Contest Peak Week Nutrition Hacks

The last few days leading up to a physique competition are extremely stressful. You’ve been dieting for weeks on end, lifting multiple times per day every day for weeks Not to mention you’re going crazy with cardio during the hours you’re not lifting. As the content approaches, the end is in sight. You’re nearing the finish line of your contest prep, but those final decisions you make during peak week can be the difference between 1st place and 5th place.

Peak week is the grueling final mountain to climb on your way to supreme muscle definition and a shredded physique. Yet, many first-time competitors completely botch the peak week process (and their physique on stage) by messing up one of the three pillars of peak week.

Perfecting these three pillars should be your primary focus of your contest peak week and will be the ones that make or break you on stage.

Those three pillars are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Water
  • Sodium/Potassium Balance

Ahead, we’ll address where new competitors go wrong in these areas along with what you should be doing if you want to look your best when you step on stage.

But, before we get into those three very important factors, let’s briefly review what peak week should and shouldn’t be for.

Objectives of Peak Week

The reason many first-time competitors mess up peak week is that they’re not really sure what the whole purpose of peak week is. Fortunately, we’re here to help with that.

Let’s start by discussing what peak week is NOT for. Peak week is NOT for:

  • Losing Excess Body Fat

    By the time peak week hits, you should be stage-ready. Trying to do any last minute dramatic weight loss is pure madness and only increases the stress your body is under in the final days leading up to the competition and may actually make it even harder to lose that fat.

    If you find yourself in this situation, you’re best served to pick another physique show taking place in a couple weeks. No amount of salt, carb, or water manipulation will make up for an excess of body fat.

  • Thinning Your Skin

    For decades, bodybuilders, physique models, and coaches have prescribed eating white fish as a means to “thin” the skin leading up to a competition. Unfortunately, this is a hollow myth that holds no water.

    To have thinner-looking skin, you simply need to lose more body fat and excess water weight. No amount of fish is going to magically thin your skin in the days leading up to a show.

  • Eliminating water weight

    Many competitors and coaches mistakenly believe that missing their peak comes as a result of holding too much water. In an effort to remedy this, they remove water entirely in the days leading up to a show. Nothing could be more wrong that eliminating water during peak week.

    We’ll get into this topic more down below, but just realize that decreasing your body’s water content is not a goal of peak week.

What is peak week for?

Peak week is focused on two main objectives:

  • Maximizing Muscle Definition and Fullness
  • Minimizing Water Retention

Both of these objectives can be accomplished through the savvy manipulation of the three pillars of peak week (carb, water, and electrolytes) that we listed at the beginning of this article.

And with that said, let’s now get into the finer details concerning each of the three pillars of peak week and what you should and shouldn’t be doing with them.

Three Pillars of Peak Week

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be the physique competitors’ best friend or worst enemy. Carbohydrate loading is a familiar concept in both performance and physique sports. While both types of athletes use the carb load to increase glycogen storage, the physique athlete utilizes the technique to appear bigger and fuller on stage, while the performance athlete needs topped off glycogen for greater endurance, stamina, and power.

While carbohydrates (glucose) can be stored as glycogen, the body can only store so much. If you consume more carbohydrates than you need, and your glycogen stores are topped off, the excess glucose is converted into body fat through a process called de novo lipogenesis. Although this process is inefficient, if there’s no “rooms available” for the incoming glucose to be stored as glycogen, then your body will default to this process.

During peak week, you have been dieting for weeks and training intensely, as such your insulin sensitivity is at an all-time high, meaning your body is primed to store some serious carbohydrates.

But, as the saying goes, “the dose makes the poison”, and nowhere does this ring truer than when it comes to carb loading. Too little carbohydrate and you look flat. Too much and you risk “spillover”, gaining fat and looking “puffy”, but just the right amount and you are well on your well to maximizing muscle fullness.

To identify the “right” amount of carbs is going to be highly variable and different for each person. If you’re used to eating 100 grams of carbs per day, and then all of a sudden slam your system with 600-800 grams of carbohydrates at one time, you’re guaranteed disaster. The average 180-lb physique competitor can store approximately 350-500 grams of glycogen in muscle tissue and another 60-120 grams of glycogen in the liver. [1]

The best way to approach carb loading is by adding some into each meal, and on the day of the show, 6 to 8 hours from prejudging, consume 30-80 grams of carbohydrates every 2 to 3 hours. Smaller competitors will want to stay on the lower end of this range, while larger athletes can lean more towards the top end.

Don’t Forget Fiber

Fiber is important for gut health and proper digestion, and while you don’t want to completely eliminate it during prep week, you don’t want to go overboard with it either. Lest you look gassy, bloated, or distended on stage.

In the final days leading up to the show, you want to consume lower-fiber/bulk whole food carbohydrates along with small amounts of protein (10-20 g) and fat (5-10 g) with each meal.

