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Consuming too many protein supplements could be doing you more harm than good

Consuming too many protein supplements could be doing you more harm than good

Relying too heavily on protein shakes and supplements could be doing you more harm than good.

Relying too heavily on protein shakes and supplements could be doing you more harm than good.
Getty/Peter Berglund
  • A new study claims done on mice suggests that consuming too many protein shakes and supplements may have harmful side effects.
  • Research from the University of Sydney concluded that relying too heavily on BCAAs (branched chain amino acids, which are found in protein shakes) may reduce lifespan, and cause weight gain and a lower mood.
  • The key advice is to make sure you get your protein from a variety of sources, as this will ensure you’re consuming the right balance of all nine essential amino acids.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Thanks to the current vogue for fitness, the protein supplement industry is booming.

From bars and BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) to shakes and even chocolate, there are seemingly endless protein-boosted products on the market to help you get your post-workout fix.

But a new study done on mice now suggests excessive protein consumption may ultimately be doing us more harm than good.

Researchers at the University of Sydney found that although protein is great for building muscle, consuming too many protein supplements could reduce lifespan, negatively impact mood, and lead to weight gain.

Though the study wasn’t done on humans, their main conclusion was that protein products aren’t necessarily bad for you, and protein is essential for repairing muscle, but you need to make sure you vary your protein sources and don’t rely too heavily on one.

Read more: Lifting heavy or light weights will give you different results – here’s how to know which ones to use

“While diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates were shown to be beneficial for reproductive function, they had detrimental effects for health in mid-late life, and also led to a shortened lifespan,” said lead study author Dr Samantha Solon-Biet.

“What this new research has shown is that amino acid balance is important – it’s best to vary sources of protein to ensure you’re getting the best amino acid balance.”

What are BCAAs?

There are 20 amino acids in total, nine of which are essential. If your diet contains enough of those, your body can make the 11 others itself.

BCAAs are essential amino acids found in foods containing protein, such as red meat, dairy, chicken, fish, and eggs, as well as beans, lentils, nuts, and soy proteins.

They are made up of three of the nine essential ones: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are broken down in muscle, whereas the other essential amino acids are mainly broken down in the liver.

Read more: You’re probably squatting wrong, according to Ellie Goulding’s personal trainer

While whey protein powders are typically high in BCAAs, many gym-goers consume BCAAs separately as well, usually in the form of a powder added to water – this is likely the translucent liquid you may see fitness fans sipping during their workout.

Unlike protein powders, BCAAs contain no carbohydrates or fats, but they actually tend to be higher in calories.

The idea is that consuming BCAAs throughout the day will contribute to muscle growth, boost workout performance, and aid recovery, but many in the fitness industry think they’re unnecessary.

Some fitness companies have even launched EAA (essential amino acid) products containing all nine essential amino acids instead of just the three found in BCAAs.

“The biggest difference between BCAA and EAA is that BCAA contains a 4:1:1 ratio of three essential amino acids whereas EAAs deliver a superior blend of all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t make itself,” Dawid Lyszczek, New Product Developer at Myprotein, told INSIDER.

What did the study find?

The researchers examined the impact of BCAAs and other essential amino acids such as tryptophan on the health and body composition of mice.

Some were given twice the normal amount of BCAAs needed for life, others the standard amount, others half, and others a fifth.

It was found that the mice who were fed the most BCAAs increased their food intake, which led to obesity and a shortened lifespan.

What’s more, consuming high levels of BCAAs appeared to block tryptophan getting to the brain, which is known to boost mood.

Read more: Here’s why Scarlett Johansson’s personal trainers suggest always eating dark chocolate before a workout

“Supplementation of BCAAs resulted in high levels of BCAAs in the blood which competed with tryptophan for transport into the brain,” explained Stephen Simpson, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, researcher from the School of Life, and Environmental Sciences Professor .

