Dr. Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
For most, the fitness lifestyle is a means to feeling great, living longer, and looking fantastic. One of the best ways to achieve these ‘life milestones’ is to stay lean and muscular all year long. Unfortunately, for many, being lean and muscular is a fleeting condition that is reserved for a few months in the summer.
The best assurance for a successful and lifelong body transformation is to make permanent (healthy) changes to diet, modify your daily ‘bad’ habits, participate in daily vigorous exercise, and use key supplements aimed at supporting your transformation goals. In this article we present 3 science based life-hacks and their supporting supplements— geared toward achieving and maintaining a lean and muscular physique for life.
LEAN LIFE-HACK #1: SLEEP WELL
The importance of sleep in health and fitness cannot be overstated. It is during slow wave (deep) sleep that the body releases an abundance of growth hormone (GH), which repairs and builds lean mass while promoting fat loss. While sleep-deprivation can blunt GH release and negatively impact your physique, recent evidence illustrates that sleep quality also impacts hormones associated with hunger and satiety (the feeling of fullness)—especially when dieting. According to the data, sleep deprivation when dieting dysregulates the release of peptide hormones ghrelin and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) in the gut. As such, sleep-deprived men tend to have higher levels of ghrelin (a peptide that makes you feel hungry) in the morning than women. In contrast, sleep-deprived women tend to have lower levels GLP-1 (a peptide that makes you feel full) in the afternoon. The take home message— if you are dieting, maintain a normal sleep schedule of 8-10 hrs per night and you will find it easier to eat less.
Melatonin is an endogenous compound that’s synthesized by the pineal gland and is traditionally used as a supplement to effectively facilitate sleep. However, research from scientists at Baylor University (Waco, Texas) has shown that melatonin not only induces deep sleep, but also dramatically increases GH secretion. Furthermore, the effects of melatonin on GH secretion are even greater after training. Melatonin’s sleep-inducing and GH-releasing properties make it the perfect bedtime supplement for athletes looking to get lean and stay lean. Studies have shown that doses in range of 1-5 mg work best, with 5 mg promoting the greatest GH release.
Mucuna Pruriens has been shown to enhance the nighttime release of growth hormone. Mucuna pruriens comes from an ancient Indian herb called velvet bean, which when ingested has been shown in many published investigations to elevate L-dopa (the precursor to dopamine). Several studies have illustrated the remarkable effects of Mucuna pruriens on dopamine release in healthy and diseased people. Dopamine is a key player in the signaling for GH release, by inhibiting hypothalamic somatostatin secretion, which leads to greater release of GH by the pituitary gland. To support your nocturnal GH surge take approximately 2,000 mg of high-quality Mucuna pruriens (standardized to 15% L-dopa) immediately before bed.
LEAN LIFE-HACK #2: CONSUME AN ABUNDANCE OF PROTEIN
Most protein recommendations are based on anecdotal evidence, making some dieticians and physicians question the efficacy of eating ultra-high amounts of protein while trying to lose fat. Well, a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise tells us that resistance-trained athletes should consume at least 2.3 g of protein per kg of body weight per day in an effort to preserve lean mass while dieting and training.
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate ingestion promotes a rapid and robust flood of amino acids into the blood stream. The physique enhancing benefits of whey protein are highlighted in a clinical trial published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, where subjects who took a whey protein supplement while undergoing a calorie reduced diet retained twice as much lean mass and burned off nearly twice as much fat mass as the control group (with the same diet). As well, it has been shown in other research that drinking a pre-meal whey protein shake stimulates post-meal hormones that control satiety and regulate blood sugar levels.
For a daytime protein boost, mix 10-20 g of whey protein isolate or a whey protein blend with 8 oz of water and drink 20-30 minutes prior to breakfast and dinner.
In contrast to whey protein supplements, ingestion of micellar casein promotes a modest, slow and sustained (approximately 7 hour) elevation in blood amino-acid levels. This unique feature of casein contributes to an increase in protein synthesis and a marked (approximately 34%) decrease in muscle breakdown. These properties make micellar casein especially useful prior to bedtime and during periods where frequent protein consumption isn’t possible.
For a sustained nocturnal protein boost, consume 40-50 g of high-quality micellar casein protein 30 minutes before bed.
LEAN LIFE-HACK #3: MAXIMIZE METABOLISM
When it comes to lifelong fitness, keeping your metabolism elevated is imperative. Beyond boosting metabolic rate with exercise, we always suggest drinking 4L of cold water per day. Not only will this keep you hydrated, but it will also provide a decent kick to the metabolism. In fact, drinking 500 ml of cold water increases metabolic rate by about 30% for about 30 minutes, which equates to a total of about 25 calories burned! In males, water-induced thermogenesis is accomplished by burning fat, whereas females burn more carbohydrates. Based on this research, you can expect to burn about 200 extra calories per day if you drink 4 L of cold water daily—seems a lot easier than doing more cardio!
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that during exercise there’s a transient decrease in muscle carnitine content, which correlates highly with a decrease in fat burning as exercise prevails. Research indicates that by increasing in skeletal muscle total carnitine content (e.g., via ALCAR supplementation) results in greater fat burning effects and decreased carbohydrate usage, even during rest when there’s high carbohydrate availability. This is good, in that fat is utilized as energy before carbohydrates. As such, it has been suggested those who use L-carnitine supplements burn greater amounts of fat during exercise than those who don’t.
For best results, take 1.5 to 2 grams of ALCAR between meals.
Green Tea Extract
In a double blinded and placebo controlled study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, scientists from the UK reported that green tea extract (GTE) supplementation enhanced total fat oxidation during cycling exercise by almost 25%, with no changes noted in those who took the placebo. Furthermore, they measured greater body fat loss and a 10.9% improvement in exercise performance in those who took GTE versus those who took the placebo!
To get 25% more fat burning from your workout sessions, take 500-1,000mg of green tea extract standardized for epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), 2 to 3 times per day. For best fat burning effects, always take one dose 30 minutes prior to doing cardio.
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