What Is Insulin And Why Is It Important For Building Muscle?

If you are into fitness or have been trying to become more healthy, you have probably heard the word “insulin” being thrown around. What is insulin and what role does it play in your body?

If you read some nutrition “gurus”, insulin gets a bad rap. Especially guys who argue that carbohydrates are evil and push low-carb diets, try to point the finger at insulin as one of the main causes of people getting fat. They argue that carbs are bad and insulin is bad by association.

However if you look at their arguments more closely, you can see that they make pretty sketchy connections and their conclusions are pretty much BS.

In order to be able to analyze all the different diets that people are hyping-up and make an informed choice on which is the best for you, you need to know what insulin is and how it works.

Let’s start by listing the main roles of insulin in the body:

1) push glucose into cells, in order for it to be used as energy

2) push other types of nutrients (for example proteins), in order for them to be used by the cells

3) store excess glucose for later use (either as glycogen or fat)

Remember these roles when reading the rest of the article, as this is crucial for understanding the importance of insulin in different bodily processes, and especially in what role it plays in getting bigger muscles and losing fat.

Insulin is one of the most important hormones for your metabolism. The different cells in your body need glucose for energy and insulin promotes the absorption of glucose by them (either for energy or for storage – glycogen, fat).

It is a peptide hormone, which means that it’s a functional protein. It is produced in the pancreas by beta cells and serves many functions in your body. You can think of it as the main regulator of your body.

Insulin is released into the bloodstream when glucose is present, whether due to food getting ingested or due to different stress hormones flooding the body.

What happens is that when you are eating, the food is broken down into its more basic constituent parts, and the pancreas starts releasing insulin into your bloodstream. The insulin then directs the transport of these nutrients either into the cells or for storage. Once the level of these nutrients in the blood drops, then the amount of insulin drops as well.

Let’s use an analogy in order to illustrate how insulin works. Imagine that insulin is a small spaceship that travels through your blood and muscle cells are big space factories. These space factories have docking stations (insulin receptors) that the insulin spaceship periodically visits and docks at them.

In the process, the insulin acts as a sort of key, unlocking the doors to the cells. Once these doors are unlocked, nutrients such as glucose or amino acids can enter the cells, bringing energy and also different building blocks for their internal processes.
Read More

Which Nutrients Are Important For Your Brain Health?

According to recent statistics, over 1/4th of all Americans suffer from some sort of a mental disorder. Furthermore, around 6% of the US population has been diagnosed with what could be termed as a serious mental illness and that percentage is on the rise. There are similar trends in other countries around the world. A huge epidemic of people with mental diseases seems to be taking over society and many people are becoming sick in the brain.

What is the reason? There are several things that are behind this, but one culprit seems to be the diet. Recent scientific studies point to improper nutrition as one of the main explanations of why there has been such an abrupt rise in mental illnesses among the population in the past few decades.

Nutrients are not only important for growing a big and healthy body, but also promote healthy brain functions, which allows you to do all your mental activities better. Healthy eating is a prerequisite for maintaining a healthy body and is also an important prerequisite for maintaining a healthy and functioning mind.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get their required amount of nutrients for proper brain functioning. In the modern era, the diet of many people has become very unbalanced and does not include many of the important elements that it should. This imbalance can become quite critical for the brain, since it demands around 20% of the total nutrient intake of the body in order to function properly.

Coupled with instant gratification behavior (which is growing stronger partially due to changes in technology) and a loss of values, the lack of a proper diet is another one of the culprits of the decline of mental health, a rise in different mental disorders and also the rise of depression.

Read More

Why Are Dutch People So Tall?

dutch flag, tall dutch people

I spent a year living in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The first day when I arrived I had to go the bathroom. I went in, found the urinals and unzipped. Then I noticed a very unusual thing. The urinals seemed to be a lot higher than what I am used to.

I am above average height for most countries (6’1 or 184cm), however in the Netherlands I was just average (sometimes I felt even below average). I am used to urinals being way below my crotch level, however here it felt like I almost had piss up instead of down. 🙂

This is one of the first things that you notice when you arrive in the Netherlands (besides the fact that everything is flat and there are bikes everywhere), the people are much taller than in other places.

