Pulled Chest Muscle: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Chest pain could mean anything from a heart attack to a pulled chest muscle: learn the symptoms of muscle strain to better identify it, and discover the best ways to treat and prevent this injury in the future.

Straining a chest muscle can cause a sharp pain in your chest, a sensation that, if it’s anywhere near the heart, may well scare people into thinking they’re having cardiac issues. While a pulled chest muscle is not as serious as a heart attack, it is nevertheless painful and not as easy to pinpoint as, say, a pulled hamstring.

Your chest muscles are responsible for supporting your upper body and for helping you breathe properly, and can have a negative impact on the health of your back if they’re not in optimal working order. This article discusses the symptoms of a pulled chest muscle, common causes of the strain, and different treatments you can try to find the cure to what ails you.

The Muscles of the Chest

The major muscles of the chest are the appropriately named pectoralis majors, the fan-shaped muscles that go from your armpits to the center of your breast bone (sternum). These muscles help move your shoulders and keep your arms attached to your body.

The pectoralis minor muscles are smaller triangular muscles under each pectoralis major. They run along your upper ribs (just below your collarbone).

Then there are your intercostal muscles, which run between the ribs and help form the chest wall. They expand and contract your chest cavity to allow for the inflating and deflating of your lungs as you breathe. Straining muscles in this area may make breathing more laborious. As much as 49% of chest pain experienced by people comes from what is known as intercostal muscle strain.

Pulled chest muscle: signs, causes, and treatment.

Symptoms of a Pulled Chest Muscle

Muscle strains occur when any muscle is overly stretched or torn, and each one needs care and rest to repair itself. The symptoms of a pulled chest muscle may include:

  • Acute muscle pain (a sharp pull)
  • Chronic muscle pain (a dull ache)
  • Pain during breathing
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty moving the area

If this pain comes about suddenly due to strenuous activity or exercise, it’s recommended that you seek medical attention, as it may be more serious than just a strain.

Chest pain is an emergency if it is also accompanied by dizziness, fainting, sweating, a racing pulse, fever, sudden sleepiness, unexplained irritability, or difficulty breathing: these are signs of a heart attack and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Causes of a Pulled Chest Muscle

If your heart is not involved in the chest pain you’re experiencing, then you may well be looking at a strained or pulled chest muscle. This can come about from overuse, from heavy lifting, or from sports like tennis, rowing, golf, or gymnastics, which call for repetitive motions of the upper body. The other common causes of chest muscle strain include:

  • Lifting while twisting (like taking boxes on or off a shelf)
  • Reaching above your head for extended amounts of time
  • Repetitive sports motions
  • Skipping warm-ups before sporting activities
  • Contact injuries from sports, accidents, or falls
  • Muscle fatigue from overuse
  • Hard coughing or sneezing during illnesses

Keep in mind that certain people may be more at risk of straining their chest muscles. For example, older adults vulnerable to falling injuries have a corresponding higher risk of pulling a chest muscle. Athletes are at high risk due to the nature of competitive playing. Those involved in car accidents also have a higher rate of chest muscle injury, sometimes from the safety devices involved in a vehicle (like seatbelts and airbags in cars).

Children have the lowest risk of experiencing a pulled chest muscle because of their higher flexibility, which is why it’s always important for us non-children to stretch properly not just before sports, but before any strenuous activity. Basically, break out the yoga mat before you rearrange the living room furniture to repaint the walls: it might save you from being sore and achy the next day (or for the rest of the week).

Diagnosing Chest Pain

Since it’s easy to suspect pain in the chest area as a potentially life-threatening issue with your cardiovascular health, a visit to the doctor may be in order. Rest assured: it’s not a waste of anyone’s time, because depending on the severity of the injury, a pulled chest muscle could lead to chronic back pain and may need a physical therapist to fully remedy. A doctor may first rule out heart disease or other medical conditions (like broken bones, which may call for an X-ray) as the cause of your pain, and then conduct a physical exam to evaluate the severity of the sprain.

Other Possible Causes of Chest Pain

It’s important to seek medical advice when you’re experiencing chest pain, because other causes may include:

Pulled chest muscle: signs, causes, and treatment.

Acute vs. Chronic Muscle Strains

If your pain is indeed caused by a pulled muscle, the doctor will first evaluate whether your muscle strain is acute or chronic.

  • Acute: An acute muscle strain arises from direct injury or trauma due to an accident or fall.
  • Chronic: Chronic strains are those caused by repetitive motions, whether they’re movements from your job, from a sporting activity, or other tasks you perform regularly (like picking up your kids).

The doctor will then likely assign a grade to the strain according to the level of severity.

  • Grade 1: The first grade is the lowest one, affecting less than 5% of the muscle fibers.
  • Grade 2: This is a moderate-grade tear signifying partial muscle rupture or loss of strength.
  • Grade 3: A high-grade tear entails complete muscle rupture and may require surgery to properly repair.

How to Treat a Pulled Chest Muscle

The first and standard response to a muscle strain anywhere is RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. How does that work for your chest?

  • Rest: Cease activity for at least 2 days after your injury, and if when you return to light activity you still feel pain, rest some more.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the strained area for 20 minutes, 3 times a day to reduce swelling, inflammation, pain, and soreness.
  • Compression: If it’s possible, wrap an Ace bandage to stabilize the area, but be sure to leave it loose enough to allow for circulation.
  • Elevation: As you move around throughout the day your chest is already elevated, but what about at night? Sleeping on an incline (a soft wedge or stacked pillows) or in a recliner can help.

If your doctor sends you home with general advice, you may choose to use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to help alleviate the pain. This should be fine as long as you follow the instructions and don’t mix them with any other medications—ask your doctor directly if you have any hesitations or questions about taking painkillers. Ask also about dietary supplements that can help you rebuild and heal muscle faster, like amino acid supplementation.

For chronic strains, better treatment may involve wearing braces at work or while sporting, attending physical therapy, or changing your exercise routine to build strength in the surrounding areas.

For severe tears, if surgery is suggested, discuss your care and concerns directly with your medical team and surgeon. While light strains may be brushed up with a little rest and self-care, chest injuries that limit your breathing could put you at greater risk of a lung infection, so breathing exercises may be advised and are easy to perform at home.

Puff up Your Chest with Pride

Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be able to return to physical activity quickly, right back to the bench press. However, if returning to normal activity continues to cause pain, you may need a longer recovery period for complete pain relief.

To prevent future muscle strains, be sure to warm up before exercise or strenuous activity, be careful when lifting heavy objects, climbing or descending stairs, or lifting weights, and above all listen to your body when it twinges or aches. No one knows your body and its limits like you do, and becoming aware of an injury before it becomes chronic can save you from a lifetime of pain and complications.

Tight Lower Back Discomfort: What Causes It, Plus 10 Stretches to Relieve Low Back Pain

If you have tightness and pain in your lower back, the first thing you want to do is identify the cause, and then you want to stretch out and strengthen the area. This article has information and advice on both topics.

Having a tight lower back isn’t just a matter of discomfort: if your muscles are tensed and kinked, it means they aren’t working properly to keep your bones and balance in line. Not only does alleviating lower back tension help increase your comfort, but it can also help prevent debilitating back injuries before they occur. Read on to find out what causes tightness in your lower back, plus 10 safe lower back stretches you can utilize to ease the tension and find pain relief.

Back to Basics: The Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

The lower back is one of the most vulnerable parts of the body. Evolutionarily, while our brains are marvelously protected by the skull, and our most vital organs (the heart, lungs, and liver) are caged in by our ribs, our lower torso and lower back are practically wide open. This is a side effect of early man standing upright while our ape ancestors still move around on all fours. We gained the opposable thumb, but now all the weight of our brains and organs rests on one column of bone, nerves, and muscle tissue located in our lower back.

If we still walked on our knuckles, lower back pain and injury wouldn’t be one of the leading causes of workplace and household harm, but since science is all about moving forwards, not backwards, let’s talk about what might be holding us back.

1. Insufficient Lumbar Support

There are many places where you may be getting improper lower back support, including:

  • At your desk: Sitting for long periods of time is bad enough for your health and blood flow, but if you spend all day hunched over and typing, your muscles are constantly tensed up, trying to hold this unnatural posture. Experts recommend ergonomic desks and chairs, opting for a standing desk if possible, or taking regular, frequent breaks to stand and stretch.
  • As you walk: Your body is like a Möbius strip, it neither begins nor ends; it’s just one continuous loop. Tension in your neck, for example, can mess up your gait, just as uncomfortable or unsupportive shoes can cause back pain all the way to the neck. Making sure you have proper shoes for your feet (especially if they’re overpronated or your have foot tendonitis) can ease pain, prevent limping, and possibly help avoid back tension.
  • While you sleep: Sleeping on a mattress that’s too soft, or without proper hip support (which can be helped by sleeping with a pillow between your knees) can lead to a tight lower back and difficulty moving first thing every morning.

2. Exacerbating Exercise Techniques

There is a reason physical therapists and personal trainers cost a pretty penny: expert knowledge of anatomy helps them see from where your muscle pain is arising and how best to fix it. When most of us have lower back pain, we assume something is wrong with our lower back, but it could be a matter of having one leg shorter than the other, a tightness in our shoulders that’s causing a misalignment, or just bad movement habits we’ve picked up along the way.

Guided exercise can relieve tight lower back pain that already exists and help prevent muscle tension and sprains we don’t even know are on the inevitable horizon. Taking a fitness class or consulting a trainer could be all the diagnosis you need to fix chronic lower back pain if it’s caused by inexpert exercise practices. Just remember: there’s no shame in being wrong when you start out with fitness: every expert trainer was once a beginner too.

