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I read a lot about oxytocin effect on female health and overall feeling of wellbeing during my nutrition, mental health and neuroscience courses. Multiple research findings were pretty fascinating and looked like a solution for all specific “girly” problems. Statistically, the majority of us (especially single working ladies) lacks this miracle hormone that’s why we constantly feel stressed, depressed, gain weight, experience anxiety attacks, sleep deprivation, digestion problems, irregular or painful periods, moodiness and so on. On the other hand, it’s not easy to find the desired partner and build bonding relationships to regulate the natural release of oxytocin. So, I made my research, found oxytocin in a form of nasal spray and decided to test the chemical on myself.
Here is the report.
I got delivered nasal oxytocin spray yesterday. I always try all supplements on myself before I recommend it to my clients. So took it. Results are incredible. But before I share let me tell a couple of words about oxytocin itself:
1) it’s a hormone of bonding (usually our body produces it naturally when we cuddle with the loved ones). Female body also produces oxytocin during breastfeeding.
2) women are more sensitive to oxytocin than men (men produce vasopressin – male bonding hormone similar to oxytocin)
3) oxytocin neutralizes cortisol (the hormone of stress which has catabolic and inflammatory properties as well as provokes water retention, immune system suppression, and increases anxiety). Cortisol reduction helps women feeling more relaxed and satisfied, however, according to multiple studies, it reduces critical reasoning and motivation.
So! What did I feel?
1 hour after the injection: relaxation. My verbal functions and mental sharpness are slightly suppressed but I’m still fine and focused.
2 hours after the injection: I created an affordable package of my services and posted it on my web-site. (I’m not going to earn selling it but I will have more exposure and more opportunities to sell complimentary services, therefore, such as PT sessions). So I’m calm and relaxed but still alert and pretty logical, however, less hungry to profits.
3 hours after the injection: I went to bed because I felt like fall asleep. Usually, I work until I’m done. So, the obsessive motivation for success is gone. The feeling of my personal comfort and wellbeing turned into my top priority. Moreover, my verbal functions are suppressed even more. I don’t feel like to talk at all.
8 hours after the injection: still very relaxed, soft, tolerant. No obsessive motivation to hit the gym straight after getting up.
10 hours after the injection: spent an hour doing facial massage and beauty treatments with no anxiety to be late or lose time doing “unnecessary things”. Caught myself on clear understanding that
– I don’t really care to move back to Russia if in one year time my U.K. business (both of them) is not going to generate enough income to cover their high costs, salaries and my personal expenses (so pretty logical thought isn’t it?)
– I don’t care what anyone will think about it
– My comfort is my first priority
– I’m endlessly calm and relaxed
– I’m not going to work 12 hours a day anymore
– I love and value myself as I am and I’m completely fine with the way I move, look, sound, and so on. (Women will understand the feeling as we always never feel satisfied.)
– I have no water retention even if I’m on the first day of my period
– I have no psychological tension
– I have no muscles inflammation and moodiness
– I’m really fine with everything that’s going on.
1. It works
2. It has positive impact on the body
3. If reduces cortisol as well as “fight or flight” motivational effect (be careful here if you have high-level risk-taking job)
4. It slightly reduces analytical functions and critical reasoning during the first few hours after the injection but both come back in 10 hours. The overall feeling of wellbeing is improved. However, motivation and drive for achievements are shrunk.
I always loved breakfast, being a strong believer that 1) breakfast provides energy for the whole day, and 2) that it allows you to indulge in one or two guilty pleasures such as a piece of dark chocolate, or bowl of cherries. However, your approach to the first meal of the day depends on your goals, lifestyle, and work-schedule. In some cases skipping breakfast could be a highly beneficial strategy for achieving fat-loss.
What sort of situations am I talking about?
People who have just started a fat-loss diet (i.e. untrained or lightly-trained individuals with a body fat percentage of over 30% in females, and over 20% in males);
People who would like to shed fat faster (but not too quickly: there is no magic bullet in holistic nutrition);
Those who have a low-to-no chance of sticking to a very strict diet due to social obligations such as business, travel, dinners out and so on;
People whose bodies have adapted and become resistant to conventional healthy eating schemes, and who have ‘plateaued’ (This actually happened to me after six competition preparation diets over a two-year period);
Those who have a good overall fitness level, but who are trying to get rid of some stubborn fat (for example legs and gluts for ladies and the abs area for men).
If any of these cases apply to you, keep reading.
There are three main ideas behind the strategy of skipping breakfast:
Intensive but limited in-time feeding period
Let’s examine these concepts individually.
If you are not familiar with intermittent fasting protocols, the concept can be summed up as follows: An eight hour ‘feeding period’ followed by sixteen hours of fasting. According to Martin Berkhan, author of the Leangains protocols – a system widely known in the nutrition world – intermittent fasting helps to:
Increase blood flow to ‘stubborn’ fat cells during exercise;
Make the body use fatty acids for energy instead of traditional glucose;
Suppress Insulin release (a fat-gaining hormone);
Elevate concentrations of epinephrine and norepinephrine (lipotropic hormones);
Increase the metabolic rate when resting (the body starts to burn more calories when not exercising).
Berkhan advocates the extended fast (16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of feeding) as a powerful tool for fat-burn. I’d like to make a remark at this point:
Usually men respond better to the 16/8 eating scheme than women, due to hormonal differences. Researchers generally believe that women need a longer feeding period (14/10 or even 12/12) in order to support healthy female sex hormone production. The length of the ‘feeding time’ for women also depends on the menstrual cycle period.
My personal experience
My personal experience of intermittent fasting was extremely positive. I first gave this strategy a try 12 years ago when I experienced sudden weight-gain due to an inability to stick to my usual dietary and exercise routine. My job was extremely demanding at the time, and I consequently tried very hard to get back on track. I followed the extended protocol, skipping dinner instead of breakfast. It worked well and I lost 12 lbs over the course of 3 months, but unfortunately my social life also dropped off.
A month ago I tried intermittent fasting again, as I had to travel a lot and I didn’t have the option of carrying on with my small/frequent meal strategy for a little while. I also felt that my body had adapted and become resistant to the latter technique, as I had been following it for the past two years. I altered the fasting protocol by skipping breakfast instead of dinner. My starting point was the 16/8 scheme, which I initially found sustainable, but within seven days I started feeling a slight lack of energy. I extended my feeding period to 10 hours for another ten days and then to 12 hours, which brought me to the final stage of my menstrual cycle – exactly one week before my period (at this time the female body requires more energy). Then I took three days off, eating clean, small and frequent meals. I started the course again when my period was over.
The overall result for one month was losing 6lbs and a decrease of 1.5% of body fat without being on extremely strict diet (I continued to eat fruits, berries and even had a glass or wine or a piece of dark chocolate occasionally).
Intense training: do resistance training 3-5 times a week and fasted cardio 4-6 times a week before your first meal.
Carb cycling: increase carbs* (sweet potato, butternut squash, whole grain bread and pasta, rise, fruit, etc.) on the resistance training day especially legs day.
Nutrient timing: eat the biggest meal straight after resistance training in order to avoid muscle brake-down and quicken recovery. If you want to increase the fat-burn effect, skip carbs after the fasted cardio.*
The easiest way to try intermittent fasting is by fasting from 9-10 PM until 1-4PM the next day, doing fasted cardio around 11am. In other words, by skipping breakfast. While you can always skip dinner instead, you may find that you end up sacrificing the pleasure of catching up with your friends.