More About Protein and Fat

During peak week, protein and fat macros should be held steady, making only minor adjustments if absolutely necessary.

Water

Water depletion is common practice among old-school bodybuilders due to a misguided belief that cutting water helps remove residual water. It’s this residual water that is blamed for poor muscle definition, and by dehydrating yourself, there’s no possibility of water remaining under the skin.

While this sounds good in theory, the human body is quite that simple. Not to mention the fact that purposely depriving your body of water can bring with it a host of consequences that you’d rather not have to deal with.

In the previous section, we mentioned that carbohydrates are essential to achieving maximum muscle fullness on stage. What makes carbohydrates so effective in promoting muscle fullness is that when your body stores glucose as glycogen, it also stores water inside your muscles. In fact, research has noted that for every gram of carbohydrate stored in your muscle as glycogen, it also stores up to 4 grams of water too. [2,3]

This fact alone should demonstrate just how vital water is during contest prep and how it and carbohydrates are responsible for maximizing muscle fullness. Yet, in spite of these facts, many coaches and competitors still feel compelled to deplete water during prep week. What these individuals fail to understand is the difference between intracellular and extracellular fluid and the principle of conservation that applies.

Intracellular vs Extracellular Water

The human body is composed of approximately 60% water; roughly ⅔ of this water is stored as intracellular (within cells). The remaining third is extracellular fluid. Extracellular fluid by definition is found outside of your cells, and this is what many competitors and coaches believe is causing the lack of definition and muscle line “blurring”.

So, let’s take a closer look at the breakdown of stored water in the body:

  • Intracellular fluid = 63-65%
  • Extracellular fluid = 35-37%
    • Within the extracellular fluid, 28% of it is interstitial fluid, with the remaining 7-9% of fluid is stored in other extracellular spaces such as plasma or lymph fluid

The primary concern for most athletes is the interstitial fluid — fluid found between cells containing a variety of glucose, salts, and hormones. This is the area of fluid that can negatively impact muscle definition on stage.

So, what can the physique athlete do to reduce levels of interstitial fluid?

Nothing.

Water storage and content is tightly regulated by the body. There is no way in which you can remove water from one compartment of the body without affecting the other. So, if you want to experiment with diuretics or removing water, you will lose extracellular water, but you’ll also lose intracellular water as a result of your body trying to maintain homeostasis. The overall ratio of water balance in your body with remain the same, and all you’ll be left with is a flat physique if you deprive yourself of water.

Remember, your body’s water storage naturally works to your advantage. The vast majority of it is stored within your cells. A negligible amount is stored in the interstitial fluid.

Electrolyte Balance

Sodium and potassium represent the final pieces of the puzzle to perfecting your peak week. What these two essential electrolytes do and how they can impact your final appearance are highly misunderstood by most coaches. In fact, many competitors as well as their coaches drastically adjust sodium and/or potassium intake during the final days leading up to the show.

The truth is, that sodium and potassium manipulation can certainly enhance your on-stage look, but the changes needed aren’t as big as may have been led to believe.

But before we go any further, let’s quickly recap the “give and take” relationship of sodium and potassium in the body and how it affects water balance.

For starters, water moves in and out of cells via the sodium/potassium ion pump (Na+/K+ pump). Sodium is found in high concentrations outside of cells in the interstitial fluid, while potassium is found in high concentrations inside the cells, where it can pull in water.

Now, most people will think that simply cutting sodium and piling on the potassium is a surefire way to load a lot of water into the cell. But again, the body doesn’t work quite that way.

When sodium is reduced or removed from the diet, the kidneys will conserve sodium by reabsorbing more of it back into circulation and excreting less through the urine. A 1990 Harvard study showed this perfectly when it found that reducing dietary sodium to practically zero, blood levels of sodium remained relatively unchanged. Interestingly, by day 6 of the trial, most patients had stopped peeing out sodium altogether![5]

The reason for this phenomenon resides in the hormone aldosterone. When sodium is decreased, aldosterone levels rise.

Why is this important?

Aldosterone is a hormone who is tasked with channeling the re-absorption and retention of water and sodium. As aldosterone levels continue to rise, so too does water retention as well as reabsorption of both sodium and water back into circulation.

Additionally, low dietary sodium can lead to a decrease in blood pressure, which pushes plasma water out of the vascular system and into the surrounding space. Without sufficient pressure in the blood vessels, reabsorbed water heads into the subcutaneous layer, precisely where you don’t want it to be.

And if you need one more reason not to embrace sodium depletion, consider this — reducing dietary sodium stunts activity of a protein called SLGT-1.[6] This protein is responsible for glucose absorption. By reducing sodium, you’re essentially limiting your body’s ability to absorb and store glucose, prohibiting you from achieving maximum muscle fullness.

What happens to the unabsorbed glucose?

