeaway here is that there is no “best protein powder”. Furthermore, you don’t absolutely need protein powder to build muscle and strength.

However, protein powder is high in leucine, easy to prepare, cost-effective, and perfect for a quick anytime, anywhere infusion of muscle building protein. This is why anyone who trains consistently and with intensity regularly uses protein powder.

The vast majority of people do not need to worry about using isolates, hydrolysates, or micromanaging the digestion times of casein vs whey protein.

The most important thing is ensuring you get enough high-quality protein each day. Whey protein concentrate provides a great combination of quality, taste, texture, affordability, and, above all, protein content.

That’s why Steel Whey™ includes the best form of whey protein in WPC-80 whey protein concentrate. Each scoop of Steel Whey™ supplies either 27 or 28 grams (based on flavor) of high-quality whey protein in each serving along with all the beneficial bio fractions naturally occurring in whey.

Click here to learn more about Steel Whey™ and why it qualifies as one of the best protein powders money can buy.

References

  1. Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein – Which is Best?. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):118-30. Published 2004 Sep 1.
  2. Geiser M. (2003) The wonders of whey protein. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 2, 13-15
  3. Davies RW , et al. “The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation on the Temporal Recovery of Muscle Function Following Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information,
  4. Morton RW , et al. “A Systematic Review, Meta-analysis and Meta-regression of the Effect of Protein Supplementation on Resistance Training-induced Gains in Muscle Mass… – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information,
  5. Pasiakos SM , et al. “The Effects of Protein Supplements on Muscle Mass, Strength, and Aerobic and Anaerobic Power in Healthy Adults: a Systematic Review. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information,.
  6. Miller PE , et al. “Effects of Whey Protein and Resistance Exercise on Body Composition: a Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information,.
  7. Dudgeon WD , et al. “Effect of Whey Protein in Conjunction With a Caloric-Restricted Diet and Resistance Training. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  8. Mollahosseini M , et al. “Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation on Long and Short Term Appetite: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information
  9. Boirie Y , et al. “Slow and Fast Dietary Proteins Differently Modulate Postprandial Protein Accretion. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  10. Phillips SM , et al. “The Role of Milk- and Soy-based Protein in Support of Muscle Protein Synthesis and Muscle Protein Accretion in Young and Elderly Persons. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information
  11. Demling RH, DeSanti L. Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(1):21-29. doi:10.1159/000012817.
  12. [Babault et al; “Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein”; Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; 2015
  13. Abou-Samra, Rania et al.; Effect of Different Protein Sources on Satiation and Short-Term Satiety When Consumed as a Starter; Nutrition Journal; December 2011
  14. Rigamonti, E., Parolini, C., Marchesi, M., Diani, E., Brambilla, S., Sirtori, C. R. and Chiesa, G; “Hypolipidemic effect of dietary pea proteins: Impact on genes regulating hepatic lipid metabolism”; Molecular Nutrition and Food Research; 54: S24–S30
  15. Li, H; “Blood pressure lowering effect of a pea protein hydrolysate in hypertensive rats and humans”; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; September 2011; 59(18):9854-60
  16. Jorge Martinez, Jack Lewi; “An Unusual Case of Gynecomastia Associated with Soy Product Consumption”; Endocrine Practice; May 2008; Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 415-418
  17. Joseph W. Hartman, David Bruinsma, Amy Fullerton, Jenn G. Perco, Randa Lawrence, Jason E. Tang, Sarah B. Wilkinson, Stuart M. Phillips.(2004). The Effect of Differing Post Exercise Macronutrient Consumption on Resistance Training-Induced Adaptations in Novices; Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University
  18. Candow, Darren G; Burke, Natalie C; Smith-Palmer, T; Burke, Darren G; “Effect of whey and soy protein supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults”; Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab; 1995; 16:233-244
  19. Anderson, JW, Johnstone BM, Cook-Newell ME; “Meta-analysis of effects of soy protein intake on serum lipids in humans”; New England Journal of Medicine; 1995; 333:276-282
  20. Glenna J. Hughes, David J. Ryan, Ratna Mukherjea, and Charles S. Schasteen; “Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Scores (PDCAAS) for Soy Protein Isolates and Concentrate: Criteria for Evaluation”; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry; 2011; 59 (23), 12707-12712

Three 15-Minute Workouts to Limit Holiday Weight Gain

Let’s face it, when the holidays roll around, the furthest two things from your mind are diet and exercise. But, if you want to avoid the same fate suffered by millions each year (unwanted holiday weight gain) you’d do well to at least try to eat somewhat healthy and maintain some semblance of physical activity.

And, while exercise brings with it a world of benefits (emotionally, mentally, physically, etc.), one thing it can’t do is rescue you from a crappy diet.

In other words, you can’t out-train a bad diet.

If you’re serious about avoiding the fat gain over the holidays, but don’t want to stress about micromanaging your macronutrient intake, logging foods in MyFitnessPal, or weighing every bite of food with a scale, then you’re in luck!l

Use the following diet tips and quick, metabolism-boosting workouts to limit excess fat gain during the hectic holiday season all the while enjoying (a few) winter cocktails and decadent desserts.

Best Nutrition & Fitness Tips to Stay Lean During the Holidays

 

Pile on the Protein

Of all the foods you eat this holiday season, priority #1 isn’t grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies (those are #2). Your top dietary priority during the holidays is protein, lots and lots of protein. Why is protein so important?

You are made of it for starters. Protein provides the foundation and structure of your body along with essential amino acids required to repair, build, and grow muscle tissue and organs. Without consuming adequate protein each day, your body turns to your muscles for the amino acids it needs and begins tearing them down.

In other words, without protein, you’d be a squishy sack of fat, water, and sugar.

But there’s more.

Protein is also highly satiating, and by consuming enough protein at mealtime, you’ll help limit hunger pangs in between meals, reducing the chances that you’ll binge on a bunch of sugary foods.

Protein is also “expensive” to digest for your body, meaning that to break it down into its amino acid components, your body must burn more calories to disassemble it than either carbohydrates or fat.

So, when sitting down to those epic family feasts, one thing that you do NOT want to pass on is the protein.

HIIT it Before Eating

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been and continues to be a major buzzword in the world of fitness, and for a good reason.

