Monday, November 30, 2015

Stretching For Bigger Muscles


Can stretching really lead to bigger muscles? Yes it can! Stretching can be used to maximize muscle recovery and performance when used to compliment a good strength training routine. Today we look at how stretching can help you on your journey to bigger arms and massive legs.

One of my favorite reasons why stretching helps muscle growth is because it elongates the muscle. By elongating the muscle, there is more space for the muscle to grow. This makes the muscle look bigger and more aesthetic. It won’t look shortened or too small for the area it is supposed to cover anymore. Think of biceps that have a little lump in the middle. By stretching the biceps, they can lengthen to appear larger.

Static and dynamic stretching for muscle


Static stretching




Static stretching is the kind of stretch where you hold a certain muscle for a few seconds before releasing (like toe touches). Research has shown that static stretching before exercise (hamstring stretch before running, for example) does not actually decrease the risk of injury. Research has also shown that static stretches do not improve muscle performance either, but can actually decrease muscle output. For example, stretching biceps in a static fashion before doing bicep curls will decrease their maximum output before failure. This effect lasts for over an hour following a good, thorough static stretch. The reason appears to be because static stretching relaxes the muscle fibers, sensitizing them to tension.

Does this mean that there is no place for static stretches in the world of muscle growth? Not at all! Static stretches aren’t very effective as a warm-up for before exercise, but they do offer benefits like increasing range of motion, releasing tension and correcting postural imbalances. All of these effects will decrease overall risk of injury in the long-term and help with optimized muscle gain, if used at the right times. By increasing the range of motion, you are able to get the best out of every rep. For example, people who have a problem with their heels lifting off the floor during the squat (bad form) because of tight calve muscles and tendons can do static calf stretches for a few days to loosen them - so that heels are flexible enough to stay on the ground and stabilize the entire squat movement (this is the right way to do them).

Lifting weights can tighten muscle fibers over time - which leads to them losing their overall range of motion. For example, people who have built up their upper bodies but have not stretched regularly can often feel uncomfortable when resting with their hands folded behind the back of their head.  This tightness is not because the muscles gets too big, but because the muscle has grown tighter over time and is not as elastic - as a result of all the tension. Static stretching can both prevent and undo this.

As discussed above, static stretching won't help much if done before exercise. Static stretching can, however, be done after exercise to cool down. This works very well because when the muscles are warm, they are more flexible and will therefore respond well to stretching. This will increase how much they can stretch, and by extending them further, you can increase your range of motion even more.

Even better: static stretching is great to do on rest days to maximize recovery and growth for a variety of reasons. Firstly, not much energy is required to stretch and this means that you are still not burning too much energy on your off days (which should be directed towards muscle growth). Secondly, static stretching will release built up tension. It also helps relaxes the muscles. This helps them to recover faster and grow more. Static stretching also helps to improve blood flow, which helps the muscles disperse lactic acid and get the nutrients needed for recovery.

Pro tip: stretching in the steam room will increase flexibility, release tension, improve circulation (and nutrient delivery), and increase recovery even more.

Dynamic stretching



Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching that has movement throughout the stretch. For example, swinging the arms in front of the chest and behind the back to stretch out the upper body (chest, back, biceps and triceps) is a dynamic stretch. Dynamic stretching, in contrary to static stretching, is well suited as a warm-up before exercise because it increases blood flow to the muscles and ‘wakes them up’ before exertion. Studies have shown that the dynamic stretching of a certain muscle before weight training increases its power and strength output immediately afterwards. For example, swinging the arms in front of the chest and behind the back could increase the amount of reps performed on the bench press. Besides increasing short-term power, dynamic stretching also elongates the muscles and increases overall range of motion.

Stretching helps to make sure that the muscles stay supple and flexible. Having big muscles won’t cost you your mobility - if you stretch them regularly. For bodybuilders, stretching does not need to be done daily, but a good stretch once or twice a week could really give you an extra edge. As small as the impact that stretching has on muscle growth seems to be, the difference adds up over time and makes a significant contribution.

Personally, I do a static stretch routine on my active rest days. STAY STRONG!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Steam Rooms: The Good,The Bad and The Truth


There are benefits to steaming, but there are also risks and potential health implications that could hinder the progress of your physical transformation. Today I look at the balance between keeping your steaming habits healthy and avoiding any potential health implications.

Everything you need to know about using the steam room


The benefits

Steams rooms are very popular and have been shown to increase overall health. Here are a few reasons why:

Sweating: Toxin release

Sweating is great for you. Sweating is the body’s natural way of cooling itself off, but the body also uses its sweat glands to release toxins that are accumulated from foods, liquids, impurities in the air and all the other ways we unexpectedly poison ourselves. You can sweat up to 30% of these toxins that would otherwise be excreted through urination and defecation (or accumulate in the body). By sweating more, your kidneys and liver have less of a burden to carry regarding toxin release and can spend more time and energy on their other bodily functions. The liver can break down fats into energy more efficiently when it is healthier. Other bodily functions that need the liver include hormone control, converting and utilizing other chemicals and agents throughout the body, protein synthesis, conversion of carbohydrates, sugars and fats into energy, stress management and sleep regulation. Sweating also releases sodium out of the body, decreasing overall sodium levels. This will help lower overall blood pressure levels.

Beauty: Better looking skin

Using the steam room regularly actually makes you more attractive. People who use the steam room (or sauna) have a particular radiance for around an hour after their sessions, and using steam rooms often will improve skin health and appearance over the long-term as well. Using the steam room is also beneficial for people with oily skin because the heat opens up the skin’s pores and allows the extra oils to be released, which will be washed away in the shower afterwards. This leads to cleaner pores with less oil suppressed underneath the skin. The steam room is also beneficial to people with dry skin because the opening of the skin’s pores allows oils and lipids to hydrate the skin. Additionally, the steam adds moisture to the skin which provides short-term relief from the constant dryness that people with dry skin suffer. See how I manipulate my skin to produce more or less oil using simple homeostasis principles.

Cardio-like health benefits

Sitting in the steam room has similar effects and benefits to a cardiovascular workout. Steaming causes the body to heat up more than normal. Heat is directly linked to metabolism. This causes an increased heart rate and also opens up the airways. These effects improve both heart and lung health as they are stimulated to work harder for these short periods of time as a response to the heat. By working harder, they adapt by getting stronger and increasing their overall capacity - the same way that cardio makes them stronger. Standard cardio can actually help strength trainers increase muscle mass if done right.

