Category Archives: Exercise and Fitness

Can Carnitine Help Enhance Exercise Performance?

Feel like your workouts aren’t going so well? Perhaps carnitine supplements may be of use to reach your fitness goals. 

The compound carnitine is synthesized from amino acids lysine and methionine. Its role is to transport fatty acids from the cytosol to the mitochondria to help break down lipids and fats in order to create metabolic energy. The majority of carnitine is found in skeletal muscle, helping maintain co-enzyme A by creating acetylcarnitine during high intensity exercise.

In a study done by Maastricht University in the Netherlands, researchers Benjamin Wall, Francis Stephens, Dumitru Constantin-Teodosiu, Kanagaraj Marimuthu, Ian Macdonald and Paul Greenhaff hypothesized that chronic ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrates would increase skeletal muscle total carnitine content in healthy participants, generating various positive metabolic effects of muscle carnitine loading that would lead to an improvement in high intensity exercise performance.

For the double-blind experiment, 14 healthy, athletic male participants were used. Two weeks before the start of the trial, the participants were pre-tested for maximal oxygen consumption so individual exercises could be determined to use 50% and 80% of their maximal oxygen uptake.

For the trial phase, the subjects were to undergo the experimental protocol on three occasions, 12 weeks apart. Blood samples were collected to assess blood glucose, serum insulin and plasma total cholesterol concentration. The participants exercised for 30 mins on a cycle ergometer at 50% maximal oxygen intensity, followed by 30 mins of exercise at 80% maximal oxygen consumption. Immediately after the exercises, the participants performed a 30-min work output performance test to measure endurance and performance.

After the first experimental visit, the participants were randomly assigned to two treatment groups. The control group consumed 700 mL of a beverage containing 80 grams of carbohydrate polymer twice daily for 168 days.

The experimental group consumed the same amount of beverage but with an additional 2 grams of L-carnitine tartrate, at the same frequency. On every visit, the same exercise protocol was conducted as the first visit. Blood samples and muscle biopsy samples were also collected from the participants throughout.

The effect of L-carnitine on muscle total carnitine content and exercise performance

After evaluating the data, the researchers found that after 24 weeks muscle total carnitine content was 30% more in the carnitine group than the control, meaning a 21% increase from baseline.

This is the first study conducted that demonstrated muscle carnitine content can be increased by dietary intake in humans. It also showed carnitine plays a role in the fuel metabolism of skeletal muscle, dependent on intensity of exercise.

The researchers also found that work output was 35% greater for the carnitine group compared to the control, by the end of the trial. This represented a 11% increase from baseline measures. By increasing muscle total carnitine content, muscle carbohydrate use is reduced during low intensity exercise. For high intensity exercise, muscle carnitine reduces muscle anaerobic energy due to its enhanced generation of glycolytic, pyruvate dehydrogenase complex and mitochondrial flux.

Working as a combination, these metabolic effects lead to a reduced perceived effort but increased output, helping improve exercise performance.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21224234

Exercise and Branched-chain Amino Acid (BCAA) Supplements Prevent Cardiac Atrophy

Cardiac atrophy–the wasting of the heart muscles–can lead to a variety of cardiovascular conditions. But supplementing with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), along with a program of exercise, can restore the heart and promote circulation again.

Cardiac atrophy is usually caused by prolonged bed rest, though astronauts living in microgravity are affected by atrophy.  People with congenital heart disease may also develop cardiac atrophy.

This atrophy means the heart muscles are deteriorating. They shrink, and the heart loses volume. As the muscles waste, the heart loses strength, and blood pressure is affected. This weakens the entire cardiovascular system. The reduced blood pressure results in orthostatic hypotension, where the brain isn’t getting enough blood, often resulting in dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. But can BCAA supplements help?

Prolonged bed rest therefore is not good for the heart. However, it is prescribed for several medical conditions, including some complications in pregnancy. Coma and stroke patients, too, often spend long periods supine. BCAA supplementation was tested in a study for cardiac atrophy.

TA Dorfman, BD Levine, et al, researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, USA, developed a study to examine the effects of exercise and nutritional supplementation of proteins and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) on women with cardiac atrophy.

Healthy volunteers were recruited. Their heart volumes were measured, then they were subjected to 60 days of 6 degrees head-down tilt bed rest. They were divided into exercise and BCAA supplement groups, and a control group.

Does BCAA help prevent cardiac atrophy?

The control group all suffered cardiac atrophy due to the prolonged bed rest. Both left ventricular and right ventricular volumes in their hearts were decreased. The exercise group, who used a supine treadmill, had no atrophy. The protein and BCAA supplement group also saw no reduction in either left or right ventricular mass. However, with the group who received only BCAA supplementation, and no exercise, the heart did lose some volume.

In conclusion, exercise is absolutely vital to prevent cardiac atrophy in long-duration bed rest. BCAA supplements are beneficial, especially when combined with an exercise program.