3. Strain and Improperly Healed Injury

Some people use their lower back far more than the rest of the populace. If you’re a mover or warehouse worker, you probably already know to wear a back brace and lift with your knees, but some injuries will surprise you regardless. If you’re a medic, rescue worker, or homecare nurse, you may be called on to lift another person out of a dangerous position (a patient in a car wreck for example, or someone who’s fallen in the enclosed space of a bathroom). And what about athletes who have to quickly contort their bodies in reaction to the games they engage in? Some careers and activities make your lower back more susceptible to injury than others.

One tweak or muscle strain can linger if you don’t have time to rest the injury properly, and reinjury on top of that becomes more and more likely with each day. While not everyone can take the recommended time off to heal and rest, proper stretching can help a sprain heal faster and loosen the area so that reinjury is less likely to occur.

Tight Lower Back Symptoms

You may recognize a tight lower back by these tell-tale symptoms.

  • Lower back pain
  • Back muscle cramping
  • Back spasms
  • A dull, constant backache
  • Stiffness, tension, or a contracted sensation in the back
  • A tightness in your hips, pelvis, or legs

Some soreness after working out or doing some heavy lifting is to be expected, but if the pain doesn’t subside after a few days, you may be looking at a more persistent injury that needs to be handled with care lest it gets worse.

Tight lower back pain: 10 helpful stretches.

10 Stretches to Help Alleviate a Tight Lower Back

Here are some simple exercises and stretches you can do to increase your back’s flexibility and loosen up lower back tension, from hips to hamstrings and more. It’s important to help straighten the hips and the spine, and strengthen the legs as well, so we’ve covered all the bases when it comes to tight lower back pain relief.

1. Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose)

Viparita Karani is a yoga pose also known as “legs up the wall” because, well, you rest your legs up against the wall. It engages your pelvic muscles, lower back, and the back of your neck, but primarily provides a deep stretch for your hamstrings and relaxes your lower back and pelvis.

  • Assume a seated position with your right side against the wall.
  • Place your left elbow on the floor and carefully swing your legs up so that the back of your legs are against the wall and you’re lying with your back flat on the ground. (Use a cushion to elevate your hips or back your hips away from the wall if this stretch is too deep for you at first.)
  • Allow your arms and back to relax.
  • Hold this position for at least 2 minutes as your tendons and muscles adjust.

2. Standing Hip Circles

This is a convenient exercise that can be done anytime and just about anywhere (before bed, upon waking, on the elevator, during a bathroom break, etc.), and targets the abdominal muscles, the erector spinae muscles (the ones that run the length of your spinal column), your pelvic muscles, and gluteal muscles. It helps to loosen your hip muscles and engage your core muscles for a nearly full-body stretch.

  • Strike a standing stance with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  • Place your hands on your hips and gently sway your hips from side-to-side.
  • Then rotate your hips in a clockwise direction, making 10 large circles.
  • Switch to counter-clockwise circles for another 10 revolutions.

3. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

The Balasana yoga pose is more commonly known as child’s pose. It stretches your hamstrings, your gluteus maximus, your spinal extensors, and your posterior muscles. By taking the pressure off your lower back, you can experience immediate relief and help stretch and lengthen.

  • Start from a kneeling position and sit back on your heels.
  • Bend forward as far as you can with your arms extended (use a cushion or pillow under your chest or forehead if the initial strain is too much).
  • Allow your bodyweight to settle down and your tension to ease for at least 1 full minute.

4. The Windshield Wiper Stretch

This great stretch needs a bit of floorspace to sprawl out on, but it can beneficially impact the sacral muscles (at the base of the spine), the pelvic muscles, the erector spinae muscles, and your obliques.

  • Lay on your back, splaying out your arms and bending your knees up.
  • Exhale as you slowly drop your knees to either the left or right side, while turning your head to look in the opposite direction.
  • Inhale as you return to the starting position.
  • Continue with the other side, and alternate back and forth for 1 minute.

5. Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Leg Stretch)

This yoga pose involves your lower back, hamstrings, erector spinae muscles, abdominal muscles, and gluteus maximus. It also helps align the spine.

  • Lay down on your back with your legs extended.
  • Lift up your right leg (at first) while leaving a slight bend in both the right and left knees.
  • Lace your fingers behind the right leg or hook a band or towel over the right foot.
  • Hold your right leg in an upright stretched position for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat this stretch on the left side, alternating back and forth 3 times each.

6. Pelvic Tilts

This exercise focuses on your abdominal muscles and increases flexibility in your lower back region, as well as your hamstrings, sacral muscles, and gluteus maximus.

  • Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Engage your core muscles to press the lower curve of your spine flat to the floor.
  • Hold that position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat the tilt at least 3 times (increasing repetitions as you get stronger).

7. Bridge Stretch

Not unlike the pelvic tilt, the bridge stretch can build up strength in your quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus.

  • Start from the pelvic tilt’s beginning position (back and feet on the floor, knees bent and pointing upwards).
  • Lift your hips and buttocks off the ground towards the ceiling.
  • Lift your chest and back even further off the ground so your contact points with the floor are now your head, shoulders, arms, hands, and feet.
  • Hold for 1 minute, and repeat at least 3 times.

8. Knee-to-Chest Exercise

This stretch utilizes the quadriceps, pelvic muscles, spinal extensors, and gluteus maximus to help loosen up your lower back muscles.

  • Lay on your back with your legs extended.
  • Draw your right knee to your upper body with fingers laced over your shin.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Release the right leg and repeat with your left leg.
  • Then draw both knees to your chest for 30 seconds.

9. Chakravakasana (Cat-Cow Pose)

This is two yoga poses in one, combined to help stretch and flex the spine, hips, and abdomen. It engages your core muscles, specifically your abdominal muscles, erector spinae muscles, gluteus maximus, and triceps.

  • Start from a tabletop position (on all fours).
  • Inhale and look up as you allow your belly to drop towards the floor (this is the cow pose).
  • Arch your back upwards towards the ceiling as you exhale (cat pose).
  • Flex back and forth between these poses for 1 minute.

10. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

Don’t let the name disturb you. This yoga pose is the end of the line for your stretching routine, not your life. It’s designed to let your body rest and relax after all this productive stretching, and gives you a moment to release any remaining tightness or tension throughout your body.

  • Lay on your back coffin-style with your arms beside your body, palms facing upwards.
  • Space your feet out as wide as your shoulders and let your feet splay to the sides.
  • Breath deeply with a clear mind as your body relaxes.
  • Stay in this position for 5-20 calming minutes. Your call!

Loosen Up

A tight lower back can be caused by anything from poor posture to tight hamstrings or weak core muscles. Regardless of where the tension originates, you can address it with the above-listed stretches.

If for any reason stretching leads to more pain and not less, consult a fitness or chiropractic professional to get specific advice on your technique, to receive physical therapy, or to seek medical advice for any underlying issues (like arthritis, sciatica, a slipped disk, osteoporosis, etc.) that are causing your back problems in the first place.

With the right exercise routine, many people can loosen up a tight lower back, and subsequently sleep better, work better, and play better every day of the week.

Tendonitis Foot Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Solutions

Pain in your foot could be due to any number of tendonitis issues: find out the locations of the main tendons in your foot, the common causes of tendon inflammation, and how best to treat these injuries.

Tendonitis, or tendinitis, of the foot can occur in several areas of your foot, heel, and ankle. Tendonitis foot pain can severely hamper your daily activities, starting first thing in the morning (when it’s at its most painful), and then clear into the evening. Not only does tendonitis foot pain turn every step you make into a chore, it can also lead to decreased physical activity, and even back and neck problems if you develop a limp to ease the pain. This article has information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for different types of foot tendonitis so you can hopefully address the condition before it becomes chronic.

What Is Tendonitis?

The “-itis” in tendonitis refers to inflammation, and it can afflict just about any tendon in your body, from those in your shoulders, your elbows (familiar with tennis elbow?), your wrists, your knees (how about jumper’s knee?), and, of course, your feet. Tendonitis of the foot can be tricky to deal with because many of us need to be on our feet for hours each day. Plus, our feet are as complex as our hands are when it comes to the vast number of small bones and moving parts.

Each of our feet have 33 joints, 26 different bones, and over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Just one connector out of sync and it’s like a rope has snapped in the rigging of a massive sailing ship: it could be an easy fix or it could be the first domino to fall in a series of ever-greater catastrophes. Tendons are the cords that attach muscle to bone, and while they are encased in lubricating sheaths to help protect them from friction and injury, one misstep or ankle injury could cause compounding pain and inflammation unless it’s treated quickly and correctly.

Read on to discover the common causes and symptoms of tendon injury to help identify the problem as soon as possible.

Tendonitis foot pain: causes, symptoms, and solutions.

What’s Causing Tendonitis Foot Pain?

Our tendons are built tough, especially the ones in our feet. While the tendons in our wrists and hands can be injured easily due to the delicate fine motor skills they’re meant to conduct, our feet bear the full weight of our bodies every day: walking, running, extending, climbing, and jumping when needed. However, even these strong bands have limits as to how far they can stretch.

When a tendon is repeatedly stressed or injured, small tears develop along its length, causing the body to respond at first with healthy inflammation, which may then lead to painful, chronic inflammation. Common causes of tendonitis of the foot include overuse, having high arches or flat feet, and sports-related or accidental injuries, but determining which tendon has been afflicted is the first step in discovering the cause and the solution.

Let’s highlight the main tendons in the foot, so you can better determine the location of your tendonitis foot pain as well as the causes, symptoms, and suggested treatments.