It stays in the small intestine, where it attracts water to the area, giving you the bloated, distended look that you absolutely don’t want on the day of the show.

How Much Water and Salt?

Keep water and salt at the same levels you’ve been consuming in the weeks leading up to prep week. That means if you’re used to consuming 1-1.5 gallons of water per day along with 2500 mg of sodium continue doing that in the days leading up to the show. You may want to stop drinking water about an hour or two before going on stage though, just so you don’t feel like you have to pee while on-stage for pre-judging.

What About Supplements?

Again, the same thing for water and salt intake applies to supplements. During peak week, you DO NOT want to make any drastic changes to your daily intake. Doing so adds one other variable to the equation that isn’t really necessary or productive.

That means if you’ve been using a certain pre workout, fat burner, or creatine supplement (such as Pure Steel Creatine Monohydrate) continue doing so. Furthermore, if you aren’t already, you should be supplementing with creatine, even during prep week. This is due to the fact that creatine enhances cellular hydration, meaning it improves water storage in muscle cells. This gives you a fuller, shapelier look to your muscles.

Takeaway

Remember, perfecting peak week only comes through a lot of trial and error. The earlier out from the competition that you can determine how your body reacts the better. We’re all different and so what macro ratio, carb load, or final meal before stepping on stage will be highly dependent on the individual.

That being said, you can use these pointers as a compass to get you going in the right direction for peak week. The fine-tuning is up to you and can only be determined through self-experimentation.

References

  1. Acheson, K. J., Schutz, Y., Bessard, T., Anantharaman, K., Flatt, J. P., & Jéquier, E. (1988). Glycogen storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48(2), 240–247.
  2. King RFGJ, Jones B, O’Hara JP. The availability of water associated with glycogen during dehydration: a reservoir or raindrop? European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2018;118(2):283-290. doi:10.1007/s00421-017-3768-9.
  3. Fernandez-Elias, V. E., Ortega, J. F., Nelson, R. K., & Mora-Rodriguez, R. (2015). Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise  in the heat in humans. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(9), 1919–1926. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3175-z
  4. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=6081&context=etd
  5. Rogacz, S., Williams, G. H., & Hollenberg, N. K. (1990). Time course of enhanced adrenal responsiveness to angiotensin on a low salt diet. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 15(4), 376–380.
  6. Poulsen SB, Fenton RA, Rieg T. Sodium-glucose cotransport. Current opinion in nephrology and hypertension. 2015;24(5):463-469. doi:10.1097/MNH.0000000000000152.

Six Important Nutrients for Female Athletes

If you’re a hard training female athlete, you’re at a higher risk for certain essential nutrient deficiencies. Read on to find out what nutritional pitfalls await the active female athlete.

Physical fitness is more popular than ever these days, with more and more people heading to gyms than ever before. It’s not just men embracing the gym either; females have taken to fitness like never before and are staking a claim in all sports including but not limited to bodybuilding, powerlifting, strength training, CrossFit, etc.

In tandem with this surge has been a rampant increase in the number of studies investigating the nutritional needs of the female athlete.

In this article, we discuss the top six nutrient needs for female athletes, identified by scientific research, coaches, and trainers.

Critical Nutrient Needs for Female Athletes

Protein

Generally speaking, females tend to not consume enough protein — including female athletes. Those females that are at an even greater risk are those who adopt vegan or vegetarian diet, as well as those dieting down to “make weight” for their respective sport. [1]

Yet, aside from carbohydrate, protein is the most important nutrient for athletes of all kind. Protein provides the building blocks your muscles need for repair and growth. Without it, recovery is impaired as is your ability to increase muscle and strength.

Current daily protein recommendations for female athletes is 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg body weight (or 0.55-0.91 g/lb. body weight). [1] This number should increase if you are in a cutting phase, so as to preserve lean muscle mass.

“What if I don’t really ever crave protein?”

Not all of us walk around craving chicken, steak or fish during the day, yet we all know in the back of our mind that protein is a must-have nutrient.

For those times when you’re not craving yet another helping of chicken or beef, it helps to have a quality whey protein.

Steel Whey™ provides 27/28 grams of protein per serving (based on flavor), mixes easily, and tastes absolutely delicious. Mix up a serving after training to kick-start the recovery and growth process, mix it into your pre-training bowl of oatmeal, or have it in the evenings to top off your protein macronutrient goals for the day.

Carbohydrates

We live in a world engulfed in fad diets, and it’s not just the casual consumer that’s duped into following these trendy eating habits — athletes fall prey to these dietary gimmicks all the time.

If you’re training at high-intensity multiple times per week, your body needs carbohydrates.

Yet, with the escalating popularity of low-carb/no-carb diets like paleo, keto, and carnivore diets, athletes are starving their muscles of the optimal training fuel for high-intensity training — carbohydrate (i.e. glucose).