Don’t labour under the delusion that by simply skipping a meal or two you will achieve a fitness model body. The strategy only works effectively with the right combination of meal planning, food selection, fasted cardio programme, workout plan and nutrient-timing.
Fasted cardio is another idea behind beneficial breakfast skipping. When done on an empty stomach, such cardio is a great tool to combat that stubborn fat. The secret is simply this: Your bloodstream is cleared of both glucose and amino acids at that point, so your body burns its own fatty acids for energy. I was doing my fasted cardio as a first break in work from 11am to midday. After cardio I had a balanced high-carb and high-protein breakfast.
However, some practitioners believe that fasted cardio could be catabolic: Yes, it could. To avoid muscle loss, take HMB or BCAA prior to and during a cardio session, and stick mainly to low intensity cardio such as power walking, cycling or light jogging, as you prefer. I generally opt for a long power walk in the park, followed by a 15-30 minute Hatha yoga session.
Practicing intermittent fasting, fasted cardio and skipping breakfast could work well together with an intensive feeding period. How does it work?
First of all, your body needs energy to function and recover. Logically, you have to use your feeding period smartly and introduce a sufficient – but not an excessive – amount of nutrients into your system. Secondly, having 4-5 small frequent meals or 2-3 big meals (it’s up to you; I personally prefer the first option, but when I’m pushed for time I always have the option of the second). You will boost your metabolism, stimulating the body into burning more calories during the resting/fasting period. And last but not least, eating healthy and delicious food is always great fun.
Which foods are able to act as natural relaxants and anti-depressants is a question I’m often asked by clients.
To begin with, an overall balanced diet is always helpful. By that I mean a clean wholefood diet with the minimum possible amount of processed food intake. Macronutrient modulation varies and depends on factors such as your:
– activity level
– overall fitness level
– body composition
– body related goals
Probably the best healthy ratio is:
– up to 20% healthy fats
– 30-40% lean protein
– 40-50% carbohydrates.
We’ll talk about an ideal macronutrients’ modulation ratio in another article in more detail.
Returning to the main topic, the following is a (non-exhaustive) list of foods with calming and relaxing properties:
1) Almost all fruits and berries: They are full of natural sugar and antioxidants. Fructose is the quickest carb (source of energy) after refined sugar, and your body will automatically feel happier and more relaxed with more sugar in the bloodstream. However, do keep in mind that if you aim to become leaner you will have to pursue a diet with a low fructose content.
2) Oily fish. Fish oil is well-known nutrient that increases the brain’s metabolism. By combining fish oil with nootropics you can easily achieve a state of calm and have a clearer mind. Book aconsultation to get a list of over-the- counter nootropics.
3) Herbal tea. A blend of mint, chamomile, artichoke and lavender is one of the best relaxation options.
4) Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cacao are four spices that were historically used as natural mood lifters and relaxants. Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon in your coffee can help, or even simply inhaling their scent.
5) Chicken hearts and liver are perfect sources of essential amino acids, vitamin B, choline, inositol and Iron. This combination of nutrients is one of the most effective ‘cocktails’ for boosting the central nervous system.
6) Despite the negative publicity and misconceptions surrounding the consumption of egg yolks, the high concentration of cholesterol in them is designed by nature as a perfect source of nutrients. Rich in lecithin, vitamin B, amino acids, choline, inositol, vitamins A and E, phosphatidil serine and many more beneficial substances, egg yolks alone could provide your body with almost everything it needs. However, do not exceed the healthy allowance. Have 1-3 whole eggs a day, adding some separated egg whites if you need to increase your protein intake.
7) Now anyone with a sweet tooth can celebrate – Dark Chocolate!! Yes, having a piece or two of dark chocolate each day will definitely help your body to boost its ‘positive vibe’ hormones.
8) Have a glass of wine. Yes, and YES again!!! But only one, and make sure it’s a high quality wine. First of all, it’s an additional 75 kcal of quick energy that your body will be grateful for. Secondly, high quality wine contains a high concentration of bio-flavonoids and antioxidants.
Taken in a moderate quantities, wine can also act as a minor natural relaxant.
And remember; even if you eat healthily all the time and are a fitness fanatic, allowing your body a little bit of what you really love is always beneficial. By keeping your diet 95% clean, let’s say, you will have even better results than confining yourself to a strict regimen of traditional lean and mean boiled chicken breast, and rice and broccoli.
There is a wide range of protein powders currently. The protein content, quality and value of ingredients used can vary enormously, as can the digestibility and absorption qualities of the supplement. Different types of protein also serve different needs. The array of products found on shop shelves can be bewildering, so here is a quick review with some guidance on what you should be taking.
WPC is the most common source of protein you can find in shops. The protein content of such products usually varies between 70-80%. Some experts believe that WPC is a good option for non-professional fitness practitioners, and for those who are simply looking to increase their protein intake. As a qualified nutritionist and an expert in fitness and bodybuilding I would consider WPC as a suitable option even for advanced users. It can be mixed with carbohydrates in a post-workout shake to boost recovery, and 80% protein content is usually sufficient for most needs.
Recommendation: take it after weight training or mix it in your morning oats after fasted cardio for quick recovery and a metabolic boost. Ask your nutritional adviser to calculate the optimal intake for your needs.
2.) Whey Protein Isolates (WPI)
At between 90-100%, WPI protein content is higher than WPC. This means that the product itself is cleaner, and is of a higher quality. WPI has great absorption and digestibility due to its chemical form; it enters the bloodstream almost immediately following consumption, which is why it’s perfect for a post-workout shake. You can also use WPI if you are on a ketogenic diet (i.e. a no carbs diet), as it’s an absolutely pure source of protein that won’t impact the production of keton bodies (the primary source of energy when you’re on a zero carbs diet).
Recommendation: Do not follow a ketogenic diet on your own without qualified and experienced nutritionist supervision. It could cause hypoglycemia and other health problems.
3.) Hydrolysate Protein (HP)
Experts consider HP as the highest quality protein because of its chemical properties and absorption qualities. However, pure HP is not often found on shop shelves, but is usually found mixed in with other kinds of protein such as WPC and WPI. Manufacturers mix sources for two principal reasons:
To decrease the production price without any significant compromise in terms of quality;
To provide your body with proteins with various speeds of digestibility, in order for the body to retain its protein supply for a longer duration.
4.) Casein Protein
Casein is a slow-digesting protein. There is a completely different mode of thinking behind casein supplements than with other types of rapid-absorption protein powders. Depending on one’s metabolism, the body needs up to 5-7 hours to fully digest casein; this is why it is perfect as either a meal replacement or a bedtime snack.
Recommendation: Do not take casein after fitness activities as it will only enter the blood stream a few hours later, leaving your body starved of vital nutrients. You can take casein as a bedtime snack by mixing it with a small amount of water. Due to casein chemical properties such a mix will create a mousse-like texture, and could be taken as a desert.