It’s one of the best “bang for your buck” forms of training when it comes to maximizing calorie burning and minimizing time spent exercising. Essentially when performing hit, you rotate between periods of all-out effort and active rest (recovery). You bounce back and forth between these two intensities for 15-30 minutes, and you’ve revived your metabolism, crushed some calories, and freed up some room for more delicious carbohydrates.

As you’re probably aware, glycogen is your body’s stored form of carbohydrate. High-intensity interval training (as well as resistance-training) rely primarily on glycogen.

So, by performing some high-intensity workouts (like the ones listed below), you can burn off some of your carbohydrates stores, creating a “carb sink” of sorts, and freeing up room for the mouthful of carbohydrates you’ll be shoveling down come meal time.

And, if you’re under the misguided notion that eating carbohydrates inherently leads to fat gain, realize this.

Your body will not store carbohydrates as fat until after its glycogen stores have been replenished. So, by performing some high-intensity training bouts before eating, you help deplete carb stores in the body, which reduces the likelihood that the carbs you do eat will be converted and stored as fat.

Change Your Definition of “Working Out”

So often we tend to get mired down in our typical way of doing things or looking at things from a certain point of view — including our view of an approach to fitness and “working out.”

To most of us, being fit and working out means going to the gym, lifting weights, and performing regular bouts of cardio on a machine such as the elliptical or treadmill.

Now, don’t get us wrong, these are all fine forms of exercise and can be particularly effective for building muscle and burning fat. But, don’t make the mistake of thinking they are the only way to improve your health, wellness, and fitness. Furthermore, a workout doesn’t necessarily have to be one that leaves you huffing and puffing on the floor, sucking serious wind.

A holiday workout could easily be going on a long hike in the snow with your family, friends, and/or significant other. Other outdoor winter activities that could check the “fitness” box for the day include ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, or even chasing each other around throwing snowballs.

Hell, even shoveling snow can burn a few hundred calories if you do it long enough!

If you’re in regions that don’t get much snow, you have even more options at your disposal, including:

  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Rowing
  • Hill Sprints
  • Climbing stairs
  • Bodyweight workouts at the park
  • Outdoor Yoga
  • Pick up games of basketball, football, kickball, etc.
  • Chop wood

The options are endless. The main point is to get outside, get your body moving, and have some fun!

Detach yourself from the thinking of the conventional, and you’ll quickly realize there’s a whole world of fun physical activities awaiting you that could easily qualify as a “workout.”

 

Top 3 Fat-Blasting 15-Minute Workouts

 

Workout #1 — Bodyweight Burner

Bodyweight workouts are fantastic for the sheer fact that you can do them anywhere — no weights, no gym — just you, gravity, and Mother Earth.

If you’ve got a sturdy branch nearby, you’ve got a place to do pull-ups too! If you don’t have a thick tree branch close by, then remove pull-ups from the following bodyweight circuit and substitute jumping jacks instead.

For the bodyweight circuit, you will perform one exercise at the beginning of every minute. Perform each exercise listed below for 40 seconds and rest the remaining 20 seconds. Keep track of your reps and aim to complete more reps the next time you perform this workout.

  • Pull Ups
  • Jump squats
  • Diamond Push Ups
  • Reverse Lunges (Right Leg)
  • Plank
  • Chin Ups
  • Reverse Lunges (Left Leg)
  • Push Ups
  • Side-to-Side Skater Jumps
  • Side Plank (Right)
  • Side Plank (Left)
  • Lateral Lunges (Right Leg)
  • Lateral Lunges (Left Leg)
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Bodyweight Squats

Workout #2 — Total Body Dumbbell Shredder

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, resting as little as possible in between each exercise. After completing one round of the circuit, rest 60-90 seconds before beginning the next round.

Complete as many rounds as possible (while maintaining good form) in 15 minutes.

  • Hammer curl to overhead press
  • Romanian Deadlift (hip hinge) to dumbbell row
  • Front squats (dumbbells held in racked position)
  • Alternating reverse lunges
  • Farmer’s walk

Workout #3 — Kettlebell Chaos

Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Perform as many rounds of the kettlebell circuit as possible within the time limit, resting only when needed between circuits.

  • 10 kettlebell swings
  • 10 kettlebell goblet squats
  • 10 kettlebell sumo deadlift high pulls
  • 10 alternating goblet hold reverse lunges (5 each leg)

Takeaway

The holidays are a time to relax, unwind, and celebrate. At the same time, the holidays are not the time to completely go off the rails of your diet and exercise program. Use these tips and short, intense workouts above to avoid unwanted fat gain and maintain your fitness without having to stress or sweat the small stuff.

And at the end of the day, realize that even if you miss a whole week of workouts, you’re not going to lose all of the gains you made over the past 12 months. Sure, you might be a bit slower or more easily fatigued from taking an entire week away from training, but the mental break can do a world of good.

5 Diet Tips to Stay Lean this Holiday Season

If you want to know what tips and tricks you can use to avoid weight gain during the holidays and stay lean without feeling stressed or deprived, you want to read this article.

The holidays are a time for family, friends, fun, and celebration.

The holidays are also the time of year when people decide to stop working out and bail on their diet. As a result, millions of people deal with unwanted weight gain, which prompts those same millions to make a New Year’s resolution to get “serious” about their health and fitness and go on one of the many trendy fad diets.

But, wouldn’t it be great if you could still enjoy the holidays and not have to sacrifice the physique you’ve spent the better part of the past year developing? You can!

Best of all, it won’t require any gimmicks, avoidance of certain macronutrients (we’re looking at your carbohydrates), or ridiculous exercise protocols.

We’ve come up with five diet tips to help you avoid the holiday weight gain and stay lean and mean throughout your break!

5 Ways to Stay Lean During the Holidays

 

1. Make Sure You Consume Enough Protein Each Day

Protein is the crucial cog for staying lean and avoiding the dreaded holiday way gain for a couple of reasons:

  • Protein is essential for maintaining your muscle.It provides the building blocks (essential amino acids) your body needs to build and repair muscle. You must make sure to eat enough protein every day while you’re traveling for the holidays.
  • Protein is highly satiating. Research notes that of the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), protein is the most satiating of the lot. [1]  Research also shows that when individuals consume higher protein diets, they reduce food intake.[2]Why is this a big deal? Holiday weight gain occurs as a direct result of eating too many calories each day. You’re also a higher risk for losing muscle during the holidays since sweet treats (cookies, cake, candy) are available in abundance, and protein options are typically in short supply.  By prioritizing protein at each meal, you’re protecting your muscles from breakdown and also reducing the chances of overeating.

