DIY Bronzer

Who wouldn’t want that chocolaty summer tan all year long? Now, the quickest way we can obtain it usually involves some chemicals and UV blasting at the tanning salon, which I’m not really into. A natural tan at the beach already comes with some sun damage, so why would we add to that?

However, here’s a natural home-made bronzer lotion we can safely and regularly use to gain a bit of color and/or maintain our summer tans. It’s made of wholesome, natural, amazing ingredients that your skin will visibly thank you for.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Organic Raw Shea Butter
  • cup Organic Raw Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Almond Oil

Pop the almond oil in the microwave for a few seconds, just to heat it up a bit. Add the cocoa and mix thoroughly until it’s homogenized. Then stir in the Shea butter and you’re all done. If you want a darker lotion, simply add more cacao powder. If you want a lighter lotion, add a little bit less. It’s as simple as that. You can apply this daily.

Obtaining and maintaining a healthy tan concerns your Vitamin A and beta-carotene levels, as well as your Selenium, Vitamin C and Vitamin E levels. That’s why we use Shea butter, which is high in Vitamins A, E, and F and almond oil (E), and that’s why this DIY, natural bronzer will promote a healthier and longer-lasting tan.

If you want to take it even further, you can make sure you get plenty of those nutrients up there through your meals as well. Nuts, spinach, carrots, and grapefruits (Vitamins A, C, E) are a few examples of what you should include in a high-protein diet (Selenium) to reduce sun damage and maintain your tan.

Rest and Recovery

Almost every athlete – bodybuilder, runner or any other sort of sports person will encourage at least one rest day per week. Now, something I’m confident all fitness enthusiasts are guilty of in the early days is not resting. Unless the body painfully demands a recovery period, we are all inclined to push ourselves mindlessly for dat lean bod, since we haven’t yet passed the time to see that it truly does not happen over night. Or in a week. Or two.

Allowing the body to recover between sets and during the week will not only prevent injury, pains and aches, but it’s actually helping the process. So we don’t have to think of it as a lazy, unproductive day when in fact, it’s what ultimately leads to optimal performance.

Immediate rest and Metabolic rest

For what concerns rest between sets (immediate rest), it’s recommended to take 30 to 90 seconds between each set. We’ve seen how over-stressed cells behave, so take a few seconds to rest in-between sets. If you want to superset, start small and build the endurance for it.

Now, the necessary recovery time after a training session (metabolic recovery) depends on the intensity of your workout, rather than duration. The harder you work, the more time your body will need to regulate and repair itself. Obviously, a jogg and a weight training session will differ in recovery times.

Muscle growth happens through rest

If you’ve read about hypertrophy, you know that building muscle implies giving your muscle tissue something to adapt to (so you’re stressing the cells). Said adaptation happens like this: when you work out, the stressed cells in the muscle fibers undergo microscopic damage. The injured cells release inflammatory molecules (called cytokines) that call upon the immune system to repair the injury. After damage repair, the muscle is not only recovered, but adapted to an increased capacity.

So if you want to see dem gains, take that rest day and allow your muscles to recover. Your body will tell you when it’s done repairing itself, as your muscles will no longer feel sore. You can also aid recovery by stretching, walking, and other low-intensity activities after your workout.

Muscle hypertrophy ¦ Process and Training

If you are training to gain, the goal of your training is to increase muscle mass. Increased muscle mass is achieved through the process of muscle hypertrophy, i.e. an increase in dimension of individual muscle fibers. Challenging training will cause the skeletal muscle to adapt to the workload, thus increasing muscle fiber capacity.

Process

Don’t have time for technical jibber-jabber about muscle fibers? Skip to Quick recap!

Skeletal muscle fibers composing the muscle tissues have metabolic (relating to the biochemical and energetic transformations) and mechanical (relating to movement) differences, therefore being classified into 3 different types: slow-oxidative fibers, fast-oxidative fibers and fast-glycolytic fibers.

When an exercise is performed, we need to recruit (activate) motor units in order to produce the force demanded by the exercise. A motor unit is composed of an efferent neuron (a neuron that carries motor impulses) and all the same-type muscle fibers it innervates. As we can see in the table below, the smaller the neuron size (hence motor unit size), the easier to excite and therefore recruit. However, it isn’t an easy come, easy go type situation, as the easiest fibers to recruit are the hardest to fatigue and vice-versa.