They seem to tower above you. They are quite lanky and not too built, but they are tall. I remember my first day at school, sitting down at a table next to one Dutch guy. He seemed pretty thin and not very big, so I did not pay particular attention. Then he stood up from his chair and was almost a full head taller than me! While sitting down he seemed small, but when standing up you had a completely different image of him.

It wasn’t always so. In fact a few generations ago, the Dutch were one of the shortest people in Europe. Almost all the other countries had on average taller people. This changed rapidly, especially after World War 2.
Read More

When You Know It’s Time To Turn Back Before Reaching The Peak

11354396435_9641823d2f_o
If you want to win and succeed in life you need to try to overcome your mental limits, to push through the pain and reach the top. Yet sometimes there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, if the pain is too great, you need to turn back before reaching the top.

There are times when you need to forget about the pain you are feeling, clench your teeth and continue, yet at other times, when the pain is too great, you need to stop and turn back. The smart man can distinguish between the time when he should not give up and the time when he should. This is a vital skill, which will help you succeed in life.

When you are working out (or doing any other type of physical or even mental activity), your body will feel pain, you will be reaching your limits, yet you continuing to push through, forgetting about the pain and finishing up those reps, will be the key to achieving your goals or even surpassing them. Getting big (and gaining weight) means having to go through a rigorous exercise process and not giving up when the going gets tough.

So why am I talking about times when the pain is too great and you should give up? There are two types of pain: the pain you feel when your body is working harder than it ever did before, that is a good pain, and the pain you feel when your body is breaking down, that is a bad pain.

When you are lifting heavy or sprinting hard and you feel you can’t push anymore, using your mind to supress that pain will help you finish up strong, which will give you the ability to lift heavier and sprint harder the next time. That is the key to improving.
Read More

How To Relieve A Stiff Neck For Desk Jockeys

3117187373_19549d5407

A common problem (among other problems) for most office workers, aka desk jockeys, is a stiff neck and shoulders. We often spend most of the day sitting in unnatural positions and that has a negative effect on our body. This causes all kinds of different pains in different parts of the body. The neck often ends up hurting a lot, which can even cause mobility problems in people. A lot of people also end up with a forward head posture, which makes them look weird.

Unfortunately most of us are stuck in our office jobs, so we cannot spend most of the day running around and doing other healthy activities, but there are certain things that you can do in order to relieve the pain and also make your neck and shoulders be a bit stronger and more elastic.

In order to illustrate the different stretches you can do, I found some videos on Youtube. Below is a short routine that you can do at your desk several times during the day:
Read More

The Omega-6 To Omega-3 Fatty Acids Imbalance In Your Diet

One thing you probably didn’t know about is the fact that in our modern Western diet, there is a huge imbalance between the amount of omega-6 fatty acids you eat and omega-3 fatty acids. You have probably heard about these types of fatty acids and probably know that both types are good for you.

However that is not the whole truth. The ratio of these matters and if it’s not in balance, then a lot of bad things can happen. Don’t just take my word for it, but also take a look at the scientific evidence.

godzilla, big, huge, gain weight

So what are fatty acids and what about these omegas? Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats. They are a long chain of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms which is capped by a carboxyl group at one of its ends, and a methyl group at the other end.

Fatty acids are classified on the number of carbon atoms in the chain, and also how many double bonds are in the molecule. So an omega-3 fatty acid has a double bond (C=C) at the third carbon atom from where the carbon chain ends, while an omega-6 fatty acid has a double bond at the sixth position from the end, with the end being the methyl group which caps off the fatty acid chains.

Omega3_6

The word omega actually signifies the methyl end, while the word alpha is used for the beginning of the chain, the carboxyl group. So that’s where the word omega comes from in the name.

For some reason, whenever I hear these random Greek letters, I think of the Puff Daddy (the artist later known as P-Diddy) song “Come with Me” from the Godzilla soundtrack, which brings me back to my high school basketball days.

Now back to our discussion of the omegas. The most important omega-3 fatty acids for humans are the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some important examples of omega-6 fatty acids are linoleic acid (LA), and arachidonic acid (sometimes abbreviated as AA or ARA).

Linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid, and linoleic acid (LA), which is an omega-6 fatty acid, are both considered essential for the human body, meaning that the body cannot manufacture them itself and they need to be taken in from outside sources (food).

