Muscle Pumps – More than Just Aesthetics

The Pump is the stuff of legend. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger first mentioned its existence, the pump has been the goal of any individual who embraces a life spent with the iron.

While there’s no denying the pleasure and appeal of the pump, a debate has erupted between bros and science buffs as to whether or not getting a pump rolling during your workout actually has any benefit aside from inflating your ego.

So, does a pump help build muscle, or is it all show, no go? Let’s discuss!

Vasodilation

When pursuing the ever-elusive pump, lifters are ultimately concerned with enhancing vasodilation, the widening and relaxing of blood vessels. This widening or enlarging of blood vessels expands the diameter of the blood vessel and leads to some pretty incredible things. All of which are important for muscle building!

  • Increased Blood Flow

    A wider, more dilated blood vessel allows for greater blood to flow through it, which means more nutrient rich blood is transported to your muscles, delivering the essentials it needs to repair and grow.

  • Improve Nutrient Delivery

    Compounding off the previous point, blood carries with it essential nutrients used by your muscles to function, repair, and grow. With more blood reaching your muscle, more of these critical nutrients are supplied at a faster rate, leading to greater performance, endurance, and recovery.

  • Greater Oxygen Delivery

    Oxygen is one of the critical nutrients carried in the blood and used by your muscles to break down glucose and create the energy source for your muscles to perform known as ATP. More blood flow, leads to more oxygen delivery, supporting increased energy production during training for superior performance.

  • Massive Muscle Pumps

    The pump is a result of increased blood flow to muscle cells, which increases intracellular pressure. The result of this increased pressure is muscle cell enlargement manifested as sleeve-busting muscle pumps.

  • Improved Waste Clearance

    In addition to delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, blood is also tasked with the duty of removing metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide, urea, lactic acid) that accumulate as a result of physical exercise. Increased blood flow helps clear these byproducts more effectively, leading to better endurance and decreased recovery times while training.

  • Enhanced Hormone Transport

    Blood also delivers important muscle-building hormones like IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), Growth Hormone, and testosterone to skeletal muscle cells during and after exercise. If you’re keen on making gains, you want more of these hormones delivered to your muscles!

  • Core Temperature Regulation

    Last, but certainly not least, blood flow also improves core temperature regulation. This helps prevent you from becoming overheated or dehydrated while training, ultimately enabling you to perform better for longer periods of time and make more gains!

Pumps and Hypertrophy

Building muscle (i.e. hypertrophy) is extremely dependent upon the net protein balance in the body, meaning, protein gain must be greater than protein loss in order for muscle growth to take place.

Remember that getting a pump increases blood flow, oxygen transport, and nutrient delivery to working muscles, which supports and enhances the natural anabolic processes of the body. Therefore, it stands to reason that increasing blood flow (getting a pump) may enhance protein synthesis and combat muscle breakdown, resulting in superior muscle growth.
But there’s more.

The body sees muscle cell expansion (increase in size) as a threat to the cell’s survival. The body responds by reinforcing the structure of the cell, which leads to increased size and strength.

As you can see, getting a massive pump while lifting is far more than purely aesthetics…it’s helping to grow too! In fact, research confirms this: “In summary, the results of our study demonstrate that net protein synthesis during amino acid administration can be doubled by previous performance of heavy resistance exercise. Moreover, the data suggest a link between the stimulation of protein synthesis after exercise and an acceleration in amino acid transport. The greater rate of transport after exercise may be due to the increase in blood flow.” [1]

What the researchers concluded is that physical activity (such as weight lifting) improves delivery of amino acids to your muscles, enhancing repair and growth. It stands to reason that further increasing blood flow, as a result of getting a pump, you can increase that amino acid delivery even more, leading to bigger and better gains that you would had you not gotten a pump.

Last but not least, getting a pump increases your mood, self-confidence, and motivation. There’s no denying the pleasure you feel from getting a pump rolling during your workout, don’t kid yourself. In your effort to maintain and increase your pump even more, you may find yourself grinding extra hard during your workout, which could lead to moving more weight or doing more reps, which leads to muscle growth!

Ways to Achieve a Pump

Yes, the pump is truly awesome, and for a number of reasons. There’s a number of things you can do heading into the gym to ensure that you’re guaranteed one monster pump while training.

