Benefits of Green Tea

Millions of people have enjoyed Green tea across the world for centuries. Created by lightly steaming leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, green tea was first brewed in China in 2737 BC.

Since that time, it has remained a staple of the human diet since and has been revered in cultures across Asia. Over the past 20 years, it has gained enormous popularity in the West, rivaling coffee as the way to start one’s day.

Today, we’re going to take a deep-dive into green tea and see just how many ways it can improve health, wellness, and longevity.

Let’s get started!

Eight Benefits of Green Tea

Smooth, Jitter-Free Energy

When it comes to energy-boosting beverages, coffee reigns supreme for most people. And, while no one will argue that the jolt coffee can supply is potent (and vitally needed at times), not everyone always responds to the powerful “kick” the dark elixir provides.

Green tea represents a smoother-feeling energy drink option for individuals looking for a much-needed pick-me-up but doesn’t want the jitters or “on edge” feelings that typically accompany coffee.

What makes the infusion of energy supplied by green tea smoother-feeling than coffee is a powerful little amino acid known as L-Theanine.

L-Theanine is a component of green tea leaves that help smooth out the “harsh” stimulatory qualities of caffeine due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate GABA receptors in the brain. [1]

GABA is the body’s primary inhibitory neurotransmitter and when activated promotes feelings of calm and relaxation.

Since green tea supplies both caffeine and theanine, you get a “best of both worlds” energy boost in the form of heightened (yet calm and controlled) alertness.

This is part of the reason why we include 200mg of L-Theanine (alongside 300mg caffeine anhydrous) in each serving of our pre-workout, Steel Pump. Combining these two supplements provides smooth energy that helps keep you dialed into your workout without feeling out of control or overstimulated.

Enhanced Focus & Productivity

In addition to providing a smoother energy “high,” the combination of caffeine + theanine is also a powerful nootropic stack. On its own, caffeine has been documented to improve multiple facets of cognitive function, including mood, reaction time, memory, wakefulness, and vigilance. [2]

While theanine is most well-known for its GABA-stimulating properties, it also increases serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) and dopamine (the “motivation and reward” molecule) as well as the production of alpha waves in the brain. [1,3,4]

In case you weren’t aware, alpha brain waves play an important role in attention and focus.

Studies show that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine is synergistic, leading to improved brain function, greater focus, and increased productivity. [5,6] Furthermore, taking theanine alongside caffeine may also help reduce the decrease in cerebral blood flow that can occur when taking caffeine alone.

Increased Exercise Performance

Caffeine is a notable ergogenic aid, not only for boost energy levels and cognitive function but also for boosting physical performance. Two comprehensive reviews of the effects of caffeine on exercise noted it increases performance by an average of 11-12%. [7,8]

The way caffeine enhances exercise performance is multifactorial, but two of the primary mechanisms by which it supports greater stamina and endurance is by reducing perceived exertion and mobilizing stored fatty acids from adipose tissues thereby making them available for use as energy. [9,10]

This also has the added effect of preserving glycogen stores for later in the workout when they’re needed for that last bit of all-out effort.

However, the performance-boosting effects of green tea aren’t solely due to its caffeine content. Additional research notes that the antioxidants present in green tea (i.e., catechins) are also capable of delaying muscular fatigue and reducing cellular damage typically induced by endurance exercise. [11,12]

One study, in particular, found that men supplementing with green tea extract increased their running distance by 10.9%. [13]

Greater Fat Burning and Weight Loss

Conventional fat burners tend to rely on a combination of two things:

  • High Amounts of Stimulants
  • Ingredients that (in theory) help burn fat, but in reality don’t have much of any effect at all (i.e., L-Carnitine and CLA)

Green tea, however, is one of the ingredients that hold up to clinical testing in humans and has been shown to boost metabolism and enhance fat loss. [14]

One study noted green tea consumption increased fat oxidation (fat burning) by 17%, while another study in men found green tea increased energy expenditure by 4%. [15,16]

While green tea does contain caffeine (a noted metabolism booster and pro-lipolytic agent), green tea’s weight loss benefits aren’t solely attributed to the well-known stimulant. Research shows that both catechins and caffeine aid weight loss by regulating the hormones that can boost thermogenesis. [17,18]

Moreover, 12-week randomized controlled trial (RCT), the “gold standard” of research” including 240 men and women noted that use of green tea extract led to significant reductions in body fat percentage, waist circumference, total body weight, and belly fat. [35]

Due to its ability to increase calorie burning and enhance weight loss, we’ve included 50mg Green Tea Extract (std. To 80% catechins and 50% EGCG) in every serving of Steel Sweat.

Now, it should be noted that some studies indicate that green tea doesn’t have much of an impact on metabolism, which suggests that the ability of green tea to help burn fat may boil down to an individual’s response to it. [19]


Not only may green tea boost your cognitive performance in the short-term, other studies indicate that the potent phytochemicals in green tea (including EGCG) may also provide long-term benefits for brain health.

More specifically, multiple studies note that green tea catechins exert an array of neuroprotective effects on neurons. [20,21,22] Among the various ways, tea catechins confer protection of neurons include antioxidant activity and running “interference” with an accumulation of various neuropeptides that are heavily associated with cognitive decline, such as α-synuclein — a protein linked to Parkinson’s Disease.

