Tricep Exercises to Tone and Shape Your Arms

Do you want stronger, firmer, and more toned arms?

You’d be a fool to say no.

The simple truth is that we all want a pair of well-defined arms.

The issue is that most of us go about training them the wrong way — by focusing too much on the biceps and not enough on the triceps.

And it’s easy to see why. After all, the biceps are on the front of the body, and they’re the ones glamourized in movies, magazines, and tv. The triceps are on the back of the arm and are often forgotten about save for a few sets of measly kickbacks tacked onto the end of your workouts.

But, the reality is, is that if you want to have arms to causes people to stop what they’re doing and take notice, you want to prioritize training your triceps over your biceps. Beyond that, building stronger triceps also helps burn calories and eliminate those flabby old lady “bingo” arms!

Ahead we’ve got a slew of fresh tricep exercises you can incorporate into your training program to spark new growth, burn fat, and develop lean, toned arms.

8 Best Tricep Exercises to Tone Your Arms

 

Kettlebell Skull Crushers

No doubt you’ve seen kettlebells in the gym, and maybe given them a try when performing sumo deadlifts, goblet squats, or even some kettlebell swings.

But, have you ever given thought to use them for training your triceps?

Probably not.

That’s too bad because kettlebells are an incredibly useful training tool for the triceps.

The secret is knowing how kettlebells to properly implement the versatile free weights into your training program to maximize their unique construction and offset weight distribution.

When combining kettlebells with the classic tricep isolation exercise, the skull crusher, you create an exercise that solves one of the biggest problems with most free weight exercises — loss of tension on the working muscle at specific points of the exercise.

You see when performing traditional skull crushers with a pair of dumbbells once you fully extend the elbow, there is a very little tension on the triceps in the fully contracted position. However, when using kettlebells, you can maintain greater tension at the top of the movement thanks to the angle of pull of the kettlebells.

This increased tension creates more metabolic stress, cell volumization, and occlusion which leads to greater muscle pumps, all of which help drive greater muscle growth.

While performing skull crushers on a flat bench (or even the floor) is a perfectly suitable option, we like to up the ante on this exercise even further by performing it on a decline bench.

Doing so reduces the involvement of the front delts, allows for a greater stretch on the long head of the triceps, and ultimately forces all three heads of the triceps to perform more work. To top it off, many lifters also find that performing skull crushers with kettlebells on a decline helps eliminate elbow pain commonly experienced when performing the exercise with a barbell.

Bodyweight Tricep Extension

The bodyweight tricep extension is the bodyweight version of a skull crusher, and it’s also a fantastic way to work all three heads of the triceps. It even helps tone and tighten your core!

Bodyweight tricep extensions are typically performed a TRX, gymnastics rings, or some suspension trainer, but even if you don’t have access to these pieces of equipment, you can still perform bodyweight triceps extensions by using the bar in a Smith machine or a barbell fixed in place on a power rack.

The reason we suggest the use of suspension trainers is that it allows for a slightly greater range of motion compared to the fixed barbell or bench varieties. This is most important when concerned with emphasizing the long head of the triceps, as to place a maximum stretch on it, the arm has to get up and overhead.

To perform the bodyweight triceps extension, grasp the handles of your suspension trainer and face away from the anchor point. Orient your body, so it’s at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground with the handles overhead and arms straight.

Brace your abs, engage your glutes, and keep everything as tight as possible, slowly bend the elbows so that that handles move in an arc along the sides and finish back behind your head.

Pause in this position, then flex the triceps to return to the top.

Alternating Kettlebell Skull Crusher

The alternating kettlebell skull crusher ups the ante on the standard KB version of the skull crusher by increasing the time under tension to an even higher degree.

For this triceps exercise variation, it can be performed lying on the floor, on a flat bench, incline bench or decline bench. Begin as you would in conventional arms extended and perpendicular to your torso.

Lower both kettlebells to the sides of your head. The first rep begins by extending your right arm while the left arm remains in the stretched position next to your head. Once you have completed one rep with your right arm, it’s now time to perform a rep with your left arm. Continue performing these in an alternating fashion until all reps are complete.

It may sound simple, but remember the arm that is not moving is held at the bottom of the skull crusher movement, which creates tremendous mechanical tension and metabolic stress (two of the principal drivers of hypertrophy), thanks to the constant tension induced by the kettlebells.

This is what makes the alternating kettlebell skull crusher one of the most challenging exercises, yet one of the best muscle-building ones too.

Decline Close-Grip Press

The close-grip bench press along with dips should make up the majority of your heavy compound exercises for training the triceps. But similar to dips, the close-grip press can irritate that shoulder joint when it is performed on a flat bench. This can be solved one of two way:

  • Performing the Close-grip Press on the Floor, or
  • Using a CDcline Bench

The added benefit of the decline bench, in addition to reducing shoulder stress, is that it allows the elbows to travel behind the torso, creating greater stretch and tension on the triceps.

The close-grip press can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell with plates. If using the barbell option, be mindful of your grip width. Many lifters make the mistake of placing their hands right next to each other on the close-grip press, which contributes to some of the shoulder irritation they commonly experience.

Your hands only need to be about shoulder-width apart or slightly inside of shoulder width to effectively stimulate the triceps while avoiding unwanted shoulder irritation.

Cable Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks are one of the most common exercises performed in the gym around the world. Typically, the exercise is carried out using a pair of dumbbells, or a single dumbbell if working one arm at a time.

While that’s an “ok” option for the triceps, it suffers from the fact that there’s not a great deal of tension on the triceps for portions of the exercise. You see, more often than not, individuals make one of two (or both) mistakes — they don’t use a full range of motion, or they pick too heavy of a dumbbell, which causes their elbow to drop, turning the exercise from a triceps isolation exercise into one that works the shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

The cable triceps kickback takes the best elements of this isolation exercise and makes it better with the introduction of the constant tension on the triceps thanks to the cable column. The dumbbell version creates little tension in the triceps at the start of the exercise. Using a cable, however, automatically places tension on the triceps (particularly the lateral head which contributes to the “horseshoe look” of the triceps) at the start of the exercise.

To perform the single arm triceps cable kickback, attach a D-handle to the lower pulley of a cable machine, or grab the rubber ball if there’s no handle available. Perform the kick back just as you would if you were using a dumbbell — keep your elbow high and fixed to your side. Make sure that your upper arm and torso are parallel to each other and your lower arm is perpendicular to your body at the start of the movement.

Tricep Pushdowns

Pushdowns are another staple triceps-building exercise performed by most gym rats, and it’s another seemingly simple exercise that’s done improperly. You’ve probably seen it for yourself.

A lifter walks over to the cable column, loads up a ton of weight, hunches over the bar or rope attachment, flairs their elbows and starts repping away. While it might seem like they’re getting a great triceps workout, in reality, they’re getting minimal activation of the triceps and working a lot of their chest and shoulders.

To get the most out of this exercise, you need to make sure you’re correctly set up. This begins with getting your hands out in front of your body at about the level of your chest at the start of the movement. Additionally, instead of allowing your elbows to flare, you need to keep your elbows pinned to your sides and slightly behind your body.

This position allows for maximum tension on the triceps, which is what we want after all.

Now, you’ll quickly realize that you won’t be able to lift nearly as much weight as you are used to doing, but that’s ok. There’s no trophy for moving the entire stack of plates on pushdowns. That’s just your ego talking.

Performing the exercise correctly, maximizing tension on the triceps, and getting a substantial contraction is the key to sculpting better-looking arms.

In addition to serving as an excellent triceps muscle and strength-building exercise, the pushdowns can also serve as a great way to warm up your elbows ahead of the heavy compound lifts like bench press, overhead press, and pull-ups. Start with a lightweight (~15-20RM) and perform a 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps at the start of your workout to create a strong mind-muscle connection as well as increase blood flow to the elbow joint, which will help create a more stable joint for pressing movements and may help reduce some of the “crankiness” you typically experience with bench presses.

Triceps Diamond Push-Ups

While any push-up will strengthen and tone the triceps, diamond push-ups really up to the ante on triceps activation. If you’re used to doing standard push-ups, this variation will be a welcome addition to your training and help spark some new growth in your triceps.

Instead of beginning in a high plank with your hands just outside of shoulder width, bring your hands together until your fingers are touching (or nearly touching) into the shape of a diamond.

As you lower into the bottom of the push-up, make sure you keep your elbows pinned close to your sides. Allowing them to flare out and away from your body can place undue stress on the shoulder joint and lead to potential injury.

Dips

If you’re used to doing dips in your workouts but finding not much to write home about in regard to building better arms, it’s probably because you’re doing the wrong kind of dips.

And by the “wrong kind” of dips, we’re referring to bench dips.

Every fitness and women’s health magazine on the planet will tell you to do bench or chair dips to strengthen your arms, but here’s the thing — for everyone but your grandma, bench dips aren’t that challenging of an exercise. Furthermore, they also can quickly ruin your shoulders if you aren’t performing them correctly.

If you’re serious about building better arms, you need to master your body weight and provide a real challenge for your arms with parallel bar dips. Not only are these a great triceps exercise, but they also help build stronger shoulders too!

Now, you may not have the necessary strength to start repping out multiple sets of 8-10 reps on dips. But that’s ok. You can begin by using a band assist, performing negatives, or an assisted dip machine.

If you don’t have access to an assisted dip machine or dip bars with a band assist, you can still perform bench dips, but with a few subtle tweaks.

Instead of setting up in the typical internally rotated position (fingers pointing towards your body), start by externally turning your hands so that your fingers are pointing out away from the sides of your body. This would have you place your hands along the sides of the seat of the chair instead of the front of it like you typically do.

