Category: Nutrition

Is Hunger in Our Head?



I can remember growing up as a teenager I idolized the bodybuilders of the old days. Elite bodybuilders with symmetrical frames who were incredibly dialed in like Kenny Waller, Serge Nubret, and of course Arnold. The signature of these athletes was a dialed in and conditioned look that has yet to be replicated. I always had the hardest time leaning out though. Partly because I have an endomorphic metabolism, but also because dieting just plain sucks. Being constantly hungry and preoccupied with food constantly is an awful feeling. A key component of being lean is the ability to control our hunger as well as our satiety and satiation.

So what are hunger, satiety, and satiation? The first is an actual need and the desire that follows to eat. Satiety and satiation refer to when you feel full and how long you feel full respectively. Today I am going to cover 6 different topics on how you can improve your hunger and satiety. My goal is to make losing fat not as much of a head game.

We Don’t Just Eat Because We Need to Eat!


It’s important to understand that we do not simply eat because we need food. If that was the case we would be perfectly content with broccoli and chicken breast every single meal. In fact, several studies have compared subjects given highly palatable meals to ones less palatable (Nasser et al. 2001). They typically always find that subjects eat way more calories with the palatable meal. For this reason, it is important to make dishes that are highly palatable lower in calorie density. For example, you can substitute stevia for sugar or whip fatty toppings before spreading them.

Can you Trick Your Mind Into Thinking It’s Full?


If you can override your hunger and satiety cues by increasing palatability can you trick your mind in other ways to think its fuller than it really is? The answer may be yes. The key, however, seems to be setting expectations. What do I mean? Well, one study with some clever scientists either told subjects that a shake they were getting was high or low calorie even though both shakes were the same calories (Crum et al. 2011). Guess what? Turns out that when subjects thought the shake was higher calorie that their bodies decreased hunger hormones more! Thus, try and have positive perceptions of how full a meal will make you prior to eating it.

Variety – Is it the Spice of Life?


There’s a saying that variety is the spice of life. The reason for this is that, new things that are pleasurable trigger our minds to pay attention more. This paying attention response is set off through the release of a neurotransmitter in our brains called dopamine. However, even things that are fun because boring if you keep doing them. This may be because dopamine stops being released after continued exposure. Why? Because when things are new we have to pay attention, particularly if there is a chance for danger. But once our bodies have adapted and the threat of novelty wears off then this response no longer occurs.

So what does this have to do with food you ask? Well, it turns out that studies show that variety within a single meal predicts how much you will eat. Have you ever been to a Brazilian Steak House before? It’s amazing. You go there and you have a little paper circle with green on one side for go and red to stop. Waiters then come by with 5 different types of steaks, chicken, pork, and lots of things covered in bacon! By the end of the meal, you have eaten several lbs of meat compared to maybe 6 to 8 ounces in a normal sit down meal. This is because the variety triggers the dopamine response mentioned above. The take-home message is to limit variety within a single meal if you want to avoid overeating (Raynor et al. 2001). On the other hand, those trying to gain weight may want to increase variety.

Cheat Clean..No Really!


Lots of people ask me if cheat meals are good for them. I typically respond, “why not cheat clean?” What do I mean by this? Well, it turns out that if you can make a meal that tastes good and is healthy at the same time that you will not get as much of a dopamine response when faced with a bad version of that food. In fact, we did a pilot study in our lab showing that healthy peanut butter cups lowered the desire to eat unhealthy versions of these! It’s also important to understand that individuals who always eat chicken and broccoli are bound to binge when exposed to foods like cheesecake. This means that cheating clean can actually help you to avoid disasters in the future!

Can Your Diet Be Making You Fat?


It seems rather counter-intuitive, however, dieting can have a negative effect on your body composition. Allow me to explain. If you go very long periods with calorie restriction, it may cause you to increase your hunger hormones. Not to mention the fact that if you go on an extreme diet, eating less than 1000 calories/day, you could cause a malfunction in your hunger hormones (leptin & ghrelin). This will cause your perceived hunger to be much higher than normal and the effects can last for up to a year!

