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Combining Citrulline with Glutathione could Pump You Up

citrulline-muscleWhen working against a significant resistance for repetitions, blood flow locally increases to working muscles, increasing tone and size almost instantly. While getting your swole on can be great for the mirror, it is not just cosmetic – increasing blood flow to hard-working muscles also delivers nutrients to fuel muscle contraction.
Greater blood flow to working muscles also helps to increase cell volume, which, along with mechanical tension generated from lifting heavy weights, comprise a large part of the early ‘go’ signal for muscle adaptation.

The much sought-after “pump” in the gym isn’t just for aesthetics, it’s also an ingredient in the recipe for muscle growth.

The NO-cGMP pathway: anatomy of a pump

While the behind the scenes cell signaling that drives increased blood flow to working muscles can get a bit complicated (more on that later), a simple thought experiment gives a good overview of the process.
Let’s say you have an empty swimming pool in your backyard that you need to fill with water. So you place a small garden hose in the pool and turn on the faucet. Only nothing happens. You discover that there’s a leak in the pool, and the small amount of water delivered through the garden hose leaks out as fast as you can pump it in. Since our ultimate goal is to get that pool filled with water, there are two things we can do to this end: deliver the water faster than it leaks out, or fix the leak! If this makes sense, you now have an overview of a muscle pump: arteries supplying the working muscle dilate, allowing more blood to enter. At the same blood flow is restricted in other less active areas of the body, promoting the local delivery of increased nutrient-rich blood to hard-working muscles.
The pump effect is driven by a molecule known as nitric oxide (NO) that is part of the NO-cGMP pathway. In response to hard work, neurons release NO from nerves and endothelial cells in and around the working muscle. From here, NO makes its way to the smooth muscle cells lining blood vessels, where it binds to guanyl cyclase. This NO-guanyl cyclase interaction results in the production of cGMP. cGMP then goes on to activate downstream signaling that decreases calcium levels in the smooth muscle that lines blood vessels, leading to relaxation and arterial dilation.

While this may sound complicated, the overall concept is straightforward: NO is locally released, which increases cGMP levels, which in turn increases blood flow to working muscles.

Supplementing the pump

There’s a huge market for supplements meant to potentiate the pump by affecting the NO-cGMP pathway. Many contain large amounts of L-arginine, which is combined with oxygen by the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzyme to produce NO. This type of supplement is generally taken pre-workout, where a bolus of arginine with the right timing spikes blood arginine levels when it counts, increasing NO production and blood flow to working muscles.
While this looks great on paper, L-arginine supplementation is not perfect. As much as L-arginine exists at the business-end of NO synthesis, getting significant quantities into the bloodstream can be an inefficient process. A significant amount of arginine taken orally will be broken down in the liver before it ever gets into circulation. The second issue is that NO is a highly reactive molecule that is broken down soon after it is formed.

There are two main issues to using L-arginine supplementation to increase NO levels: L-arginine delivery into the bloodstream, and NO and stability.

Use Citrulline to increase blood arginine levels

Because L-citrulline is more readily absorbed than L-arginine, which is rapidly broken down in the liver before it reaches circulation, L-citrulline is a far more efficient way to increase blood arginine levels. One study in heart patients found that 3g of citrulline (as citrulline malate) was equivalent to a 6g dose of arginine, suggesting that citrulline may have twice the potency of arginine itself when it comes in increasing arginine levels in the blood stream.
Doses of citrulline in the 4-8 g range seem to be optimal for boosting pre-workout NO levels, and can be taken as free-form L-citrulline as well as citrulline malate. For the purposes of increasing blood arginine levels, these are probably interchangeable, and the malate form has shown promise in a recent study on lower-body resistance exercise, as seen in Figure 1. Keep in mind though, that 1.8g of citrulline malate is equivalent to only 1g of free-from citrulline, due to the added molecular weight of the malate salt.
citrulline3

The solution to the delivery problem is an easy fix: take citrulline instead. L-citrulline is byproduct of NO synthesis that can be converted back into arginine through the arginine-citrulline cycle.

Increase glutathione levels to stabilize NO in the blood stream

Having solved the delivery issue by taking L-citrulline, we still have a problem to overcome to maximize the potential of NO: it breaks down real fast in the blood stream. If there was a way to extend the life of NO even by a little bit, this could help to augment cGMP production and increase blood flow.
Recent research has suggested that supplementing glutathione alongside citrulline may help to do just that, potentiating NO synthesis. Glutathione is a tripeptide consisting of the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine. It is also major cellular antioxidant that plays a role in detoxification of toxic reactive oxygen molecules such as peroxides. GSH has a connection to NO synthesis, as some cells can’t make NO in the absence of GSH. GSH also increases the activity of NOS, the enzyme that makes NO from arginine.
In a human trial, 200mg/day glutathione (GSH) alongside 2 g/day L-citrulline showed a non-significant trend toward increasing plasma cGMP levels. Although the observed increases in cGMP levels didn’t quite reach statistical significance, citrulline and GSH in combination also increased nitrate and nitrite levels more than citrulline alone. Since nitrate and nitrite also are substrates for NO synthesis, this work suggests that the overall effect of L-citrulline and glutathione supplementation may support NO production to a greater extent than L-citrulline alone.