What this does is that it opens the chest and helps keep the shoulders back in a more joint-friendly position as you begin the exercise. As you descend into each rep, consciously depress your shoulder blades and keep your shoulders down (“unshrugged”) throughout the entire range of motion exercise to ensure that you are maintaining proper position during the bench dip. Your triceps (and shoulders) will thank us!

Tricep Workouts for Toned Arms

 

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Close Grip Decline Press

4

10 / 10 / 8 / 6

Tricep Pushdowns

3

8-10

Overhead Cable Tricep Extension

3

10-12

Diamond Push Ups

2

AMRAP

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Dips (add weight if needed)

4

8-10

Cable Kickback

3

8-10

Kettlebell Skull crusher

3

10-12

Bodyweight Tricep Extension

2

AMRAP

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Three 15-Minute Workouts to Limit Holiday Weight Gain

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

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

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

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

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

Best Nutrition & Fitness Tips to Stay Lean During the Holidays

 

Pile on the Protein

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

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

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

But there’s more.

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

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

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

HIIT it Before Eating

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change Your Definition of “Working Out”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Top 3 Fat-Blasting 15-Minute Workouts

 

Workout #1 — Bodyweight Burner

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

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

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

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

Workout #2 — Total Body Dumbbell Shredder

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

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

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

Workout #3 — Kettlebell Chaos

Set a timer for 15 minutes.

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

Creatine 101: What It Is and What It Does

Creatine is the undisputed king of sports nutrition supplements, but how does it work and what are the benefits of this best-selling pre-workout ingredient?

Over the past 20 years, sports nutrition has escalated by leaps and bounds, and in that time, athletes, bodybuilders, and casual gym rats have been inundated by all sorts of shiny new herbal extracts, synthetic ergogenics, and isolated amino acids that promise to deliver life-changing results. Yet, few of these compounds have ever delivered on the hype.

There has been a compound, however, that’s been a staple of lifters and athletes for decades prior to the explosion in popularity of sports nutrition supplements. That ingredient is none other than creatine monohydrate.

Most of you reading this have heard of creatine, and you’ve probably even experienced some of the benefits of creatine supplementation for yourself, such as enhances lean mass gains or better athletic performance.

But, how does creatine work? Is creatine safe for women? And, how much creatine should I take?

We’ve got all these questions answered and a whole lot more in store as we take an in-depth look at creatine — the king of sports supplements.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a substance naturally produced in the body from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. [1,2] Chemically, creatine is known by the name α-methyl guanidine-acetic acid, but seeing as this isn’t a biochemistry course, we’ll leave it at just plain old creatine.

Creatine is primarily stored (~95%) in your skeletal muscles in the form of phosphocreatine, and the remaining 5% is stored in the kidneys, liver, and brain. [1] It’s also found in a number of other foods in our diet, especially red meat.

Now, the amount of creatine each of us stores in our body is going to depend on a few factors, including:

  • Exercise
  • Amount of Lean Muscle Mass
  • Levels of Anabolic Hormones such as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) and Testosterone
  • Meat Consumption

What Does Creatine Do?

Following ingestion, creatine binds to a molecule of phosphate to form phosphocreatine or creatine phosphate.

Why is this important?

Whenever you ingest nutrients (whole foods, protein powder, BCAAs, etc.), your digestive system breaks down these nutrients to get energy so that it can power all of the other chemical and physiological processes that go on in the body.

These processes require energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP also serves as the primary fuel for your muscles during high-intensity exercise like resistance training or sprinting.

The way ATP provides energy is by donating one of its three phosphate groups (remember ATP stands for adenosine TRI-phosphate, meaning it has three phosphates attached to one molecule of adenosine).

After donating its phosphate group, ATP now becomes ADP (adenosine DI-phosphate), meaning it has two phosphates instead of three.[1] Now, the body can readily use ATP for energy production, but it’s not so fond of ADP for generating energy. So, your body reserves this ADP molecule and saves it until another phosphate is freed up and it can be recycled into ATP.

Now, here’s where creatine enters the picture.

As we mentioned above, creatine is stored in the body as phospho-creatine, meaning it has an extra phosphate molecule to donate. Creatine, being the noble fellow that it is, sacrifices its phosphate group for the good of your body, donating it to ADP and transforming the seemingly useless ADP into the energy-producing powerhouse that is ATP.

Therefore, the primary benefit of creatine resides in its ability to rapidly regenerate ATP, which translates to a number of performance and physique benefits that we’ll discuss in more detail now!

Benefits of Creatine

Improves ATP Production

As we just mentioned, the primary benefit of ATP comes from its ability to rapidly replenish ATP stores in the body.

ATP serves as the “cellular currency” of energy production in the body, meaning that once your ATP stores are empty, your body has to start breaking down glycogen or pulling in glucose and fats from the bloodstream to power your muscles during training. So, the more ATP you have, the longer you can train before succumbing to fatigue, which leads to greater gains in size, strength, and performance. [1,2] 

Muscle Builder

Creatine has been extensive studies and shown time after time to improve lean body mass (a.k.a. Muscle mass) as well as performance during intense training. [4,5] Studies note that supplementing with creatine monohydrate while performance resistance training increase muscle cell nuclei concentration, which promotes the greater growth of lean muscle. [6]

Other research notes that when creatine and weight lifting are combined, it increases fat-free mass (i.e. muscle), muscle morphology, and physical performance. [7]

Part of this is due to creatine’s ability to help you grind out more reps (due to better energy production), but creatine also helps stunt myostatin production. [8] In case you weren’t aware, myostatin is a devious little protein that puts the brakes on muscle growth in the body. By inhibiting it, creatine helps promote greater muscle cell growth and differentiation.

Strength Booster

One of the truly exceptional things about creatine is that not only does it help muscles to grow bigger, it also helps them become stronger, too. Research has shown that weightlifters using creatine increased their one-rep max on bench press of 43%, compared to those who did not use creatine while training. [9,10]

Hydration Support

We’ve spent the majority of this article discussing the primary function of creatine, in regards to its ability to enhance ATP regeneration in the body, but it also serves another very important role in regards to health and performance.

Creatine monohydrate also functions as a natural osmolyte, that helps increase the water content within muscle cells. [15] Because of this cell-hydrating effect, creatine increases cell volume, which has a multitude of benefits including better stamina, bigger “water” pumps, and muscle growth.

Brain Booster

Up top, we mentioned that the majority of creatine is stored in the brain, but a small percentage is also stored in your brain. As it turns out, creatine supplementation also imparts some brain gains as well, especially for vegans and vegetarians.

Research notes that when adult vegetarians supplemented with creatine, they experienced better working memory and intelligence. The reason vegetarians were used for the study was that they tend to have low levels of endogenous creatine due to their low meat intake. [12,13]

But that’s not all…

Creatine has also been shown to improve mental performance following 36 hours of sleep deprivation [14], making this a great supplement to use if you’re one who doesn’t get adequate amounts of sleep each night.

Neuroprotector

Creatine not only helps our brains to function at a higher level, but it may also protect us from certain neurological diseases as well. Supplemental creatine can act as a substrate for creatine kinase, which may increase phosphocreatine and protect against ATP depletion, which has been documented to exert neuroprotective benefits. [17]

Other studies note that supplementing with creatine can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in individuals with cognitive dysfunction. [16] Furthermore, creatine supplementation has been documented to prevent up to 90% of the decline in dopamine levels in animals. [17]

You may be asking, “why is that important?”

Well, chronically falling levels of dopamine production are a tell-tale sign of Parkinson’s disease.

Additional research has noted that when patients with Parkinson’s were given creatine it reduced their decline in cognitive function and increased their strength. [18,19]

Improves Symptoms of Depression

Consuming creatine daily has been noted to lessen symptoms of depression in women, including ones who didn’t respond to SSRI prescriptions (the “standard” treatment for depression). [20]

Additional studies have documented that creatine supplementation is beneficial for the treatment of a number of other diseases including [21,22,23]: 

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Ischemic Stroke
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain or Spinal Cord Injuries

Combats Fatigue

We’ve mentioned previously that creatine improves stamina and endurance via improve ATP production, but it also helps you last longer during your workouts due to its unique ability to reduce neuromuscular fatigue and perceived fatigue when training.[24,25]

Creatine also has been shown to boost mood following sleep deprivation or psychologically-intensive tasks. [26]

Improves Injury Recovery Rate

Not only does creatine improve your performance on the field, it also helps you get back there following an injury. Research conducted in healthy subjects has shown that creatine supplementation significantly improves recovery of knee extensor muscle function after injury. [33]

Heart Helper

In addition to its role in muscle building, creatine also helps fortify your cardiovascular system as well, protecting the heart against stress and improving its ability to repair. [29]

Creatine production also helps reduce homocysteine levels, which if you weren’t aware, elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Further research has shown that when creatine is supplemented at a dose of 20 grams per day, it lowers cholesterol. [30]

Supports Skeletal System

Creatine enhances osteoblast formation, which increases bone formation and bone repair. [31] Additional research in older women with osteoarthritis has noted that creatine supplementation helps reduce pain associated with the disorder. [32]

Steadies Blood Sugar

We’re still not done with the benefits of creatine yet!

As you well know, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome are two of the most common chronic diseases affecting our population these days. At the core of these two diseases is a combination of chronically elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.

