Fight Aging With Whey Protein

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Adequate protein intake is vital to anyone seeking to preserve muscle mass, especially since the aging process threatens the loss of all that hard-earned muscle through a process called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia causes a loss of muscle mass and strength in all individuals as they age, even in die-hard gym addicts.

The aging process hits us with a double whammy because 1) our dietary protein needs increase over time, and 2) our ability to synthesize new proteins plummets as a consequence of diminished levels of testosterone, human growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1. In other words, it becomes tougher and tougher to meet the aging body’s protein needs, and the result is a loss of muscle.

One of the biggest challenges in meeting the protein demands of the body as we age is the physical challenge of consuming adequate protein. Protein powders are an excellent means of meeting protein requirements in a low bulk form since they are dissolved in liquid. Whey protein in particular is an excellent protein source for anyone over the age of 30, provided they have no issues with allergy or intolerance to whey.

Whey protein is rich in branched chain amino acids, especially leucine, which is considered the most important branched chain amino acid for protein synthesis, especially in older people. Branched chain amino acids are also responsible for proper dermal collagen protein synthesis, so they play a huge role in the condition of the skin, maintaining its suppleness and tone.

Another age-related benefit of supplementing one’s diet with whey protein is the presence of lactoferrin, which fortifies bone and prevents osteoporotic fractures by activating osteoblasts. Whey protein also contains high levels of cysteine, an amino acid which boosts glutathione production. Glutathione, an antioxidant with powerful anti-aging effects, steadily declines naturally as we age, and since its production relies on the presence of cysteine, the introduction of whey protein into a meal plan can guard against age related diseases.

Whey protein has profound effects on glucose metabolism as well. It reduces serum glucose levels in healthy individuals while impairing glucose tolerance in diabetic and obese individuals. When consumed consistently as part of a sensible high protein meal plan, the result is a reduction in body weight and an increase in fat oxidation. This is due to the release of leptin, cholecystokinin, and glucagon like-peptide 1, all of which create a feeling of satiety.

In summary, the benefits of whey protein are numerous and significant, especially for older individuals. If you have yet to incorporate whey protein into your meal plan and you have been lamenting the ravages of Father Time, do yourself a favor and add whey protein to your daily regimen.

References: Sousa G et al. Dietary whey protein lessens several risk factors for metabolic diseases: a review. Lipids Health Disc. 2012;11:67

It Isn’t Just About Fitness: How Fitness Goals Impact Your Entire Life

My latest article for Sports Nutrition Supplement Guide is on the impact that fitness goals can have on every aspect of your life. You can see the original post via the link below, or read the article here as well.


You may already be immersed in a fitness plan which enhances your physical strength and flexibility, improves performance, and keeps your physique in tip-top shape. But being physically fit confers a multitude of mental benefits which you might not be aware of. As a matter of fact, the link between physical health and mental health is so strong that people who brush off regular exercise as a time-consuming task are depriving themselves of optimal health and well-being.

Simply by engaging in 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 3 to 4 days per week, you can help manage or even prevent mild depression and anxiety through the release of endorphins in the brain. In addition, regular exercise increases energy levels, enabling you to power through a busy day more efficiently. Individuals who exercise regularly also tend to enjoy more restful sleep.

Those of you who hit the gym or engage in other types of physical activity several days per week may also have noticed that simply by being in an exercise environment, your worries and negative thoughts have a tendency to melt away, lending a lot of validity to the phrase “iron therapy”. The sense of community which exists within gym settings or other events (such as 5K races, mud runs, rock climbing events, and other activities) can also be a very effective means of eradicating any feelings of loneliness or isolation.

People who struggle with depression are more likely to be sedentary, and levels of GABA, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine tend to be much lower than in people who work out regularly. Conversely, levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, tend to be higher in sedentary individuals who suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. A study by the University of California San Francisco determined that women who exercised for 45 minutes over a 3-day period showed fewer signs of cellular aging compared to their inactive counterparts. Other studies have demonstrated that as little as three hours of regular exercise each week can reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression as effectively as pharmaceutical antidepressants.

Regular physical activity also benefits cognitive function. Researchers have discovered noticeable physical differences between the brains of people who engage in regular exercise when compared to inactive people. Several studies have found that the hippocampi in fit individuals is much larger. Why is this important? Because the hippocampus is largely responsible for spatial memory, and it is also one of the first regions in the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s related damage. Exercise also boosts levels of growth factors in the brain which are responsible for higher cognitive functions such as concentration, attention, memory and learning.