Taking GSH alongside L-citrulline may help potentiate NO levels more than citrulline alone. While this idea has not been rigorously tested in robust larger-scale trials, the evidence is sufficient to give it a shot.

It is important to emphasize, though, that rock-solid diet, training and nutrition are the foundation for progress in any fitness endeavor. Supplements become important if you’re already firing on all cylinders, and even then, natural NO boosters such as beets may be preferred over pills.

With a basic knowledge of the nuts and bolts of NO synthesis, we can at least be better consumers, paying attention to ingredients and amounts rather than advertising hype when evaluating the value of a product. So take this information, apply it, and let us know the results!

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Best Testosterone Boosters That Build Muscle Faster

 
besttestosteroneboostersman550
Testosterone is the most important hormone in your body for building muscle and getting stronger.
If you want to get jacked and make your training count, you should be doing everything you can to support your testosterone levels. The best testosterone boosters can be a good way to do it.
Some guys are genetically gifted, they will grow and grow, year on year. Other guys can drink tons of protein shakes, eat loads of steak and potatoes and switch up their workout and they still can’t grow.
A testosterone booster is designed for guys like this, hard gainers. It can be the secret to pushing past the barrier and activating new muscle growth.
Okay, so what do they actually do?
Some guys seem to think the only real way to raise your testosterone level is with steroids or pro-hormones.
However, the best way to boost testosterone safely is to take a combination of natural supplements.
 
This will help with :

  • Aiding Testosterone Production – This relies heavily on processes in the brain and the endocrine system. The needed components to accomplish this aren’t necessarily included in everyone’s diet.
  • Increasing Free Testosterone – About 60% of the T-Levels in a man’s body are bound to Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). When bound, this testosterone loses it’s anabolic potency and can no longer be directly used. T-Boosters decrease the production of globulin, freeing up testosterone availability.
  • Decreasing Estrogen – In the body, an enzyme known as the aromatase is responsible for the production of estrogen, even if it means converting testosterone to produce it.

This is the highest form of bullshit. Getting real for a second, testosterone boosters are not as powerful as the synthetic stuff, but that doesn’t mean they’re ineffective.
Research over the last few years has discovered a number of natural ingredients that have been clinically proven to raise and support testosterone levels. Without the dangerous side-effects of steroids or pro-hormones.
We’ve dug deep and found the most effective ingredients available right now, all with real clinical studies behind them:
daaD-Aspartic Acid
An essential amino acid to the testosterone boosting process – through a reaction with the brain, D-AA helps the body release a multitude of hormones. These include the luteinizing hormone (regulator of the testes), follicle stimulating hormones and perhaps most importantly, growth hormone – a key muscle builder.
There have also been studies that believe D-Aspartic Acid to be an effective component for removing rate-limits of testosterone synthesis1.
Oyster Extract
Potentially one of the most effective testosterone increasing ingredients out there. Oysters hold a lot of zinc, up to 10 times more than the amount you’ll find in a steak. Zinc, like D-Aspartic Acid is great for releasing those luteinizing hormones and help out with raising serum testosterone levels.
That’s not all, Oyster Extract also holds 59 elements of essential bodily nutrients such as vitamins, amino acids, Omega 3 & 6 and Taurine. It has also been seen to raise IQ, help out with strength gains and raise the immune system2.
Stinging Nettle
Working closely with Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, the nettle’s ‘lignans’ which make up part of the root binds with the SHBG in place of the testosterone. This allows more testosterone to be free in the body. It has also been seen to have aromatese inhibitor qualities to lower the estrogen production rate3.
Vitamin D3
Called a vitamin, but actually a hormone. D3 is 1 of the only 24 nutrients we need to stay alive. Vitamin D3 is absorbed from the sun, but usually, we don’t get enough of it.
As modern living keeps us constantly indoors – our supply to this hormone is limited.
D3 helps release luteinizing hormones which help release testosterone, follicle stimulating hormones and growth hormone. 5 to 10 Minutes of direct sunshine a day will help raise the amount of Vitamin D in the body4.
Ginseng
This extract has been rocking the testosterone world. Ginseng has the ability to boost Nictric Oxide levels in men. In doing so it allows blood flow to massively improve giving fantastic pumps during a workout.
It also decreases the body’s glucose levels, eliminating any worries about insulin interfering with the testosterone production process. The saponins in Gingseng also improve testosterone levels and the luteinzing hormone.
It’s the Asian Red Panax Ginseng form that is the most effective5.
 