Increased blood circulation

The heat acts as a vasodilator. This means that the veins and arteries widen because of the heat, allowing more blood to flow through the body and its limbs, muscles, organs, skin, brain etc. The increased heart rate also plays a significant role in increasing blood circulation as the body tries to pump more blood into the extremities (legs and arms, feet and hands) and away from the core in an effort to cool the body down.  This is why your legs and arms go red and veiny in the heat. They go pale when the body is cold as the body tries to draw blood (and the heat the blood carries, which is vital for bodily functions) away from the extremities back into the core as a survival mechanism. The increased blood circulation induced from using a steam room has many benefits because the body is more able to carry precious nutrients (like oxygen, water, proteins, energy, minerals, etc.) throughout the body to where it is needed. It can also carry away waste products like lactic acid (learn about lactic acid to improve performance) and carbon dioxide a lot faster. This speeds up the healing and recovery of wounds, muscles and sickness. This is why using the steam room is one of my recommendations for maximizing recovery and growth during your rest week.

Opening up of pores and veins

As discussed earlier, using the steam room opens up the body on many levels, from opening pores on the skin which release oils and toxins, to opening veins and arteries to encourage better nutrient delivery and usage, to opening up the lungs and nasal passages to loosen and remove phlegm. Heat and steam is a great way for the body to open up passages that can sometimes get clogged up.

Improved immune system

Your core body temperature increases in the steam room. Many germs and viruses cannot survive the one or two degree increase in body temperature and therefore die off. Because of increased blood circulation and released toxins, the body’s immune system is also made stronger and more adept at killing off bodily invaders - the few that do survive the temperature increase. Here are more ways to conquer illness faster.

Destress and relaxation

Steaming has a relaxing and de-stressing effect. This is a great way to take a break from the mental stress from work and the physical stress from working out - which can turn out to be quite refreshing for both body and mind. The de-stressing effects help with other ailments that often arise because of stress and the relaxing effects can speed up general recovery and add to general happiness.

Cleansing, detoxification and release of hormones

Steam rooms help the body to clean itself from the inside out. Not only does sweating release toxins; but the increased blood circulation, relaxation effects and increased ability for the kidney and liver organs to perform other functions allows the body to metabolize and deal with hormones like cortisol (the body’s stress hormone), flush out lactic acid build up from physical exertion and get rid of acids from food. Strength training can also release muscle-building hormones.

The negative effects of using the steam room


As healthy as they can be, steam rooms can be dangerous as well. Using the steam room can sometimes even counteract the anabolic effects of weight training and slow the body’s ability to recover from exercise. Over-steaming can harm the body and reduce immune function, recovery rate, and normal function. Here are a few reasons why:

Dehydration

Sweating is great for you, but too much sweating can harm your health. One of the most common reasons (and most preventable) is water storage. When you sweat, your body loses a lot of water. Dehydration can happen very quickly and can lead to weakness, failure of normal functioning, feinting, hallucinations, death and even worse… decreased muscle mass! It is therefore important to make sure that you drink plenty of fluids while using the steam room and don’t stay in for too long. Too much of anything can quickly turn into a bad thing.

Elevated heart rate and blood pressure

As discussed earlier, using the steam room temporarily elevates your heart rate and increases blood pressure. As much as this can be a beneficial and an often-desired effect, it can be dangerous too. For example, people with very high blood pressure or who are at risk of heart attacks or strokes should not use the steam room because this temporary increase might push their heart rates or blood pressure past safe levels. For healthy individuals who don’t have heart or blood pressure problems, this isn’t a risk as long as they don’t stay in for too long.

Overheating

Staying in the heat for too long can push your body past the safe levels of stimulation to dangerous levels - a point where health is compromised. Stay in for long enough and you will die. It is important to make sure that you get out as soon as you start feeling dizzy or start feeling uncomfortable. However, heat is not dangerous when used in moderation. Increased blood circulation from the heat will also lead to greater blood loss from open wounds, which is why people with open wounds should not use the steam room, for both their and others’ health and safety.

Minerals and electrolytes

When you sweat, you lose salts, minerals and electrolytes that your body needs to function properly. If these minerals are not replaced (or if too much is lost in a short period of time) your body can suffer from mineral or electrolyte deficiencies, which can lead to a variety of negative health effects. Click here to read more about minerals, electrolytes and their roles, sources and deficiencies.

Germs, viruses and fungi

Although the increased body temperature kills many common germs within the body, public steam rooms can also be viable breeding grounds for other pathogens which thrive in hot, humid environments. Since many people use these steam rooms daily, it is easy for these pathogens to transmit from one person to the other through the floors, seats, walls and taps. One example of a fungus that is very often transmitted through steam rooms is athlete’s foot. Make sure that the steam room you use is cleaned regularly, that you wear sandals in the steam room and that your skin does not touch any surfaces. You can do this by wearing a towel around your waist.

Chlorine

If the same water is used over and over in the steam rooms, high levels of chlorine can evaporate into the air, which is then inhaled and can cause toxicity in humans. It is always safe to ask gym staff how often the steam room water is replaced with fresh water.

Rest and recovery (too much stimulus)

Just like exercise places a stress on the body, steam rooms also place stress on the body to cope with heat and then bring the body back to a normal temperature afterwards. Using the steam room too much (especially in conjunction with too much training) to place too much stimulus on the body to deal with more stress than it can handle. As much as moderate usage will help with recovery, too much time forcing the body to respond to heat stress can lead to overtraining.

Drug interactions

Using steams rooms with medicines, illegal substances and alcohol can be dangerous. Drug rehabs often use steam rooms to help recovering drug and alcohol addicts detoxify from drugs and substances, but using the steam room whilst under the influence of alcohol, for example, can be dangerous because alcohol dehydrates the body and further dehydration from steaming could drain the body of more fluid than it can cope with. Whenever on medication, make sure that you consult with your doctor before using a steam room to make sure that the medicine you are using won’t have any adverse effects from the steaming. Some substances, for example, are rendered mute (don’t so what they are supposed to) or have counteractive effects because of steaming. Drugs that are meant to adjust blood pressure and circulation are especially affected by heat therapy.

The truth about steaming


Should you steam?

It is totally up to you, but steaming from time to time will be beneficial to your health and can actually help you to achieve your goals because it can keep your body detoxed, destressed and running optimally. It can complement muscle building, fat loss and fitness pursuits (by speeding up recovery). I steam around once a week to increase the body's ability to recover.

How often should you steam?

It is considered optimal to steam 2-3 times a week. Steaming more often could drain your body of too many essential minerals and electrolytes.

How long should you steam?

Do not steam for longer than 20 minutes, depending on the heat of the steam room. It is not about building up tolerance and resistance to steam rooms like exercise. It is about increasing body temperature to the point where your body sweats. Longer steaming times can place a greater stress and nutrient loss (electrolytes and minerals) on the body, instead of a stress and toxin release. When starting out, steam for 5 minutes only, then cool off and then another 5 minutes for your body to get used to it, then build up to one 20-minute session only.

