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, you no longer have to feel like a wandering traveler with this beginner’s guide to common fitness terms. We’ve covered everything from HIIT to TDEE and everything in between, so that next time you step foot in the gym, you’re up to snuff on all the fitness lingo.

Common Fitness Terms

 

TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) – the sum total of energy your body expends comprised of exercise and non-exercise activity, food digestion, and basic biological processes to ensure survival. For more on TDEE, click here.

Glycogen a stored form of carbohydrates that provides a readily accessible source of fuel for muscles during intense exercise

Cutting (or Dieting) refers to the phase when bodybuilders and athletes consciously reduce calories to lose body fat while retaining as much lean mass as possible.

Bulking (or Massing) refers to a phase in a training cycle when an athlete consumes more calories than they require to increase muscle size and strength.

Aerobic Exercise also known as “cardio,” aerobic exercise relies primarily on the aerobic energy system of the body, meaning it uses oxygen to satisfy energy demands during training via aerobic metabolism. This type of training is typically performed at low-to-moderate intensities in the form of jogging, cycling, or walking.

Anaerobic Exercise meaning “without oxygen,” aerobic exercise is an activity that causes you to run out of breath quickly (i.e., weightlifting or sprinting) and is fueled from energy stored in your muscles.

Compound Exercise – multi-joint movements that involve multiple joints and train several muscle groups at one time. Examples include squats, push-ups, rows, pull ups, overhead presses, and lunges

Isolation Exercise – movements that involve a single joint and primary muscle group. Examples include bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, tricep pushdown, pec dec, and dumbbell lateral.

Rep (Repetition) one full motion of an exercise.

Set – how many times you repeat a given number of reps in a single bout of effort. For example, one set of bench press could involve eight reps before you reach failure and end the set to rest before the next set.

Repetition Maximum (RM) –  a measure of how much weight you can lift for a given number of reps in one set. RM is typically in reference to 1RM — the most amount of weight you can lift in an exercise for one repetition. Strength training programs are usually designed based on percentages of your 1RM.

AMRAP (As Many Repetitions As Possible) – performing a set of an exercise to muscle failure

Rest – idle time between sets of an exercise or in-between exercises when muscles and cardiovascular system recover

RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) – means to measure the level of effort during a set based on how hard you feel that you are working on a scale of 1-10. An RPE of 5 or 6 is a weight that moves relatively easily, while an RPE of 10 would require an immense amount of effort, similar to that of your 1 repetition maximum (1RM). 

RIR (Repetitions in Reserve) – another means to measure intensity during a set, reps in reserve refers to how many reps you could have done, but did not complete, at the end of a set. Another way to think of this is “reps in the tank,” meaning if you perform a set of heavy squats and stop after eight reps, but feel like you could have performed ten without failing, your RIR would be 2. 

ROM (Range of Motion) – refers to the length of movement between the eccentric and concentric phases of an exercise. Good practices advise performing exercises through a complete range of motion from full extension to full contraction and back to full extension.

Mind-Muscle Connection – the conscious, deliberate contraction of a muscle, where you intently focus on activating a muscle to lift a load, and not merely moving a weight up and down. In a sense, the mind-muscle connection is about “feeling” the muscle fibers contracting as completely and intensely as possible on every repetition.

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) – muscle soreness, stiffness, and aches that arise in the 24-48 hours following an intense workout. DOMS is a natural part of the training and recovery process brought on by muscle fiber damage and accumulation of waste metabolites in muscle cells.

Superset – performing two exercises for different muscle groups back-to-back with little to no rest between each exercise. After both exercises are complete, you may rest. Examples include chest and back, biceps and triceps, and quad and hamstrings. A superset can also involve two non-antagonist muscle groups, for example, shoulders and legs, or back and biceps.

Compound Set – performing two exercises for the same body part back-to-back with little to no rest between them. An example of a compound set would be a set of bench press followed immediately by a set of push-ups. 

Drop Set – intensification technique used to train beyond failure. To perform a drop set, perform a set of an exercise to failure (or one rep shy of failure), then immediately remove some of the weight (10-30%) from the bar or machine and perform another set of reps until you can no longer perform another rep with good form.

Circuit – a “round” of exercises where you move from one exercise or station to another with little rest between exercises. Generally, circuits contain exercises covering the entire body and are used to accomplish a high amount of work in a short amount of time. For example, one circuit may consist of doing push-ups, rows, crunches, lunges, curls, pushdowns, and planks. Then a 60-120 second rest would be taken before performing another round.

Steady-State Cardio – refers to exercise where you try to keep a set pace at a moderate intensity, such as during a long run or bike ride. This type of training is useful if you’re training for an endurance event or trying to increase calorie expenditure during a cut.

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) – alternative to steady-state cardio that involves rotating between brief periods of all-out effort and active recovery (or rest). Depending on fitness level, HIIT sessions may last only 15-20 minutes yet produce equivalent fat loss results in more extended bouts of steady-state cardio.

Tabata – a form of high-intensity interval training involving 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for a total of four minutes. Tabata is renowned for its ability to blast fat in an incredibly brief amount of time.