Sumithran et al (2001) demonstrated this in their study where subjects crash dieted for 8-weeks. A year after the 8-week diet, the subjects hunger was still higher than before they dieted! This means you should not crash diet to achieve a weight loss goal because in the long term, it could make you eat more! Not only does crash dieting make you more hungry in the long term, it can also ruin your metabolism long-term (Fothergill et al., 2016).


In this life the more tools you have and the better you are at using them the more successful you can be when given a challenge. As we all know dieting can be extremely challenging. Using the methods and tools we discussed in this article will equip you with the necessary knowledge to not only maximize your diet but also maximize your lifestyle. It is my hope much of the sting that comes about from optimizing your physique can be alleviated taking this research into action.

Teacrine Replaces Caffeine


There is a new specialty ingredient on the market called TeaCrine®. TeaCrine® is named after the active compound Kuchu tea plant called Theacrine. It is similar to caffeine in that it is an alkaloid, a scientific word for the active compound in a supplement, but its effects have been shown to be more beneficial than caffeine. When isolated Theacrine is taken alone, it can increase focus, energy, and motivation while simultaneously decreasing fatigue (Taylor et al., 2016; Lopez et al., 2016).

Theacrine Cognitive Benefits

The difference between theacrine and caffeine is that you can take it in smaller doses and achieve an equal if not greater stimulatory effect. Basically, that means theacrine will give you the same focus and energy as caffeine in a smaller dose. Another awesome thing about theacrine is it is an anti-adaptogenic, which means that you do not adapt to it as quickly as you do caffeine. This has been shown in a few clinical trials where participants supplementing with TeaCrine® felt the exact same effects in the last dose compared to the first.


This clinical trial that I spoke of had three separate groups. One consuming caffeine and TeaCrine®, one consuming strictly caffeine, and the last consuming nothing at all. Throughout the study each participant was a part of each group one time. The researchers looked at various different variables in regard to mood, energy, and attentiveness. And after the supplementation period they found that when the participants supplemented with TeaCrine® and caffeine they had higher feelings of attentiveness, alertness, focus, and energy over both groups! While a lot more research needs to be done on TeaCrine it definitely shows promise (Kuhman et al., 2015).

Theacrine and Exercise


Another interesting attribute to TeaCrine is that it not only increases focus and energy, it has also been shown to increase your willingness to exercise and desire to train. When you train our body’s main energy source ATP is broken down into adenosine. Adenosine signals the body that you are fatigued and low on energy by binding to landing docks called receptors in the brain. Theacrine works by blocking adenosine receptors. This causes the stimulatory effects that increase energy and alertness. Theacrine has also been shown to increase dopamine. What is beneficial about increased dopamine is the fact that it increases the “reward center” of the brain causing an overall increase in well-being. Therefore, it can not only increase focus but also increase the reward center in the brain causing the pleasure response. This can further enhance the energy and alertness effects. There is even evidence showing that theacrine can be beneficial for libido. If you’re looking for a well-rounded, all-in-one product. Then you found it in TeaCrine®.

Theacrine Dosing

The dosing on TeaCrine® varies depending on if you are stacking it with other stimulants or nootropics. TeaCrine® has been recognized as safe by the Informed Choice and Informed Sport, WADA, and the NCAA, therefore college and pro athletes are able to take this product without wondering if they are going to fail a drug test. Lastly, doses up to 400mg/day have been shown to be safe in clinical trials. However, if you’re using TeaCrine® as stand-alone product, 100-200mg/day will do the trick. If you are using it in combination with caffeine, I would recommend 50-100mg of both to start. From there, you can increase caffeine to 100-200mg and theacrine to 100-150mg per day.


Since the release of TeaCrine® many companies have been putting it in their pre-workout and fat burners because it has such promising effects. From other bodies of research, TeaCrine® has been shown to give consistent results in regards to energy, mood, and overall alertness with the benefits of smaller doses and little to no adaptive properties. You may find theacrine labeled as TeaCrine® on various products because this is its patented name.