Based on these results, researchers are investigating how tea polyphenols may be able to aid in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

L-Theanine may also exert a neuroprotective effect due to its antagonistic action on glutamate receptors and preventive effect on neuronal cell death. [23]

May Help Lower Blood Sugar and Combat Diabetes

Sky-high blood sugars, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome are an epidemic these days, leading to unprecedented cases of Type 2 Diabetes in both adults and children.

Brought on by a mixture of reduced physical activity, increased availability of hyperpalatable foods, and excessive calorie consumption, significant portions of the population are faced with the issues associated with high blood sugar levels daily.

Green tea catechins, EGCG in particular, have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar, both of which contribute to lower blood sugar levels. [24,25]

One particularly interesting study found that when people were given either 1.5g of green tea or a placebo ahead of an oral glucose tolerance test, the treatment group (those who received green tea) demonstrated better blood sugar tolerance than the placebo group. [26].

A separate study found that green tea extract improved insulin sensitivity by 13% in healthy young men.[27] And to top it off, a meta-analysis of 17 studies concluded that green tea extract is useful in reducing fasting blood sugar levels and levels of hemoglobin A1C, a key indicator used by doctors to measure the progression of diabetes. [28]

Supports Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the #1 cause of death globally.[29] Two of the key contributors to the development and progression of heart disease are hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).

Accumulation of oxidative stress leads to build up of fat in the blood. This fosters elevated cholesterol levels, inflammation in the arteries, and eventually high blood pressure. [30,31]

Fortunately, the potent polyphenols and antioxidants naturally occurring in green tea and green tea extract may help combat inflammation and reduce high blood pressure. [31,32,33]

One study of note gave obese subjects with hypertension green tea extract daily for three months. At the end of the trial, subjects demonstrated significant reductions in blood pressure and blood lipids (LDL cholesterol and triglycerides). [33]

A separate trial noted that daily ingestion of 250 mg of green tea extract over eight weeks decreased “bad” LDL cholesterol by 4.5% and total cholesterol by 3.9%. [34]

May Combat Signs of Aging and Boost Longevity

Green tea and green tea extracts are naturally rich in antioxidants. The polyphenols in green tea, such as EGCG, may help protect against UVB light-induced skin disorders associated with DNA damage and immune system suppression. [36,37]

A review of green tea’s effects regarding dermatology noted that when applied directly to the skin, green tea extract improved symptoms of many skin problems, including dermatitis and rosacea. The potent extract has also been documented to help with acne and skin aging.[37,38,39]

Due to the extraordinary skin-protecting measures of green tea and its polyphenols, Steel Beauty includes a potent green tea extract standardized to 80% catechins and 50% EGCG.

Lastly, green tea may also help increase longevity due to the full range of benefits it offers in regard to protecting against oxidative stress, decreasing risk factors associated with different cancers and cardiovascular diseases, and promoting cognitive health.

A rather large study, involving 40,530 Japanese adults, found that those who drank the most green tea (5+ cups per day) had a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality over 11 years. [40]

The Bottom Line on Green Tea

Green tea is a centuries-old beverage that tastes great, is high in antioxidants, and has been documented numerous times to help improve health and body composition.

Regardless if your goal is muscle gain, fat loss, increased productivity, or more significant health and wellness, green tea has something to offer. Even better, green tea is exceptionally accessible and affordable both in liquid form or as a dietary supplement. And if you’re seeking better fat loss, performance, or health, you might want to consider adding more green tea into your life.


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How Stress and Cortisol Affect Weight Loss

A baby is crying in the night.

Bumper to bumper traffic on the freeway.

Debt collectors are calling for overdue bills.

What do these three things have in common?

They all are sources of stress in a person’s life. Stress is something that is a part of everyday life, for better or worse. Some of us are better at handling stressful times than others, and some of us have a lifestyle that inherently brings more stress into it.

And, while there’s no way to eliminate all stress from your life, which you wouldn’t want to, as some stress is good and needed for the body to get stronger, you do want to do your best to improve the way your body faces and recovers from stress, particularly if you’re interested in getting fit and living a healthy lifestyle.

Today, we’re going to see how stress and cortisol affect weight loss.

First, let’s begin by gaining an understanding of the hormone at the root of stress — cortisol.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands that regulate a wide range of processes throughout the body, including the immune response and metabolism. And while it is most well-known for the role it plays in the body’s stress response, hence its moniker the “stress hormone,” cortisol serves many essential functions in the body.

Namely, cortisol [1,2,3]:

  • Aids Metabolism of Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat
  • Increases Blood Sugar (via gluconeogenesis)
  • Modulates the Immune System

It’s also worth noting that cortisol is involved in the inflammatory response. Cortisol does not cause inflammation, but levels increase in response to inflammation (such as during and after intense exercise when muscle repair commences).

Cortisol levels sharply increase in the morning when you wake up and peak roughly 30 minutes later. [4] From here, they slowly begin to decline throughout the day until another acute physical or emotional stress causes them to rise sharply again.

Now, cortisol has been labeled as an “enemy” of weight loss for quite some time due to some research indicating that individuals with elevated cortisol levels have difficulty losing weight, or even worse, causing weight gain. [8,9]

But here’s the thing — cortisol has a lipolytic effect in the body. [5]

This means that cortisol enhances the rate at which stored fatty acids are released into the bloodstream for beta-oxidation (i.e., fat burning).

“But, wait for a second… everything I’ve been reading about cortisol is telling me that it is the reason I can’t lose stubborn belly fat!”