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

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!

How to Calculate TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)

If you want to know how many calories you should eat to build muscle or lose fat, you’ll want to read this article.

“How many calories should I eat?”

This question is asked more often than you would believe, especially by those entering the fitness lifestyle for the first time.

The answer to that question is — it depends.

Do you want to build muscle? Do you want to lose body fat? Or, do are you satisfied with your current physique and you would like to maintain your weight where it is.

Different goals require different calorie intakes. And, to further complicate the matter every person is different. Even if two people are roughly the same age, sex, height, and weight, and they have a similar amount of lean body mass, the could still have very different calorie needs.

You see there isn’t a one size fits all solution to the common question of “how many calories should I eat?”

But, despair not, as we’re going to show you in this article how to calculate the number of calories you need for your body based on your goals.

No matter if your goal is muscle gain, fat loss, body recomposition, or performance, the information in the article can help you achieve the results you want.

And, it all starts with a little something called TDEE.

What is TDEE?

TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure. It is the total number of calories you burn in a given day. Your TDEE is determined by four key factors:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Thermic Effect of Food
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
  • Thermic Effect of Activity (Exercise)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal metabolic rate refers to the number of calories your body burns each day to keep you alive. BMR does not include physical activity, the process of digestion, or things like walking from one room to another.

Basically, BMR is the number of calories your body would expend in a 24 hour period if all you did was lay in bed all day long. This is the absolute bare minimum of calories it takes to ensure your survival.

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

When we eat food, our body must expend energy to digest the food we eat. This energy expenditure is referred to as the Thermic Effect of Food, and it involves breaking down the protein, carbohydrates, and fat you consume into the individual amino acids, sugars, and fatty acids that are then absorbed and used to by the body to carry out all of its processes including (but not limited to) building new tissue, synthesizing hormones, producing neurotransmitters, etc.

Research notes that the Thermic Effect of Food generally accounts for 10% of your total daily energy expenditure, but can be slightly higher or lower based on the exact macronutrient composition of your diet.[1]

For example, protein requires more energy to digest than carbohydrates or fat. So, if you’re eating a high protein diet, you will burn more calories, slightly, than if you were to eat the same number of calories, but with a significantly lower amount of protein.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) constitutes the number of calories expended during daily movement that is not categorized as structured exercise. NEAT includes activities such as walking the dog, moving from one room to another, or taking the stairs to your office.

NEAT is highly variable from one person to another and can play a rather large or small role in your overall TDEE depending on how physically active your job or daily happenings are. For example, a waitress or construction worker will have a significantly greater NEAT than an office worker who sits at a desk for 8 hours of the day and spends 2 hours commuting to and from work.

Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA)

Thermic Effect of Activity is the number of calories burned as a result of exercise (i.e. steady-state cardio, resistance training, HIIT, sprints, CrossFit, etc.). Similar to NEAT, thermic effect of exercise is highly variable from one person to another or even from one day to another for the same person, as the intensity of training, length of the workout, and training frequency all impact your weekly thermic effect of activity.

Your TDEE is the sum of these four factors, so to put the above parameters into a math equation for simplicity sake, calculating TDEE looks a little something like this:

TDEE = BMR + TEF + NEAT + TEA

When you add all of these numbers together, you get an estimate of the number of calories you need on a daily basis to maintain your current weight.

Now, let’s take a look at how you can calculate your individual TDEE.

How to Calculate TDEE

Figuring out your total daily energy expenditure begins with calculating your BMR. The reason we’re starting with BMR is that it contributes the biggest portion of your TDEE.

Now, there are a lot of handy calculators readily available on the internet for calculating BMR as well as TDEE. But, the way to truly understand how those fancy calculators work is by understanding the equations powering them.

So, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Calculating Basal Metabolic Rate

Researchers have developed a number of models for calculating BMR, and one of the most popular ones is the Harris-Benedict Equation, which takes into account age, height, and weight.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to calculate your BMR using the Harris-Benedict Equation:

  • Women BMR = 655 + (9.6 X weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) – (4.7 x age in yrs)
  • Men BMR = 66 + (13.7 X weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) – (6.8 x age in yrs)

As an example, let’s take a 30-year-old male named John who is 6 feet tall and weighs 185 lbs.

So, John’s stats converting from imperial units to metric yields:

Age: 30

Height: 6’0” = 72 inches = 182.88cm (to convert inches to centimeters, multiply your height in inches by 2.54)

Weight: 185 lbs = 84.09kg (to convert pounds to kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2)

Using the Harris-Benedict Equation for men, and plugging the above numbers into the equation gives you:

BMR = 66 + (13.7 x 84.09) + (5 x 182.88) – (6.8 x 30)

BMR = 66 + 1152.03 + 914.4 – 204

BMR = 1928.43

So, as a bare minimum to sustain life and ensure longevity, our example male John would need to consume roughly ~1930 calories.

