Q: I think it’s great that more tournaments are being tested for performance enhancing drugs, but that also makes me nervous. I’m not taking anything that I would consider cheating, but what are some things I might be consuming that would show up on a test? I’d hate to train my ass off for a tournament and be DQ’d for something stupid.
A: This is a great question and has actually been a growing concern for athletes across all sports. The list of banned substances is huge and growing every day. The world anti-doping agency, or WADA, is the most popular and credible organization behind testing today. It is also the current organization the IBJJF uses for its guidelines. WADA has done a phenomenal job of trying to keep up with all possible substances that will cause positive tests and keeps them on a list. This list is easily found online at (www.list.wada-ama.org) and I would highly suggest taking a look at it and cross referencing anything you may be taking. Supplement companies on the other hand do not do such a good job of keeping up with this list and/or they don’t really care that much. This discrepancy can cause some serious problems for athletes. Now I know the term “tainted supplement” has become the cliché excuse for professional athletes, but it does really happen. The first step in protecting yourself is avoiding the most common culprits for banned substances. These include the so called “anabolic agents” outside of steroids. They are basically those supplements designed to help boost testosterone. These include DHEA, tribulus, as well as any pro-hormone or anti-estrogen product. My next recommendation with regard to supplements is to always buy individual ingredients and avoid “proprietary blends.” With these blends it is very difficult to tell exactly what is in them and exactly how much. Always look for high quality supplement brands. They will include the stamps “GMP” and “third party tested” on the label. These are generally signs of a good brand. In fact, a new stamp to look for is “NSF sport certified.” This is a new certification that is designed specifically to test for banned substances. By taking these precautions and paying attention to exactly what you put in your body you can help prevent losing all that hard training to a “tainted supplement.”
Q: I just turned 34 and have always been on the heavy side. I’d like to drop down a division before my next tournament because I think I’d be more competitive. I’ve cleaned up my diet and I train 4 days a week. Are there any good fat burners out there that are worth the money?
A: Dropping a weight class can give you a great advantage if done properly. So, you need to clean up your diet and train as often as possible. These are always the first two steps in dropping a weight class. Remember, a supplement only aides, it does not replace diet and exercise. There are a few good thermogenic supplements that can help you with this process. The most popular and effective will be caffeine. Caffeine has been proven time and time again to help speed up metabolism and lipolysis (breakdown of fat). There is a good reason caffeine is included in just about every “fat burner” out there. Another good ingredient to look for is green tea extract, specifically EGCG. Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is the active compound in green tea and you should look for it on the ingredient list. EGCG has been shown to increase energy expenditure as well as fat utilization, leading to weight loss. The best part is green tea has been shown to have a synergistic effect with caffeine. A fairly new supplement that has been gaining popularity is green coffee extract. Easily confused with green tea extract, green coffee extract works slightly differently. While it does appear to also increase lipolysis and metabolism similar to caffeine and EGCG, another affect is that it may alter glucose metabolism. Some research suggests that it may act as a glucose “blocker,” essentially stopping some carbohydrates from being absorbed. This may then lead to further weight loss, especially during dieting. Adding these three supplements to your diet and training program can help in dropping that weight class.
Q: I’ve been noticing that a lot of the foods I buy at the grocery store now are touting the fact that they have added protein. When I look at the label it says “Pea protein.” I’m assuming this is a pea, like peas and carrots. I know soy has some detrimental affect for men. What should I know about pea protein?
A: Another great question about a fairly new trend in nutrition. Pea protein is exactly that, the protein derived from split peas. It has become increasingly popular as an additive to many foods, as well as a stand-alone protein powder. This popularity is due to a number of reasons, but mainly because it works. Pea protein is a vegetarian and vegan friendly protein. There has been a search for quite some time to find a non-animal source of high quality protein. For the longest time, soy was the only option. The problem with soy is that high dosages and/or prolonged continuous intake can cause hormonal changes and imbalances, especially in men. Pea protein appears to be the answer to this dilemma. Pea protein surprisingly has been found to have a similar amino acid profile to whey protein and appears to be the best non-animal protein source out there. Research thus far shows no detrimental health affects with pea protein consumption. Another benefit is that it is a rather slow digesting protein, making it a great choice for meal replacements or additions to foods. By adding pea protein to foods it will actually slow down digestion and help keep you full longer. Although whey or egg protein is still a better overall protein source, pea is a great option.
Q: I feel like I’m missing a step when I train with some of the guys that are just a few years younger than me. I’m 44, in good shape, but by the time I get to class (at night) I feel beat. My diet’s good, I get lots of sleep. I haven’t been tested, but I’m thinking maybe my testosterone is low. I don’t think I need to get a prescription for anything. Is there a stack (combination of supplements) that might help get me that “oomph” I’m looking for? Oh, and no complaints from the wife, everything works. I’m just curious if there’s a more natural way of looking like that 80-year-old doctor in the newspaper. Thanks.
A: Well, this actually could be attributed to a number of different issues. The first thing I will suggest is at your next physical you have your doctor take a look at your testosterone levels, just to be sure. I do agree that prescriptions might not be necessary; however, it is always good to know what the problem actually is. You could be fighting to find a solution to the wrong problem. It could be something as simple as you are not eating enough during the day and/or before training to fuel your sessions. If it is an issue of slightly low testosterone, there are a few things you can do. The first would be to get your diet and exercise programs dialed in. Both of these are absolutely critical in maintaining a proper hormonal profile. Healthy fats play an important role in hormone production and therefore, you must ensure you are consuming enough in your diet. As for exercise, if you are not currently lifting weights you need to start. Focus on total body workouts with lots of heavy compound lifts, as this will encourage the greatest testosterone and growth hormone production. As for the supplements, this might be a little tricky. There are a couple supplements that may help, but if you are competing or planning to compete they may be on the banned substances list. If you are not planning on competing soon, I would suggest trying DHEA. DHEA is a naturally occurring compound inside the body that it uses to produce testosterone. However, once men hit about 30-35 years old, DHEA levels inside the body begin to drop fairly quickly. This is one of the causes of the testosterone drop in men as we age. This can potentially cause that exhaustion you’re referring to.