As you’ll see, the cortisol-weight gain situation isn’t as simple as you’ve been led to believe.

And with that said, we arrive at the next topic of discussion — acute vs. chronic stress and weight gain/weight loss.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

Stress (cortisol) in and of itself is not inherently bad. In times it can be very useful (and even necessary).

Case in point, acute stress, such as when you’re being chased through the jungle by a hungry jaguar, is essential. In this scenario, the acute stressor (wild jaguar chasing you) causes a spike in cortisol (and adrenaline) which activates the body’s fight or flight response. Here, cortisol increases blood sugar to give your muscles energy to fight or evade the hungry jungle predator.

Once the immediate threat has passed your body can then return to homeostasis, and your hormones return to their normal resting levels. (Assuming you defeated or outran the jaguar, that is).

In the above scenario, stress was useful and even life-saving.

Unfortunately, stress does have a dark side too. With chronic stress (due to either persistent physical and/or psychological stress), adrenaline levels go back to resting levels after a time, but, cortisol remains elevated throughout the day.

Why is this bad?

Well, chronic elevation of cortisol in the body has been linked to many adverse consequences, including [6,7]:

  • Weight Gain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hormone Imbalances
  • GI Complications
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease

As you can see, chronic stress is not good. And just in case you were wondering, performing an extended cut in which you are training intensely multiple times per week while eating at a calorie deficit constitutes prolonged stress on the body.

So, let’s dig a little deeper into how chronic stress causes weight gain and slows fat loss.

Chronic Stress, Cortisol, and Stalled Fat Loss

First, while cortisol does enhance lipolysis (breakdown of stored fatty acids) in the body, it tends to not draw as heavily from the fat located around your midsection. [9] This is part of the reason why people who are chronically stressed tend to have higher amounts of abdominal fat. [10]

Additionally, when cortisol levels remain high for prolonged periods, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia occur, which further hinders fat loss and encourages weight retention/gain. [9]

As if that wasn’t enough, chronically elevated cortisol levels also promote muscle breakdown, inhibits protein synthesis, and counteracts the effects of other anabolic hormones, including testosterone, subsequently slowing your metabolic rate.

This is because the amount of muscle mass an individual has directly impacted their metabolic rate (less muscle mass = slower metabolism).

Side note: since weight gain is first and foremost a function of excess calorie intake, no matter how stressed you are or how much cortisol is coursing through your body will make you gain weight.

In other words, cortisol isn’t directly responsible for your weight gain, but the chronic elevation of cortisol can have several “downstream effects” and impact other hormones that cause you to eat more, thus exceeding your TDEE, and gaining weight.

Speaking of downstream effects, let’s take a look at how stress and cortisol impact your diet.

Chronic Stress, Appetite, and Weight Gain

Ever notice how when you’re stressed you tend to crave all the “wrong” foods (e.g., fried food, pizza, ice cream, etc.). There’s a reason for this, and thanks to researchers we know what that reason is.

When stress hormones (cortisol) increase, so do levels of the hormone that stimulates appetite in the body — ghrelin. [11] But that’s not all; cortisol may also make your brain less sensitive to the effects of leptin, the hormone that signals to your mind that you’ve had enough to eat.

Less satiety with increased feelings of hunger makes you more likely to overeat and less likely to stay on track with your diet.

This lousy combination leads us to eat more and possibly go on an all-out food binge.

And, to make matters just a little bit worse, some research indicates that stress can make us more prone to crave “comfort foods.” [12] By “comfort foods” we mean the hyper-processed, sugary, salty, fatty, packaged goods that are borderline addictive they taste so good. But with that delicious taste comes a truckload of calories devoid of much micronutrition.

This inevitably leads to weight gain, which causes further stress in your life and likely results in you continuing to turn to more of the wrong foods and this sadistic merry-go-round of stress-food binging-weight gain-stress goes round and round and round.

And it’s here where we see how chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels hinder fat loss and the main reason cortisol is often blamed for weight gain.

Chronic Stress and Weight Loss

Interestingly enough, not everyone reacts to stress the same way though. Some populations lose weight when they’re chronically stressed.

This is partly due to individual variations in one’s psychology. For example, one person might find a particular situation extremely stressful, while another perceives it differently and with less stress.

Once the stressor has passed, both individuals cortisol levels return to baseline, but this occurs at different rates due to the magnitude of cortisol released and the frequency at which each person’s body can break down cortisol.

So, how does this have anything to do with weight loss?

Well, while some people tend to get hungrier and crave salty, fatty, and sugary foods when they’re stressed, others lose their appetite and eat little food.

While this might seem like a good thing (especially if you want to lose weight), this lack of desire to eat food also comes with a very much unwanted side effect — muscle loss.

You see, cortisol is a catabolic hormone in that it breaks down protein (amino acids) to provide the body with energy in the form glucose via gluconeogenesis. When you combine an increase in protein breakdown with inadequate protein (and overall calorie) intake you have the perfect recipe for accelerated muscle loss.

There’s even research to demonstrate just how catabolic extreme stress can be.

An 8-week study involving a group of US Army Rangers were fed a deficient calorie diet while exposed to a “multi-stressor” environment which included [13]:

  • Hot and cold weather extremes
  • Patrols in hostile terrain while lugging around a 70+ pound rucksack
  • Less than 4 hours of sleep per night
  • Low-calorie diet (many times only getting one meal per day)

As you would expect, the Rangers lost a considerable amount of weight over the 8-week timeframe, about 22 lbs. on average. However, what was more shocking was that 9 lbs. of that weight loss came in the form of muscle loss. The other 13 pounds was fat. [13]

Cortisol levels were extraordinarily high and testosterone levels, unsurprisingly, plummeted.