The next step in figuring out TDEE would be to calculate the thermic effect of food as well as the non-exercise and exercise factors. However, these calculations are extremely tedious and the equations to model the caloric expenditure each requires isn’t the most reliable.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend hours performing more tedious calculations. You don’t even have to use a fitness monitor or rely on those erroneous “Calories Burned” readouts on cardio machines to figure out the rest of the components of your TDEE.

Researchers have determined a set of “activity multipliers, known as the Katch-McArdle multipliers.

To calculate your approximate TDEE, simply multiply these activity factors by your BMR:

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise + work a desk job) = 1.2
  • Lightly Active (light exercise 1-3 days / week) = 1.375
  • Moderately Active (moderate exercise 3-5 days / week) = 1.55
  • Very Active (heavy exercise 6-7 days / week) = 1.725
  • Extremely Active (very heavy exercise, hard labor job, training 2x / day) = 1.9

Going back to our example guy John, let’s assume he trains 3 days per week following a high-frequency full body training program with no additional steady-state cardio or HIIT training during the week. This puts John in the “Moderately Active” category.

To calculate John’s approximate TDEE, multiply his BMR by 1.55. This gives us:

TDEE = 1.55 x BMR

TDEE = 1.55 x 1928.43

TDEE = 2989.07

So, our example guy John needs to consume about 2990 calories each day just to maintain his current weight.

Now, at this point, it’s important we stress that these equations and activity multipliers provide AN ESTIMATE for your daily calorie requirements. That is, your actual TDEE could be a little higher or lower than the number you calculate when you use the formula. But, it should be fairly close, and at the very least, it gives you a rough idea of where to start when figuring out a meal plan and setting macronutrient goals.

Speaking of goals, now let’s look at how you can use your TDEE to enhance your body composition whether it be for muscle gain or fat loss.

Manipulating TDEE for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

So, how does knowing your TDEE help you gain muscle or lose fat?

While there’s endless debate in the fitness world about the “optimal” way to go about reshaping your body, this much is true:

  • If you want to lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than your TDEE. Doing so forces your body to draw energy from its fat stores to compensate for the calories you’re not consuming each day. Do this long enough and you will lose weight and body fat
  • If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to eat more calories than your TDEE.To gain weight, you must be in a caloric surplus. Coupled with a rigorous training program following the principles of progressive overload, those extra calories will be put to building new muscle tissue.

Now, let’s see how to put this into practice

For Fat Loss

To lose fat, we typically recommend that using a caloric deficit of 20%. Once again using John as an example, if he wanted to cut fat, his caloric intake would be:

20% of TDEE = 0.20 x 2990 = 598

Daily calorie intake for weight loss: 2990 – 598 = 2,392 calories

At a 598 daily calorie deficit, John would lose a little over 1 pound per week, as 1 pound of fat equals approximately 3500 calories.

Now that we have the caloric intake needed for fat loss, we need to set John’s macros.

Protein: 1 gram per pound of bodyweight

Fat: 0.3 – 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight

Carbohydrates: The number of calories remaining after protein and fat requirements are met.

Going back to our example guy John his daily macros, while eating at a 20% caloric deficit, would be:

  • Protein: 1g / lb x 185 lbs = 185g (Calories = 185g x 4 calories / g of protein = 740)
  • Fat:5g / lb x 185 lbs = 92.5g (Calories = 92.5g x 9 calories / g of fat = 832.5)Note: Fat can range from 0.3-0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Adjust up or down based on your own dietary preferences. If you enjoy eating a higher fat diet, use the 0.5g/lb multiplier, and if you enjoy a higher carb, lower fat diet use 0.3g/lb.
  • Carbs are determined by subtracting your protein and fat calories from the daily calorie total, then dividing by 4 to get the number of carbs you eat per day (as each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories). Calories left after removing protein and fat Calories = 2,392 – 740 – 832.5 Calories alloted for carbohydrate = 819.5 (which we’ll round up to 820 for simplicity)Now, divide 820 by 4 to get the total grams of carbohydrates John needs to consume each day:820 / 4 = 205g Carbohydrates

Therefore, John would consume the following macronutrient profile to lose fat while preserving lean muscle mass:

Protein: 185g
Fats: 92.5g
Carbohydrates: 205g

Eating at this calorie level should have John losing a little over one pound per week. Now, remember, the TDEE and BMR calculations are estimates. If you find, after performing your own calculations, that you’re not losing weight, then remove another 100 calories from your daily calorie intake and assess progress over the next 2 weeks.

If however, you find yourself losing more than 2 pounds per week, add 100 calories back into your diet. While it might seem great, losing too much weight too fast typically results in muscle loss as well, which is not what you want in the least.

Now, let’s look at how to manipulate TDEE for gaining muscle.

Muscle Gain

Gaining weight, and preferably muscle, requires consuming more calories than your body expends on a daily basis. When combined with a structured resistance training program, a caloric surplus provides the essential nutrients needed to optimize performance and build muscle.

For the longest time, it was preached that in order to get big, you had to eat big too. But, as sports nutrition has developed over the years, lifters and researchers alike have learned that the surplus needed to build lean muscle tissue isn’t a huge as we were once led to believe.

