December 22, 2014

Importance of Building Core Strength

Glorious Abdominal Muscles

Who doesn’t love a good core workout?

Core strength is perhaps personal trainers’ favorite topic and they love to educate their clients on its importance.

Core exercises are a critical aspect of every workout regimen.

They not only strengthen your abs and allow you to rock a beach-worthy body but they also strengthen the hip, pelvis as well as the lower back areas. Most trainers particularly focus on the core because it is the center of the body and helps you employ all parts of your body optimally.

Your core is also home for several internal organs, therefore, strengthening it is crucial for protecting what’s inside too and not just the aesthetics.

Here’s why you should consider including more core exercises into your routine:

Injury prevention

It takes more than a few crunches to strengthen your core. Core strength has more to do with core stability than the outer appearance or more precisely, a 6-pack[1]. It is critical that you work on building core stability before you work towards gaining core strength and building muscle around thus area.

The reason is that you have to work the muscles deep within your core to work first. Once you get them working, everything else will fall into place, which includes strengthening and building ab muscles. Building core stability will help you increase your overall fitness level and also reduce your risk of injury[2].

Most movements originate from the center; therefore, building a strong and stable core will help you perform movements smoothly and without any pain.

You don’t need any specialized equipment or a gym membership to build core strength…

Any exercise or movement that involves your back muscles and abdominal muscles in a coordinated manner can be counted as a core exercise. Exercises that we may presume as arm or leg exercises such as bicep curls, or movements with weights which require maintaining a stable core train, strengthen and stabilize your core muscles as well.

The plank and the bridge are classic core exercises that work on your body’s stability as well as strength. Make sure you tighten your ab muscles while performing any ab workout and focus on form and technique more than number of reps or the session length.

No more back pain

Perhaps one of the most common signs of a weak core is back pain[3]. Usually when the abdominal muscles are weak, the strength of the back muscles outweigh the strength of the ab muscles, thus causing pain. To counteract this imbalance, developing more core strength may help.

Being involved in a sedentary job will only exacerbate the effect of weak ab muscles. It is important that you are mindful about your posture and engage your core at all times.

Sitting for prolonged periods with an arched back and tilted pelvis instead of sitting tall and confident can not only weaken your core, but cause back pain too. If possible, using a stability ball rather than a chair may help you remember to engage your core because of the lack of stability offered by the ball.

Better posture

A strong core helps boost confidence, especially in the way you carry yourself. Maintaining a tall posture portrays strength, confidence and control in contrast to a curved or slouched posture which often shows lack of confidence and weakness.

Everyday activities become easier

Standing, sitting still, carrying a bag or a baby, moving heavy furniture and bending to tie your shoe laces becomes much easier when you have a stronger core.

Many individuals experience stiffness and pain in their backs which make these mundane tasks more challenging. The simplest of acts require core strength and stability, therefore, the best way to improve your lifestyle would be to train your core more.

Look great naked

Strengthening your core leads to one obvious benefit: really tight abs. However, a strong trunk does not only make you look great, but it helps you feel great too.

After developing core stability, you can work on more superficial trunk exercises to build strength and visually tighten your abs. focus on working your body inside-out. Just because you have a pair of big strong arms or legs, doesn’t always mean you have a strong or stable core too.

References

“A PILOT STUDY OF CORE STABILITY AND ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP?” Chris Sharrock, DPT, CSCS, Jarrod Cropper, DPT, Joel Mostad, DPT, Matt Johnson, DPT, and Terry Malone, PT, EdD, ATC, FAPTA

Exercise Physiology Laboratory, Athletic Training Department, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. “Relationship between core stability, functional movement, and performance.” Okada T, Huxel KC, Nesser TW.

1Departmento fRehabilitation MEdicine, University of Colorado, Denver, USA. “Core strengthening.” Akuthota V, Nadler SF.

October 27, 2014

Benefits of BCAAs

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 1.24.00 PM

Why take BCAAs?

Branched chain amino acids or BCAAs consist of three amino acids, valine, leucine and isoleucine. BCAAs are typically found in dietary protein sources such as meat or eggs and can be supplemented as well. BCAAs have been gaining popularity these days and all for good reasons.

Branched chain amino acids are commonly utilized for their role in improving exercise performance, building muscles and also improving post-exercise soreness. The number of research studies conducted on BCAA supplements exceeds all other supplements in the bodybuilding market.