How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day?

A good rule of thumb is to aim for eating roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day.

The easiest way to keep track of your daily protein intake is with a food tracking app on your phone, such as MyFitnessPal.

MyFitnessPal allows you to search a database of thousands of foods and track the nutrition data of the food you eat (or plan to eat) during the day. This helps reduce the amount of guesswork involved in figuring out how much protein you’ve consumed throughout the day as well as helps you make better decisions about what you’ll eat.

If you know ahead of time that where you will be traveling for the holidays (and the people you will be visiting) tends to have limited protein options available, it never hurts to packs some whey protein powder with you.

Whey Protein Powder (such as Steel Whey) provides a low calorie, high protein snack that helps you hit your protein quota for the day and tastes delicious.

Two other things in regard to protein intake that bear mentioning:

  • Leaner individuals tend to require slightly more protein. This means that if you’re a guy with ~10% (or girl with ~15%) body fat or less, definitely get 1-1.1g/lb of bodyweight. If you’re carrying 15-20% or higher for body fat, you can easily get away with consuming between 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight and not worry about losing muscle.
  • Proteins from carbohydrate and fat sources (nuts, avocados, pasta, etc.) count toward your daily protein goal. These proteins may not be as high quality as animal-based ones, but they still count. For example, if you need 150 grams of protein per day and you get 120 grams from lean meats, dairy, and protein powder, the other 30 grams can easily come from vegetables, grains, legumes, etc.

2. Reduce Meal Frequency

If you’re like most fitness-minded individuals, you probably eat multiple times per day, frequently averaging 4-6 small meals, consuming one every few hours.

While this is great for optimizing muscle protein synthesis and limiting protein breakdown when you’re at home (on your regular training schedule and nutrition plan), the constant grazing can lead to severe overeating during the holiday.

As you would expect, day after day of eating more calories than you burn is going to lead to some very unwanted weight gain. And, during the holidays, it’s ridiculously easy to fall into the habit of mindless eating. If your holiday get-togethers are anything like ours, the second you walk in the door, you’re greeted by a table filled with all manner of sweet indulgences.

Therefore, to help limit the damage done during these periods of indulgence, it may be helpful to remove a few of your meals throughout the day and eat less frequently. This way you can save or “bank” calories for the big meals with all of your family and friends later in the day.

So, instead of having 5-6 small meals spaced every 2-3 hours, eat three larger meals spaced 5-6 hours apart. If, for example, you’re currently following a meal plan that looks a little something like this:

  • Breakfast: 8 AM
  • Pre-Workout Meal: 11 AM
  • Post Workout Meal: 2 PM
  • Dinner: 6 PM
  • Pre-Bed Snack: 10 PM

Why not try this schedule during the holiday:

  • Breakfast: 8 AM
  • Lunch: 1 PM
  • Dinner: 6 PM

So long as you’re getting in enough protein and calories each day, you don’t need to worry about losing muscle, as the theory behind increased meal frequency leading to better fat loss and muscle gain has been mostly debunked. Hitting your macronutrient goals each day is far more important than how many meals you eat or how frequently you eat them.

3. Practice Intermittent Fasting (if necessary)

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of dieting that revolves around restricting your food intake for extended periods, and then consuming your days’ worth of calories during a pre-set “feeding window.”

Intermittent Fasting is related to meal frequency, but slightly different, and to be honest, it deserves its own section because it’s incredibly useful when you’re traveling (and a real lifesaver during the holidays when you don’t want to go ham on the table of desserts).

The most common way to practice intermittent fasting (or intermittent feasting, depending on how you look at it), is to fast for 16 hours each day, and eat only during your 8 hour “feasting”’ window.

Some people adopt a slightly longer fasting period and fast for 20 hours per day and shovel down their calories during a rather small 4-hour feeding window.

Note: This 20:4 fasting, feasting window may work for those with lower calorie intakes, but if you’re bulking or have a fast metabolism, it can be quite challenging (not to mention uncomfortable) cramming down 3,000+ calories in only 4 hours.

Still another way to practice intermittent fasting is to do a one day on, one day off approach where you fast one entire day, and then eat the next. Though, we’re not really in favor of this method if you’re actively trying to build muscle.

Intermittent fasting by definition helps reduce meal frequency, and it also helps increase fat burning and reduce fat storage. This is because when you’re fasting, insulin levels are low.

When insulin is elevated (for example, after consuming meals high in protein and carbohydrates), fat burning is turned off, and energy storage is activated (which includes fat storage). [3]

Now, don’t think that insulin inherently causes fat gain (it doesn’t, by the way, consuming more calories than you burn does), but when it is elevated, your body is not burning any of its stored body fat — it’s busy using the food you just ate for energy to perform whatever tasks it needs to.

The intermittent fasting protocol favored by most of the individuals who follow it was developed by Martin Berkhan of Lean Gains fame and entails:

  • Fasting for 16 hours per dayDuring this time, you consume no food (not even keto-approved ones). You are allowed to consume non-calorie containing beverages though, such as black coffee, unsweetened tea, diet sodas, and, of course, water.
  • Eating only during an 8-hour feeding window during your feasting window, focus on hitting your protein goals for the day (1 gram per pound of body weight). Also, if you’re planning on training and intermittent fasting, we’d suggest training during your feeding window, or breaking your fast immediately after your training session is complete. Resistance training causes muscle breakdown, and if you’re serious about limiting the amount of muscle you lose and subsequently building muscle as fast as possible, you will want to eat before and after training. Plus, having some food in your system prior to training (particularly carbohydrates) supports greater performance during your workout.

Speaking of exercise during the holidays…

4. Exercise First Thing in the Morning

When people go on vacation or travel for the holidays, they view it as a time to take a break from their training program. While this might be tempting, and you might even feel that your body needs a break from the weights, we’re going to caution against going completely without any exercise while you’re away from home.