As it turns out, creatine might be an unsung hero of sorts for diabetics. Research notes that supplementing with creatine can significantly reduce blood sugar measurements during a glucose tolerance test in healthy men performing aerobic exercise. [27]

A 2016 systematic review also confirmed these findings when it concluded that creatine is useful for controlling blood glucose when combined with exercise. [28]

Beneficial for Expectant Mothers

Studies involving pregnant women have noted that supplementing with creatine can benefit baby development in the instances of oxygen deprivation or premature birth. [34]

Potential Testosterone Booster

The final benefit of creatine is more of an “outlier” of sorts, as it’s never really been thoroughly investigated, but still, warrant mentioning.

In addition to all of the muscle and performance benefits mentioned prior, creatine may also boost the most anabolic hormone of all — testosterone.

Research using very high doses of creatine (100mg/kg) noted that it successfully increased testosterone levels. [11]

How much is that for the average man?

For the average 175lb male, you’d need around 8 grams of creatine to get the potential testosterone boosting benefits of this all-time muscle builder.

Speaking of dosing…

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

All sorts of dosing and loading protocols have been used with creatine studies over the years.

Some protocols call for loading up to 20 grams per day (divided into 4-5 doses) for 3-4 days to accelerate the rate of saturation, but for the average lifter looking to experience all that creatine has to offer, a standard dose of 5 grams per day every day of creatine monohydrate is recommended.

When to Take Creatine

The great thing about creatine, unlike other supplements, is that you really can take it any time of day. You see, you start to experience the benefits of creatine once your muscles are saturated with it. It doesn’t offer an acute benefit, like what caffeine or citrulline malate does.

Therefore, you can take your creatine pre-workout, post workout, intra-workout, or any other time of day. It doesn’t really matter so long as you get your 5 grams in every day.

However, there can be an argument made for an “optimal” time to take creatine is the post-workout period, when insulin sensitivity is highest, meaning it will be rapidly taken up and stored in your muscles. But again, so long as you’re taking in your 5 grams of creatine monohydrate every day, you will be fine.

Takeaway

Creatine monohydrate has stood the test of time as the de facto king of the supplement world. It’s proven time and time again to enhance lean mass, strength, power, and performance. Creatine also comes with a drove of other benefits for your brain and heart, too.

When you add it all together, creatine supplementation is really a no-brainer and should be a part of every fitness enthusiasts stack, young or old, male or female.

References

  1. Persky AM, Brazeau GA. Clinical Pharmacology of the Dietary Supplement Creatine Monohydrate. Pharmacol Rev. 2001;53(2):161 LP-176.
  2. Bird SP. Creatine Supplementation and Exercise Performance: A Brief Review. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2003;2(4):123-132.
  3. The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016, August 19). Adenosine triphosphate. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from
  4. Branch JD. Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003;13(2):198-226.
  5. Parise G, Mihic S, MacLennan D, Yarasheski KE, Tarnopolsky MA. Effects of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on leucine kinetics and mixed-muscle protein synthesis. J Appl Physiol. 2001;91(3):1041-1047. doi:10.1152/jappl.2001.91.3.1041.
  6. Olsen S, Aagaard P, Kadi F, et al. Creatine supplementation augments the increase in satellite cell and myonuclei number in human skeletal muscle induced by strength training. The Journal of Physiology. 2006;573(Pt 2):525-534. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2006.107359.
  7. Volek JS, Duncan ND, Mazzetti SA, et al. Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999;31(8):1147-1156.
  8. Saremi A, Gharakhanloo R, Sharghi S, Gharaati MR, Larijani B, Omidfar K. Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on serum myostatin and GASP-1. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2010;317(1-2):25-30. doi:10.1016/j.mce.2009.12.019.
  9. Earnest CP, Snell PG, Rodriguez R, Almada AL, Mitchell TL. The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. Acta Physiol Scand. 1995;153(2):207-209. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1716.1995.tb09854.x.
  10. Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J strength Cond Res. 2003;17(4):822-831.
  11. Cook CJ, Crewther BT, Kilduff LP, Drawer S, Gaviglio CM. Skill execution and sleep deprivation: effects of acute caffeine or creatine supplementation – a randomized placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2011;8:2. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-8-2.
  12. Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2003;270(1529):2147-2150. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2492.
  13. Benton D, Donohoe R. The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. Br J Nutr. 2011;105(7):1100-1105. doi:10.1017/S0007114510004733.
  14. McMorris T, Harris RC, Howard AN, et al. Creatine supplementation, sleep deprivation, cortisol, melatonin and behavior. Physiol Behav. 2007;90(1):21-28. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.08.024.
  15. Burg MB, Ferraris JD. Intracellular Organic Osmolytes: Function and Regulation. The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2008;283(12):7309-7313. doi:10.1074/jbc.R700042200.
  16. Rawson ES, Venezia AC. Use of creatine in the elderly and evidence for effects on cognitive function in  young and old. Amino Acids. 2011;40(5):1349-1362. doi:10.1007/s00726-011-0855-9.
  17. Matthews RT, Ferrante RJ, Klivenyi P, et al. Creatine and cyclocreatine attenuate MPTP neurotoxicity. Exp Neurol. 1999;157(1):142-149. doi:10.1006/exnr.1999.7049.
  18. Li Z, Wang P, Yu Z, et al. The effect of creatine and coenzyme q10 combination therapy on mild cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease. Eur Neurol. 2015;73(3-4):205-211. doi:10.1159/000377676.
  19. Hass CJ, Collins MA, Juncos JL. Resistance training with creatine monohydrate improves upper-body strength in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized trial. Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007;21(2):107-115. doi:10.1177/1545968306293449.
  20. Kondo DG, Sung Y-H, Hellem TL, et al. Open-label adjunctive creatine for female adolescents with SSRI-resistant major depressive disorder: A 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy study. Journal of affective disorders. 2011;135(0):354-361. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.07.010.
  21. Bürklen TS, Schlattner U, Homayouni R, et al. The Creatine Kinase/Creatine Connection to Alzheimer’s Disease: CK Inactivation, APP-CK Complexes, and Focal Creatine Deposits. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2006;2006:35936. doi:10.1155/JBB/2006/35936.
  22. Prass K, Royl G, Lindauer U, et al. Improved reperfusion and neuroprotection by creatine in a mouse model of stroke. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2007;27(3):452-459. doi:10.1038/sj.jcbfm.9600351.
  23. Rambo LM, Ribeiro LR, Oliveira MS, et al. Additive anticonvulsant effects of creatine supplementation and physical exercise against pentylenetetrazol-induced seizures. Neurochem Int. 2009;55(5):333-340. doi:10.1016/j.neuint.2009.04.007.
  24. Smith AE, Walter AA, Herda TJ, et al. Effects of creatine loading on electromyographic fatigue threshold during cycle ergometry in college-aged women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007;4:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-20.
  25. Hadjicharalambous M, Kilduff LP, Pitsiladis YP. Brain serotonin and dopamine modulators, perceptual responses and endurance performance during exercise in the heat following creatine supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2008;5:14. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-5-14.
  26. McMorris T, Harris RC, Swain J, et al. Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on  cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006;185(1):93-103. doi:10.1007/s00213-005-0269-z.
  27. Gualano B, Novaes RB, Artioli GG, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity  in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training. Amino Acids. 2008;34(2):245-250. doi:10.1007/s00726-007-0508-1.
  28. Pinto CL, Botelho PB, Pimentel GD, Campos-Ferraz PL, Mota JF. Creatine supplementation and glycemic control: a systematic review. Amino Acids. 2016;48(9):2103-2129. doi:10.1007/s00726-016-2277-1.
  29. Spindler M, Meyer K, Stromer H, et al. Creatine kinase-deficient hearts exhibit increased susceptibility to ischemia-reperfusion injury and impaired calcium homeostasis. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2004;287(3):H1039-45. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.01016.2003.
  30. Earnest CP, Almada AL, Mitchell TL. High-performance capillary electrophoresis-pure creatine monohydrate reduces blood lipids in men and women. Clin Sci (Lond). 1996;91(1):113-118.
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  33. Cooke MB, Rybalka E, Williams AD, Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2009;6:13. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-6-13.
  34. Dickinson H, Ellery S, Ireland Z, LaRosa D, Snow R, Walker DW. Creatine supplementation during pregnancy: summary of experimental studies suggesting a treatment to improve fetal and neonatal morbidity and reduce mortality in high-risk human pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2014;14:150. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-150.
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Training Fasted: Pros and Cons

If you want to know the pros and cons of training fasted and whether or not it is superior for losing fat or building muscle, you want to read this article.

For decades, if you wanted to lose weight and get rid of that unsightly body fat, you performed hour after hour of fasted cardio.

Entire lifetimes have been spent slogging it out on treadmills, bikes and ellipticals under the premise that training with no food in your stomach (a.k.a. training fasted) was the one true way to banish body fat for good.

And, off the bat, it sounds like a pretty solid idea.

When deprived of food, the body inherently turns to stored energy (i.e. body fat) for fuel, but does that logic hold up in research?

Does training fasted lead to better fat loss and body composition?

We answer all of those questions and more in this review of the pros and cons of fasted training.

What is Fasted Training?

Fasted training is simply performing exercise when food is no longer being digested or absorbed by your body.

Your body enters this fasted state approximately three to six hours after you eat a meal. The time it takes to fully digest and absorb a given meal depends on the overall size (caloric density) of the meal, as well as how much protein, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber constitute said meal.

The greater amount of fiber, fat, and/or protein a meal contains, the longer it will take to digest.

Benefits (Pros) of Fasted Cardio

Enhances Fat Burning

Exercise science has pretty well established that performing fasted cardio burns significantly more fat than performing the same bout of cardio in a fed state. A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis including 27 studies even concluded that: [1] 

“… aerobic exercise performed in the fasted state induces higher fat oxidation than exercise performed in the fed state.”