  • Pre-Workout Supplement

    Heading into your workout, you need to be focused on making every rep count, squeezing the muscle as hard as you gain to drive as much blood as possible into the muscle and creating a powerful muscle pump. It’s not always easy to train this hard and with this much intensity day after day. That’s where pre-workouts come in. They provide everything you need to get focused and have a terrific workout. There’s no better option than SteelFit® Steel Pump™.

    Steel Pump™ includes a potent trifecta of ingredients to help you achieve and sustain a raging muscle pump all workout long. Utilizing proven pump-powering compounds including citrulline malate, glutathione, and grape seed extract, Steel Pump™ turbocharges nitric oxide production, blows open blood vessels, and gorges your muscles with blood making for some of the largest pumps you’ve ever experienced!

  • Carbs are you friend

    Carbs are often demonized in today’s nutrition landscape, but for hard-training athletes, they’re absolutely essential. Your body uses carbs to generate glycogen, which is the stored form of energy your muscles use during high intensity activities, such as weight lifting or running. When your body stores glycogen, it also stores some water along with it, which enhances muscle fullness and gives you more shapely and rounded muscles.

  • Don’t skimp on the salt

    Much like carbs, salt (sodium) is heavily criticized these days for all sorts of reasons. But, it’s one of the most critical minerals in the body. Sodium affects everything from nerve function to hydration and even muscle contractions. As such, it plays a vital role in getting a sleeve-busting pump.

    Having a salty snack pre-workout helps your body hold onto more water, which drives more fluid into your blood system, yielding bigger, better, and badder pumps!

  • High Rep Training

    Low rep training is great for increasing pure strength, and can even benefit hypertrophy, but when it comes to getting your pump on, high rep training is what your focus should be. Training in the higher rep ranges (8-20 reps) keeps the muscle under tension for longer periods of time, driving more and more blood into the muscle (along with extra nutrients), creating a towering pump.

Get you Pump on with Steel Pump!

The Pump isn’t just for looks, it’s a valuable weapon in the quest for gains! The only way to ensure you get a pump each and every time you step foot under the bar is with Steel Pump™.

It’s an essential pre-training fuel the provides everything the mind and body needs to perform at its best no matter what the circumstances may be. One scoop of Steel Pump and your muscles will have everything they need to blow up and create a massive pump that will have you looking swole and making those epic gains you’ve always wanted!

References

  1. Biolo G, Tipton KD, Klein S, Wolfe RR. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. 1997;273(1 Pt 1):E122-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9252488

Electrolyte Role in the Human Body

The words hydration and electrolytes are thrown around an awful lot in the fitness and nutrition industries. Athletes are often recommended to properly hydrate and also replenish electrolyte stores in the human body, but have you ever given any thought as to what electrolytes actually do in the body, and what is their role in regard to athletic performance?

We’ve got all those questions answered and a lot more up ahead as we dive headfirst into the world of electrolytes!

What Are Electrolytes?

In the simplest sense, electrolytes are salt ions dissolved in a fluid that enables the fluid to conduct electricity. There are several electrolytes present in the human body, but the four we’re most interested in, particularly in regard to performance, are sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Sodium

Sodium (“salt”) is used first and foremost for the regulation of blood pressure and blood volume. It also maintains fluid balance and is vital to muscle function. Neurons and muscle tissue are stimulated by sodium activity, which means if you’re sodium-deficient, your muscles are sluggish to respond, fatigue sooner, and will inevitably cramp.

Humans require a bare minimum of ~500mg / day of sodium in order to function properly, yet most individuals consume roughly 3,000-4,000mg / day. The American Heart Association (AHA) salt intake be limited to 2,300mg or less, and ideally suggests adults consume no more than 1,500mg / day.

While it’s often reported that excessive sodium intake will lead to high blood pressure and assorted other cardiovascular issues, recent research indicates that high intakes of sodium may actually lower blood pressure. [1]

However, sodium requirements for athletes and lay people are vastly different, and if you’re training intensely, you definitely do NOT want to limit sodium!

Studies conducted in high-level athletes documents that they can lose as much as 8,500mg of sodium in two hours of training. Unconditioned individuals may lose even more when training in the heat.

The bottom line is if you’re training vigorously multiple times per week you’re burning through sodium reserves at a rapid rate and replenishing them is a must if you want to continue to perform at a high level!

Magnesium

Magnesium may be the least understood and discussed electrolyte in regard to the overall function of the human body. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is involved in more than 300 different reactions. Magnesium also happens to play a key role in DNA and RNA synthesis too.