Many will argue that once you become “fat fueled” the need for carbohydrate evaporates, but this isn’t really telling the whole truth. You see for “fast twitch” sports like sprinting, weightlifting, gymnastics, etc., your body uses glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrate) to power your muscles. The reason for this is that the body oxidizes carbohydrate for energy significantly faster than stored body fat.

In other words, if you perform regular bouts of intense exercise, and want to perform at a high level, you want carbohydrate.

Female athletes also need to be made aware of the fact that their monthly cycle affects their carbohydrate utilization and storage.

During the luteal phase, glycogen storage rises while carbohydrate oxidation falls compared to the follicular phase, due to increased estrogen and progesterone levels present in the luteal phase. [2] Due to this phenomenon, female athletes may need to focus more on loading carbohydrate during their follicular phase for the purposes of optimizing glycogen storage. [2]

How much carbohydrate do female athletes need?

As with all athletes, the carbohydrate requirements change based on activity level, training frequency, and type of sport. Research studies have shown the following, regarding carbohydrate needs for females:

Iron

Iron deficiency is incredibly common in female athletes due to a trio of factors:

  • Females Tend to Consume Less Iron Through Their Diet
  • Monthly Menstrual Cycles Increase Iron Loss from The Body
  • Regular Exercise Enhances Iron Utilization in The Body [6]

Left unchecked, deficiencies in this essential mineral can lead to reduced muscle function, energy production, and work capacity. [2,5] As such, it’s imperative that female athletes ensure adequate iron intake whether through the diet or supplementation.

How much iron do female athletes need?

Vitamin D

Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) is a fat-soluble vitamin that serves a role in hormone production, calcium homeostasis, immune system function, and cell growth differentiation. Additionally, vitamin D also helps prevent premature aging and skin damage.

In other words, vitamin D is really, really important. Yet again, most people (including both male and female athletes) are deficient in this very important vitamin. In fact, research estimates that well over 40% of the population is deficient in vitamin D. [7]

What’s the reason for Vitamin D deficiency?

Simply put, we don’t spend enough time outdoors in the sun.

You see, our bodies synthesize vitamin D from cholesterol when exposed to the sun. But, longer commutes, increased work hours, and staying indoors too much has led to chronic D deficiency on a global level. Coupled with this is the fact that not very many foods are naturally rich in vitamin D either.

Deficiency of Vitamin D is associated with fatigue, poor immune function, bone breaks, poor recovery from exercise, and depressed mood. As such, it’s imperative that athletes address their vitamin D deficiency by spending more time outdoors and/or supplementing with Vitamin D3.

Most multivitamins supply Vitamin D3 these days but depending on the brand, you may or may not be getting sufficient amounts. If you need a little extra vitamin D and want to enhance the quality of your skin at the same time, there’s Steel Beauty™.

Steel Beauty™ provides 25% of the RDI of Vitamin D in each serving.

Calcium

Porous, fragile bones, better known as osteoporosis, is a major public health concern affecting over 10 million adults. 80% of that 10 million (i.e. 8 million) are women. On top of that 34 million other adults suffer from osteopenia — low bone mass. In case you weren’t aware, osteopenia very frequently precedes osteoporosis.

At the center of osteoporosis is a deficiency of the essential mineral calcium. Your bones store the vast majority (99%) of calcium. When intake is low and calcium is required, your body leeches it from your bones to fulfill its needs. If this happens frequently enough, individuals experience osteopenia, which then leads to osteoporosis. And, with that comes the significantly greater risk of bone fractures and breaks.

But that’s not all, calcium deficiencies also impair blood clotting, muscle contractions, nerve transmission, and protein utilization.

Research has noted that between 72-90% of ALL females fail to consume enough calcium. [2] Sports nutrition researchers highly recommend obtaining calcium through the athlete’s diet as various studies have shown a link between supplemental calcium and adverse kidney and cardiovascular events. [8,9]

Dietary sources of calcium include seeds, yogurt, milk, cheese, leafy greens, and whey protein. Steel Whey™ provides 12% of the RDI of calcium in each serving.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is another essential fat-soluble vitamin that plays a significant role in bone health. This is due to the fact that your body requires Vitamin K2 for the absorption of calcium. [11]

Vitamin K2 transports calcium from your blood and stores it in your bones. And since females have thinner bones, and less bone mass, than their male counterparts, vitamin K2 becomes increasingly important for female athletes. [10]

Unfortunately, vitamin K2 isn’t found in all that many foods, outside of saying fermented soy, which not too many of us tend to eat on a daily (or even monthly) basis. As such, to help satisfy your vitamin K2 requirements, and ensure calcium storage in the body, it’s suggested to invest in a quality multivitamin.

Takeaway

While the majority of sports nutrition research has been conducted with male subjects, sufficient amounts have been carried out studying the female athlete and identified the areas of most concern. These six nutrients are among those continually highlighted by sports scientists, registered dietitians, and coaches.