Similar findings can be observed in a case study on a drug-free bodybuilder during contest prep. Throughout three months of dieting, combined with an intense training regimen, the bodybuilder got to sub 10% body fat in spite of his cortisol levels being chronically elevated. [14]

Over the following three months (bringing total prep time to 6 months) cortisol levels remained twice the baseline, resting levels. However, the bodybuilder continued to drop body fat and finished his prep at 4.5% body fat.

Both of these studies highlight the fact that elevated cortisol levels did not induce fat gain or prevent individuals from losing fat.

So again, cortisol isn’t the lone culprit in why you may be struggling to lose weight, but it may be a factor depending on how you react in times of prolonged stress.

How to Manage Stress and Lose Fat Faster

Now that we’ve looked at both sides of the stress-weight coin let’s give you a few quick, easy tips on how to better manage stress and improve your state of mind and body composition.

Do Calming Activities

Do activities that you find relaxing and calming such as reading a book, listening to classical music, going for a walk in the forest, meditation, yoga, stretching.


Yes, we realize that moderate-high intensity exercise is a physical stressor on the body, but for many people training is a mental “de-stressor.” A time when they can unplug from their troubles and focus on putting in the work lifting weights. Plus, studies note that intense exercise brings about physiological changes that improve the body’s ability to handle stress. [15]

Also, some research indicates that low-intensity forms of exercise can lower cortisol levels. [16]


Sleep is the body’s time to recover, recharge, and grow from the day. Studies have shown that failing to get sufficient sleep leads to elevated levels of cortisol the following day. [17]

As we discussed above for the Army Rangers chronic elevations in cortisol and constant exposure to stress can impair muscle retention/gain as well as testosterone levels. Sleep deprivation is a form of chronic stressor in that you’re never allowing the body the proper amount of rest and recovery it needs.

Getting adequate sleep, which for most people is 7-9 hours per night, is essential to keeping cortisol levels in check and helping reduce the muscle-wasting effects of stress.

If you need help turning off your brain at night, SteelFit® Steel Dreams offers an all-natural, non-habit-forming solution.

Steel Dreams™ contains a comprehensive matrix of natural sleep and recovery aids scientifically formulated to help reduce stress, calm a hyperactive nervous system, and improve sleep quality and duration.

Stress-Relief and Anti-Anxiety Supplements

It’s more common than ever for individuals to be in a state of chronic stress, whether it be due to toxic work environments, relationships, or home lives. As such, supplements that help reduce stress and anxiety are in higher demand than ever.

Some of the best stress-relief and anti-anxiety formula include the any/all of the following ingredients:


L-Theanine — an amino acid in green tea that binds to GABA receptors in the brain, increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter, boosting alpha brain waves and lowering beta brain waves. Research has shown that L-Theanine dosed between 100-200mg significantly reduces an individual’s response to stress and decreases cortisol levels up to 3 hours post-stressor. [18]

Both Steel Pump® and Steel Dreams™ contain 200mg of L-Theanine to promote a state of calm and improve the stress response.


Adaptogens are plants or herbs that improve the body’s ability to encounter, interact, and recover from stress and support the adrenal system. These botanicals are staples of traditional medicine, having been used for thousands of years to help people of diverse cultures mitigate the stressors of the time.

These days, adaptogens are more popular than ever as individuals seek all-natural remedies to combat feelings of stress and anxiety and avoid walking down the tenuous path of prescription anti-depressants.

Some of the most popular adaptogens include Rhodiola rosea and KSM-66® Ashwagandha. FYI, KSM-66® is included in both Steel Pump® and Steel Dreams™ at the research-backed dose of 300mg.

Numerous research studies have been conducted on these two ingredients demonstrating significant reductions in cortisol levels, decreased feelings of stress, and improved cognitive function.[19,20]

The age-old cold remedy, Vitamin C, may also be something you consider trying to combat your feelings of stress. One study, in particular, noted that when individuals consumed 1g of Vitamin C they experienced significant reductions in cortisol levels. [21] 

Cut Back on Alcohol

How many times have you seen on TV or in the movies where characters complete an incredibly stressful encounter and head straight for a stiff drink?

While it might seem that alcohol is helping you reduce stress (it is a depressant after all), it might not be as good as you think. Research has noted a positive association between the amount of alcohol consumed per week and cortisol levels. In fact, for every unit of alcohol consumed, researchers have pointed out a 3% increase in cortisol. [22]

Now, we’re not saying you have to completely give up alcohol (though you can if you choose to do so), but don’t use it as your main go-to stress-reliever.

The Bottom Line on Stress, Cortisol, and Weight

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone released when we perceive and encounter a threat. In regard to weight, cortisol has been noted to both encourage weight gain and weight loss. The primary determinant is in how an individual deals with stress. Regardless of the scenario, it’s important to note that cortisol is not solely to blame for weight gain, though it may make losing stubborn belly fat difficult.

If you feel chronically stressed, there are all-natural means to help relieve stress and anxiety and don’t come with the tolerance, habituation, dependence, or downsides of prescription pharmaceuticals.