5.) Soy/Pea/Rise/Hump Protein
All plant-based proteins can be taken to increase protein dietary content. They are suitable for vegans, and can potentially be a great way of fortifying their constitution with essential amino acids. However, keep in mind that all vegetable proteins have an incomplete profile of amino acids. According to Gastellu and his colleagues at the International Sport and Science Association, plant-based proteins should ideally be mixed with other sources such as WPC, WPI or HP (which are also suitable for vegans in the majority of cases) in order to provide the body with all the necessary building-blocks for its recovery and maintenance.
Interesting idea of how to lose weight relatively effortlessly without counting calories… Read more and share
Mind over matter: psychology over calorie-counting
Interesting idea of how to lose weight relatively effortlessly without counting calories (warning: you still have to watch what you eat) by letting your own body dictate how much you eat. Seems pretty sensible and worth a try.
byMichael Graziano (is a neuroscientist, novelist and composer. He is Professor of Neuroscience at Princeton University in New Jersey. His latest book is Consciousness and the Social Brain (2013). Edited by Ed Lake | 18 January, 2016 | Aeon
Hunger isn’t in your stomach or your blood-sugar levels. It’s in your mind – and that’s where we need to shape up…
…If weight were a matter of calories in and calories out, we’d all be the weight we choose. Everyone’s gotten the memo. We all know the ‘eat less’ principle.(Read Why diets don’t work and what you can do about it and Diets and exit strategies.) Losing weight should be as easy as choosing a shirt colour. And yet, somehow it isn’t, and the United States grows heavier. It’s time to consider the problem through an alternative lens.
Whatever else it is, hunger is a motivated state of mind. Psychologists have been studying such states for at least a century. We all feel hungry before dinner and full after a banquet, but those moments are the tip of the iceberg. Hunger is a process that’s always present, always running in the background, only occasionally rising into consciousness. It’s more like a mood. When it slowly rises or eases back down, even when it’s beneath consciousness, it alters our decisions. It warps our priorities and our emotional investment in long-term goals. It even changes our sensory perceptions – often quite profoundly.
You sit down to dinner and say:
That tiny, little hamburger? Why do they have to make them so small? I’ll have to eat three just to break even.
That’s the hunger mood making food look smaller. If you’re full, the exact same hamburger looks enormous. It isn’t just the food itself. Your own body image is warped.
When the hunger mood rises, you feel a little thinner, the diet feels like it’s working and you can afford a self-indulgence. When satiety kicks in, you feel like a whale.
Even memory can be warped. Suppose you keep a log of everything you eat. Is that log trustworthy? Not only have you drastically misjudged the size of your meals, but you’ve almost certainly forgotten items.
Depending on your hunger state, you might snarf up three pieces of bread and after the meal sincerely remember only one.
One recent study found that most of the calories people eat come through snacks between meals. But when you ask people, they deny it. They’re surprised to find out just how much they snack…
…Let’s say you decide to cut back on calories. You eat less for a day. The result? It’s like picking up a stick and poking a tiger. Your hunger mood rises and for the next five days you’re eating bigger meals and more snacks, perhaps only vaguely realising it…
… I’m not denying the physics here. If you take in fewer calories, you’ll lose weight. But if you explicitly try to reduce calories, you’re likely to do the exact opposite. Almost everyone who tries to diet goes through that battle of the bulge. Diets cause the psychological struggle that causes weight gain.
… Let’s say you try another standard piece of advice: exercise. If you burn calories at the gym you’ll definitely lose weight, right? Isn’t that just physics? Except that, after you work out, for the rest of the day you’re so spent that you might actually burn fewer calories on a gym day than on a regular one. Not only that, but after a workout you’ve assuaged your guilt. Your emotional investment in the cause relaxes. You treat yourself to a chocolate chip muffin. You might try to be good and decline the muffin, but the exercise revs up that subtle hunger mood lurking under the surface and then you don’t even know any more how much you’re overeating. Meals grow bigger while seeming to grow smaller. Extra snacks sneak in.
…But the most insidious attack on the hunger mechanism might be the chronic diet. The calorie-counting trap. The more you try to micromanage your automatic hunger control mechanism, the more you mess with its dynamics. Skip breakfast, cut calories at lunch, eat a small dinner…
be constantly mindful of the calorie count, and you poke the hunger tiger
All you do is put yourself in the vicious cycle of trying to exert willpower and failing. That’s when you enter the downward spiral…
Don’t put a plastic bag over your head. Likewise, don’t eat the super-high death-carb, low-fat diet. Don’t micromanage your brainstem by counting every calorie. You might be surprised at how well your health self-regulates.
Michael Graziano is a neuroscientist, novelist and composer. He is Professor of Neuroscience at Princeton University in New Jersey. His latest book is Consciousness and the Social Brain (2013).
After we reach 30 we generally get more clarity about ourselves, other people and the world around us. We start leading a fuller life, and have deeper, more stable and enduring feelings… For many people, life assumes a different hue, and experiences are more colourful, and in a sense, more vivid – even more ‘real’. This concentration of the sense of being alive can be equated with a deliciously thick hot-chocolate or, if you prefer, sipping a wine of the finest vintage. Everything enters a new, more advanced stage. Everything, that is, aside from our physical selves.
It has been proven that thirty is the age at which all bodily processes begin to change. Before that time we can easily gain muscle, and be extremely lean without too much effort. After thirty, we gradually become aware of having to buy larger clothes sizes, and our first wrinkles and grey hairs begin to appear. Unfortunately our beach holidays can also become far less fun as a result. As we approach middle age we increasingly become what we ‘eat, do, and read’.
Sarcopenia (skeletal muscle degradation with age) is an inevitable process. Our body become limited in its protein synthesis and utilization abilities as soon as we cross the thirty-year threshold. According to Runners World research, once people reach thirty they lose, on average, about 15% of muscle mass every 10 years. Our metabolism naturally slows as well. Another important point is that the human body never really loses anything without some sort of compensation. Lost muscle tissue is replaced by fat. It is exactly for this reason that we become chubbier with age.
Fat gain and metabolic slowdown are the natural consequences of age, which brings us to a point where we have to run ‘twice as fast as we can’. Don’t panic though. Awareness is the first step toward success. “A healthy and active 60 year old can have the muscle mass of a 30-year old, while a sedentary middle-aged person who eats a primarily processed food diet and struggles with insulin resistance or diabetes may have the muscle quality of a 70-year old”, sais Dr. Mercola, a physician and blog contributor to Fitness Peak.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid age-related muscle degradation, and keep yourself energised, fit and healthy after the age of thirty, and for the rest of your natural life.
Hormones determine harmony
“Other factors, such as age-related changes in circulating levels of muscle anabolic hormones and growth factors, must also be considered as contributing mechanisms underlying the sarcopenic phenotype” – Alex Hatchinson, nutritionist and physician, and contributor to Runners World.
We primarily age as a result of hormonal and biochemical changes. Some endocrinologists believe that production of the human growth hormone (the hormone responsible for cell formation, regeneration, and general recovery) already starts to decline after the age of 25. Muscle loss and excessive fat formation could be the first symptoms of GH (somatotropin) deficiency. Somatotropin is a prescribed drug and available in any pharmacy. However, its use as a supplement requires extensive research, and should only be taken under medical guidance and supervision. But there is some good news. When taken together, widely available amino acids such as l-Arginine, l-Lysine, and l-Ornithine, act as GH’s precursors and theoretically increase natural somatotropin production. The right supplements in the correct dosages, taken with other requisite healthy nutrients, vitamins and minerals, could postpone aging and have a tremendously positive effect.