Ankle and Achilles Pain

The Achilles tendon is the thick band that attaches the back of the heels to the calf muscles.

Causes

Achilles tendonitis is often due to an injury from sports like soccer, but can also be caused by:

  • Tight calf muscles
  • Heel spurs or plantar fasciitis (a condition affecting the ligament in the foot’s arch)
  • Sporting or accidental injury
  • Overuse without enough recovery time

Symptoms

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis may include:

  • Achilles pain
  • Stiffness of motion
  • Swelling at the heel bone or ankle
  • Difficulty walking in the morning or after long periods of rest

Treatment for a one-time injury may require no more than rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). However, for athletes or those suffering serious injuries, it’s recommended that you consult a health care professional to determine whether physical therapy or orthotic shoe support is appropriate. For those with an underlying anatomy problem like flat feet (overpronation), orthotic support will help remove strain from the area and may help drastically prevent future injury.

Inner Ankle Pain

Your posterior tibial tendon is on the inside of your leg near your inner ankle bone, and it attaches your calf muscle to the inside of your foot, holding up the arch as you walk.

Causes

Causes of injury to this tendon often come from:

  • High-impact sports movements (jumping and landing in basketball, soccer, tennis, etc.)
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Wear and tear due to aging
  • Overpronated or flat feet

Symptoms

Pain in this tendon will have symptoms like:

  • Swelling of the inner side of the foot
  • Pain on the inner side of the foot
  • Radiating pain throughout the foot if the foot collapses

Once more, the standard treatment is rest, ice, and possibly anti-inflammatory medications, but if this is a chronic problem due to the shape of your foot, your gait, or a sporting activity you regularly take part in, consult a doctor or physical therapist for advice on orthotic support or perhaps cortisone steroid injections to the area.

Outer Foot and Ankle Pain

There are two peroneal tendons in each foot. One runs from the lower leg bone (the fibula, next to the shin bone) and wraps around the outer ankle bone to where it attaches to the little toe. The other runs underneath the foot, attaching to the inside arch. They help stabilize our ankles and our arches while walking.

Causes

Peroneal tendonitis could be caused by:

  • Repeated ankle sprains
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Overuse or overtraining injury
  • Having high arches
  • Having muscle imbalances

Symptoms

Common symptoms of injury include:

  • Pain when pushing off the foot
  • Pain when turning the foot in and/or out
  • Pain and/or swelling at the back of the ankle
  • Ankle instability
  • The area feels warm to the touch

Treatment is the same: rest, ice, elevation, anti-inflammatory drugs or natural supplements, orthotics, and certain stretches meant to help loosen and strengthen the calf muscles and ankle stability. Seek medical advice from a physical therapist or health professional to learn proper stretching techniques for your specific tendonitis foot pain.

Top of the Foot Pain

Extensor tendons are in both our hands and our feet. In our hands they’re the ones on top that help to move our fingers, wrists, and thumbs, and in our feet they connect between the muscles at the front of our legs to our toes. They’re very close to the surface of the skin (you can feel them shift if you wiggle your toes), and thus are all the more vulnerable to injury.

Causes

Extensor tendonitis can be caused by:

  • Too-tight footwear
  • Being on your feet for extended periods of time (fast food workers, nurses, warehouse workers, etc.)
  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • Tight calf muscles

Symptoms

Symptoms of extensor tendonitis may include:

  • Pain on the top of the foot
  • Swelling, bruising, tenderness on the top of the foot
  • Pain that worsens with activity and feels better when at rest

Treatment can involve rest, ice, and pain meds, but it also could be as simple a solution as changing the way you lace your shoes: if too much compression on these tendons is causing your foot pain, lacing shoes loosely, knotting the laces to the side instead of on top, or choosing a new style of footwear could alleviate the pain.

Big Toe Foot Pain

The flexor tendon runs from the lower leg, travels along the inside of the ankle, and attaches to the big toe.

Causes

The causes of flexor tendonitis may be:

  • Overuse of the big toe
  • Injury of the big toe
  • Improper footwear
  • Proper ballet dancing or other flawed forms of dance or sport

Symptoms

Symptoms of this tendonitis may include:

  • Pain deep within the inside back of the ankle
  • Pain in the foot’s arch (distinct from plantar fasciitis)
  • Pain when bending the big toe or on the outer side of the big toe
  • Tenderness anywhere along the course of the tendon

Treatment includes rest, ice, possible pain medications, stretching or massage, physical therapy, and (for dancers especially) taping up the foot to help protect the form and stability of the arch.

Don’t Foot the Bill for Tendonitis

Tendonitis foot pain is well known in sports medicine due to the extra strain put on feet during rapid or prolonged physical activity, but it can affect anyone. Tendonitis symptoms should be well-heeded, as taking care of these twinges and inflammatory reactions early can mean saving yourself from months or years of chronic pain.

Long-term foot pain can derail your exercise regimen and limit your range of motion, so it’s important to seek medical advice or to get a physical exam as soon as possible to rule out underlying medical conditions. The sooner you get the support you need, the more likely you’ll be able to relieve your pain through simple, nonsurgical treatment.

Building Muscle After 50: Top 7 Tips to Go from Sedentary to Stacked

Discover how to build muscle and maintain strength after turning 50: types of workouts, frequency of workouts, and how to supplement effectively now that you’re half a century strong.

One of the biggest concerns that face us as we age is muscle loss. Age-related muscle loss begins in our 30s and ramps up after 50. In advanced years that muscle loss can ultimately contribute to frailty if it’s not combated with proactive muscle building along the way. While those who have kept up with physical activity throughout their 20s and 30s have a much better foundation to build on, it’s never too late to begin weight training or resistance training, gaining muscles that get stronger the more they’re used. Because of these reasons, building muscle after 50 is necessary to keep you healthy and active for the rest of your life.

Sarcopenia: The Silent Breakdown

Age-related muscle loss is known as sarcopenia, and it’s one of the reasons that some of our grandparents lose their independence. The muscle loss that begins in our 30s and doubles down in our 50s gets even more aggressive after 70, but it’s not necessarily a downward slope. Studies show that we can gain muscle clear into our 90s, so not only is building muscle after 50 in the cards, but building muscle after retirement is a go as well. So what’s the holdup?

The issue is aging, and the fact that while we’re young we often don’t have to work as hard to stay fit and recover quickly. Side effects of aging come on gradually, and muscle-building efforts need to increase along with it. Maintenance just won’t cut it: to build muscle we have to challenge ourselves to workouts that are hard to perform at first, and when that level is mastered, we have to go harder.

Octogenarian bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd was interviewed by The Independent, and revealed that she didn’t start her targeted muscle-building efforts until she was 56 years old, and this was after a lifetime of no exercise and even being exempt from phys. ed. in school because of car accident injury she’d had as a child. Nevertheless Ernestine says that she went from being a receptionist (a sedentary job) to a professional bodybuilder, in better shape and with more energy in every new year. In 2010 she was declared the oldest competitive female bodybuilder by the Guinness Book of World Records.

If, like Ernestine you’re starting from scratch after 50, how do you begin? Read on for some starter tips.

Top tips for building muscle after 50.

The Top 7 Tips to Begin Building Muscle After 50

When a young man or woman decides to build muscle, it often takes no more effort than just trying. Some weight lifting, some cardio, and before these youngsters know it they’ve got muscle groups popping up in places they didn’t even know they had. But for older adults, building muscles is not just about losing weight and looking good, muscle gain starts to become vitally important to staying healthy and independent as we approach our 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

As you age, not only do your joints creak and your hairs turn gray, but your muscle cells start to get eaten up and then not replaced. The younger we are, the more quickly the metabolic process revolves between catabolism (metabolism involving molecular breakdown to access energy) and anabolism (the metabolism of building new complex molecules like muscle proteins with that energy). When we get older, that process—along with so many others—slows down.

Reaching 50 is ideally the halfway point of a long and healthy life, and maintaining muscle strength is important if we want another strong 50 years on this earth. So without further ado, here are seven ways you can optimize your protein intake and start building muscle after 50.

1. Come to the Light

If you want to safely begin to build muscle after years of a largely sedentary lifestyle, you don’t want to head straight to the bench press. It’s not fun but it’s true: a twinge or a tweak to any one of your joints in these early days could snowball into a very severe injury if you’re not careful, derailing your efforts before you even really get going. You’ll get to the deadlifts and barbells soon enough after you’ve built up sufficient strength, but when starting out, start light.

Embracing lighter free weights can spur muscle growth without putting your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints in any risk whatsoever. Studies show that more reps with lighter weights can stimulate protein synthesis just as well as lower amounts of reps with heavier weights. Lighter-weight training not only helps prevent initial injuries, but it also serves as a useful tool for repairing injuries. Similarly, higher reps with lighter weights leads to real muscle gain in older adults, so the only thing you’re losing out on is risk, not reward.

Once you build up a foundation of muscle, you and your joints will be strong enough to load up a barbell with ever-increasing weights, but as you begin, light is alright. Play to your strengths when it comes to strength training, and you’ll invariably improve as you age.

2. Stay on the Move

A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous to people at any age, but the damage done by inactivity compounds as we get older. To gain muscle, you have to not only incorporate a strength training program but also keep up with cardiovascular health. If your blood isn’t pumping well, you’re not getting the steady supply of oxygen and nutrients needed to build new protein for your muscles.

The cardio impact of walking and running changes in older adults, as seen in this 2010 study comparing younger (24 +/- 3 years) and older (64 +/- 6 years) participant groups. If you’re starting from scratch, begin with walking, increase to jogging and then treat yourself to new pair of running shoes, and know that you’re contributing to your muscle-building efforts with every new mile you cover.

