Can you actually change the way you age for a healthier life? The science says yes.
The slow creep of aging affects everyone, and before you know it, you’re over the hill and losing steam. But what exactly causes us to age? Scientists believe it is ultimately because of accumulated metabolic damage that occurs at the cellular level.
As we age, certain biological compounds decrease, including one called NAD+. This coenzyme is found in all living cells and plays a vital role in energy metabolism, DNA repair and healthy cell function — particularly that of the mitochondria, the powerhouses of our cells that convert food to energy. As NAD+ declines, our mitochondria are adversely affected and damaged, resulting in less energy output and leading the corporeal aging process. Low NAD+ also alters the activity of enzymes called sirtuins, a class of proteins believed to play a role in healthy aging by turning certain genes on and off and by helping protect the body from the onset of age-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
The Fountain of Youth?
The good news is that you can increase and replenish NAD+ by supplementing with a precursor called nicotinamide riboside (NR). NR (commercially known as Niagen) is a newly discovered version of vitamin B3 found in trace amounts in milk. According to a study published in Nature Communications, NR converts to NAD+ when ingested and goes to work improving mitochondrial function, creating new mitochondria and increasing energy production at the cellular level. NR also reactivates the sirtuin proteins, some of which work to maintain the length of telomeres, the caps on the ends of DNA associated with longevity, ultimately reversing the aging process and extending your life span, according to research published in PLOS One.
Though best-known for its energy-boosting properties, NR is also being studied for these benefits, which are of particular note to athletic women:
- NR may improve muscle quality and strength. According to a study published in Science, NR supplementation in mice resulted in rapid DNA repair and an improvement in the health of muscle tissue within a week.
- NR might fight fat. A study published in Cell Metabolism found that NR helped boost metabolism and prevent weight gain, even when test mice were fed a diet high in fat.
- NR may help with cognition. According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, NR-treated mice had less DNA damage, higher neuroplasticity, increased neuron production and less neural damage than the control group, and they performed better on given memory tests.
There are no adverse side effects of NR and no contraindications, so if it sounds enticing, try it for yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose and energy — and longevity — to gain!
A New Kind of Energy
ChromaDex, the innovators of NR, maintains a scientific advisory board that includes Nobel Prize–winning researchers and is continually conducting studies and are uncovering more benefits of NR every day. To date, most studies have been done on animals, but a recent six-week human clinical trial found that participants taking Tru Niagen — a name-brand version of NR with three safety certifications from the Food and Drug Administration — experienced on average a 40 percent increase in NAD+ levels.
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This nutrient might be the answer to your anti-aging woes.
Most of us have never heard of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+. But that doesn’t stop it from being an active champion for your cellular health.
NAD+ is a coenzyme that plays a major role in metabolism. The problem? Levels tend to decrease with age — and in reaction to the stressors of everyday life. But there’s a nature-identical supplement that might help get your levels back on track. We talked with biochemist and NAD+ expert Charles Brenner, PhD, to get the scoop on how it all works.
Oxygen: Our bodies make less NAD+ as we age. Why?
Charles Brenner: Over time, we experience more metabolic stressors, like exposure to free radicals in the environment and even alcohol consumption or overeating. These things cause NAD+ levels to decline.
Oxygen: How do low NAD+ levels affect us as we age?
CB: NAD+ plays an important role in metabolism. Producing less of it can make it harder for cells to convert food into energy, make hormones like androgens and estrogens, and maintain healthy DNA.
Oxygen: Supplementing with nicotinamide riboside (NR) can replenish NAD+. What exactly is NR, and how does it work?
CB: Nicotinamide riboside is a form of vitamin B3 that’s a precursor to NAD+. It’s an important building block that cells can take up and use to rebuild their NAD+ supplies.
Oxygen: How does boosting NAD+ production help slow the effects of aging?
CB: It helps maintain your cellular health and resiliency. This means your cells are better equipped to handle the effects of common fluctuations in energy associated with an active lifestyle.
Oxygen: Are there other potential benefits of taking NR?
CB: It’s nothing short of remarkable. We’ve assessed the ability of NR as an oral supplement to boost people’s NAD+ safely, and it does that. Now that we have safety data and promising preliminary results, there are between 25 and 30 human clinical trials testing NR’s effect on a variety of health outcomes .