Estrogen and testosterone are two other important youth hormones. As long as the body can produce them in adequate quantities to support the reproductive process, youth and beauty will be maintained. When estrogen and testosterone production is suppressed by certain factors such as incorrect contraceptive methods, stress, overload, lack of sleep or irregular sex, malnutrition, and so on, the body’s aging processes accelerates. I am not going to cover this highly complex topic within this particular article as it worth looking at separately, and in more depth, another time. Perhaps only one tip can be given: be attentive to your wellbeing and private life. Sufficient rest, inner peace, regular physical activities, sex, and balanced nutrition are the key factors to maintain hormonal health and youth. Consult your physician and nutritionist if you have any pressing questions on the subject.
Build the body in advance of ageing
Anabolism (muscular development and maintenance) gets more complicated after thirty, reinforcing aging and resulting in metabolic slowdown and fat gain. However, a recent study by the National Center of Biotechnology Information showed that “(even) mobility-limited subjects between 70 and 85 managed to add an average of 1.3% to their lean mass after six months of high-intensity resistance training and protein supplementation”.
So, don’t miss the opportunity to start building your muscles as early as possible while your hormones are working at their peak and supporting high anabolic muscle response. Remember, the earlier you start the longer you last. Include 3-4 sessions of resistance training such as weights lifting, Pilates, TRX, pole dance, or body pump classes into your fitness routine. Don’t forget about taking supporting supplements to quicken your recovery, and to help create precious muscle tissue to overcompensate for inevitable aging muscle loss.
Magic youth bullets
First and foremost, I would like to say couple of words about whey protein (WP). I’m asked every day by my clients and friends if it is worth taking whey supplements. The answer is an unequivocal YES. I add 1 scoop of high-quality, vanilla-flavoured, whey protein into my morning oats and take two more after my evening workout, mixed with simple carbs such as fruit or maltodextrin and BCAA into my traditional post-workout shake. According to research conducted by the National Center of Biotechnology Information, “whey protein supplementation may augment resistance levels and boost exercise-induced increases in muscle strength and mass”. So don’t miss your shake. It will help you to recover more quickly and to retain your muscle mass.
Now, let me shed some light on whey manufacturing processes, as this question is very sensitive to a majority of health-conscious people. According to research conducted by the Imperial College MBA Group Consulting project for GST Nutrition, certified whey protein available on the US and the UK markets is made of the same best and cleanest MPC-80 (milk protein concentrate) and MPI-80 (milk protein isolate) as various high quality baby formulas (I personally took part in this research at the end of my MBA program). Also, the majority of premium WP’s are suitable for people with lactose intolerance and vegetarians.
Another beneficial substance massively helping to postpone aging muscle degradation is BCAA complex. Branch Chain Amino Acids is a combination of three naturally occurring essential amino acids Isoleucine, Leucine and Valine, that make up over 35% of overall amino acids concentration in muscle tissues. Research shown that under conditions of stress, injuries, intense exercise and after the age of thirty, the human body requires up to a four times higher consumption of BCAA to maintain positive nitrogen balance. For more detail, read: How much protein should be eaten.
The International Sport and Science Association recommends an intake of BCAA of up to 6 grams a day depending on a range of factors including the physical condition, age, body weight and composition, and gender, of the subject. The type and level of their physical activity is also important, as are their general lifestyle choices. It is also recommended that BCAA is taken 30 minutes before and directly after meals, and throughout the day together with meals, to maximize its value for the body.
One more important group of substances helping to postpone aging muscle sarcopenia and related derogative processes, are antioxidants. Vitamin E, Omega3, Selenium and Choline are just at the top of a long ‘must take’ list of antioxidants. Read about antioxidants in another upcoming article How to keep your fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) and consult your nutritionist to calculate best dosages for your needs.
Glucosamine Chondroitine is one more necessary ingredient in the process. Read How to keep the fleeting youth (magic pills and herbal rhapsody) for more details.
Another suggestion in this topic of discussion is, surprisingly, don’t run! Stop crushing your joints and back bone, and torturing your veins. Moreover, long steady state cardio sessions exacerbate muscle degradation turning your body’s green light to sarcopenia even more. Everyday Health noted that “aside from the toll it (running) can take on your knees and joints, recent reports of things such as “runner’s face” and ‘dead butt syndrome’ could send some running devotees sprinting in the other direction”. Great alternatives to running could be light jogging, hiking, spinning, horse riding, skiing, water skiing or sprints (my personal second-favourite year-round activity, after the delights of seasonal skiing). If you are a gym lover, the rowing machine, curve, climbing ladder or lively aerobics/dance/body combat classes are all super solutions.
Do not forget to hydrate the body taking at least a glass of water 30 minutes before, during and after a session. Keep it sweaty, and have as much fun as you can.
The statement “You are what you eat” is even more valid after you hit thirty. If before that your body was able to metabolize almost all the rubbish you consumed, after your thirtieth birthday the picture really changes. Now five minutes of food indulgence can stay permanently lodged in your tummy or thighs. So take care of your body, and do yourself a favour by hiring a competent nutrition advisor.
Flexibility is another area to focus on. Allocate 10-15 minutes for stretching after any fitness activity. It will increase the blood flow to your muscles and will help to reduce joint and ligament load.
Stress, overload and constant tissues hypoxia (lack of fresh air) are few other important factors that quicken the aging process. A good eight hours of sleep, regular holidays, meditation, 15 –minutes of active rest every 2-3 hours during the day, and decent fresh air exposure (at least 1 hour daily) will help tremendously in the tough fight to retain your youth. Read Dream and Walk the youth back.
To lose 4lbs during a diet, yet gain 6lbs back within a few weeks of finishing it is a sadly familiar scenario. In the previous article “Why diets never work and what to do” we discussed in detail why fad diets generally have poor results. We also presented some of the best alternatives to fad dieting, with the goal of achieving desired ‘body correction’ and avoiding starving the body. This article is devoted to exit strategies for diets.
Any process embarked on should have an exit strategy.
Dropping a diet without planning is the equivalent of stopping your car in the middle of the motorway, or jumping out of the airplane before landing – not recommended!
In the previous article “Why diets do not work…” we discussed the body’s reaction to various ‘cut’ diets. Here’s a quick refresher:
A decrease in calories leads to metabolic slowdown due to inevitable negative metabolic adaptation. Being adapted to lower calories, the body burns less ingested nutrients for energy. The more you reduce your food intake, the lower your metabolic rate becomes and the lower the quantity of nutrients which are used for body maintenance. Muscle degradation occurs as a side effect of many diets. This is a result of the body using its own muscle tissue for its energy needs when it is being starved, rather than burning fat as the latter is used to store nutrient deposits for a ‘rainy day’. A final and important point is that the less muscle tissue the body has, the lower its metabolic rate. Consequently a decrease in food consumption leads directly to muscle degradation during ‘cut’ diets, resulting in a situation in which the dieter is both eating less and getting fatter.
By instead taking a path of balanced and healthy eating, you could achieve visible sustainable results and reach a desirable body correction. This, in combination with the right training strategy, is the right solution.
