Lil Miss Fitness Freak

"And though she be but little, she is fierce"

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Citrulline Malate…Fitness Friday 38

My friends! It’s March can you believe it? Seems like it was just New Years and now we are three months in already and Spring is in close reaching distance. Guess that is what the internship/Masters application process does to you…makes time fly.

Sidenote: I saw robins yesterday! I was partially excited (cuz spring sign!) but more so concerned because this was after a full on 20-25 degree reduction in temperature in one day. Please don’t be baby-makin yet birdies!


I’d be making that face too if it was 16 one day then I woke up to -10.In fact, I probably did look like that yesterday…

So coming back to another active ingredient in pre-workouts and also BCAA’s, I have always really wondered what this guy was good for. I mean, my coach said it was a good thing and it provided benefits, but apparently I was too busy to think about educating myself on why. I don’t like that….

I always stand for the whole ‘know what and why you are putting something into your body” philosophy and I obviously didn’t follow through with that on this one.

Time to take a scientific looky at it to settle my conscience.

Citrulline Malate

What is it?

Citrulline malate is the quite simply the combination of citrulline and malate. Pretty obvious eh? Citrulline is an important component of the urea cycle, which is where urea is formed from ammonia in the liver. This conversion is important because ammonia is actually toxic in the body if it builds up, while urea is a bit less harmful. Malate, on the other hand, is an intermediate in the  Kreb’s cycle, which is the cycle that releases energy from our macronutrients through oxidizing acetyl CoA.


What does it do?

It has been used in the past as an aid to decrease muscle fatigue and increase functionality. Many studies have shown these effects, whether human or animal (I will present some of the human ones below), in addition to speculating other benefits such as higher clearance of ammonia from the blood post exercise, a possible role in lactate metabolism and some effect on acid-base balance. The mechanism behind all of this remains unknown at this point however.

So, although it has shown benefits for athletic performance, particularly with respect to a more efficiently functioning muscle , we don’t have a strong conclusions as to how it is doing it.

So, below I will highlight a few studies and provide their findings, conclusions and hypotheses regarding a potential mode of action.

Bendahan et al (2002). “CM ingestion resulted in a significant reduction in the sensation of fatigue, a 34% increase in the rate of oxidative ATP production during exercise, and a 20% increase in the rate of phosphocreatine recovery after exercise, indicating a larger contribution of oxidative ATP synthesis to energy production.” Their conclusion? The mechanism of CM’s action that reduces weakness and fatigue could be that it increases aerobic ATP production through providing more of the intermediates to replenish those that were lost more quickly than if you weren’t supplementing. [6g CM used]

Perez-Guisado et al (2010). Their study found that males athletes supplemented with CM saw more than 50% increases in the number of repetitions for barbell bench and a significant decrease in muscle fatigue 24 and 48 hours following the study’s training regime in a double blind, within subject study. In their research, they stated that studies have begin to speculate a role of ammonia in in “blocking cellular energy processes” and causing earlier fatigue. It has also been seen that it plays a role in NO reactions, which has been associated with recovery. Overall they concluded that the results from their study showed that one dose of CM helped with recovery and performance in high-intensity anaerobic activities with short rest times. [8g CM used]

Sureda et al (2010). They took subjects and had them cycle for ~137km with one difficult hill. All were given the same amount of food and fluid. They measured all variables (amino acids and all important exercise related metabolites) 3 hours prior to the race, 15 minutes following and 3 hours following. Overall, they found that the CM group showed a significant decease in the amount of the branched chain amino acids post race, which they said was due to the BCAAs being more effectively used for energy, than the control and higher arginine concentrations, which would contribute to many arginine derived metabolites such as nitrite, urea, creatinine and hormones like growth hormone that are beneficial for muscle growth and function. Finally, they also saw greater nitrogen availability in the CM group, which they stated could increase protein synthesis and protein concentrations in the muscle during exercise leading to better use of the amino acids (particularly the BCAAs). [6g CM used]

Overall, although I only highlighted a few interesting studies I found, I will say that the vast majority of studies I saw (which, I couldn’t have seen them all obviously…) showed significant improvements with its usage, so I have some confidence that it could provide a benefit to those who are looking (and can afford) to get a supplement that may actually do something useful and perhaps give a slight edge with recovery. Is it required to be a better athlete? Well no. Like all supplements, its not a magic powder that will give you huge energy bursts or make your recovery happen in 5 seconds. It is simply supplementing your routine and could provide some little bits of assistance and/or performance enhancements.

Happy Friday Friends!