3. HIIT Back

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to burn calories and build muscle quickly for all ages and fitness levels. HIIT is characterized by alternating short bursts of intense physical activity with periods of rest, and according to the Mayo Clinic, it can particularly benefit seniors down to the cellular level, and even reverse certain symptoms of aging.

While experts don’t recommend that every workout be a HIIT workout, cycling it into your workout regimen can help push your abilities to higher heights. And if you’re in a HIIT class full of athletes, just remember that your high intensity is different from their high intensity, and that’s a-okay!

4. Rest to Recover and Rebuild

Regular exercise doesn’t mean constant exercise, and in fact research shows that rest days are just as valuable for muscle building as workout days are. Recovery time means rebuilding time for your muscles, while overtraining syndrome occurs when excessive exercise is paired with an inadequate amount of resting time. The results of overtraining come with side effects that disturb the body’s neurologic, endocrinologic, and immunologic processes, along with the unwelcome symptom of mood changes.

Your recovery times over 50 may be longer than they would be if you started working out in your 20s or 30s, but you’ll know your body best: rest as long as you need, and then get back at it with the gains you’ve made.

5. Stretch It Out

If your muscles are tight, it’s imperative that you stretch them. Stretching before (particularly dynamic stretches) and after your workout helps to limber up the muscle fibers and reduce the risk of muscle strains and sprains, whether you’re working out on your own or under the guidance of a personal trainer.

A full-body workout is not complete without stretching, so be sure to pencil it in, as increased flexibility can help you avoid injury and perform better in your workouts.

6. Good Things Come in Threes

Have you heard of the rule of thirds? It’s a photography guideline for visually pleasing picture compositions. Do you know what “omne trium perfectum” means? It’s Latin for “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Those rules apply to your strength-training workout frequency too: 3 days a week is a perfect minimum.

While the more’s the better, especially if you’re diversifying your workouts (lift weights on one day, go for a run on the next, etc.), it’s nevertheless true that strength training at least 3 days a week can lead to good progression in muscle building and is a great place to start.

7. Feed Your Need

You cannot make muscles without protein. More specifically, you cannot synthesize new muscle protein without a proper amount of all nine essential amino acids. Most people looking to build muscle know that a high-protein diet and possibly consuming whey protein supplements will help them in gaining muscle, but just because you’re getting enough protein doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting all the amino acids required to build lean muscle without your body cannibalizing the other muscle cells you have to supply the demand.

Research shows that consuming protein regularly throughout the day and especially after a workout helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis to its optimal degree in elderly people who are well advanced beyond age 50. To gain muscle while maintaining what you already have built, we recommend choosing a muscle-building protein supplement that has a full host of balanced amino acid content so you have all the ingredients you need to create new muscle.

You’ll Muscle Through

Building muscle mass is far from being a young person’s game: it’s everyone’s game to play and to win. While it’s important to start cautiously if you’ve never worked out before, it’s never too late to start building muscle, and the more you gain, the younger you’ll feel, as it’s been scientifically proven that proper fitness can reverse certain aspects of the aging process.

The health benefits of building muscle after 50 go far beyond improving your body weight and maintaining a trim physique. The strength-training efforts you start today can help you lose weight and, according to the American Bone Health organization, also help improve your bone density, which will matter more and more in the coming decades. Lifting weights or engaging in HIIT exercises 3 times a week could mean staying strong for the rest of your life.

Amino Acid Pills vs. Powder: Which Is More Effective?

Amino acid pills vs. powdered supplements: why do you need amino acids, when do you need them, and which of these products works best? Discover the pros and cons of both delivery methods.

This article explores why you may need to take amino acid supplements, the difference between branched-chain amino acids and essential amino acids, plus the pros and cons of amino acid pills vs. powder supplements so you’ll know which one to choose for overall convenience and effectiveness.

Why Do You Need Amino Acids?

If you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle, amino acids could be the boost you’re waiting for. Why is that? Because while both can be accomplished with increased muscle mass, you cannot build muscle without all nine essential amino acids.

Your amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is what you need for muscle growth. Essential amino acids (EAAs) are so-called because it’s essential that you ingest them—your body cannot make these amino acids on its own.

Your nine essential amino acids include: histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, valine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan. Without the proper amount of each of one, you won’t get protein synthesis for new muscle no matter how hard you work out, because your body simply doesn’t have the ingredients. It’s sort of like trying to make a cake with everything but flour, or trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with the corner and side pieces missing. You can try, but you won’t get the desired result no matter how much time and effort you put in.

The Difference Between EAAs, Branched-Chain Amino Acids, and Other Protein Supplements

Many protein powders and amino acid supplements contain handfuls of amino acids, often the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are valine, leucine, and isoleucine. For example, creatine is a type of protein found in dietary protein (animal meats) and produced by some of your nonessential amino acids, while whey protein contains all EAAs in one amount or another (though not always the optimal amount of each).

Taking these products as dietary supplements pre-, during, or post-workouts can help prevent muscle soreness, boost muscle protein synthesis, and aid in muscle recovery. They can even help prevent muscle tissue loss while you sleep. The fitness-minded often use casein protein supplements for just that, due to its slow digestion rate (though amino acid supplementation prevents catabolism while you sleep just as well, if not better).

People take amino acid supplements to prevent muscle damage during workouts, to repair and build new muscle, and to keep the muscle gains they’ve made even as they sleep.

Amino Acid Pills or Powder: Which Works Best?

So much of sports nutrition is counting, measuring, weighing, and timing: wouldn’t a pill or capsule be so much easier? Think about it: pre-workout, just take a pill; post-workout, just take another pill! It sounds almost too good to be true, and by the end of this in-depth explanation, you may agree that is indeed the case.

Let’s talk about the difference between powdered and pill forms of these essential nutrients, and which one works better for athletic performance, weight loss, and muscle building.

Amino acid pills vs. powders.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Pills

When deciding between amino acid pills and powders, use this pros and cons cheatsheet.

Pros

The upsides to pill or capsule EAA supplements are easy to imagine: they’re as simple to transport as vitamins, can be taken with minimal (if any) water requirements, and involve zero mixing. They’re time-savers, they’re convenient, and they come pre-measured. What could go wrong?

Cons

One of the biggest cons: proper dosages. The amount of capsules, soft gels, or pills you would have to take pre-workout to meet the amounts of amino acids used in clinical studies might not be as convenient as you think, especially if you’re supplementing as a professional athlete or bodybuilder. You just can’t fit 25 grams of protein into a half-gram pill.

Another con: the digestion time. A capsule or tablet has be to be digested once consumed, and not only does that require time and energy, but it also means that whatever fillers or gelatin that’s keeping the pill together is also getting ingested, when all you really want are your essential amino acids.

During particularly high-intensity workouts, it’s helpful to take EAAs before, during, and after workouts in different amounts, and it’s hard to get the timing right if you’re ingesting pills instead of powder. Not only that, all the time spent measuring powder isn’t avoided if you have to keep doing math on the dosage amounts of pills.

Long story short: some substances work well in pill form, like caffeine, but not so much a full host of essential amino acids.

The Pros and Cons of Pre-Workout Amino Acid Powder

Pros

Amino acid powders, whether you’re using a complete EAA supplement or a medley of different protein supplements, are faster acting, longer lasting, and don’t involve swallowing large, hard objects. Amino acid powder products can give you anywhere from 10-30 grams of active ingredients in one serving, and puts them to work ASAP as soon as you ingest them.

Cons

Those supplement powder containers can be awfully big sometimes, so much so that there have actually been multiple class-action lawsuits filed against some companies based on the size of their containers being too big for the product itself, with consumers finding them half or even a third full. You can’t be carting a container big enough to be a drum to the gym and back every day, nor is it always convenient to blend up a shake just before leaving the office to go work out. It would be nice to get the EAAs that can step up your lean muscle mass in pill form, but…the pros and cons weigh more heavily in the direction of choosing powdered supplements over pills.

Take A Powder…Literally

At the end of the day, creatine, whey, weight-gain, EAA, and BCAA supplements simply don’t work well in pill form; you just need so much more than a pill or capsule can deliver in the right window of time. It’s less a question of personal preference than it is a basic math equation. The powdered forms of these amino acid supplements are superior when it comes to all the key points of effectiveness, though it is fun to dream of a day when you can get perfectly enhanced exercise performance from one little pill.

Amino Acid Powder: The Top 10 Benefits

Learn about the difference between BCAAs and EAAs, plus the top 10 health benefits of amino acid powders and when it’s best to take them for optimal workout performance. 

Amino acid powders are supplements taken much the same way as protein powders like creatine and whey protein. They are important to muscle building for a very simple reason: they are the bricks and mortar of your muscles, and without them your body cannot synthesize new muscle for repair or growth.

Many people are familiar with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), used by bodybuilders and the fitness-minded alike, but BCAAs are only three of the nine essential amino acids (EAAs) required for muscle creation. For more on the difference between BCAA and EAA supplements, plus the benefits you can expect from supplementing with amino acids, read on.

Top 10 benefits of amino acid powders.

BCAAs vs. EAAs

The three BCAAs are valine, leucine, and isoleucine, and they make up about 35% of our muscle protein. They are isolated for supplementation because they reduce the amount of protein breakdown that occurs due to vigorous workouts, and they help preserve the muscle’s stores of glycogen, which is the muscles’ quickest energy source. Leucine is the big player among the three, and it’s also one of the main components of whey protein.