Simply put, the body can synthesize a finite amount of muscle tissue at any given time. That means that eating substantially more than what is required to build new muscle just leads to excess fat gain. Therefore, the trick to minimizing fat gain while trying to build muscle is to use a moderate calorie surplus, giving your body just enough to grow bigger, stronger, and faster, without getting fatter. This approach to muscle gain is known today as lean bulking.

To build muscle and limit fat gain, you need to consume roughly 200-300 calories above your TDEE.

So, using our example guy John again, whose TDEE was 2990. He would need to consume between 3190-3290 calories consistently day in and day out to gain muscle.

When undertaking a mass gaining phase, most coaches recommend that you get your surplus calories from carbohydrates, as they fuel performance in training, enhance recovery, and prevent muscle breakdown. They also help raise insulin levels, which is great for shuttling nutrients into your muscles cells needed for repair and growth.

But, if you find you enjoy more fat in your diet, you can feel free to get the extra 200-300 calories from fat or any mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. There’s no set in stone ideal ratio for gaining muscle once your minimums are taken care of.

Now, if you find that you are not gaining at least 0.25 lb/week, add another 100 calories to the daily caloric intake. If, however, you’re gaining over 1 lb per week, reduce your calorie intake by 100-200 calories. Gaining too much weight too fast usually means that you’re gaining a good bit of fat in addition to muscle, which means you’re eventually going to have to spend more time cutting later on in your fitness journey.

Takeaway

Total daily energy expenditure is the number of calories your body burns in a given day taking everything into account from sleep to digestion to exercise. TDEE calculators offer a way for you to figure out a close approximation to the actual number of calories you burn in a day, which you can then use to structure a diet for building muscle or burning fat.

Through proper manipulation and application of your TDEE, you have the power to reshape your body in your own ideal image and never ever have to settle for another cookie cutter meal plan or diet protocol. When knowing how many calories you need to eat for muscle gain or fat loss, you can eat the foods you enjoy while adhering to the calorie and macronutrient goals you set.

The saying goes “with knowledge comes power.” Well, we’ve now given you the knowledge and power to craft your ideal physique. It’s up to you to do the rest!

References

  1. Tappy, L. (1996). Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous system activity in humans. Reproduction, Nutrition, Development, 36(4), 391–397. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8878356/

A Close Up on the Amino Acids in Protein Powder

Protein powder is quite frequently the very first supplement (outside of a multivitamin) you purchased when starting to workout. You were told protein was important for building muscles, and you were also probably told that whey protein is one of the best proteins to take for building muscle and recovering from training.

On the surface, protein powders seem pretty simple and straightforward. They include one or more forms of powdered protein (i.e. whey, casein, egg, milk, pea, etc.) along with salt, artificial sweeteners, and one or two thickeners and stabilizers. On top of that, using them couldn’t be any simpler. Simply add water, milk, or whatever liquid you want, shake, drink, and BOOM! You’ve got your quick fix of protein to support muscle recovery and growth.

But, have you ever given any thought to what your actual protein is made of?

More specifically, the individual amino acids that make up your favorite whey protein powder?

Probably not, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s where this quick reference guide comes in.

Ahead, we’ll explain what each of the different amino acids that go into making a complete whey protein powder is, and how they support your athletic goals.

But first, let’s make a quick distinction…

Naturally Occurring Amino Acids vs Spiked Protein Powders

While this issue isn’t nearly as much of a problem as it was 5-10 years ago, it still exists — spiked protein powders. What we mean by “spiked” is that extra free form amino acids, such as L-Glutamine, L-Taurine, or Creatine, were added in addition to whey protein in countless mass market protein powders.

These added amino acids artificially inflated the protein count on many protein powders, meaning that you weren’t really getting as much protein as the label claimed.

How can you tell if your protein is spiked?

Take a look at the ingredients panel and if you see a bunch of free-form amino acids listed before or after the whey protein, chances are pretty good that it’s spiked.

Now, the amino acids that we’re about to discuss below are the ones naturally occurring in whey protein, they’re not separate ones added to artificially enhance the protein content. Most protein powders will list which amino acids are naturally occurring in their whey protein powder on the side of the tub, but few people rarely know what those amino acids do, outside of the BCAAs, and that brings us back to the point of this article — a close up look at the individual amino acids in your whey protein powder.

So, let’s get to it!

The Amino Acids in Whey Protein

Whole food proteins, such as whey protein, chicken, steak, etc., are made from a combination of essential amino acids (EAA), conditional amino acids (CAA) and nonessential amino acids (NAA).

Essential Amino Acids are those that the body cannot synthesize on its own and they must be obtained from the diet. Nonessential Amino Acids are those that the body can produce from other essential amino acids, carbohydrates, and fats. Conditional Amino Acids can usually be synthesized by the human body; however, under certain conditions like illness or stress the body might not be able or might be limited in the ability to synthesize them.

What about BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids)?

The three BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are a special subcategory of the essential amino acids, that serves as nitrogen carriers, which assist muscles in creating other amino acids required for anabolism (muscle growth).