Exercise has a number of important benefits aside from preserving lean muscle mass. It also supports heart health and cognitive function, boosts mood, and alleviates stress (which can build up when visiting family for the holidays). [4,5,6]

So, at the very least, train to combat stress and have peace of mind.

And, another thing, schedule your workouts for first thing in the morning, or right before a big meal. There’s no shortage of interruptions or things popping up last minute that can derail you from getting in a quick workout.

The easiest way to avoid these situations and still get in your training is to make it a priority and exercise first thing in the morning.

Now, if you’re following point #3 above and utilizing intermittent fasting, but don’t want to risk excessive muscle breakdown during your workout, you can sip on some BCAAs (such as Steel Fuel) to preserve muscle and limit muscle breakdown.

Drinking BCAAs will cause a small increase in insulin, but not nearly as much as consuming a full-on meal or even a whey protein shake. [7]

The truth is, it doesn’t take nearly as much training volume to retain muscle that you have built as it does to build new muscle tissue. So, if you’re not actively in a bulking phase while traveling (and not many people are), and you want to hold onto the muscle that you’ve built, you only need to train two times per week at most.

Now the volume and intensity of these sessions will have to be rather high compared to your typical training days, but if all you’re interested in is preserving your current amount of lean mass, and not losing any, then two days per week is all you need.

All that being said, if you either don’t feel like finding (or can’t find) a gym to lift weights during your travels, performing bodyweight workouts, or you simply don’t have the time, we’d suggest you perform a few brief (20-30 minutes) sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to help burn off some calories and create a bit of a “carb sink” in your muscles.

High-intensity interval training, as well as resistance training, relies primarily on stored carbohydrates (glycogen) in your muscles. Training before a huge family feast helps deplete your glycogen stores. [8]

The way the body refuels these depleted stores with carbohydrates. [9]

So, by burning through a portion of your glycogen stores (via HIIT or resistance-training) before eating, you can earn some “free carbs” in your post-workout meal.

Best of all, your body will not store the carbohydrates you eat as fat until your glycogen levels are full.[9]

Our favorite method for performing HIIT is using a work to rest ratio of 1:2 where you perform 30 seconds of all-out effort followed by 60 seconds “rest” (active recovery) and very low intensity.

You can perform your intervals using bodyweight exercises, sprints, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, or any other cardio machine of choice.

5. R-E-L-A-X & Enjoy Yourself!

The holidays are a time to cut loose (within reason) and enjoy the company of those with whom you are closest and don’t get to see all that often. Do your best to limit overindulgence in all the “naughty” foods, but at the end of the day, it’s not worth increasing your stress levels and ruining your mental health.

If you happen to go overboard at one meal, make up for it at the next by eating less, training harder the next day, and/or toying with some intermittent fasting. Planning your meals outside of the big family feasts can also help.

And besides, any damage that is done during the time you’re gone during the holidays can easily be undone with a brief mini-cut when you return from your time away from home.

The Bottom Line on Staying Lean During the Holidays

The holidays are meant to be the time of year when we celebrate and give thanks for all that we have received during the year. Make the most of this time and enjoy it to the fullest extent possible.

And, if you’re looking to keep the lean, sexy physique you’ve worked so hard all year long to build, use the above strategies to limit any “damage” you’ll do to your body composition. With these five tips, you’ll be able to enjoy food to your heart’s content every day over the holidays and start the new year right where you left off before the holiday season started.

References

  1. “Fat As a Risk Factor for Overconsumption: Satiation, Satiety, and Patterns of Eating.” ScienceDirect.com | Science, Health and Medical Journals, Full Text Articles and Books, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002822397007335.
  2. Woods SC, D’Alessio DA, Tso P, Rushing PA, Clegg DJ, et al. Consumption of a high-fat diet alters the homeostatic regulation of energy. Balance Physiol Behav. 2004;83(4):573–78.
  3. Mechanisms of nutritional and hormonal regulation of lipogenesis. EMBO Rep. 2001;2(4):282-6.
  4. “Health Benefits of Physical Activity: the Evidence.” PubMed Central (PMC), Mar. 14, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/.
  5. “Physical Activity Reduces Stress | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Home | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st.
  6. “Exercise Holds Immediate Benefits for Affect and Cognition in Younger and Older Adults.” PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768113/.
  7. Kalogeropoulou D , et al. “Leucine, when Ingested with Glucose, Synergistically Stimulates Insulin Secretion and Lowers Blood Glucose. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19013300.
  8. Gollnick PD , et al. “Selective Glycogen Depletion Pattern in Human Muscle Fibres After Exercise of Varying Intensity and at Varying Pedalling Rates. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4278539.
  9. Ivy JL. Regulation of muscle glycogen repletion, muscle protein synthesis and repair following exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):131-8. Published 2004 Sep 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905295/
  10. JL, Ivy. “Glycogen Resynthesis After Exercise: Effect of Carbohydrate Intake. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9694422.

3 Must-Have Cognition Enhancing Supplements

How many mornings have you woken to the sound of the alarm inexplicably confused by how it could be time to wake up?

Bleary-eyed and foggy headed, you stumble to the bathroom to get ready for work and head out the door. Breakfast is a mere afterthought.

Walking into your office building, you head straight to the break room for your morning cup of salvation (coffee), praying it will clear the cobwebs and make you feel somewhat human again.

But alas, as the day progresses, you continue to find yourself stuck in a malaise, unable to focus, discern, or communicate. That strong cup of coffee (or six) can’t do much to “nudge” the brain into action.

What gives?

The unfortunate truth is that sometimes the brain decides that it doesn’t want to do much of anything in the way of productivity. It would prefer to wander, daze, and (worst of all) focus on things that you shouldn’t be wasting your time with.

While the above scenario might seem like a rare occurrence for you, for a lot of adults it’s the norm, with some people spending over half of their work day in this never-ending haze.

Now, don’t get us wrong. The blank stare, fidget, or daze is necessary sometimes to help process and learn new, complex information, but if you find yourself staring at the wall more often than actually getting work done, then it might be time to upgrade your circuitry.

And that brings us to the point of today’s article, what supplements can you take to improve focus, mental clarity, productivity, and cognition?

We’ll answer that very question ahead, but first, let’s discuss what exactly cognition is, and why boosting it is an excellent thing.