Oxygen: Who would benefit from supplementing with NR?
CB: All of us experience metabolic stress, and NR is a way to replenish NAD+ stores that are under attack from those stressors and support people’s resiliency at the cellular level. Busy professionals, people that are concerned with their performance, or those who have noticed that they’re in a little bit of decline and don’t want to be that way—they could all benefit.
Oxygen: NR is a form of vitamin B3 that’s found in milk. Couldn’t you just get your fill from dairy foods?
CB: You’d have to have hundreds of liters of milk, so that’s the case for taking a supplement. (The NR technology is exclusively licensed by ChromaDex.)
Oxygen: How long would you need to supplement with NR to notice a difference?
CB: Some people feel something in as little as two or three weeks. It kind of works in the background like an antivirus operating system, maintaining your NAD+ levels so you don’t have a disruption.
Oxygen: Are there any downsides to taking NR?
CB: NR is generally recognized as safe and we haven’t seen any negative side effects from the human clinical trials. Of course like with taking any supplement, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor first.
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Identifying what drives you can help you stick to your exercise regimen. It may also help you choose a workout supplement (and supplement flavor!) that will help you reach your potential in the gym and fuel your recovery post-workout.
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This pre-workout energy product from Novaforme will help improve your workouts, results and health.
PreCharge was designed by Novaforme with the intent of being the healthiest energy drink available. This product contains many ingredients and nutrients that are known to boost energy to improve physical performance, decrease fatigue, extend endurance and even hasten recovery for your next training session. In addition, the product contains multiple ingredients that support good nutrition and health. PreCharge achieves this by including supplements that protect your body against harmful free radicals. The ingredients provide antioxidants that destroy these harmful chemicals. In addition, PreCharge provides whole-body oxygenation and delivers more than 100 percent of your daily need for vitamin B12.
Here’s more about what PreCharge contains and how you can benefit from supplementing it:
PreCharge provides green-tea extracts for antioxidant protection and other benefits.
This product contains green-tea extract (150 milligrams), matcha green-tea extract (100 milligrams) and yerba mate green tea (50 milligrams), all of which provide polyphenols. These plant nutrients provide antioxidant protection to fight free radicals, the harmful chemicals that destroy cells unless they are neutralized. Free radicals are generated by many types of stress, including exercise. Antioxidants from green-tea extracts and other nutrients in PreCharge help destroy free radicals. In addition, these green-tea extracts enhance production of norepinephrine, the brain chemical that boosts energy, as well as increasing GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an amino-acid-like compound that provides a calming effect. Both these benefits support athletic achievement and recovery.
PreCharge delivers natural caffeine for better focus and fat burning.
This product provides caffeine from natural sources, including Coffea robusta (95 milligrams) and guarana extract (75 milligrams at 22 percent caffeine). Caffeine is nature’s energy, and in addition to providing enhanced energy by stimulating your central nervous system, it also promotes better focus and blunts pain associated with training. This allows you to train harder for longer. In addition, caffeine helps your body release fat from storage, allowing you to reduce body fat while you use these calories to fuel workouts. Caffeine also boosts metabolism for several hours after ingestion, helping to prevent your body from storing calories you’ve just consumed as fat.
PreCharge contains beetroot extract and cordyceps to support endurance and recovery.
This product contains plenty of high-quality, dark-red pigment antioxidants. In fact, you’d have to drink 11 glasses of red wine to get as many of these as one serving of PreCharge provides. We don’t recommend the former — stick to no more than your one glass per day! Beetroot extract encourages nitric-oxide production, the gas molecule that allows blood vessels to relax so that more nutrients can flow to working muscles and help them train harder and recover more quickly. Cordyceps is derived from a fungus, and it supports increased levels of adenosine triphosphate, the energy currency of muscles, as well as improving your body’s ability to use oxygen for improved cardiovascular capacity and endurance.
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For Optimum Nutrition-sponsored athlete Sarah Brown, fitness is a family affair.
For 31-year-old Sarah Brown, health and fitness is a huge part of her family dynamic. So much so that she says, “Our son has been attending bodybuilding and fitness events with us since he was 6 days old! Yes, days!”