The reason your body burns more fat when you train fasted as opposed to when it’s fed is pretty simple, and it’s rooted in your physiology. You see, the body is incredibly adept at burning carbohydrates for fuel during exercise. [2] And, when more of it is available (i.e. in the 2-3 hours following a meal), your body will by default burn those carbohydrates first, then turn to fat for the additional energy, should it be needed.

This is the main reason why study after study over the decades has noted that when people consume carbohydrates prior to exercise, they inherently burn more carbohydrate for fuel, along with less fat, during their workout. [3,4]

So, to “force” your body, in a sense, to utilize fat for fuel, you avoid eating prior to training.

Helps Eliminate Unwanted Belly Fat

No matter how slim, toned, or ripped you may be, you’re bound to have at least one area on your body that holds some “stubborn” fat. Be it the hips, thighs, or lower abdomen, each of us has one region of fat that won’t go away, regardless of how much we diet or exercise.

But, just because we have trouble with that one area of stubborn fat, doesn’t mean we have poor genetics. You see, stubborn fat is a “defense mechanism” of sorts your body has to protect against extremely low levels of body fat.

The good news is, is that fasted cardio can help you eliminate stubborn fat.

How so?

Let’s review a bit about what makes stubborn body fat so “stubborn” anyway.

Every one of the fat cells in your body has receptors on them, and chemicals your body produces called catecholamines bind to these receptors. Now, these fat cell receptors fall into one of two categories — alpha receptors and beta receptors. [5,6]

We’ll spare you the complex inner workings of how these receptors specifically affect fat loss/storage, and summarize it as basically:

  • Alpha receptors — block fat burning
  • Beta receptors — promote fat burning

The more alpha receptors a fat cell has, the more “stubborn” it is to release its stored fatty acids for oxidation, and the more beta receptors a fat cell has, the more readily it can be accessed.

As you probably guessed, the regions of fat on your body that won’t see to go away are more densely packed with alpha receptors than beta receptors, which is part of the reason they are harder to get rid.

But it doesn’t end there.

Regions of stubborn body fat also receive less blood flow, and this brings us back to our discussion of catecholamines and alpha/beta receptors.

The less blood flow an area of fat your body receives, the fewer catecholamines those fat cells are exposed two. Coupled with the fact that those areas already have a higher concentration of alpha receptors than beta receptors, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for incredibly stubborn body fat that just won’t go away.

Now, here’s where the real beauty of fasted cardio comes into the picture.

When you train in a fasted state, blood flow to the abdominal region is increased [8], which means that those areas of stubborn body fat receive greater amounts of those fat burning chemicals called catecholamines.

You can further up the ante on eliminating stubborn body fat, by supplementing with ingredients such as yohimbine, which serve as alpha receptor antagonists. These compounds bind to alpha receptors, turning them “off” in a sense and allowing greater amounts of catecholamines like adrenaline and noradrenaline to bind to beta receptors and “open the floodgates” to help burn stubborn body fat.

Workout Done for the Day

One of the less discussed benefits of training fasted is that by working out first thing in the morning, you’ve already ticked the “work out” box of the day, and now you have the rest of the day to focus on the more important things like work, family, etc.

Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll also have greater energy, mood, and focus thanks to the flood of brain-boosting chemicals that are released during the course of exercise, helping you be more productive during the early part of your day when so many other people can’t seem to function without 4-6 cups of coffee.

Avoid Stomach Upset

For many people, they train fasted simply because training shortly after eating leads to indigestion, nausea, and just a general feeling of sluggishness and lethargy. By training fasted, you avoid the rather unpleasant sensation of feeling like you’re going to puke after a set of heavy squats (at least partially) or high-intensity interval training.

The Drawback (Cons) of Fasted Cardio

Increased Potential to “Bonking”

Food is fuel for our body.

If you train first thing in the morning upon waking, and your muscles have fully replenished their glycogen stores overnight, it’s very possible you will “bonk” or “hit a wall” during your workout.

This “bonking” sensation is caused by low blood glucose and glycogen levels in the body. In a sense, your muscles are running low and fuel, and your ability to hit “top speed” is significantly diminished.

But what if eating prior to training causes my stomach to feel upset?

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to train with a full-feeling stomach, yet still seems to bonk during their workouts, try having a small, low-fiber snack like a banana or glass of orange juice 30-45 minutes prior to training.

These options are rapidly digested, meaning they’ll be in and out of your stomach quickly. You’ll avoid the full stomach feeling and have ample glucose to power you through your training.

Reduced Training Intensity

Training fasted, while it might be good for burning belly fat, isn’t really all that ideal when it comes to high-intensity forms of exercise, such as sprinting or heavy resistance training.

Remember, glucose (glycogen) is the kind of fuel your muscles thrive on for intense exercise, regardless of what the keto, primal, and low carb communities tell you. Simply put, if you want a superior quality workout, you want some form of carbohydrate in your system.

Your body cannot oxidize fat as quickly as it can glucose [12].

You see, the body will prioritize which nutrient it burns for fuel, provided all are available. This order of energy substrate utilization is:

  1. Blood Glucose (blood sugar)
  2. Muscle Glycogen (the storage form of glucose)
  3. Body Fat
  4. Protein (pulled from muscle)

So, what this means, is that if carbs are available, whether in the form of circulating blood sugar or muscle glycogen, your body will burn it before it touches body fat or dietary fat. This also means that during high-intensity exercise, your body will want carbohydrates to burn, as it is the nutrient most easily converted to usable energy. It can use fat, but it’s far from optimal and not very efficient.

As such, if you want to maximize performance, you don’t want to train on a fasted stomach.

Higher Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is the stress hormone your body releases when energy stores are low. Performing exercise of any kind prompts an increase in cortisol, as does fasting. Do both of these actions frequently enough (i.e. fasted training) and you may start to develop chronically elevated cortisol levels, which promotes fat storage and reduce fat burning. [9,10]

The Verdict on Fasted Training

So, it appears that there’s both good and bad when it comes to fasted training, as it is with most things in life.

But, there are a few other things that warrant consideration.

First, we know that that the number of calories you burn during a workout account for a very small fraction of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). What you eat during the day and how much of a deficit you use has a far greater impact on your ability to lose weight than whether you train fasted or not.

There’s even some research by Dr. Brad Schoenfeld et al. that shows that there is no difference in body composition changes (i.e. fat loss) when it comes to training fasted vs training fed. [11]

Additionally, there’s also some research noting that if you burn greater amounts of fat during an earlier part of the day (i.e. performing fasted cardio first thing in the morning), your body will actually burn less fat later on in the day. [13]

Essentially what happens, is that the body more or less “compensates” for the increased fat burning it did earlier in the day by downregulating fat burning and upregulating glucose burning the rest of the day.

In the end, training fasted can be useful for some morning bouts of cardio if you’re trying to lose some stubborn body fat, but if you’re looking to maximize performance or just lose fat in general, training fed would be the superior option.

Training in a fed state ensures that energy stores are topped off and you’ll be able to push harder in your workouts, which allows you to burn more calories, ultimately creating a larger caloric deficit. This ultimately winds up in a better fat loss and body composition.

But, for those days when you want to sweat it out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and rid stubborn belly fat for good, there’s only one option…

Steel Sweat — THE Best Pre-Workout for Fasted Cardio

Steel Sweat™ is a metabolic catalyst that increases thermogenesis, energy expenditure, and fat burning. The all-natural ingredients in Steel Sweat™ help burn stubborn body fat and help you achieve the lean, trim physique that you’ve strived so long to achieve.

Simply mix up a scoop first thing in the morning before hitting the gym and you’re on your way to banishing belly fat for good!

References

  1. Vieira, A. F., Costa, R. R., Macedo, R. C. O., Coconcelli, L., & Kruel, L. F. M. (2016). Effects of aerobic exercise performed in fasted v. fed state on fat and carbohydrate metabolism in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Nutrition, 116(7), 1153–1164. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114516003160
  2. Burke, L. M., Kiens, B., & Ivy, J. L. (2004). Carbohydrates and fat for training and recovery. Journal of Sports Sciences, 22(1), 15–30. https://doi.org/10.1080/0264041031000140527
  3. Ahlborg, G., & Felig, P. (1976). Influence of glucose ingestion on fuel-hormone response during prolonged exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 41(5 Pt. 1), 683–688. https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1976.41.5.683
  4. Horowitz, J. F., Mora-Rodriguez, R., Byerley, L. O., & Coyle, E. F. (1997). Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise. The American Journal of Physiology, 273(4 Pt 1), E768-75.
  5. Lefkowitz, R. J. (1979). Direct binding studies of adrenergic receptors: biochemical, physiologic, and clinical implications. Annals of Internal Medicine, 91(3), 450–458.
  6. Strosberg AD. Structure, function, and regulation of adrenergic receptors. Protein Science : A Publication of the Protein Society. 1993;2(8):1198-1209.
  7. Manolopoulos, K. N., Karpe, F., & Frayn, K. N. (2012). Marked resistance of femoral adipose tissue blood flow and lipolysis to adrenaline in vivo. Diabetologia, 55(11), 3029–3037. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-012-2676-0
  8. Gjedsted, J., Gormsen, L. C., Nielsen, S., Schmitz, O., Djurhuus, C. B., Keiding, S., … Moller, N. (2007). Effects of a 3-day fast on regional lipid and glucose metabolism in human skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Acta Physiologica (Oxford, England), 191(3), 205–216. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.2007.01740.x
  9. Hill, E. E., Zack, E., Battaglini, C., Viru, M., Viru, A., & Hackney, A. C. (2008). Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 31(7), 587–591. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03345606
  10. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M., & Rebuffe-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity Research, 2(3), 255–262.
  11. Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., Wilborn, C. D., Krieger, J. W., & Sonmez, G. T. (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 54. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7
  12. Jeukendrup A. A Step Towards Personalized Sports Nutrition: Carbohydrate Intake During Exercise. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2014;44(Suppl 1):25-33. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0148-z.
  13. Paoli, A., Marcolin, G., Zonin, F., Neri, M., Sivieri, A., & Pacelli, Q. F. (2011). Exercising fasting or fed to enhance fat loss? Influence of food intake on respiratory ratio and excess postexercise oxygen consumption after a bout of endurance training. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21(1), 48–54.

