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          This Blog At A Glance…      Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are so called due to their structure, consisting of the three essential Amino acids; L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine and are the building blocks of protein, responsible for a host of potential physique and performance enhancing effects.    BCAAs have been proven to prevent muscle breakdown during strenuous or prolonged exercise and play an important role in the overall synthesis of proteins as well as keeping blood sugar levels consistent and stable.    If you are consuming adequate BCAAs, in the right quantities and at the right times, the research, as well as personal and client experience has shown that you will definitely reap the rewards of the many proven benefits.    If you are serious about your training and getting results then it should be a ‘no brainer’ that supplementation with BCAAs on a regular basis.             What Are BCAAs?  Amino acids can come in many forms but Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are so called due to their structure, consisting of the three essential Amino acids; L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine.  These Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are responsible for a host of potential physique and performance enhancing effects, including increased protein synthesis, energy production, muscle building and enhanced recovery and are essential for increasing and maintaining maximum muscle performance.  BCAAs are considered ‘essential’ in that they are not produced by the body and must be obtained through our diet. Basically, If they are not present in the food we eat, we won’t get enough of these essential nutrients and ultimately we wouldn't be unable to survive.  Survival issues aside, ensuring your body is supplied with optimal amounts of these Amino Acids will guarantee you can get the extra performance benefits of improving muscle strength, power and endurance.      
   
     “ BCAAs actually comprise around 1/3 of the protein within our muscles and therefore contribute to the recovery, regeneration and growth of muscle mass. ” 
   
  
 
     Although present naturally within foods, such as dairy products and red meats, supplementing with a good quality Branched Chain Amino Acids supplement are an extremely popular choice amongst athletes, fighter and bodybuilders due to their versatility, cost-effectiveness and ease to consume.  As an added bonus they are also virtually calorie free so wont effect your calorie or macronutrient intake, or bring you out of a fasted state if you train whilst ‘fasted’ or if consumed within part of your 16:8 Intermittent Fasting nutrition strategy.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     How Can BCAAs Help Improve Your Physique and Performance?  BCAAs have been proven to prevent muscle breakdown during strenuous or prolonged exercise and play an important role in the overall synthesis of proteins as well as keeping blood sugar levels consistent and stable.  In fact BCAAs are responsible for up to 40% of blood sugar production during exercise as they are continuously released from the liver and other internal organs into the bloodstream.  Protein synthesis is also directly affected by the amount of L-Leucine in our systems, even more so than Insulin.  As Leucine is degraded during exercise, therefore reducing our bodies ability to synthesise protein, it should go without saying that supplementing with BCAAs to increase Leucine levels both before and during exercise would be of huge benefit to the repair and growth of muscles. [1]   Because it is so important to have Leucine available for protein synthesis, if you do your training and exercise whilst ‘fasted’, or you don’t replenish your protein levels shortly after exercise, you’re going to breakdown more protein than you can rebuild.  The solution to this is to consume adequate BCAAs during this time, especially L-Leucine to actually enhance your protein synthesis.  All of these benefits are, of course, vital for ensuring maximum performance potential and in theory will limit central nervous system fatigue for both endurance as well as strength training athletes.  There is an argument given for not consuming additional BCAAs by people who believe they are consuming enough protein from their diet to actually need them. However, this is misguided as BCAAs are the only amino acids not degraded in the liver; instead they enter the bloodstream directly, increasing the concentration of Amino acids in the muscles and adding to the real performance benefits to be had by taking a good quality BCAA supplement, providing it is available to the body when it is needed.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     How should you use BCAAs for best results?  If you are consuming adequate BCAAs, in the right quantities and at the right times, the research, as well as personal and client experience has shown that you will definitely reap the rewards of the many proven benefits such as;    Lowering lactic acid levels caused during resistance training [2],    Improving muscular oxidation,    Increasing growth hormone circulation,    Directly influencing muscle growth,    Decreasing muscle damage and    Dramatically improving overall recovery.     BCAAs are also directly used as an energy source during exercise, so they are an important fuel supply to keep muscles functioning at an optimal level and keep the mind and concentration levels sharp over a prolonged period. [2]   In addition to all of these benefits, adequate consumption of BCAAs may help manage your body fat levels, minimise any muscle mass loss, and regulate glucose/insulin levels and balance.  Whats more, getting the benefits from BCAAs are extremely simple - as simple as preparing your usual pre, intra and / or your post workout drink or simply adding a scoop of BCAA supplement powder to you usual bottle of water at any other time.  In order to reap the maximum benefits, I would suggest (from personal experience) that you begin supplementing with just 5g of BCAAs per hour of moderate exercise and 10g per hour of intense exercise.  It is best taken by mixing the powdered form into 250ml of water per every 5g and start sipping approximately 10 - 15 minutes before you start your training and then throughout your exercise session.  Also, taking in any form of simple carbohydrate and amino acid combined drink during and after exercise and training can cause an insulin spike, which will help shuttle BCAAs into the cells where they are needed. (This is obviously not a good combination for fasted training).  So, runners, cyclist and triathletes who take energy gels during their training or competition whilst sipping BCAAs from their bottles will really notice a difference in their energy and performance.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In Summary  So, without going to ‘scientific’ and getting too deep into the ‘how’, hopefully you can already see the real benefits you could be giving to your body, and the way it will perform for you when you supply your muscles with enough BCAAs prior to, during and after your chosen training session.  If you are serious about your training and getting results then it should be a ‘no brainer’ that supplementation with BCAAs on a regular basis, and by regular I mean ‘all the time’, will certainly do you no harm and could mean the very real difference between winning and losing in whatever arena you compete.  Those of you who follow a 16:8 Intermittent fasting nutrition strategy, such as is highlighted in   The ha’k:d Plan   ,  should be consistently supplementing with BCAAs without a second thought and as a matter of course, in order to keep the recovery and muscle building process rolling along during the fasted phase of this optimal strategy.  References;    Kimball SR, Jefferson LS. Regulation of protein synthesis by branched-chain amino acids. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2001;4:39–43.    (De Palo EF et al 2001). Plasma lactate, GH and GH-binding protein levels in exercise following BCAA supplementation in athletes.       