It’s no surprise because being active is definitely in Brown’s DNA. As a teen, she dabbled in ice skating and competitive cheerleading, and she even earned a black belt in seidokan karate. Back in 2011 when she went to a bodybuilding show with her husband (who is a bodybuilder), she saw the Bikini division for the first time and thought, Now that’s a great look for me. I want to prep for one of these shows. She asked her husband to train her, and she placed in the top five at the Flex Bikini Model Search in early 2012. “From that point on, I was hooked!” Just five months later, she competed in her first NPC show. “I loved training for something and setting a goal for myself,” Brown says.
After some trial and error Brown, who is sponsored by Optimum Nutrition, developed a practical approach to nutrition. “It took me a while, trying out different diet techniques and playing with my macros to really grasp what works for me,” Brown says. “Moderation and balance are the keys to success. I really had to change the way I looked at food. I made it more of a life change than a diet; diets seem restrictive and immediately make you start craving the foods you know you shouldn’t have. Healthy and nutritional foods make me feel better and more energized. While I enjoy cheat meals from time to time, if I don’t go overboard, I’m able to have them more often and keep from having cravings.”
While managing her salon, working on her clients (she is a cosmetologist), helping her son with his homework, competing and being a wife, Brown still dedicates time to get her training in and prep her meals. “It’s not always easy, but if you make it a priority, you will find a way to get it done,” she says.
Sarah’s Favorite Optimum Nutrition Products
Opti-Women Multivitamin: It’s packed with 40 active ingredients, including botanicals and antioxidants.
Protein Water: Not only does it contain 20 grams of protein, but it’s also conveniently pre-mixed and supports hydration and muscle recovery.
Fitness Fiber: I have this every day mixed with my morning cup of coffee. It provides digestive support and helps me reach my daily recommended intake of fiber, which most people lack.
Essential Amino Energy: I love this because I can use it as anytime energy by taking just a couple of scoops, or I can add a couple of more scoops and use it as a preworkout. It never makes me jittery, and it’s packed full of aminos.
Gold Standard 100% Whey: I love this stuff because there are so many different delicious flavors. It is also very versatile. I love to add it into my oatmeal or pancake mix.
Sarah’s Sample One-Day Meal Plan
Breakfast: ½ cup egg whites, 1 whole egg, 2 slices Ezekiel toast with light spread of honey or spray butter
Snack 1: 2 scoops Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey protein in water
Lunch: 1 fish fillet and 5 asparagus spears
Snack: Optimum Nutrition Opti-Bar
Dinner: 6 oz sirloin steak and 6 oz sweet potato fries, small salad with mixed leafy greens and garden veggies with oil and balsamic vinegar*
*I usually train at night, so I like to have carbs with my last meal on training days.
Learn more about Optimum Nutrition’s complete line of products, here.
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To understand more about these critical nutrients and why you need them, let’s take a closer look.
We all know that protein provides the building blocks for muscle. And it’s common knowledge that on the molecular level, amino acids provide the building blocks for protein. But not all aminos are the same, and the amounts of each you need vary based on overall protein consumption and the requirements of your fitness lifestyle. To understand more about these critical nutrients and why you need them, let’s take a closer look.
There are 20 proteinogenic amino acids that create proteins in the body to perform countless physiological and chemical processes, including muscular development and maintenance. These are categorized according to their need to be supplied in the diet or the body’s ability to manufacture sufficient amounts for health. The three categories are known as essential, nonessential and conditionally essential.
Essential Amino Acids
Eight amino acids are considered essential for adults in that they are required to be provided by food consumption. Your body requires these to synthesize proteins to support anabolic muscular growth and reduce catabolic muscle breakdown, yet it cannot manufacture them. The essential amino acids are L-isoleucine, L-leucine, L-lysine, L-methionine, L-phenylalanine, L-threonine, L-tryptophan and L-valine. In addition, two additional aminos are considered essential for infants only: L-arginine and L-histidine.
Nonessential Amino Acids
A second group of amino acids is known as nonessential. There are five in this group that can be manufactured by your body through ingestion of essential aminos and other protein compounds. Therefore, supplementation of these is not critical for health so long as you eat a balanced diet. The nonessentials include L-alanine, L-asparagine, aspartic acid, L-glutamic acid and L-serine.