The Complete Guide to Thermogenesis

When it comes to weight loss supplements and fat burners, the words “thermogenesis” and “thermogenic” are used extremely frequently. Based on the way these two words are splashed across advertisements, you’re led to believe it’s a good thing to boost, increase, or enhance.

But have you ever wondered what thermogenesis means, or why you would want to increase it?

That’s what this guide is for.

We’re here to explain all the ins and outs of thermogenesis and why you want your fat burner to increase it, especially if you want to drop the fat fast.

What is Thermogenesis?

Thermogenesis is the metabolic process by which organisms burn calories in order to generate heat.

A simpler way to say that is thermogenesis is the body’s way of producing heat. It does this by “burning” calories.

Thermogenics are ingredients or supplements that help increase the production of heat in the body, and as a result, increase the number of calories you expend. This translates to greater calorie burn throughout the day, which in theory, should help you lose weight faster.

There are a number of ingredients commonly touted as thermogenics, which we’ll get to a little later in this article, but first, let’s take a moment to review the different types of thermogenesis that occur in the body.

Types of Thermogenesis

On the surface, thermogenesis seems fairly straightforward — it’s how your body produces heat. But, as it turns out, there’s not just one type of thermogenesis. Science has broken it down into three (or four, depending on the classification scheme) types.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a second to review each of the different forms and discuss what separates them from one another.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) consists of the calories your body burns to carry out essential functions for survival. This includes such things as circulating blood throughout the body, breathing, etc.

Essentially, BMR accounts for the energy to perform vital body processes while you’re at rest. It’s the number of calories your body burns if you did nothing but lay in bed all day long.

Basal metabolic rate is the largest contributor to energy expenditure during the day, [1] accounting for 60-75% of total calories burned.

Diet-Induced Thermogenesis

The second type of thermogenesis is diet-induced thermogenesis. Scientists have defined diet-induced thermogenesis as:

“the increase in energy expenditure above basal fasting level divided by the energy content of the food ingested and is commonly expressed as a percentage” [2]

A simpler explanation of diet-induced thermogenesis would be — the number of calories you burn eating, digesting, absorbing, and transporting nutrients from the food you ate.

Now, here’s where things get interesting with diet-induced thermogenesis. Each macronutrient has a different thermic effect of food, meaning that your body burns different amounts of calories depending on what type of food you’re eating.

So, let’s take a look at that now:

  • Protein – The most metabolically demanding macronutrient for your body to digest and absorb. [3] Its thermic effect of food is about 20-35%, which means that if you eat a piece of protein that contains 100 calories, depending on what type of protein it is, your body will burn 20-35 calories simply trying to break down that food.
  • Carbohydrate – After protein, carbohydrate is the next most metabolically demanding macronutrient to digest and absorb. Its thermic effect of food is 5-10% of calories consumed. [4]
  • Fat – The least calorie-intensive macronutrient to digest and absorb is fat. It has a thermic effect of food of about 5%.

In total, the thermic effect of food, or diet-induced thermogenesis, accounts for about 10% of your total daily energy expenditure.

Now, most of you reading this don’t eat one single type of macronutrient at a time. Even a whey protein shake, which is mostly protein, still has trace amounts of carbohydrates and fat. So, how do you figure out the diet-induced thermogenesis of a mixed meal?

Let’s use whey protein as an example:

Let’s say your scoop of whey protein contains 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, and 2 grams of fat.

How do you figure out the thermic effect of food with this?

Simple!

Just use the percentages we listed above for each of the macronutrients, and you’ll have an estimate of how many calories your body expends digesting your whey protein shake.

So, it would look something like this:

  • Protein = 25 grams * 4 calories/gram = 100 calories
  • Carbohydrate = 3 grams * 4 calories/gram = 12 calories
  • Fat = 2 grams * 9 calories/gram = 18 calories

This gives us a total of 130 calories from our scoop of protein.

To figure out how many calories you’re actually getting from this whey protein shake, we’ll apply the percentages we listed above:

  • Protein = 25% * 100 calories = 25 calories burned
  • Carbohydrate = 10% * 12 calories = 1.2 calories burned
  • Fat = 5% * 18 calories = 0.9 calories burned

Thermic effect of food = 25 + 1.2 + 0.9 = 27.1 calories burned

Net calorie yield from whey protein shake = 130 – 27.1 = 102.9 calories

As you can see, due to the thermic effect of food, that 130 calorie protein shake may only deliver 102.9 calories of actual energy.

Based on this simple example, you can see how your food selections can have a significant impact on energy balance (calories in vs calories out). Diets with a higher proportion of protein will inherently require more energy to digest than diets with lower proportions of protein. This is why many coaches and trainers advocate high protein diets, especially during times of weight loss.

Not only do high protein diets lead to a greater calorie burn, protein also is more satiating than either carbohydrates or fats. Eating more protein can help you feel fuller for longer, which is a very good thing if you’re dieting and reducing overall calorie intake each day.

Now, let’s discuss the final factor impacting thermogenesis.

Energy Cost of Physical Activity

The final form of thermogenesis comes from your daily activity. Exercise scientists have further divided this category into two “subcategories”, which is why we said there were four types of thermogenesis at the top.

Those two subcategories are:

  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
  • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, as you probably guessed, is the calories your body expends during any type of exercise you perform. This includes weight lifting, steady-state cardio (walking or jogging), high-intensity interval training, CrossFit, etc. Basically, any type of structured physical activity that’s more intense than just walking from point A to point B falls under this subcategory.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis describes the number of calories you expend in all other physical activity that isn’t specifically “exercise”. This includes standing, walking from room to room, tapping your finger or foot, fidgeting, etc. This number is highly variable depending on how much you move around during the day. For example, someone who works a physically demanding, manual labor job will burn far more calories during the day than a sedentary office worker who spends 8 hours each day sitting at a desk.

Combining both exercise activity thermogenesis and non-exercise activity thermogenesis gives us our total energy cost of physical activity each day. This number can vary between 15-30% of your total daily energy expenditure [5], depending on how active you are on a given day.

This constitutes all the major contributors to daily thermogenesis. Add each of these three major categories up, and you have your total daily energy expenditure.

Now, let’s look at a few outside factors that could potentially increase thermogenesis.

Thermal Stress

Thermal stress refers to the impact the temperature of the environment has on your body temperature. You see, while we can survive in any number of climates, your core temperature has a very limited range that is considered safe. Go any higher or lower than this range, and things start going very bad, very quickly for you.

The body can only tolerate a drop-in body temperature of approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and a rise in temperature of 5 degrees Fahrenheit. If the average temperature of a person is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, this gives you a “safe range” of about 88.6-103.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that this is the range your body can survive. It’s certainly not optimal to be at the extremes of this range though.

So, what happens if you do start to drift too far away from the typical 98.6-degree core temperature?

Fortunately for you, the hypothalamus has that handled.

When it gets too hot and your core temperature starts to rise, your body will use one of four processes to cool you off:

  • Conduction
  • Convection
  • Radiation
  • Evaporation

Heat leaves the body via evaporation when you sweat and respirate (breathe). Additionally, your body will also move warm blood to superficial blood vessels (ones closer to the skin). Note that this can lead to a reddish or flushed appearance.

When it’s too cold outside (blizzard in the middle of winter), your body tries to keep warm. It does this by pulling blood away from your hands, feet, face, and directing it towards your core, which keeps your better insulated.

Your body can also increase thermogenesis by shivering, which keeps you warm and significantly boosts metabolism!

In both of these scenarios, your daily thermogenesis (and total daily energy expenditure) is ramped up considerably.

Now, a lot of people will take this thermal stress effect and attempt to train in very hot or very cold environments. While it may seem like a good idea to train in adverse climates, in the effort to create an even greater calorie burn, the truth is, it wouldn’t be all that effective.

You see, when you train in extreme climate conditions, your performance suffers substantially, so while your body might be burning more calories trying to maintain its temperature, your actually not having as effective of a workout as you would be if you were training in a more “normal” training environment.

We’ve just about covered everything that can impact thermogenesis on a day in, day out basis, except supplements.

As we stated at the beginning thermogenic supplements make up a huge portion of the weight loss supplement market, but…

Can Supplements Actually Increase Thermogenesis?

YOU BET they do!

Sports nutrition scientists have discovered several supplements that do increase thermogenesis, and research confirms as much. These thermogenic supplements increase energy expenditure, helping you burn more calories each day (even while you rest!) and lose fat faster.

Let’s take a look at some of the best thermogenic supplements on the market.

Best Thermogenic Supplements

Paradoxine®

Paradoxine® is a patented extract of Grains of Paradise, a pungent West African spice that belongs to the ginger family. Paradoxine® stimulates the brown fat on your body, increasing thermogenesis and energy expenditure that help support weight loss. [6,7]

Ginger Root

Commonly seen in Asian cooking, ginger is another pungent spice loaded with metabolism-boosting compounds. These compounds are called gingerols, with 6-gingerol being the one most well known as a “thermogenic”.

