Picture this: an entire month without suffering through debilitating cramps, popping over-the-counter and prescription pain pills, and stumbling through those first few days of your period. Sound too good to be true? If you’re one of half the menstruating population who experiences painful cramps each month, it may seem like it.
The best solution for any uncomfortable condition is to discover why it occurs. Instead of treating symptoms, a functional medicine practitioner can help you solve the issues that causes discomfort, boosting your health overall.
There are many natural ways to minimize the symptoms associated with menstruation, however. Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite tips for eliminating cramps naturally so that you can enjoy your life to the fullest, no matter the day of the month!
ZMA (Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate) is a hot topic for debate. Many love to discuss whether it has a positive effect on both muscle growth and testosterone production. There have been studies with results proving both sides of the debate, so who is right?
Let’s break it down and you can be the judge. We will start with Zinc.
Zinc is a product of the citric acid cycle. It is found in all cells of the body. It has a direct effect on both cell growth and repair. It’s also needed in over 80 enzymes and hormone functions, including reproductive hormones like testosterone.
The aspartic properties used in ZMA are used for better absorption into the cells. They also have a positive influence on cell retention and oxygen efficiency.
Zinc levels have a direct correlation to testosterone levels. Meaning, if there is a zinc deficiency, testosterone is probably also low. Zinc is an inhibitor of the aromatase enzyme which prevents the increase of estrogen. Increases in estrogen could cause a decrease in testosterone. This interferes with the muscle building process.
This mineral has several important functions in the body such as contraction and relaxation of muscles, production of protein, and transport of energy. Magnesium deficiencies are rare if you eat a high level of dark vegetables, nuts, and fruit. However, many of us fail at this diet. As evident by our growing obesity and disease rate, most people do not eat a healthy diet and we cannot always depend on our food to contain all the nutrients we need. (See Do We Need Supplements?)
A lack of magnesium in the body causes confusion, fatigue, insomnia, muscle twitching, and also irritability. Obviously, this can get in the way of training.
A Note on B6
Like all B vitamins, B6 is a vitamin that helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose. B6 specifically helps the body make neurotransmitters and is needed for both brain development and function. Other uses are the production of the hormones serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. These hormones are responsible for both mood regulation and sleep regulation.
If we look at ZMA as a whole, it is a supplement that may increase testosterone production through zinc (especially if levels are low), keep alertness levels higher and help to regulate sleep. Most people will take ZMA to increase productivity at the gym, decrease body fat and also increase muscle mass. Knowing that most of the population does not eat correctly and sleep long or deep enough, I would say that ZMA would have a positive effect for most people. In order to increase testosterone levels and lose body fat, you must sleep. Since ZMA may have a positive effect on sleep patterns and hormone regulation, it appears to be advantageous to use ZMA as a supplement to increase testosterone and decrease body fat.
University of Maryland Medical Center
L.R. BRILLA1 AND VICTOR CONTE. Effects of a Novel Zinc Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength. Exercise and Sports Science Laboratory, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9067
J Nutr, 1996 Apr, 126(4):842-8, “Dietary zinc deficiency alters 5 alpha-reduction and aromatization of testosterone and androgen and estrogen receptors in rat liver”
Neuropharmacology, 2009, 56:531–540, “Zinc regulates the dopamine transporter in a membrane potential and chloride-dependent manner”
National Institutes of Health: Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and markers of Anabolism and Catabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004; 1(2): 12–20. Published online 2004 December 31.
Could fish oil cure ADHD? A recent study indicates that omega-3 fish oil might alleviate the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This study also appears in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Fish Oil Studies
Researchers at the University of South Australia performed the study with 132 children suffering from ADHD. It lasted for 30 weeks. All the children were between the ages of 7 and 12 years.
During the first 15 weeks, researchers split the children into three groups. The children were assigned either an omega-3 supplement, omega-3 plus a multivitamin, or a placebo in the form of palm oil capsules. After this, each child was also given omega-3 and the multivitamins for the remaining 15 weeks.
Researchers found over 50 percent of the children taking omega-3 for the entire 30 weeks had considerable improvements in symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and also inattention. However, the children taking only multivitamins showed no change in ADHD symptoms.
However, when the placebo group switched to omega-3s, all children showed improvements in ADHD symptoms.
Philip Calder is the professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton. He also claims the results are further evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are important in understanding ADHD symptoms.