However, the reason people sometimes consume BCAAs instead of whey protein is because when these amino acids aren’t bound up with other components, they can digest and absorb faster, giving them a bigger impact as a workout supplement. The reason some people take complete EAA supplements over BCAAs is similar: you can’t increase your muscle mass without all nine of them, meaning that a full court of EAAs has an even greater positive impact on your fitness goals.

The essential amino acids include:

  • Phenylanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Methionine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

If you ever need a mnemonic device to remember them (taking a biology quiz maybe?), notice that in this order, the first letter of each essential amino acid spells out Pvt. T.M. Hill: good old private T.M. Hill can help you remember your EAAs, just as Roy G. Biv can help you remember the order of the colors in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet).

Essential amino acids are so called because they’re needed in your body, but your body can’t create them itself, so it’s essential that you gain them by ingesting them.

Essential amino acids are indispensable, and there are six more amino acids that are considered conditionally essential—arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline, and tyrosine. Their creation in the body isn’t always possible (like when we are infants). The rest of the amino acids are made in-house by your body.

The Top 10 Benefits of Amino Acid Powder

When your goal is to build lean muscle with your workouts, protein is key, and you can’t have protein without amino acids. Here are the best benefits you can expect from taking amino acid powder as a workout supplement.

1. Balanced Dosages

The great thing about getting your amino acids in powdered supplement form is the same perk you get when using meal replacement shakes for weight loss: it comes pre-measured, guaranteeing that you receive the proper ratio of amino acids every time. Even high-quality protein supplements don’t always take into account the ideal ratio of amino acids that are scientifically required for building new muscles, so when shopping for the right workout aid, be sure to purchase a comprehensive and balanced amino acid powder, one that has exactly what you need in precisely the right amounts.

2. Improved Muscle Growth

Leucine especially shines here, as it has been clinically shown to boost muscle protein synthesis after physical exercise. That window of post-workout recovery is when your muscles are wide open for material to rebuild the cells that were damaged during exercise, and create even more muscle in preparation for the next workout. For more on the best time to take amino acid powder, read (or skip!) to the end of this article.

3. Increased Endurance

Amino acid supplements alter the way your body uses fuel, namely by changing the way you burn carbs and fat. Athletes like sprinters who require short bursts of strong energy have to deal often with glycogen depletion from their muscles. There’s only so much glycogen your muscles can hold, and if you use it up too quickly, you’ll run into fatigue or exhaustion and will have to cut your workout short. With amino acid supplementation, however, glycogen stores are better protected, as was seen in this 2011 study involving 7 men who were put through a workout designed to sap their glycogen supply. Those given amino acids instead of a placebo had a 17.2% increase in how long it took them to hit the wall of exhaustion.

4. Better Fat Burning

Amino acids protect glycogen stores by burning fat instead of glycogen for fuel. Amino acids help to retrain your body’s metabolic processes. For instance, the amino acid L-carnitine has been shown to increase fat loss without any other changes being made to your diet or exercise routine. If you’re on a low-carb diet like the ketogenic diet, even better: your body will learn to access your fat stores for energy as much as possible, because it can’t get the quick energy from carbohydrate intake.

5. Reduced Fatigue

Piggybacking off the above-mentioned benefits, amino acids have the ability to prevent the mental fatigue that can accompany really long workouts. When your amino acids are low, such as during a grueling workout, your body works to produce more, specifically tryptophan. And when the amino acid tryptophan gets too low, its production leads to feelings of mental fatigue and tiredness (it’s why turkey is considered sleep-inducing—the tryptophan in the meat!). If you’re supplementing with the proper amount of amino acids, this process never has to begin, and thus there is no extra tryptophan running around making you feel depleted and tired.

6. Increased Focus

Without extra tryptophan making you soporific, your mental focus is able to sharpen. Amino acid supplements have been shown to boost your short-term memory and mental processing abilities, and so are particularly valuable in competitive sports or contests, when fast strategizing can help you win.

7. Muscle Sparing

When you workout, you’re causing little micro-tears in your muscles. It’s necessary damage, sort of like how you need to be exposed to viruses to develop an immunity to them (it’s the reasoning behind vaccines, which contain deactivated viral cells).

Usually the muscle damage is minimal, just enough to stimulate your body into sending resources to repair and then rebuild bigger, better, and stronger muscles than ever before. Sometimes, however, muscles are broken down out of desperation for energy. This is catabolism, a destructive form of metabolism, and those who work out hard, especially bodybuilders, know to guard against it.

During the day you can feed your body energy, but what is your body eating while you sleep? In some instances it resorts to cannibalizing itself in a sense, breaking down the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build. Amino acids can help prevent catabolism by protecting your muscle fibers from taking too much damage in the first place; plus you can supplement right before going to bed (but more on when to take amino acid powders below).

8. Improved Post-Workout Recovery

Free amino acids in an amino acid powder are quickly absorbed, which helps increase your muscle protein synthesis rate and shorten your post-workout recovery time. The muscle soreness that used to linger can be dispatched much quicker with proper amino acid supplementation. Quicker recoveries mean you can work out again sooner, putting you in a virtuous cycle (the opposite of a vicious cycle), where workout and recovery revolve around one another in beneficial harmony.

9. Reduced Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can be a real hinderance to your fitness goals, but because amino acids help protect your muscles better and rebuild them quicker, they’ve been scientifically shown to reduce muscle soreness.

10. Improved Athletic Performance

When you count up all the ways amino acid supplements aid you and your muscles, the finally tally shows that they improve your overall athletic performance in more ways than one. Smarter, better, faster, stronger: amino acid powders can help you be all of these things with just a few scoops a day.

When to Take Amino Acid Powder

The fourth edition of Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning states that our muscles are particularly receptive to amino acid supplements within the first 48 hours after a workout. Likewise a study published in Frontiers in Physiology asserts that 5.6 grams of just BCAAs ingested after strength training exercise leads to a 22% increase in muscle protein synthesis. Similarly the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reminds us that you need a healthy supply of all the essential amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is why we recommend a comprehensive EAA blend when seeking to build muscle tissue.

A number of studies have shown that all nine EAAs play important roles in muscle growth and repair, and when it comes to the timing of when you should consume your essential amino acid powder supplement, you almost can’t go wrong: pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout, plus another helping before bed if you’re concerned about catabolism. While some forms of workout will require more or less supplementation regarding dosage amounts, pairing amino acid supplementation with a high-protein diet will have you covered.

The Amino Advantage

In your quest to build lean muscle mass through working out and eating right, consider adding a high-quality, gluten free, non-GMO amino acid powder like the one we offer here at Amino Co. Amino acid powders give you an extra advantage in all your workout and sporting goals.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies: 12 Natural Remedies for Pain Relief

Here are the top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies that have scientific backing, proven safety, and can help ease the pain and stiffness of RA either independently or in coordination with your rheumatologist’s treatment plan.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder of the immune system characterized by excessive inflammation and pain in the body’s joints. While doctors may prescribe medication to help manage the condition and relieve arthritis pain, some RA symptoms will persist. If you’re looking for rheumatoid arthritis home remedies you can employ yourself—whether they be exercises, supplements, or care devices—this article has a variety of proven therapies that may help relieve your pain.

The Top 12 Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Remedies

While these at-home remedies may not be cures, and most certainly cannot replace your doctor’s advice and guidance, they are nevertheless some natural remedies for rheumatoid arthritis you can try on your own to relieve RA’s side effects of stiffness, pain, and discomfort. Some will be simple, like using heating pads and ice packs, while some will involve assistance from others, like acupuncture. If you have any questions about whether these home remedies are appropriate for your circumstances, ask your doctor before trying them, and once you get the go-ahead, find the treatment that works best for you.

The top 12 rheumatoid arthritis home remedies.

1. Heat and Cold Applications

Heat and cold treatments can both help ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, though each one offers unique benefits.

  • Cold compress: Applying an ice pack or other form of cold compress to the affected joint during an RA flare-up can help curb inflammation and joint swelling. It’s recommended that you apply cold for about 15 minutes at a time, taking a 30-minute break in between applications.
  • Heating pad: Heat relaxes your muscles and encourages blood flow to the affected area. By using either a warm, damp towel or a moist heating pad you can avoid any burns that might come from applying heat directly to the skin. A hot shower or warm bath can also act as heat therapy, but it’s recommended that you avoid hot tubs or spas in instances of heart disease, high blood pressure, or pregnancy.

2. Magnet Therapy

Magnet therapies can be found in a variety of forms, from bracelets (designed as home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in hands) to necklaces, inserts, pads, and disks. They’re often available for purchase at natural food stores. While a lot of the data on the effectiveness of magnetic therapy is inconclusive and difficult to test for objectivity, it’s nevertheless a therapy you could evaluate on your own to see if it works for you.

3. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is one of the oldest natural pain therapies on record. In acupuncture, super-fine needles are used to stimulate your body along energy pathways known as meridians, with the goal to balance your energy or qi (pronounced “chee”). Acupuncture has been shown to be a beneficial rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and has also been found to help alleviate other chronic pain conditions like back pain and osteoarthritis. If you’re considering this course of treatment, ask your rheumatologist to recommend a trusted practitioner who has worked with RA patients before.

4. Aromatherapy

While this treatment won’t influence your pain levels or causes of inflammation, it may still improve your mood and your stress levels. Your sense of smell is linked deeply with your mood and memory, and some people have found that essential oil therapy and massage improve their feelings of well-being.