With all of that squared away, let’s learn a little more about the amino acids in your whey protein powder:

Alanine (NAA): Not to be confused with the beta alanine, alanine is a nonessential amino acid that plays a critical role in glucose production and blood sugar regulation. Alanine also supports optimal functioning of the immune system as well as kidney stone prevention.*

Arginine (CAA): The most well-known function of arginine is to serve as the substrate for the production of nitric oxide, a powerful vasodilator that enhances blood flow and pumps during training and supports cardiovascular function. Arginine also plays a role in the healthy functioning of the pituitary gland and works with two other amino acids in L-Ornithine and phenylalanine.

Aspartic Acid (NAA): Aspartic acid serves a key role in the Krebs Cycle (TCA cycle) that provides energy to the body through its production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This nonessential amino acid is also needed for the production of immunoglobulins, antibodies, and DNA. In case you weren’t aware, immunoglobulins and antibodies are responsible for recognizing, binding, and eventually destroying harmful viruses and bacteria that invade the body.*

Cystine (CAA): Synthesized in the liver from the essential amino acid methionine, cysteine fulfills several important functions in the body. First and foremost, cysteine is needed for the production of glutathione, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. This amino acid also helps slow down the aging process, and some research indicates it may be helpful in preventing dementia and multiple sclerosis.*

Glutamic Acid (CAA): Glutamic acid belongs to the same family of amino acids as L-Glutamine, the most abundant amino acid in the body. Glutamic acid plays a key role in immune function and digestion as well as serving as an important excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.*

Glycine (NAA): Glycine is the smallest and simplest of the 20+ amino acids found in the human body and the second most abundant found in human proteins and enzymes. Formed in the liver from serine and threonine, glycine plays an important role in the central nervous system and the digestive system and is needed for the production of many important acids including nucleic acid, bile acids, and creatine phosphate.*

Histidine (CAA): Histidine is an aromatic amino acid used to synthesize proteins and affects numerous metabolic reactions in the body. It also regulates the pH value of the blood and helps form the myelin sheath, a protective coating that surrounds all nerve cells and protects them from damage.*

Isoleucine (EAA): The “weaker” and younger brother of leucine, Isoleucine stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the body, though not quite as powerfully as leucine does. However, where isoleucine does stand out is its role in enhancing glucose uptake by skeletal muscle as well as glucose utilization during intense exercise.*

Leucine (EAA): The “king” of amino acids, leucine is most well known for being the most powerful stimulator of the mTOR pathway in the body, which drives muscle protein synthesis.

Lysine (EAA): Lysine is needed for the production of antibodies, and has been found to be beneficial for protecting against the herpes virus. Additionally, lysine is also needed for the production of carnitine – a substance that helps the body use fat for energy. This essential amino acid also aids calcium absorption and is needed for protein synthesis.*

Methionine (EAA): Methionine is vital to the production of L-Cysteine, an incredibly potent antioxidant that combats oxidative stress induced by intense training. This essential amino acid also aids the liver with the digestion of fats and serves as a “building block” for the production of carnitine, adrenaline, choline, and melatonin.*

Phenylalanine (EAA): A precursor to tyrosine, phenylalanine is important in the synthesis of the important neurotransmitters. Due to this amino acid’s role in neurotransmission, phenylalanine has been investigated as a possible treatment for depression and several other illnesses including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and ADD.*

Proline (CAA): Manufactured in the liver from ornithine, glutamine, and glutamate, proline is a secondary amino acid that is one of the primary amino acids used to generate collagen, the fundamental protein of skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons. This amino acid also fortifies the artery walls and protects the endothelium layer, highlighting its importance in maintaining cardiovascular health.*

Serine (NAA): Formed from glycine, serine plays a central role in the proper functioning of the central nervous system and production of antibodies. It is also required for the production of phospholipids used in cell production. To top it off, this amino acid also serves a role in the function of DNA and RNA, fat metabolism, and muscle formation.*

Threonine (EAA): A precursor to glycine and serine, threonine is essential for protein synthesis, and it also supports proper functioning of the central nervous, immune, digestive, and skeletal muscle systems of the body. Threonine is needed to produce antibodies, which bolster the immune system, and the mucus gel layer that covers the digestive tract.*

Tryptophan (EAA): Tryptophan plays a critical crucial role in lifting mood, as the uses this amino acid to generate serotonin, one of the “happy hormones”. Another important function of this essential amino acid is that it supports the synthesis of niacin, an essential B vitamin involved in energy production.

Tyrosine (CAA): Tyrosine is an incredibly important amino acid affecting mood, motivation, and reward. Moreover, tyrosine also plays a role in regulating pain sensitivity, stress, and appetite.*

Valine (EAA): The final component of the trio of BCAAs, valine is the least studied of the lot. As one of the BCAAs, valine helps drive muscle protein synthesis and is essential for glycogen synthesis in muscle tissue as well as energy conversion. On top of that, valine also has a supporting role in the proper cognitive function and immune system function.*

Takeaway

Protein is essential for building muscle, and when you’re looking for one of the best forms of protein to aid you in your fitness journey, there’s no better place to look than whey. It’s packed full of all the amino acids you need to repair, recover, and grow bigger and stronger. Next time you pick up your favorite tub of protein, see what amino acids it lists, and use this guide to help understand all of what goes into this fitness-lifestyle favorite.