Can you steam after a workout?

This has been a topic of debate for a long time. Some argue that steaming after a workout is a great way to relax the muscles and body after physical exertion and makes for a great ‘cool-down’ session, flushing out lactic acid, increasing blood blow and nutrient delivery where it is needed. Others argue that physical exercise already increases body temperature and that steaming after a workout prolongs recovery and keeps the body out of its anabolic state after exercise because it takes longer to cool down than it would from exercise alone. Try both and see what works best for you. Personally, I don't steam on muscle-building days because I already have a cool-down routine (light, short cardio), I want my body to return to a normal (anabolic or muscle-building) state as soon as possible and I focus on nutrition for the best post-workout recovery.

At what other times can you steam?

 Steaming on rest days is a great way to relax and increase blood flow to help with rest and recovery (and is also a great excuse to get into the gym when that’s the only place you want to be on rest days). Some say that steaming before a workout gets the blood flowing and is a great ‘warm-up’ before exercise. Steaming is one of the best ways to maximize recovery on rest days.

Make sure to shower before and after using the steam room

This is very important. This cleans away all the extra dirt that might clog your pores before steaming, and washes off the toxins released after steaming. By showering before and after using the steam room, the risk of germ and fungus transference from one person to another is also reduced.

Replace lost nutrients

Don’t steam too often. Eat enough healthy, balanced foods every day. Many people drink a mineral and electrolyte replacement after steam sessions.

It’s up to you to choose what works best for you. If you enjoy steaming, have fun! If you don’t, that’s okay too. STAY STRONG!

Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Get Rid of Freckles Naturally


Can you get rid of freckles without surgery or cosmetic procedures? The short answer is yes.

Freckles… freckles… freckles. People who don’t have freckles and sun spots wish that they did. For those of us who do have them, we’d rather do without these 'beauty spots'. Freckles are nothing more than concentrated deposits of melanin (the pigment in our skin). The bad news is that the cheaper and most natural freckle removal methods won’t take freckles away overnight. The good news is that there are things that we can do to make them fade away over time - to the point where most of them eventually disappear. Here are a few solutions that you can look into to get rid of those sun kisses.

Ways to get rid of freckles at home


Lemon juice

Lemon juice is very healthy thing to drink regularly. Lemon juice, though, acts very similar to a kind of bleach when it gets into contact with the skin because it is acidic. Because of its acidity, it works as a mild exfoliation; removing a small portion of the lop layer of the skin where it is applied. This removes a part of the dead skin cells from the outer layer of skin and encourages the skin to make more new, younger-looking skin. People use lemon juice to lighten the color tone of their skin and freckles, and sometimes on other areas like the arms and torso to soften tan lines. Because of lemon juice’s ability to lighten the skin, it is a great tool to help fade freckles away. Some freckles will even fade to the point where they are no longer visible, although some will fade but still stay slightly visible. Unfortunately, this takes time and will take more than just a few days to work effectively.

Directions and use:

Dab undiluted lemon juice onto the skin to lighten up tan lines or freckles before going to bed and let it dry out. Wash off in the morning after waking up and repeat every night. The skin should start to lighten and freckles can fade – sometimes to the point of disappearing – after a few weeks. If your skin is very sensitive, dilute the lemon juice with water. On your first night, try it out on a small patch of skin to determine how sensitive your skin is and to see whether you have a negative reaction to it. All skin types are different and some people might get burnt from the acidity of too much lemon juice at once.

Exfoliation

Exfoliating the skin removes the outer layer of skin which is made up of dead skin cells. Frequent, thorough exfoliation helps the skin to rejuvenate itself - even to the point where the concentrated melanin deposits (freckles) are removed and new, spot-free skin can replace the area.

Directions and use:

Be careful if you are using another exfoliation method while using the lemon juice method mentioned above. DO NOT use another exfoliation method directly before are after the lemon juice method. This will damage your skin. Depending on the sensitivity and tolerance of your skin (which will improve over time), you should wait from 5 days to 1 full day (and night) for using another exfoliation technique.

DO NOT exfoliate more than once in one session and DO NOT exfoliate for two days in a row. You need to give your skin enough time to rejuvenate and give the new skin which was recently underneath the removed layer time to adapt to becoming the new outside layer of skin. DO NOT scrub until your skin starts to go red or pink (this can lead to permanent damage) and DO NOT scrub until it starts to feel painful. I personally exfoliate until I feel a light tingle. After a good exfoliation, your skin will look polished and glow. DO NOT exfoliate more than twice a week. The reason why you should not exfoliate too much, too often or too hard is because the point of exfoliation is to remove the uppermost layer of skin which consists of dead skin cells and overdoing it will lead to the removal (and damage) of the healthy, living skin layers which you want to get as healthy and untouched as possible. This skin needs to look good and rejuvenate into better looking skin, and can only so this when it is healthy enough to do so. DO NOT focus on scrubbing freckles until they disappear or go lighter. This won't happen and you will end up damaging your skin. You will never notice an immediate difference after a single exfoliation. You can only work towards fading freckles in smaller intervals, since freckles are present in many layers of skin.

Just do a light scrub twice a week with a few days of ‘rest’ in-between sessions. After a few weeks (yes, it does take that long), the speeding up of skin renewal brought on by exfoliation will lead to the gradual removal of the concentrated melanin formations. Again, you will not see any differences after the first few exfoliations, but freckles can fade after a few weeks or disappear in a few months.

One of the most popular exfoliation methods is the use of exfoliation gloves that can be purchased at most supermarkets. These gloves don’t cost too much and can be re-used over and over again. You simply put the gloves on before going into the shower or bath and then lather them with soap and water (which creates a soapy lather like a scrunchy). Rub the skin all over your body with the lathered gloves in circular motions and rinse when done. Do not make the water too hot while doing this in the shower or bath, because intense heat can damage your skin.

Another popular method of exfoliation is through the use of pastes that contain a grainy or sandy substance that can buffer the skin's surface. You can purchase these pastes at stores or make them at home by using household items. Popular combinations include baking soda and water, salt (smooth salt only because the larger, coarse salt can hurt the skin) and olive oil or even mud made with clean, treated sand and water. Rub the exfoliating paste onto the skin in circular motions for a few seconds before rinsing off afterwards.

Some wonder whether exfoliation is a normal or natural process for the skin to go through. The truth is that it is more natural than you would initially think. In the jungle, our skins would naturally brush against trees, leaves, dirt and other things which they are now protected from with clothes and other comforts. Scraping against random things every day paved the way for new skin regeneration.

Increase general skin health

The healthier your skin is, the better it will be able to regenerate itself and the younger it will begin to look in general. This can speed up the methods above and slow down the formation of new freckles. Here are a few things that you should be doing to keep your skin looking as good as possible.

