The Secret Finally Revealed… There is no Secret!

Hey Shane… Finally taking the time to draft up a couple of questions for you icon smile The Secret Finally Revealed... There is no Secret! I’ve got more and will shoot them off when I have time!! Thanks for the tips!

Q1. Overdoing it on Supplements?

I’ve been taking a creatine based cell volumizing product along with a NOX pre-workout mix for over and month now. I started a dedicated workout regiment about 5 months ago and have been seeing some pretty amazing results since starting the supplements. Chest press three-rep max up almost 30% with similar results for squats for example. Now that the containers are almost empty I’m contemplating buying more. My question is: Is it safe to take these supplements over a prolonged period of time? Is it best to give them a break for a while and come back to them? I’ve heard there’s a link between creatine and cancer, is that true?

A1: I sure hope there’s no link to creatine and cancer or we’re all doomed as every cell of our bodies naturally produces creatine. And there’s an exhausting amount of research out there on creatine and nothing has linked it to cancer in any review I have read (and I’ve read lots!). Most research is done using certain doses that are known to be effective for promoting the products’ benefits, and these studies do not show creatine to cause cancer. However, take enough of anything and it’s possible right? Cancers are being shown to often be the result of irritated, inflammed tissues. So consuming too much of anything could provoke irritation and inflammation. So I think the key is to look at safety issues within normal consumption ranges.

A good example is Aspartame. This product is made out to be the Devil by some, and while I don’t think it’s “good” for you, having a scoop of protein powder in your shake isn’t going to make you sick or cause you to get cancer. BUT… have a scoop of protein in your oats for breakfast, drink sugar free Crystal Light, chew sugar free gum, drink diet Coke, have multiple low-carb protein bars, and more protein shakes… all foods often containing Aspartame, and you could be setting yourself up for some major problems down the road.

I think a good dose of common sense prevails just as much in this case as always!

Going back to the safety of long-term consumption of the NOX product you are using. Without reading the whole ingredient list, I can only comment to the two ingredients you mention. The creatine and the nox component.

Creatine has been evaluated in depth in many studies and on otherwise healthy people, even long-term use up to 21 months has not shown to change any blood or urine markers of health in normal doses between users and non-users.

I’ve listed just one resource here, but a quick search of Pubmed will find you many more.

As for the NOX component of the product. Most likely it is some form of the amino acid
arginine. Arginine has been shown for decades to cause an increase in the release of Growth Hormone. But only at doses far to high to be given orally. Oral doses of 22+g/day are needed (and more like 30g and 40g to see some statistically significant figures). However, doses higher than 10g/day are generally not tolerated orally. So the studies use IV methods of delivering the arginine.

So as of late unscrupulous (which means basically all of them) nutritional supplement companies have been pushing another of Arginine’s effects, and that is to raise Nitric Oxide levels. The thinking is that since Nitric Oxide is a vasodilator, taking something (Arginine) that will increase the Nitric Oxide and subsequent vasodilation, means more blood flow and more nutrients reaching the muscles which will lead to greater muscle pumps and muscle growth.

Firstly, the only studies where Arginine supplementation actually increased Nitric Oxide production, again, were in studies where people received massive IV doses of Arginine. Far more than would be orally tolerable. Other studies using “time-released” Arginine, as labeled by the supplement company selling the product, showed ZERO time-release effect.

So unfortunately the NOX part of the product you’re consuming scores a MASSIVE ZERO in terms of being beneficial in any way. But the effect you felt IS real, and is very likely the result of a big 1-2 punch that comes from the creatine in the product and the placebo effect.

So should you consider continuing with supplementing your training? YES… but should you use the same product? Likely no. I would pick up a Creatine Monohydrate product from Ultimate Nutrition, Prolab, or Optimum Nutrition. These three manufacturers provide a standalone creatine monohydrate product that will give you awesome bang for your buck.

While there is very little safety issue with long-term use of Creatine Monohydrate, you will notice over time that it doesn’t seem to work as well and this is generally caused by creatine transporter down-regulation. It just means that the longer you have higher concentrations of intracellular creatine, the fewer transporters the cell puts out to bring in more creatine. So my suggestion is to cycle off creatine every couple months for a good 3-4 weeks to give your system time to reset.

2. Is There a Secret to Reducing Belly Fat??

I’ve been crushing my abs at the gym lately, working them daily and getting to the point where they’re starting to pop. Is there a clear-cut secret to reducing belly fat? When it comes to cardio I hear mixed opinions, some say train in hard bursts with lower impact in between while others recommend prolonged sessions at an optimum “fat burn” heart rate that’s barely above resting. Your thoughts?

What about diet? Are carbs the evil culprit or the scapegoat? What about foods that are capable of helping you metabolize fat, do they exist?

