Are BCAA’s worth it ?

491466926So you decided to lose weight.      51jDJj+UpYL.jpg

Maybe your doctor told you that you’re at risk of being pre-diabetic, maybe a friend tagged you in very unflattering, unsightly picture (oh, I’ve been there…), maybe you’re going on a trip down south or that bathing suit season is soon approaching, maybe you’re getting married or divorced.

Wether it be for health, quality of life, regaining control, improving appearance or general fitness people decide to slim down for a lot of reasons.

So, you went shopping, got brand spanking new gym clothes, got your gym membership and your workout plan ready, just bought a healthy grocery and now you’re at the supplement store.

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Everything is over priced, the employee giving you advice is overweight and trying his hardest to make you buy the supplement line with the highest profit margin because he makes commission on it.

He’ll probably suggest a pre-workout (caffeine), maybe creatine, whey protein, maybe omega-3, a green supplement, glutamine, and surprise surprise BCAA.

What are BCAA ?

BCAA is short for Branched-Chains Amino Acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, muscle can’t grow without them. The ones that are sold at supplement stores usually contains 3 essential amino acids.

 

 

– Leucine

Leucineisoleucinevaline

– Isoleucine

– Valine.

 

 

These 3 specifically are “essential” which means it needs to be provided by your diet since your body can’t synthetize it on its on.

Ok, Back to weight loss.

Now, for most people that means cutting their calories and ramping up the amount of cardio they’re doing. 

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This can be problematic, especially when cutting  calories aggressivly for faster fat loss.

Increased cardio, when also cutting calories aggresively can lead to decreased muscle mass no.jpg

Catabolism – every bodybuilders nightmare

 

The body desperatly wants to hold on to its fat so it turns to its muscles to satisfy its energy needs (using muscle amino acids for metabolic fuel)

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Decrease muscle mass leads to a decrease in resting basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories your body burn doing nothing)  and boom now you’re stuck doing more and more cardio in order to see ongoing weight-loss results. 

You become what we would call ”skinny fat” – I know, the phrase kind of defies logic. How can someone be skinny but fat at the same time ? What kind of satanic curse is this ?

We are refering to low levels of lean muscle mass but high levels of fat mass.

Here’s what i mean :

skinny-fat

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BCAA and weightloss 

This is where BCAA comes in :

Taking this supplement, before or during claims to delay fatigue.

Taking them post workout will ”lower muscle damage” by ”feeding the muscle” (replenishing amino acides) keeping you in an anabolic state.

It promises to :

  1. Increase protein synthesis (anabolic)
  2. Reduce protein breakdown (anti-catabolic) 

Yes, they are delicious but do you really need them to lose fat mass ?

A lot of studies have tried to prove ”The efficacy of branched chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation and resistance training for maintaining lean body mass during a calorie-restricted diet” this occurring at the same time with losses in fat mass.

” Dudgeon et al.”

BUT looking more closely, the results seems to contradict the data concerning changes in fat mass.

They claimed a significant change in fat mass for the subject supplementing with BCAA compared to a placebo group (supplementing with a carbhohydrate beverage – like Powerade or Gatorade). Keeping in mind that all subjects were prescribed the same hypocaloric diet and exercise programs.

HOWEVER, while both group lost fat mass, the group supplementing with a carbs beverage actually lost more fat. Table 2 states that the BCAA group lost 0.6 kg of fat mass while the CHO group lost 1.4 kg.

Researchers often use the wrong statistical measures to analyze the data so that they can support their hypothesis (When supplement company finances the research it helps…). In other words, they make the numbers speak in their favor.

There are two very important points you’re not told about BCAA research:

1. Most Research usually demonstrates muscle-related benefits of BCAA supplementation on subjects that didn’t eat enough protein.

2. You can simply get your BCAAs from food instead, and this is cheaper and (in my opinion) more satisfying.

While it’s true that BCAAs are effective for preserving muscle, you’re paying for three amino acids but leucine is the only one that effectively suppresses muscle protein breakdown – Save money and get the same results by buying pure leucine.

My conclusion : BCAA are overrated

If you’re eating enough protein every day (before and after your workouts) you have no reason to add BCAAs to your monthly supplement bill.

P.s Avoid being ”Skinny Fat’, eat some protein, spend time in the weight room and start lifting more than 5lbs.