1. Eat a good diet

Eat a healthy diet that is balanced with enough carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fruits and vegetables. Proteins are needed build new skin tissue, fats are needed for proper hormonal function and moisture, carbohydrates ensure that your body has the energy that it needs, and eating fruit and vegetables gives your skin important vitamins like vitamin C. Make sure that you get enough fiber every day, so that your body can eliminate the toxins that obstruct nutrient flow and other key functions.

2. Sweat

Sweating is great for your skin. It helps nutrients to reach the surface and allows for the elimination of impurities that can get trapped in the skin or just below its surface. It also helps the liver to deal with other functions because it eases its detoxification load. Liver spots can appear on the skin when liver function declines.

3. Exercise

Exercise can keep your whole body (including your skin) younger for longer. This will improve your skin's ability to regenerate and stay supple. Other advantages of exercise like stress reduction, blood circulation, and nutrient delivery will directly improve skin health.

4. Drink enough water

Water will help to keep your entire body well hydrated and eliminate excess sodium. This will also hydrate your skin, but also ensure that there are fewer toxins that can damage your entire body and more space for nutrients to reach critical places - from the inside out.

5. Get enough sleep

Sleep is where the body recovers from damage and regenerates itself the most. When your body is forced to cope with less sleep than it requires, it focuses on performing functions that it deems most important for survival and is not able to do things which will ensure its best long-term state. Here are great tips for people who struggle to fall asleep.

6. Stress less

Avoid unnecessary stresses and take the time to do the things that you enjoy. This will help to decrease the amount of stress that your body has to cope with. Stress makes your body think that there is some kind of impending danger and alters its function in order to prepare for the perceived risk. When in a stressed state, the body slows down (and could completely halt) its repair and recovery processes. The steam room helps me to de-stress, sweat, recover physically and detox at the same time.

7. Avoid smoking and alcohol

Smoking increases the toxic load, decreases nutrient delivery and clogs up the body's recovery processes. This increases skin damage and decreases your body's ability to create new skin (or even maintain existing skin properly). The effects of alcohol are very similar. Both of these habits also hamper liver function.

8. Avoid sun damage

I love the sun. I believe that we were meant to be in the sun regularly - just like the rest of nature. This doesn't mean, though, that I let me skin get damaged by the sun. This would be counter-productive. Limit sun exposure, depending on your skin type. Do not stay in the sun for so long that your skin gets red (or even pink) - no matter what kind of skin type you have. Skin damage from the sun leads to freckle and spot formation. If you like to suntan (like me), get out of the sun before your skin goes red or pink. This lets me tan more frequently, avoid freckles and allows me to go brown sooner after every session in the sun.

Cosmetic and immediate procedures


Dermatologists (the skin doctors) offer freckle removal services. If you are interested in this method of freckle removal, ask your doctor for more information and ask for a referral to a good dermatologist in your area.

During a 30 minute to 1 hour session with the dermatologist, he or she will burn off the first (outermost) layers of skin on a freckle to instantly remove it. This does hurt, but the burning off notion takes about a second per freckle and a dermatologist could take off over 50 freckles in a single session. Your skin will need time (usually a few days to two weeks) to heal from this in the areas where the doctor has taken off the freckles. It will look like you have chicken pox with all the red marks. In some cases, scabs can form. After this process your freckles will be no more.

Another method of freckle removal uses intensive light pulses which penetrate through to the deepest layers of skin to break up melanin formations. After this light stimulation, the freckles start to break up and disappear after a day or two. This does not damage the skin or make any marks, and actually helps to make the skin look younger.

Well there you have it, who said you couldn’t have the body you want!? STAY STRONG!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Does Alcohol affect Muscle Growth?


Alcohol negatively affects muscle growth. Here are a few reasons why:


Dehydration

Alcohol is a mild poison and a toxin. This is why drinking it makes people intoxicated. It is also a diuretic, meaning that it causes the body to lose water. The main reason why people often experience a headache the next morning after drinking alcohol is because of dehydration i.e. not enough water and electrolytes for optimal brain function. At this point, your whole body is dehydrated - you just feel it in your head the most. Dehydration also affects the muscles. When in a hangover state, the body will draw water out of the muscles to put in the vital organs like the heart, liver and kidneys in order to survive. The body also needs the little water that it has to clean out the toxins from the body as quick as it can to get back to normal. This dehydration puts your muscles in a catabolic state (breaking down of muscle), instead of the anabolic state (building of muscle) that we all desire. If you spend a night drinking and the next day nursing your hangover, you have not only wasted that time where the body won't rebuild muscle, but you have caused your body to break down muscle mass to recover as well.

Metabolizing alcohol instead of protein syntheses

Starting from as soon as the second or third drink, your body gets to work to metabolize (break down) and process the alcohol so that it can exit the body before it causes further damage. When the kidneys and liver are burdened with the task of processing alcohol, they cannot convert protein into muscle and perform the other tasks that facilitate this process. Therefore, when alcohol reaches certain levels in the blood, protein synthesis (turning protein into muscle tissue) stops. This means that the body will shut down the process of turning protein into muscle from the time of drinking until the next day (way after the hangover state) when its functions start returning to normal. That is a lot of muscle growth time that is missed out on. Alcohol doesn't only affect your kidneys and liver badly, it also messes up your hormonal and blood sugar levels. Avoiding alcohol is one of the top suggestions when trying to increase testosterone levels.

Lack of energy, hangovers and messed up diet

When drinking to the point of a hangover the next day, the effect on the body is similar to a short-term cold or flu. If you have been building muscle for long enough, you know how detrimental getting sick can be to muscle gains, both size- and strength-wise. The effects of drinking too much alcohol can do the same thing - depending on the amount of alcohol consumed. Additionally, the lost workouts or decreased physical performance the day after alcohol consumption causes a temporary but unnecessary decrease in muscle stimulus. Think of how much muscle weight you lose when you get sick. Here are ways to speed up sickness recovery.

What about alcohol in very small quantities?

What about one beer? Some studies show that the occasional beer or glass of wine can actually be beneficial to health. For example, wine has shown to improve heart function and contain antioxidants. Beer has, among other health benefits, been shown to keep skin looking younger due to its silicon content. It is generally recommended that a person should only drink 500 milliliters or less of beers and ciders, one glass or less of wine and a single shot of spirits or hard liquors at a time (not all three - just one of them!). This won’t negatively hamper muscle growth. Some sportsmen and bodybuilders also believe that whiskey has the least damaging effect on physical health compared to other alcoholic substances.

