A Beginner’s Guide to BCAAs

So you’ve committed to the life of gains, pushing through the pain, sweating before work and putting up weight after dinner. You’ve committed to elevating yourself to a level reserved for the truly dedicated, for those that don’t understand the term “off season.” Every serious athlete on the planet knows that supplements are essential to performing at an elite level, and finding a supplement program that can aid in recovery and enhance performance is crucial.

BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), are essential amino acids that must be consumed through diet and are not produced naturally by our bodies. BCAAs are quickly becoming an essential part of most serious athlete’s supplementation programs, and for good reason as more and more research is showing the benefits of BCAA’s.

To get you started, we have highlighted four ways that BCAAs could benefit you and help you reach your goals faster.

1. Protein Synthesis

One of the key benefits of BCAAs is that they have been shown to stimulate protein synthesis. This not only helps in muscle gain, as BCAA’s are the building blocks of protein, which in turn are the building blocks of muscle and mass, but also aids recovery. This expedited recovery means you can get back into the gym faster after intense workouts.

2. Improves Endurance

When you push hard in the gym or out in the field, your body releases tryptophan into the brain, increasing serotonin levels and making you feel tired. BCAAs actually compete with the tryptophan and can lead to longer and more intense workouts. Going longer and stronger only means bigger gains and ultimately increased energy.

3. Helps Maintain Muscle Mass

There’s a plethora of reasons for dieting, from trying to slim for a fit comp to trying to drop some weight pre-beach season. However, for serious bodybuilders, losing muscle mass through catabolic dieting is less than ideal. When you are both dieting and training, your body looks for energy that is generally stored in fat cells. When you cut fat out, your body turns to muscle for fuel during even moderate exercise. By stimulating protein synthesis, you can counteract the effects of protein breakdown, which means that you can lose weight without losing a significant amount of muscle mass.

4. Supports Immune System

When you are consistently pushing your body, you are consistently putting stress on your immune system. Without adequate supplementation, you can may actually increase your risk of illness. By supplementing with the adequate amount of BCAAs, you’re aiding immune system function, especially in those over 35, who are naturally seeing decreased protein synthesis due to aging.

So if you’re looking for a no BS source of the purest BCAAs on the planet, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our complete performance line here.

Yours in Health,

Courtney

Everything You Know About Lactic Acid Is Wrong

For a semi-serious athlete, Jeremy Rosenberg is not unusual. The Los Angeles-based book editor is a weekend warrior on the city’s soccer fields, but says he pays for it after most games.

“A couple of hours after I play I feel like what I imagine a whirling dervish does: A post-ecstatic mental state combined with being totally physically drained,” says Rosenberg. “As long as I don’t stop playing, I feel great. But stopping means soreness.”

Rosenberg and his fellow players don’t pretend to be physical therapists or exercise scientists, but they confidently throw around the same term to explain their aching muscles: Lactic acid buildup.

Ah, lactic acid, the much maligned (and misunderstood) participant in the body’s metabolic energy systems. But Rosenberg and his mates can be forgiven: Many trainers and even some physicians make the same mistake, blaming lactic acid not only for the deep muscle burn felt during exercise and the intense ache afterwards, but also for calling it lactic acid in the first place.

“One of the long-standing myths in exercise science and popular culture is that lactic acid causes fatigue,” explains Lance Dalleck, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science at Western State Colorado University. The only problem is that the body doesn’t produce lactic acid, not even during intense exercise. “Lactic acid only exists in sour milk,” says Dalleck, “and blood and sour milk have markedly different mediums.”

 

What People Actually Mean by “Lactic Acid Buildup”

What most people are referring to when they say “lactic acid” is actually lactate, and it’s not responsible for the burn you feel in your legs after running intervals or peddling furiously to keep up with the peloton in a road race. Nor is it responsible for the soreness you may feel up to 48 hours after a tough workout, as many believe. Indeed, it’s not a waste product of exercise at all. On the contrary, lactate helps to delay fatigue, and can even serve as a fuel for your muscles, says Dalleck.

 

How Lactate Got Confused With Lactic Acid

The whole misunderstanding dates back to a 1922 study by two British scientists, Otto Meyerhoff and Archibald V. Hill. In their Nobel-Prize winning research investigating the energy capabilities of carbohydrate metabolism in skeletal muscle, they suggested that lactic acid is produced in humans as a side reaction to glycolysis (the breakdown of glucose to fuel muscle activity).

