Category Archives: Lifestyle

HMB supplementation, is it worth it?

Recently I was discussing performance based supplements with a local CF owner and coach.  As anyone who has ever thought about increasing performance knows, there are a shit-load of different types of supplements out there, and for each one, at least 5-20 vendors that want to sell it to you.  Needless to say, it can be daunting to figure out what will actually boost your performance and what is just snake-venom (a waste of money).

One of the last topics we chatted about was HMB supplementation… specifically from the company Blonyx.  When I research a new supplement, I’ll generally look in two extremely different places.  The first is the least scientific place ever… message boards on sites for powerlifting, weight lifting, BJJ, crossfit, etc.  You can get a decent sense of whether people are excited about something or not but that’s about it.  Sometimes you’ll run across an intelligent post but most of it is garbage.  That said, its still helpful just to know if there’s a pre-existing opinion about it from people that are training hard day in and day out.  The second place I’ll look is in a Pubmed search which has a mixture of good and bad scientific studies on almost anything you can think of… seriously I mean ANYTHING.  The problem with the studies is that usually the style of training used in them is not-applicable to how most of us actually train.  Anyway, here’s what I found:

First, the scientific reports… these look pretty promising at a first glance:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Nissen+HMB

Seems like HMB has some pretty wide ranging effects… but it also seems like many of the metabolism/strength performance based papers used it in combination with various amino acids (L-arginine and L-lysine, etc.) OR creatine.  This particular study caught my attention because Blonyx sells HMB with creatine as one of its products.  Also, in those message boards I mentioned earlier, the people that did mention some improvement in performance seemed to be taking HMB in combination with BCAA’s and/or creatine. Very interesting…

One more study caught my eye, this one linking HMB efficacy and vitamin D levels which basically said that you need to have adequate levels of vitamin D to actually get a strength benefit from HMB… considering that upwards of 50% of the U.S. is vitamin D deficient, it could explain why various people have really different results with HMB supplementation.

Ultimately, I can’t say for sure that HMB is going to turn you into an animal but I think its worth checking out based upon the literature out there.  That said, if you’re going to give it a try, it definitely seems like you’d want to take it with creatine, BCAA’s and make sure that you’re not vitamin D deficient.  If anyone does have experience with it (positive or negative) leave a comment below.  Its always good to learn from one another.

Fructose… what’s the big deal.

I just wrapped up another great seminar down at Crossfit Ad Finem.  Great crew of people and a lot of good questions.  One of the discussions that we had was centered around fructose… whether its evil, neutral, beneficial, etc.  As always, the answer really depends on who we are talking about and what form the fructose is coming in.

At this point, I think I can skip over why high fructose corn syrup is a pretty terrible thing for you to be eating if you’re looking to improve body composition, health and even performance.  If you want to read about it, check out this post:

http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/05/13/5-reasons-high-fructose-corn-syrup-will-kill-you/

So I think its pretty clear that processed sources of fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup are worth avoiding.

But what about fructose from other sources like fruit?  Well for a long time I was one of those people that thought you should limit your fruit intake, especially with something like bananas which are pretty big fructose bombs.  My thinking was that for the body to use the fructose as fuel, it had to be converted into other forms by the liver.  Since the liver preferentially stores fructose over glucose, and fructose cannot be used/stored by muscle tissue, foods with higher levels of fructose would be inefficient energy sources for human performance, especially in post workout conditions.

However, I’ve recently changed that viewpoint to “it depends on who you are.”  A healthy person with good body composition and a healthy liver can almost certainly deal with fructose from fruit based sources.  This was recently shown in a nice study  that fructose consumption resulted in conversion to 50% glucose, 25% lactate, 15% to glycogen and only about 2-3% ends up as fat.  Assuming you’re not going to be using fructose as a workout recovery fuel, that actually looks like a reasonable result.

What the study didn’t address and what I couldn’t find elsewhere in the scientific literature is whether or not those numbers change in a person that has metabolic disease or a less than perfectly functioning liver… and lets be clear, there are a LOT of people with less than perfect liver function.  What we do know though is that higher levels of fructose consumption correlate well with liver dysfunction.

As far as improving performance and/or body composition goes,  most of the top trainers our there are saying, “If you are lean and workout consistently, then a higher level of fructose consumption is safe and healthy… But if you’re overweight and looking to make body composition changes, then you need to limit your fructose intake to about an apple a day.”  In other words, you need to earn your carbs with hard work.

Lastly, here is an EXTREMELY comprehensive list of foods fructose values.  I think many of you would be surprised by what foods are close to the top of this list:

http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000011000000000000000.html allows quickly move

Vitamin D… the world’s easiest supplement

I’m often asked what supplements are worth taking and which ones are junk.  Like many aspects of health, the answer can be specific to each individual.  Oftentimes, people look at supplements as short cuts to improved body composition, athletic performance, etc when the reality is that there are no short cuts.  You have to eat well, get the necessary sleep and exercise appropriately.  Once those three things are in order, there are cases where adding in supplements can be beneficial.  In my opinion, one of the best and easiest supplements to start with is Vitamin D.

Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to:

Muscle weakness, bone pain, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, severe asthma in children, cancer and immune derangement, SEASONAL DEPRESSION… just to name a few.  Obviously those are some pretty serious diseases that we want to avoid.

The bad news is that recent studies indicate that anywhere from 50-75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D… YIKES!  The good news is that improving your vitamin D levels is as simple as spending some time in the sun.  Vitamin D is actually produced by cells in your skin called keratinocytes (and a few other cell types).  The vitamin D produced in your skin then travels systemically throughout the rest of the body, affecting and regulating all kinds of processes.

Sure is easy to get sun in a place like this.... Can I go back please??? Forever...
Sure is easy to get sun in a place like this…. Can I go back please??? Forever…

Of course, many of us don’t live in nice sunny places like the one above, and worse yet are forced to spend our days inside where we get zero natural sunlight.  What is a person to do???  Lets be clear, I think the number one option is to make Vitamin D the natural way by spending time outside.  Avoid getting burned of course, but its the free, safe and enjoyable to be outside.  That said, the body has adapted to other methods of Vitamin D acquisition, notably through absorption through the GI tract.  After absorbing Vitamin D, it travels to the liver where it is converted into calcidiol… the same product produced by your skin and metabolically nothing is different from that point on.

OK, so where can we get vitamin D from besides the sun?  Some foods like wild salmon, mackeral and other fishes are loaded with Vitamin D but ultimately are not going to get the job done by themselves.  An oral supplement is the way to go in my opinion.  I personally use “NowFoods 1000 IU” daily in the winter to help keep my vitamin D levels elevated.  One little pill does the trick and it is safe at that dose.  The only people that may have problems with Vitamin D are people with wool allergies due to the isolation method.  That said, its extremely rare so most people should do just fine.

Winter is coming (OK, its actually here).... so get your Vitamin D supplements.
Winter is coming (OK, its actually here)…. so get your Vitamin D supplements.