 

Type I 

Slow-oxidative

 Type II

Fast-oxidative

 Type III

Fast-glycolytic

Resistance to fatigue

High

Intermediate

 Low

Motor unit (innervating neuron) size

Small

 Intermediate

 Large

Recruitment

First

Second

Third


Quick recap. Muscle growth (muscle hypertrophy) implies an increase in the size of muscle fibers. The 3 types of muscle fibers are innervated by motor neurons thus composing motor units, which are recruited to produce the force needed to perform during training. During a challenging exercise, recruitment happens gradually between the 3 types of muscle fibers until achieving complete muscle fatigue (failure). The muscle fibers will subsequently increase in capacity and size up in order to adapt to the workload.

Training

So basically what we need in order to achieve muscle growth is to fatigue the muscle to the point of failure so that we make sure we’ve put all those muscle fibers to work. Here are four examples of how to do that, for you to choose the method you are most comfortable with and enjoy the most.


DROP-DOWNS (Drop sets)
  • Decreased weight per set;
  • Same number of repetitions.
You gradually decrease the weight per set, doing the same number of repetitions.
Choose the no. of reps so that you don’t compromise proper form, but you do achieve failure by the end of each set.
Drop-downs imply reaching failure and decreasing the weight a minimum of 3 times (triple-drops), which should do the job. They can be performed with both weight machines and free weights, such as dumbbells.

However, drop sets greatly fatigue the muscles, that’s why it is recommended to do only one drop set per muscle group. Drop-downs are great for stimulating muscle hypertrophy, just be careful and don’t over-train.


REVERSE PYRAMID
  • Decreased weight per set;
  • Increased number of repetitions;

Reverse pyramid training implies going heavy for the first few reps and then decreasing the weight and increasing the no. of reps throughout the following sets. Reverse pyramids also promote hypertrophy and it’s usually the go-to method when training for size.


SUPER-SETS

Super-setting simply means that you perform two exercises in a row, without resting in-between. For example, you go from the bench press straight to lat pull-downs, forgoing any rest between the two.


GIANT-SETS

Following the same principle as super sets, giant-setting implies performing three exercises in a row, without stopping in-between.

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Resources

Muscle Fiber Types

Sources of Energy: Carbohydrates and Lipids

So we’ve covered the star of macronutrients – proteins. But what about carbs and fat? They seem to be the scarecrows of fitness efforts. In fact, they are much needed energy sources. We wouldn’t want to go to the gym, for example, without the proper nutrients to get and keep us going, right? However, we need to be mindful of the kinds of carbs and fat we eat. So let’s dive in and see what we should and should not eat, and of course, why.

Carbohydrates – or sugars and sugar polymers – are carbon (C) molecules bonded to hydrogen (H) and hydroxide groups (OH). They act as energy storage with the potency of 4 calories (or approx. 17.5 kJ) of energy per 1 gram of carbs.

There are four major categories of carbohydrates:

  • Monosaccharides;
  • Disaccharides (composed of two monosaccharides bonded through a glycosidic linkage), such as sucrose, lactose, maltose and cellobiose;
  • Oligosaccharides (composed of 3 up to 20 monosaccharides);
  • Polysaccharides (macromolecules composed of hundreds up to hundreds of thousands monosaccharides), such as cellulose, starch, and glycogen;

The monosaccharide glucose appears in all living cells. It is a monosaccharide with 6 carbon atoms (a hexose), together with fructose, mannose and galactose. Glucose is found in the form of a straight chain or in the form of a ring. The latter is the prevalent form of glucose, and it goes by the name of dextrose.

Some examples of foods with high dextrose contents are honey, corn syrup, sweets and processed foods, as dextrose is a commonly used artificial sweetener. Moreover, try to avoid starch-rich foods (a polysaccharide of glucose), such as white bread, cereals (processed grains), white pasta, white rice and potatoes. If you do eat white rice or potatoes, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking, as this is said to eliminate the starch.

Lipids are yet another class of organic macromolecules that serve as energy storage (fats and oils), thermal insulation and hormones and vitamins. For every 1 gram of lipids burned approx. 37.5 kJ (9 cal.) of energy are released.