If you are a female athlete and looking to ensure optimal performance, recovery, and health, take a close look at your nutrition plan and see if you’re at risk for any of these deficiencies.

References

  1. Cialdella-Kam L, Kulpins D, Manore MM. Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, and Energy Restricted Diets in Female Athletes. Knechtle B, ed. Sports. 2016;4(4):50. doi:10.3390/sports4040050.
  2. Rossi, K. A. (2017). Nutritional Aspects of the Female Athlete. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 36(4), 627–653.
  3. Manore, M. M. (1999). Nutritional needs of the female athlete. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 18(3), 549–563.
  4. Steinbaugh, M. (1984). Nutritional needs of female athletes. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 3(3), 649–670.
  5. Gabel, K. A. (2006). Special Nutritional Concerns for the Female Athlete. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 5(4). Retrieved from
  6. Alaunyte, I., Stojceska, V., & Plunkett, A. (2015). Iron and the female athlete: a review of dietary treatment methods for improving iron status and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 38.
  7. Forrest, K. Y. Z., & Stuhldreher, W. L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), 31(1), 48–54.
  8. Kim BY, Nattiv A. Health considerations in female runners. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2016;27(1):151–78.
  9. Goolsby MA, Boniquit N. Bone health in athletes: the role of exercise, nutrition, and hormones. Sports Health 2017;9(2):108–17.
  10. Nieves, J. W., Formica, C., Ruffing, J., Zion, M., Garrett, P., Lindsay, R., & Cosman, F. (2005). Males have larger skeletal size and bone mass than females, despite comparable body size. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research : The Official Journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 20(3), 529–535.
  11. Maresz K. Proper Calcium Use: Vitamin K2 as a Promoter of Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. 2015;14(1):34-39.

How Whey Protein Builds Muscle

Whey protein powder is almost universally the very first supplement a person purchases. What’s not to like about it? Whey protein is:

  • Convenient
  • Effective
  • Affordable
  • Stores Easily
  • Absolutely Delicious

Whey protein powder makes perfect pancakes, whips up easily in a smoothie, and even works wonders when added to a bowl of steel cut oats. And, let’s not forget that whey protein is ideally suited to post-workout when your muscles are thirsting for some amino acids. Quite simply, whey protein is the anything and everything and athletes wants and needs.

But, have you ever given any thought to exactly how using whey protein can build muscle and improve recovery?

Let’s find out how whey protein builds muscle!

What is Whey Protein?

Whey protein is one of the two proteins naturally occurring in milk. In case you were wondering, casein makes up the vast majority (80%) of the protein content in milk. Casein can also be found in a powder, similar to whey protein.

Whey accounts for 20% of the protein in milk. It’s the liquid by-product remaining during the cheese-making process after the milk has curdled and been strained. The liquid whey is then processed and dehydrated, yielding a powder that is then sold to various protein powder manufacturers and supplement companies to flavor, mix, and package for consumers.

How Whey Builds Muscle

Yes, whey protein is far and away the most commonly used supplement (after multivitamins), and it’s recommended by virtually every coach, athlete, and trainer you see. But exactly how and why does whey build muscle?

Here’s a slew of reasons:

Whey complete protein

When discussing proteins, they can either be complete or incomplete. “Complete” proteins contain all of the essential amino acids (EAAs) the body needs to build and repair muscle tissue, grow cells, etc. Examples of complete proteins are animal-based proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, dairy (including whey and casein), and soy.

“Incomplete” proteins are deficient or lacking in one or more of the nine EAAs required to synthesize protein structures. Common examples of incomplete proteins are plant-proteins (beans, grains, vegetables, etc.).

Whey, in particular, is particularly high in the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the three amino acids that stimulate the mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway in the body, which drives muscle protein synthesis, a.k.a. muscle growth.

One other thing in favor of whey is that it contains a higher ratio of the BCAAs (especially leucine) than casein does. [1] This is another reason whey protein is the post workout shake of choice recommended by coaches and trainers.

High Biological Value

The biological value (BV) of a protein is a measure of how efficiently the human body can utilize the amino acids in a particular protein. If a protein has a very high biological value, your body will better digest, absorb, and use the array of amino acids present in the protein, which means the food you eat is put towards recovery and growth rather than go to waste.

Whey protein has the highest BV of any protein, clocking in at an astounding 104. FYI, that’s even higher than egg protein (BV = 100), which is considered by many as the “ideal” protein for humans. [2]

Basically, whey protein needs to be at the top of your list if you’re looking to pack on mass fast!