If you need help dealing with stress, try some of the tips in this article, and if you primarily need help “turning off” your busy mind at night, Steel Dreams™ is packed with natural ingredients to help reduce stress, calm body, and mind and lull you into a deep, restorative sleep.


  1. ELENKOV, I. J. (2004), Glucocorticoids and the Th1/Th2 Balance. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1024: 138-146. doi:10.1196/annals.1321.010
  2. Boudarene M , et al. “[Study of the Stress Response: Role of Anxiety, Cortisol and DHEAs]. – PubMed – NCBI.” National Center for Biotechnology Information,
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  4. Edwards, S., et al. “Association between time of awakening and diurnal cortisol secretory activity.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 26, no. 6, 2001, pp. 613-622.
  5. Djurhuus C.B., Gravholt C.H., et al. Effects of cortisol on lipolysis and regional interstitial glycerol levels in humans. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 2002 283:1, E172-E177
  6. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Miller GE. Psychological Stress and Disease. JAMA. 2007;298(14):1685–1687. doi:10.1001/jama.298.14.1685
  7. Salleh MR. Life event, stress and illness. Malays J Med Sci. 2008;15(4):9-18.
  8. Epel, E. E., Moyer, A. E., Martin, C. D., Macary, S. , Cummings, N. , Rodin, J. and Rebuffe‐Scrive, M. (1999), Stress‐Induced Cortisol, Mood, and Fat Distribution in Men. Obesity Research, 7: 9-15. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00385.x
  9. Samra, J. S. “Effects of Physiological Hypercortisolemia on the Regulation of Lipolysis in Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 83, no. 2, 1998, pp. 626-631.
  10. Wajchenberg, B. L. “Estimation of body fat and lean tissue distribution by dual energy X- ray absorptiometry and abdominal body fat evaluation by computed tomography in Cushing’s disease.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 80, no. 9, 1995, pp. 2791-2794.
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  12. Dallman, M. F., Pecoraro, N., Akana, S. F., la Fleur, S. E., Gomez, F., Houshyar, H., … Manalo, S. (2003). Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of “comfort food.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(20), 11696 LP-11701.
  13. Friedl, K. E., Moore, R. J., Hoyt, R. W., Marchitelli, L. J., Martinez-Lopez, L. E., & Askew, E. W. (2000). Endocrine markers of semistarvation in healthy lean  men in a multistressor environment. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88(5), 1820–1830.
  14. Rossow, Lindy M., et al. “Natural Bodybuilding Competition Preparation and Recovery: A 12-Month Case Study.” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, vol. 8, no. 5, 2013, pp. 582-592.
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  19. De Bock, Katrien, et al. “Acute Rhodiola Rosea Intake Can Improve Endurance Exercise Performance.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, vol. 14, no. 3, 2004, pp. 298-307.
  20. Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha SR, Bhattacharyya S. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:43. Published 2015 Nov 25. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9
  21. Marsit, Joseph L., et al. “Effects of Ascorbic Acid on Serum Cortisol and the Testosterone.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 12, no. 3, 1998, pp. 179-184.
  22. Badrick E, Bobak M, Britton A, Kirschbaum C, Marmot M, Kumari M. The relationship between alcohol consumption and cortisol secretion in an aging cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;93(3):750-7.

7 Ways Poor Sleep Hurts Fat Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, let’s get started.


7 Ways Sleep Deprivation Hinders Fat Loss


Less Energy for Workouts

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

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

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

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

But that’s not all.

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

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

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

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

Increased Hunger and Cravings

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

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

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

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

Here’s the fascinating thing, though.

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

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

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

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

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

Reduced Fat Burning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Increased Fatigue During the Day

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

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

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

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

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

Increased Cortisol Levels

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

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

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

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

Decreased Testosterone

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

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

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

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

Impairs Immune System Function

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

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

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

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

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

Steel Dreams — The Solution for Bad Sleep

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

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

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

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


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

How to Develop a New Healthy Habit

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

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


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

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

Let’s get started.

8 Tips to Make Those New Habits Stick


Focus on One Thing at a Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Things Slowly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These small changes compound on themselves and build momentum.

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

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

Be Specific

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

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

Using weight loss again as an example.

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

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

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

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

Specificity also works with establishing other habits as well.

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

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

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

Make Sure Your Life Is in Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eliminate the “Have to” Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visualize Success

Visualization is key to success with everything in life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Support and Accountability

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

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

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

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

Realize You Aren’t Perfect

Nobody is perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Collagen 101: What it is and What it Does

If you’re looking for information about collagen, congratulations! You’ve arrived at your destination.

Collagen is one of the big buzzwords tossed around these days regardless if you’re talking about health, fitness, beauty or bodybuilding. There are collagen supplements, supplements to improve collagen, collagen creams, lotions, and even foods you can eat to boost collagen.

Collagen is literally everywhere it seems. But what is it, what does it do, and why does everyone seem to be interested in it lately?

We’re here to answer those questions and many more in this complete guide to all things collagen.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, especially type 1 collagen. It’s composed principally of the two amino acids, glycine and proline. As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is present in your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and even the digestive system.

Collagen is what gives the skin elasticity and strength. In essence, collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together!

Unfortunately, as we age, the amount of collagen produced by the body gradually declines, as with most other things in life. In addition to aging, a number of other factors can impact your body’s collagen levels and production. Prolonged exposure to the sun and excessive sugar consumption have both been shown to reduce collagen synthesis, as do activities such as drinking and smoking. [1,2,3]

To further complicated things, there isn’t just one type of collagen present in the body either. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that there are in fact SIXTEEN (16) different kinds of collagen found throughout the body. [4]

Now, types I, II, and III accounts for the vast majority of the collagen in your body (around 90%), but nevertheless, that’s a LOT of different types of collagen floating around inside you.