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The Sunny Vitamin…Fitness Friday 24

Many apologies for my last weeks absence from Fitness Friday, you see here was my week…

Midterm number 1 Tuesday + Group assignment due for clinical 2

Midterm 2 on Friday morning (Keep in mind that Tuesday and Thursday are full days on campus aka very lil study time)

Midterm 3 (CLINCIAL aka extremely dense material) Tuesday, where I could only start studying following my Friday midterm.

Every day basically went like this..

Get up, eat, study, gym, school, study, eat, study, etc, bed. Repeat for 1.5 weeks.

Did my body hate me after that period…? 1000% yes. I retained so much water which I’m still trying to be patient about it coming off and my digestion has been messed for the past week.

Stress my friends, stress is a problem.

Obviously burnt the candle from both ends and overall burnt out in the end. Thankfully, although I, and all the nutrition students, was a complete zombie come Tuesday, I have managed to pull off an 88 in one and a 90 in another, so at least I get some reward from working my ass off.

Okay now that I have cleared my mental space all over you, lets get on with today’s topic


Yes, the “sunshine vitamin

Did you know that a huge number of athletes are deficient in this vitamin and that is has been linked to deficits in athletic performance?

Before I go on, here a quick fact sheet on the sunny vitamin:

~It is fat soluble and is thus best absorbed in the body if taken with fat.

~It’s technically also a hormone. It plays a role as a steroid hormone though working to activate

~The active form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (or calcitriol) is synthesized in the kidneys and released to respond to decreasing serum calcium levels.

~Most of a persons daily needs of vitamin D can actually be made if you get adequate sunning time as it is converted endogenously from UV light. This is with the help of the liver. Of course, most of use don’t get enough real sun time due to fear of skin cancer and being in places that doesn’t give adequate sunlight throughout the year

~One of it’s most important functions is helping with the absorption of calcium in the intestines.

~It is used for more than just bone health, but has also been linked to immunity, growth, and reduction of inflammation.

If you want more facts, visit here.

Okay so you say that many athletes are deficient in it?

A recent study (2015) presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) found that more than 1/3 of their elite collegiate athlete sample had insufficient levels of vitamin D. Moreover, greater risk was associated with being male and having darker skin tones.

This isn’t just an American issue though, many northern latitudes have also found similar issues. This study presented a few studies of athletes in other countries from Finland to France to Germany who also showed drastically high levels of inadequacy in their elite athletes.

Why is this important? 

As mentioned above, yes it is a concern for bones and overall health, but what about in athletic performance, as it is Fitness Friday after all?

Numerous studies have found impaired performance in athletes who were deficient.

~This study gave a great highlight reel of studies showing how UV radiation improved performance in athletes. The research dated back into the 1930’s and continues to show a seasonal variation in performance that follows a similar pattern as vitamin D levels. Basically, greater activation of the active form of vitamin D occurred during times when there sunlight was greater and more people were taking that sunlight in. So peak training took place during the summer months and a sharp decrease was shown in the fall and winter months.

~This review gave a great presentation of the role of vitamin D in the muscle.

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~This study, among many others, suggested that athletes may require higher than normal levels of vitamin D to support performance and recovery. Furthermore, a safe dose of radiation therapy may be beneficial, but more research is needed.

Overall, despite a lot of research on why low vitamin D levels could contribute to performance and recovery deficits, the research in supplementation with athletes is minimal and mixed. Perhaps they need higher doses of supplements as supplemental forms do not get as well absorbed in the body? This could be a good guess as these have been numerous studies showing that UV light (which enables more endogenously created vitamin D) increases performance and that is the form that is most related to circulating vitamin D.

So how can I make sure I get enough?

Another quick fact is that the majority of your vitamin D that contributes to circulating serum levels is not from you diet. In fact, there is quite a shortage of foods that contain vitamin D and the actual amount of that you absorb is not that great.

Most of us here in Canada are deficient, in the winter time especially, and so supplementation is always recommended on top of trying to get in some sources from food. Overall, all methods that include ingesting sources are not the best at reaching your targets so the best idea is simply to try to get a bit of all sources. Some sun, some food (natural sources + fortified) and take a good supplement.

Foods highest in Vitamin D

~Fatty, cold water fish (mackerel, sardines, etc)

~Egg yolks


~Fortified sources like dairy and even some juices like O-J are also fortified. NOTE that being a fat soluble vitamin, you best bet is to buy full fat dairy sources. 

***NO this is not bad for you. Fat is not bad for you. It is simply more calorically dense, which should leave you feeling more satisfied and fuller. Sorry had to get that out of the way. 