 

 

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Weight Loss Wars

 

I used to weigh myself every Sunday morning without exception. This was a weekly task written in my agenda that I could not skip. At that moment, I felt like I was about to wage war with myself. My ”Once-A-Week-Ritual” was creating unnecessary stress, pressure and I became fixated on my mass. For me, it wasn’t a numerical reflection of my relationship with gravity, no sir, this was a measure of my worth as a person.

That number on the scale determined my self-esteem for the next week. My entire mood became dependant on that number. If the scale went down, I was pleased (but it was never enough). If went up, my day was instantly ruined – I had failed.

Then one day, it clicked :

This number doesn’t define who I am.

It doesn’t need to dictate my value as a human being.

I rather set myself on fire than hop on that scale again to be honest so I wrote an e-mail to my coach telling him I had enough of this restrictive dieting lifestyle and that it interfered with my emotional wellbeing and happiness.

 

Why

Why do we value thinness, leanness, slenderness, slimness?

Why do we believe it’s a symbol of beauty and associate it with being successful, happy and disciplined?

Does our culture pressure us with medias to determine our self-worth by our appearance?

Has our society become obsessed with the idea of losing weight?

I feel like if our society wasn’t so hyper focused on weight, nobody would care. Being ”Fat” wouldn’t be seen as an insult or something to be ashamed of.

Fat Shaming vs Fat Acceptance

We live in an a time where obesity has become a major problem. But is obesity considered a disease ? A disability ? Is it okay to be overweight ? Is our thin obsessed culture feeding this epidemic and damaging our healthcare further ?

There are negative comments everywhere about overweight people . While some of these comments come from mean-spirited people, others think fat shaming will motivate overweight folks to lose weight.

Some individuals (like John Bourque, see youtube link below) think that being overweight is  lacking discipline and that fat shaming can be constructive and motivate obese individual to take responsibility of their health.

You’d think that only fit people engage in fat shaming, but you’d be wrong. Overweight people play a part, too. Fat people criticize others who are fat. Even worse, fat people stigmatize themselves.9731697_orig

I personally think this type of shaming makes people feel beyond shameful excluding them completely for the world of health and wellbeing.

It triggers overeating and leads to poor body image. People aren’t motivated to take great care of their bodies if they hate them right ?

 

It’s impossible to feel good about yourself if you’re constantly practicing self-destructive behaviors, I agree.

 

BUT, perfectly normal, healthy individuals are labeled plus sized or unhealthy simply because they don’t match society’s definition of health & beauty.

 

War against obesity

The word success and failure often describe folk that battle weight loss but losing weight isn’t as predictable and progressive at you might have been led to believe.

People will use 3 common strategies to lose pounds:

  1. Specific macronutrient based diets
  2. Counting/Restricting calories
  3. Increasing calorie expenditure by exercising

Usually the vicious cycle of weight loss looks a lot like this

Cycle

Barriers to Weight Loss

There is a lot of factor that can interrupt a weight loss journey.

  • Stress, Anxiety or Depression
  • Overeating/Lack of portion control
  • Yo-yo dieting or Crash diets that leads to a reduced metabolic rate
  • Negative self-image
  • Leptin resistance
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Pain
  • Financial issues
  • Time

While obstacles can often seem to stand between an individual and their desire to lose weight, they’re often there to allow us to demonstrate how badly we truly want to achieve those goals.

A better way of looking at it

I say: Try to be a little better tomorrow than you were today.

Try changing your behavior in a healthy way.

Independent of weight loss, eat whole food and increase your amount of daily exercise.weight

It’s healthy whether you lose weight or maintain it. Make these choices in consistent ways in opposed to crash diets or exercise plan where the primary purpose is to lose weight. Don’t focus solely on the scale. Remove that unrealistic goal of looking like a fitness model and that self-judgement based on whether or not you are able to lose weight.

Focus on being healthy.

The Way I see It

My perceptive is to live the healthiest life that you can ENJOY over time.

After all, isn’t life about maximizing your enjoyment while at the same time maximizing your health ?

Persistent effort and adherence over time is goal to weight loss. You need to devote substantial time in your day to exercise and maintain a caloric deficit.

 

But at the end, if you don’t like yourself fat, guess what, you won’t like yourself thin either.

 

The Unbiased Truth about Artificial Sweeteners

 

On one hand, you have the people that are opposed to the use of artificial sweeteners sugarfree_tout1because of the  link with increased health risk  and other diseases. But on the other hand, if you’ve ever tried to reduce your sugar intake or lose weight by reducing the amount of calories in your diet, there’s no getting around it : you’ve probably turned to artificial sweeteners.