Fast Digesting

One of the best qualities about whey protein that makes it ideal for muscle growth is its incredibly fast digestion rate. [3] Following a grueling workout, your muscles are starving for amino acids which they’re used to repair, recovery, and grow. Compared to a protein like casein, which can take up to 8 hours to digest, whey protein is processed, broken down, and absorbed by the body much more rapidly, meaning that the essential amino acids your muscles crave following exercise get there faster, yielding faster recovery, repair, and growth. The reason whey protein is so quickly digested by your body is that whey protein is considerably more soluble in the acidic environment of your stomach than casein and other various proteins, leading to quicker digestion and absorption. [4]

Increases Muscle Growth

Many people are under the belief that resistance-training builds muscle. Unfortunately, intense exercise, including weight lifting, actually breaks down muscle tissue, it doesn’t build it. Muscle repair, recovery, and growth actually occurs after your workout, when your resting and sleeping.

Immediately following training, and for a few hours following, your muscles are highly sensitized to rapidly absorb and utilize anything and everything you give it. This is why so many people go out for “epic cheat meals” full of burgers, fries, pizza, etc. After workouts, your metabolism is in overdrive trying to repair tissue that was broken down, and muscle insulin sensitivity is heightened, meaning they’re “primed” to absorb the food you eat, especially protein and carbohydrates.

Research has shown drinking whey protein in combination with resistance training enhanced muscle building. [5] Here’s the really interesting thing — no matter if subjects trained with lighter weights or heavier weights, both experienced the muscle-building benefits of whey protein, even if the whey protein wasn’t consumed until 24 hours after exercise!

Numerous other studies have clearly shown that consuming whey protein improves strength, performance, and overall body composition. [6,7,8]

Basically, if you want to build muscle, whey protein is a MUST!

Reduces Fat Gain

Whey protein shakes aren’t only for muscle growth, they’re also ideal for recomposing or dropping fat. Research from 2015 sought to examine the effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on training adaptations in 86 active men. [9]

Over the course of 12 weeks of resistance training, immediately following a total body workout men consumed either:

  • Whey Protein Alone
  • Whey Protein + Carbohydrates
  • Only Carbohydrates

While all three groups experienced increases in muscle size, strength, and fat-free mass, only the group supplementing with whey protein experienced abdominal fat loss. Based on the outcome of the study, researchers concluded:

“Whey proteins may increase abdominal fat loss and relative fat-free mass adaptations in response to resistance training when compared to fast-acting carbohydrates.” [9]

What Whey is for You?

While it might seem pretty easy to just stop by your local supplement shop and grab a tub of whey protein, it’s not that simple.

You see, there’s not just one type of whey protein. In fact, you’ll come across three different types of whey protein used in the various protein powders on the shelf. Each type is just a bit different than the other types, and which one you select will depend on how much budget you have to work with and how sensitive you are or aren’t to lactose, the milk sugar present in milk.

With all of that in mind, here are the differences between the different types of whey protein:

Whey Protein Concentrate

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) contains the most calories, fat, and carbohydrates of any form of whey. It can contain anywhere between 35-80% whey protein, with the remainder being made of carbohydrates and fat.

Whey protein concentrate is the most cost-effective option and is ideal for those who don’t have any digestion issues with dairy. This form of whey also offers the best taste, consistency, and “mouthfeel” of the different kind of whey proteins, due to the increased carb and fat count. If you’re not in contest prep and can afford more carbs and fats in your diet, whey concentrate is the whey to go.

Ideally, you’d like to find a whey concentrate with 80% protein content, as it offers the most protein per serving of the available concentrates. Unfortunately, most companies do not list the grade of whey protein, notated as WPC35, WPC60, WPC80, etc. Something to be on the lookout for. SteelFit® Steel Whey uses the highest form of whey protein concentrate, Micro-Filtered WPC80.

Whey Protein Isolate

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is a more refined and protein-heavy version of whey compared to whey concentrate. Isolates go through additional processing and filtration (cross-flow microfiltration (CFM) or ion-exchange chromatography) to remove more of the carbs, lactose, and fat present in concentrate. The resulting powder contains at least 90% protein with minimal lactose, fat, or carbs, making it a solid option for those with sensitive stomachs.

The “downside” to isolates compared to concentrate powders is that they tend to cost more money and don’t have the same consistency, texture, or “mouthfeel” as concentrates (due to the reduced carb/fat content). Additionally, due to the increased processing, isolates are lacking some of the beneficial micronutrients and immunoglobulins found in concentrates.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate

Also known as hydrolyzed whey, whey protein hydrolysate is the most refined form of whey protein. This is the most expensive form of whey and lacks the flavor, texture, and consistency of concentrates or isolates.

Hydrolyzed whey is made by reacting the whey protein powder with a variety of enzymes and chemicals that pre-digest (hydrolyze) the protein structures in whey. Hydrolysis breaks apart the long chains of protein in whey into smaller, faster-digesting proteins that digesting incredibly fast. The catch here is that the hydrolysis process often leaves the powder tasting somewhat chemically or “off”.

Unless you’re extremely lactose intolerant, there’s really no added benefit to using hydrolyzed whey over concentrate or isolate.