Ingredient Warning
Stay away from a product with a proprietary blend in them. This is a group of ingredients all mixed together in various amounts. It’s bad because you don’t know how much you’re getting of each ingredient.
 
Are there any side effects?
These products are not steroids. They are completely natural supplements designed to deliver nutrients that the body needs to produce the most testosterone. They don’t cause any side effects. They will not give you the usual side effects experienced by guys taking steroids.
That said, check if you allergies to any of the above. Be responsible – if you are allergic to shellfish, use your noggin and don’t go scarfing down Oyster supplements.
As with all things make informed decisions by researching the products before embarking on a course.
 
Studies

  1. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19860889
  2. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519

           Study: https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

  1. Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074486/
  2. Video: http://www.nsca.com/videos/expert_tips/the_vitamin_d_and_testosterone_connection/

           Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195

  1. Study: http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Ginseng_Helps_Regulate.shtml

            Study: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/9063034/reload=0;jsessionid=dnM5Kwqx09ut7hFOaNIQ.0
 

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Foods to Support Testosterone Production

TestosteroneMisoSoup
June is Men’s Health Month, so let’s talk about an important hormone that’s on the top of many men’s minds: testosterone. Commonly known as the male sex hormone (though women produce small amounts as well), testosterone is responsible for sperm production, sex drive, bone mass, muscle size and strength and more—all things you (and the women in your life) care about. Levels of circulating testosterone in your blood begin to fall after the age of 30.
Low serum testosterone levels are correlated with a lower desire for sex, diminished erectile quality, fatigue, mood imbalances, decreased muscular mass and increased abdominal fat.
Aging is rough and reduced testosterone levels just make it rougher. A trip to the doctor’s office will reveal if you have low testosterone and there are several treatment options available if your levels fall critically low.
The best thing you can do to be proactive about your testosterone level is to keep up your healthy lifestyle. Getting adequate sleep, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and reducing stress all help to support testosterone levels. Beyond making sure that you eating enough calories, macro and micronutrients to support your level of activity, adding more of the foods below to your diet can also help to support healthy testosterone levels. (And no, ladies, eating these foods below you won’t start sprouting chest hair or dropping several vocal octaves—your body won’t use these foods to produce testosterone because of your hormonal chemistry).
 

Zinc-rich Foods

Zinc is an essential mineral found in every single cell of your body. It stimulates the activity of over 100 enzymes and is essential for testosterone production. In the standard American diet, red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc. Phytates from whole grains and legumes reduce zinc absorption, so if you’re eating a mostly plant-based diet, zinc is a mineral to make sure you’re getting enough of.1 Adult men should aim to get 11mg of zinc a day. If you eat an exclusively plant-based diet you may require as much as 16mg a day.2
 
Plant-based sources of zinc3:

  • Wheat germ (3.5mg per ¼ cup)
  • Sesame seeds (2mg per ounce)
  • Pumpkin seeds (2mg per ¼ cup)
  • Crimini mushrooms (1mg per cup)
  • Miso (1mg per 2 Tbsp)
  • Maple syrup (1mg per ¼ cup)
  • Chickpeas (1.3mg per ½ cup)
  • Almonds (1 mg per ounce)

 
Soaking beans, grains and seeds in water for several hours before cooking them as well as sprouting can increase the bio-availability of zinc in plant-based foods.2 For a zinc-rich meal make Mushroom Miso Soup, followed by a protein-rich salad stacked with spinach, shelled hemp seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds, followed by a dessert of raw chocolate.
 

Vitamin-D Rich Foods

Preliminary research suggests that vitamin D deficiency is correlated with low testosterone levels in the blood.4 Your body can naturally produce vitamin D by getting 5 to 10 minutes a day of direct sunlight.
 
Plant-based sources of vitamin D:

  • White, kidney and black beans (sources of both vitamin D and zinc)
  • UV-exposed Mushrooms
  • Supplements
  • Healthy Fats e.g. Omegas

 
Cutting fat from your diet can decrease your testosterone levels, since hormones require dietary fat to be produced.5,6 So don’t skimp on your healthy fats!
 
Plant-based sources of healthy fats:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (chia seeds, sacha inchi seeds, hemp seeds in particular)
  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Coconut oil

 
Eating these foods, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, catching enough ZZZs and managing stress levels is important keep up healthy testosterone levels as you age. If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, book an appointment at your doctor’s office and keep prioritizing your health!
 
How are you making your health better during Men’s Health Month?
 
References :

  1. Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. (2008). Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. Saunders Elsevier. 12th ed.
  2. National Institute for Health. (2013). Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Zinc. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/food
  4. Lee DM (2012). Association of hypogonadism with vitamin D status: the European Male Ageing Study. European Journal of Endocrinology. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://eje-online.org/content/166/1/77.full.pdf+html
  5. Wang C (2005). Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 90(6):3550-9
  6. Dorgan JF (1996). Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 64(6):850-5. Accessed on 6/4/15 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/64/6/850.long