And that’s essentially how it’s been explained ever since: Lactic acid is a sort of residue from your muscles burning fuel, and its buildup is what causes the burn and ache athletes commonly experience during and after intense effort. Because after all, acid burns, right?

What recent studies have found fairly conclusively is that while lactic acid—or more accurately, lactate—coincides with “acidosis” in muscles, it’s not the cause.

 

So How Does Lactic Acid Buildup Affect Muscles?

First, I thought we agreed to call it “lactate.” Second, a quick review of how the body uses and produces energy is probably in order.

There are two primary means by which physical activity is powered: aerobically, which requires oxygen, and anaerobically, which doesn’t. Which energy system dominates during a given activity depends on its intensity.

In the case of high-intensity exercise—say, sprinting—demand for the quick, anaerobic form of energy forces muscles to gobble up ATP, the body’s primary energy source. In the process, each ATP molecule is then broken down into ADP plus a hydrogen ion, or proton. “It’s the increase in these protons that causes acidification, known as acidosis, and that does burn,” says Dalleck.

That burn typically kicks in at around 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, otherwise known as the lactate threshold. This is the point at which the body produces these protons faster than it can remove them. In the case of low-intensity aerobic exercise—say, jogging—those protons don’t accumulate fast enough to inhibit muscle function.

Similar to how fever is a symptom of being sick rather than the reason for it, lactate is merely symptomatic of the process that causes acidosis. As these protons build up during high-intensity exercise, pyruvate molecules produced during the last step of glycolysis mentioned earlier, do too. And each of these pyruvate molecules absorbs two protons to create… lactate, explaining its presence, and why it’s erroneously implicated in muscle burn.

Thus, lactate production is actually a consequence of acidosis, not the cause and, much the same way a fever is the immune system’s way of combating infection, helps buffer its negative effects. What’s more, during moderate to hard exercise, lactate can even be shuttled back into mitochondria (i.e., the power plant of a cell) and converted into energy.

But at some point during intense exercise, the buildup of protons overwhelms the ability of pyruvate to absorb them. That’s when you feel the burn, and that’s when you have to take matters into your own hands.

 

How to Prevent Exercise-Induced Acidosis

Your best bet here is beta-alanine, an amino acid that combines with another amino acid called L-histidine to create a substance called carnosine, which acts as a buffer against acid buildup in muscle tissue.

You’ll find carnosine in beef, but you’d need to eat a whole lot of it to receive an effective dose for improving exercise performance. And since there’s already plenty of L-histadine circulating in your body, supplementing with beta-alanine is the most efficient method for creating performance-enhancing levels of carnosine at the cellular level. (Unabashed product plug: Beta alanine is one of the primary ingredients in Beachbody Performance Energize, our most powerful performance booster to date.)

Because it takes time to elevate carnosine concentration, results typically occur after one to two months of daily use. The only common side effect from beta-alanine consumption is a harmless, but potentially uncomfortable symptom called paresthesia. It’s characterized by a tingling sensation throughout the body, and most often occurs with high doses. If you experience paresthesia, try taking smaller (i.e., less than 800 mg) doses of beta-alanine throughout the day instead of one large one.

 

Does Lactate Cause Muscle Soreness?

Along with acidosis, lactate is also frequently blamed for delayed onset muscle soreness(DOMS), which can occur as soon as six hours after exercise, and usually peaks 48 hours afterward. The blame is misplaced here as well, as DOMS is caused by micro-tears in muscle, not the buildup of lactate. Still, there are several steps you can take to ease the ache.

Pop Some Ibuprofen (Maybe)

The soreness you feel after a tough workout is the result of swelling and inflammation caused by the micro tears mentioned earlier. Popping Ibuprofen, which is an anti-inflammatory, can significantly reduce the pain, according to a study by Greek researchers in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

But that relief may come at a price. An ever-growing body of research has also linked NSAIDs (including ibuprofen) to everything from cardiovascular issues and intestinal dysfunction to suppressed protein synthesis post-exercise. Occasionally taking a couple capsules for muscle soreness is probably just fine—but give some serious thought before using it regularly.