Whether or not BCAAs can treat certain chronic conditions such as type-2 diabetes is still a debatable topic due to lack of evidence, however, BCAA supplementation can enhance muscle mass or at least maintain it, especially when one is on a strict low-calorie diet. They are thus, useful for those who plan on increasing their muscle/fat ratio.

What’s the deal with dieting?

Dieting is a catabolic process and can result in muscle breakdown. When you increase the muscle/fat ratio of your body, your body stresses itself to hold onto its fat stores. Therefore, instead of burning fat, it resorts to breaking down muscle mass to fuel the body’s functions. Dieting may, thus, be counterproductive for those aiming for a leaner physique.

Muscle gain/loss can be simplified though the following equation:

Rate of protein synthesis  - Rate of protein breakdown = Muscle mass

A calorie deficit diet will not only increase protein/muscle breakdown but will reduce the rate of protein synthesis, therefore, acting like a double edged sword for most individuals.

What’s worse is the fact that a decreased caloric intake will also decrease the amount of glycogen stores in the body which fuel hardcore training routines. This causes fatigue while working out and reduces your workout efforts and outcome. Lifting heavier than your body is used to allow muscles to adapt and grow and hence, utilize less energy to get the same amount of work done as before. However, lack of energy will prevent the body from doing so.

But you don’t have to ditch a good diet…

BCAAs are essential amino acids that are oxidized in the skeletal muscles. Oxidation of BCAA is known to be promoted through exercise. Studies suggest that physical exertion increases BCAA requirements in the body[1]. In addition, supplementation of BCAAs prior to and after exercise can promote muscle/protein synthesis, thus making them beneficial for individuals involved in physical activity and sports.

Studies also indicate that BCAAs are not only responsible for the increase in the rate of protein synthesis but they also enhance cellular capacity for protein synthesis.

Looking at the equation above, another advantage of taking BCAAs is that it attenuates muscle breakdown too [2]. This primarily happens because the activity of the components involved in the muscle protein breakdown route is substantially reduced. 

In conclusion, BCAAs increase muscle gain by increasing muscle synthesis and reducing muscle breakdown.

Increased performance

Increased Athletic Performance

What makes BCAAs even more appealing is that they help improve your workout efforts[3]. The science behind this is a complex scenario but simply put, BCAAs reduce tryptophan entry into the brain. This is a good thing because tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that enhances your perception of fatigue.

Fatigue can reduce your exercise intensity and reduce your exercise efforts. Serotonin also shoots your mood towards negative.

BCAAs prevent this reaction by competing with tryptophan in entering the brain. This allows you to exercise more intensely and for longer periods. Furthermore, it elevates your mood as well.

Wait, there’s more…

Challenging your body with a grueling workout session can increase muscle mass and strength but you may have to bear with the muscle soreness and recovery time as well.

A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness discovered that BCAA supplementation can reduce muscle damage associated with endurance workouts[4]. Another 2008 study published in the same journal indicated that BCAA supplements may enhance muscle recovery and regulate immune system function at the same time[5]. This is especially beneficial in preventing illness due to the fact that increased physical exertion may weaken immune system function.

Considerations

BCAA supplementation can benefit anybody interested in the aforementioned uses. It is important to note that supplementation becomes necessary for those on a calorie deficit regimen or on a low-protein or vegetarian diet. The best time for BCAA supplementation is before and after exercise for increased performance and protein synthesis and reduced muscle breakdown.

References

Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology, Nagoya 466-8555, Japan “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.”Shimomura Y, Murakami T, Nakai N, Nagasaki M, Harris RA.

Dept. of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT 06825, USA. “Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and indicators of muscle damage after endurance exercise.” Greer BK, Woodard JL, White JP, Arguello EM, Haymes EM.

Saga Nutraceuticals Research Institute, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Yoshinogari, Kanzaki, Saga 842-0195, Japan. “Branched-chain amino acid supplementation increases the lactate threshold during an incremental exercise test in trained individuals.” Matsumoto K, Koba T, Hamada K, Tsujimoto H, Mitsuzono R.

Centre for Human Movement, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia. Jeff “Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise.” Coombes JS, McNaughton LR.

Department of Surgical Science, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. “Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise.”Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R.