You can find these clever substances in a variety of food and beverages.

Marketed as “sugar-free” or “diet” chewing gums, soft drinks, baked goods, candy, ice cream, yogurt and even medication often contain artificial sweeteners.

There’s way too much research out there to cover comprehensively in a blog article, but I’ll try to cover the basics.

Here’s a chart that list some of the popular sugar substitutes by Mayo Clinic Medical Research:

Artificial sweeteners Sugar alcohols Novel sweeteners Natural sweeteners
Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One) Erythritol Stevia extracts (Pure Via, Truvia) Agave nectar
Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) Hydrogenated starch hydrolysate Tagatose (Naturlose) Date sugar
Neotame Isomalt Trehalose Fruit juice concentrate
Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet’N Low) Lactitol Honey
Sucralose (Splenda) Maltitol Maple syrup
Mannitol Molasses
Sorbitol
Xylitol
Advantame

sugar-free3sugar-free-3

 

The topic of sweeteners can be confusing and have been heavily scrutinized over the years.

What are they exactly?

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Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes known as intense sweeteners.

They’re many times sweeter than regular sugar and are an attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet.

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Health benefits of artificial sweeteners

  • Don’t contribute to tooth decay and cavities
  • Weight control; they are non-nutritive – they have virtually no calories.
  • Diabetes ; artificial sweeteners have no immediate, measurable effect on blood sugar level because they are not carbohydrates

Health concerns with artificial sweeteners

  • Laxative effect, bloating, intestinal gas and diarrhea when eaten in large amounts
  • Lab created, some people don’t like the thought of putting chemicals into their bodies
  • May have an impact on what you want to eat. There’s link between cravings and artificial sweeteners.
  • Taste. Some people just don’t like the taste of artificial sweeteners
  • May trigger headache pain or make users feel more tired
  • Recent research has revealed that artificial sweeteners may influence your health by changing the balance of bacteria in your gut.

Popular Myths

  1. Artificial sweeteners causes cancer

    Studies dating from 1970s found a link between saccharin and bladder cancer in laboratory rats. Because of those studies, saccharin once carried a warning label that it may be hazardous to your health. The mechanism behind these effects was later found to be specific to rats and not generalizable to other animals or humans. 

    A later study suggested that aspartame consumption caused brain tumors. The authors based this hypothesis on the fact that both brain cancer and aspartame consumption had increased since 1980 … despite not knowing whether the people getting brain tumors actually consumed artificial sweeteners

    However, these studies gave artificial sweeteners a bad reputation. Thanks to the media that tends to blow things way out of proportion, they never recovered.

  2. Eating artificial sweeteners guarantees I’ll lose weight

    For most people, the desire to reduce calorie consumption and lose weight is the primary motivation for consuming artificial sweeteners. While this is still being researched, some believe that diet food causes your brain to crave calories, leaving you eating more instead of less. This has something to do with tricking the activity in the reward processing regions of the brain. There can also be a “halo effect.” Many people think that because they are eating foods that are low in calories that leaves room to eat more. “The calories you save by drinking diet soda don’t counter-balance a high-calorie meal,”

  3. Sweeteners that are derived from stevia are the best choice Packets_Truvia.2e16d0ba.fill-735x490

    Raw stevia is not the same as the stevia-based products you buy at your local Sobeys. These are often bleached, added with fillers and end up being highly altered version of stevia (different on a molecular level).

    Also, Stevia is not FDA-approved. It can’t be sold as an artificial sweetner but only as a dietary supplement.

Summary

  1. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of health conditions. However, the evidence are observational and doesn’t take other potential causes into account.
  2. Swapping added sugar for artificial sweeteners may help people who are trying to lose weight, manage diabetes and improve their dental health
  3. The short-term use of artificial sweeteners hasn’t been shown to be harmful.

 

Should I consume sweeteners?

My conclusion might seem a little anticlimactic after all that information, but my goal here is to help you make an informed choice.

Sweeteners are new to the human diet and my moto is “guilty until proven innocent” so personally i try to avoid them.

If you don’t need to watch your calories or your blood sugar levels, there is no real reason to use the sweeteners unless you just happen to like the taste . While artificial sweeteners are perhaps not as scary as some might believe, I don’t recommend including them in your diet just for fun.

 

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