Benefits of Collagen

Collagen has become a hot commodity in recent years due to the wide range of benefits it offers:

  • Improves the health of hair, skin, and nails

    Seeing as that collagen is the main structural protein of the body, it makes perfect sense that it would improve the quality and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails. Research has shown that supplementing with collagen can help reduce signs of aging by reducing the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles as well as improve skin elasticity. [5,6]

    If you suffer from brittle nails or thinning hair, consuming collagen may help there too, as the protein is a primary component in the structure of your nails and hair. [7] A 2015 study noted that there are “essential relationships between extracellular matrix (ECM) and hair follicle regeneration”[7], and suggest collagen supplementation could be beneficial for treating hair loss and skin-related diseases.

  • Preserves joint integrity

    Collagen isn’t only important for your external structures, but also your internal ones, especially your connective tissues, including cartilage and tendons.

    Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when there is a significant breakdown of the entire joint complex — cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. This continual degradation leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling, which limits range of movement, significantly impacting quality of life.

    Joints naturally degrade over the years, but intense physical activity also contributes to wear and tear of the joints. As such, collagen supplements aren’t used by just the elderly, but also athletes, bodybuilders, and even recreational lifters. A comprehensive review of the literature found that collagen supplements can be extremely beneficial for improving signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. [8]

  • Combats leaky gut

    Collagen is a crucial cog in the function and integrity of your digestive system. For starters, collagen regulates the number of gastric juices released into the stomach, preventing an excessive amount of stomach acid, which can lead to heartburn, stomach ulcers, and other painful GI issues. On top of that, glycine and proline, the two primary amino acids of collagen, can help heal the lining of the stomach, preventing ulcers from forming. Finally, low levels of collagen are associated with certain GI illnesses, including inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Supplementing with collagen can help raise collagen levels in the body, which promotes gut health and contributes to the structural integrity of the entire GI tract. [9]

  • Accelerate injury recovery

    Collagen has also been studied for its ability to enhance recovery following traumatic injury, wounds, skeletal muscle injury or burns. [10,11] From collagen-based wound dressings to orally consumed collagen supplements, researchers are exploring the many different ways by which collagen can accelerate the recovery and rehabilitation process both in the internal structures and external appearance of the body.

  • Better sleep

    Consuming collagen 30 to 60 minutes might help with sleep too! This is due to the fact that collagen is very high in glycine, which has been shown in research to reduce fatigue, improve mental clarity the morning after taking glycine. Additionally, it’s also been shown to accelerate how quickly you fall asleep and how “deep” your sleep is. [12,13]

  • Supports liver health

    Collagen supplementation can also improve your body’s ability to detox, thereby enhancing its ability to stave off sickness. One of the biggest contributors to liver function and health is the amino acid glycine, one of the primary building blocks of collagen. Glycine is essential to glutathione production, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. [14]

    It’s also required for something called “phase 2 detoxification” which is one of the two pathways involved in detoxifying the body. Phase 2 detoxification involves converting fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble chemicals that can then be excreted out through bile and urine. This involves converting the fat-soluble toxic chemical and transforming the toxins into water-soluble chemicals. Then they are passed out through body fluids as such as the bile or urine. Deficiencies in glycine (or one of the other amino acids needed) can severely reduce Phase 2 detoxification, heightening your chances for illness and infection.

  • More Muscle

    Yes, collagen can even help you build more muscle, which is probably another reason lifters are shoveling down collagen by the spoonful. Research conducted in elderly men demonstrated that consuming collagen supplements in conjunction with resistance training increased mass and strength more than placebo. [15]

How to Increase Collagen

Given the litany of benefits that collagen has to offer, you’re probably salivating at the prospect of getting your hands-on collagen and adding it to your supplement stash. Before you resort to supplements though, there are a few things you can do with your current diet to ensure optimal collagen production in your body, namely consuming more of the following four nutrients:

  • Glycine

    The primary building block of collagen is found in vast amounts in chicken skin, gelatin, and pork skin. So, feel free to have some more of those skin on chicken breasts, thighs, and legs.

  • Proline

    The other major amino acid of collagen is found in high amounts in dairy products, asparagus, mushrooms, egg whites, and wheat germ.

  • Vitamin C

    Everyone’s favorite cold-combatting vitamin, the water-soluble vitamin can be found in a great many foods, but some of our favorites are bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and of course everyone’s favorite — the orange.

  • Pantothenic Acid

    Also known as Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid is an essential nutrient that is required for the metabolism of dietary carbs, proteins, and fats consumed on a daily basis. Vitamin B5 is critical for the growth and differentiation of keratin and collagen.

Aside from diet, collagen supplements are becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible. While there are a great many options to choose from, our recommendation is to go with BioCell Collagen®, which is a main ingredient in Steel Beauty™. It’s the only form of collagen supplement on the market with several clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness at increasing collagen production in the body, improving symptoms of joint pain and discomfort, and accelerating recovery from exercise. [16,17]

For these reasons, and many more, BioCell Collagen® which is found in Steel Beauty™, is the clear front-runner when it comes to purchasing your collagen supplement.