Additionally, magnesium is also required for optimal nerve and muscle function, bone and teeth formation, immune system function, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Plus, it’s vital to maintaining a regular heartbeat and energy transmission in the body.

Magnesium can easily be obtained through the diet and is found in large amounts in nuts, leafy greens, tea, and coffee.

Potassium

Think of potassium as the “sodium balancer”. Whereas sodium is located outside cell walls, potassium is the primary electrolyte within your cells. Potassium is crucial to controlling heartbeat and muscle function. It also forms the other half of the electrical pump that regulates the balance of electrolytes in the cell and allows for conductivity. Due to this critical function, potassium also plays a role in neurotransmission, supporting communication between nerves.

Similar to sodium, potassium is significantly depleted during intense training. If you think it’s important to replenish sodium during/after training, potassium is as important as sodium, and potentially even more important since to regulates muscle contraction and neurotransmission. Potassium deficiencies can lead to cramping, fatigue, and injury, which further highlights its importance in regard to performance. Plus, potassium also helps your muscles store carbs for energy, which will certainly come in handy to longer and more intensely you train.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant, and well known, electrolyte, rivaled in notoriety only by sodium. You’re well acquainted with calcium’s role in regard to bone health and development, but you may be surprised to learn it also impacts your performance.

More specifically, calcium is vital to nerve impulse transmission, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. If blood levels of calcium are low, your body then leaches calcium from your bones, which can eventually lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis.

Electrolyte Consumption for Performance

Proper hydrated is always important, but even more so when talking about athletic performance. Did you know that even as little as a 2% drop in hydration levels can result in fatigue, cramping, and impaired brain function?

It’s true, which is why you absolutely must be properly hydrating around the clock, and especially in the time before, during and after your workout. Following are some guidelines to help you stay properly hydrated at all times

30 minutes Before Training

Step on a scale and weigh yourself, remember this number, you’ll see why in a moment.

Consume 16-20oz of fluid + carbohydrates and electrolytes from food or in the form of a sports nutrition supplement such as Steel Fuel™ All-In-One BCAA + Hydration Formula.

During Training

Consume 6-8oz of liquid (from water alone or mixed with BCAAs such as Steel Fuel™) for every 15-20 minutes of activity and remember to consume approximately 30-60g of carbohydrates for every hour you’re training.

Post-Workout

Weigh yourself again and subtract this new number from your initial pre-training weight.

For every pound of water weight lost during training, consume 16-24oz water along with some electrolytes, which can be found in Steel Fuel™.

Wrap Up

Hydration isn’t just important in the hours pre and post training, it’s important in the days and weeks leading up to your big day of competition. Far too many times, athletes make the mistake of only slamming water in the hours leading up to the big game, and what they fail to realize is that your nutrition and fluid intake in the days leading up to the competition are as important as what you do immediately before the game.

No athlete wants to suffer the effects of hyponatremia, during or after competing, which is why this quick-reference guide was created. Use the information contained in here to fuel up properly and ensure your electrolyte stores never bottom out when you need them most!

References

  1. Moore LL, Singer MR, Bradlee ML. Low Sodium Intakes are Not Associated with Lower Blood Pressure Levels among Framingham Offspring Study Adults. FASEB J . 2017;31(1 Supplement):446.6-446.6. http://www.fasebj.org/content/31/1_Supplement/446.6.abstract.

Top 10 Foods For a Flat Stomach

The past few months of diet and exercise have been tough. You’ve put in the work at the gym and the kitchen. The number on the scale is going down, but there’s a problem staring at you in the mirror… your belly doesn’t look any flatter than it did a few months ago. Sure, it’s a lot tighter and toned looking than it did at Christmas, but where’s the sleek, sexy stomach you thought you’d have had by now?!

While you’ve burned some fat and built some muscle, there’s still a problem lurking deep down inside your stomach, and it has to do with gut health. You see, that puffy look you have doesn’t have to do with fat, but rather water retention and bloating. The “fix” for that stuffy-looking stomach has to do with what you’re putting in your body each and every meal.

Consume the right foods, and you’ll look flat and fabulous. Consume too many of the wrong foods, and you’ll look more swollen than that Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

With that in mind, let’s focus a tidying your diet up even more than you already have with these 10 foods that will help beat the bloat and leaky gut and give you the slender stomach you’ve been dreaming about.