References

  1. Saccà L, Trimarco B, Perez G, Rengo F. Studies on the Mechanism Underlying the Influence of Alanine Infusion on Glucose Dynamics in the Dog. Diabetes. 1977;26(4):262 LP-270. http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/4/262.abstract.
  2. Bode-Böger SM, Böger RH, Alfke H, et al. l-Arginine Induces Nitric Oxide–Dependent Vasodilation in Patients With Critical Limb Ischemia. Circulation. 1996;93(1):85 LP-90. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/93/1/85.abstract.
  3. Wang H, Thomas C, Christensen E. OF ACETATE ACID AND PYRUVATE IN YEAST. J. Biol. Chem. 1952, 197:663-667.
  4. Stanislaus R, Gilg AG, Singh AK, Singh I. N-acetyl-L-cysteine ameliorates the inflammatory disease process in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in Lewis rats. Journal of Autoimmune Diseases. 2005;2:4. doi:10.1186/1740-2557-2-4.
  5. Marmo, E. (1988), L‐glutamic acid as a neurotransmitter in the CNS. Med. Res. Rev., 8: 441-458. doi:10.1002/med.2610080305
  6. Nagana Gowda GA, Shanaiah N, Cooper A, Maluccio M, Raftery D. Bile Acids Conjugation in Human Bile Is Not Random: New Insights from 1H-NMR Spectroscopy at 800 MHz. Lipids. 2009;44(6):527-535. doi:10.1007/s11745-009-3296-4.
  7. Singer, M. and Salpeter, M. M. (1966), The transport of 3H‐l‐histidine through the Schwann and myelin sheath into the axon, including a reevaluation of myelin function. J. Morphol., 120: 281-315. doi:10.1002/jmor.1051200305
  8. Doi M, et al. Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C2C12 myotubes . Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2003
  9. Gran P, Cameron-Smith D. The actions of exogenous leucine on mTOR signalling and amino acid transporters in human myotubes. BMC Physiology. 2011;11:10. doi:10.1186/1472-6793-11-10.
  10. Griffith RS, Walsh DE, Myrmel KH, Thompson RW, Behforooz A. Success of L-lysine therapy in frequently recurrent herpes simplex infection. Treatment and prophylaxis. Dermatologica. 1987;175(4):183-190.
  11. Brosnan JT, Brosnan ME. The Sulfur-Containing Amino Acids: An Overview. J Nutr. 2006;136(6):1636S-1640.
  12. Beckmann H, Strauss MA, Ludolph E. Dl-phenylalanine in depressed patients: an open study. J Neural Transm. 1977;41(2-3):123-134.
  13. Rath M. (1992). Reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease with nutritional supplements. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Volume 7, (pp. 153–162).
  14. Calderini G, Aporti F, Bonetti AC, Zanotti A, Toffano G. Serine phospholipids and aging brain. Prog Clin Biol Res. 1985;192:383-386.
  15. Feng L, Peng Y, Wu P, et al. Threonine Affects Intestinal Function, Protein Synthesis and Gene Expression of TOR in Jian Carp (Cyprinus carpio var. Jian). Merrifield D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(7):e69974. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069974.
  16. Jenkins TA, Nguyen JCD, Polglaze KE, Bertrand PP. Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients. 2016;8(1):56. doi:10.3390/nu8010056.
  17. Deijen J and Orlebeke J. (1994). Effect of tyrosine on cognitive function and blood pressure under stress. Brain Research Bulletin. Volume 33, Issue 3, (pp. 319-23).
  18. Jellinger K et al (1978). Brain monoamines in hepatic encephalopathy and other types of metabolic coma. Journal of Neural Transmission Supplementum. Volume 14, (pp. 103-120).

The Complete Guide to Sweat

If you want to know what sweat is, why you sweat, and why sweat smells, you want to read this article.

Following a grueling weightlifting or high-intensity cardio session, there are a few noticeable things:

  • Your Muscles Ache
  • Your Lungs Burn
  • Your Shirt is Drenched in Sweat

Sweat is a sign of accomplishment, a sign of hard work, a sign of commitment. It’s also a sign of nervousness; thus, the expression, “he’s sweating bullets.”

We’ve all experienced the sensation of sweating, and had those unsightly “pit stains” at the most inopportune of moments. But, why do we sweat, what is sweat made of, and why does it stink sometimes?

Ahead, we’ll answer all of those questions and a whole lot more, as we get up close and personal with all things sweat.

Let’s start by answering a very simple question…

What is Sweat?

Sweating, a.k.a. perspiring, is the production of fluids secreted through the skin of animals. As such, sweat is an NBF — normal body function.