Wrap Up

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, quite possibly the most important one too. It’s involved in just about every aspect of appearance, function, and health of the body, and it’s definitely one protein you don’t want to be lacking. If you’re suffering from achy knees and cranky elbows, looking to up your gains in the gym, or wanting to restore your youthful looks collagen can be a safe and effective means to enhancing your appearance and performance.

By supplementing with Steel Beauty™, you will maintain youthful looking skin and promote healthy, lustrous hair and strong, beautiful nails. Steel Beauty™ is physician formulated with clinical doses of the most cutting edge, research validated, patented ingredients known to boost collagen synthesis, improve skin hydration, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, strengthen hair, reduce oxidative stress and support cellular and tissue health.*


  1. Donejko M, Przylipiak A, Rysiak E, et al. Hyaluronic acid abrogates ethanol-dependent inhibition of collagen biosynthesis in cultured human fibroblasts. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2015;9:6225-6233. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S91968.
  2. Overbeek SA, Braber S, Koelink PJ, et al. Cigarette Smoke-Induced Collagen Destruction; Key to Chronic Neutrophilic Airway Inflammation? Hartl D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e55612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055612.
  3. Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(4):409-411. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018.
  4. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix.
  5. Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-119. doi:10.1159/000355523.
  6. Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2015;18(12):1340-1348. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0022.
  7. Chen P, Cescon M, Bonaldo P. Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth. J Invest Dermatol. 2015;135(10):2358-2367. doi:10.1038/jid.2015.187.
  8. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Curr Med Res Opin. 2006;22(11):2221-2232. doi:10.1185/030079906X148373.
  9. Koutroubakis IE, Petinaki E, Dimoulios P, et al. Serum laminin and collagen IV in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Pathology. 2003;56(11):817-820.
  10. Mathangi Ramakrishnan K, Babu M, Mathivanan, Jayaraman V, Shankar J. Advantages of collagen based biological dressings in the management of superficial and superficial partial thickness burns in children. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. 2013;26(2):98-104.
  11. Baar K. Minimizing Injury and Maximizing Return to Play: Lessons from Engineered Ligaments. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0719-x.
  12. INAGAWA, K., HIRAOKA, T., KOHDA, T., YAMADERA, W. and TAKAHASHI, M. (2006), Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4: 75–77. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x
  13. YAMADERA, W., INAGAWA, K., CHIBA, S., BANNAI, M., TAKAHASHI, M. and NAKAYAMA, K. (2007), Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5: 126–131. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x
  14. Ruiz-Ramirez A, Ortiz-Balderas E, Cardozo-Saldana G, Diaz-Diaz E, El-Hafidi M. Glycine restores glutathione and protects against oxidative stress in vascular tissue from sucrose-fed rats. Clin Sci (Lond). 2014;126(1):19-29. doi:10.1042/CS20130164.
  15. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810.
  16. Lopez HL, Habowski S, Sandrock J, Kedia A, Ziegenfuss T. Effects of BioCell Collagen® on connective tissue protection and functional recovery from exercise in healthy adults: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014;11(Suppl 1):P48. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P48.
  17. Schauss AG, Stenehjem J, Park J, Endres JR, Clewell A. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60(16):4096-4101. doi:10.1021/jf205295u.

Complete Guide to Cupping and its Benefits

Cupping is an age-old remedy that’s been historically used to treat a variety of ailments. Recently, it’s come back into the limelight and if you’re like many people, you’re wondering what all the fuss is about.

What is cupping? Is cupping effective? Is it backed by science? How many cups do you need for cupping?

We answer all those questions and more in this up-close look at cupping.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a type of alternative non-pharmaceutical therapy used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. This suction promotes healing through increasing blood flow and the flow of “qi” in the body. FYI, ‘“qi” means “life force” in Chinese.

Cupping increases blood circulation to the areas of the body where the cups are placed, which is purported to encourage cellular repair and relieve muscle tension. It may also help create/restore connective tissue and encourage blood vessel formation, further improving circulation.

Cupping is most often used as an adjunct therapy for whatever current conditions or ailments they may be facing.

Types of Cupping

When it was originally developed many centuries ago (as far back as 1,550 B.C.!) cupping was performed using animal horns, and over the years, the horns have been replaced by bamboo, and later on, ceramic cups. Today, cupping is performed with rounded glass cups that look like a ball with one of the ends opened up.

The “suction” effect that happens during cupping is a result of the heating process of the cups, which was originally accomplished using fire. As the heated cups cool, the skin is drawn in as the air is removed, creating the “suction” that is so well-known with the practice of cupping.

Modern cupping is performed following either of two methods:

  • Dry cupping involves using only suction, whereas
  • Wet cupping involves suction as well as controlled medicinal bleeding

Note: the cupping practitioner usually determines which method is appropriate for you given your age, medical condition, preferences, etc.

Cupping Up-Close

So, what happens during a cupping treatment?

Well, regardless of wet or dry cupping, the practitioner will put a flammable substance (alcohol, paper, herbs, etc.) in a cup and set the it on fire. This heats the cup, and once the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on your skin. As the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created, causing suction and leads to your skin being drawn up and into the cup. Additionally, the skin also reddens due to the increased blood flow.

Note: Certain modern practitioners have transitioned to machine pumps with silicone cups that can be moved from one spot to another on your skin, yielding a “massage-like” sensation.

If it’s your first time being “cupped”, you may only receive 3-5 cups, though it may be as high as seven cups if you’re a cupping veteran. Now, here’s where we get into the differences of dry and wet cupping.