Now let’s imagine a situation in which you are a healthy eater and regular exerciser. You have adopted the right nutritional strategy and follow an appropriate fitness plan for your body’s needs, but you want to achieve even more.
In this instance so-called “manageable cut dieting” may be suitable.
Imagine that you achieve this additional goal; fantastic! But what next?
You always have two options: to either return to your normal eating habits, or follow a correct exit strategy. In the first case the pattern will be more or less classic. If you are a healthy eater, you will inevitably gain weight after the diet is over and your metabolism will accelerate due to an increase in calories. Super-compensation will occur and you will come back to your normal body weight and body composition with an additional 1-3% of body fat. This is the most favorable scenario. However, you have to be ready to be slightly “softer” for a while until all your bodily processes are settled. If you are not a healthy eater, you will probably fall into the vicious circle of any diet, described above.
The second scenario, which involves a smart exit strategy, is a bit more sophisticated in terms of execution but at the same time will definitely help to keep your physical achievements for longer. It may even shift your body composition permanently and allow you to be lean all-year-round. This is exactly what happened to me after 3 years of competing.
Exit strategy recommendations:
Increase calories gradually.
It is always very tempting to start eating all your favorite treats after a diet. However, keep in mind that your body will have become extremely sensitive to all previously excluded food sources. Be careful and conscious with carbs and fats first of all. Lane Norton (one of the most notable experts in metabolic damage) believes that the best way to smooth the transition to a non-dieting state is to increase your carbs by 10%, and fats by 1%, every week. Such moderate increases boost the metabolism and help the body to adapt to a new macronutrient modulation, without drastic changes in body composition.
Track protein intake
Protein consumption also should be trackable. In the majority of smart fitness diets (not fad diets) protein intake is sufficient at the ‘cut’ stage. Macronutrient increase usually happens on account of carb and fat intake. However, some strategies such as various “detox” programs exclude or minimize protein consumption for the entire duration of the diet. This leads to severe muscle loss and metabolic damage.
Conversely, there are some diets (Dr. Atkins and his numerous imitators) that exclude carbs almost completely. One of the biggest misconceptions behind such an approach is that the human body does not need anything apart from protein. This in turn gave birth to the following misunderstandings of the human body: One is that you can eat any amount of protein and not gain fat. In fact, any excessive amount of protein is converted into glucose by the liver via the neoglucogenesis process. Excessive glucose and fatty acids not used for energy are literally converted into body fat. So keep your protein intake attuned to your body composition, type of exercise you do and your activity level, but be careful with any extra amount consumed. If you want to increase muscle mass the nutrition strategy you follow should be allied with your training and supplementation plans to achieve desirable results. Eating mountains of protein without a smart plan will not bring benefits. On the other hand, excessive consumption of protein can even be dangerous and lead to unexpected fat gain, increased acidity and an additional burden placed on the kidney and the liver. For more details about this, read my article “How much protein should be eaten”.
Increase physical activity
It is clear that any increase in food consumption provides the body with additional energy. This increased energy should be burned up, in order to avoid undesirable body fat formation after a diet. As the metabolism is still slow after the period of reduced calories the only way to make sure you are on the right track is to increase your physical activity until the metabolic rate is normalized. The question is how we can do this in a more efficient and productive way. Obviously, we can not spend 2-3 hours a day doing low intense steady state (LISS) cardio as some so-called ‘fitness gurus’ recommend. That sort of free time is far too scarce for most of us. The best way to increase activity after a diet is to increase the intensity of your normal workout by increasing resistance (weight), or the number of receptions. Another recommended tactic is to add 15-20 minutes of highly intense interval (HIIT) cardio after your workout.
After any diet all bodily processes are altered. Being excluded for a while, and then re-introduced, some food sources could provoke digestion problems and cause bloating and other unpleasant consequences. You need to help the body to start working properly. Short, 2-3 week courses of digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria will be beneficial.
Metabolic boosters are another useful thing. Two of the most well-known natural metabolites are chili and black pepper. Just add a pinch of those to your meals.
The next possibility is an insulin controller. Keeping going without simple carbs for a period of time increases insulin sensitivity. Add 1-3 tablets of chromium to your meals to avoid insulin spikes. Also be careful with fruit: Those fruit with a high glycemic index such as mango, figs and other exotic fruits likely will be harmful for your six-pack.
Check your list of wellbeing factors daily
Try to get eight hours of quality sleep, fresh air (and, at least, a one-hour power walk outside) and attempt to keep your stress levels low. These three wellbeing factors should always be checked and whenever possible, observed. High cortisol levels (stress hormones) alone could ruin all your fitness and dietary efforts. Insufficient sleep, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, and constant tissue hypoxia (lack of oxygen) will make change impossible.
Check your body composition
This is a pretty obvious point, but very often ignored. After a diet, it is essential to know what the proportion of your lean muscle mass is to your body fat percentage. Check it once every two weeks, a reasonable length of time to let your body react to new nutrients and any adjusted fitness plan. Ideally, both figures should stay unchanged or increase very slowly. Keep an eye on them. If you notice a drop in muscle mass or an increase in body fat of more than 4lbs within a two week period, your exit diet should be reconsidered and adjusted accordingly.
Have you ever noticed that after any diet, the pounds inevitably pile back on? Not only that, but people often actually gain more than they lose after finishing a diet. The idea of dieting is fundamentally flawed, with the process frequently being useless, painful and even dangerous to the person following it. In this article we are going to shed light on fad diets and provide you with some recommendations on how to avoid mistakes, and achieve long-term results.
Are still considering dieting?
What does an average diet consist of? They vary enormously in terms of the type of food stipulated or prohibited, timeframe, and degree of strictness. However, there are a few common features. Let’s examine them briefly.
All fad diets are low in calories and rely on a nutrients deficiency principle. That means a dieter consumes fewer calories than he or she burns. This usually leads to a certain weight loss, but a series of studies have shown that the drop in body weight usually occurs predominantly as a result of muscle – but not fat – loss. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, the body experiences a significant metabolic slowdown.
All diets are short-term (up to a few weeks). First of all, that does not allow the body to change in the longer term. Secondly, it means that a dieter will soon return to his or her “normal” – often unhealthy or semi-healthy – eating habits. These dietary habits caused weight gains in the past, so it’s fairly certain that the same thing will happen again.
All diets impose strict restrictions on the type and quantity of food consumed. That might provoke not only temporary mood swings and fatigue but also long term hormonal problems. Another consequence can be malnutrition (i.e. a deficiency of some important micronutrients and vitamins). It could impair bodily functions and negatively impact the overall health of the dieter.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper.
Very often calorie restriction in the course of a dietary programme is too extreme, and has no scientific basis. The buckwheat diet, green diet, zero carbs diet, fruit diet and even the lemon-water diet are just few examples of type of diet which are – to put it bluntly – complete nonsense. Do people lose weight on such diets? Yes, they do. Do they gain it back? Yes, and it happens very quickly.
Decreasing calorie intake is another form of dieting. People keep their eating habits unchanged and just reduce the size of the portions or general quantity of their food intake, and exclude “criminal” food such as white bread or refined sugar. At first glance, this approach looks logical. Curbing excessive unhealthy food consumption will inevitably lead to weight loss. However, it is temporary. Having reached his or her target, a dieter reverts to “normal” eating habits, quickly gaining back everything that was lost, plus a little bit more, after every diet.