The final verdict

Rather stay away from drinking too much alcohol to the point of getting drunk (or even tipsy). This will help you to maximize muscle growth. It is also dangerous and expensive. Too many valuable friendships have been ruined, lives lost, cars wrecked and lives permanently changed because of times that initially started as a ‘harmless night out’. I also don’t recommend drinking a beer, wine or even whiskey daily, because alcohol can be addictive. The best thing to do is create a life that does not have alcohol as an aspect of your weekly routine. The healthiest thing to do is create a habit of living where you can break away, have fun, relax and socialize without alcohol. It is OK have a single beer or glass of wine on occasion, perhaps once a month or less. Does that sound too scarce for you? If so, there might be a few adjustments that you can make for an even better life. STAY STRONG!

Cardio Can Help Weight Lifters Grow More Muscle


A positive correlation between cardiovascular exercise and muscle growth

Cardiovascular exercise can help you grow muscle faster, and I am not only talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training).


The old exercise spectrum: Cardio vs weight training

All exercise is healthy and helps to keep your body in shape. Healthy people exercise. These people can almost always be stereo-typically divided into two groups.

There are the healthy individuals on one side of the spectrum who focus almost exclusively aerobic or cardio exercises like running, swimming and cycling. Top performers in these fields can be found at endurance events.

The healthy exercisers on the other side of the spectrum focus on anaerobic or strength training. The top performers in these fields include strongman and bodybuilding champions. 

We all know that exercise has many benefits, but different forms of exercise have different benefits. Yoga is better at calming the mind and body and teaching oneself to deal with stress, which leads to a healthier and prolonged life. Cardio is better at improving heart and lung health, circulation and energy productivity, which also leads to a healthier, prolonged life. Strength training is great for strengthening the body’s structure for stronger bone, joint and muscle integrity, which also leads to a healthier, prolonged life. By doing different forms of exercise, you can get different benefits. If your goal is to build muscle, you can use cardio to obtain the benefits that will help you build even more muscle.

Bodybuilders focus on anaerobic exercises like weight lifting in order to maximize muscle size and avoid cardio because it depletes energy that could be used to do more muscle-building exercises, takes up nutrients that could be used to build muscle, and increases the amount of time used to exercise. 

Cardio-vascular exercise, though, can benefit the body in such a way that it is more efficient at building muscle. Here is how:

The benefits that adding cardio to a strength training program include:

Better aerobic performance. This comes in handy because you will get less tired throughout your strength training routine. Your body becomes better at burning energy for a prolonged period of time without resorting to muscle tissue. It will also be better at using oxygen for energy. Oxygen usage is directly related to lactic acid production.
By being physically fitter, you are able to put a larger stimulus on your muscles during your usual workout because you will be able to train for longer without stopping due to energy constrains. That also means that you will need to rest less in between sets as you catch your breath. This will place a further and greater stimulus on muscle fibers.
The improved oxygen and nutrient delivery systems that come through better blood circulation, heart function and lung capacity will improve the rate at which your muscles receive what they need in order to grow. Protein synthesis will start sooner and waste products will be eliminated faster.
Your body gets better at breaking down fat and using it for energy, which means that less muscle is broken down as a quick-fix for the body's energy needs. This can also lead to shorter cutting phases and longer bulking phases.

How to use cardio to increase muscle growth

Here are great ways to use cardio to benefit muscle growth (by increasing overall endurance and physical efficiency), without hindering maximum muscle growth (by stealing nutrients, energy and recovery time).

Do cardio as a warm-up and cool down, before and after a weight training session.

This serves a double benefit. Cardio is simply added to a weight training program without too much effort but with the benefits mentioned above. It gets the blood flowing and wakes up the body so that it is optimized for the serious exercise that follows. People that warm up are able to lift heavier weights for more reps and experience less injury. Doing light cardio after weight training will redistribute blood. This prevents blood pooling so that old blood that contains lactic acid and other waste products is removed from the muscle and new blood that contains nutrients can get to the muscles sooner. Cool down exercises are a great way to speed up recovery from exercise.

 Remember that cardio is used to complement and not take away from muscle growth, so keep warm-up and cool-down cardio sessions under 10 minutes each. Make sure you do this cardio until you start to develop a light pant, but not to the point where you are too tired or don’t have enough energy to give 100% during weight training. A light-to-medium intensity is best. Stop when you have developed a light sweat.

Do cardio at a different time of the day. 

You can also do cardio at a different time of the day to compliment muscle growth. Some people cycle or run in the mornings and then go to the gym after work at night time, for example. Remember that if your goal is to gain as much muscle mass as possible, keep cardio sessions at a low enough duration and intensity that your body does not have too much of a hard time coping with the extra pressure placed on it to adapt to cardio sessions as well. By keeping these sessions at a light intensity, blood circulation is increased and muscles can receive even more nutrients in the middle of their rest periods, and the body will slowly become better at burning fat for energy.


Do cardio on rest days. 

Cardio can also be done on rest days. This serves the same benefit as the ones above - the advantage of increasing blood blow to resting muscles to speed up recovery. Some people do this form of complimentary cardio by taking light jogs in the neighborhood or taking a swim in the pool at times that they would be training at the gym. 

Doing cardio on rest days is called active rest. Some rest days should be active rest days (that include a light cardio element), and others should allow for complete rest. Complete rest ensures that the central nervous system gets enough time to recover and helps to avoid over-training. Click here for more tips about maximizing every rest day.

Keep this form of complimentary cardio easy as well because it meant to increase the efficiency of rest days, not add extra pressure on the body. A light sweat is a good indication of sufficient exertion.

Don’t overdo it

Cardio can boost muscle growth, but too much of it will start to compete with the body for energy and nutrients over muscle growth. Don’t give as much time and effort to your cardio workout in comparison to your weight training if muscle growth is your most important goal. 

Start with super light cardio that doesn’t challenge you as much as your weight training sessions and build up slowly so that your body never redirects the resources to adapt to cardio that it could have used for muscle growth. Keep a good eye on your diet and make sure that you are eating enough calories for the extra energy expenditure along with the usual calories needed for muscle growth.

Balance is always best, but if you want bigger muscle more than the ability to run a mile, tipping the scale in the muscle direction won’t hurt. However, dropping cardio altogether might not really be the quickest way to get there. STAY STRONG!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Creatine and its Different Forms

Creatine has gained a lot of popularity in bodybuilding and sports circles over the last few years. Today we look at what creatine actually is, what it does and the different forms that it is available in.


What is creatine?

Creatine is an organic acid that contains nitrogen. It is organic because its molecules contain carbon and it is acidic because it has a pH level less than 7. Don't let the word 'acidic' scare you; acids are very common in the body. For example, proteins are broken into amino acids in our bodies. Nitrogen is needed to make protein for new tissue like muscles, skin and hair.

Creatine is a natural substance found in meat and fish and in our bodies. It is naturally created to form basic functions. It is not essential to consume creatine to sustain life because our bodies produce creatine naturally from the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine.