It’s composed mostly of water (about 99%) [5], but also contains a host of other compounds and biomarkers including:

  • Minerals (sodium, chloride, potassium)
  • Ammonia
  • Ethanol
  • Cortisol
  • Urea
  • Lactate
  • Neuropeptides
  • Cytokines

Due to this abundance of biomarkers, researchers have begun exploring the use of sweat as a means for continuous bio-monitoring as opposed to other fluids, such as saliva or urine.

While there are several types of sweat glands, sweat is primarily produced via one of two types of sweat glands [2]:

Eccrine glands

Eccrine glands cover most of your body but are found predominantly in on the forehead, palms, armpits, and soles of your feet. Sweat from eccrine glands is watery but doesn’t taste like water due to the presence of salt, protein, ammonia, and urea in it.

Sweat from eccrine glands is clear, odorless, and mostly water, but does contain many of the compounds we just detailed. It has a pH ranging from 4-6.8[6]

Here’s a closeup look at the eccrine gland [4]:

Apocrine glands

Apocrine glands are larger than eccrine glands and localized primarily in the armpits, groin, and breast area. As opposed to eccrine glands, which secrete sweat directly onto the surface of the skin, apocrine glands secrete sweat into the pilary canal of the hair follicle. Since apocrine glands secrete sweat near hair follicles, they generally smell the worst.

As such, sweat produced from these glands is most often associated with body odor.

Apocrine glands are most active during periods of stress and sexual excitement. Interestingly enough, sweat from apocrine glands contains pheromone-like compounds.

It’s also worth mentioning that these glands don’t really start functioning until puberty.

On average, an individual will have between two to four million sweat glands with an average density of 200 sweat glands per square centimeter. However, the amount of sweat you release is actually determined more by fitness level, body weight, gender, genetics, and various environmental factors.

Why Do We Sweat?

The body generates sweat for two big reasons:

  • Thermoregulation
  • As a Response to Stress

Let’s look a little bit deeper into each one of these.

Thermoregulation

Our bodies crave homeostasis or balance. This applies especially to our core body temperature. While it can tolerate a wide range of external temperatures, the internal temperature of the body has a rather limited range of temperatures it can withstand before activating its countermeasures, i.e. thermoregulatory sweat.

For instance, if core temperature is constantly above 104°F (40°C), cell death and protein denaturation can occur, eventually leading to organ failure. To combat this elevated body temperature, the body will begin sweating to remove heat from the body and help lower core body temperature. FYI, if this cooling mechanism fails (for whatever reason) it can lead to hyperthermia and death. So, when you look at it front that point of view, sweating is actually a very good, life-preserving thing!

In addition to helping cool the body off, sweat also removes waste from the body by secreting sodium salts and nitrogenous waste (such as urea) onto the skin surface.

How does this happen?

It all starts with thermosensitive neurons in the hypothalamus. These neurons regulate sweating in response to “reading” the temperature of the skin and body. Stimulation occurs via activation by acetylcholine (a powerful neurotransmitter), which binds to the eccrine glands muscarinic receptors. [7]

Other factors that can affect thermoregulatory sweating include:

  • Gender
  • Menstrual Cycle
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Air Humidity
  • Exercise

The primary driver behind thermoregulatory sweating is the sum of internal body temperature and mean (average) skin temperature, such that sweating will commence with internal body temperature exceeds mean skin temperature by a factor of 10. [3,8]

Cooling of the body occurs via evaporation of sweat from the skin surface. This is due to the phenomenon of evaporative cooling, whereby thermal energy is released by the evaporation of water from the skin surface, leading to a reduction in skin and core temperature.

Stress

Sweat induced by stress is commonly referred to as “emotional sweating”. In addition to stress, this emotional sweating can also be brought on by pain, fear, and/or anxiety. And, while it can occur all over the body, it’s most obvious on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet and under your arms.

Researchers believe the reason emotional stress manifests itself on the palms and soles is in part due to evolution. When encountering a stressor (i.e. a wild predator), the body would secrete sweat onto the palms and soles to increase friction, thereby preventing slipping when climbing or running. [9]

In contrast to thermoregulatory sweat, emotional sweat doesn’t depend on external temperature, and as such, it will decrease during periods of relaxation and sleep.

Additionally, while thermoregulatory sweat is produced by the eccrine glands, emotional stress is secreted by the apocrine glands. It has a higher pH (6-7.5) compared to eccrine sweat, and it looks a bit different too.

While eccrine (thermoregulatory) sweat is colorless and odorless, apocrine-secreted sweat is oily, cloudy, and viscous. And, just like eccrine sweat, apocrine (stress) sweat contains a bounty of compounds including:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Fats (lipids)
  • Carbohydrate Waste Material
  • Steroids

Gustatory

While not nearly as prevalent as the thermoregulatory and emotional sweating, there is a third type of sweating that deserves mention — gustatory sweat.

Gustatory sweat is caused by ingestion of certain foods that directly or indirectly trigger a thermal effect. First, eating food increases metabolism, leading to elevated body temperature, which can signal thermoregulatory sweating.