Whey Protein Blends

In addition to finding each kind of powder sold separately at the store, you’ll also encounter whey protein blends that use a mixture of two or even all three forms of whey protein and may also use other forms of protein in there as well, such as egg protein, casein, milk protein, soy protein, brown rice, or quinoa.

Using a mix of proteins allows for a mix of digestion rates, which helps keep you fuller longer, as well as a steady and constant release of amino acids into the bloodstream, supporting recovery and growth. Plus, using a mix of proteins allows you to maximize protein content per scoop while also retaining the taste, texture, and consistency achieved with concentrates.

Protein blends are a great balance of cost, protein content, taste, and texture.

Build More Muscle with Whey Protein

Whey protein is a staple supplement for just about every athlete, and for good reason, it works! Not only is it effective, but it also tastes great and is incredibly affordable. It requires no refrigeration, which means you can buy a tub and leave it in your car, so you always have the perfect post-workout recovery shake ready and raring to go!

Building muscle, burning fat, or craving a healthy, delicious snack, whey protein is the way to go!

References

  1. Witard OC, Wardle SL, Macnaughton LS, Hodgson AB, Tipton KD. Protein Considerations for Optimising Skeletal Muscle Mass in Healthy Young and Older Adults. Nutrients. 2016;8(4):181. doi:10.3390/nu8040181.
  2. Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein – Which is Best? Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2004;3(3):118-130.
  3. Jäger R, Dudeck JE, Joy JM, et al. Comparison of rice and whey protein isolate digestion rate and amino acid absorption. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2013;10(Suppl 1):P12. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-S1-P12.
  4. Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson M-P, Maubois J-L, Beaufrère B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 1997;94(26):14930-14935.
  5. Nicholas A. Burd, Daniel W. D. West, Daniel R. Moore, Philip J. Atherton, Aaron W. Staples, Todd Prior, Jason E. Tang, Michael J. Rennie, Steven K. Baker, Stuart M. Phillips; Enhanced Amino Acid Sensitivity of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Persists for up to 24 h after Resistance Exercise in Young Men, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 141, Issue 4, 1 April 2011, Pages 568–573, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.110.135038
  6. Miller PE, Alexander DD, Perez V. Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):163-175. doi:10.1080/07315724.2013.875365.
  7. Bell KE, Snijders T, Zulyniak M, et al. A whey protein-based multi-ingredient nutritional supplement stimulates gains in lean body mass and strength in healthy older men: A randomized controlled trial. Fisher G, ed. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(7):e0181387. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181387.
  8. Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Carey MF, Hayes A. The effect of whey isolate and resistance training on strength, body composition, and plasma glutamine. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006;16(5):494-509.
  9. Hulmi JJ, Laakso M, Mero AA, Häkkinen K, Ahtiainen JP, Peltonen H. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(1):48. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0109-4.

What is cGMP and Why It Important?

At SteelFit® we create the highest quality, most effective, best-tasting products on the market. Our products are formulated for optimum results both onstage and off and are designed for all health and wellness enthusiasts, from fitness competitors to weekend warriors and everyone in-between.

Physician formulated with clinical doses of the most cutting edge, research validated, patented ingredients all our products are closely analyzed by our in-house quality control team along with our board-certified physician and his team at VPR Sciences for safety, quality and efficacy.

SteelFit® products are produced in a state-of-the-art facility located in South Florida. Our manufacturing site is NSF-cGMP certified and utilizes the latest measuring, blending, quality control and packaging technologies to help deliver the finest quality sports nutrition supplements to our customers. If it’s on the label, it’s in the product; with all product batches lab-assayed for purity.

What exactly is cGMP and why is it important? Keep reading to find out more.

What is cGMP?

cGMP stands for Current Good Manufacturing Practices. They are a set of regulations and guidelines created by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the governing body in the United States overseeing food, drug, and cosmetic product safety. cGMPs detail the processes to create systems that ensure proper design, monitoring, and control of manufacturing processes and their facilities.

Adherence to the cGMP regulations helps ensure quality, potency, purity, and identity of products (i.e. supplements) by requiring that manufacturers sufficiently regulate manufacturing operations. Part of abiding by cGMP includes establishing robust QA/QC management systems, procuring high-quality raw materials, creating comprehensive and detailed operating procedures, detecting and investigating observed quality deviations, and maintaining reliable testing laboratories. The elaborate system of controls cGMP sets forth, assuming it’s actually implemented all the way, helps prevent occurrences of errors, deviations, “mix-ups”, or contamination in drugs and dietary supplements. In other words, cGMP helps certify that what the bottle claims on the label is actually in it.

cGMP requirements were first established in 1963 by the United States Congress following the near-sale of thalidomide in the United States after it had led to over 10,000 birth defects and infant deformities in Europe.