6-gingerol activates the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ (PPARδ), which increases thermogenesis by “browning” white fat, similar to how Paradoxine works. [8,9,10] This leads to greater calorie burn during the day, and ultimately faster fat loss.

CapsiAtra®

One of the newest thermogenics to burst onto the scene is CapsiAtra®, a patented extract of sweet peppers standardized for dihydrocapsiate, a close relative of capsaicin. As you might know, capsaicin is the pungent alkaloid naturally present in chile peppers that gives them the tongue-numbing bite.

The difference between CapsiAtra® and capsaicin is that CapsiAtra® doesn’t come with the unpleasant GI upset and off-putting “burning” sensation that capsaicin does.

As far as effectiveness, human studies using the novel thermogenic supplement note it can help you burn an extra 50 calories per day via increasing fat oxidation and energy expenditure. [11]

Evodiamine

Extracted from Evodiae Fructus, a member of the Tetradium genus of plants, Evodiamine is another potent that is similar to capsaicin. As such, evodiamine is itself a strong thermogenic, and on top of that, it’s also been shown to inhibit fat uptake. [12,13]

This means that not only can evodiamine help you burn more calories during the day, but it may also help prevent you from absorbing some of the fat calories from your meals too!

Now, you could try to source all of these ingredients yourself and formulate your own potent thermogenic fat burning supplement, but that tends to involve a lot of time, effort, and expense.

We’ve already done the research and development for you and created the perfect thermogenic for your fat loss needs in Steel Sweat!

Steel Sweat — The Ultimate Thermogenic Supplement

If you’re looking to enhance thermogenesis, increase calorie burn, and accelerate fat loss, there’s no better place to look than Steel Sweat.

Steel Sweat™ contains a powerful matrix of proven thermogenic agents including Paradoxine®, Ginger root, Evodiamine, and CapsiAtra®, along with several other performance-enhancing, fat-melting ingredients such as caffeine and L-Carnitine L-Tartrate.

Each serving of Steel Sweat™ will help boost performance during your cardio sessions, spiking your metabolism and burning calories like never before. Steel Sweat also works well as a lower stim fat-burning pre-workout on your resistance training days as well. The lipolytic agents present in Steel Sweat help burn fat for fuel, thereby sparing your glycogen stores for the really intense lifts during your workout.

Steel Sweat™ is ideal for any training scenario and can help you lose fat faste, while achieving your performance goals. Just be ready for the heat wave that ensues. No other supplement creates the burn

References

  1. Sabounchi NS, Rahmandad H, Ammerman A. Best Fitting Prediction Equations for Basal Metabolic Rate: Informing Obesity Interventions in Diverse Populations. International journal of obesity (2005). 2013;37(10):1364-1370. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.218.
  2. Westerterp KR. Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2004;1:5. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-1-5.
  3. Halton, T., Hu, F. 2004. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 23(5): 373-85
  4. Nair, K., Halliday, D., Garrow, J. 1982. Thermic response to isoenergetic protein, carbohydrate or fat meals in lean and obese subjects. Clinical Science 65: 307-312
  5. Berardi, J., Andrews, R. 2013. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition 2nd ed. Precision Nutrition, Inc. pp 101-102
  6. Sugita, J., Yoneshiro, T., et al; “Grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta) extract activates brown adipose tissue and increases whole-body energy expenditure in men”; British Journal of Nutrition; (2013) 110(4), pp. 733–738;
  7. Sugita J, Yoneshiro T, et al; “Daily ingestion of grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta) extract increases whole-body energy expenditure and decreases visceral fat in humans”; Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology; 2014, 60(1): 22-27;
  8. Wang, S., Zhang, C., Yang, G., & Yang, Y. (2014). Biological properties of 6-gingerol: a brief review. Natural Product Communications, 9(7), 1027–1030.
  9. Misawa, K., Hashizume, K., Yamamoto, M., Minegishi, Y., Hase, T., & Shimotoyodome, A. (2015). Ginger extract prevents high-fat diet-induced obesity in mice via activation of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta pathway. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 26(10), 1058–1067. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.04.014
  10. Saravanan, G., Ponmurugan, P., Deepa, M. A., & Senthilkumar, B. (2014). Anti-obesity action of gingerol: effect on lipid profile, insulin, leptin, amylase and lipase in male obese rats induced by a high-fat diet. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 94(14), 2972–2977. https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.6642
  11. Galgani JE, Ravussin E. Effect of dihydrocapsiate on resting metabolic rate in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;92(5):1089-1093. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.30036.
  12. Wang T, et al. Evodiamine improves diet-induced obesity in a uncoupling protein-1-independent manner: involvement of antiadipogenic mechanism and extracellularly regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling. Endocrinology. (2008)
  13. Zhang LL, et al. Activation of transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 channel prevents adipogenesis and obesity. Circ Res. (2007)

The Best Core Exercises to Protect You from Injury

Stepping into the gym, most people are focused on growing their biceps, increasing their bench press, or taking countless selfies by the mirror. While each of these has their place in the gym, except the selfie nonsense that is, there’s a glaring omission from most athletes’ training regimen — core training.

Ask the typical gym goer if they’re training their core, and you’ll almost always get the same reply — they do a few sets of sit-ups or crunches at the end of their workouts 3-4 times per week. Here’s the dirty little secret though…

Endless bouts of crunches and sit-ups aren’t the solution to building a rock-solid core, but they are the way to a really achy and sore low back. The way to a stable, strong, and ironclad core are ones that strengthen the entire girdle of muscles enveloping your midsection, not just your abdominals. Proper core training increase balance, stability, and performance in just about everything else you do in life!

More than just Abs

When people think about training their core, they almost always focus on crunches and sit-ups. What they fail to realize, aside from the fact that these exercises are far from the most effective ab exercises, is that the core is made up of much, much more than just your 6 pack. In fact, the core is best described as a complex (lumbopelvic-hip complex, to be precise) of multiple muscles including [1]:

  • Diaphragm (superior)
  • Abdominal and oblique muscles (anterior-lateral)
  • Paraspinal and gluteal muscles (posterior)
  • Pelvic floor and hip girdle (inferior).

As you can see, the core isn’t just your abs on the front of your body. It’s actually a three-dimensional “corset” of muscles that stabilize the trunk and spine. Core stability is a foundational component of everyday movement. Lack of core stability makes daily tasks like picking up the groceries difficult and athletic activities (i.e. squatting) virtually impossible. Improving core stability enhances your power, efficiency, and control in just every other sports skill imaginable.

The trick is to avoid these common core training errors.

Core Training Mistakes

  • Too Many Exercises

    Sure, the idea of performing 5, 10, or 15 exercises for your core might sound like a great workout. You’ll certainly work up a sweat and “feel” like you’ve had an effective workout, but a more appropriate approach would be to select 2-3 exercises at most.

    Focusing on only a few movements allows you to better judge how well your core is performing at certain functions. You’ll have a better picture of where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what areas need some work.

  • Waiting Until the End

    Most trainees tend to think of ab/core training as the “finisher” to a tough workout. The truth is, your core is extremely fatigued by the end of your workout from supporting and stabilizing your body during each movement of your workout.

    A smarter approach would be to perform one or two core exercises during your warm up prior to hitting the weights. Performing core training prior to lifting helps activate the core and ensures it’s ready for the heavy lifting to follow. This way, your body is primed and ready for when you go for those heavy squats and deadlifts, and you’ll reduce your risk of injury

  • Not Progressing

    Just like curls, squats, and presses, the intensity of core training must be gradually increased in order to keep progressing. The same rules apply to core training as they do your standard lifts. To make things more difficult and challenging, increase the number of reps, sets, or load for the exercise. You can also employ more difficult variations of the exercise if you’ve gotten out everything from the current variation you’re using.

    In line with this, don’t be afraid to change up your core training routine from time to time. You prioritize your weight training routine (or you should be), and core training is no different!

5 Crushing Core Exercises

Planks

  • Get into a low plank position with your elbows directly under your shoulders, back flat with eyes looking at the ground
  • Brace your core by pulling navel towards your spine and hold for time
Perform 3-4 sets holding the plank for 60-120 seconds

Note: Plank can be progressed to a high plank where you assume a push-up position and hold for the specified time.

Superman

  • Lie prone (face-down) on the floor or mat
  • Simultaneously elevate your arms and upper back above your head as well as your legs (stomach remains in contact with the ground)
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds
  • Lower under control to the starting position
  • Repeat for prescribed number of repetitions
Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps

Bird Dog

  • Position yourself on your hands and knees with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees below your hips
  • Simultaneously, extend your left hand forward in front of your head while extending your right leg behind you and tightening your abdominal muscles
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds
  • Return to quadruped starting position
  • Now, extending your left leg back while raising your right hand off the mat and extending your arm forward past your head
  • Hold for 10-20 seconds
  • Repeat for prescribed number of reps
Perform 2-3 sets of 5 reps/side

Note: An advanced version of this can be performed by starting in a high plank, push-up position. Lift your right foot off the mat while simultaneously raising your left arm and extending it forward.

