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Should I Use a Caffeine Supplement When I Work Out?

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– Fitness Tips –

It depends. Here is the case for caffeine supplements — and some safety concerns as well.

Caffeine delivers a jolt of energy, and though our bodies don’t need the -nutrient to function optimally, it is often used as a supplement itself or added to other supplements. It’s not strictly a nutritional supplement, nor does it offer longer-term benefits, but it can be effective and safe when used with care — and problematic if overused.

What It Is: Caffeine is an organic compound found in coffee, tea, cacao, the cola nut, and yerba mate. Natural caffeine is extracted and offered as a supplement in myriad forms, including tablets, powder, and liquids. Synthetic caffeine can spur a quicker spike and quicker crash, and is best avoided.

What It Does: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, increases blood flow to muscles and the heart, and helps burn fat for energy. It also stimulates the adrenal glands, which secrete fight-or-flight hormones, giving you additional energy. Caffeine also appears to reduce perceived pain and exertion. Study findings indicate it’s most effective for endurance activities (such as running and cycling) and activities of long duration with intermittent activity (soccer) rather than more anaerobic, shorter bouts of intense exercise (like weightlifting).

Why You Might Use It: You’re seeking a kick-start or burst of zing. But caffeine is more than just an energizer, reports Life Time’s Tom Nikkola, CSCS. “Caffeine significantly improves time to fatigue as well.”

Caffeine is considered safe at up to 400 to 500 mg per day for adults: A brewed cup of coffee and a commercial energy shot each contain about 190 to 200 mg. Regular caffeine drinkers whose bodies are more acclimated to it may find it less ergogenic. Ingest 30 to 60 minutes prior to an event.

Safety Concerns: “Heavy caffeine use (500 mg per day or more) might diminish rather than enhance physical performance,” according to the NIH. Note that the International Olympic Committee and National Collegiate Athletic Association consider caffeine consumed at certain high levels a “controlled or restricted substance.”

This originally appeared as “Fitness Supplements 101” in the July-August 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

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Health & Fitness

Which Type of Butter Should You Choose?

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Which butter is better? Here are five varieties to consider.

  1. Organic butter offers more healing omega-3 fatty acids than other butters. And it’s less likely to have high levels of toxins, which can accumulate in an animal’s fatty tissues.
  2. Grassfed butter delivers more beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant, and CLA can help improve body composition and reduce cardiovascular-disease risk. Some studies also show CLA may help protect against cancer.
  3. Cultured butter is slightly fermented or aged. “Fermenting butter increases the amount of butyrate,” says nutritionist Liz Lipski, PhD, which is a win for gut health. It also has a slightly tangy flavor that many people enjoy.
  4. Unsalted butter is largely a matter of taste preference compared with salted butter. Like butter, salt carries its own stigma when it comes to heart health — one that has been debunked in recent years. (For more on concerns about sodium, see “Is Salt Bad for You — Or Not?”.)
  5. Ghee is a clarified butter in which the milk has been heated and the solids skimmed off. It can be used in all the same ways as butter, and because the solids have been removed, it is often more digestible for people who don’t tolerate casein or lactose. It contains the same nutrients as butter, including butyrate. Ghee is stable at room temperature, making it a good option for meals on the go or while camping. (For a tasty recipe for infused ghee, visit “Infused Ghee”.)

This article originally appeared as “Butter Up” in “Everything’s Better With Butter” in the January/February 2021 issue of Experience Life.

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