Learning the Basics of Insulin & Losing Fat



Insulin is perhaps the most talked about hormone in our industry. Many vilify it as the number one cause of obesity. On the other hand, many bodybuilders take it in hopes of it adding ridiculously crazy amounts of muscle onto their physiques. How can we have such wide discrepancies? The answer is that insulin itself has several roles. These include driving glucose into cells (primarily muscle and liver), stimulating the formation of glycogen, increasing the use of carbs as fuel, increases satiety, increasing the formation of fat and decreasing the use of fat as fuel. Given all of these factors, the goal for those looking to optimize their physiques would be to enhance the anabolic effects on muscle, while inhibiting the anabolic effects in fat mass. The general regulator of this process appears to be Insulin Sensitivity. This article will discuss insulin sensitivity and what factors influence it.

What is Insulin

Insulin sensitivity refers to the ability of insulin to “talk” to tissue. We are of course primarily interested in liver and muscle insulin sensitivity. If insulin sensitivity is high in these tissues then you need very little insulin to increase glucose uptake, glycogen storage, and the converting of glucose into rapid useable energy (Gulli et al., 1992). On the other hand, if you are insulin resistant the opposite occurs in that you need a lot of insulin to do the same job! Generally speaking, when insulin is drastically high then the use of fat as fuel is drastically impaired. In addition, insulin drives blood towards muscle giving a full, nutrient-rich, round look.

Genetics & Insulin Sensitivity

As we all know, blood is most definitely thicker than water. Many people think that obesity is the true cause of insulin resistance. However, genetics is certainly an underlying factor for both. The main way to study this is to take two sets of lean individuals. The first set comes from parents who are lean and insulin sensitive, while the second set comes from parents who are both obese and insulin resistant. When you do this, even though the offspring of the insulin-resistant offspring are lean, they still at the cellular level show all the signs of beginning insulin resistance (Gulli et al., 1992; Pratianawatr et al., 2001; Short et al., 2004). The primary reason why they are able to have normal blood glucose levels is that their pancreas is releasing more insulin. However, all hope is not lost because diet may serve as an answer; Mitochondria

A major player in Insulin Sensitivity?


The powerhouse of our cells are mitochondria. These are the organelles that produce the majority of energy in our body’s. The mitochondria help convert both carbohydrates and fats into ATP (energy). In individuals who are insulin resistant, mitochondria do not work properly (Pratipanawatr et al., 2001). When not fully operational, fatty acids cannot be fully broken down in muscle. When this happens the fatty acids build up in the muscle as triglycerides (stored fat), and eventually convert to many harmful byproducts which are toxic to insulin signaling (Pan et al., 1997). Thus, the key to overcoming insulin resistance is to:

A. Increase the amount of mitochondria in tissue
B. Increase the function of the mitochondria

So how do we do this? The answer is that we need to stress the mitochondria by short bouts of energy deprivation in the cell. Secondly, we have to prevent the build up and stagnation of fat in our tissues. This can be manipulated at least three ways. These three ways include diet, exercise, and supplementation.

Diet & Insulin Sensitivity

A famous study by Dr. Bob Wolfe investigated the question as to if a high-fat diet impaired mitochondrial functionality. You see, up to this study high-fat diets had been vilified. In fact, researchers have said high-fat diets cause obesity and insulin resistance. However, when Wolfe and his team infused fat into human subjects blood they found no negative effects on insulin sensitivity. In fact, the only thing that happened was the fats were used as energy. However, when he infused fats and carbs at the same time guess what happened? Fat burning halted and insulin resistance was immediately increased!


Why is this the case you ask? Without getting into too much complexity, fat must be oxidized or used as fuel in the mitochondria. As discussed, if fat is not used, it builds up in the cell. This causes toxic byproducts to be formed, which cause insulin resistance. It turns out that insulin blocks the entry of fats into the mitochondria. It does so by inhibiting the rate-limiting transport enzyme for fat which is called Carnitine palmitoyltransferase I (CPT-1). This impairs mitochondrial function and insulin signaling. Thus, the first way you can improve insulin sensitivity is by manipulating your carbohydrates.

Chronically high carbohydrate overfeeding (>150 % greater than needed) leads to insulin resistance within days. Thus, it is plausible that by training periodically in a low carbohydrate state that you can improve mitochondrial function and optimize insulin sensitivity. In fact, research from Hansen (2005) and Yeo (2008) found that training every other session in a carbohydrate-depleted state increased markers of mitochondrial function and robustly enhanced fat oxidation. Finally, very low carbohydrate ketogenic diets (<30 grams per day) may also drastically improve insulin sensitivity (Volek et al. 2004)!