Second, spicy, peppery foods (cayenne, jalapeno, etc.) induce sweating of the forehead, scalp, and neck. This is due to a fiery little substance in spicy foods called capsaicin. It’s the molecule that gives chile peppers their bite and when we consume capsaicin, it binds to heat sensors in our mouth leading to a thermoregulatory response. [5]

Why Does Sweat Stink?

On its own, sweat is odorless. However, the warm, damp conditions of our armpits are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When we sweat, it comes into contact with this bacteria on our skin, and the hungry bacteria feast on the sweat, producing an abundance of stinky compounds, which we all know too well as body odor — B.O.

The longer the sweat and bacteria mingle, the worse the smell gets — this is the reason a dirty workout shirt smells 100x worse the next day.

Why Does Sweat Stain Shirts?

Similar to what we discussed above, sweat isn’t the actual cause of your pit stains (i.e. underarm area of shirts turning yellow). Sweat is actually colorless.

However, the yellowing of the armpit region of shirts comes as the result of a chemical reaction between your sweat and the chemicals present in your antiperspirant or clothing. For example, aluminum, the active ingredient in most antiperspirants, mixes with the salt in your sweat and leads to yellow stains.

Sweat Can Make You Happy

We all know the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that accompanies a tough workout and have the shirt caked in sweat for proof.

But, did you know that sweat (or rather smelling someone else’s sweat) can make you happy?

Apparently, it can, according to some research conducted in 2015.

Chemosignals are chemical signals your body gives off, typically through sweat. Other people can interact or encounter these chemical signals and react to them.

Researchers found that chemosignals emitted from people in a “happy state” resulted in “facial expression and perceptual-processing style indicative of happiness in the receivers of those signals.”[10]

In other words, by being around happy people who are sweating, you can pick up on the “good vibes” and receive a boost in mood and happiness.

For a while, researchers have known that negative feelings could be transferred via chemosignals, but now, it appears you can also improve your mood by simply changing the type of people you are around — and it’s all thanks to sweat!

Takeaway

Sweat gets a bad rap for things like pit stains and body odor, but upon further inspection, sweat isn’t the bad guy — bacteria is!

Sweat is an essential bodily function that helps regulate internal core temperature. It’s triggered by a number of things including temperature, emotional stress, and even the food we eat. Sweat helps cool us off, and it might even be able to lift our mood.

And, if you’re looking to really sweat it out during your training sessions, take a serving of Steel Sweat.

Steel Sweat® is a moderately stimmed pre-workout supplement scientifically formulated to increase thermogenesis, boost metabolism, ramp up fat burning and perspiration. Take it before morning cardio or before your resistance training sessions and get ready to sweat like never before!

References

  1. Mosher HH (1933). “Simultaneous Study of Constituents of Urine and Perspiration” (PDF). The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 99 (3): 781–790.
  2. Hanukoglu I, Boggula VR, Vaknine H, Sharma S, Kleyman T, Hanukoglu A (January 2017). “Expression of epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and CFTR in the human epidermis and epidermal appendages”. Histochemistry and Cell Biology. 147 (6): 733–748. doi:10.1007/s00418-016-1535-3
  3. Jessen, C. Temperature Regulation in Humans and Other Mammals, 193 pp. Springer-Verlag, Berlin (2001).
  4. Sonner, Z., Wilder, E., Heikenfeld, J., Kasting, G., Beyette, F., Swaile, D., … Naik, R. (2015). The microfluidics of the eccrine sweat gland, including biomarker partitioning, transport, and biosensing implications. Biomicrofluidics, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1063/1.4921039
  5. Wilke, K., Martin, A., Terstegen, L., & Biel, S. S. (2007). A short history of sweat gland biology. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 29(3), 169–179. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-2494.2007.00387.x
  6. Draelos, Zoe Diana (2010). “Prevention of Cosmetic Problems”. In Norman, R. A. Preventive Dermatology. Springer. p. 182. doi:10.1007/978-1-84996-021-2_16
  7. Shibasaki, Manabu; Wilson, Thad E.; Crandall, Craig G. (2006). “Neural control and mechanisms of eccrine sweating during heat stress and exercise”. Journal of Applied Physiology. 100 (5): 1692–1701. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01124.2005. ISSN 8750-7587. PMID 16614366
  8. Johnson, J.M. and Proppe, D.W. Cardiovascular adjustments to heat stress. In: Handbook of Physiology. Section 4: Environmental Physiology (Fregly, M.J. and Blatteis, C.M. eds), pp. 215–243. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1996).
  9. Folk Jr, G. Edgar; Semken Jr, A. (1 September 1991). “The evolution of sweat glands”. International Journal of Biometeorology. 35 (3): 180–186. doi:10.1007/BF01049065. ISSN 0020-7128
  10. de Groot, J. H. B., Smeets, M. A. M., Rowson, M. J., Bulsing, P. J., Blonk, C. G., Wilkinson, J. E., & Semin, G. R. (2015). A Sniff of Happiness. Psychological Science, 26(6), 684–700. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614566318

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.

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.