Creatine has the primary role of supplying energy to the body - particularly for muscle movement. Energy cannot be created without creatine.

Creatine as a pre-workout supplement

Creatine is often sold as a pre-workout supplement because it increases the body's ability to produce energy at a faster rate with supplementation. Since the body can produce more energy with added creatine, it is able to achieve a greater work load during workouts - which in turn leads to greater strength and muscle growth. This allows people to achieve their workout goals at a faster rate than normal.

Creatine is very effective in boosting anaerobic performance such as weight lifting, sprinting and other activities that require short bouts of energy.

To find out the difference between pre-workout, intra-workout, post-workout and meal replacement supplements (along with other tips for people who are just starting out with supplements), click here.

Creatine as a muscle building supplement

Taking a creatine supplement leads to greater weight gain, initially in the form of water retention and then later in the form of muscle growth. By pulling more water into muscle cells, creatine increases protein synthesis. There are many protein shakes and meal replacement supplements that contain creatine to boost muscle growth and recovery.

This article is a great introduction to supplementation for building muscle specifically.

The risks of taking additional creatine as a supplement

A great deal of research has been done on the possible health risks of taking creatine as a supplement, of which almost all studies conclude that creatine is safe to use. There has been some speculation that creatine damages the kidneys or the liver, but no studies have been able to prove this so far or find any correlation between creatine consumption and kidney or liver damage. However, it is still recommended that people with any kidney or liver issues avoid creatine supplementation.

It is generally recommended that not enough studies have been done to prove that creatine supplementation is safe for people under the age of 18, since the long-term effects of creatine during the growth phase before adulthood are not completely known.

Negative side effects

Studies have not shown any negative side effects that could cause long term health problems in adults so far, however some people do experience short term negative side effects because creatine retains a lot of water. For example, creatine monohydrate would have a lower absorption rate than other forms of creatine. This means that the unused creatine sits in your gut until your body expels it with other waste products. People can experience nausea, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea and cramps if a large amount of creatine sits in the gut, pulling too much water into it.

Because of the water retention effects of creatine, it is best used during bulking phases and is best avoided while cutting.

Does creatine actually work?

The effects of creatine vary from one individual to the next, since bodily function, genetic make-up and substance interactions differ between people. There have been some cases where people don't get any of the positive benefits of creatine after weeks of use, where others benefit greatly. One key example of the different levels of benefit that individuals receive from creatine is the example of diet. Since creatine is only found in meat and fish foods, vegetarians would generally see a much greater effect from creatine supplementation than people who eat a lot of meat and fish - who are already consuming creatine-rich foods regularly.

Additionally, some forms of creatine work better than others. Not all creatine is created equal. Some people respond better to some forms of creatine when others respond better to other forms. In general, creatine in powder form has shown to be more effective in studies, compared to liquid forms (even so, some people report having a much more positive effect using the liquid form).

Different forms of creatine

There are different forms of creatine which can be bought at stores as supplements. Here is a list of the most common forms and their key characteristics.

Creatine forms by processing

Creatine monohydrate

  • It is the most popular form of creatine
  • It is the most basic, natural form of creatine which is the least processed
  • It is less soluble in water compared to most other creatine forms

Micronized creatine

  • Is basically micronized creatine monohydrate
  • Micronizing the creatine breaks it down into smaller parts
  • This increases the amount of the creatine that is absorbed and actually used by the body

Creatine serum (liquid creatine)

  • It is basically creatine monohydrate which has been dissolved in water
  • It is supposed to be absorbed more easily, but some people report no effects of this form whilst others report that it works very well
  • Some argue that this liquid form of creatine breaks down because of the water content over time, rendering it useless

Buffered creatine

  • Is made at a higher pH level than regular creatine monohydrate
  • It supposedly has the same effects as monohydrate without the possible negative side effects like stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and cramps
  • It is also believed that it does not break down as much as monohydrate - meaning that less in needed for the same effect as monohydrate

Creatine forms by bonding with other substances

There are many other creatine forms that companies create by bonding it with other substances. Many more types of bonded creatine will be created by these companies in the future.

Creatine ethyl ester

  • It is creatine combined with ester on a molecular level
  • It is said to be the form of creatine with the highest absorption percentage 
  • Apparently, everybody feels the positive effects of this form of creatine and doesn't cause any negative side effects like stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and cramps

Effervescent creatine

  • It is creatine combined with sugar or sodium and a bubbling agent
  • Has better absorption and taste than regular creatine

Creatine citrate

  • A form of creatine with molecules (citric acid) that increase absorption
  • It is more water soluble and absorbent, but is needed in a higher dose for the same effect as creatine monohydrate 

Di-creatine malate/tri-creatine malate (tri- is more absorbent)

  • Another type of creatine that is bonded with molecules (Malic Acid) to increase absorption
  • This creatine form is also more water soluble

Creatine orate

  • Another form of creatine bonded with a molecule (orotic acid)
  • Orotic acid increases energy production in the body. So basically, creatine orate has two different substances that both increase energy at the same time

Creatine HCL (hydrochloride)

  • This is creatine bonded with hydrochloric acid
  • It is more water soluble and absorbent than monohydrate
  • Many say that this is the best form of creatine around at the moment, while others say that it does not work at all

Creatine nitrate

  • Creatine that is bonded to nitrate
  • This form has the benefits of creatine combined with the additional benefits of nitrate, which also aids the body's energy production systems

Hydration when using creatine

Since creatine pulls water into the muscles, you need to stay well hydrated when using this supplement. Failing to get enough water will diminish creatine's effects and could make you dehydrated. This could be detrimental to your goals. 

For this reason, I suggest that people who are currently using creating should not drink alcohol at all. It will increase the negative effects that alcohol has on muscle growth.

I advise cycling creatine instead of taking it all the time. You can find out why here. While on creatine, I make sure that I am consistently sipping on water and never go thirsty because of its water-retention benefits (I call them benefits because the increased water retention in muscle allows for muscle growth). As always, don't overdo it - drinking too much water is actually possible.

Final word of the day

Creatine can work for you, but remember that we are all different and respond to it differently. Fortunately, there are many forms that are available for you to try and see what feels and works best through trial and error. Be safe and don't use creatine if you are under 18, have any kidney or liver damage or are cutting for a bodybuilding show (because creatine retains water). STAY STRONG!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Minerals and Electrolytes Continued

This article is a continuation of the importance of electrolytes and minerals, with more information about Magnesium, Iron, Cobalt, Zinc, Manganese, Molybdenum, Iodine and Selenium.

To read about what basics of what minerals are, the difference between electrolytes and minerals and their importance in our bodies (along with individual information about calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium and chlorine), you can follow the link above. 

Other important minerals

Magnesium 


Magnesium is an electrolyte (and mineral - all electrolytes are minerals) that is present in a relatively large amount in the body. 

Magnesium's function

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme system and biochemical processes in your body. These include protein synthesis, energy production, energy expenditure, muscle function, glucose level regulation, and blood pressure mechanisms.

Magnesium deficiency

Most people do not have enough magnesium in their bodies. One of the reasons for this is because carbonated drinks and junk foods contain high levels of the phosphate mineral, which in excess amounts will decrease the amount of magnesium in the body. Deficiency symptoms may include:
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle ticks and twitches
  • Muscle tremors
  • Spasms and cramps
  • Excess blood glucose
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Behavior disturbances 
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic fatigue and lethargy
  • Impaired memory and brain function
  • Irregular heart rhythms and irregular heart beats
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Calcium and potassium deficiency
  • Osteoporosis
  • Chest pain
  • Anorexia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diabetes

Magnesium overload

Your body will naturally dispose of excess magnesium, so unless you have kidney disease or your kidneys aren't able to function properly for some other reason, magnesium overload shouldn't be of much concern. It is, however, possible to overdose on this mineral through pills or other supplementation. Many medicines are high in magnesium. People with kidney disease are at the highest risk of toxicity. Symptoms can include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Chest pain
  • Mental confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cardiac arrest

Keeping the balance

Eating fresh and healthy foods, using less medicine and staying away from junk foods or carbonated drinks will ensure that you don't overload your system with magnesium; while getting enough of the mineral though your diet at the same time.

Good sources of magnesium

Magnesium can be naturally obtained through fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, grains and fish. Here is a list of foods that are high in magnesium:
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Dried fruits (prunes, raisins, apricots and dates)
  • White beans
  • Soy beans
  • French beans
  • Black-Eyed peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Pinto beans
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish
  • Dairy foods
  • Grains
  • Dairy drinks

Iron


Iron is an electrolyte.

Iron's function in the body

Iron is essential because the body uses it through the red blood cells to transport precious oxygen throughout the body. Without iron, your body will not be able to make enough red blood cells to sustain life; which is why iron deficiency (which is more prevalent than iron overload) leads to lack of energy. This is because the body is not getting enough oxygen distributed to where it is needed. Iron is also important in the growth and maintenance of all cells within the body like your hair, skin and nails. Woman need more iron than men because of menstruation (blood loss) and pregnancy. After menopause, a woman's iron needs drop to the same as men. Children need more iron daily because they are growing larger and are therefore increasing in blood volume. Their sensitive systems, however, can also be more affected severely by iron overload.

Iron deficiency

Around 10% of woman in America have an iron deficiency. The biggest symptom of iron deficiency is a lack of energy, lethargy and decreased physical performance. Iron deficiency leads to the lack of oxygen throughout the body, which leads to many other health concerns like less energy, impaired brain function and a hampered immune system. The following are symptoms of iron deficiency:
  • An overall pale or whitened appearance
  • Lack of energy and lethargy
  • Decreased immune system
  • Impaired brain function
  • Shortness of breath
  • A faster heartbeat
  • Poor blood circulation (like cold hands and feet)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth and tongue sores
  • Difficulty swallowing

Iron overload

Although not as prevalent, iron overload is possible and can also be very dangerous. Too much iron is toxic to the body. Too much iron (usually as a result of excess supplementation) can lead to:
  • Diarrhea 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Bloody stools
  • Cirrhosis
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes
  • Death

Keeping the balance

It is best to get enough iron is to always eat fresh and healthy foods - which is what nature intended. Too much medicine and taking more than the recommended dosage of multi vitamins can cause iron imbalances, but eating good, natural food won't. Eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables and varied meats should be enough to maintain a healthy iron balance.

Good sources of iron

Iron is best absorbed into the body through the consumption of red meat. To a lesser extent, it can also be obtained through fortified cereals, fruits, and legumes. 

Cobalt


Cobalt is an electrolyte (and mineral). It is needed in very small amounts in our diets, but it is absolutely essential. Cobalt is stored in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, spleen, red blood cells and plasma.

Cobalt's function in the body

Cobalt forms a part of vitamin B12 and is used along with iron for red blood cell production and oxygen delivery. It also helps with nerve coverings. Cobalt can be used to prevent iron deficiency. Cobalt is mostly known (and is thought to be mostly useful to the body) as an integral part of vitamin B12. It is essential for pancreas function.

Cobalt deficiency

Deficiency of cobalt is not likely if you get enough vitamin B12. Since cobalt and B12 are so closely interlinked, the symptoms of cobalt deficiency are often confused with (or the same as) vitamin B12 deficiency:
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness, numbness and tingling
  • Atrophy
  • Weight loss
  • Iron deficiency
  • Nausea
  • Nerve damage and nerve disorders
  • Problems with cell formation
  • Scaly skin
  • Impaired brain function

Cobalt overload

Cobalt poisoning usually happens when cobalt enters into the body in its inorganic form (as plain cobalt, before the mineral transforms into a form that our bodies can use by being absorbed by plants first). Cobalt overload isn't of much concern since it is not common, but symptoms of cobalt overload are:

  • Heart problems
  • Nerve issues
  • Blood thickening
  • Thyroid issues

Keeping the balance

As long as you are getting enough vitamin B12, you should not be cobalt deficient or overloaded (both are very rare). Making sure that you are keeping the balance of cobalt in your body is not of much concern.

Good sources of cobalt

Foods which contain cobalt are red meats, poultry, fish, clams, oysters and milk. Plants which come from the sea have higher levels of cobalt than land plants. However; spinach, cabbage, lettuce, figs and legumes also contain small amounts of cobalt.

Copper


Copper is a trace mineral (needed in small quantities) that is essential for sustaining life. It is found in the muscles, liver, kidneys, heart and brain.

Copper's function in the body

Copper is used to absorb iron, create collagen and produce energy.

Copper deficiency 

Copper deficiency is rare, but will have the following symptoms:
  • Skin and hair color loss (whitening or going pale)
  • Low immune system
  • Increased infections
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stunted growth
  • Problems with neurological function
  • Not enough white blood cells
  • Break down of body tissues

Copper overload

Copper overload can have the following effects:
  • Jaundice
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Red blood cell abnormalities
  • Cardiovascular disease

Keeping the balance

Simply adding nuts and sea food to your diet regularly will allow your body to get all of the copper that it needs without having too much. By eating healthy foods, you are getting a variety of nutrients that work together and balance each other out. Supplements should only be used to add a little extra to your nutritional needs, but not replace a good diet.

Good sources of copper

Foods containing copper are:
  • Beef liver
  • Other organ meats
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Lentils
  • Chocolate

Zinc


Zinc is an essential mineral. 

Zinc's function in the body

Zinc is needed for cellular metabolism and is required for around 100 different enzymes in the body. It is also needed for cell division and DNA synthesis. Zinc is needed for functioning taste and smell and is involved in the healing of wounds, protein synthesis and maintaining a strong immune system.
  

Zinc deficiency

Being deficient of zinc can have the following effects and symptoms:
  • Lowered immune system
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Impotence
  • Skin lesions
  • Longer healing time (cuts could take abnormally long to heal)
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss

Zinc overload

Zinc overload is possible (generally from over supplementation) and can lead to:
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Head aches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Low copper levels
  • Inability to use iron properly in the body
  • Urination problems

Keeping the balance

It is always important not to abuse vitamin and mineral supplements or take more than the recommended dose because this can have adverse effects when the body gets overloaded with too much of a certain mineral like zinc. By eating a diet balanced with fresh produce and different meats, the body is highly likely to get all the different nutrients that it needs to run optimally.

Good sources of zinc

You can get zinc from the following foods:
  • Oysters
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Other seafood
  • Grains
  • Dairy 

Manganese


Manganese is an important trace mineral, which our bodies need to get through our diets every day.

Manganese's function in the body

Manganese is important for protection from free radical damage, bone production, skin maintenance and even blood sugar control. Manganese is also used for nerve and brain functions.

Manganese deficiency

The typical western diet provides for enough manganese consumption, although excessive sweating (sweating is usually a good thing) can cause the loss of too much manganese. Deficiency of manganese can lead to the following:
  • Impaired growth
  • Twitches
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin problems and skin rashes
  • High blood sugar
  • Diabetes
  • Hampered fat and carbohydrate metabolism 
  • Asthma
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Ataxia

Manganese overload

It seems that it is almost impossible to overload manganese from food alone. Effects of overload (usually from supplements) are:
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental confusion
  • Psychiatric illness
  • Neurological disorders
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired brain function
  • Kidney failure
  • Impotence
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Central nervous system disorders

Keeping the balance

You should be getting enough manganese from our diet and won't need additional manganese from supplements unless you have a medical condition which would affect you otherwise.

Good Sources of manganese

Manganese can be found mainly in plant foods. They can be found in the following:
  • Cloves
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Spinach
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Pineapple
  • Tempeh
  • Rye
  • Soybeans

Molybdenum


Molybdenum is a mineral and chemical element. It is stored in the liver and kidneys, as well as within the bones, glands, skin, lungs and muscles. Around 90% of the Molybdenum we digest is excreted through urination.

Molybdenum's function in the body

Molybdenum helps the body break down proteins, helps get rid of waist and toxins, protects cells, and helps with maintaining energy levels. It is also an anti-oxidant. It works with iron to perform iron's role in the body and is used to help the body with the metabolizing of drugs and minimizing the negative impact of medicine and cancer treatments. More research is needed to understand this further.

Molybdenum deficiency

Molybdenum deficiency is very uncommon (even rare). You need around 45 micrograms of Molybdenum a day. Since deficiency is so uncommon and not of great concern compared to other deficiencies, more research is needed to define (with accuracy) the actual effects of molybdenum deficiency. According to clinical research thus far, deficiencies could lead to:
  • Respiratory problems
  • Heart problems
  • Decreased eye health
  • Mouth, teeth and gum problems
  • Iron deficiency

Molybdenum overload

Molybdenum intake should not exceed 2 mg per day for adults. Overload can lead to:
  • Gout
  • Neurological problems
  • Organ damage
  • Seizures

Keeping the balance

We generally get the right (not too much,  not too little) amounts of this mineral if we eat a healthy, balanced diet and therefore following a good diet will help to keep this balance right in our bodies. Diets which are too high in processed and refined foods with little fresh, natural foods could possibly skew the right balance of molybdenum in our bodies (along with almost all the other minerals our bodies need).

Good sources of molybdenum

  • Dairy products
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes
  • Organ meats
  • Drinking water

Iodine


Iodine is a mineral which plays a vital role in our hormone functions.

Iodine's function in the body

The body needs iodine for thyroid hormone production which control metabolism, growth and development. It is also vital for central nervous system development.

Iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency is common worldwide and can be particularly problematic for woman during pregnancy - which can cause issues for both the mother and the baby. Other deficiency symptoms include:
  • Enlarged thyroid glands
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Increased risk of other cancers
  • Ceasing to ovulate in woman
  • Stunted growth
  • Mental retardation
  • Issues with brain development

Iodine overload

Iodine overload is also possible, usually through excessive supplementation or medicines containing high levels of iodine. Overload symptoms can include:
  • Thyroid problems
  • Having a metallic taste
  • Mouth soreness (including teeth and gums)
  • Burning sensations and inflammation in the mouth and throat
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Skin problems

Keeping the balance

Including seafood in the diet every now and then (about twice a week or more) will give the body the chance to fill up on its iodine stores. Eating a well-balanced diet will also ensure that the body gets this micronutrient daily. Trying to minimize medicine intake and not exceeding supplement recommended doses also help to ensure that the balance isn't tipped the other way, either.

Good sources of iodine

Seaweed is very high in iodine. 
  • Iodized table salt
  • Seaweed
  • Seafood (sea plants, fish and crustaceans have high iodine levels)
  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Cranberries
  • Beans
  • Strawberries
  • Potatoes

Selenium


Selenium is an important mineral that the body needs.

Selenium's function in the body

Selenium helps with preventing cell damage and antioxidant enzyme production. It also helps with hormone production and immune strength. It is also needed for reproduction.

Selenium deficiency

Selenium deficiency is not common in humans since we generally get enough of this mineral through our diets. Deficiency can still pose the following threats, though:
  • Heart disease
  • Moodiness
  • Joint and bone disease
  • Mental disability

Selenium overload

This is also rare for people who are eating a first-world diet. This can lead to:
  • Hair loss
  • Nail problems
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Nerve damage

Keeping the balance

Selenium levels in the body are not usually of health concern to people who eat a typical western diet. However, more research needs to be done regarding the health effects of this important trace mineral.

Good sources of selenium


Plant sources contain high levels of selenium in comparison to other food sources. The following food sources do contain selenium, though:
  • Garlic
  • Grains
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Meat (red and white)
  • Eggs

Final word of the day

The easiest way to implement the information here is to eat whole, natural, fresh foods and to decrease the amount of refined and processed foods that we eat. Additionally, by varying between vegetable, grain, nut, legume, fruit, diary, seafood, fish, meat and egg foods, we are able to get the fast majority of minerals that we need without needing to check up on each mineral individually. By varying the healthy foods that we eat, we also make sure that we get the varieties of other micronutrients that we need like vitamins, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, carotenoids, and phytonutrients. STAY STRONG!