Another important point is that dieters almost never measure what they eat (we’re not speaking about bodybuilders, who, in opposite, obsessively weigh every ingredient). All food intakes is approximate and cannot be precisely replicated every day. Eating in public spaces makes tracking exact consumption even more complicated. It is impossible to be certain how purchased meals were cooked, and what additives such as oils, sugar, starches and so on were used. I’ve heard this stock phrase a million times: “I eat healthily but can’t lose fat”. When I start analyzing what people really eat I always see an abundance of hidden salt, sugar and fats in ready-to-eat or processed meals consumed. As a result, a dieter has fluctuating macronutrient intake (proteins, carbs, fats, fibre as well as salt and water) from day to day without any degree of consistency, consuming extra unnecessary nutrients that negatively impact the body in both the short and long term.
Sometimes people stop eating completely for a while (“detox” fasting). This is probably the most terrifying scenario in terms of negative metabolic adaptation and the degree of harm it inflicts on the body.
Juice diets, which are currently extremely popular, are another example of outrageous fad strategies that inevitably cause overcompensating fat gain after the diet is over.
To recap, people do lose weight during diets but mostly due to three key factors:
loss of body water due to loss of muscle glycogen (1 molecule of muscle glycogen retains 3 molecules of intramuscular water keeping the body hydrated),
loss of intestine bulk due to extremely low food consumption.
Now, let’s look in more detail at muscle loss. Why is this factor important? It has been scientifically proven that muscles burn more calories for maintenance than fat. In other words, two 130 pound individuals with the same activity levels but with different body composition (let’s say, the first has 10% of body fat and the second – 30%) have completely different daily calorie expenditure. Who is going to burn more? Obviously the first one, as he has more muscle tissue.
Another interesting fact is that the human body starts burning muscle tissue for energy when calorie intake is insufficient. Fat is used to store nutrients for the body in case of starvation, which is why the human body tends to keep it for as long as possible, destroying muscle tissue first. It’s a survival mechanism. Only in certain circumstances the body uses fat for energy (for example, when a certain heart rate is reached). Muscle loss during fad diets is inevitable even if a dieter continues exercising, and the less muscle tissue the dieter has, the fewer calories he/she burns. That’s why prolonged fad diets provoke muscle degradation and, as a result, significant metabolic slowdown.
Let’s say a couple of words about metabolic adaptation (slowdown/damage). This probably the simplest correlation to explain: The human body is both ingenious, and highly efficient. Survival is its main objective, so the fewer calories consumed, the fewer calories used. The body becomes very efficient and stores everything possible to deal with the possibility of starvation. In other words, the less you eat – the less you burn. And it works the other way around: the more generous the food supply, the less the need of the body to store fat for a raining day. However, don’t forget about food sources. Fat-laden, sodium-rich and sugar-heavy processed food never brings benefits. When boosting your metabolism, always opt for whole foods.
To sum up, when a dieter starves him/herself for a prolonged period, negative metabolic adaptation occurs. In combination with inevitable muscle loss it causes even more dramatic consequences – a dieter simply starts gaining more and more weight, while eating less and less.
Cortisol is a human stress hormone. Overwork, fad diets, long and exhausting cardio sessions, over-exercising, and lack of quality sleep, sunshine and fresh air are only a few examples from the long list of cortisol boosters. High cortisol levels cause major water retention (in case of some extreme female dieters, up to 25-30lbs). Moreover, high cortisol slows down the metabolism even further.
To diet or not to diet
Taking into account all of the above evidence, the question must be asked: is it actually worth dieting?
The answer should be obvious: No, if we’re talking about fad diets.
Another, related, question is how can we achieve targeted body correction?
It’s all about long term life-style changes: Short-term diets don’t provide long term results and may be harmful, whereas permanent changes to your eating habits bring long-term benefits.
How to start and what to do
Here are just a few simple tips that could make your healthy eating easier, and more effective.
Always rely on a scientific, fully customized approach! Generic diets and programs work poorly. Don’t copy someone else’s strategy. Most likely it was designed for an individual with a different somatotype, body fat percentage, activity level and other differentiating factors.
Would you perform dentistry on yourself? I didn’t think so. Always rely on professionals. Hire a qualified nutritionist to design the right strategy for your needs and guide you through the journey. It’s not going to be easy, as any life-style change requires complete focus, dedication, patience, and competent support.
Never starve yourself. Remember, fad diets are harmful.
Accept that finding healthy food in public places, or around your office, is pretty much impossible. Make it a habit to carry around a few little Tupperware boxes containing your freshly made meals. You will definitely be hungry at some point. Take care of yourself and don’t allow hunger to force you eating rubbish, or to starve.
Try to avoid processed food. This step alone will be hugely beneficial in the long-term.
Always put your health first.
Fast food and junk food cravings only exist in your head. The normal human body does not need junk food at all. Believe it or not, our brain can work perfectly on complex carbs. The human body is able to produce endorphins and serotonin without eating mountains of sweets. Our ancient ancestors never knew McDonalds or Nutella and lived happily without them. So the biggest monster lives in our own heads. Stop feeding it!
Take your time. The human body needs a far longer time to change than we tend to believe. Give yourself time. Be generous. Healthy eating will start working sooner or later. Just be consistent
Keep calm and eat your chicken (or broccoli/spinach/cod – whatever suits you!). Stress slows down the metabolism, making the body store more fat and retain water.
Sleep well and get enough fresh air every day. It’s a basic rule and you shouldn’t make excuses for yourself.
Just as you can’t be “almost pregnant”, you can’t “almost eat healthily”. You either do it or you don’t. The more you cheat the more you crave. It is better to eliminate junk food from your diet completely. Good luck!
When you wake up with a smile on your face it is good indication that you are doing something right. Our simple emotions are like litmus paper – the best indicator of what is going on in our lives. But what if you wake-up drained, apathetic, scared about your future? There are five crucial fields you should check daily.
The body reacts first
The body is born to serve our basic needs and act as a box for the soul (our essence or spirit). Ayurveda practitioners believe that the body is “older” than the mind. Indeed, when one is born he/she is not able to analyse things, because cognitive skills are as yet undeveloped. This is the probably the best period of our existence, as we are still free from that constant, irritating and uncontrollable churn of thoughts that plague us later in life.
The body is the only real means a new-born has of indicating his or her feelings. Being adults we always put rationality first, not paying enough attention to our body’s signals. This is a huge mistake, as the body never lies! All the signals it sends us should be accepted, acknowledged, and taken into account. So, if you suffer a lack of energy, poor focus, or constant fatigue – it is time to change your routine.
Sufficient Sleep + Healthy Eating + Physical Activities + Fresh Air + Sex = Body Wellbeing.
It’s a pretty simple equation, but at the same time, one which is surprisingly difficult for most of us to put into effect.
However, this apparent complexity is just an abstract construction of our mind. If you walk instead of taking the train, car or bus, you have already met two fundamental needs at the same time (activity and fresh air).
Sex is the most well-known source of both endorphins and serotonin (happiness hormones). Of course, not all of us have the possibility to have regular sex – but this isn’t a problem. I don’t believe it was an issue when you were 15 (at least for most of us!). There are so many other ways of getting your daily dose of happiness: Weight training, yoga and deep relaxation, 5 HTP (naturally occurring amino acid acting as a precursor of serotonin), deep tissue massage, and proliferations of other methods, to name a few. You should aim to a rule of thumb to get two separate happiness experiences a day, topping up your levels of endorphins and serotonin.