What is Cognition?

The dictionary defines cognition as:

“the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”

In other words, cognition is the collection of mental processes that allow us to acquire, process, manipulate, store, and retrieve information.

The word is derived from the Latin word cognoscere, which means “get to know,” and essentially, cognition is essential for our day-to-day life.

It helps us understand information about our surroundings as well as interact with it safely. Furthermore, since our senses are constantly inundated with new information, cognition also helps us distill and extract the “useful” or relevant bits of information to perform whatever tasks we’re currently doing and discard the portions of information not needed.

As you can imagine, cognition is vital to successfully navigate just about any situation imaginable, whether it be a high-level business meeting or a get-together with friends. Being able to observe, listen, understand, and extract the useful bits of whatever information is being thrown our way, and then use that information to carry the situation forward meaningfully all involves our cognitive function.

And, without it, we might as well not even be present at all.

That being said, let’s now look at what supplements you can take to improve your information processing skills if you’re in a bit of a cognitive deficit.

3 Supplements to Boost Cognitive Function

While the concept of improving human cognition might seem like a relatively new trend, people have been using drugs and other techniques to enhance cognition for centuries. Caffeine has been used as a stimulant for at least a thousand years by individuals seeking to increase energy, mood, motivation, and focus. [1]

Given the enormous popularity of nootropics and biohacking these days, finding a cognitive enhancing supplement has never been easier, or more confusing for that matter. Walk into any supplement shop, and you’ll come face-to-face with a wide array of natural supplements advertised as cognitive enhancers, including:

  • Herbs
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • amino acids
  • And even mushrooms!

As with just about anything in life, some compounds are more thoroughly understood and proven effective than others, which brings us to this list of the best supplements to boost cognition, beginning with one of the oldest brain boosters on the planet — caffeine.

Caffeine

Caffeine merely is magical and often gets far harsher treatment than it deserves.

Simply put, next to creatine monohydrate, it is the single most studied, and proven active ingredient on the planet for boosting performance both mentally and physically.

The way caffeine works is multi-faceted, but it’s pretty simple to explain.

First and foremost, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors. [2] Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that causes us to feel tired, lethargic, and fatigued. By blocking the adenosine receptors and preventing adenosine from acting, caffeine promotes alertness and wakefulness. [3]

But that’s not all; caffeine also can increase dopamine signaling. [4] Dopamine is often referred to as the “reward” molecule in the brain, but it is also heavily involved in motivation and decision-making. [5]

Now, caffeine boosts dopamine secondary to antagonizing adenosine receptors. Additionally, this increase in dopamine does start to dwindle the more tolerant you become to caffeine. In other words, caffeine goes from being a compound that wakes you up and makes you happy to something you “need” to feel alive in the mornings.

Caffeine can also cause a variety of cognitive benefits [3], all related to improved attention, focus, and concentration. Most notably, caffeine increases:

  • Arousal (awareness to stimuli) [6]
  • Vigilance [7]
  • Reaction time [8]
  • Concentration [9]

As if that wasn’t enough reason to supplement with caffeine, it may also help combat cognitive decline. [9] So, not only can caffeine improve your brain function, but it may also help keep it running better for longer.

How much caffeine do you need to experience its benefits?

Studies investigating the potential of caffeine to boost attention, memory, and cognitive performance note that benefits can be obtained with doses as low as 60 mg — about as much as a cup of strong black tea.[10]

Interestingly, while caffeine tolerance is a well-known side effect of its continuous usage, there is some research showing that even if you are tolerant to caffeine, you may still obtain some attention-boosting benefits from it. [11]

Based on this information, it appears that the attention-promoting properties of caffeine aren’t solely due to stimulating dopamine receptors. It also occurs by antagonism (“blocking”) of adenosine receptors.

The take-home message from this is that daily caffeine consumption is excellent for purposes of increasing cognitive function, and you wouldn’t need to cycle it for this purpose.

Does Caffeine Need to Be Cycled?

As we just stated above, daily usage of caffeine is safe and appears to work for boosting cognitive function. It does not need to be cycled. One reason you may want to cycle caffeine though is if you miss the “stimulatory” component to caffeine.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is a non-protein amino acid naturally occurring in green tea leaves. On its own, Theanine is a pretty common focus and cognition-boosting supplement. However, when paired with caffeine, as it is in SteelFit® Steel Pump, some pretty cool things begin to happen.

The combination of caffeine and theanine is highly synergistic for boosting focus [12] and sustaining it. [13] This occurs even though the two compounds exert opposite effects in the brain. [14]

Essentially, caffeine increases mental alertness, wakefulness, and arousal, while theanine promotes feelings of calm and relaxation due to its effects on GABA — the main “downer” (inhibitory) neurotransmitter in the body. [15]

So, how does combining an “upper” and a “downer” improve focus, attention, and cognition?

Well, caffeine increases alertness and arousal, meaning you pay attention to things better, but the downside is this attention is a bit too expansive. You see, when people take caffeine, they get focused, but they tend to focus on anything and everything, not necessarily the most important thing they should be focusing on.

Adding theanine into the mix helps tame some of the arousal brought on by caffeine, but not so much to the point where you feel tired. More importantly, even though it reduces some of the stimulatory effects of caffeine, it does NOT reduce the improvement in focus you get from caffeine.

In other words, combining caffeine and theanine improves focus and helps prevent your mind from wandering or focusing on things it doesn’t need to be at the time. [16]

This is one of the main reasons Steel Pump contains both caffeine and theanine — to provide an increase in energy and “dial in” focus, while at the same time helping mellow out the harsh “kick in the face” high doses of caffeine can often bring.

Lastly, there is no significant body of research noting that Theanine on its own improves focus or cognition. Most of the studies on humans to date have used the caffeine + theanine combination. So, while it may be possible that theanine exerts some cognition-boosting properties on its own, we don’t know.

L-theanine is a perfect option for those who tend to feel a bit too “over stimmed” from caffeine or those who tend to have a wandering mind when trying to focus on a single topic for prolonged periods of time.

Alpha GPC

Choline is an essential nutrient for optimal brain development, healthy brain cells, and neurotransmitter synthesis. It’s also required for the production of phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, two major phospholipids critical for cell membranes. [17]

While choline is readily available in a number of foods (egg yolks in particular), it does not effectively enter the brain. However, choline-based nootropic supplements offer a solution to this “problem.”