Conditionally Essential Amino Acids
Finally, there are six conditionally essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body in sufficient amounts to meet specific demands, such as catabolic distress from crash dieting or high-intensity training. In addition, these are shown to provide significant health benefits through supplementation. The six in this category are L-arginine, L-cysteine, L-glutamine, L-glycine, L-proline and L-tyrosine.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Three of the essential amino acids noted above — leucine, isoleucine and valine — are unique in the way they are synthesized and used in the body. Known collectively as branched-chain amino acids, this trio helps produce energy within muscle tissue that is even more efficient than glucose (typical muscular fuel). In addition, they stimulate protein synthesis, which promotes muscular growth. Leucine specifically triggers an increase in mTOR activity, which activates anabolic growth. For this reason, BCAA supplements typically have ratios that include extra leucine versus isoleucine and valine (such as 4:1:1 or even 10:1:1).
Specific Benefits of Select Aminos
Dietary protein assimilation is handcuffed by something known as the “limiting amino-acid factor.” In essence, this means that if any essential amino acid is not present in sufficient quantities compared to the others, it limits protein synthesis. This is why blends of plant-based proteins, which are deficient in various aminos, are more anabolic than individual ones. Of course, whey is considered the king of proteins because of its complete amino-acid profile.
Yet the benefits of amino acids extend beyond protein consumption and digestion. Extensive research shows that individual aminos provide specific health benefits that can be achieved through supplementation. Leucine and the BCAAs are an obvious example when it comes to building muscle, improving recovery and providing energy for exercise. But there are others with research-backed benefits. (See accompanying chart.)
Required Consumption of Aminos
Because they are required to be provided via the diet or supplementation, the essential amino acids have specific requirements for daily ingestion. These easily should be met through a balanced diet consisting of about 30 percent of your caloric intake from complete protein (poultry, lean red meat, whey supplements, etc.).
Here are the minimum daily needs for aminos, according to the Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids (The National Academies Press, 2002 and 2005):
Histidine: 14 mg/kg bodyweight per day
Isoleucine: 19 mg/kg
Leucine: 42 mg/kg
Lysine: 38 mg/kg
Methionine (plus cysteine): 19 mg/kg
Phenylalanine (plus tyrosine): 33 mg/kg
Threonine: 20 mg/kg
Tryptophan: 5 mg/kg
Valine: 24 mg/kg
To determine your basic needs, first calculate your bodyweight in kilograms. Do so by dividing by 2.2 (i.e., 100 pounds / 2.2 = 45.5 kilograms). Then multiply by the indicated number to obtain your basic need (for leucine it would be 42 x 45.5 = 1,911 milligrams). Incidentally, that’s not a whole lot of leucine for someone who exercises. For instance, use of BCAAs at 2.5 grams (2,500 milligrams), with 76 percent leucine (1,900 milligrams), have been shown to increase protein synthesis and reduce muscle breakdown. As a result, researchers have suggested increasing the average minimum requirement to 45 milligrams/kilograms or more — which would mean about 2,048 milligrams (45 milligrams x 45.5 kilograms). However, please note that this amount should be even greater for exercising individuals.
Obviously, this is only the beginning of a complex subject, but it will provide the basics to help you know more about amino acids. To get the most out of your training and be as fit as possible, amino supplementation is something to look at more closely.
- L-arginine: Nitric-oxide production, stronger immunity, healthy hair, manage menopause symptoms, blood-sugar management
- L-carnitine: Weight loss, preserve muscle, anti-aging antioxidant, blood-sugar management
- L-cysteine: Stronger immunity, healthy hair, anti-aging antioxidant
- L-glutamine: Stronger immunity
- L-glycine: Healthy hair, digestive health, anti-inflammation, stronger immunity
- L-histidine: Recovery, growth regulation, healthy skin, nerve health
- L-isoleucine: Muscular growth, preserve muscle, muscular energy
- L-leucine: Increased protein synthesis, anabolic muscular growth, muscle energy
- L-lysine: Shorten cold-sore flair-ups, improve mood
- L-methionine: Fight arthritis, healthy hair
- L-phenylalanine: Mood improvement, concentration, memory
- L-proline: Skin and nail health
- L-threonine: Stronger immunity, liver health
- L-tryptophan: Healthy sleep, improved mood
- L-valine: Muscular growth, preserve muscle, muscular energy
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