Healthy Eating is also fundamental. Doing nutrition consulting over years I realized that 99% of people have difficulty in telling apart basic carbs, fat and protein sources. Very frequently we suffer from minor and major food intolerances: Major intolerances can inflict a great degree of pain, and so we are usually aware of them. Minor intolerances are not so obvious, but could nevertheless cause serious health problems. The best way to tackle the problem is to conduct an allergens and food intolerance test to identify the core problems, and then hire a qualified practitioner to design a well-balanced flexible diet to meet your needs. Even if you have a perfect body and don’t plan on losing or gaining weight, a balanced bespoke flexible diet could help you to maximize performance, boost your energy and immune system, and even extend your youth.
So, keep your body in good order and always listen to its signals: It will definitely pay off!
Monster in your head
Have you ever caught yourself thinking almost obsessively about something very unpleasant? I bet your answer is yes.
You are not alone. Obtrusive thinking is a major “defect” of the human brain.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of bestseller “The Power of Now”, and “The New Earth” compares this trait of human cognitive processes with the concept of original sin. In other words, all of us suffer from obtrusive negative thinking. It could be snippets past conversations, fighting with invisible “enemies”, or simply anxieties about possible future events that, most likely, will never happen.
It has been scientifically proven that obtrusive thinking is very energy-consuming. I compare it to a hungry vampire, sucking out your energy, draining you of life. You should remember that this ugly, greedy vampire only exists in your own head.
To many of us it seems like a trap from which we can’t escape, but wait: There are some people who are able to beat the Monster, for a while, at least. How? By focusing exclusively on the present moment. All your negative feelings, fears, anxieties and regrets dwell in the past (which you can’t change) or in the future (that you can’t control). So the present moment is the only safe place you have. Next time when the Monster attacks, do something that immediately requires your full, undivided attention. According to Zen principles and cognitive behavioural therapy practitioners, humans are not really able to successfully multitask, as we tend to believe. It’s an illusion. We are really able to do one thing at any one time, and this is a potent weapon in battling our Monster.
My personal method of combatting my inner, negative voice was to start lifting heavy weights, for instance, and counting reps. Doing this slowly, by flexing my muscles for 10 seconds during every rep, didn’t allow me to pay much attention to the Monster. Try this technique, or your own, and send me feedback.
Through controlling your emotions and managing that inner Monster, you will be able to save your energy for far more exciting and inspiring moments in life.
Just do it
When living each moment, try to extract maximum value from the present. Try to accomplish more, try to get new experiences, learn something relevant and useful to your life, visit new places; do something that you’ve never done before.
You’re probably thinking that you could be disappointed, that the experience may not live up to expectations. You might also worry about being put down by negative people, or failing in some way. Those possibilities exist, certainly, but why don’t we simply accept them, move on, and focus on the positives instead? There will always be experiences in life that disappoint us, which may be unpleasant or cause us to be upset. Your Monster is waiting for these feelings to surface, never sleeping, always ready to thrive on negative emotions. So be smarter than your Monster, and collect only beautiful pictures for your life album. Would you keep an ugly picture next to your bed? I don’t think so. Why are we so selective for our physical environment and not as selective for our inner peace?
Don’t be afraid, and open yourself to new and exciting experiences:
A life filled with wonder is a wonderful life.
Vampires feed your Monster
Celestine Chua, the author of the bestselling book Personal Excellence, states that your level of consciousness and energy levels are an average of the 5-10 people you interact most often.
Keep in mind that having negative, greedy, jealous, judgemental, aggressive or constantly moaning people in your circle is not good for you for three key reasons:
They drag down your level of consciousness. Remember, misery loves company. If you see that someone is suffering from personal problems, and you are in a position to help, don’t hesitate. But in majority of cases such people don’t need your help at all. It is ultimately their life choice to struggle. Try to help, but don’t get stuck in fighting a futile battle – if after a month or two you’re making no progress, walk away. They are simply draining your energy, benefitting neither of you.
Such people feed the Monster in your own head, multiplying anxieties, fears, jealousy and complexes. Have you ever noticed they are always keen to give you so much negative ‘food for thought’?
If you interact with negative people too often, you may also start to perceive other people negatively. If your close ‘friend’ is never grateful, doesn’t appreciate what you do, always tries to diminish your achievements – run away. Otherwise, very quickly, you will start seeing the world as a place full of people like them.
The Power of Words
Words have an incredible power to form our reality. Even the Bible begins with the sentence:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
Nowadays all of us are drowned in information. We read countless meaningless articles, snippets of news here and there, newspapers, magazines and text messages. We absorb all of this noise, again providing sustenance for the Monster.
On the other hand, books are the best teachers. Reading meaningful texts from positive and reliable sources could help you to acquire new useful knowledge and deeper insights. So, read, read, read, but be selective at the same time. Try to minimize your exposure to negative and meaningless information, or things written by negative people. Take care of your health, energy and purity, and spread positive vibes around to make our world a better place.
Human body needs quality protein on a daily base in order to repair and rebuild not only muscles but also all other tissues including skin, hair and other organs. Varied diets suggest consuming different amount of protein in order to meet a need for proper body functioning and achieving variety of fitness goals. The main purpose of this article is to provide scientific framework to determine sufficient protein intake.
Let’s start from basics and describe protein itself.
Protein is a type of macronutrients comprised of amino acids and used by the body to build, rebuild and maintain cells of all tissues and organs. The right consumption of protein is essentially important for proper body functioning.
According to Donna Cataldo, Ph.D. and Matthew Blair, B.S from American College of Sports Medicine, there is three main types of protein: animal, plant and engineered (supplements such as whey, casein, egg albumin, etc. that are artificially synthesized from organic plant and animal ingredients in order to provide easily digested forms of protein with the whole profile of amino acids very often combined with enzymes and precursor-type of vitamins and microelements). Scientifically proved that all plant proteins have incomplete amino acid profile (one or more amino acids are missed). It means that missing one or more amino acids the body simply can’t get enough of building blocks to repair its tissues. In other words, having only plant proteins the body will inevitable suffer from required nutrients deficiency. According to Ripped to Shreds by Sean Petafi the best solution is the right supplementation or mixing of all three types of protein (plant, animal and engineered) in one meal.
Let’s move forward. Mixing protein sources is a great idea but the question is in what proportion they should be mixed and in what proportion to other nutrients they should be consumed. Let’s leave the first question for another article and focus on the second.
Here we have to introduce another term “nitrogen balance”. According to Gastelu D. and Hatfield F.C. (2000) protein contains nitrogen molecules in its structure apart from carbon and hydrogen. Exactly this fact makes protein different from fats and carbohydrates chemically. So, injected protein is broken down by the body into amino acids and they consequently into carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. The latter is partly used as building blocks for cells and partly excreted with sweat, urine and feces. According to Bender D. from UCL nitrogen balance is simply nitrogen input minus output. In other words nitrogen balance is the key figure to understanding how much protein you have to consume in order to maintain your muscles and other organs. If your nitrogen balance is positive you body has enough protein for proper growth and repair. If balance is negative your protein consumption is too low and should be increased.
