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Whey Protein: This Highly Effective Muscle Building Protein Doubles as a Powerful Antioxidant

whey protein as antioxidantOne major adverse effect caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) during heavy exercise is myoblastic toxicity. Natural antioxidants, however, may provide protection for athletes.

A study investigated the antioxidative effect of whey protein against hydrogen peroxide toxicity. Whey protein prevented a decrease in cell viability, and also inhibited markers associated with DNA oxidative damage.

According to the study, as reported by Green Med Info:

"These findings suggest that whey protein improved the antioxidant capacity against acute oxidative stress through multiple pathways and this protein may serve as an alternative source of antioxidants for prevention of athletic injuries caused by ROS."

This is important, as regular exercise is a must for building muscle and achieving optimal health. For instance, a recent study found that the greater your total muscle mass, the lower your risk of having insulin resistance, the major precursor of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance can raise blood glucose levels above the normal range and is therefore a major factor that contributes to the development of diabetes.

Researchers examined the association of skeletal muscle mass with insulin resistance and blood glucose metabolism disorders in more than 13,500 people.

According to Newswise:

"The study demonstrated that higher muscle mass (relative to body size) is associated with better insulin sensitivity and lower risk of pre- or overt diabetes."

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

By its very nature, exercise is a form of stress to your body, one that generates free radicals and contributes to oxidative stress, which in turn has been linked to many chronic diseases and accelerated aging. This is particularly true if you engage in strenuous exercise, such as marathon running, or overdo intense training of any kind.

But, this is not to say that you shouldn't exercise! Far from it, exercise is a crucial component of optimal health, nearly as necessary to your well-being as food, water and sleep. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks of free radical generation, but, even better, you can use your diet to strategically lower these risks even more.

Why Whey Protein is a Must for Avid Exercisers

If you exercise regularly, and I hope you do, one way to combat the inevitable exercise-induced free radicals is by consuming antioxidants such as whey protein.

For instance, one type of free radical known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) can cause myoblastic toxicity, or muscle damage, following heavy exercise. As a new study in the Journal of Dairy Science found, whey protein appears to inhibit markers associated with oxidative damage to DNA, as well as prevented a decrease in cell viability and showed promise for prevention of athletic injuries caused by ROS. So what exactly is whey protein, and what makes it such a powerful antioxidant?

Whey Protein: Crucial for Glutathione -- The Master Antioxidant -- Production

High-quality whey protein (cold-pressed whey protein derived from grass-fed cows, and free of hormones, chemicals and sugar) provides all the key amino acids for glutathione production (cysteine, glycine and glutamate) and contains a unique cysteine residue (glutamylcysteine) that is highly bioactive in its affinity for converting to glutathione.

Glutamylcysteine is a bonded cysteine molecule (cysteine plus glutamate) that naturally occurs in Bovine Serum Albumin – a fragile immune component of the whey. This unique cysteine is exclusive to whey and rarely appears in other protein foods – which makes whey protein the best glutathione-promoting food source.

Furthermore, whey provides critical co-factors, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and alpha Lactalbumin (also a great source of cysteine), which together help create the right metabolic environment for high glutathione activity.

So what is glutathione?

Glutathione is your body's most powerful antioxidant and has even been called "the master antioxidant." It is a tripeptide found inside every single cell in your body.

Glutathione is different from other antioxidants in that it is intracellular. It has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and the fresh veggies and fruits you (hopefully) eat every day. It removes toxins from your cells and protects you from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants.

In fact, the main function of glutathione is to protect your cells and mitochondria from peroxidative and oxidative damage, such as what may occur during intense exercise.

Most oral glutathione supplements have been shown to be poorly absorbed and a waste of your hard-earned money, which is why consuming whey protein to trigger your body's natural glutathione production makes sense. Fresh, uncooked meats and raw milk, and certain raw vegetables, are also excellent sources of glutathione, but they must be consumed raw to get the benefit, and many people do not do this.

Excellent Protein Source for Muscle-Building, Fat-Burning Too

In practical terms, consuming 20-30 grams of whey protein with no sugar added 30 minutes before exercise, and another serving 30-60 minutes afterward can help increase both fat burning and muscle building. If you are only going to do one whey meal, then the one after your workout is really crucial if you are seeking to increase muscle growth with strength training.

As Ori Hofmekler, author and expert on how to build muscle and improve your health with foods, explains:

"During exercise, especially resistance, or strength training, you cause muscle microtrauma. Usually it's a good thing because this microtrauma actually stimulates muscle development, but this muscle microtrauma impairs glucose utilization in your muscle for about 30 minutes up to an hour, and sometimes more.