Lastly, regular exercise boosts self-esteem and improves body image, contributing to a greater sense of well-being and confidence. Think of how exciting it is when you reach a training goal, such as increased strength or flexibility, weight loss, or a positive change in body composition.

In summary, when you train your body through regular exercise, you also boost brain health and create a greater sense of overall well-being.

Why Diets Don’t Work For Weight Loss

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If you are like many people, you probably have been led to believe that the only way to effectively lose weight is to practice severe caloric restriction. However, if you are always struggling to lose those last 5, 10, or 15 pounds, and are frustrated because you tend to lose some weight, only to gain all of it back plus some extra fluff, then it is highly likely that you have damaged your metabolism via severe calorie restriction.

There is a very good reason why the weight loss and diet industry is so successful, and why certain well-known weight loss programs keep their customers coming back. Most diet plans doom their clients to failure, because they don’t provide enough caloric fuel to keep the body happy, so it becomes sluggish, and the metabolic rate drops in an effort to make the body more efficient at running on low fuel.

When you consume a very small amount of calories in an effort to create a significant caloric deficit, you can potentially wreak havoc on your metabolism by causing it to slow down. Why does this happen? When there is no food to break down, the body’s furnace slows down and becomes so sluggish that when you actually do eat something, your body is less equipped to break down the food quickly, and instead stores it as fat. Depriving yourself of food also causes sharp drops in blood sugar, robbing you of energy and increasing insulin resistance. Increased insulin resistance over time can precipitate the development of diabetes.

Other consequences of skipping meals include the following:

• Malnutrition – If you do not feed your body regular, balanced meals, it is highly likely that you are depriving it of essential nutrients. Malnourished states can lead to weight gain, poor health and progression of disease over time.

• Poor concentration – This is due to the depletion of glycogen stores which occurs. The brain simply does not have enough fuel to run on, resulting in fogginess.

• Hunger pangs – When you skip meals, you may experience intense feelings of hunger along with anxiety, dizziness or nausea. In addition, such feeling may lead to overeating when you finally sit down to eat something. Loading the body with a large meal is overkill, and leads to poor digestion and absorption as well as increased storage in body fat stores.

Do yourself a favor and practice the following guidelines. If you do, you will be rewarded with a healthy weight for a lifetime.

1. Don’t skip meals.

2. Make sure to eat enough protein to sustain your energy levels and satisfy your hunger.


4. Commit to healthy meals.

5. When you turn to snacks, make sure healthy alternatives are available so you aren’t tempted to reach for a nutrient-poor convenience food.

Try a New Sport to Break Fitness Plateaus

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If you are a dedicated weightlifter, you have probably had to struggle with fitness plateaus at some point. What most lifters do when they reach a sticking point with their progress is they switch up the rep range or lifting technique in order to activate the muscles differently, but they usually won’t step outside the gym to explore other activities.

However, perhaps the best way to break through a stubborn plateau, especially if you have already tried with the weights to no avail, is to train in a sport which will address your areas of weakness in a novel way, and in many cases, produce the results you seek. Though I am a big proponent of weight training, I also promote training in other sports as a means of changing things up and challenging the body.

One of the most common laments I hear is that the shoulders often lag behind development of the back and arms. So if you have deltoid muscles which won’t respond to iron therapy no matter how you switch up your training, you might want to consider giving tennis or basketball a try. People who regularly engage in these sports tend to have some of the shapeliest shoulders and arms around, because the body mechanics which characterize them incorporate a lot of movement around the shoulder joints. If the region of your body which is lagging behind is your lower extremities, you can engage in sports such as soccer or cycling to ramp up your training efforts and shape up your legs rapidly. If team sports aren’t your thing, you could take up a martial art or boxing to improve your strength and agility while also making your physique appear more balanced.

On a personal note, I took a few flying trapeze classes last fall and was amazed at how much back recruitment occurred during those classes. Though I didn’t sign up for flying trapeze classes with a goal of widening my lats, they indeed became wider as a result of all the static hanging I did from the trapeze pole. I also noticed that after every class, I was sore in places where I never felt sore when I lifted weights. It was a great challenge for me which also enabled me to confront a mild fear of heights. I also found it challenging to refrain from shrugging my shoulders or pulling my body up as I would do during a pullup at the gym. I began to use my body in different ways, and it rewarded me with an improved back silhouette.

In essence, practicing a sport can often break people out of a weightlifting rut and force them to use their bodies differently. You can still adopt the “Gym Is Life” mentality, but by broadening your horizons, you’ll have fun in the process, improve your athletic prowess, and if you choose your sport wisely, may be rewarded with a more balanced and conditioned physique.