Training & Supplementation


The final ways to increase insulin sensitivity are training and supplementation. Both of these rely on the same principle; activating the cells fuel gauge. To clarify inside of our cells lies a sensor which can detect low energy levels. In particular, when muscle glycogen is depleted you turn the sensor on. This sensor is called AMPK. It’s called this because our main energy source in our body is ATP. When ATP is depleted you form AMP. AMP activates AMPK which stands AMP-activated protein kinase. AMPK increases fatty acid transport and oxidation (use as fuel) in the mitochondria. It also turns on the pathways which increase mitochondria itself. Training works by depleting energy in the muscle. This, in turn, turns on AMPK.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will rapidly deplete the energy in the cell resulting in an increase in AMPK. As you use up your cells energy through HIIT, AMPK will rise causing an increase in insulin sensitivity. Another way is to perform giant sets. Giant sets as we know are a form of training where we target one muscle group, but we do so in a circuit. Not the basic circuit training you would find at your local gym’s group fitness classes though. To perform a giant set you would choose a muscle such as quads, then perform 3-5 movements at a higher intensity for 3 to 4 rounds at 8-10 reps with 2-4 minutes between each giant set.

We know that giants sets are a great way to increase metabolic rate and improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing the energy in a cell and increasing AMPK. Lastly, low intensity, steady state cardio will deplete energy in the cell and increase AMPK. Furthermore, supplements such as Cinnamon (Cassia or Ceylon) and Berberine at a dose of 6g/day and 0.5g three times/day, respectively, may optimize insulin sensitivity.

Key Take Away Points from Article


1. Insulin is a hormone which increases the storage of carbohydrates primarily in liver and muscle and is important for blood flow and the pumps you get in the gym.
2. Insulin also increases fat storage when levels are high.
3. Insulin Sensitivity is the ability of insulin to signal its effects in tissue. If insulin sensitivity is high then you need very little insulin to drive glucose into tissue after you eat. If its low, meaning you are resistant then you will have high insulin levels, greater body fat stores, and impaired blood flow.
4. Impaired function and number of mitochondria due to a build up of intramuscular fat seem to trigger insulin resistance.
5. Not combining a high carbohydrate diet with high fats can minimize the risk for insulin resistance.
6. Various exercises which deplete muscle glycogen can increase mitochondria and their function and thus improve insulin sensitivity.

Practical Applications

1. If you like higher carb diets then we recommend cycling them. On those days we recommend purposely depleting the muscle with exercise.
2. Glycogen depleting exercise such as high intensity cardio is paramount for increasing insulin sensitivity.
3. If you are highly resistant to insulin and both parents are obese or diabetic you might consider a generally low carb lifestyle. Ketogenic dieting for example works very well here.
4. Various insulin sensitizing agents assist in improving insulin sensitivity. These include ketones, cinnamon and berberine.

Know Your Whey Protein



When it comes to supplementation, protein is arguably the most commonly used among athletes with whey protein being the number source. A new protein has surfaced on the market called hydrolyzed whey protein. Before we proceed, I want you to understand that protein has various structures. This includes primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary. The primary and secondary protein structures are simply chains of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) bound together by water. As protein becomes more complex, for example, the steak you’re going to eat later tonight, the chains of amino acids start to fold over top of each other and begin to form what we know as muscle (NIH, 2017).

The process of collecting whey protein first comes from collecting cow’s milk. This dairy is then separated into curds, that eventually can be used to create a whey liquid. The protein goes through pasteurization and filtration to create our beloved whey protein powder. However, one more step is required for hydrolyzed whey; a process called hydrolysis. Hydrolysis breaks these bonds between amino acids resulting in smaller amino acid chains and free amino acids; hydrolyzed protein. Smaller chains and free amino acids allow for much faster digestion and absorption! As you can see, regular whey protein has higher amounts of the secondary and tertiary protein structures. Although, hydrolyzed whey protein is broken down more, which means that it has more simple chains of amino acids (Zumwalt et al., 1987).