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    
 
   
     
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Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are the building blocks of protein and are responsible for a host of potential physique and performance enhancing effects, including increased protein synthesis, energy production, muscle building and enhanced recovery and are essential for increasing and maintaining maximum muscle performance.

     

  

    

       

         

           
               
             

             
             

           

         

        

       

    

  


          This Blog At A Glance…      Testosterone is the male hormone responsible for Muscle growth, Motivation, Fat loss and performance amongst other positive benefits.    Testosterone decreases with age but these losses can be limited by eating the right foods.    Supplementing with the right supplements can also help boost Testosterone.    Eating Eggs, Shrimp, Broccoli and Bananas, amongst other foods help increase natural Testosterone levels.             What is Testosterone and What Does it do?  As you may already know, Testosterone is the male hormone that is responsible for a number of beneficial (in terms of physique, performance and virility) processes in the body and include, amongst other things…    Muscle growth,    Fat loss,    Motivation,    Sex drive,    Athletic performance,    Of course, this is just a summarised list of what testosterone can do for you, but many other things associated with physique transformation and performance optimisation also occur when the body produces testosterone.  Maintaining a relatively high level, or should I say the highest natural level possible of testosterone, should be a priority for every male, especially those of you who are nearing the age of 30 years old and over as this is when it can rapidly decrease if not nurtured, maintained and looked after.  It is quite easy for time to pass us all by at a rapid rate and start to develop health and performance issues that we just put down to a result of the natural ageing process and this is very true when our testosterone levels start to drop.   Now, no matter what we do, testosterone will continue to decrease as we age, but we can limit these losses if we give our body what it needs in terms of the right foods and supplements.Maintaining or boosting your testosterone production to peak levels is obviously essential for those wanting to increase or maintain their muscle mass to improve physical performance and / or physical appearance, but it isn't just for those of us wishing to continue to perform and look at our best in the gym.   Every male over the age of 30 should be looking to optimise their male hormone levels for a host of health and wellbeing reasons, keeping you in peak condition in all areas (and yes.....this includes the bedroom) just like we were in their 20’s and teenage years.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     The Effects of Mother Nature on Your Testosterone.  The bad news for all of us men ‘of a certain age’ is that mother nature isn't a fan of the ageing male and allows the production of this extremely useful hormone (For all things athletic and aesthetic) to peak during your late teens to mid 20’s.  After this age our testosterone then rapidly begins to decline unless you become consciously aware of it and then start to manage to do something about it.  The problem is also compounded as, at the same time your testosterone is decreasing, your body is also increasing the stress hormone cortisol which basically impairs testosterone production even further, giving you in effect a ‘double-whammy’.  Before you know it, if you are not consciously monitoring these effects and fighting back against them you can literally wake up feeling old, looking soft and flabby, out of shape, tired and couldn't maintain an erection for longer than 30 seconds even if you had the desire to! (Okay, this might not happen overnight….but trust me guys, it's coming if you don't do something about it!!!).  In the not too distant past this was almost accepted as getting old and responsible for terms such as ‘middle-aged spread’, but we are a bit more educated in these things now and know this doesn’t have to be the case.    Fight Back Against The Ageing Process  Before you start to think that you may as well just give up and go and buy a pipe and slippers, It's not all a done deal.... the battle against ageing is not lost for us men!  No matter what age you are you can help your body help itself and keep testosterone at peak levels by doing a number of things, but including more 'testosterone producing' foods in your everyday nutritional intake is a big one that you should definitely look into seriously if you value your testosterone!     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     Include These Foods In Your Daily Meals or Snacks  By including more of the below foods into your everyday meals and snacks, you will help your body to increase and produce its maximum potential of testosterone. This will both assist your testosterone production and also help stop cortisol and oestrogen from robbing you of any potential muscle gains, performance, motivation and of course your libido.    #1 - Eggs  The cholesterol found in egg yolks is the precursor for testosterone production. Yes, you read that right...Dietary Cholesterol is actually a  good thing!!  As the fears of cholesterol in eggs raising your own cholesterol levels have now been found to be pretty much false, feel free to get some good quality egg yolks down your neck and raise your muscle building potential.  Eggs are also rich in vitamin D which also supports testosterone production. So not only are they a very versatile food packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and almost natures perfect food they will help with raising your testosterone levels.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     #2 - Honey  Honey contains a mineral called ‘Boron’ which is directly linked to higher testosterone production.  One study on the male hormone production took 8 healthy males who ingested 10mg of boron per day for 7 days. After this period they had raised their free testosterone levels by a massive 28%. [1]   The only word of caution I would give here is to remember to get a good quality, natural honey, and remember it is high in sugars and calories, so limit the amount you use on a daily basis.           #3 - Shrimp  These little crustaceans are a great source of vitamin D, and studies have shown that vitamin D has a strong link to testosterone production.  Is is no coincidence then that men who were tested and found to have higher levels of Vitamin D also had higher levels of Testosterone. [2]   If you are not a fan of shrimp, prawns or other seafood you can get your vitamin D from exposure to the sun or by supplementing with a good quality vitamin D supplement.           #4 - Pumpkin Seeds  Pumpkin seeds are packed with Zinc, and zinc is a key mineral involved in testosterone production.  Similarly to the study above, men diagnosed with low testosterone were found to have very low zinc intake. [3]   Again, you may want to seriously consider supplementing with Zinc if you simply can't stand eating seeds or of course have an allergy to them.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     #5 - Guavas  Although not one of the most common fruits that spring to mind, this fruit has literally masses of Vitamin C (228mg per 100g) and Vitamin C fights cortisol production.  Vitamin C is normally associated with helping you fight colds, but it is also a well known powerful antioxidant, which will not only help fight free radicals and keep your cells healthy but as mentioned will help control cortisol levels. [4]   Cortisol kills testosterone, which in turn will effect how much muscle you can maintain and build, so the more you can do to control it the better.  Any fruit high in vitamin C will of course help but Guavas are the daddy when it comes to this vital mineral.           #6 - Bananas  Staying on the fruit theme, bananas contain the enzyme ‘Bromelain', which some studies have suggested boost the male libido (Sex Drive).  Bananas are also packed with B vitamins like riboflavin, essential for the manufacture of testosterone, so you will get a double bonus for eating them.           #7 - Broccoli  A study has shown that increasing the intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower helps rid the body of the female hormone oestrogen.  It should go without saying that by reducing the levels of this female hormone in your body, testosterone is automatically increased or at least the effects of it are. essential to increasing your performance and physique.  Vegetables such as these also help with weight control which is also another great natural way of increasing your testosterone levels.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     #8 - Brazil Nuts  The key ingredient with eating this nut is magnesium, and Brazil nuts have an abundance of this testosterone producing mineral.  A recent study found that athletes who took 750mg of magnesium every day for four weeks increased their testosterone levels by 26%!  Just be careful that you don't consume too many of these due to their very high fat and calorie content which can lead to weight and fat gain which is counter productive when it comes to increasing testosterone.           #9 - Garlic  Garlic contains the chemical ‘Diallyl disulphide’ which stimulates the body to release a hormone that triggers the production of testosterone.  Further more a Japanese study found that when combined with a high protein diet for a month there was a considerable boost to testosterone production.  As a bonus garlic also offers some anti-inflammatory benefits which in turn can decrease cortisol levels quite nicely.           10# - Raw Dark Chocolate  Yes - Dark chocolate (85% cocoa and above) does have some good properties to help your testosterone levels.  Although refined sugar blocks testosterone production, so should normally be avoided at all costs - for any number of reasons, dark chocolate is normally low in sugars but very high in antioxidants.  Antioxidants, as mentioned above, of course, fight oxidative damage and stress within the body which in theory will lead to significant reductions in cortisol production.     