Alpha-GPC (Alpha-glycerophosphocholine) is a synthetic form of choline that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier brain where it’s used to create a host of neurotransmitters, most prominent among these is the “learning neurotransmitter,” acetylcholine. [18]

But that’s not all, acetylcholine also plays a vital role in muscle contraction, and it’s believed that the neurotransmitter plays a prominent role in establishing a strong “mind-muscle connection.” In other words, when supplementing with Alpha GPC, you may “feel” stronger contractions from your muscles during training, which helps make for a more productive workout.

One of the most important benefits of supplementing with Alpha GPC is in the areas of brain health and cognition. Studies note that Alpha GPC may be able to improve memory formation, enhance learning ability, as well as potentially restore memory. [19,20]

In regard to exercise performance, Alpha GPC has been noted to increase Growth Hormone secretions as well as strength and power output. [21]

Alpha GPC also supports neurotransmitter synthesis of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

And, as we discussed above, increasing dopamine can benefit brain function significantly.

Additionally, much like theanine, there is some unique synergism between caffeine and Alpha GPC. In particular, research notes that Alpha-GPC alongside both caffeine and increased attention and reaction time when individuals experienced acute stress. [22]

The Bottom Line on Cognition Enhancing Supplements

In today’s world of increased reliance on productivity, efficiency, and expediency, cognitive function has never been in greater demand by employers or needed more by employees. And with the increased demand for our attention and even greater amount of distractions, supplements that improve cognition and focus are a gold mine.

Caffeine, theanine, and Alpha GPC are three of the best and safest options to consider when looking to improve mental performance in the gym or at work.

This is why we’ve included all three of these cognition-boosting supplements in every serving of Steel Pump.

Steel Pump is a high energy, high-performance pre-workout that support performance, stamina, focus, and muscle pumps. Take one scoop 30 minutes prior to training and get primed for the pump of a lifetime!

References

  1. “Cognition-Enhancing Drugs.” PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2690227/.
  2. Ribeiro JA and Sebastião AM. “Caffeine and Adenosine. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20164566.
  3. Snel J and Lorist MM. “Effects of Caffeine on Sleep and Cognition. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21531247.
  4. Nall AH, Shakhmantsir I, Cichewicz K, Birman S, Hirsh J, Sehgal A. Caffeine promotes wakefulness via dopamine signaling in Drosophila. Sci Rep. 2016;6:20938. Published 2016 Feb 12. doi:10.1038/srep20938
  5. Friston K, Schwartenbeck P, FitzGerald T, Moutoussis M, Behrens T, Dolan RJ. The anatomy of choice: dopamine and decision-making. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014;369(1655):20130481.
  6. Giles GE , et al. “Caffeine and Theanine Exert Opposite Effects on Attention Under Emotional Arousal. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28044450.
  7. Kamimori GH , et al. “Caffeine Improves Reaction Time, Vigilance and Logical Reasoning During Extended Periods with Restricted Opportunities for Sleep. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25527035.
  8. Kahathuduwa CN , et al. “Acute Effects of Theanine, Caffeine and Theanine-caffeine Combination on Attention. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26869148.
  9. A, Nehlig. “Is Caffeine a Cognitive Enhancer? – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20182035.
  10. Wilhelmus MM , et al. “Effects of a Single, Oral 60 Mg Caffeine Dose on Attention in Healthy Adult Subjects. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27649778.
  11. Lanini J , et al. “Acute Personalized Habitual Caffeine Doses Improve Attention and Have Selective Effects when Considering the Fractionation of Executive Functions. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26621326.
  12. Haskell CF , et al. “The Effects of L-theanine, Caffeine and Their Combination on Cognition and Mood. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006208.
  13. Foxe JJ , et al. “Assessing the Effects of Caffeine and Theanine on the Maintenance of Vigilance During a Sustained Attention Task. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22326943.
  14. “Caffeine and Theanine Exert Opposite Effects on Attention Under Emotional Arousal. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28044450.
  15. Nathan PJ , et al. “The Neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a Possible Neuroprotective and Cognitive Enhancing Agent. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17182482.
  16. Kahathuduwa CN , et al. “L-Theanine and Caffeine Improve Target-specific Attention to Visual Stimuli by Decreasing Mind Wandering: a Human Functional Magnetic Resonance Ima… – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29420994.
  17. “Office of Dietary Supplements – Choline.” Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), 26 Sept. 2018, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/.
  18. The role of acetylcholine in learning and memory. Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2006;16(6):710-5.
  19. De Jesus Moreno Moreno M. “Cognitive Improvement in Mild to Moderate Alzheimer’s Dementia After Treatment with the Acetylcholine Precursor Choline Alfoscerate: a Multicenter,… – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12637119.
  20. Canal N , et al. “Effect of L-alpha-glyceryl-phosphorylcholine on Amnesia Caused by Scopolamine. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2071257.
  21.  “Acute Supplementation with Alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine Augments Growth Hormone Response To, and Peak Force Production During, Resistance Exercise.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-5-S1-P15.
  22. Hoffman JR, et al. The effects of acute and prolonged CRAM supplementation on reaction time and subjective measures of focus and alertness in healthy college students. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2010)

Essential Vs. Non-Essential Amino Acids

Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein. While there are around 100 total amino acids naturally-occurring, humans only need about 20 of them. Many know amino acids play a vital role in protein synthesis, but they’re also necessary for nutrient storage, neurotransmitter production, energy generation, and nucleotide synthesis. They’re also needed for tissue repair and metabolism maintenance too.

But within the robust family of amino acids, there are some that are especially important you could even say they’re essential. Ahead, we’ve got a quick primer on which amino acids you need to optimize performance, maintain health, and grow muscle!

Types of Amino Acids

Amino acids are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential.

Essential Amino Acids

Of the 20 amino acids needed by the human body, nine of them are considered essential. That is, these essential amino acids (EAAs) are those amino acids the body cannot synthesize and therefore must consume them through food or supplementation. These nine essential amino acids must be consumed through the diet (via food or supplementation) to maintain protein synthesis, build muscle, and survive. The nine EAAs are:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Unlike carbohydrates or fats, the body doesn’t store amino acids for use later on. Instead, it’s constantly using them to create new proteins, which means you want to provide a steady stream of essential amino acids to keep things running as they should.