5. Biofeedback Training

Biofeedback training involves placing sensors over the patient’s body to monitor the physiological data regarding automatic responses, like your blood pressure and heart rate. This monitoring is done so that a therapist can help train the patient to acquire voluntary control over these functions, and has shown positive application in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Biofeedback treatment may include use of one or more of these measuring devices:

  • A galvanic skin response meter: For measuring eccrine sweat gland activity.
  • A thermistor: Used to measure peripheral skin temperature.
  • Electrocardiograms or photoplethysmographs: Meant to measure peripheral heart rate, blood flow, and heart rate variability.
  • Electromyogram (SEMG): For measuring surface neuromuscular responses.
  • A respiratory gauge: Used in measuring breathing patterns, breathing rate, and expired carbon dioxide.
  • Electroencephalography (EEG): Used to measure the electrical activity of the cerebral cortex.

Biofeedback is considered a self-regulatory therapy because it is a tool to increase your awareness of your individual physiological responses in order to change them, reducing symptoms or improving performance as needed in reaction to stressors.

6. Deep Breathing and Yoga

Deep breathing techniques involve taking slow breaths from the depths of your belly, and can help calm your body, relax your muscles, and turn off certain stress receptors. Deep breathing is often a focal point in the practice of yoga, a low-impact exercise method with spiritual roots that was developed in India over 5,000 years ago. Yoga can help ease joint pain, increase flexibility, and release tension in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. If you’re seeking a yoga instructor, try to find someone with experience in guiding people with RA.

7. Exercise

Other types of exercise can help relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and increase your joint health. Your doctor may be able to recommend a physical therapist to get your body into a fit enough condition to take on some of the following exercises if you think they might help improve your quality of life. Your physical therapist may recommend:

  • Aerobics: Activities like walking, running, and swimming increase your cardiovascular capabilities and health.
  • Strength trainingStrength training helps to keep the muscles surrounding your joints strong.
  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises help to train your joints to move as they should.
  • Balance movesBalance training helps you avoid dangerous stumbles and falls (see the next entry on tai chi for more information).

8. Tai Chi

Tai chi is another ancient Chinese tradition that can serve to increase your balance and strength. Tai chi involves performing slow, deliberate movements in a focused manner, and, like yoga, also includes deep breathing techniques and holding various physical postures. Tai chi is a gentle martial art that teaches you to use your own bodyweight and connection to the earth to increase your strength, and has been shown to help with lower extremity mobility in RA patients, so it’s particularly good to include in home remedies for rheumatoid arthritis in knees or ankles.

9. Massage

Massage is another incredibly old and reliable natural remedy, and modern science still acknowledges that it can help ease pain, especially for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Massage and reflexology have been shown to help manage RA pain and fatigue in patients, and you should be able to get recommendations on a qualified masseuse from your doctor or your physical therapist.

10. Fish Oil Supplements

Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may help reduce pain and joint stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding fish oil supplements to your regimen because they could interfere with certain medications and increase the likelihood of bleeding or bruising. The only other side effects some people report are belching, nausea, or a fishy taste in their mouth. If you do choose to try fish oil supplements, know that they contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids that will also improve your body’s fatty acids ratio.

11. Topical Gels, Creams, and Patches

At-home remedies like rubs, heat patches, and warming creams can help alleviate your pain without the need for pharmaceuticals. Many of these products contain capsaicin, the ingredient that makes your chili peppers hot and that studies show can help ease RA pain. However, it’s not recommended to use these products along with an electric heating pad, as doing so could make burns more likely to occur.

12. Turmeric

Turmeric and its derivative curcumin are natural anti-inflammatory compounds. Turmeric is a golden spice often found in Indian and Indonesian cuisine, as well as in many supplements aiming to reduce inflammation and ease pain without use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This traditional medicine has been shown to block proteins that cause inflammation and is commonly used to treat RA.

A quick warning: while some supplements and natural remedies can truly help your condition, a lot of supplemental research is still in the early stages. These natural aids may affect other medications. Check with your doctor before taking even perfectly natural supplements to be sure they are safe for you.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Home Treatments

If you’re looking for RA or arthritis home remedies, there are many safe and effective options to choose from. If you have concern, doubt, or hesitation about these or other natural remedies, contact your rheumatologist, as any expert in the field will have a comprehensive awareness of these practices and supplements. Once you’re cleared to explore at-home options, you may well find the pain-free solution you’re looking for!

The Uses and Benefits of Magnesium Malate

Find out the benefits of magnesium malate, the suggested dosage, plus the difference between various forms of magnesium supplementation and which one has the best bioavailability. 

Magnesium malate is a form of magnesium that’s highly absorbable by human beings. It provides not only the benefits of magnesium, but also the benefits of malic acid. Malic acid is a nutrient that contributes to our energy production by turning food into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the molecule that carries energy within our cells. That’s only the beginning of all that magnesium malate can do—read on to discover the scientifically backed benefits that magnesium malate can bring you.

Magnesium malate uses and benefits.

The Top Magnesium Malate Benefits

Magnesium is needed for cell formation and for maintaining your nerves, bones, and muscles. Most people can get the magnesium they need from their diet because it’s found in foods as diverse as whole grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate. However, some people need to supplement magnesium to make sure they’re getting enough of this essential nutrient, and that is where magnesium malate comes in.

Because elemental magnesium is difficult for the body to absorb on its own, many supplements will bind magnesium to a salt for better absorption. Magnesium malate is one of those salt combinations, formed when magnesium is combined with malic acid.

Malic acid by itself is often taken by those seeking to improve their muscle performance, boost their mental focus, and reduce post-exercise fatigue. All those uses in one supplement means that this particular magnesium formation can help benefit those with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Read on to find out what else magnesium malate can do.

Magnesium Malate for Sleep

Without enough magnesium, the hormone melatonin cannot function properly. Melatonin is responsible for sleep regulation, and without it you may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep peacefully. Magnesium malate may help your sleep process, as magnesium is known to play a role in normal sleep regulation.

Magnesium Malate for Anxiety

Magnesium is important for stabilizing the nervous system, which is what allows us to withstand stress. A deficiency in magnesium can lead to heightened levels of stress, fatigue, and anxiety. Though more scientific research needs to be done to refine the understanding of magnesium’s effect on anxiety, it’s generally assumed that magnesium increases the neurotransmitters that block stress, like norepinephrine, while decreasing the ones that cause stress, like adrenaline and cortisol. Studies suggest that magnesium may be an effective treatment of anxiety due to its stress-stopping abilities.

Magnesium Malate for Constipation

Magnesium helps stimulate intestinal peristalsis (involuntary muscle contractions that move food through the digestive system) and helps soften stool by gathering water to the intestinal tract. These actions not only serve to prevent and treat constipation, but they also aid the body in performing its own natural detoxification processes.

Magnesium Malate for Bone Integrity

Magnesium is needed for building bone tissue and for improving the body’s absorption of calcium. This leads to magnesium playing an important role in maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis.

Magnesium Malate for Women’s Reproductive Health

The female reproductive system needs magnesium, and a review of the scientific literature shows that magnesium supplementation is effective in the prevention of premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, and menstrual migraines. Women with the proper level of magnesium may find their menstrual cycles more manageable, while pregnant women will find magnesium supplementation even more vital because they are more vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Since magnesium is a mineral needed for fetal development, protein synthesis, and tissue construction, magnesium supplementation is often a part of a woman’s prenatal care.

Magnesium Malate for Improved Energy Production

Both magnesium and malate are needed to produce energy at the cellular level. Without enough magnesium, our mitochondria struggle to produce energy, while malate helps speed up energy production. With the high bioavailability of magnesium malate, you can put both of these compounds to work quickly to help balance your energy production.

One review on treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia suggests that magnesium malate can help manage the symptoms, including the lack of energy that characterizes both conditions. ATP levels are low in patients with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, and it’s been suggested that magnesium malate may help boost energy and relieve tenderness and pain.

Magnesium Malate for Anti-Inflammatory Use

Magnesium is needed to maintain your calcium levels, and research suggests that too-high levels of calcium in the body cause inflammation. A magnesium deficiency is associated with chronic inflammation and may be a risk factor for conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Magnesium Malate for Muscle Development

Magnesium is used in synthesizing growth factors that influence the development of our muscle fibers. Magnesium has been found to help athletic performance and improve athletes’ strength.

Magnesium Malate for Depression

Due to magnesium’s role in synthesizing the hormones dopamine and serotonin, there is believed to be a link between magnesium deficiency and depression. One study with 126 adults found that magnesium supplementation was helpful in resolving mild-to-moderate depression after just 2 weeks. Though magnesium deficiency is not the only cause of depression, it could be a contributing factor that a magnesium supplement can help eliminate.

Magnesium Malate for Heart Health

If we don’t have enough magnesium, the electrical impulses of our hearts and the regeneration of our veins and arteries can be compromised. Magnesium deficiency is inversely associated with coronary artery calcification, and research suggests that supplementing with magnesium helps prevent heart disease, endothelial dysfunction, platelet aggregation, vascular calcification (stiffening of the arteries), and atherosclerosis. Many studies show that that the proper amount of magnesium results in a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium Malate for Blood Pressure

Magnesium causes the walls of the blood vessels to relax, and in clinical trials it helps to lower blood pressure and treat hypertension. Patients with hypertension are found to have low levels of bodily magnesium, and some research suggests that magnesium supplementation may help increase the effectiveness of antihypertensive drugs (just be sure to consult a health care professional before making any changes that may alter the effect of prescribed medication).

Magnesium Malate for Controlling Blood Sugar and Preventing Diabetes

Magnesium plays a critical role in the metabolism of sugar in our bodies. Magnesium deficiency is associated not only with erratic blood sugar levels, but also with diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome. Supplementation with magnesium can help control blood sugar levels and improve cholesterol ratios, and magnesium malate specifically (if made from L-malic acid) can help remove compounds that inhibit sugar breakdown and glycolysis.