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


     In Summary  So there you have it, ten, easy to find, everyday foods which you may already include in your nutritional intake, which have been shown to not only help increase your production of testosterone but also help fight off those things which can inhibit it.  You should obviously try and include as many of these types of food in your weekly meal plans as you can to ensure that you help keep your testosterone levels as high as possible,  just keep an eye on the calorie content of some of them as you don't want to be gaining too much body fat as this is counter productive.  References;    Naghii MR, Mofed M, Asgari AR, Hedayati M, Daneshpour MS. (2011)  Comparative effects of daily and weekly boron supplementation on plasma steroid hormones and proinflammatory cytokines.     Nimptsch,K., Platz, E., Willett, W., & Giovannucci, E. (2012).  Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and Testosterone levels in men.      Prasad, A., Mantzoroz, C., Beck, F., Hess, J.,& Brewer, G (1996).  Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.      Peters, E., Anderson, R., Nieman, D., Fickl, H., & Jogessar,V. (2001).  Vitamin C supplementation attenuates the increase in circulating cortisol, Adrenaline and Anti-Inflammatory polypeptides following ultramarathon running. International journal of sports medicine.        

  

    
       
      
         
          
             
                  
             
          

          

         
      
       
    

  


    
 
   
     
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Testosterone - the male hormone that is responsible for, amongst other things, muscle growth, fat loss, motivation, drive, athletic performance, etc. etc. should be a priority for every male to maintain, no matter what their age, but especially those who are nearing the age of 30 years old and over.