This is the wrong time to put carb fuel into the muscle. But since we are not putting carbohydrates in the meal it's fine to have your recovery meal about 30 minutes after exercise.

If you exercised properly, you're not really hungry in the first 30 minutes anyway. And if you feel very hungry, you didn't exercise well. When hunger peaks up—you typically sense it 30 minutes or an hour later—that's the right time to eat. So listen to your body."

Another reason why eating directly after exercise is discouraged has to do with the fact that your body shuts down digestion during intense exercise, and it takes a little while before your body is ready to start digesting food. You simply need to supply your muscles with fuel at the appropriate time so they will have the building blocks to build new muscle tissue.

There is quite a bit of exciting research coming out regarding whey protein and its usefulness for exercisers. One recent study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise demonstrated that consuming whey protein (20g protein / serving) 30 minutes before resistance training boosts your body's metabolism for as much as 24 hours after your workout!

It appears as though the amino acids found in high-quality whey protein activate certain cellular mechanisms (including mTORC-1), which in turn promote muscle protein synthesis, boost thyroid, and also protect against declining testosterone levels after exercise. Increasing your muscle mass is not only important for aesthetics; it's also a benefit to your health.

Why Can Increased Muscle Mass Lower Your Risk of Diabetes?

A new study revealed that higher muscle mass (relative to body size) is associated with better insulin sensitivity and lower risk of pre- and full-blown diabetes. This makes sense, because the muscle-building mechanism mentioned earlier, called mTORC-1, is part of the insulin pathway, so insulin sensitivity is essential to the mechanism that builds protein in your muscles. In order to grow muscle, the mTORC-1 mechanism must be activated.

If your insulin receptors are insensitive, this cannot occur, and muscle wasting becomes inevitable. So, needless to say, it's very important to keep your insulin levels low to avoid becoming insulin resistant—not just for your overall health, but also to maintain healthy muscle. It appears the converse may also hold true, with those with higher muscle mass also improving their insulin resistance.

Here, again, whey protein is a phenomenal choice, because it increases GLP-1, a satiety peptide that promotes healthy insulin secretion, and helps your insulin work more effectively. Further, whey is an important source of leucine.

Leucine is part of branched-chain amino acid that serves multiple functions in your body, one of which is signaling the mTOR (Mammalian Target of Rapamycin) mechanism, to increase protein synthesis and build your muscle.

However, according to Hofmekler, you need VERY HIGH amounts of leucine to reap the optimal effect—FAR more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA)—because most of it gets used up as an energy substrate or building block rather than an anabolic agent.

The highest concentrations of leucine are found in dairy products -- particularly quality cheese and whey protein.

Additionally, testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH) can also activate the mTORC-1 mechanism. One of the best ways to promote HGH naturally is through Sprint 8-type exercises. So, in a nutshell, the combination of high-intensity exercises and high-quality whey protein 30-60 minutes before and after your workout is ideal for preventing insulin resistance and muscle wasting.

This is especially important as you age, because insulin no longer prevents your muscle from breaking down between meals and overnight as it normally does when you're young. The same phenomenon occurs when you're insulin resistant or diabetic.

Important Points about High-Quality Whey

There's no shortage of whey products on the market, but unfortunately most of them will NOT give you the health benefits associated with high-quality whey. First of all you want to use a whey protein concentrate, NOT isolate.

All whey protein isolates are devoid of nutritional co-factors including alkalizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins, and lipids, which are lost in the processing. This renders them deficient and overly acidifying. Unlike whole protein food concentrates which does not acidify your body due to its alkalinizing minerals, whey protein isolate are over acidifying. I would strongly avoid ALL whey protein isolates just as you would avoid trans fats as they contain putrid proteins that are actually worse than trans fat.

If chronically consumed in large amounts (such as with bodybuilders or athletes) without alkalizing foods, it can acidify your body and over time may lead to metabolic acidosis with consequences that include waste of muscle and bone tissues, total metabolic shut down, and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.

So if you want to use whey protein, PLEASE do not use an inferior whey isolate. Look for a high-quality concentrate instead. As explained by Ori, these are the factors you need to look for in order to ensure you're buying a high-quality product:

Organic (no hormones) Grass-fed Made from unpasteurized (raw) milk
Cold processed, since heat destroys whey's fragile molecular structure Minimally processed Rich, creamy, full flavor
Water soluble Sweetened naturally, not artificially Highly digestible—look for medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), not long chain fatty acids

Some of the best whey protein you can get today is derived from raw milk cheese manufacturing. They have very high quality controls and produce great-tasting whey, with optimal nutritional content. Raw dairy products, such as raw milk or raw milk cheese, are another alternative.