The cGMP requirements were originally designed to be flexible, so as to allow individual manufacturers to decide how they wanted to implement the guidelines and regulations in their respective facilities. The upside to this flexibility is that companies may adopt newer, more advanced technologies, to consistently strive to achieve the highest quality possible. Remember, the “c” in cGMP stands for current, so manufacturers should strive to always use the most accurate, precise, and reliable equipment of the times.

Why is cGMP important?

The reason cGMP is so important is that you really have no way to detect through sight, smell, or touch what is in your supplements, if they will work, or if they are even safe for consumption. Basically, you have no way of knowing or determining if the product you’re taking actually contains what it claims to include.

To help assure that what you’re taking is what it’s supposed to be, cGMP requires testing of a product, but not every single product in every single batch is tested. Typically, testing is conducted only on a small sample of a given batch (e.g. testing 50 bottles in a 2,000-bottle batch of pre-workout).

Why is this done?

Well, products tested in the sample are destroyed following testing. The remainder is held aside to be sold to consumers, assuming everything from the sample passes spec. This ultimately saves money and allows products to be sold at a relatively reasonable price — testing is very, VERY expensive.

This is why it’s so critical that drugs, dietary supplements, etc. are produced in accordance with cGMP regulations. Following cGMP assures the utmost quality of your products by designing quality and precision in every step of the manufacturing process. By using the most up to date equipment, well-maintained facilities, reliable and reproducible processes, and thoroughly trained employees, manufacturers help ensure your products are effective, and, more importantly, SAFE!

In the end, the cGMP regulations help reduce the number of occurrences of product recalls, hazardous effects and inevitable lawsuits that go hand-in-hand with defective, poorly manufactured products.

How to Determine if a Company is Following cGMP?

The U.S. FDA inspects pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities all over the world, including facilities that produce bulk, raw materials, as well as the ones that manufacture full-fledged, finished products. Facility inspections follow a standard procedure, with an extensively trained staff conducting the inspection.

Additionally, the FDA uses reports from the public and the pharmaceutical industry itself to be alerted to possibly defective products. Upon receiving a report, the FDA will identify which facilities need to be investigated or inspected to ensure full compliance with the cGMP regulations.

How does cGMP differ from other Testing Procedures?

cGMP isn’t the only quality assurance/quality control practice available to manufacturers. Quite the opposite, in fact, as there are a number of different testing and quality measures manufacturers can choose from.

The reason cGMP is a cut above other is that cGMP is mandatory for manufacturers of those particular products covered in the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Other quality assurance organization, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), are not mandatory, which means manufacturers aren’t required to follow them or enact their procedures. But, most of the guidelines and regulations are the same, more or less across the different organizations. The only differences are in the allowable thresholds in the various quality tests that products go through. cGMP includes ALL of the guidelines detailing good laboratory practice, process validation, comprehensive corrective and prevent action (CAPAs), vendor qualification, and design/management reviews.

If manufacturers fail to abide by cGMP, it can bring about immediate sanctions for the industry in questions, while this isn’t necessarily the case with ISO and other quality control associations.

Are non-cGMP supplements safe to use?

Until now, we’ve highlighted the importance of cGMP, and why you should seek out products made by companies the following cGMP, but what about those “other” companies, who either don’t follow cGMP or adopt one of the other quality control standards?

Are those products safe, or should they be avoided at all costs?

Well, if a company is not utilizing the cGMP regulations, any product it makes is technically considered “adulterated” under the law. This means that the product in question was NOT manufactured in accordance with cGMP, but that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with the product.

If you happen to be one of those consumers who is using supplements, pharmaceuticals, or other products made by a company not following cGMP, the FDA typically advises that you consult your doctor or prescribing physician before changing or stopping the use of the product.

Supplements manufactured in violation of cGMP may still meet its labeled specifications, and the risk that it’s ineffective, unsafe, or hazardous could be minimal, but you never can know for certain. Essentially, this means the advice of the FDA will be on a case by case basis when it comes to products not complying with cGMP and whether or not you should continue using them.

Actions taken against companies with poor cGMP practices are frequently carried out to prevent the creation and distribution of unsafe or ineffective drugs. Only in rare cases, does the FDA outright halt the distribution or manufacturing of products in violation of cGMP.

Takeaway

cGMP provides a “guardian angel” of sorts for consumers, especially in the “wild, wild west” arena that is the supplement industry. Supporting only those companies that employ cGMP (like SteelFit®), helps ensure your safety when using any sports nutrition supplement and serves as notice to those companies not following cGMP that their non-compliance of the regulations will not be supported. After all, where you spend your hard-earned money is the most effective action you can take.

References

  1. https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/Manufacturing/ucm169105.htm
  2. Velagaleti R, Burns PK, Gill M, Prothro J. Impact of current good manufacturing practices and emission regulations and guidances on the discharge of pharmaceutical chemicals into the environment from manufacturing, use, and disposal. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2002;110(3):213-220.