Side Plank

  • Lie on your right side with your elbow underneath the body, directly below the shoulder. Left foot stacked on top of right foot
  • Keeping your body rigid and tight, elevate your hips so that you’re only balancing on your forearm and outside edge of your right foot
  • Hold for specified time
  • Repeat on opposite side
Perform 3-4 sets per side holding the plank for 60-120 seconds

Pallof Press

  • Assume an athletic stance perpendicular to a cable machine
  • Using a firm grip, grab single handle attachment and press arms straight out, extended at chest level
  • Relax neck and upper shoulders, focusing on maintaining tight core and not rotating towards the machine
  • Hold press position for a prescribed time
  • Repeat on opposite side
Perform 2-3 sets per side for 30-60 seconds

Core Strong

Hopefully, by now you realize just how vital core training is to your performance and overall function. With a strong core, you’ll be able to tackle anything and everything that stands in your way, without it, you’ll have trouble rolling out of bed in the morning. Use the pointers and exercises outlined above to forge an iron core so that you’re stronger, more durable, and primed for the big time.

References

  1. Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE. Core Stability Training for Injury Prevention. Sports Health. 2013;5(6):514-522. doi:10.1177/1941738113481200.

Feeder Workouts: Do Feeder Workouts Work?

Typical resistance-training recommendations are as follows:

  • Train a group of muscle intensely and don’t train it again for another 48-72 hoursOR
  • Assault one muscle group with everything you have and don’t train it again for another 5-7 days, or until you’re not sore.

No doubt you’ve heard these same recommendations, or something very similar to them, at one point or another in your lifting career. The reality is, neither of these recommendations hold much water and these “rules of lifting” may actually be holding you back from bigger and better muscle gains.

What if you could actually work the same muscle group(s) on consecutive days and have it not inhibit recovery, but actually promote growth?!

You’d probably think we were crazy.

Well, there’s a little something called feeder workouts, and it may be just what you need to bring up those lagging body parts once and for all!

What are Feeder Workouts?

Feeder workouts are “mini” workouts completed completely separate from your regular workout. In other words, the day after a heavy lifting day, you do a separate workout later that day or, ideally, the following day targeting those exact same muscles you hit on the previous day but for only 3 sets using very light weight and lots and lots of reps.

For example, let’s say on Monday you trained your pushing muscles (i.e. chest, shoulders, and triceps). Then, on Tuesday, before or after your normal training routine you do your feeder workout for chest, shoulder, and triceps. This feeder workout would contain primarily isolation exercises that allow you to really concentrate on the target muscle using very strict form and high reps.

An example feeder workout for your push muscles would be:

  • Pec Dec = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Lateral Raise = 3 sets, 50-100 reps
  • Dumbbell Skull-Crushers = 3 sets, 50-100 reps

Now, jumping right out of the gate performing 50-100 reps in a single set, even using very light weight is incredibly taxing both mentally and physically — the burning sensation that sets in during feeder workouts is unlike anything you’ve experienced before!

The goal of these feeder workouts isn’t to pulverize the muscle and blast it into oblivion. These mini workouts should be looked at low intensity pump work, with the goal being to drive as much nutrient-rich blood into the muscles you trained the previous day. Remember muscle grows when stimulated, not annihilated, no matter what the gym bros tell you!

Why Feeder Workouts work?

  • Extended Protein Synthesis

    Feeder workouts prolong, or extend, the amount of time increased muscle protein synthesis occurs in a muscle group. Normally, when a muscle group is trained, protein synthesis is elevated for roughly 24 hours and returns to normal levels around the 36-hour post training mark.

    By performing another mini workout 24 hours after the first one, you prolong the increased protein synthesis occurring in your muscle by another 12-24 hours.

    The catch here, is that growth will only occur if you’re fueling properly. You’re only going to grow and promote repair and recovery if you’re consuming ample protein and eating at a caloric surplus.

  • Improved Mind-Muscle Connection

    Simply put, the human body gets better at things it does frequently. If you want to get better at pull ups, you need to start doing pull ups more often. The reason for this is that you’re increasing training volume, which your muscles adapt to by growing bigger and stronger, but in addition to getting stronger, you also establish a stronger mind-muscle connection, or an increased “awareness” of which muscle should be working during a given exercise.

    Feeder workouts are especially great if you struggle feel certain muscle groups firing during a lift. For example, don’t feel your lats working while doing pull ups (along with the other muscles of the back), performing a feeder workout the following day of straight-arm lat pulldowns may strengthen your mind-muscle connection to your lats, which translates to better lat recruitment during your subsequent pull up workouts leading to better workouts and bigger gains!

  • Shoring up Weaknesses

    Following your heavy lifting day, the trained muscles are incredibly responsive to less intense or traumatic training methods, i.e. light weights, high reps. This is great for bringing up lagging muscle groups that may be holding back your heavier compound movements.

    For example, if you struggle with the lockout portion of a bench press or overhead press, performing lighter weight, higher rep tricep work the day after your heavy presses, using very strict form while focusing on the contraction, will bring strengthen your triceps and translate to better performance in your heavier compound lifts.

Feed to Grow!

Feeder workouts are rarely discussed when discussing muscle growth. However, they represent an incredibly effective way to increase training volume without overtaxing your central nervous system (CNS) or muscles the way that high volume, high frequency heavy lifting programs can. Remember to keep the feeder workouts light and high rep but limit each exercise to 3 sets and only ONE exercise per muscle group. Coupled with a proper muscle-building diet, you’ll be astounded at how quickly your weak points become your best assets, all thanks to feeder workouts!

Peak ATP® – Train Stronger

PEAK ATP® is a clinically validated and patented form of adenosine 5’-triphosphate (ATP) disodium shown to improve body composition and athletic performance by increasing muscular excitability, blood flow, and recovery. * Steel Pump Peak Performance Pre-Workout contains 450 mg of PEAK ATP® per serving.

How Does Peak ATP® Work?

For years, scientists were only aware of the function of ATP within the cell (intracellular). In the 1980s, a major breakthrough in ATP research was achieved when it was discovered that ATP has a major role outside the cell (extracellular) as well.

Purinergic receptors that accept ATP are embedded in the plasma membrane of the cell. ATP acts as a signaling molecule directly upon these receptors, where it controls numerous metabolic reactions, including Muscular Excitability®, vasodilation, and anabolic signaling. *

PEAK ATP® increases levels of extracellular ATP1,2 thereby it:

  • Boosts Muscular Excitability®*

    • Calcium is the main stimulating agent telling muscles to contract.
    • Extracellular ATP boosts levels of calcium and glucose within the cells. *
    • When intracellular calcium levels rise, there is also an increase in the number of muscle filaments binding and the velocity at which these muscle filaments slide to create a contraction.
    • These two factors directly impact muscle strength and power. *
  • Increases Vasodilation

    • Extracellular ATP causes capillaries to synthesize and release nitric oxide (NO) and endothelial derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF). *
    • Both of these substances are potent vasodilators and increase blood flow. *
    • Increased blood flow facilitates the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells and the removal of metabolic waste, benefiting nearly every tissue in the body. *
  • Activates Anabolic Signaling*

    • Protein is the building block of muscle. Therefore, to gain lean body mass and increase muscle thickness, the body needs to have sufficient amounts of protein available.
    • ATP stimulates protein synthesis, helping build new muscle tissue. *

What is Muscular Excitability?

Muscular Excitability® refers to the ability to activate muscle, thereby causing it to contract. The greater the excitability of the muscle, the greater its force, velocity, and endurance properties will be. Muscle is excited by the release of calcium into the cell, which serves as the trigger for contraction. PEAK ATP® works by increasing and sustaining the amount of calcium available to the muscle, which boosts muscular excitability. The result is the athlete will lift more weight and produce a greater number of repetitions per set.

ATP and Muscular Fatigue

When an athlete becomes fatigued, performance suffers. Everyone knows this is true, but why does it happen?

Muscular fatigue is caused by a decrease in muscular excitability, or the muscle’s ability to respond rapidly to a stimulating agent telling the muscle to contract. That stimulating agent is calcium.

Unfortunately, exercise depletes calcium from muscle cells, causing a decrease in muscular excitability and an increase in fatigue. In fact, a 50% decrease in calcium can result in an 80% reduction in force.3

The key to fighting muscular fatigue is to increase muscular excitability.
Increases in muscular excitability lead to an increase in the intensity of muscle contractions.

Key Peak ATP® Benefits

  • Increase Total Strength by 147%

    An athlete will lift more weight and produce a greater number of repetitions per set with oral supplementation of PEAK ATP® versus placebo. Clinical Evidence

  • Increases Power by 30%

    PEAK ATP® causes significant increases in vertical jump power versus placebo. Clinical Evidence

  • Reduces Muscular Fatigue

    PEAK ATP® improves muscular endurance, providing more benefits as more repetitions and sets are performed. Vasodilation and blood flow were higher following ATP supplementation, which would drive recovery processes. Clinical Evidence

  • Increases Lean Body Mass by 100%

    PEAK ATP® significantly increases lean body mass and muscle thickness over placebo.* Clinical Evidence

  • Improves Blood Flow Up to 54%

    PEAK ATP® supplementation increases the amount of ATP in red blood cells. When muscles are fatigued, red blood cells release ATP into the blood. The ATP binds to blood vessels and causes them to dilate. The end result is increased blood flow, oxygen delivery, and clearance of metabolic waste products such as lactate. Clinical Evidence

  • Enlarges Muscle Calcium Pool

    Muscle is excited by the release of calcium into the cell, which serves as the trigger for contraction. PEAK ATP® works by increasing and sustaining the amount of calcium in the cell. As a result, athletes can lift more weight and produce a greater number of repetitions per set. *4

Is Peak ATP® the Next Generation of NO?

L-citrulline or L-arginine are amino acid precursors to nitric oxide and have been marketed as potential ergogenic aids based on their ability to increase blood flow to the exercising muscle. However, the daily dose needed to increase blood flow is high (6-24g) and the ergogenic response may depend on the training status and health of the subjects. Whereas some studies involving untrained or moderately healthy subjects showed that nitric oxide donors could improve tolerance to aerobic and anaerobic exercise, no significant improvements were measured in healthy or highly-trained subjects.