“Tryptophan is the sole precursor for the hormone serotonin, which is often called the ‘happiness chemical’ for its mood-enhancing effects and its role in promoting sleep. But serotonin does more than this, and therein lay the problem,” he said.

“This then lowered serotonin levels in the brain, which in turn was a potent signal to increase appetite. The serotonin decrease caused by excess BCAA intake led to massive overeating in our mice, which became hugely obese and lived shorter lives.”

What does this mean for us?

Registered dietitian and author of “The Low-Fad Diet” Jo Travers BSc RD MBDA believes the first thing to note is that the study was conducted on mice, and so the takeaways can’t be directly applied to humans.

“However, it does raise an important point about the roles of each nutrient and that balance is important,” she told INSIDER.

Travers stresses that eating a balanced diet should be your main priority.

“Getting a range of all foods – not just proteins – is important,” she said.

“For example, eating protein with carbohydrates stimulates the uptake of other amino acids to the muscles leaving tryptophan free to cross into the brain unimpeded, allowing more serotonin to be made.

“I think the thing to take from this is to get variety in your diet and get the balance right.

“Fill half your plate with veg, a quarter with carbs and a quarter with protein and the chances of you getting everything you need and not too much of what you don’t is really high.”

This is the one type of exercise that will help you build muscle fastest, according to YouTube fitness stars The Lean Machines

This is the one type of exercise that will help you build muscle fastest, according to YouTube fitness stars The Lean Machines

Compound lifts are your best bet to get the fastest results.

Compound lifts are your best bet to get the fastest results.
  • If you want the most bang for your buck in the gym, look to compound lifts say YouTube fitness stars The Lean Machines.
  • The fitness duo says multi-joint exercises recruit more muscle groups, requiring more energy from the body without jumping from one machine to the next.
  • Compound lifts include but are not limited to: Squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, and dips.
  • The pair advises working the movements into the start of your session because they take a lot out of your central nervous system.

We’ve all seen those guys in the gym who hunch over an EZ bar and curl their biceps to destruction before studiously analysing themselves in the mirror.

And, while it can be tempting to isolate the muscle groups you’re most self-conscious about, it’s by working as many muscles at once that will see you make significant results quickly, YouTube fitness stars The Lean Machines say.

The Lean Machines, made up of Leon Bustin and John Chapman, have over 16 years of experience in personal training and have grown their fitness-focused YouTube channel to over 400,000 subscribers at the time of writing.

They say that one of the biggest mistakes people make in the gym is ignoring compound lifts, otherwise known as multi-joint exercises.

The Lean Machines.

The Lean Machines.
The Lean Machines

In a joint message to Business Insider, Bustin and Chapman extolled the virtues of compound lifts:

“In our very busy world nowadays people are looking for a short effective way to workout, burn calories, and feel the most benefits from their program as possible,” the duo said.

“Compound lifts are fantastic for many reasons, one of the most obvious is their bang for the buck compared to isolation exercises.

“If you look just at muscle activation, for example, the difference between leg extension and a squat – there’d be no comparison because your squat’s going to work from your neck down.

“Compound lifts being multi-joint movements will recruit more muscle groups, requiring more energy from the body thus burning more calories without jumping from one machine to the next.”

Squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press and dips are all good.

Squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press and dips are all good.
adrian valenzuela/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Basically, compound lifts will work out more of your body in the same amount of time – allowing you to build more muscles at once.

What are compound lifts?

Compound lifts are defined by fitness writer David Robinson as: “Any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles.”

This includes but is not limited to: squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, and dips.

The Lean Machines define compound lifts as “exercises that strengthen your body in the way it needs to in order to perform better in your day to day life. They simulate daily tasks such as sitting, standing, and picking up your children.

“Compound lifts also signal the production of testosterone and growth hormone: two very important tools for growth and repair.”

They say it’s the primal fear of dropping the weights that pushes you that little bit further than if you were working out on a machine where there was less risk involved.