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Along with the nine essential amino acids of the human body, there are also 11 nonessential amino acids. These amino acids are termed “non-essential” because the body can create them from other amino acids and nutrients in the body.

The 11 non-essential amino acids are:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartate
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Within the category of non-essential amino, eight of them are considered “conditionally” essential. The reason they’re classified as “conditionally essential” is that under normal circumstances, the body can produce sufficient amounts of these amino acids to perform the variety of functions required of them. However, during times of illness or extreme stress (i.e., weightlifting), the body cannot produce enough to keep up with demand, and that’s when consuming food or an amino acid supplement containing the conditionally essential amino acids may be useful.

Sources of Amino Acids

As we stated up, the essential amino acids must be obtained through the diet, which means consuming food in some form or fashion for most people. The best way to ensure you’re getting in the required amounts of amino acids each day is by consuming adequate amounts of protein from a variety of sources.

Animal proteins are “complete” proteins in that they contain all nine essential amino acids humans require on a daily basis. Plant proteins (beans, grains, vegetables, etc.) are often missing one or more of the essential amino acids, and are therefore “incomplete” proteins. If you are a vegetarian and looking to get all of your EAAs from only food, you’ll have to do some mixing and matching. For example, eating beans and rice provides the complete amino acid profile you need, as does consuming quinoa. Of course, there’s always vegan protein powders and amino acid supplements if you get in a bind and need to hit your protein numbers on the go.

Takeaway

Amino acids provide the basis for all of your muscle-building aspirations as well as thousands of other functions in the body. Whether you’re an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore, make sure to eat a diverse diet so the amino acid pool in your body is always fully stocked and your body is primed for the big time.

Tips for Cooking with Protein Powder

Whey protein is a staple for active individuals, providing a quick, affordable, and above all delicious means to hitting your daily protein requirements and supporting your fitness goals.

But, sometimes you get tired of always drinking your protein. We’ve all had those days when the mere thought of drinking yet another protein shake is enough to chuck our blender, shaker cup, and protein powder in the dumpster.

On these occasions, wouldn’t it be great if you could chew your protein powder instead of having to drink it? You can!

There are thousands of protein powder recipes available, each one offering you a delicious and macro-friendly means to enjoying your protein powder.

But, cooking and baking with protein isn’t a simple endeavor, especially if you’re new to cooking and baking with it. There’s a certain finesse that needs to be applied when attempting things with protein beyond the standard protein shake or oatmeal.

The following list of tips has been compiled to help YOU avoid the same mistakes other culinary artists have when attempting to cook with protein powder. Give them a read and save yourself hours of wasted time and money!

Best Whey Protein Baking Tips

All Proteins are NOT the Same

When crafting your culinary concoctions, you might think one protein powder can easily be swapped for another. After all, they’re both, and they’re both powders, so they should be able to be exchanged 1:1…. right? NOPE!

If you’ve ever mixed up two different protein powders in the same amount of water, you’ve witnessed for yourself just how thick or thin different powders can mix. Different protein powders have entirely different tastes, textures, and consistencies.

What this means for you is that if a recipe calls for whey protein, don’t assume that you can automatically sub in an equivalent amount of casein, pea, or brown rice protein.

Don’t Overmix

Anyone who’s ever attempted to bake cakes, muffins, brownies, or just about any other type of sweet treat has made this error a time or two. When you overmix a batter, the gluten in the flour can form elastic strands, creating a denser, chewer, and “tougher” textured treat. That’s why you see so many recipes advise to mix ingredients “until just combined.”

What this means is that you stir the ingredients just enough to where you don’t see the individual elements you just added to the bowl. Limiting the amount of stirring, mixing, shaking, or whisking you do helps keep the texture of your baked goods light, making for a more pleasant tasting baked good.

While your baked protein goods will have less flour than standard baking recipes, you still can have a dense, overmixed product if you overmix. Therefore, mix and fold your ingredients just until they’re incorporated and then STEP AWAY from the bowl.

By doing so, you’ll be rewarded with a delectable baked good that’s sure to tantalize your tongue.

Grease It Up

Protein powders are notoriously sticky on their own, and when mixed into a batter, the stickiness factor is dialed up exponentially. This can make mixing batters, scooping batters int baking trays, and removing the finished product from the tray a real challenge.

Due to this, it’s imperative that you grease and coat your baking sheets, cake pans, and muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray. Another idea is to use paper liners in your trays if you’re making cupcakes or muffins.

And as a bonus tip, if you’re going to be using your hands to mold, shape, or scoop a whey-based dough, rub some oil or non-stick spray on your hands and whatever spatula you’re using to scoop the dough out of the bowl. This will help prevent the mixture from clinging to your hand, meaning less waste and more finished product!

Follow the Recipe

Are you a cook or a baker?

While to the casual diner, the difference is relatively minuscule. Both apply heat to a mixture of different foods and create a delicious delicacy. But, if you’ve ever been in the kitchen, you know there is a big difference between cooking and baking.

Cooking is a bit more free form. You can tweak, change, or adapt recipes to suit your palate. Don’t like asparagus in your pasta dish? That’s ok; you can swap it with broccoli, brussels sprouts, or green beans.

But, if a baking recipe calls for a set amount of flour and you add too little or too much, you’ve got a boondoggle on your hands.

It’s often said that cooking is an art, but baking is a science. By that, we mean that cooking is more “flexible,” allowing you to make minor modifications here and there. But, with baking, you must follow the recipe. Even the slightest deviation can result in you having to toss out an entire tray of goods, meaning you’ve wasted a considerable amount of time, resources, and food.

Sweeteners

We all like the occasional sweet treat. That’s probably why you’re considering baking in the first place. And, since you’re reading this article, you’re most likely trying to eat a bit healthier, and that means upping the protein and lowering the sugar content of your baked goods.