For you supplement route..

If you take a daily fish oil (one of my top recommendations), most of those contain a good dose of vitamin D. For example, cod liver oil is a great choice. I will also say liquids first, try to avoid capsules for fish oils or pure vitamin D supplements. The sublingual forms of vitamin D, those that go under the tongue, often come in flavours these days and fish oils have come a long way as well. No excuses folks, just chuck them back. 

So what is my take on all of this?

It appears to be too early to tell whether performance can be enhanced with a supplement. It may be that supplements are just not absorbed well enough to present any benefit for athletic performance or it could be that athletes just need more. That is unclear. What I will say that is that regardless, I still recommend a supplement to help you out because most of us Canadians and Americans are deficient and there are umpteen other health benefits of vitamin D that are important to consider.

Well that’s it for tonight friends!

Happy start to your weekend 🙂

Do you take a vitamin D supplement? 


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Caffeine-Free Buzz…Fitness Friday 16

My friends!

Welcome back to another round of Fitness Friday! Last week I had mentioned that we were going to discuss something erotic, but of the natural variety and, well, here she is. The star of the discussion today is…

Maca Powder.

This ain’t no one trick pony though, oh no! She doesn’t just help with sexual health, but she may help with a whole host of other things..

BUT before we get into those, lets first explain what the heck this powder is.

What is Maca exactly?

As taken from this book,  Maca is found in South America, Peru specifically, and is a root vegetable that comes from the same family as many coniferous veggies such as cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, and broccoli. It looks very much like a beet in shape (as you can see from the image above). It grows in extremely harsh conditions and apparently the volcanic soils in this environment are very mineral rich, which then lends itself to the superior ‘powers’ of this vegetable.

What was it used for?

Traditionally it was used by the Peruvians for food and medicinal purposes with one of the main uses being a fertility supplement for both men and women. As a food supplement, maca is rich in antioxidants, minerals (such as magnesium, phosphorous, iron, calcium) and fiber and it very easy for the body to digest. This last part made it great for helping to treat those who were malnourished, were elderly or very young (Source).

Random facts from the book once again for this nutrition powerhouse:

~Taking size into perspective, maca actually has more calcium than milk

~Due to the fiber, it helps to keep people regular

~It contains almost 60 different phytonutrients (compounds found in plants that promote good health)

What do we know about it now?

Maca has been found to have quite a number of important properties! Here are some of the major ones that have been identified and actually looked into:


Very generally speaking, adaptogens are those that support your body’s ability to adapt to stress. A 2008 study by Brook’s and colleagues found that when post-menopausal women were supplemented with 3.5g of maca per day (that is less than a tsp), their psychological scores related to anxiety and depression were significantly lower then the placebo group.

Libido Enhancer 

Sexual desire has also been something that maca appears to enhance. In a study by Stone et al (2009), male athletes were supplemented with maca root or given a placebo and than assessed for changes in sexual desire. Following a 14 day period, those who were supplemented with the maca had significantly higher desire compared to their initial assessment while also being significantly higher then those given the placebo


The Peruvians noticed that not only did maca increase the number of offspring in their cattle, but the same boost in fertility also seemed to show in humans. Although most of more recent studies looking into such effect are in animals (for example here, showing higher sperm counts in male mice, here for increases in litter sizes in females mice), there are a few human studies that show positive effects of maca use in both females and males. A nice review was done of both animal and human studies here.

Other potential benefits?

Help with osteoporosis, used as a natural stimulant, contributes to balancing hormones, possible link to cancer fighting properties, and many more. See here

Of course, we must talk about fitness here, SO what about it’s properties in athletes?


Maca has been found to increase stamina and endurance in human subjects. Looking back at the study on male athletes (they were cyclists) by Stone and colleagues, when supplemented with maca, the males significantly improved on their 40km time compared to their baseline testing.

So as you can see, maca has gotten quite a lot of attention for many potential benefits in humans. Although it’s still heavily in the research stage, anecdotal evidence suggests that it does promote well being in people who use it. Completely not necessary for good health, but perhaps something to try as a natural boost to stamina, attention and sexual health.

As to how you use it…

It is strong stuff guys. Most tend to throw it in a smoothie or something to that nature as it’s strong flavour and smell will be more manageable. Otherwise, if you’re willing to take a risk like me and just throw in a shot glass with your other morning concoction ingredients, be my guest. Just start in slow is all I can say.

So that’s that for this week friends. Have a great weekend!

Ever tried maca before?

How do you use it?