Getting Back On The Horse: Returning To The Gym

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Perhaps the ebb and flow of life has thrown you off your fitness routine, and you are ready to return to the gym. It might be that you are post-partum, or had to nurse an injury or illness. Or it could be that you have been moving at such a frenetic pace in your life that you got sidetracked from your “every damned day” gym schedule, and need to get back into the groove. Whatever the reason is for putting consistent gym visits on the back burner, the good news is that you can re-establish a consistent fitness regimen. In order to ensure the greatest success with your efforts, here are some suggestions which will motivate you and keep you on track.

Set Goals

I bet some of you may have forgotten about the power of setting specific goals for yourself. It may be that you have been away from the iron den for a long time, so you might want to set strength gain goals in which you move up in your 1 rep max every two weeks, increase the number of free dips or pullups you can perform every few weeks, or even increase the amount of time you hold a plank.

Another type of goal you can set for yourself is to increase muscle mass in a measurable way, perhaps a one inch increase in your calf girth over a 6 week period, for example. Instead of meandering back into the gym and having a general objective, like just getting back in there, make sure to hang a carrot in front of you so that you are even more motivated to stick to the program.

Be Realistic

Thank goodness for muscle memory, because it enables those who are at a high level of fitness to regain their muscle mass and strength rather quickly after a period of inactivity. However, those who were at a lower level of fitness at their baseline will lose muscle and strength pretty rapidly, after even as little as two weeks of not lifting weights. Depending on what your degree of muscularity or strength was before your setback, you will have to give yourself some time to build back up to previous levels of muscle mass and strength. If you find yourself with more padding around the midsection, glutes, or thighs than what you had when you were hitting the weights consistently, make sure that you target fat loss with your training and food intake.

Eat Properly

You can’t expect to achieve stellar results just by hitting the weights like a fiend, while putting junk food in your body, so make sure to establish healthy eating habits to support your return to lifting weights. If your eating habits have gone by the wayside, incorporate a consistent meal plan which provides your body with clean macronutrients and supports your weight training. Throw out the forbidden foods which may be lurking in your kitchen, such as sweets, crackers, chips, and ice cream. Stock your kitchen with whole foods like lean turkey, chicken breast, salmon, eggs, green vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, almonds, walnuts, and avocado. Confine cheat meals to one evening on the weekends.

Don’t Overtrain

Make sure to give yourself time to get back into the swing of things, especially if you are returning after an injury or illness. You MUST take it easy, otherwise you run the risk of injuring or re-injuring yourself, causing an even bigger setback. If you were very fit before you took your break, your muscle mass and strength should both return to their previous levels within a couple of weeks.

Are Post-Workout Carbohydrates Necessary?

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If you have been lifting weights for a while, you have probably heard about the importance of ingesting simple carbohydrates during the critical post-workout window. The idea is that the insulin spike which occurs with carb consumption augments protein uptake and thus optimizes muscle building and repair.

However, there is a growing body of evidence which argues against this theory. One study which was published in Nutrition and Metabolism split older male subjects into two groups, one of which consumed only protein post-workout, while the other group consumed the identical amount of protein, with an added carbohydrate source in a 1 to 2 ratio. The subjects in the second group initially had an insulin spike and a greater uptake of protein into muscle tissue, but after several hours, both groups had the same uptake of protein.

Athletes who train several times a day may benefit from the faster rate of protein absorption which accompanies carbohydrate consumption during the post-workout window since they need to keep glycogen stores full for the next workout. However, the average person or athlete who only trains once per day will be able to replenish glycogen levels within a day or two, without any negative effects, as long as enough carbohydrates are consumed in the diet throughout each day. This is great news for individuals who cannot consume large amounts of simple carbohydrates, either due to diabetes or excess weight, because the overall absorption and uptake of protein is unaffected by carbohydrate intake.

Substances like whey protein induce an even bigger spike in insulin than carbs do, and the increase insulin levels from protein alone is adequate to inhibit the muscle breakdown which occurs post-lift. You might also consider employing a carb-cycle diet which consists of a low carb plan intermixed with one or two high carb days per week. The carb spike days will effectively replenish glycogen stores and keep your energy high for those intense lifting days, while the remaining lower carbohydrate days will boost growth hormone production.

REFERENCES: Hamer H, Wall B, Kiskini A, de Lange A, et al (2013) Carbohydrate co-ingestion with protein does not further augment post-prandial muscle protein accretion in older men. Nutrition & Metabolism 10:15.

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