Why Zinc Is So Important


Here is an article which I wrote a few years ago and which still applies to general health:

Zinc is a vital mineral which is found in every tissue in the body due to its involvement in cell division. In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, zinc has a number of roles, including maintenance of normal hormonal levels, proper endocrine function, body composition, energy levels, optimal physical performance and protein synthesis. Thus it is crucial to maintain normal levels of zinc in the body when training or prepping for a competition.

Zinc is highly concentrated in meat, dairy and some seafood. This is why vegetarians most commonly suffer from zinc deficiency. So how can you tell if you suffer from a zinc deficiency? Common symptoms include an altered sense of taste which leads to cravings for sweets and salty foods. Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include low energy, infertility, low libido, memory problems, poor immunity and diarrhea.

A relatively easy way to test yourself to see if you are deficient in zinc is to do a taste test. Take 1 to 2 teaspoons of zinc sulfate (you can get this at health food stores) and add to a cup of water. If it tastes just like water, you are very zinc deficient. If you experience a slightly metallic taste, you are moderately zinc deficient. If it is strongly metallic and unpleasant, you most likely have normal zinc levels. Please bear in mind that this test is never as accurate as a blood test, but at least it will give you an idea of what your levels are.

For those of you who want to know the specific health benefits of zinc, here is a list of benefits.

Enhances Strength and Athletic Performance:

Zinc plays a major role in anabolic hormone production which makes it a key player in optimizing athletic performance and strength. When zinc levels in the body are normal, more growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 is released, which result in enhanced muscle growth and performance. Researchers have also noted that zinc enhances the conversion rate of androstenedione to testosterone, which improve strength gains during the recovery phase.

Enhances Reproductive Health and Fertility in Both Men and Women:

The cells of the male prostate require an extremely high concentration of zinc for proper function. To give you an idea of how much zinc is necessary in the prostate, male prostate tissue requires ten times more zinc than other cells in the body for normal function. There is a correlation between low zinc levels in men and increased risk of developing prostate cancer and infertility. There is also evidence to support the link between low zinc levels and low libido. Another implication with low zinc levels is its importance in maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Men with low zinc also tend to have low testosterone, which puts them at greater risk of andropausal symptoms.

In women, proper levels of zinc are essential for egg maturation and ovulation. Zinc also optimizes utilization of estrogen and progesterone and regulates their levels. During pregnancy, zinc plays a vital role in ensuring proper cell division in the growing fetus and helps to prevent premature delivery.

Essential For Taste, Smell and Appetite:

Zinc activates areas in the brain that process information from taste buds in the mouth and olfactory cells in the nasal passages. In addition, levels of zinc in the plasma influence taste preference and appetite. Many programs which treat anorexics use zinc to revive taste and appetite.

Makes Skin, Hair and Nails Healthy:

Zinc accelerates skin cell renewal which is why it is commonly used in diaper rash creams, acne treatments and creams which are used to treat dermatitis. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has a soothing effect on rashes, burns and blisters. Some shampoos contain zinc to help prevent dandruff. What you may not know is that zinc is important for healthy hair and that low zinc levels can cause hair loss, dull and thin hair, and loss of pigmentation.

Essential For Vision:

Zinc is found in high concentrations in the retina, but this level declines with advancing age, precipitating age-related macular degeneration which is characterized by a partial or complete loss of vision. Zinc also has a protective effect against the development of cataracts and night blindness.

Supports Cardiovascular Health:

Zinc is vital to normal cardiovascular function. When levels of zinc are low, the endothelial layer in blood vessels becomes inflamed and accumulates cholesterol deposits, both of which increase one’s risk of heart disease. Low levels of zinc can amplify the negative cardiovascular effects of diets which are high in fat and cholesterol, whereas adequate levels of zinc will inhibit the progression of heart disease.

Increases Insulin Sensitivity:

The presence of zinc is essential for normal function of most hormones, including insulin. Zinc binds to insulin and aids in storage in the pancreas as well as release of insulin in the presence of serum glucose. In addition, zinc is found in the enzymes which enable insulin to bind to cells so that glucose can be utilized for fuel, a process better known as insulin sensitivity. Why is this important? If zinc levels are low, enzyme levels drop, insulin sercretion drops and glucose remains in the bloodstream, a process which can lead to diabetes if it is chronic.

Improves Mood:

Dopamine, a chemical in the brain which boosts mood and energy, is partially regulated by zinc, so zinc once again plays an important role in the body. There is also evidence to support the theory that the presence of zinc boosts serotonin levels in the brain.