Magnesium Malate vs. Citrate

Magnesium citrate is another magnesium preparation in salt form. It also increases water in the intestines and is often used as a laxative for the treatment of constipation. However, magnesium citrate has a far lower bioavailability rate than magnesium malate has, meaning you get more magnesium from the malate version.

Magnesium Malate vs. Glycinate

Much like magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate also has lower bioavailability than magnesium malate. Glycinate is the salt form of glycine, which like aspartate or aspartame, activates our NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors. The NMDA receptors on our neurons help control our perception of pain, and when they’re overstimulated it can lead to severe pain, as with the NMDA receptors in the guts of those with colitis. This means that too much magnesium glycinate may actually be detrimental.

Magnesium Malate Dosage

Magnesium malate supplements are often taken orally alongside a meal. The National Institutes of Health give the following recommendations for the appropriate dosage per serving size.

For women:

  • 19-30 years: 310 milligrams
  • 31-up: 320 milligrams

For men:

  • 19-39 years: 400 milligrams
  • 31-up: 420 milligrams

Dosages of malic acid generally range from 1,200-2,800 milligrams per day. People who are athletes, pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, or under high levels of stress may require more magnesium and should consult with their doctor to determine the optimal dosage.

Magnificent Magnesium

When looking for magnesium from a dietary supplement, you’ll want to make sure you have the best bioavailable form of magnesium, and magnesium malate may be exactly the form you need. You’ll want to keep the tablets in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children, but other than those precautions, you can easily add it your regimen of multivitamins and gain its amazing health benefits.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Learn about what causes muscle wasting or muscle atrophy, and how best to prevent and treat this condition, including through the use of physical therapy, medical intervention, and staying active. 

Muscle atrophy is essentially muscle wasting: it’s what happens when your muscles waste away, frequently as a result of a lack of physical activity. This article will explore the causes and symptoms of muscle atrophy, as well as preventative steps people can take if they’re immobile or bedridden due to illness. Loss of muscle mass or muscle strength can be particularly devastating for those who are already in positions of compromised health, and so in an effort to help you maintain your quality of life, we’ve compiled the relevant information here.

Muscle Atrophy: Definition

Atrophy of the muscles occurs when a person is inactive for so long that their skeletal muscles (these are the muscles attached to your bones which literally make your skeleton move) begin to break down, and the muscle protein is cannibalized by the body. This can happen in small instances or large, catastrophic instances.

Muscle atrophy of the hand or forearm may occur if you spend weeks in a cast to heal a broken arm, which is why people in casts are given exercises to do while they’re immobilized to prevent protein degradation in their muscles and muscle wasting. Muscle atrophy of the legs or muscle atrophy of the thighs can happen on a much larger scale to those who become wheelchair-bound, either temporarily or due to becoming permanently paraplegic. In even more extreme cases, those who have been held as prisoners of war may have full-body muscle wasting due to confinement and malnutrition for significantly long periods, sometimes years.

Muscle atrophy is a decrease in muscle mass, either partial or complete, which is most commonly suffered when a person becomes disabled or their movements severely restricted. This makes it difficult or impossible to move the part of the body where the muscle has atrophied, and medical advice should be sought for solutions.

Muscle atrophy: causes, treatment, and prevention.

Muscle Atrophy: Causes

Significant decreases in activity levels can lead to muscle atrophy, and there are many situations where that can occur, causing what’s known as disuse atrophy. There are also instances of muscle atrophy due to medical conditions that inhibit the use of a body part, and even rarer causes like the muscle atrophy experienced by astronauts after relatively short periods (a few days) of weightlessness. Muscle atrophy in situations of being bedbound or ceasing intense physical training can come on in as little as 2 weeks. Some of the other causes of muscle atrophy are as follows.

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Advanced aging
  • Malnutrition
  • Stroke
  • Alcohol-associated myopathy
  • Burns
  • Temporary disabling injuries (broken bones, torn rotator cuff)
  • Permanently disabling injuries (severed spinal cord, peripheral nerve damage)
  • Prolonged corticosteroid therapy

Some of the diseases and medical conditions that can disrupt or restrict movement, thus leading to muscle atrophy, include:

  • Spinal muscular atrophy: A hereditary wasting disease of the limbs.
  • Osteoarthritis: Degeneration of bones and joint cartilage that leads to decreased movement.
  • Polymyositis: An inflammatory disease of the muscles.
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease): Compromises the nerve cells of the spinal cord.
  • Muscular dystrophy: A hereditary disease that causes muscle weakness.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): An autoimmune disease that destroys the protective sheathing of brain and spinal nerves.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): A chronic inflammatory disease of the joints.
  • Dermatomyositis: Inflammation of the skin and underlying muscle tissue.
  • Polio: A virus afflicting muscle tissue, which can lead to paralysis.
  • Cancer cachexia: The weight loss, lack of energy, and loss of appetite in someone undergoing cancer treatment.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: An autoimmune disease and form of polyneuritis, which leads to paralysis of the limbs.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage that results in loss of sensation or functioning.

Muscle Atrophy: Symptoms

Regardless of the cause, these are the symptoms that may alert you to possible muscle atrophy, after which a trusted medical professional should be sought for advice.

  • One of your limbs (arms, legs) appears markedly smaller than the other one.
  • You’ve spent a long time physically inactive (bedridden, hospitalized).
  • You’re experiencing noticeable weakness in one limb.

Not to be flippant about the subject, but there is some truth to the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to muscle. If you cannot move your muscles with regular physical activity, you will start to lose them.

Muscle atrophy pain may or may not be a symptom, as that depends on the cause of the atrophy. Many people will begin to lose muscle before they are aware it’s happening, and will have to rely on visual muscle size to realize they need medical attention.

Muscle Atrophy: Diagnosis

Once you’ve gotten in contact with a medical professional, the diagnosis may involve your full medical history, a review of any previous injuries, as well as an evaluation of your symptoms. Diagnosing the atrophy may also involve diagnosing the underlying medical condition, which may require blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, CTs, a nerve conduction study, or a muscle and/or nerve biopsy to find out what could be causing muscle atrophy if it’s not readily apparently (as it would be if you’d suddenly become bedbound).

Can Muscle Atrophy Be Reversed?

Depending on the cause, yes. There are some cases where a proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can not only reverse muscle atrophy, but also prevent it from recurring. However, this will not be the case in some disease-related forms of atrophy, and it is important that you consult your doctor on what your expectations for muscle atrophy recovery should be in restimulating protein synthesis and rebuilding your muscles.

Muscle Atrophy: Treatment

Again, this will depend on the diagnosis of the cause, and also the severity of your muscle loss, but the treatments for reversible muscle atrophy may be as follows.

  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery
  • Electrical stimulation

If a lack of movement caused this condition, regaining movement will go a long way towards fixing it, and moderate exercise like walking, along with physical therapy, may be a way to regain muscle strength without needing surgery to fix skin, tendons, or ligaments too tight to begin moving again (as in cases of contracture deformity that could be caused by malnutrition or burn injury scar tissue).

Muscle Atrophy: Prevention

There are ways to prevent muscle atrophy before it happens, and ways to guard against it if you were fortunate enough to recover your musculature after one instance of muscle loss. If preventing muscle atrophy is in your control (and, of course, sometimes it will not be), here are a few ways to maintain muscle strength in adverse circumstances.

Stay Active

If you’re in recovery from a severe illness or have just come home from the hospital after a debilitating accident, it’s not as if you’ll take up jogging right away. However, movements as small as walking to your mailbox each day, or around the block, or up and down a single flight of stairs, can truly make the difference in the long run when it comes to maintaining your mobility.

Stay Nourished

Depending on your condition, this may be difficult, but when your body lacks the proper nutrition to stay running, it will start to catabolize your muscles for its needs, which is a form of self-cannibalization or destructive metabolism that literally eats away at your muscles. Make sure you’re getting proper protein, if not from whole foods, then in the forms of protein shakes or supplements, as every little bit may help.

In fact, supplementing with amino acids has been proven to help accelerate muscle recovery in times of sickness and illness and can help boost your muscle-building gains. To learn more about amino acid therapy for muscle atrophy, give this informative article, written by one of the world’s foremost amino acid researchers, a read.

Seek Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is particularly valuable for those with severe injury recovery (such as a car crash survivor) or a neurological condition, as therapists provide professional guidance on what, and how, and how often to stretch your body to build strength.

Try Passive Movement

Another way physical therapy can help you even before you have the strength to help yourself is with passive movement. Passive movement requires the therapist to gently move your legs and arms for you. This is how you can begin to recover from a very deep muscle deficit and build up strength and muscle again.

Preventative Measures

Not only will the above advice help prevent muscle atrophy, but it can also help discourage bedsores in those who are bedridden due to illness, and reduce the chances of developing dangerous blood clots in the limbs. Likewise, these movements may prevent muscle stiffness, retraction, and nerve damage. Consult a medical professional or licensed physical therapist for more advice.

Eliminate Atrophy

If you are in danger of muscle atrophy, take steps to make sure your protein intake and nutrients are sufficient, including the use of a supplement if necessary, like Amino Co.’s essential amino acid supplement, which contains all of the essential aminos required to build new muscle cells and structures. Also, make sure that you stay active, no matter in how small a way, to preserve your muscle function and prevent your muscles from falling into complete disuse. You cannot always control your body’s condition, but if the type of atrophy you fear is the type that’s preventable, it’s well worth the effort to maintain the quality of life and movement you’ve come to expect.