So what roles do these omegas play in the human body? They have a variety of roles and functions that have a large effect on how healthy the human body is. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, keep the blood from clotting excessively, improve the insulin response and also regulate prostaglandin production.

Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, promote an immune response of the body (for example through inflammation), promote the aggregation of platelets (which is good for blood clotting), are good for blood lipids, and also help in the regulation of metabolic functions.

Notice how the roles and effects of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are in many ways opposite to each other. For example, omega-3 reduce inflammation in the body, while omega-6 promote it. Inflammation is good for fighting diseases, however too much of it is harmful for the body.

That’s why the need for a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your body. These fatty acids have competitive interactions between each other and that’s why a balance between them is needed. Health is about balance.

However the balance in our bodies is out of whack, due to our diets. Sometimes the ratio between omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 10:1 or even 20:1. This has very serious effects on our health and is a very large contributing factor to people in the developed world suffering from such diseases as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are important for you body, however they need to be in balance. So how much omega-3 you need to eat is dependent on how much omega-6 you are eating. Because of all the processed foods that are in stores, it is hard to maintain a balance between the two omegas.

Aim for a 1:1 balance, but even a 4:1 omega-6 to omega-3 balance is good.

The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 used to be much more in balance in prehistory. Even in some recent hunter-gatherer societies the ratio was favorable. For example, before the 20th century among the Greenland Inuit, this ratio was 1:2 (even 1:4 in some cases) in favor of omega-3 fatty acids (because of a diet rich in fish and seafood).

However, throughout the course of human history this ratio changed and this is probably one of the factors that contributed to humans getting sick more often in modern times. The most significant change was during the industrial revolution, when the ratio changed drastically due to the wide availability of vegetable oils produced.

Among developed societies, the ratio is most favorable in Japan, due to their diet, and you can see that that country suffers much less from diseases such as heart diseases.

So what can you do to bring down this ratio towards a better balance? Well you need to start eating foods higher in omega-3 and bring down the amount of food rich in omega-6. The best source of omega-3 are fish, different types of seafood and marine algaes.

We are especially deficient in EPA and DHA. These can be synthesized from ALA (found in foods from plants such as flax, pumpkin seeds and walnuts), however this process is inefficient and limited. This means you need to eat foods that already contain EPA and DHA (such as fish, seafood, marine algae).

The ALA to EPA and DHA conversion is also highly dependent on such things as iron, zinc and pyridoxine. So you need to have these things in your body as well. Iron can be found in different types of animal sources, but also bananas.

Grass-fed meat is also the way to go (as it is high in omega-3 from the different grasses that the animals ate), however most meat today is from animals fed on grain-based feeds and so lacks the omega-3 component. You can also supplement omega-3 by eating fish oil capsules.

The other part of bringing the ratio back into balance is by eating less foods that have large omega-6 components. This doesn’t mean cutting them out all together, as many foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids are very good for you and omega-6 fatty themselves are also needed by the body.

Look at the chart below and try to cut down on the vegetable oils which have a high omega-6 ratio as opposed to other fatty acids.

fatty-acid-breakdown-of-different-fats

Remember also to cut down on processed foods, as they are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, and are generally considered less healthy.

Eating more foods with omega-3 fatty acids also has other benefits. For example, they have a positive effect on the eyes and vision. They can also help you in your quest to gain weight and get big. If your body knows how to partition nutrients well, then you can gain a lot of weight and size based on lean muscle, without adding too much fat.

Insulin plays a large role in this. When you have too many omega-6 fatty acids you can have a chronic inflamed state, which is bad for insulin sensitivity.

So you need to bring the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio more into balance in order to increase insulin sensitivity and to get your nutrients to be partitioned better, leading to lean muscle gains without too much extra fat being stored.

Now that I’ve explained to you the potential dangers of a high omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance and the benefits that omega-3 can have for your body, I hope that you examine your diet and try to bring the ratio to a reasonable level.

Your body needs both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as they both play an important role. However the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids that you take in needs to be in balance. That way, you can get the positive benefits of both and be much more healthy than ever before.
Read More

Guy Loses Weight By Eating McDonald’s

gain weight

gain weight

John Cisna, who is a teacher in Iowa, decided to go on an all McDonald’s diet and with it managed to lose weight and lower his cholesterol! 🙂

He had the kids in his class plan his meals based on the nutritional value of each meal. “What is cool is when you see one kid say, ‘It’s not McDonald’s that makes you fat. It’s your choices that make you fat,'” Cisna said. This gives further credence to your lifestyle determining whether you are healthy or not.