 Vitamins A, D, E and K

Liposoluble (fat-soluble) vitamins such as Vitamin A (cell maintenance), Vitamin D (calcium absorption), Vitamin E (antioxidant), and Vitamin K (normal blood clotting) are essential vitamins, meaning that it is necessary to obtain them from our diets, since they cannot be synthesized in the human body.

Natural sources of these essential vitamins include:

Vitamin ACarrots, baked sweet potatoes, kale, beef liver, cantaloupe, mangos, boiled spinach, (carotenoids);

Vitamin DShiitake and button mushrooms, eggs, salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, catfish, solar light;

Vitamin E – Almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, avocado, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, broccoli, parsley, papaya, olives;

Vitamin KKale, spinach, fermented soy, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, scallions, prunes, cabbage and cucumbers;

Fatty acids and Lipid Oxidation

Fats and oils are triglycerides, composed of 3 fatty acids molecules and 1 glycerol molecule.

  • Glycerol is a 3-carbon molecule with a hydroxyl group for each carbon atom.
  • Fatty acids are hydrocarbons with a carboxyl group at one end. Fatty acids can be saturated or unsaturated.

Saturated fatty acids are animal fats. They are saturated because they have the maximum number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon chain.

Unsaturated fatty acids derive primarily from plants. They are unsaturated because they contain one or multiple double bonds (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) which are formed by removing hydrogen atoms from the carbon chain, leading to the formation of free radicals. The higher the degree of unsaturation, the higher the rate of lipid oxidation. This is where antioxidants come into play, fighting the free radicals and preventing oxidation.

Goji and blue berries, pecans, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and turmeric are just a few powerful antioxidants. Other measures include using olive or palm oil for a more stable unsaturated oil, using vacuum-sealing food packaging, and storing your food in a low-temperature and dark environment.

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Resources

  1.  MITOpenCoursewear – Chemistry of sports, p. 21-36
  2. Global healing center
  3. Lipid oxidation

Proteins and the 20 proteinogenic amino acids

What’s an athlete’s favorite word? It’s probably protein, right? We all know proteins are fundamental to muscular development. They provide the necessary support, protection, transport, regulation, and movement to the human body.

Stressed for time? If you can only have the quickest read, you can go directly to Summary.

 The birth of a protein

Proteins are macromolecules which are formed through dehydration synthesis reactions leading to covalent bonds between monomers; a multitude of monomers forms polymers. Proteins are polymers of amino acids. Different compositions of amino acids form different types of proteins, with diverse structures and functions.

Proteins are also called polypeptides. Amino acids are covalently bonded by peptide linkages (e.g., a dipeptide is formed of two amino acids). As polypeptides, proteins are multiple-peptide chains of proteinogenic amino acids.

Proteinogenic amino acids are those organic compounds containing the amino (NH2) and the carboxyl (COOH) groups which are capable of producing proteins. There are twenty proteinogenic amino acids, eleven of which are non-essential (i.e., they can be synthesized by the human body and therefore are not imposed in our diets), leaving nine of them, the essential amino acids, as dietary requirements given they cannot be synthesized by the human body.

Protein sources – complete and incomplete proteins

Foods containing the nine essential amino acids are known as complete proteins. These include animal sources (meat, fish, milk, yogurt, whey, eggs), quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina.

On the other hand, plant foods are considered incomplete proteins that cannot provide all the essential amino acids. However, specific combinations will complement each other, so just adjust for complementary protein sources in your meal or throughout the day. The rule of thumb when it comes to complementary proteins is combining grains, cereals, nuts or seeds with beans, peas, lentils or peanuts (e.g., peanut butter on wheat bread).

spices-1914130_960_720

Summary

Proteins are macromolecules as polymers of amino acids. Proteinogenic amino acids are those amino’s capable of producing proteins. There are twenty proteinogenic amino acids: eleven non-essential ones and nine essential ones (essential amino-acids are not synthesized by the human body and therefore need to be supplied through diet). These essential protein-builders are most easily obtained through animal products (meat, dairy, whey), quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and spirulina.

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Resources

  1. MITOpenCoursewear – Chemistry of Sports p. 11-16
  2. University of Massachusetts – Nibble Directory