So how much protein should be consumed? According to Bender D. (2006) the average amount of protein a day for not training individual is about 80g. However, this figure looks too generic. According to Cataldo D. et.al. the average protein amount consumed should be equal to 0.8g/kg. of body weight. MacDomald M. (2013) suggests that the sufficient consumption of protein for individual participating in endurance sport such as marathons, cross-country skinning and other sport events lasting more then 2 hours is from 1.2-1.4g/kg, for individual participating in strength training such as fitness, sprinting, circle training is 1.7-1.8g/kg and for heavy lifters or bodybuilders is about 2-2.5g/kg of body weigh. Bayesian Bodybuilding in its literature review related to the topic suggests that the ideal sufficient amount of protein to build muscles is 1.8 g/kg. Bodybuilding iconic book Ripped to Shreds suggests that the average required amount of protein for muscle hypertrophy is from 2.5-4g per kg of lean weight. According to Robson D. the golden rule of positive nitrogen retention is about 1g of protein per 1 lb. of lean body weight. About the same amount (1.5-2.5g/kg) is recommended for sport participants by Gastelu D. and Hatfield F.C. (2000). Researches also believe that whole food alone hardly could provide enough protein for maintenance and growth, so, the right supplementation is necessary thing for any sport participant.
As we can see figures are pretty various. And it’s just a little snippet of the literature review. What be the best way to determine the right protein intake for a particular individual?
Here we have to say couple of words about protein-carbohydrate sparing effect. Protein sparing effect is the phenomenon when the injected protein is used by the body for energy needs in the lack of carbohydrates. In other words, if the diet is deficient in carbohydrates the body withdraws consumed protein and convert it into glucose to survive. As a consequence the body doesn’t have enough protein to build and repair as it was used for energy needs. So, we have to emphasise that our further consideration related to protein intake and nitrogen balance is made with an assumption that the carbohydrate content is sufficient in the diet.
There are few frameworks to determine protein requirement for particular individual. Obviously there is no unified ready to use figure. Every particular individual has his/her own metabolism, body type, activity level and other characteristics that should be taken into account.
The first framework to determine protein requirements is based on nitrogen balance measurements.
Here are few steps that could be done to use the framework:
determine your body weight and body composition in order to understand how much muscle mass you hold (body weigh – body fat)
determine your fitness goal (build muscle, maintain muscle mass, increase strength, decrease body fat, etc.)
determine your current protein intake per day by protocoling all protein consumed during few days
find a way to measure your nitrogen output in the same days you protocoled protein intakes (nitrogen sticks or laboratory tests)
calculate your nitrogen balance using a formula
N retention=(pure protein total in g. consumed/6.25)-(nitrogen output +4)
If you figure is positive you are on a right track to build muscles. However, keep in mind that excess protein could be converted into fat if carbohydrate content is sufficient or used for energy if not. Also too high protein consumption would escalate ammonia level in the urea and put additional burden to the kidney. So make a final check dividing your consumed protein by your lean body weight. If you are an active sport participant, your nitrogen balance is positive and you stay in the range 0.8-1g/lb. of lean body weight your consumption is sufficient. If your figure is higher look carefully at your total diet, your fitness goals, your progress and the body fat percentage in dynamic over 4-6 weeks and adjust your diet accordingly. Ideally, if your progress is little just involve competent nutrition and fitness professionals who will be able to correct your training and diet programs and guide you through the process optimizing output and minimizing risks.
If the figure of your nitrogen retention tests is negative your protein intake is insufficient and should be increased. In order to understand how much it should be increased just multiply the figure by 6.25. For example, if your negative figure is 10×6.25=62.5 g of protein should be added into your diet in order to come to nitrogen equilibrium. If you are willing to increase your muscle mass so increase your protein intake even more. How mush more? We will cover one or the calculation methods below.
The nitrogen retention estimates method, however, has some limitations. Firstly, not every individual has an opportunity to test nitrogen excretion. Secondly, according to Rassel G.R. et.al., even laboratory nitrogen excretion tests in majority of case are underestimated or estimated incorrectly.
Here is could be utilized another more conventional approach to calculate protein requirements. According to Mantovani G. (2006) 0.6g per kg of well-balanced protein a day is sufficient to maintain zero nitrogen balance for an averagely active person. The question is what if the person is not averagely active? What if the person tend to lead sedentary lifestyle or in opposite trains twice a day? How much protein should be consumed in such cases? Another question is how much protein should be consumed in order to not only maintain but also increase muscle mass? Here is a method to calculate the approximate amount provided by Gastely D. and Hatfield F.C. from International Sport and Science Association.
First of all, gender and a lean factor of a particular individual should be taken into consideration in order to calculate basal metabolic rate (BMR – calorie requirements to keep the body alive).
So, the formula is:
Weigh in kg x gender coefficient (1 for male and 0.9 for female) x 24 hours = Basic metabolic rate
BMR x lean factor=adjusted BMR
Lean factor is determined by proportion of the body fat towards the body weight. So, lean factor 1 is for less than 14% of body fat for men and less than 18% of body fat for women; lean factor 0.95 is for less than 20% and 28% of body fat for men and women respectively; lean factor 0.9 is for less then 28% and 38% for men and women and lean factor 0.85 is for over 28% and 38% of body fat for male and female.
Next, the level of activity should be determined and taken into consideration in order to calculate total daily caloric requirements.
Adjusted BMR x activity multiplier = total daily calories.
1.3 – sedentary life style
1.55 – very light activity (writing, teaching, some walking through the day)
1.65 – moderate activity (walking, jogging, training 1-2 hours a day, active job)
2 – heavy activity (manual job, sport activities between 2-3 hours a day)
2.3 – extremely active (combination of moderate and heavy activities more then 8 hours a day, plus sport training 2-4 hours a day)
Finally, type of activity should be determined in order to calculate the percentage of total daily calories that should be taken from protein sources.
Keep in mind that adequate protein intake for people not participation in any sport should be in the range 10-20% of their daily total depending upon goals, current condition, metabolism, body weight and age.
Protein intake for sport participants could be determined more precisely.
All kind of sports could be divided into 4 main groups with its own ideal ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat:
Anaerobic sports (immediate energy sports such as power lifting, bodybuilding, boxing, football, etc.) – the ideal proportion is 30%P, 55%C, 15%F
Anaerobic glycolytic – (sports where explosive strength and power is required on a sustained and highly repetitive basis such as field hockey, rock climbing, mid-distance skiing, ect.) – the ideal proportion should be about 25%P,55%C,20%F
Anaerobic glycolytic – Oxidative glycolytic (sports such as dancing, fitness, long distance swimming) – the ideal proportion should be 20%P, 60%C, 20%F
Oxidative (aerobic sports such as marathon running, triathlon, all endurances events more than 2 hours long) – the ideal ration is 15%P,60%C,25%F
So, understanding daily total energy needs we could easily calculate protein requirements for a particular person taking into account his/her activity level. However, this method requires certain adjustments over time. Start from the figures you get via calculations and observe how your body reacts on a certain macronutrient modulation. If you notice muscles catabolism increase your protein intake by 10-20% of your previous figure and keep training and observing results. If in 4-6 weeks of intense training you don’t see any changes make a further adjustment or recalculate your daily total.