March 6, 2014

Preventing Exercise Injuries

Danger Sign

Who hasn’t heard the saying “No Pain, no gain”? While this may be the mantra for most sportsmen and athletes, this saying doesn’t always fit well in the gym.

The reason: A muscle or ligament tear, tendonitis, a dislocated joint or a fracture from dropping a kettlebell on your foot will not only result in painful suffering, but may also require a trip to the doctor’s office and a long recovery period, thus slowing down your progress.

While most exercise-related injuries occur amongst athletes, runners, bodybuilders and military recruits[1], the anticipation for getting a rock-solid, enviable body amongst exercise newbies can also increase such individuals’ risk of injuries. This is mainly due to lack of guidance and experience and the eagerness to get results too quickly.

Injuries are classified into two types: traumatic injuries and cumulative injuries. Traumatic injuries can occur any day, such as rolling the ankle. Cumulative injuries involve tissue damage that progress with repetitive stress[2] and can slowly impair your body’s functions causing problems such as improper training, inadequate posture, faulty movement and form etc.

Luckily gaining some knowledge can reduce your risk of exercise-related injuries.

Your best bet would be to learn the most common causes of exercise injuries and try your best to prevent them.

Incorrect technique

Most exercise injuries are associated with poor exercise technique, especially while weight lifting. Improper technique can rapidly cause pulled, torn or ripped connective tissues.

For example, when you try to handle a barbell without control or concentration, your action can cause a negative reaction in the form of an instant injury. If you’re new at the gym, make sure you train with a personal trainer so that you can learn the proper exercise techniques and respect your equipment and the movements involved in adequate training, which means no jerking, contorting, twisting or turning while pushing weights.

Practice with lightweights or focus on perfecting your technique before you jump to the main workout.

Lifting too heavy

Weight lifting is a high-risk form of training.

Dropping a heavy weight on your foot may result in an obvious injury but it is possible to weight train incorrectly too, as mentioned above. Inability to control a weight while moving it downward or having to jerk a weight to lift it can go against the biomechanical boundaries of your limbs, thus causing an injury.

Any mass seeks the floor due to gravity, therefore, allowing a weight to pull you instead of you pulling it can cause danger.

Not stretching before and after a workout

Make sure you stretch for 5 to 10 minutes before your warm-up.

Calf raises, hammy curls, crunches, squats, curls and bench presses are excellent choices for a pre-workout and post-workout stretch. Stretching helps elongating and relaxing muscles and is recommended to be performed before and after every workout.

Not warming up

No, stretching is not a warm-up routine. A warm-up is a short, quick-paced, high-rep and low intensity routine that “warms” your muscles up and increases blood flow to them.

It’s called a warm up because the low-intensity, quick exercise increases the temperature of the muscles involves and thus, decreases the viscosity of blood.

This increases mobility and flexibility because warm muscles with rich blood flow are more elastic as compared to cold muscles which tend to be stiffer. Swimming, stair climbing, jogging, cycling and rowing are excellent choices suitable for warming up. Stretching and warming up can reduce injuries associated with muscle stiffness and help improve your exercise intensity[3].

Exercising too much

Training more is awesome but it is possible to train too much[4]. Overtraining can have a negative impact on your body’s level of conditioning and strength. Moreover, overtraining zaps energy, slows down progress and also increases risk of injury.

It can interfere with your nervous system’s and muscles’ ability to strengthen and improve. Excessive training can deplete your ATP and glycogen stores, thus weakening your body and making it more prone to injury.

In order to reduce your risk, make enough room for rest during the course of your routine and reassess your session length.

References

Occupational Medicine Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA 01760-5007. “Epidemiology of injuries associated with physical training among young men in the army.”Jones BH, Cowan DN, Tomlinson JP, Robinson JR, Polly DW, Frykman PN.

Department of Exercise Science, Totman Building, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA. “Exercise-induced muscle damage in humans.”Clarkson PM, Hubal MJ.

Paavo Nurmi Centre, University of Turku, Finland. “Intrinsic risk factors and athletic injuries.”Taimela S, Kujala UM, Osterman K.

Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, Massachusetts. “Exercise, training and injuries.”Jones BH, Cowan DN, Knapik JJ.