It’s that added fear, though, that makes the moves so hard – the fitness duo advises doing compound lifts at the start of your session, “because they take a lot out of your central nervous system.”

15 fitness ‘tips’ that are doing more harm than good

15 fitness ‘tips’ that are doing more harm than good

Shutterstock/ESB Professional
  • Regular exercise is essential for health, butthere’s tons of conflicting fitness advice out there.
  • Those misconceptions range from outdated ideas about weight lifting to popular myths about the proper time to dedicate to a workout.
  • Make sure you’re not falling into any of these common workout traps.

When even researchers seem conflicted on exercise subjects ranging from the amount of time we’re supposed to dedicate to exercise to the proper time for a workout, it can be tough to feel motivated enough to get moving.

Because there’s so much conflicting health and fitness advice out there, we’ve outlined all of the biggest workout myths and misconceptions and countered them (where possible) with truth. Use this as a guide to get fit in the most efficient way possible.

Learn the reality about the best time of day to hit the gym, the quickest ticket to 6-pack abs, and why running a marathon isn’t the best way to achieve your fitness goals.

Myth: Exercise doesn’t help counter the negative effects of aging.


Truth: Regular exercise has key benefits for the brain and body that include helping to counteract some of the negative effects of aging.

Researchers behind a study published this summer in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that older people who spent less time sitting and more time moving had fewer signs of encroaching heart disease – as measured by key markers of damage in the blood.

The scientists had 1,600 British volunteers ages 60 to 64 wear heart-rate sensors for five days. They analyzed the participants’ activity levels and compared them to indicators of heart disease such as cholesterol precursors and a substance called interleukin-6. Overall, the participants with more activity had lower levels of all of the negative biomarkers.

“It’s important to replace time spent sedentary with any intensity level of activity,” said Ahmed Elhakeem, the study’s author and a professor of epidemiology at England’s University of Bristol.

Myth: A sluggish metabolism is the main reason you gain weight as you age.


Truth: As far as calorie-burning capacity goes, our metabolisms barely budge after age 30, according to the National Institutes of Health. That means this frequently vilified component of our bodies is not the real culprit when it comes to the pounds that seem to creep on with each passing decade. Instead, age-related weight gain has far more to do with activity patterns, which slowly grind down over time. The best way to avoid age-related weight gain is simply moving around more.

Myth: To stay in shape, you only need to work out once or twice a week.


Myth: The best time to work out is first thing in the morning.


Truth: The best time for a workout is whatever time allows you to exercise most consistently. Ideally, you want to make physical fitness a daily habit, so if late-night trips to the gym are your thing, stick with it. If you prefer a morning run, do that instead.

Don’t have a preference? Some research suggests that working out first thing in the morning might help speed weight loss by priming the body to burn more fat throughout the day.

Myth: Weight lifting turns fat into muscle.


Truth: You can’t turn fat into muscle. Physiologically speaking, they’re two different tissues. Adipose (fatty) tissue is found under the skin, sandwiched between muscles, and around internal organs like the heart. Muscle tissue – which can be further broken down into three main types – is found throughout the body.

Weight training helps build up the muscle tissue in and around any fat tissue. The best way to reduce fat tissue is to eat a healthy diet that incorporates vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats like those found in olive oil and fish.

Myth: Puzzles and games are great workouts for your brain.


Truth: Plain old physical exercise seems to be better for brain health than any type of mental puzzle available, according to a wealth of research. A spate of recent studies suggests that aerobic exercise – any kind of activity that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time – has a significant, overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the brain.

When it comes to boosting your mood, improving your memory, and protecting your brain against age-related cognitive decline, exercise may be as close to a wonder drug as we’ll get.

“Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart,” wrote the authors of a recent Harvard Medical School blog post.

Myth: Exercise is the best way to lose weight.


Truth: If you’re looking to lose weight, don’t assume that you can simply “work off” whatever you eat. Experts say slimming down almost always starts with significant changes to your eating habits.

“In terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise,” University of Texas exercise scientist Philip Stanforth told Business Insider.

That said, being active regularly is an important part of any healthy lifestyle.

Myth: Sit-ups are the quickest ticket to a 6-pack.


Truth: As opposed to sit-ups, which target only your abdominal muscles, planks recruit several groups of muscles along your sides, front, and back. If you want a strong core – especially the kind that would give you 6-pack-like definition – you need to challenge all of these muscles.

“Sit-ups or crunches strengthen just a few muscle groups,” write the authors of the Harvard Healthbeat newsletter. “Through dynamic patterns of movement, a good core workout helps strengthen the entire set of core muscles you use every day.”

Myth: Weight training is for men.


Truth: Weight training is a great way to strengthen muscles, and has nothing to do with gender.

That said, women produce less testosterone on average than men do, and studies suggest that hormone plays a role in determining how we build muscle.

Myth: It takes at least a couple weeks to get ‘out of shape.’


Truth: In most people, muscle tissue can start to break down within a week without regular exercise.

“If you stop training, you actually do get noticeable de-conditioning, or the beginnings of de-conditioning, with as little as seven days of complete rest,” Shawn Arent, director of the Center for Health and Human Performance at Rutgers University, said. “It very much is an issue of use it or lose it.”

Myth: Running a marathon is the ideal way to get fit.


Truth: You can get many of the benefits of long-distance running without ever passing the five-mile mark.

Not ready to conquer a marathon? No problem. Running fast and hard for just 5-10 minutes a day can provide some of the same health outcomes as running for hours. In fact, people who run for less than an hour per week – as long as they get in those few minutes each day – see similar benefits in terms of heart health compared to those who run more than 3 hours per week.

Plus, years of recent research suggest that short bursts of intense exercise can provide some of the same health benefits as long, endurance-style workouts – and they also tend to be more fun.

Myth: Keeping a food diary is a reliable way of monitoring and controlling what you eat.


Truth: Even when we’re making an effort to be conscious about what we’re putting into our bodies and how active we’re being, we often give ourselves more credit than we deserve.

“People tend to overestimate their physical activity and underestimate how much food they eat,” Stanforth said. “They consistently think they’ve worked out more and consistently think they’ve eaten less.”

Myth: Sports drinks are the best way to re-hydrate after a workout.

Flickr/Rachel Johnson

Truth: Most sports drinks are just sugar and water.

Instead, experts recommend refueling with plain old water and a high-protein snack, since studies suggest protein helps recondition muscles after a workout. (Because the contents of supplements like protein powders can be largely unregulated, however, your best bet is to eat real protein-packed food.)

Myth: Your BMI is an accurate way to size-up your overall health.

Lisa Creech Bledsoe / Flickr

Truth: BMI is an outdated metric for assessing overall health, and measuring your waistline is more accurate.

That’s because the amount of fat we hold around our waistlines indicates whether we’re over- or under-weight and is also strongly linked to the health of our hearts, our risk for diseases like diabetes, and potentially even our cognitive performance as we age.

Myth: You need to sweat for your exercise to count.

Facebook/The Walking Company

Truth: Exercise could be the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have, but hard-core workouts like kickboxing aren’t the only forms of it that count.

Any effort that gets you moving and breathing – whether it’s a twice-weekly heart-pounding kickboxing class or a 30-minute walk to work – has measurable benefits for your brain and body, according to recent research published this spring in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

For the latest study, researchers looked at data on physical activity and death rates from national surveys of more than 4,800 adults and found that people who clocked roughly 30 minutes a day of exercise were significantly less likely to die from any cause than people who got none. The type of exercise mattered less than the simple fact that they were regularly moving.

“The key message based on the results presented is that total physical activity (i.e., of any bout duration) provides important health benefits,” the authors said.

How to burn the post-CNY calories away effectively

How to burn the post-CNY calories away effectively

Whether you were happily scarfing down Po Po’s pineapple tarts or stress binging on love letters while Aunty Mei grilled you about still being single, Chinese New Year (CNY) is indeed a time when most of us tend to indulge a little too much.