Supports Immune Function:

Zinc supports T cell function and is thus strongly tied with combating inflammation. T cells are responsible for mounting an immune response to invaders such as bacteria or viruses.

Has Potent Antioxidant Effect:

Zinc can remove toxins from the body and prevent accumulation of harmful compounds in tissues. This mechanism has a protective effect against the development of cancers, especially in the prostate, ovaries, pancreas, breast and colon. In addition, zinc prevents the buildup of heavy metals in the brain such as aluminum, which has been closely linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

If you suspect that you are deficient in zinc, you can supplement daily with 20 to 30 milligrams.

(Original post can be found here: http://www.rxmuscle.com/blogs/the-lab-supplement-school/7294-why-zinc-is-so-important.html?hitcount=0)

Lose Sleep, Lose Muscle

Originally published in March 2014 on RxMuscle.com:


Those of you who insist on burning the midnight oil and carving into time during which you should be sleeping are doing yourselves a disservice. When you build up a sleep deficit, not only do you adversely affect your attention and overall energy, you also diminish the potential muscle gains you would obtain if you consistently got a good night’s rest.

A good portion of the slump in muscle repair and growth which occurs from inadequate sleep is due to inadequate secretion of growth hormone (GH). GH is only secreted during deep sleep, so people who don’t sleep for more than a few hours will spend less time in deep sleep and cause GH secretion to drop. In addition, there is some evidence that testosterone secretion also drops, creating a double whammy which cripples the body’s ability to utilize fat and build muscle.

Cravings can also become a significant issue with sleep deficits as a result of hormonal effects. Leptin, a hormone which signals that you are full from a meal, is inhibited during sleep deprivation, resulting in increased food cravings (especially for carbohydrates). Conversely, ghrelin, a hormone which signals hunger, increases by as much as 30 percent after only a two night sleep deficit.

The body also produces more cortisol during the late afternoon, which is exactly when the body’s production should be tapering down to prepare the body for sleep. Higher cortisol levels promote deposition of more fat and utilization of muscle for energy during a sleep-deprived state.

When you cheat yourself out of a full night’s sleep, you also deplete neurotransmitters in the brain which are in charge of regulating mood. The result is irritability and, over the long term, depression, both of which can impact the intensity of your workouts and hinder your efforts to pack on muscle.

Sleep deficits also result in a decrease in alertness and concentration which often translates into submaximal workouts. And Sleep deficit affects strength. A study in Ergonomics examined the effects of sleep deprivation on weightlifting, with compelling results. As expected, there was a significant decrease in maximal lift for bench press, leg press, and dead lift after a three-day sleep deficit was established.

If you are in the habit of cutting into your sleep time, or you practice erratic sleeping patterns which are creating a sleep deficit, try to get into a rhythm in which you get enough sleep every night, especially if you are hitting a plateau with your training. Once you start getting adequate sleep, you will notice a big difference in your strength and muscle gains.

Hormone Roller Coaster (repost)


Oh, to be a woman. We are blessed with goddess energy and are also capable of being strong and muscular while holding onto our femininity. But with our female distinction we also have hormonal fluctuations which can wreak havoc on our health and our moods. It can be a tricky thing to keep estrogen and progesterone levels balanced consistently, especially for those of us who compete. Estrogen imbalance can also bring about early menopause, premenstrual symptoms, menstrual irregularities, and skin issues.

Women who practice a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management have the best chance of keeping their hormones in balance throughout their cycles. Overly processed foods, especially refined sugars, should be avoided. Strength training is also an excellent way of regulating estrogen levels in the body. However, I realize that the majority of you who are reading this are already on board with clean eating and weight training, but may still struggle with mood swings, food cravings, menstrual irregularities, and menstrual cramps.

Here are some tips on how to combat mood swings and food cravings which may emerge each month. These supplements will not affect contest prep, and may actually equip you with the best chance of staying on track even during THAT time of the month.

MOOD SWINGS: I am a big fan of the B vitamins because they are proven to reduce stress and anxiety. In fact, I make sure that all of my patients who suffer from depression and anxiety take a B-complex supplement to regulate their mood. It is also a good idea to take magnesium glycinate to restore the magnesium that is depleted during times of stress. Start with 250 milligrams daily, then increase to three times daily with meals. If you get drowsy or have frequent bowel movements, decrease your dose down to once or twice per day.