Hydro Whey and Fat Loss

Now that we understand what hydrolyzed whey is, we are going to take a look at how it compares to normal whey protein on body composition and recovery. When it comes to gaining muscle mass and increasing strength, whey and hydrolyzed whey both exhibit similar effects.

Where they differ is changes in fat loss. A recent study showed that subjects supplementing with hydrolyzed whey experienced a greater loss in fat mass and body fat compared to subjects using regular whey protein (Lockwood et al., 2014).

This increase in fat loss in the hydrolyzed protein group is due to a different of reasons including a rise in total amino acids, improved insulin response, and an increase in satiety hormones. The research also showed that muscle cells were able to burn more fat! This study suggests that using hydrolyzed whey over regular whey protein is beneficial if the goal is to lose fat mass while simultaneously increasing muscle mass. If your goal is to bulk up with little to no concerns towards gaining fat mass, then there is no benefit of using hydrolyzed whey over regular whey protein (Lockwood et al., 2014).

The Lactate Lie

The common misconception regarding lactic acid is that a buildup of lactate in the cells is related to muscle soreness, however, that is not necessarily true. Lactic acid is a byproduct from the energy system glycolysis. If we continue to exercise, eventually lactate cannot clear fast enough resulting in the impaired function of glycolysis (Abramson et al., 1993). In conclusion, Yes! As a result of physical activity you will have a buildup of lactic acid, but as soon as you stop exercising your body begins to clear lactate once again. Therefore, short term (during training) lactic acid can cause pain, but after you stop working out it does not cause soreness.


If lactate or lactic acid isn’t responsible for muscle soreness, then what is? This soreness that you may have experienced is called DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. DOMS is believed to be caused by micro-trauma to the muscle fibers. This micro-trauma heals and creates a larger, stronger muscle fiber and is also considered to be a contributing factor to muscle hypertrophy. DOMS may not be fully preventable, however, there are some treatments that have shown to help with muscle soreness after exercise and one of them is supplementing with hydrolyzed whey. When two groups of participants were put through a muscle damaging workout, the group consuming hydrolyzed whey protein increased recovery (Nosaka, 2008).

The Thermic Effect of Protein

When it comes to metabolism, there are a number of factors that contribute to your daily energy expenditure, one being the thermic effect of food (TEF). This accounts for roughly 10-15% of your daily caloric expenditure. TEF is impacted by the caloric content of a meal, the diet of the individual, and the composition of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates of the meal. Studies have shown that the greater the protein content of a meal, the higher the TEF (Tataranni et al., 1995). Dr. Jose Antonio (2015) found that an increased intake of protein (roughly 1.5g/pound/day) resulted in a decrease of body fat while gaining muscle! One group ate a normal protein intake and another group ate high protein (1.5g/pound/day). Both groups saw similar increases in muscle mass but the high protein group experienced much more fat loss, even though the high protein group consumed more calories (2600 vs. 2100 calories).


Research has shown us that protein types have different benefits. Dr. Jose Antonio has shown us that an increase in protein intake to roughly 1.5g per pound per day increases fat loss while increasing muscle mass. Still, the question remains, does the amount of protein consumed post workout matters? How much is needed to maximize muscle growth?

Protein Post Workout


To answer this question a group of researchers in Dr. Tipton’s lab analyzed the impact of 0g, 10g, 20g, and 40g of whey protein in active, young, college aged individuals at rest and following resistance training. At rest 20g was enough to maximize protein synthesis, however, after training, protein synthesis was not maximized until 40g of protein was consumed (Witard et al., 2014). Suggesting that consuming a larger dose of protein post exercise can assist in muscle growth. What makes consuming protein so critical around a workout? Are there specific amino acids that act as a trigger for protein synthesis; the building of new muscle in the body. With one of those specific amino acids being Leucine (La Bounty et al., 2011).


When it comes to protein type and protein intake, we do believe according to research, that there are a number of different methods that can be used to strategically design your macronutrient distribution according to your goals. Whether that be through supplementation or diet intervention. Therefore, before starting any diet, it is beneficial to explore all options so that you can use the most effective method.