January 14, 2014

Why You Need To Train Your Legs More

Leg Training

If you’re like most gym-goers, you probably don’t train your legs as often as your abs. In most cases, only the power rack is probably used for squats. Many individuals have bigger upper bodies but thin legs.

The reason: we all have an excuse to skip a proper leg routine or maybe we have an excuse which we presume is a good reason to avoid leg exercises. Running for your legs, or not wanting big, bulky legs or assuming that squats are bad for your knees often cause most trainers to make one of the biggest sins in the fitness world and that is, not working the legs enough.

To bust all myths associated with leg workouts, we have compiled the top six reasons why you shouldn’t avoid them:

Increase strength

With strong legs, you can perform your daily life activities better and also run faster, lift heavier, jump higher and improve your overall fitness level and ability.

Whether or not you’re an athlete or a competitor, strengthening your muscle will only do you a lot of good. Anything from moving heavy furniture to carrying your baby or even climbing the stairs becomes much easier with a pair or strong and stable legs.

Increase mental strength

The deal with not doing enough leg exercises is that they are marginally harder compared to ab exercises or arm exercises. Leg exercises require mental strength and doing squats and deadlifts will help you discover and build it.

Improve metabolism

Doing bench presses and curls may help you build some strength but they are incomparable to squats, lunges and deadlifts. These exercises utilize almost every muscle in your body and thus require a lot of energy and strength.

In order to execute them perfectly, you don’t only need physical strength but mental strength and concentration too. Your legs constitute some of the biggest muscles in your body, working them is only going to help you boost your metabolism and burn more calories.[1]

Burn fat

If you think you need to engage in cardio workouts every day to burn maximum fat, you may want to think again. While cardio is crucial in every workout regimen, so is a leg training routine. Training your legs, especially with multi-joint compound movements will help you burn more calories at greater ease as compared to upper body exercises such as lateral raises and bicep curls.

This results in increases fat loss which is partly associated with the release of hormones while training your legs. Your leg muscles are large enough to induce a hormonal response to help you burn more fat and build upper body mass at the same time. It’s a win-win.

Increase testosterone and growth hormones

Many scientific studies prove that squats and deadlifts are surefire ways of increases the release of testosterone and growth hormone in most individuals[2].

Ideally, you should focus on gaining strength and muscle mass through natural methods, therefore, say no to the overpriced and overhyped testosterone or growth hormone booster – you don’t need it.

Strengthen your bones

Front squats, calf raises, dead lifts, lunges, leg presses, weighted squats and other challenging leg exercises are excellent for increasing muscle mass and strength in your legs and improving the health of your bones and joints. Weight bearing workouts and resistance exercises are critical for the prevention of arthritis and osteoporosis[3].

However, if you have been diagnosed with a joint or bone condition, seeing a doctor and seeking advice from your physiotherapist may be the best way to go prior to starting a strength routine.

But don’t just work your legs…

When it comes to fitness, creating balance in your routine is just as important as finishing a workout, or perhaps more. Carrying a massive pounder on your back and doing a squat will benefit your body immensely but you need to balance it out by working your upper body as well.

Breaking down your upper body fibers by performing upper body strength workouts will help bring about change in your body. Remember that squats and dead lifts can’t replace rows and presses, they simply contribute to the awesomeness of the entire package.

Make sure you work all aspects of your body and couple your exercise routine with a healthy and nutritious diet packed with quality calories, sufficient rest, adequate sleep and a lot of happy hormones coming from all of the above.

References

School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. Stephen H. Boutcher “High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss”

Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana 47306, USA. “Effects of heavy-resistance training on hormonal response patterns in younger vs. older men.”

School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, George Building, Holyhead Road, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2PZ, UK & Department of Rheumatology, Llandudno Hospital, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Llandudno, LL30 1LB, UK “Benefits of Exercise in Rheumatoid Arthritis”

December 4, 2013

BCAAs – Total Consumption & Efficacy

BCAAs: What are they and when you should take them

Branch Chain Amino Acid Structure

Amino acids are considered as the building blocks of protein and of all the known amino acids, nine are essential for the body. They are essential because your body needs them but it cannot produce them on its own, therefore, the only way to supply your body with essential amino acids is by intake of foods rich in these amino acids and through supplementation. Out of these 9 amino acids, three make up for about 33 percent of muscle tissue, namely, leucine, isoleucine and valine – these are the same amino acids that are found in BCAAs.