Post CNY, you get back on that treadmill, do your time at the gym and notice some great results… at first. Then the nightmare begins.

You continue working out and eating right, but still find that the pestering needle on the judgy weighing scale is just not pointing in the right direction.

Why is that?

Well, the answer could be as simple as changing up your exercise routine.

Plateau problems

When you don’t change your exercise routine, you could end up in this state called plateauing. This plateau, of course, has got nothing to do with any kind of terrain, but is instead linked to your fitness levels.

Daily exercise is good, but when you constantly repeat the same exercises, your body adapts and gets so used to it that you end up burning fewer calories. This is classic plateauing.

When you’re stuck in this stage, you notice decreased or no results at all, which can be extremely frustrating.

Prevent boredom

Another reason to spice up your routine is to prevent boredom.

While it may seem like a trivial matter, boredom can be linked to demotivation, reduced energy levels and a lack of effort when exercising.

For example, a proper sit-up can give you those to-die-for fireman calendar abs, but if you’re bored, you will tend to potong jalan, or cut corners, and focus more on the number of sit-ups, rather than if you’re actually doing the exercise properly.

To spice things up, try variants. Maybe a raised leg crunch, a frog crunch, or even a Russian twist.

Search online for them and see. There are countless variants available and most of them are for free. (Yay!)

Work different muscles

Targeting different muscles is also important. You may think you have done your gym time by doing the usual treadmill, cycling, treadmill, cycling routine, but are you really getting a full body workout?

One way to overcome this is to get a friendly gym instructor to teach you how to use all the different machines (yes, even the scary-looking ones!) and you could end up targeting all sorts of muscles that you never even knew existed.

Your body will thank you for it and you will soon notice the results you were praying for.

Exercise, gym, working out, exercise class, Star2.com

Joining a fitness class could help you break out of your boring exercise routine, as well as help keep you motivated and make new friends.

Protect from overuse

Sticking to the same routine for long periods of time can also strain your muscles and cause injury due to overuse.

Running is great, but if you do the same thing every single day and push the same muscles in the same way, you are asking for trouble.

Your muscles need time to recover from strain and alternating your exercise regime to perhaps include yoga or swimming from time to time could help provide a little downtime and prevent any kind of permanent damage.

Join a class

Another easy way to switch things up is to join a fitness class. The options are limitless; from yoga to Zumba, HIIT to spinning, and if you’re up to it, even boxing!

Fitness classes could be your key to breaking out of your routine. In fact, past research has concluded that synchronised physical activity such as group exercise
classes, could help improve your mood, reduce stress levels, and even encourage you to stick with the program.

It could also be a great way to expand your friend circle or a healthy way to spend time with existing friends.

So, are you ready to switch things up?

Try signing up for GuavaPass and gain access to a whole host of exercise options.

The simple app allows you to pre-book a variety of classes in over 30 gyms (and growing!) in Kuala Lumpur, and for those who like travelling, you can use your
GuavaPass membership in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Shanghai, Manila, Jakarta, Beijing and Abu Dhabi.

Membership options in Malaysia start as low as RM89 with many other attractive promotions as well.

To check out the offers by GuavaPass, log on to their website or simply download the app.

This article is brought to you by GuavaPass.
There’s even more evidence that one type of exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have

There’s even more evidence that one type of exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have

  • A growing body of evidence finds that cardio exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have.
  • Cardio, otherwise known as aerobic exercise, has been tied to benefits ranging from better moods and a stronger heart to a sharper mind.
  • To get the most out of your swimming, running, or walking routine, studies suggest you should commit to doing it at least 2-4 times per week. Each workout should be at least 30-45 minutes.

Want an all-natural way to lift your mood, improve your memory, and protect your brain against age-related cognitive decline?

Get moving.