Is this the start of a new weight loss dieting fad? The McDonald’s Diet? 😛
Read More

How To Recover From An ACL Injury

ACL surgery and rehabilitation

ACL surgery and rehabilitation
Tearing your ACL is one of the most serious injuries an athlete can experience. This can sideline you for a long time, usually from half a year to an entire year. Basically when you experience this, your entire season is over. This is something that happened to me this year and unfortunately brought me back to square one.

Before the injury I was finally getting into a good lifting and sports routine, gaining weight and building muscles. I slowly wanted to get back to playing basketball again. Of course, a big part of basketball is being able to jump higher. So I started doing plyometrics exercises. These types of exercises are a really good way of making your muscles more elastic and thereby be able to perform many activities more explosively and efficiently.

I started off with different types of plyometrics and at one point incorporated a sideways plyometrics exercise, where you have one of your legs on a chair and the other on the floor. You then jump, pushing off the foot on the chair, you fly above the chair and land on the other side of the chair, with the foot that was on the ground now being on the chair, and the foot that was on the chair, now being on the floor. You then repeat this from the other side of the chair, jump over the chair and land on the other side again. So you repeat this sequence for maybe 10 jumps. I was doing this and at one point kind of stopped concentrating on the exercise. I landed, my knee buckled, I heard a pop and in a surreal moment collapsed on the floor. After that, I managed to get up, but my knee was busted.

I rested the knee a bit and actually got up to go on the in place skiing type machine where you kind of slide your legs up and down as if you were doing cross-country skiing. I was hoping that nothing serious happened. I got home rested the knee a bit and was reading my symptoms on the internet and fearing the worst (all the symptoms were pointing to an ACL rupture). I went to sleep and got up the next day to go to work, however my knee had swollen up and was hurting. I had trouble walking. I went to work and was sitting there for a while, but the pain was not going away. So I decided to go to the hospital to get it checked out. The doctor checked it out, sent me to another room, they checked it out there. Then I went back to the original doctor and in came the verdict. Supposedly just a big sprain with a lot of liquid in the knee, but that it should subside and I should just rest the knee. So I was happy! That was sometime at the end of April.

However the months were passing by and I still had problems with the knee. I couldn’t do any sports or anything involving the knee and it wasn’t getting better. Always be ready to get a second opinion, because according to the statistics the vast majority of ruptured ACLs are not diagnosed properly the first time and people don’t even know about the fact that they have a ruptured ACL.
Read More

Muscle Fiber Types

Introduction
Each person has a different body and each body has a different composition of muscles. There are several types of muscle, but probably the one most well known by normal people are the skeletal muscles. These muscles are made up of different cells called myocytes. Myocytes are what we are talking about when we discuss muscle fibers. Muscle fibers and myocytes are two words for the same thing. These myocytes are in turn held together by connective tissue.

Blausen_0801_SkeletalMuscle
Muscle fibers form in a process called myogenesis. In this process different myoblasts are fused. This fusion results in long cylindrical cells that have more than one nucleus and are called myofibers. Myofibers are further made up of myofibrils, which are in turn made up of sarcomeres, which are the basic units of cells in muscles. These sarcomeres repeat one after another to form the muscle.

Sarcomeres are made up of different types of protein. The different proteins that make up the sarcomeres can be described as long and fibrous and function by sliding past each other when the muscles contract. There are several types of protein that make up sarcomeres, however the most important are myosin (which is thick) and actin (which is thin). They are the primary building blocks and also very important for muscle contraction. Myosin and actin bind to each other, while the myosin head also binds to ATP (source of energy for muscle movements). Myosin and actin act on each other and this makes the muscle fibers generate tension. With the aid of motor neurons this tension is what creates muscle contraction. While myosin and actin are probably the most important proteins that make up the sarcomeres, there are also other proteins, for example titin and also nebulin.
Read More

Copyright Renaissance Man Journal 2017
Tech Nerd theme designed by FixedWidget
%d bloggers like this: