Monday, November 30, 2015

Stretching For Bigger Muscles

Can stretching really lead to bigger muscles? Yes it can! Today we look at how stretching can help you on your journey to those 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 and 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.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is a type of stretching where you stretch and 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 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.
Does this mean that there is no place for static stretches in the world of muscle growth? Not at all! Static stretches aren’t effective as a warm-up or before exercise, but they do offer benefits like increasing range of motion, releasing tension and correcting postural imbalances.  All of which will decrease overall risk of injury in the long-term and help with optimize muscle gain. By increasing 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 calves 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 squat movement. Lifting weights can tighten muscles 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 is not because their muscles are too big, but because their muscles have grown tighter over time. Static stretching can both prevent and undo this.
As discussed above, static stretching is NOT best done before exercise. Static stretching can be done after exercise to cool down. This works well because when the muscles are warm, they are more flexible and will therefore respond well to stretching. Even better, static stretching is great to do on rest days 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 day. Furthermore, static stretching releases built up tension. It also and 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.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a 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). 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 exercise. Studies have shown that dynamic stretching of a certain muscle before weight training increases its power and strength output. 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 range of motion.

Stretching helps to make sure that the muscles are supple. Having big muscle won’t cost you your mobility. For bodybuilders, stretching does not need to be done daily, but a good stretch once or twice a week could just give you an extra edge. As small as the impact stretching has on muscle growth seems to be, over time the difference adds up and makes a significant contribution. 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 your bodybuilding progress. We look at the balance between keeping your steaming habits healthy and avoiding the potential health dangers.

The Good

Steams rooms are very popular and have shown to increase 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 etc. You can sweat up to 30% of these toxins that would otherwise be excreted through urination and defecation. By sweating more, your kidneys and liver have less of a burden to carry regarding toxin release and can therefore spend more time and energy on their other bodily functions. These other bodily functions include hormone control, converting and utilising other chemicals and agents throughout the body, protein synthesis, conversion of carbohydrates, sugars and fats into energy and stress and sleep regulation. Sweating also releases sodium out of the body, decreasing overall sodium levels which help lower overall blood pressure levels.

Beauty: Better Looking Skin

Using the steam room 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 regularly improve skin health and appearance over the long-term. 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 supressed oils 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.

Cardio-Like Health Benefits

Sitting in the steam room has similar effects and benefits of a cardiovascular workout. Steaming causes the body to heat up more than normal. This causes an increased heart rate and also opens up the airways. This improves 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 as cardio makes them stronger.

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 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 wherever it is needed. It can also carry away waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide a lot faster. This speeds up the healing and recovery of wounds, muscles and sickness.

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 too blocked.

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 increase blood circulation, the body’s immune system is also stronger and more adept at killing of bodily invaders, the few that do survive the temperature increase.

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. This 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 metabolise and deal with hormones like cortisol (the body’s stress hormone), flush out lactic acid build up from physical exertion and get rid acids from foods.

The Bad

As healthy as they can be, steam rooms can be dangerous too. 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:


Sweating is great for you, but too much sweating can actually harm your health.  One of the most common reasons (and most preventable) is water. 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 whilst 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 elevates your heart rate and increases blood pressure temporarily. As much as this can be a beneficial and often a desired effect, it can be dangerous too. For example, people with very high blood pressure or who are at risk for 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.


Staying in the heat for too long can push your body past safe levels of stimulation to dangerous levels that can even lead to death. 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. TO READ MORE ABOUT MINERALS AND ELECTROLYTES AND THEIR ROLES, SOURCES AND DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS, CLICK HERE.

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 surfaces. You can do this by wearing a towel around your waist.


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 Stimuli)

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.

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.

The Truth

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 as it can keep your body detoxed, destressed and running optimally. It can complement muscle building, fat loss and fitness pursuits (by speeding up recovery).

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 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 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.

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.

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.

Replacing 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, it’s ok if you don’t want to steam. STAY STRONG!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Getting Rid of freckles

Can you get rid of freckles without surgery or cosmetic procedures? Short answer: yes.

Freckles… freckles… freckles. People who don’t have them want them, but for most of us who 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 over night, but the good news is that there are things that we can do to fade them away, to the point where most of them disappear forever. Here are 2 solutions that you can look into to get rid of those ‘sun kisses’.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice acts similarly to a bleach when it is contact with the skin because it is acidic. Because of the acidity, it works as a mild exfoliator, removing a small portion of the lop layer of skin onto which it is applied. People use lemon juice to lighten the colour tone of their skin and freckles, and sometimes on areas like the arms to correct tan lines. Because of lemon juice’s ability to lighten the skin, it is a great tool to help fade freckles. Some freckles will even fade to the point where they are no longer visible, although some will fade but still stay. Unfortunately, this takes time and will take more than just a few days to work effectively.

Directions and Use:

Dab undiluted lemon juice on 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.


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 replaces the area.

Directions and Use:

DO NOT exfoliate more than once in one session and DO NOT exfoliate two days in a row. You need to give your skin time rejuvenate and give the new skin (underneath layers) time to adapt to becoming the new outside layer of skin. DO NOT scrub until your skin starts to go red or pink and DO NOT scrub until it starts to feel painful. After a good exfoliation, your skin will look shiny and polished. 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 be as healthy and untouched as possible to look good and rejuvenate into better looking skin. DO NOT scrub until freckles disappear and DO NOT scrub until freckles appear lighter. Just do a light scrub twice a week with a few days of ‘rest’ in-between sessions and after a few weeks, the speeding up of skin renewal brought on by exfoliation will lead to the gradual removal of the concentrated melanin formations. You will not see any differences after the first few exfoliations but freckles can fade or disappear after a few weeks to 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 similar to a scrunchie). Rub the skin all over your body with the lathered gloves in circular motions and rinse when done.

Another popular method of exfoliation is through the use of pastes that contain a grainy or sandy substance that can buffer the skin. You can purchase these pastes at stores or make them at home by using combinations like 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 and then rinse off afterwards.

The lemon juice and exfoliation methods are effective, cheap and easy to do. However, they will take a long time before you start seeing a difference in freckle reduction. There are, however, other methods of freckle removal that are more instant, but are more expensive and require the consultation of a professional.

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 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 motion 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 and it will look like you have chicken pox with all the red marks (and in some cases, scabs) where the doctor has removed freckles.
Another method of freckle removal is more expensive and 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 then skin or make any marks, and actually also helps to keep the skin looking younger.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Does Alcohol affect Muscle Growth?

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


Alcohol is a mild poison and a toxin which is why consuming 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 is because of dehydration i.e. not enough water and electrolytes for optimal brain and organ function. 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 to survive. The body also needs the little water 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.

Metabolising Alcohol Instead of Protein Syntheses

Starting from as soon as the second or third drink, your body soon gets to work to metabolise 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 the alcohol, they cannot convert protein into muscle. Therefore, when alcohol reaches certain levels, protein synthesis 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 when its functions start returning to normal. That is a lot of muscle growth time that is missed out on.

Lack of Energy, Hangovers, 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 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; although to a less extend 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.

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, and beer has, among other health benefits, been shown to keep skin looking younger due to it containing silicon. It is generally believed that 500ml or less of beers and ciders, one glass or less of wine and a single shot of spirits or hard liquors won’t negatively harm 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 does hamper muscle growth, but is also dangerous and expensive. Too many valuable friendships have been ruined, lives lost, cars wrecked and lives permanently changed because of a ‘harmless night out’. We also don’t recommend drinking a beer or whiskey daily because alcohol can be addictive. The best thing to do is created a life that does not have alcohol as an aspect of your weekly routine. The healthiest thing to do is create a life where you can break away, have fun, relax and socialise without alcohol. It is ok have a single beer or glass of wine on occasion, perhaps once a month or less. STAY STRONG!

Cardio Can Help Bodybuilders Grow More Muscle

Cardio can help you grow muscle faster, and in this case we are not talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training).

The Old Exercise Spectrum: Cardio vs Weight Training

Exercise is healthy and keeps your body in shape. Healthy people exercise. These people can almost be stereotypically be divided into the healthy individuals on one side of the spectrum who focus on aerobic or cardio exercises like running, swimming and cycling and healthy individuals on the other side that focus on anaerobic or strength training like strongman and bodybuilding. Both cardio and strength training have more specific health benefits. Cardio is great for improving the efficiency of essential functions like breathing and oxygen usage, blood circulation and heart strength, which leads to a prolonged, healthier life. Strength training, on the other side of the spectrum, is great for strengthening the body’s structure like stronger bone, joint and muscle integrity, which also leads to a healthier, prolonged life. It is considered the healthiest to do both because people who engage in both cardio and strength training are able to get the benefits from both. However, exercise programs vary depending on each individual’s goals. When a person’s goal is to build muscle, they tend to stay away from cardio because it burns calories that could be used to build muscle and poses the danger of decreasing muscle mass and growth.

But what if you could get the benefits of cardio without sacrificing muscle size and growth?

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 strength training as your body becomes more adept at burning energy for prolonged periods of time.
By being physically fitter, you are able to put a larger stimulus on muscles throughout your usual workout because you will be able to train muscles without stopping because of energy constrains. That also means that you will need to rest less in between sets as you catch your breath, placing a further, greater stimulus on muscles
The improved oxygen and nutrient delivery systems and come through better blood circulation, heart function and lung capacity as the body develops an optimised flow system which will also give your muscles the nutrients they need.
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 energy needs, and that cutting phases are shorter and easier as the body has already learned to break down fat for energy

When to do Cardio that will Compliment Bodybuilding

Remember, cardio that will compliment bodybuilding will help increase fitness and therefore efficiency, but without the dangers of hampering muscle growth.
Doing cardio as a warm-up and cool down before and after a weight training session serves a double benefit: cardio is simply added to a weight training program for its benefits mentioned above, it gets the blood flowing and wakes up the body so that it is optimised for the serious exercise that follows (people that warm up are able to lift heavier weights for more reps and experience less injury) and redistributes blood after a workout (this prevents blood pooling so that old blood that contains lactic acid is removed from the muscle and new blood that contains nutrients gets to the muscle sooner). Remember that cardio is to complement and not take away from muscle growth, so keep warm-up and cool-down cardio sessions under 10 minutes each and make sure you do this cardio until you start to develop a light sweat but not to the point where you are too tired or don’t have enough energy to give 100% during weight training
Cardio at a different time of the day. You could 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.
Cardio on rest days. Cardio can also be done on rest days. This serves the double benefit of the ones stated above, with the advantage of increasing blood blow to the resting muscles to speed up recovery. Some people do this form of complimentary cardio by taking light jogs in the neighborhood taking a swim in the pool at times that they would be training at the gym. 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. It is also important to make sure that you get some rest days of complete rest at least once every few weeks for deep recovery.

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 in your cardio workout in comparison to your weight training for the best muscle growth. 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 resources to adapt to cardio that it could have used to grow muscle. 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 and performance.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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!