Take Tart Cherry Extract

Doing so can help reduce DOMS not only after a tough endurance workout, but also after intense resistance training, according to two separate studies (available for viewing here and here) at Texas A&M University. Both studies supported the results of previous research, showing that tart cherries can reduce muscle breakdown and inflammation, thereby reducing soreness.

Give Yourself a Massage

Using a foam roller to knead your muscles post-workout can significantly reduce DOMS, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. Give each major muscle group at least five rolls, starting with your calves and working your way up your body. Spend extra time on sore spots.

Wear Compression Gear

People who wear compression garments after their workout experience less soreness and faster muscle recovery than people who wear a more traditional gym outfit, like a t-shirt and shorts, according to a recent study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. The reason: By compressing the muscle, such garments help reduce swelling and pressure.

Here are 5 other ways to prevent muscle soreness.

Originally shared: https://www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/everything-you-thought-you-knew-about-lactic-acid-is-wrong

Tips To Prevent Post Workout Acne

Have you noticed that your skin breaks out after a rigorous exercise session? It’s great to know that you’re supporting your lungs, heart, and muscles when you exercise— not so great to see the pimply aftermath.
Here are some tips to prevent post-workout acne so you can stay fit and have smooth, blemish free skin too!

Why It Happens
Before we get into preventing post-workout acne, let’s look at why it happens to some people. Acne typically occurs when bacteria get into the pores of your face. Maybe you touched a yoga mat or some gym equipment covered in bacteria, and then you transferred it to your skin by touching your face. Perhaps you used a dirty towel to wipe sweat from your cheeks and forehead.

You might have worked out a little too hard, overheating your body and stimulating hives. Or maybe your hair is getting into your face as you work out, carrying bacteria and hair products to clog your pores. Even though sweat doesn’t contain bacteria, it can carry bacteria from your skin into your pores if you don’t wash your face soon after exercising.

Here are some tips to prevent the post-workout break outs.

Use a Clean Towel
Instead of keeping the same towel in your gym bag, bring a fresh one to each exercise session. Don’t wipe sweat from your face with your hands or shirt— only use the clean towel.

Take Off the Makeup
Sure, you want to look good while exercising— who wouldn’t? But it’s more important to keep your skin clear for other occasions, so ditch the makeup before you start your workout.

When you start to sweat, the moisture mixes with the makeup and bacteria on the skin, moving into pores and clogging them.
Wash your face with a mild cleanser right before the workout and again right after your exercise.

Keep Your Hair Back
There’s a reason most women wear their hair back when they exercise. It gets sweaty and in the way, but can also transfer bacteria to your face.

When I’m exercising, my hair tends to swing right into my face unless I tie it back (so annoying). Use a hair band to secure your hair in a ponytail or bun. If your hair is too short to go into a ponytail, you can use a breathable, moisture-wicking headband instead.

Try not to touch your hair while your exercising to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Clean the Machine
Of course, your clean towel can still pick up germs and bacteria if you drape it over an exercise machine that others have used. If your gym supplies antibacterial wipes, use them to wipe the machine’s surfaces, where your hands or towel will touch. You can always bring your own cleaning wipes as well, if the gym doesn’t offer them.

Wear Comfortable Clothes
Okay ladies, let’s face it— the breakouts don’t always show up on your face. The crotch area, inner thighs, and chest areas can also suffer from post-workout acne. Clothing that is too tight or not breathable enough can cause excessive friction or trap body heat, leading to breakouts.

If this is a problem for you, choose loose-fitting exercise clothes made from natural fabrics. Anything comfortable and moisture-wicking is perfect to help you exercise in comfort.

Take a Shower
After a hot, sweaty workout, a shower feels amazing. Plus, the running water and soap carry away all the bacteria, germs, sweat, oils, and products that could block your pores. Try to shower as soon as possible after each exercise session.

Hydrate
So many physical issues and conditions can be improved by simply staying hydrated! Drink your 8-10 glasses of water every day, and you’ll not only feel better— your skin will look better, too!

As you’re incorporating these habits to prevent post-workout acne, keep a close eye on your skin’s condition. Do you notice a worsening of acne when you use a specific workout machine or exercise in hotter conditions? Maybe the machine just isn’t clean, or your skin is more sensitive to heat.

A small change in your exercise pattern may help control future breakouts. Let us know if you have any extra tips that might help! xx