He added, “The results of this latest trial add to the growing body of evidence showing that children with attention problems can benefit from increased intake of certain fatty acids.”
SOURCE: Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, April 2007, http://www.jrnldbp.com/pt/re/jdbp/abstract.00004703-200704000-00002.htm
What is a Good Supplement Program?
Finding a good supplement program isn’t as easy as taking a one-a-day multivitamin and calling it a day. Every person is different and so are their nutritional needs.
The first thing one should do when wanting to add more nutrients and vitamins to their nutrition is to stop eating processed foods. Anything that comes in a box, can or wrapper is considered processed…even if it says natural and organic!
Fill those nutritional gaps with whole, real food. Fruits and vegetables have the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals.
If you want to cover your ass, take a high-quality multivitamin from Biotics Research or BioMatrix.
That being said, it is still important to remember that as an individual with individual needs, it is recommended that you consult with a specialist that can help you design a specific supplement protocol program.
There is plenty of research out there on creatine. Much of it both proves and disproves its use. It is most famous for its performance-enhancing claims and also it’s purported ability to add fat-free mass. However, from what I’ve seen in the real world, it works for some and not others. I can give you some guidelines based on the research that may help decide if it is the right supplement to use.
Which Creatine to Use?
Studies have shown no difference between the buffered Kre-Alkalyn versus the monohydrate. Another study also compares the differences between monohydrate and creatine HCl. The study shows that the HCl is more bioavailable than the monohydrate. This could make it more effective in absorption. However, studies comparing the two show no statistical difference when testing endurance adaptations.
Since monohydrate is the most common form both found and used, let’s focus on its dosage. In the past, those who used monohydrate would load at 20g per day for 5 days. A more specific protocol would be to load at 0.15 grams per pound of body weight. Then a maintenance phase would work at 5g per day.
Pre-Workout or Post-Workout?
All of the current studies show that post-workout supplementation is more effective than pre-workout. For best results, combine the creatine with protein and/or carbohydrates as this will raise insulin and help the creatine absorb into the muscle.
Is Creatine Good for Women?
Well, the studies show that it doesn’t help physically. However, it may help psychologically by buffering the lactic threshold and also decreasing exertion with female cyclists. Other studies show that a lower dosage of around 2g per day may be all that is needed for both men and women to resist fatigue.
Hopefully, this article will help you make an informed decision about using creatine. There are plenty of studies to support and disapprove of its usage. It is ultimately up to you to decide whether it is right for you.
Antonio and Ciccone: The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013 10:36.
Jagim et al.: A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012 9:43.
Outlaw et al.: Effects of post-exercise whey protein vs. whey protein plus creatine consumption in females. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2013 10(Suppl 1):P20.
Effects of Creatine Monohydrate vs. Creatine Hydrochloride on Muscle Endurance Performance. Naylor, K., Albright, C., Liggitt, C., Kolenc, A., Robinson, R., Braun, W., Sanders, J. Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA
Stewart, RW Jr.; Glenn, JM; Smith, K; Moyen, NE; Galey, M; and Gray, M (2014) “EFFECTS OF BETA-ALANINE AND CREATINE MONOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTATION ON ANAEROBIC PERFORMANCE IN TRAINED FEMALE CYCLISTS,” International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings: Vol. 11: Iss. 2, Article 61.
Want the best way to recover post-workout? Midway through and post-workout, use both leucine and carbohydrates with branched-chain amino acids. During exercise, the body both breaks down and releases leucine. It also goes into a negative balance of protein synthesis to protein breakdown. If you want to see results faster, supplementation is one of the best ways to help support your body.
The suggested effective dose is 21g of essential amino acids. Studies have shown no significant difference between dosing 40g and 21g. The higher dosage is typically recommended by both trainers and coaches. The researched effective ratio to the other BCAAs is 2:1:1. However, some studies have shown that taking 3.5-5g may be a more effective dose.
Take about 20-30g of your choice of supplement. I prefer BCAA Excellence. Supplements should be taken both halfway through and post-workout with your choice of carbohydrate to assist in protein synthesis. This will support your body in both muscle repair and recovery.
Crowe MJ, Weatherson JN (2002) The effects of dietary L-leucine supplementation on exercise performance. Sports Medicine and Science at the Extremes. Australian Conference of Science and Medicine in Sport. 12–16 October, Melbourne, Australia