TOP 10 FOODS

1. Probiotic Yogurt
Yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and a host of other nutrients. It’s a tasty snack or the foundation of a great meal. It’s also a powerful ally in the fight to reclaim a flat stomach.
Yogurt is rich in certain bacteria, known as probiotics that can help restore more of the “good” gut bacteria. Too much of the “bad” type of intestinal bacteria can cause GI upset, leading to reduced function and a bloated, puffy look. [1] Consuming probiotic-rich bacteria fosters the growth of more good bacteria that improves intestinal motility, helping move things along and get you to a flatter tummy faster. [2]

2. Salmon
Seafood, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and even sardines, is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to supporting cardiovascular health, omega-3’s may also be your ticket to a flat tummy!
Research notes that overweight individuals who consume fish daily improve their glucose-insulin response [3], meaning that eating seafood regularly may help slow digestion, regulate blood sugar levels, and prevent cravings.

3. Bananas
While bananas are high in sugars (natural sugars, that is), they’re also loaded with resistant starch, a stomach-friendly carb that digests slowly, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. On top of that, resistant starch also enhances fat oxidation, a.k.a. fat burning, and improves overall body composition. [4] Resistant starch also encourages your liver to switch to fat-burning mode, giving your metabolism a boost.
One last bit about bananas is that they are also chock full of potassium, which helps balance fluid levels in the body, decreasing the risk of bloating.

4. Cucumber
Cucumbers make a tasty addition to sandwiches, wraps, and salads. They’re low in calories and high in water, vitamin c and quercetin, a polyphenol that’s been documented to enhance gut barrier function. Quercetin exhibits a “sealing” effect in the gut due to its actions with tight junction proteins. [5] These junctions regulate intestinal permeability, which only allow the nutrients that we need to enter while keeping everything else out.

5. Herbal Tea
Herbal teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, exert a relaxing effect on your GI muscle. By relaxing the muscles of the digestive system, you help your body dissolve excess gas, which eases digestion and helps reduce bloating — making your stomach look flatter.

6. Avocado
Avocados aren’t just for making a tasty dip for fried tortilla chips. They’re also great in salads, on sandwiches, or even layered in an omelette. Avocados contain lots of fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which keeps hunger at bay and supports gut health. Additionally, studies show that people who regularly eat the tasty fruit have smaller waistlines than those who don’t. [6]

7. Almonds
Nuts make a great on-the-go snack that don’t require any refrigeration or preparation. When reaching for a tummy-tightening snack, make sure almonds are the particular type of nut you reach for.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which help combat hunger and burn body fat. Recent research found that individuals consuming almonds lost more body weight than those who didn’t. [7]

8. Eggs
You won’t find a more perfect source of protein than that of eggs. They’ve been a staple of bodybuilders for decades, and for good reason. They help pack on muscle, which ramps up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories during the day.
Moreover, eggs can also help fill you up, so you’re less likely to overeat and blow your diet. Research conducted at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center found that egg eaters feel less hungry during the day than those who typically eat carb-heavy breakfasts, such as bagels. [8]

9. Green Tea
Consumed for thousands of years, green tea is an incredibly healthy drink that offers a number of benefits, including a leaner waistline. Green tea is packed with various polyphenols and antioxidants that combat inflammation, increase metabolism, and burn fat. Chief among these polyphenols is EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) which mobilizes stored fat to be burned for energy, by increasing noradrenaline in the body. EGCG inhibits an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, so by stopping the actions of that enzyme, EGCG preserves noradrenaline, leading to greater fat burning and weight loss. [9]

10. Ginger
Used in cooking, as an accompaniment to sushi, and even steeped as a tea, ginger is an incredibly versatile plant that’s been used for centuries to combat upset stomachs. In addition to soothing sour tummies, ginger also helps reduce cravings by stabilizing blood sugar levels. Ginger also helps boost metabolism and regulate cortisol levels, both of which contribute to a tighter midsection. [10]