When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

The best time to take protein supplements depends on your activity level, your personal goals, and the types of workouts you engage in. This article will provide you with specific, scientifically backed recommendations, and the reasoning behind that advice.

When taking protein supplements, people often wonder when exactly is the best time of day to consume them. Pre-workout? Post-workout? Is it okay to drink a protein shake before bed? Protein supplements can help people lose weight, build muscle, and recover from tissue damage due to injury or surgery. Because they’re so effective, most people want to be sure they’re utilizing protein the right way. So when is the best time to take protein? Short answer is: that depends on your health goals and the kinds of workouts you’re doing. For the longer answer and more detail, read on.

The Different Types of Protein Supplements

Protein is a source of energy for the body, essential for muscle growth, repairing damaged tissue, and preventing certain infections and diseases. Normal dietary protein comes from foods like meats, eggs, fish, dairy, grains, legumes, and seeds. Though animal products contain the most amount of protein, vegetables are sources of protein too, a fact well-known by those living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Of the most popular protein powders on the market in fact, a significant portion are plant-based.

Plant-based proteins include:

  • Soy protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
  • Rice protein, which is lower in the essential amino acid lysine.
  • Pea protein, which has lower levels of the essential amino acid methionine and nonessential amino acid cysteine.
  • Hemp protein, which is low in lysine but high in fiber, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential, meaning your body can’t make them on its own, and needs to gain them from the foods you eat.

Dairy-based proteins include:

  • Whey protein, which is absorbed relatively quickly and contains all nine essential amino acids.
  • Casein protein from milk curds, also containing the essential amino acids, and with a slower digestion rate than whey (which is why people often take casein before they sleep, so it will digest throughout the night… more on that timing below).

Animal-based proteins include:

  • Egg protein powder made from pure egg white protein.
  • Creatine, which is not found in plants but can be synthetically created. Though it is an animal protein, depending on its origin source, it may nevertheless be possible for vegans to use creatine as a supplement.

These are among the most commonly known protein powders available to buy, but we here at the Amino Co. have also developed an essential amino acid (EAA) blend that isn’t lacking or low on any of the amino acids required for protein synthesis and new muscle growth. It also blends free-form amino acids with whey protein and creatine, a nonessential protein that nevertheless has great value as a supplement. These forms of protein are used to help those who want to build muscle rapidly, and can even benefit those with muscle, neurological, or neuromuscular diseases.

The Varied Uses of Protein Supplementation

From muscle building to weight loss, here’s a quick look at all that supplemental protein can do to benefit your body.

Exercise Performance and Recovery

Added protein has been shown to increase endurance during training and workouts, as well as reduce soreness and speed up post-workout recovery. The timing of your protein intake matters here, whether you’re eating high-protein foods or taking supplements. Read on to learn about workout-specific timing recommendations.

Muscle Building

Muscles can only be built when you have the proper amount of amino acids for protein synthesis, and when you’re consuming more protein than your body breaks down during workouts. Taking a protein supplement, especially one that contains all the necessary EAAs for muscle growth, can make a huge difference. Finding the right anabolic window, the period of time when the protein you take in will go directly to your muscles, is something the International Society of Sports Nutrition has done extensive research on, and we, too, will provide specific scientific reasoning below.

Muscle Loss Prevention

Muscle mass is lost not only during intensive workouts, but also naturally as we age. Each decade you live after the age of 30 brings with it a higher risk of losing muscle (anywhere between 3-8% per decade). Proper protein intake is not only valuable to athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone who works out regularly, but it’s also important for each and every one of us as we age. Most Americans reserve their protein more for dinner than breakfast (3 times the amount on average is the difference between the two meals), and could use a supplemental boost of protein first thing in the morning to shore up their protein stores and help prevent the loss of muscle mass due to aging.

Fat Loss Facilitation

Protein is filling enough to help curb hunger pangs and chemically contributes to appetite suppression by reducing the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. A high-protein diet raises your metabolism and increases levels of appetite-reducing hormones like peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). More satiety means fewer calories consumed throughout the day, which quickly leads to safe, maintainable weight loss and the reduction of dangerous body fat.

The Enduring Power of Protein

Popular because they’re convenient and effective, protein powders and supplements are here to stay and can offer you a wide variety of options, from self-mix formulas and powders to ready-to-drink protein shakes. If you’ve got your preferred protein supplement ready to go, then it’s time to wonder: when should you drink protein?

The Best Time to Take Protein Depending on Your Workout

Depending on your goals and activities, there are recommended times to take protein for the greatest effectiveness for your energy levels and muscle-building needs. Here are specific recommendations based on different types of workout activity.

The best time to take protein supplements.

Aerobic/Cardiovascular Exercise

Best time to take protein: Pre-workout and post-workout

The amino acid leucine is one of the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and it promotes muscle recovery after workouts. Not only that, it activates protein synthesis, prompting new muscle to be built. One might think that due to leucine’s ability to boost endurance and stamina, one should take a BCAA supplement before a workout, but the science contradicts that idea. Not only are BCAAs only three of the nine essential amino acids needed to construct new muscle, leucine and the other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) experience oxidative degradation during aerobic activity.

BCAAs are Insufficient Pre-Workout

Adding these limited amino acids before your workout, especially in the unbalanced form of BCAAs instead of a complete EAA formula, means that a greater percentage will be oxidized and used for energy instead of muscle building. Your body does not want to be out of balance, so a sudden overabundance of a few amino acids will cause the body to clean up and reduce them in order to maintain equilibrium.

Rather than risk burning off the protein you put in because your body is only looking for energy sources, it’s better to take a full measure of EAAs within the hour after your aerobic workout, when your body is looking for supplies to rebuild. Leucine will be there to prompt muscle protein synthesis, and the rest of the essential amino acids will all be included in the ideal ratio for generating new muscle growth.

EAAs are Effective Pre- and Post-Workout

That being said, taking a complete amino acid protein supplement before an aerobic cardiovascular workout (like a high-intensity interval training or HIIT class), not only provides the necessary ingredients for muscle building, but also helps fight fatigue in a way that only taking BCAAs can’t, by fueling your body with the amino acids that help produce dopamine and serotonin in the brain.

Whether you’re walking, cycling, running stairs, or jumping rope, start by taking your EAA supplement 30 minutes before your workout session. The biggest benefit comes when you take your EAA supplement within an hour after your workout, when your blood flow is strong and active. Not only will the amino acids rush in to replace damaged muscle fibers with new muscle, EAAs can also help calm unnecessary inflammation. That will help quicken your recovery, allowing you to feel only the good side effects of working out, like increased energy and light euphoria, instead of soreness and fatigue.

Resistance Exercise

Best time to take protein: Pre-workout, during, and post-workout

Research has shown that EAAs given 30 minutes before a resistance exercise workout prompt muscle protein synthesis much more effectively than consuming EAAs afterwards does. Taking a protein supplement before this type of workout helps prevent the breakdown of muscle protein during the activity, and also increases blood flow to the muscles, thus getting the amino acids quickly into the muscle where they’re needed.

Consuming EAAs after a resistance workout is not harmful by any means, as that method, too, will prompt the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis, but it’s not ideal to leave the consumption of EAAs until after your resistance training is complete. Our recommendation is to first and foremost take a complete protein supplement before a resistance workout, and if possible take them throughout and/or after as well to get the most benefit.

Bodybuilding

Best time to take protein: Pre- and post-workout, and also before bed.

Immediately before and after a weight-lifting workout, we recommend that you take 15 grams of EAAs each. An EAA supplement has been shown to have a faster effect on muscle protein synthesis than either whey or casein protein alone. However, our Amino Co. blend of free-form EAAs with whey and creatine support ensures that you get a fast dose of EAAs and that the EAAs from whey will digest more slowly as you work out, offering a steady supply to help prevent muscle breakdown. Creatine helps prevent catabolism by supplying faster energy than your body can naturally generate from muscle cell mitochondria. This means more energy for more reps, which ultimately means more work put in and more muscle gained.

An hour after your post-workout dose of EAAs, we recommend another 15-gram dose. On off days, continue taking these same doses, measured between meals instead of surrounding your workout. Lastly, it’s also recommended you take another 15-gram dose before bed to keep your muscles fed as you sleep and to help prevent muscle breakdown as much as possible. You work hard to gain your muscles, and we encourage you to protect those gains at every opportunity. Set your alarm to take one more dose around 4 am if you know you won’t have a problem falling back to sleep, that way your muscles never go hungry for fuel.

It should be noted here that bodybuilders aren’t the only ones who benefit from taking extra protein before bed. One study of 16 elderly men showed that those who consumed casein protein (which digests slowly) before bed had increased muscle growth over those who took a placebo, despite being less active individuals. When you’re sleeping, it’s the protein that counts, and not the activity.

Is There Any Downside to Taking Protein Supplements?

The majority of scientific studies into how our bodies process high amounts of protein show that you can safely consume plenty of protein without risk of harmful side effects. Unless your doctor advises against protein supplements or you have a known kidney issue like rhabdomyolysis, there is no need to worry about excessive protein intake; merely take your products as recommended and spread them throughout your day.

Timing Is Everything

At the end of the day, it’s true that people who work out need more protein, but even those with a less active lifestyle benefit from consuming extra protein for strength, for maintaining healthy weight levels, and for preventing the loss of muscle mass we all experience as we age.

Make a protein shake for breakfast, have another to curb your appetite between meals, and make another as a beneficial treat before bed. Know that the more regularly you take in balanced forms of protein like Amino Co.’s complete EAA blend, the more good you can do for your body. Whether you’re working out or not, upping your daily protein intake is safe and smart. Bulk up, slim down, and stay strong with protein!