FOOD CRAVINGS: One of the reasons why women tend to crave chocolate around that special time of the month is because they are often deficient in magnesium, which is found in high amounts in chocolate. For this reason, I suggest taking magnesium glycinate(as stated before) to normalize magnesium levels in the body. Dosage parameters are the same, but if you prefer, you can take magnesium for two weeks at a time, starting a week before your period and ending a week after you get your period.

Another great supplement to take for food cravings is alpha lipoic acid. Take 100 milligrams three times daily. If you really get slugged with strong food cravings before flow visits, add chromium picolinate (200 micrograms three times daily) and vanadyl sulfate (10 milligrams three times daily) to your regimen.

The Ultimate Competition Packing List

Originally published on RxGirl on Sunday, 06 April 2014

I cannot tell you how many times I have been at a contest and have heard other competitors mention all the things they forgot to pack in their luggage. Such oversights can make an already stressful time almost intolerable, especially if the contest location is far from one’s home and unfamiliar. Over the years I compiled and updated a packing list which has served me very well and has relieved all the stress of remembering what to pack.

Every time I pack for a contest, I have copies of my packing lists and check off each item as it is packed. Instead of having one list, I have three: a main list, a food and supplement list, and a makeup list. I have even gone to the extent of specifying which items go in my checked bag or handbag and which items go into my carry-on bag. I am adamant about having my competition suits, clear heels, jewelry and all makeup items in my carry-on bag so that I don’t have to worry about being separated from those vital items.

Even if you are hiring someone to do hair and makeup, I still recommend packing all the makeup and hair items you would need if you had to do it yourself, because you never know what might happen. I have heard of competitors who got stuck without a makeup artist for one reason or another, then had to scramble to borrow makeup or quickly find a makeup artist to come to the rescue. It is NOT worth the stress to take that chance!
Here is a breakdown of the items I recommend packing for a contest:

Main List:

Checked Bag –
• Body lotion
• Sugar scrub (make sure container is leakproof!)
• Razor
• Regular toiletry stuff (toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face moisturizer)
• Umbrella (I have caught myself in unexpected rainstorms, so this is a MUST)
• Loose pants (for post-tanning)
• Big button-down shirt (for post-tanning)
• Dark socks (take several pairs to avoid staining sheets and in case of wet weather)
• Dark hand towels (I usually pack two for showering purposes)
• Dark t-shirt (makes a great pillowcase after tanning)
• Gym apparel (make sure to count how many days you will work out, remember bras, shorts, socks and sneakers)
• Hair clips and ties
• Hairspray, hair wax, hair gel
• Shampoo and conditioner
• Hair styling tools such as hairdryer, flatiron, curling iron
• Comb, brush
• Flip flops (great in hot weather and post-tan)
• Business cards (VERY important for networking)
• Extra Ziploc bags
• Food storage containers
• Small sewing kit
• Safety pins
• Cotton swabs (handy for cleaning up makeup too)
• Makeup remover towelettes
• Outfit to sleep in
• Outfits for daytime (count how many days you will need clothes and pack accordingly)
• Underwear (dark colors recommended, plus pack extra pairs)
• Shoes for daytime
• Cute dress or two to go out in
• Nice heels to go out in
• Sweater or coat
• Bikini bite
• Touch-up tanning solution, gloves and tanning puff
• Glaze

Carry On Bag –
• Phone charger
• Jewelry for contest
• Clear heels
• At least two competition suits (ALWAYS bring a backup!)
• Makeup items from Makeup List
• Food from Food List

Food List:
• Supplements
• Diuretic
• Silverware
• Lidded beverage container
• Food from your plan

Makeup List:
• Primer (foundation and eyeshadow)
• Eye shadows
• Eyeliners
• False eyelashes
• Lash adhesive
• Small scissors
• Fine tip tweezers
• Small mirror (I recommend one about 4 inches in diameter which folds up)
• Mascara
• Foundation
• Translucent loose powder
• Blush
• Bronzer
• Highlighter
• Lip liner
• Lipstick
• Lipgloss
• Sponges
• Eyelash curler (if your lashes are straight, I would recommend this)
• Brushes
Competitor and luggage
Now that I have everything broken down in list form, let’s look at the best way to do all this packing. Generally, I like to pack my food a few days in advance since it is the most tedious portion of the packing experience. Each meal is placed in a sandwich sized bag with a day and meal number (eg: W 1), then that bag is placed into a gallon sized bag which is labeled for the day (eg: W). This way, I can grab one of the large bags and know that all my meals are in there. Wet ingredients or vegetables which tend to leak (asparagus is notorious for this) should be double-bagged. I refrigerate the day’s meals for the day that I will be traveling, while the meals for the other days go into the freezer. You can expect food packing to take at least a couple of hours, so make sure you have a decent pocket of time to do this.