BCAAs are also found in reasonable supplies in protein-rich sources such as steak and eggs. You can supplement your BCAA requirements by taking BCAA powder as well. Whether your intake is primarily from food or supplementation, both are essential for your daily performance and muscle growth and repair[1]. If you are vegan or vegetarian, your body’s requirements for BCAA supplementation increases even more.

Exercise results in the breakdown of muscle tissue, therefore supplementing the body with muscle-making amino acids is one of the most productive things you can do. Of all the supplements in the market, BCAAs have lived up to the hype of enhancing muscle growth and improving exercise endurance[2].

You may already know that the best time to take BCAA supplements is before, during and after a workout. Here’s why:

Taking BCAAs before your workout

For those of you who work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, it may be a usual scenario to experience fatigue. However, taking BCAA supplement before exercising can help because of its ability to reduce fatigue. Studies show that people who take BCAA before their workout perform just as well (or even better) as those who have a meal two hours before their exercise routine. Not having carbs before a workout can lead to fatigue but this problem can easily be eliminated for most people by either having a nutritious meal the night before with sufficient proteins, carbs and good fats and having BCAAs in the morning for that added kick.

Recommended dosage: 5 to1 10g before a workout.

Taking BCAAs during a workout

Taking a BCAA supplement during training can reduce fatigue, boost your performance and also enhance your muscle-making capacity[3]. Moreover, it can be used to make a refreshing beverage during training. Your best bet would be to combine a carbohydrate for increased energy.

Recommended dosage: 5g of BCAA during training.

Taking BCAAs after your workout

Man Drinking BCAA

BCAAs can help in muscle recovery and repair, post-training. Absorption of BCAAs is rapid and quick-responding.

Recommended dosage: 5 to 10g of BCAAs after your workout.

Taking BCAA supplements with Whey Protein powder

BCAAs and Whey Protein

You may question why someone would consider taking BCAA along with whey protein when whey protein contains plenty of BCAA to begin with.

The reason is simple, but there’s a science behind it. Firstly, whey protein is rich in BCAA but the BCAAs are peptide bonded. Furthermore, they need to be released into your digestive system prior to being absorbed into your blood stream and then giving you the results you’re looking for. Although whey protein is a fast-digesting source of protein, it does take some time for the amino acids consumed to be absorbed and produce any results.

However, BCAA supplements are free-form amino acids which means they do not require any real digestion. BCAAs are rapidly absorbed, which causes a spike in the plasma BCAA levels.

BCAAs, therefore, have a greater impact during workouts because they reduce muscle loss and protein breakdown and also increase synthesis of proteins or muscle growth after your workout. [4]

Studies also show that combining whey protein with BCAAs improves muscle growth and exercise performance.

Why take BCAAs?

What makes BCAAs special is the way they are metabolized. Most amino acids are metabolized in your liver, however, BCAAs are primarily metabolized in your muscle tissue.

This also contributes to the fact that BCAAs are fast-acting and effective because your muscles can quickly employ the three amino acids in BCAA as fuel via oxidation to create energy. When you exercise for prolonged periods, more BCAAs are metabolized to fuel your movements. Therefore, supplementing them before, during and after a workout makes them highly effective in fulfilling your energy demands, increasing muscle mass and strength and enhancing your exercise efforts. [5]

References

Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nagoya Institute of Technology, Nagoya 466-8555, Japan. “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.”

School of Physical Education and Sport, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil. “Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.”

Dept. of Applied Molecular Biosciences, Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan. “Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness.”

“Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study.”Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN.

“Consuming a supplement containing branched-chain amino acids during a resistance-training program increases lean mass, muscle strength and fat loss” Jim Stoppani, Timothy Scheett, James Pena, Chuck Rudolph, and Derek Charlebois

November 16, 2013

Introduction to the Blog – Introduction to Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Various BCAAs

The goal of TopBCAA.com will be to educate weight lifters, bodybuilders, and athletes about the supplementation and effects of Branch Chain Amino Acids.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are present in everyday foods. Amino Acids are the primary building blocks of protein molecules, and Branch Chain Amino Acids are among the most useful molecules for building muscle.

Stick around and we will discuss all the top supplements, scientific studies, dosing, side effects, etc for this powerful nutritional supplement!