With that in mind, here are a few quick tips:

  • Refined, white sugar can be replaced at a 1:1 ratio with mashed, ripe bananas or applesauce. However, the overall liquid in the recipe needs to be cut by 25%.
  • If replacing sugar with liquid sweeteners, such as honey or agave syrup, the exchange ratio is 2:1. What this means is that if you’re replacing 1 cup of sugar with honey, you will use ½ cup of honey (or agave). However, this is important, if subbing honey for sugar, for every ½ cup of honey you add, you also need to add in ½ teaspoon of baking soda.The reason for this is that honey is acidic, and baking soda balance out the acidic properties of honey. Additionally, cooking temperatures also need to be lowered by 25 degrees as liquid sugars begin to brown and caramelize faster than dry sugars.
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract can be swapped for 2 Tablespoons of sugar.

Don’t Forget the Fat

Fat is flavor, and there’s a reason baked goods always taste so sinfully good — they contain fat!

When attempting to make protein treats, it can be tempting to completely remove fat from a recipe on account of you trying to make things “uber healthy.” However, fat is not to be feared. Your body requires fat to function properly, and so do your baked treats!

If you don’t add fat to your baked goods, it’ll be impossible to have a moist, crunchy cookie. Avoiding fat in your recipes, especially protein cookies, will leave you with little cookie-breads that taste more like sweet, hard cardboard than a soft, moist, delectable cookie.

Any fat will do — butter, oil, lard, nut butter, coconut oil — use whatever kind you prefer, but make sure you do use some form of fat.

Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Raise your hand if you’ve ever eaten a dry, crumbly, saliva-sucking baked good.

Chances are every one of you reading this have experienced that at some point in your life.

As you’ve likely experienced, chewing on a dry baked treat is akin to eating a mouth full of dirt — it’s disgusting, and no matter how much water you drink, you can’t get rid of that funky taste/sensation in your mouth.

The reason for the horrendous dryness is due to overbaking and/or not including enough moisture in the dough.

And this brings us to the next baking tip — ALWAYS USE A MOISTURIZER!

No, we’re not talking about adding some hand cream or lotion to your batter (that would be disgusting).

What we mean by a “moisturizer” are ingredients that help “weigh down” your protein powder and add moisture to the batter, preventing a dry, rubbery, crumbly mess. Moisturizers include things like bananas, Greek yogurt, applesauce, pumpkin puree, or cottage cheese.

As a general rule of thumb, adding ¼ – ½ cup of a moisturizer for every cup of a dry ingredient is enough to keep your treats moisture and avoid the dry, dirt-like texture.

You NEED Flour

Never, ever, under any circumstances try to cook or bake a batter that consists primarily of protein powder. Doing so will yield food that is incredibly dry or rubbery.

When cooking with protein powder, you NEED flour.

The flour helps to add volume, structure, and texture to your product. Generally speaking, your recipe should never contain more than ¼-⅓ whey protein powder. Making up the rest of the “dry” ingredients in your batter can be any number of flours including wheat flour, white flour, oat flour (i.e., ground up oats), coconut flour, almond flour, quinoa flour, amaranth flour, buckwheat flour, or chickpea flour.

Beware Coconut Flour

Building off the previous point, though the name can be deceiving, coconut flour does NOT react the way other flours do when mixed into a batter. Coconut flour soaks up A LOT of liquid and using too much of it can create absurdly dry, compact and “fibrous” tasting food.

As such, you should use coconut flour sparingly.

On a gram for gram basis, coconut flour contains far more fiber than other flours, which is great if you’re going for low carb foods, but with that also comes the propensity for coconut-heavy batters to be incredibly dense.

Don’t Overbake

This rule applies to everything you bake, protein powder-inclusive or not, but it’s even more important when cooking with protein.

Whey protein baked goods can go from moist, delicate, and delicious morsels to dried out, crumbly catastrophes (or outright burnt useless hockey pucks) in the blink of an eye. Whey-based goods are incredibly susceptible to overbaking, and as such, you need to watch them like a hawk once they go in the oven. As an added measure of protection, you may also want to lower the baking temp by 25 degrees if you’re particularly worried about overbaking your treats. Reducing the oven temperature will allow the goodies to cook more evenly.

Still, keep a close eye on your goodies and the clock — protein treats bake relatively quickly compared to their non-protein counterparts, which means you need to be on full alert when you stick them in the oven. Now is not the time to do a bunch of other honey-dos. When your treats go in the oven, stay focused on them, and them alone.

Do the Wobble

There’s a hard and fast rule when it comes to baking cheesecakes — do not bake them until they are solid and when poked with a knife or toothpick come out clean.

You want them to do the “wobble” when jiggled. The reason we recommend this is that cheesecakes will continue to cook once you pull them out of the oven. Continuing to leave in the oven until it’s 100% set in the middle will yield a cheesecake that is not creamy or particularly palatable.

To test if your cheesecake is ready to come out of the oven, give the pan a little shimmy shake and if you see a slight wobble in the center (similar to jello or pannacotta), remove it from the oven. It’s ready to go.

If when you nudge the pan, it wobbles like crazy or sloshes out over the sides, it’s not done. Leave it in for a few minutes and test again to see if you get the slight wobble.

Have Fun!

We’ve given you a lot of tips in this guide to baking with protein powder, but perhaps the most important advice we can give you is to HAVE FUN!

Cooking and baking are meant to be enjoyable experiences, either by yourself or in the company of family and friends. Put on some music, your favorite apron, do the happy dance, and just cut loose. If you’re stressed, on edge, and grumpy the whole time you’re baking and cooking, it won’t matter how good the food tastes. You’ll still be in a funk.

With that in mind, don’t be afraid to experiment, sample your batters along the way, or make multiple versions of the same recipe. With practice comes mastery, and in just a short while, you’ll go from a protein powder Padawan to a Jedi Master in no time!

And, if you’re looking for the perfect protein powder to spark your culinary curiosity, there is Steel Whey®!

Steel Whey — The Baker’s Protein Powder

Steel Whey™ is a 100% whey protein concentrate supplying 27 or 28 grams (based on the flavor) of pure, high-quality protein in every serving.  Steel Whey™ uses only the best quality whey protein concentrate in WPC-80, and contains no proprietary blends or protein spiking.

It’s ideal to use in cooking, baking, or as a convenient, delicious whey to get in some additional muscle-building protein into your daily diet.

Click here to learn more about Steel Whey™ and why it’s the only whey you should go!