Source:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17379748

Amino Acids for Women who Exercise

When it comes to women, amino acids definitely have their place as far as supplements go. Amino acids play a crucial role in women’s health because they are the building blocks of proteins, and affect hair, bone, skin, and even hormones and exercise, plus muscles, tissues and organs. There are some amino acid supplements for women that you can take to aid exercising regimes, which can be purchased at supermarkets or vitamin shops.

Amino acids supplements

Amino acids for women are the same as they are for men. There are 22 amino acids that are broken down into these categories: essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids, as well as semi-essential or conditional aminos. Amino acids can be taken in the form of capsules but they also come from protein foods like meats (beef, lamb, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and even eggs) and dairy, beans, and nuts.

Taking amino acids for women can help boost fat burning and muscle building, and should be taken along with proper exercise and a healthy diet in order to keep a fit physique and lean and strong muscles.

Amino Acids for Women:

L-arginine:
L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which helps keep the body healthy. L-arginine also dilates blood vessels, which allows for better blood flow and delivery of nutrients to the muscles for fat burning. Arginine also boosts HGH (human growth hormone) that comes from the pituitary gland. HGH also helps with women who have low testosterone levels, which does less for muscle burning, but more for fat burning. 3-5g in the morning and a half an hour before bed or exercise will do the trick.

L-glutamine:
Another of the amino acids for women is L-glutamine, which enhances the recovery time for muscles after they’ve been used or damaged. Glutamine also helps with energy, fat burning, and boosts immunity. If you are dieting or doing some really intense workouts you can lose muscle and metabolic function, but glutamine protects lean muscle from breaking down when the muscles are stressed. Stressed muscles can trigger the cortisol-connection. Cortisol, which is a stress hormone, can actually stop fat burning and promote the storage of fat in those troublesome areas like the buttocks, hips, and thighs.

L-carnitine:
One of the well-known amino acids for women is L-carnitine. Carnitine plays a role in energy production (co-factor). Cells cannot make energy without carnitine’s help because it is what transports fatty acids into the mitochondria, which in turn produce the energy. Carnitine is also one of those amino acids for women with the nitric oxide connection, which is a systemic gas that helps bring faster results when working out in the gym. Heart health is also boosted in women, thanks to carnitine, since the heart muscle requires heavy energy production so it can beat efficiently. You can take 1-3g of carnitine up to three times per day.

Beta-Alanine:
Beta-alanine is also one of the amino acids for women that I will cover today. Beta-alanine increases the intramuscular levels of L-carnosine (don’t confuse it with L-carnitine above). Carnosine buffers lactic acid levels in the cells of muscles. Lactic acid is what builds up and makes your muscles feel sore after an extra-long or extra-hard workout or muscle contraction. Lactic acid makes you feel the “burn” in the muscles. Carnosine buffers and allows you to work harder or longer in the gym. Taking beta-alanine also can be taken with creatine to further boost body fat loss and muscle building. Take 1-3 g just before and after your workouts.

BCAA’s:
Last but not least, BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids) are also amino acids for women, which helps the female body to lose weight fater. BCAA’s help prevent muscle breakdown by keeping the supply needed by working muscles in check. This is important since they fuel muscles directly for energy, while also triggering lean muscle building and the burning of fat. 3-5g of BCAA’s can be taken before and after workouts.

Reference:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/267249-amino-acid-supplements-for-women/

Amino Acid L-Citrulline in Watermelon Can Help Athletes Recover Faster

Could watermelon juice help you with sore muscles? Could it help improve athletic performance by enabling muscles repair faster?  Scientists Tarazona, Alacid, Carrasco, Martinez and Aguayo studied this topic in Murcia, Spain, and came to this conclusion.

The key ingredient that does the job is the amino acid L-Citrulline.  It has been used as a dietary supplement for decades and is believed to boost athletic performance.  L-Citrulline is abundant in watermelon, and juicing it will make a lot of it available without having to eat a whole watermelon!  Watermelon is an ideal source for L-Citrulline because it is more bioavailable, meaning that your body can take advantage of it better than if you consumed it as a dietary supplement.

Pickles, Cherry or Watermelon Juice – Sore Muscles Begone!

According to recent reports, drinking watermelon juice helps muscles get more oxygen, which enables them to repair themselves faster.  This boosts recovery time and may enable athletes to continue exercising sooner.  L-Citrulline and watermelon juice also provide relief for sore muscles.  Pickle juice has traditionally been a home remedy for muscle soreness, and tart cherry juice has helped minimize inflammation, reduce muscle damage and limit muscle pain.

Spanish researchers also found that watermelon juice didn’t only help with muscle soreness but helped reduce the recovery heart rate.

How much watermelon juice should you drink?  It depends.  This particular study was conducted by giving athletes 500ml or half-a-liter (16.7 ounces) of either watermelon juice or watermelon juice enriched with additional L-Citrulline.  Both versions of the watermelon juice produced the described results within a 24-hour-period.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23862566

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/27/watermelon-juice-sore-muscles-soreness_n_3757009.html