A wealth of recent research, including a new study published this month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, suggests that any type of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time – known as aerobic exercise – has a significant, overwhelmingly beneficial impact on the brain. Those benefits may start to emerge as soon as you start working out regularly.

“Aerobic exercise is the key for your head, just as it is for your heart,” write the authors of an article in the Harvard Medical School blog “Mind and Mood.”

woman running stretching fitness exercise jogging


For the latest study, researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center looked at a sample of older people who showed early signs of memory loss and were at risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The less frequently the participants exercised, the weaker the connections in their brain’s white matter and the more poorly they performed on a bunch of cognitive tests.

“This research supports the hypothesis that improving people’s fitness may improve their brain health and slow down the aging process,” Kan Ding, a neurologist with the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute and the lead author on the paper, said in a statement.

Exercise may help keep the brain young

As we age, the brain – like any other organ – begins to work less efficiently, so normal signs of decline begin to surface. Our memory might not be quite as sharp as it once was, for example.

Exercising regularly as we get older appears to help defend against some of this decline, both for healthy people who show normal signs of aging and for older people who may be on the path toward developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers still aren’t sure why this is, or how it happens. Exercise could strengthen some of the pathways our brain uses to relay signals for recent events, or boost the size of certain brain regions that are key for learning and storing memories.

older man elderly man jogging nature running exercise thinking outdoors


Regardless of the specific mechanism at play in our bodies, the most recent recommendations suggest that working out twice a week may be beneficial in curbing some symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a stage that precedes the development of Alzheimer’s in some older people. This typically involves more serious problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment than those that might be displayed by a healthy older person.

Most studies focusing on people with MCI require people to either work out or self-report their own fitness levels. But the latest study measured how fit people were by studying their breathing and heart rate. The researchers then used brain imaging to measure the functionality of peoples’ white matter and had them take a series of cognitive tests designed to measure how sharp they were.

Overall, they found that the less fit people were, the weaker their brain’s white matter connections, and the worse they did on the cognitive tests.

Two other recent studies of older people with MCI have suggested that merely amping up one’s workout routine with the right moves could help slow the brain’s decay.

Last May, scientists recruited adults with MCI between the ages of 60-88 and had them walk for 30 minutes four days a week for 12 weeks. The results showed strengthened connectivity in a region of the brain where weakened connections have been linked with memory loss. That development, the researchers noted, “may possibly increase cognitive reserve,” but more studies are needed.

Another study, this time of exclusively older women with MCI, found that aerobic exercise was tied to an increase in the size of the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory.

Large groups of researchers are taking note of these promising findings. In December, the American Academy of Neurology updated its guidelines to reflect the takeaways of these findings. Based on a series of 6-month studies on aerobic workouts and memory in people with MCI, the new guidelines recommend that people diagnosed with the condition do some form of cardio exercise at least twice a week.

Working out could boost your mood, too

In addition to protecting the brain from aging, cardio workouts “have a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress,” according to the article in Harvard’s “Mind and Mood” blog.

The reason aerobic workouts lift our spirits seems related to their ability to reduce levels of natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science. Activities like running and swimming also increase overall blood flow and provide our minds fresh energy and oxygen – another factor that could help us feel better.


Flickr / Dave Rosenblum

Aerobic exercise may also have a uniquely powerful positive impact on people with depression. A pilot study in people with severe depression found that just 30 minutes of treadmill walking for 10 consecutive days was “sufficient to produce a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression.”

So whether you’re looking for benefits related to mood or memory, the take-home message is clear: the more you move, the healthier you may be.

“It’s exciting that exercise may help improve memory at this stage, as it’s something most people can do and of course it has overall health benefits,” Ronald C. Petersen a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the lead author on the most recent guidelines, said in a statement.

While some benefits of exercise can emerge just a few minutes into a sweaty workout, others might take several weeks to crop up. That means that the best type of fitness is any aerobic exercise that you can do regularly and consistently for at least 45 minutes at a time.

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