A2: The laws of physics apply here. If you burn more calories than you consume, you lose bodymass. Where the bodymass comes from depends on a number of factors. If you do the long slow cardio that some experts try to have you believe is the only way to lose bodyfat then you will actually oxidize fat to produce energy. This is the “fat-burning” zone. Scientifically it is true, that you do burn fat during your workout when you train this way. I read the science myself and used to be a major proponent of this method, and it does work. But depending on the person, I now believe there is a better method.

The major problem with training in the “fat-burning” zone is that the human body becomes more efficient over time at burning fat, which also means that over time it takes fewer fat calories to do the same amount of work. Additionally, training in the fat-burning zone also improves the body’s ability to use intra-muscular fat as an energy source. A situation that doesn’t benefit us at all! What we want is subcutaneous fat to be used, and for inefficiency when it comes to how many calories it takes to do work.

Higher intensity cardio training requires energy at a pace far too quickly for fat to supply enough energy. Even though fat has more than twice the calories as carbohydrates gram for gram (9g vs. 4g), the processes that release energy from fat are far too slow to release sufficient energy to fuel high-energy activity. So the slack is made up by burning sugars (carbohydrates or CHO). When CHO is burned for energy, the oxidation processes that release the energy from the bonds do not require oxygen. But the inefficiency of using CHO to produce energy produces a great requirement for recovery processes – which are all highly dependent on oxygen. So we have anaerobic energy production, and aerobic energy recovery processes.

Take a typical 1 hour “fat-burning” workout. An average male will burn around 300 kcal. Of this perhaps 70% is fat, so 210 kcal are fat, which is about 23g of fat. Not very much when you consider that a pound of fat contains 454g of fat. On the other hand, a 20 minute high intensity interval training session may burn about 200 kcal. Of this, perhaps 10% will be fat so 20kcal or just a few grams of fat, and the rest is CHO. So maybe 180 kcal of CHO is used, which is about 45g CHO. At this point it sounds like the fat-burning zone is the clear winner. At the succession of a high intensity interval training session you will notice that you maintain higher levels of respiration and heart-rate possibly for a number of hours after. And even when you don’t notice your breathing and heart-rate anymore, your metabolic rate is elevated for often up to 6 or 7 hours after you have finished the exercise. This increased metabolism is caused by the recovery processes that are necessary after very intense exercise.

The difference between how much fat loss occurs during the workout from slow cardio to high intensity seems to favour the slow cardio, but after considering that the balance is usually made up through recovery processes, the shorter time required to do the higher intensity training seems to make it the more appealing option.

I used to be a strong advocate for the slow cardio because of the clear fact that you do burn more fat during slow cardio. That seemed to me to be enough for me to put my belief and name behind this method. However, I’m not one to believe something and never re-consider, re-evaluate, or consider new evidence. Part of what led me to re-evaluate my belief was just the sheer number of people who do lose bodyfat doing the higher intensity work. It’s pretty hard to ignore something that obviously works. So digging deeper, the recovery processes, which were largely ignored, yielded the answers.

So at this point.. it should be clear that both work, they work differently, and each way may work better for some people than others. The key is to try one, and if you don’t like the result you get, try the other.

A few factors to consider include… obviously diet. If you are consuming more calories than you are burning off, it doesn’t really matter what kind of fat-loss training you do. And alcohol calories (7kcal/g vs 9kcal/g for fat and 4kcal/g for CHO) seem to increase fat-storing and fat-producing enzymes, so they’re a double-whammy if you’re hoping for fat loss.

With carbohydrate and fat intake and in general overall calorie intake unrestricted, it is quite easy to consume the quantity of calories that you burn off during the your workouts. So without imposing some restrictions on food intake losing those last few pounds may be a challenge.

Fat was the first scapegoat, and now it’s carbs. All in the name of profit for supplement manufacturers.

Eat foods that don’t come in plastic wrappers or boxes. If there’s no place to put a health claim on the label, then it’s probably good for you.. like a banana or a tomato or oats. When we eat we often begin to feel full but continue to eat because we like the taste of the food. This is probably the biggest mistake you can ever make. If observed and adhered to, stopping eating at the first feeling of fullness can probably reduce your daily calorie intake by up to 20%. Over time this will definitely help you lose bodyfat.

Additionally, while there aren’t any foods that specifically really help you metabolize and burn fat, the absence of refined and processed carbs, and too much fruit definitely has a positive effect on helping you metabolize and burn fat.

Remember, carbs are the preferred source of energy for the body. If you give it enough it will do it’s best to not use fat at all. So cut back on the carbs and your body will have no choice but to increase fat burning.

I know these are pretty long answers to your questions, but I often feel that a more thorough and detailed answer helps people to understand the more simple answer rather than just believing it because they think I know the answers. With just the simple answer, the next expert comes along and says something contrary and people jump on it. Hopefully with the information I’ve provided here you’ll be able to decipher the next outrageous diet or fat-loss claim from the next well thought out information article with confidence.

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