In contrast, oral PEAK ATP® increases blood flow at mg doses and has been shown to increase lean body mass, strength and power in highly trained individuals. Therefore, oral 400mg/day ATP supplementation is an apparently efficacious method if the intent is increasing post-exercise blood flow, oxygen and nutrient delivery.

Who Benefits from PEAK ATP® Supplementation?

  • Serious Athletes, Strength Competitors, and Bodybuilders

    Athletes of all kinds are always looking for something to give them a competitive edge — whether for increasing power, strength, and muscle mass, reducing fatigue, or improving recovery. PEAK ATP® does it all. * PEAK ATP® is acceptable for use in sports and is not banned by any athletic body.

  • Casual Athletes and Weekend Warriors

    Increasingly, everyday people trying to stay in shape are looking for supplements that can help them reap the most reward with the least effort. Because PEAK ATP® increases the work volume of a workout, it can help even the casual athlete or weekend warrior make the most of time spent exercising. *

  • Aging Adults and Those Wanting to Improve Body Composition

    Sarcopenia is the normal loss of approximately 1.5% of muscle mass every year after the age of 40. Exercise is the most powerful tool to counteract sarcopenia, and PEAK ATP® can help maximize the effects of exercise on muscle mass and strength.

References

  1. Kichenin K et al. Cardiovascular and pulmonary response to oral administration of ATP in rabbits. J. Appl. Physiol. 2000; 88:1962-1968
  2. Kichenin K, et al. Chronic Oral Administration of ATP Modulates Nucleoside Transport and Purine Metabolism in Rats. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Therap. 2000; 294:126-133.
  3. Zhang SJ et al. Limited oxygen diffusion accelerates fatigue development in mouse skeletal muscle. J Psysiol. 2006;572(2):551-9.
  4. Endo M. Calcium-induced calcium release in skeletal muscle. Physiol Rev. 2009, 89(4):1153-1176.

PEAK ATP® is a registered trademark of TSI USA Inc. and is used under license. The video as well as all information found in this blog post is property of TSI USA Inc.

How to Optimize Muscle Soreness

We’ve all felt the thrill (and relief) after crushing a workout. You hit PRs, you made gains, and worked up one heck of an appetite. You feel large, in charge, and on top of your fitness game; that is until, the debilitating soreness from that intense workout slams you in the face!

Yes, the feeling of utterly dominating your workout is indescribable, but those miserable DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) are accompanied by some many expletives that even a sailor would blush.

Isn’t there some way you can rock a hardcore workout, yet still be able to get out of bed without feeling immense soreness in the days after? Of course there is! It’s all about optimizing recovery!

Ahead, we’ve got several tips and tricks for you to crush soreness just like you crushed your workout. With these tips, you’ll recovery faster enabling you to get back in the gym day after day and keep those gains coming.

First Things First

Before we get to the recovery hacks, it’s important for us to stress that these recovery hacks won’t be nearly as effective as they could be if you’re not already doing the things you should be doing. We’re talking about eating the proper amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs to repair and build muscle along with getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep each and every night. Without those two things, the rest of these tips won’t do much good.

So, make sure to properly fuel your body before and after training. And, make sure to get a solid night’s rest every night. Those two things go a long way to ensuring adequate recovery, but for those days when you really take it to your muscles at the gym, these tips will be a life saver.

Recovery Hacks to Crush Soreness

  • Ice Baths

    Following a grueling workout, you’re drenched in sweat. What better way to kick start the recovery process, and cool off at the same time, than taking a dunk in an ice bath?! The reason ice baths accelerate recovery is that immersing your body in ice cold water constricts your blood vessels and reduces swelling. Once you get out of the ice bath, your body immediately begins to warm up, blood vessels dilate, and fresh nutrient rich blood rushes into your muscles, delivering the essential amino acids they need to repair and grow while simultaneously removing metabolic waste products. Research confirms this too, noting that cold water therapy aids recovery and reduces markers of muscle damage. [1]

  • Foam rolling

    Foam rolling, a.k.a. self-myofascial release (SMR), is a fancy way of describing a self-administered remedy for sore muscles. Utilizing anything from a tennis ball to a PVC pipe, foam rolling works by applying pressure to the “trigger” points in your muscles that are causing the aches and pains. “Rolling” over them, or remaining on those painful spots until they loosen, helps restore the smooth, supple, elastic nature of the muscle.

    Exercise breaks down and knots up your muscles. Foam rolling is used to return them to normal. You can do foam rolling before or after your workout, or the days following your workout for when those knots that accumulate during the week.

    Just be careful if you’ve never done any sort of foam rolling before, it can be rather excruciating at times. For this reason, it’s best to start with the softer foam rollers and tennis ball and gradually work your way up to the lacrosse ball and PVC pipe.

  • Massage

    Similar to foam rolling, getting a deep tissue or sports massage can do wonders for relieving muscle soreness in the days after a tough workout. Make sure drink plenty of fluids following your massage, as deep tissue massages in and of themselves can leave you just as sore as your workout did!

  • Compression Gear

    No doubt when watching sports, you see athletes of all kinds wearing compression sleeves on their arms and legs. You’ve probably wondered why in the world, they have these goofy looking sleeves on.

    It’s because compression sleeves (“garments”) can aid recovery. They also can boost performance too. The reason these sleeves work is that they increase circulation by squeezing and compacting (“compressing”) the muscles in your arms and legs. Doing so delivers more oxygen and nutrients while aiding waste removal. Research has shown benefit to using compression garments, but there’s also so showing it doesn’t offer too much benefit. [3,4,5]

    If you’ve exhausted all other options for enhancing recovery, then compression sleeves might be just the thing you need.

  • Active Recovery

    While the thought of doing additional exercise while your crippled with soreness sounds as pleasing as a root canal, doing some form of light exercise the day after your workout can help offset soreness. Performing light, active recovery activities such as hiking, walking, or even yoga can help promote increased blood flow, which helps flush out soreness.

    Bear in mind though, that you don’t want to push the envelope too hard with these active recovery days. The goal is to just get moving, get the blood flowing, and mildly elevate your heart rate. You’re not trying to break any records here, folks. Going too hard on your active recovery activities only serves to hinder the natural recovery processes of the body, prolonging the amount of time you’re sore.

  • BCAAs

    We mentioned food being a critical component of optimizing recovery up top, but we need also need to discuss the role supplements can play in alleviating muscle soreness. One of the most well-researched and proven supplements you can use to stave off soreness and accelerate recovery are branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

    BCAAs are a special group of amino acids primarily responsible for stimulating protein synthesis in the body. Numerous studies have shown that consuming BCAAs around your training can limit exercise-induced muscle damage, promote muscle protein synthesis, and accelerates recovery. [6,7] BCAAs can also help preserve lean muscle while training, due to the fact that exercise breaks down muscle tissue. This makes BCAAs all the more vital to optimal performance, recovery, and growth!

Accelerate Recovery with Steel Fuel

Recovery needs to be taken just as seriously as your training. Choosing the right recovery tools and supplements can be the determining factor in avoiding or facing soreness. Steel Fuel provides 5 grams of BCAA per serving in the research-backed 2:1:1 ratio that boosts endurance, reduces fatigue, supports muscle repair. Combined with a host of vital electrolytes, Steel Fuel provides the required fuel your body needs to perform and recover to the max!

References

  1. Ingram J, Dawson B, Goodman C, Wallman K, Beilby J. Effect of water immersion methods on post-exercise recovery from simulated team sport exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2009;12(3):417-421. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2007.12.011.
  2. Engel FA, Holmberg H-C, Sperlich B. Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing? Sports Med. 2016;46(12):1939-1952. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5.
  3. Born D-P, Sperlich B, Holmberg H-C. Bringing light into the dark: effects of compression clothing on performance and  recovery. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8(1):4-18.
  4. Hamlin MJ, Mitchell CJ, Ward FD, Draper N, Shearman JP, Kimber NE. Effect of compression garments on short-term recovery of repeated sprint and 3-km running performance in rugby union players. J strength Cond Res. 2012;26(11):2975-2982. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182711e0b.
  5. Stickford AS, Chapman RF, Johnston JD, Stager JM. Lower-leg compression, running mechanics, and economy in trained distance runners. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2015;10(1):76-83. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2014-0003.
  6. Negro M, Giardina S, Marzani B, Marzatico F. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008;48(3):347-351.
  7. Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-20.

Muscle Pumps – More than Just Aesthetics

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

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

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

Vasodilation

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

  • Increased Blood Flow

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

  • Improve Nutrient Delivery

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

  • Greater Oxygen Delivery

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

  • Massive Muscle Pumps

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

  • Improved Waste Clearance

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

  • Enhanced Hormone Transport

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

  • Core Temperature Regulation

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

Pumps and Hypertrophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ways to Achieve a Pump

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

  • Pre-Workout Supplement

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

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

  • Carbs are you friend

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

  • Don’t skimp on the salt

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

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

  • High Rep Training

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

Get you Pump on with Steel Pump!

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

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

References

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

Electrolyte Role in the Human Body

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

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

What Are Electrolytes?

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

Sodium

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magnesium

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

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

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

Potassium

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

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

Calcium

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

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

Electrolyte Consumption for Performance

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

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

30 minutes Before Training

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

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

During Training

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

Post-Workout

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

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

Wrap Up

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

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

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

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

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

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

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

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

Which Form is Superior?

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

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