In dry cupping, cups are set in place for usually between 5 and 10 minutes and then removed, whereas with wet cupping, the cups are usually only in place for approximately 3-5 minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood. Following the “blood letting”, the practitioner will apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage to prevent any infection.

While that might seem pretty scary having someone cut your skin and release blood, cupping enthusiasts believe it helps purify and detoxify the body from any hazardous toxins, which promotes healing, though this is not substantiated by any scientific evidence. Following your cupping treatment, the skin should begin to look normal in about 7-10 days.

A third, and less common, form of cupping has been tried recently called “needle cupping” where the cupping practitioner first inserts acupuncture needles into the skin and then places cups over them.

Before any cupping treatment, it is best recommended to fast or eat a light meal approximately 2-3 hours before your cupping session.

Common Applications of Cupping

Over the centuries, cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including everything from minor aches and pains to skin issues, such as acne. Since the cups can be applied to acupressure points, cupping has been used to also treat digestive issues and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

A comprehensive review of cupping conducted in 2012 noted that the practice may offer more than simply placebo, and stated that cupping could help with the several conditions, including[1]:

  • Acne
  • Coughing
  • Facial paralysis
  • Dyspnea
  • Herpes zoster
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Lumbar disc herniation

However, the review clearly states that most of the 135 studies included in the review are highly biased and additional studies are needed to determine whether or not cupping is truly effective for the conditions outlined in the review.

Additionally another report in 2015 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine stated that cupping may be beneficial for pain management, herpes zoster, and acne [2], and even more recently, a 2017 review of the literature[3] concluded:

“Cupping therapy and acupuncture are potentially safe, and they have similar effectiveness in relieving pain. However, further rigorous studies investigating relevant pain-related conditions are warranted to establish comparative effectiveness analysis between these two therapies. Cost-effectiveness studies should be considered in the future studies to establish evidence for decision-making in clinical practice.”

Finally, a 2018 study suggests that a “clear relationship between Hijama and the reduction and control of SBP in patients with hypertension. Therefore, Hijama can be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy, which may allow down titration of given doses of antihypertensive drugs.” [4]

That final study is interesting and somewhat obvious, anything that decreases the total volume of blood in the body is going to lead to a reduction in systemic blood pressure. Is bloodletting a long-term solution to high blood pressure (hypertension)? No.

Potential Side Effects

Provided your seeking treatment from a well-trained and qualified cupping practitioner, the side effects and risks of cupping are relatively minimal. Possible side effects that might occur as a result of your cupping treatment include:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Burns
  • Bruises
  • Skin infection
  • Scarring (if receiving wet cupping)

Additionally, you may also feel slightly dizzy or lightheaded during your treatment, as well as potential sweating (from the heat) or nausea).

Following your cupping session, the skin on the areas where the cups were placed will be reddened and possibly irritated. If you did wet cupping, you will also likely experience pain where the incisions occurred.

Be aware that infection is always a possibility when undergoing wet cupping. The risk is low, and typically not a concern provided that the practitioner is using proper sanitation methods on the instruments involved as well as your skin.

Some things to look for in your practitioner, especially if they’re performing wet cupping on you. They should wear:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Goggles (or some form of protective eyewear)
  • Apron

Using properly sterilized instruments helps prevent infection and ensures you’re not at risk for contracting certain viruses such as hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Tips on Cupping

Before we finish this expose’ on cupping, we’ll leave you with a few parting pointers to be aware of should you be interested in giving this ancient healing art a go.

Most degreed medical professionals (i.e. doctors) are not trained or have any background in adjunct (complementary) therapies typically used in alternative medicine. As such, your doctor will in all likelihood be very skeptical of your attempt to try cupping.

Certain traditional medicine practitioners are such strong believers in their craft, that they may encourage you to forego standard Western medicine practices in favor of their methods, but again, this is not advised. Always consult with your physician before starting or stopping any treatments, no matter how old they may be.

Additionally, if you do attempt cupping, make sure to keep up your regular doctor visits and keep them informed of your desire/progress with cupping.

Finally, cupping isn’t for everyone. If you are pregnant, menstruating, elderly, or a child, cupping is NOT recommended. Also, if you have any form of organ disorder, it is strongly advised that you do not try cupping.

Cupping Wrap Up

Cupping is an ancient healing practice used to treat a wide range of ailments. Anecdotal evidence speaks highly of the practice, and there is some scientific research to support its effectiveness in reducing aches and pains. It is by no means a replacement for regular doctor visits or western medicine, and should you be interested in giving cupping a go, always make sure to check with your primary care physician before attempting it.


  1. Cao H, Li X, Liu J. An Updated Review of the Efficacy of Cupping Therapy. Malaga G, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(2):e31793. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031793.
  2. Mehta P, Dhapte V. Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2015;5(3):127-134. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.11.036.
  3. Zhang Y-J, Cao H-J, Li X-L, et al. Cupping therapy versus acupuncture for pain-related conditions: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and trial sequential analysis. Chinese Medicine. 2017;12:21. doi:10.1186/s13020-017-0142-0.
  4. Al-Tabakha MM, Sameer FT, Saeed MH, Batran RM, Abouhegazy NT, Farajallah AA. Evaluation of Bloodletting Cupping Therapy in the Management of Hypertension. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences. 2018;10(1):1-6. doi:10.4103/jpbs.JPBS_242_17.