One to two days before the contest, I pack my other items. Lotions, gels, and creams should be placed into a Ziploc bag in case they leak. Since tanning solution is especially prone to leakage, I will put masking tape over the seal before placing it in the bag, and will also place the bag into a rigid plastic container for more protection.

As long as you take a systematic approach and take your time with packing, as opposed to waiting until the last minute, you will be well prepared for your contest.

Misconceptions About The Men’s Physique Division

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Wednesday, 16 July 2014. It was a pretty popular post!

jeremy b greater gulf states 2013
The Men’s Physique Division has stirred up tremendous interest and a decent amount of controversy within the IFBB and NPC, with a plethora of fans as well as a camp of haters. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the inception of this division was the door of opportunity which opened for men who were interested in competing on a bodybuilding stage but who did not want to sign up for the rigors of a competitive bodybuilder’s regimen. As expected, the floodgates opened and the Men’s Physique Division became wildly popular, not just among competitors within the division, but also among its ever-growing fan base worldwide. Sadly, there have been naysayers who have popped up with scathing criticism of the division which echoes the main misconceptions about the division.

Here is a breakdown of the three main misconceptions which have been circulating since the division was established in 2011.

“The Men’s Physique Division should be renamed Men’s Bikini.”

Ever since the Men’s Physique Division (MPD) was established, insults began flying about how it had no business sharing the stage with Bodybuilding. The ideal Men’s Physique body is supposed to be distinctive from a bodybuilder’s body, balanced with a pronounced v-taper, and without the excessive muscularity that is so celebrated in Bodybuilding. The more abbreviated posing which characterizes the MPD, along with the specific poses, the beach god look, and the model type good looks which many competitors possess have prompted many bodybuilders and fans of old school bodybuilding to compare MPD to a beauty pageant.

I will admit that there have been rare instances in which I have seen MPD competitors exaggerate their posing in such a way that it becomes a bit comical and somewhat pageant-like, but such instances are isolated. I think it’s important to remember that MPD competitors train HARD, and the best in the industry are very well respected athletes. It is outrageously rude to make comparisons of these tremendous athletes to pageant contestants.

“Men’s Physique (MP) guys don’t have wheels.”

The regulation garment which was chosen for the MPD, the board short, was selected primarily to evoke the idea that the competitors were supposed to look like they had just walked off the beach, embodying the ideal buff beach body. However, this particular short style is cut in such a way that it always hides the quads and hams, so it is often impossible to tell whether a competitor has well developed legs or is hiding toothpick legs under all that fabric. My experience has been that I have seen quads on many MP competitors which rival the wheels of seasoned bodybuilders, blowing the idea that MP guys have stick legs completely out of the water.

Many MP guys lift heavy, and they certainly do train legs! Every once in a while you might see an MP guy with spindly legs, but the division certainly does not deserve to be picked on about leg development. It has in fact been suggested by many to implement a shorter cut onstage in order to reveal the quads and hams. Perhaps once that occurs, MP competitors will finally be able to dispel this rumor.

“All Men’s Physique guys are divas or gay.”

First of all, anyone who is narrow-minded enough to make a blanket assessment of the sexual orientation of an entire division of competitors simply because many of them are visually very appealing is completely ignorant. It seems like the haters who make such comments are mostly envious because the MP guys are the ones who usually turn heads and make the ladies swoon. As a matter of fact, many women, including me, were ecstatic when the MPD was established because we as spectators finally had our eye candy. Many MP competitors easily fit the expression “pretty boy” due to their Abercrombie & Fitch boyish good looks. Honestly, I don’t see how that is a bad thing!

Though I have observed a high maintenance and diva-esque attitude in some MP competitors, that type of attitude by no means pervades the division. Let’s face it: the world of competitive bodybuilding can sometimes spark up a picky, persnickety attitude in competitors regardless of gender or division, and that certainly includes competitive male bodybuilders, who can be the biggest pains in the ass because their regimens are so extreme.

It has been exciting to watch the MPD grow from the new kid on the block who got picked on, to now being a well-respected division which has enhanced the sport of competitive bodybuilding. Not only has the MPD brought in massive revenue for the NPC and IFBB, it has brought competitive bodybuilding to the mainstream with its more attainable body silhouette.