References

  1. Casén, C., Vebø, H. C., Sekelja, M., Hegge, F. T., Karlsson, M. K., Ciemniejewska, E., Dzankovic, S., Frøyland, C., Nestestog, R., Engstrand, L., Munkholm, P., Nielsen, O. H., Rogler, G., Simrén, M., Öhman, L., Vatn, M. H. and Rudi, K. (2015), Deviations in human gut microbiota: a novel diagnostic test for determining dysbiosis in patients with IBS or IBD. Aliment Pharmacol Ther, 42: 71–83. doi:10.1111/apt.13236
  2. Oskar Adolfsson, Simin Nikbin Meydani, Robert M Russell; Yogurt and gut function, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 80, Issue 2, 1 August 2004, Pages 245–256, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/80.2.245
  3. Albert BB, Derraik JGB, Brennan CM, et al. Higher omega-3 index is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and more favourable metabolic profile in middle-aged overweight men. Sci Rep. 2014;4:6697. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep06697.
  4. Higgins JA. Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2014;54(9):1158-1166. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.629352.
  5. Suzuki T, Hara H. Role of flavonoids in intestinal tight junction regulation. J Nutr Biochem. 2011;22(5):401-408. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.08.001.
  6. Fulgoni VL, Dreher M, Davenport AJ. Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2008. Nutrition Journal. 2013;12:1. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-1.
  7. Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris‐Etherton PM. Effects of Daily Almond Consumption on Cardiometabolic Risk and Abdominal Adiposity in Healthy Adults With Elevated LDL‐Cholesterol: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015;4(1). http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/4/1/e000993.abstract.
  8. Vander Wal J, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar N. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. International journal of obesity (2005). 2008;32(10):1545-1551. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.130.
  9. Lu H, Meng X, Yang CS. Enzymology of Methylation of Tea Catechins and Inhibition of Catechol-<em>O</em>-methyltransferase by (−)-Epigallocatechin Gallate. Drug Metab Dispos. 2003;31(5):572 LP-579. http://dmd.aspetjournals.org/content/31/5/572.abstract.
  10. Mansour MS, Ni Y-M, Roberts AL, Kelleman M, RoyChoudhury A, St-Onge M-P. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: A pilot study. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 2012;61(10):1347-1352. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.03.016.

HIIT vs. LISS – Which Form of Cardio to Perform?

There is an endless debate going around the fitness community about which form of cardiovascular training is superior – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or Low Intensity Steady State (LISS). Proponents on both sides of the aisle aggressively defend their style of cardio as the best.

We’re here to explain the differences between the two, and which form you should be using to maximize your gains in the gym.

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) is a low-intensity cardio workout usually calling for 30 to 60 minutes of exercising at approximately 60% of your maximum heart rate, a.k.a. Your “fat burning” zone. Advocates of LISS promote the idea that training in this manner promotes greater fat burning, increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles, and accelerates recovery.

The advantages of LISS is that it’s safer for out of shape trainees and comes with less strain on your joints, ligaments and connective tissue, and therefore a lower risk of injury. Additionally, LISS is easy to do basically anywhere. You can go walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or if you’re at the gym, you can use the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike.

The downsides to LISS is that it’s incredibly time-consuming and something your body adapts to overtime, meaning that in order to get the same calorie burn from it, you’ll have to eventually increase the amount of LISS that you do. Plus, when dieting, LISS is more catabolic as opposed to high intensity interval training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a more demanding form of cardio training that alternates between periods of all-out maximum effort and low-to-moderate effort. Maximum effort intervals generally fall between 10-45 seconds, while the low-to-moderate “rest” intervals last between 30-60 seconds. These rest periods allow for complete replenishment of the Adenosine Triphosphate-Creatine Phosphate (ATP-CP) system.

The advantages to HIIT is that it’s incredibly time-efficient and great for not only stimulating muscle fibers in a similar manner as to that of weightlifting, but also enhances muscle building and preserves muscle better during periods of dieting. Compared to LISS, you’ll experience a greater metabolic boost for longer periods of time and burn a lot of calories for very little time.

The disadvantages to HIIT is that you cannot perform it every day like LISS. It’s simply too taxing to your body and CNS and can inhibit recovery and muscle-building if done too often. Moreover, not everyone is in good enough physical or cardiovascular condition to handle HIIT and there’s a greater risk of injury too., by doing high intensity work you are activating muscle fibers and anytime you activate muscle fibers you are primed for growth

Which Form is Superior?

Generally speaking, there isn’t one “best” form of cardio for all populations. Both have their place in a proper muscle-building, fat-shredding training program. HIIT is superior for fat loss and muscle retention during dieting and saves a lot of time. LISS is a great “alternative” to use in between resistance training sessions and HIIT session to still get some extra calorie burn without impairing CNS and muscle recovery. Plus, it’s also good from increasing blood flow to previously worked muscles and is an ideal form of “active recovery” to be used on rest days.

In the end, a combination of both HIIT and LISS can be used to promote body re-composition. How you blend the two ultimately boils down to your individual training and recovery capacity as well as your nutrition and performance / physique goals.