What Happened When 6 Whey Lovers Did A Blind Plant Protein Taste Test

We know what you’re thinking: Plant-based proteins taste like dirt. Ten years ago (um, okay, maybe five) that may have been true, but today’s plant proteins are smoother and tastier than ever—so good, in fact, that whey has some serious competition.

Whether dairy bothers your stomach, you live the vegan life, or your morning smoothie is itching for an upgrade, plant protein is just waiting to win you over. (And select tubs are 20 percent off until 2/25, if you need a little extra motivation to make the switch.)

We put a bunch of whey devotees in a room to prove once and for all that plant protein is seriously good—and we’re willing to bet that their three favorite picks from our blind taste test will make converts out of you, too.


Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein

With 24 grams of protein, four grams of BCAAs and four grams of glutamine, Optimum Nutrition pulls out all the stops in making sure their plant protein is as muscle-friendly as their whey. Made with a variety of plant-based proteins—from peas, brown rice, sacha inchi nuts, quinoa, and chia—and naturally flavored and sweetened, Optimum Nutrition’s plant protein was the across-the-board favorite of our taste-testers. The vanilla’s pleasant ‘note of cinnamon’ and the chocolate’s ‘mocha-y vibe’ make these proteins delicious when mixed with plain ol’ water. Once you’re hooked, try the berry flavor.


Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder

One of the OGs in plant protein game, Orgain has mastered the texture and flavor of their brown rice-, chia-, hemp-, and pea-based proteins. A two-scoop serving offers 21 grams of protein and five grams of fiber for just one gram of sugar. (It’s sweetened with a variety of ingredients, like erythritol, stevia, and monkfruit.) Multiple taste-testers identified it as the closest to whey, thanks to its thick, creamy texture. In addition to creamy chocolate fudge and sweet vanilla bean, the peanut butter and iced matcha latte flavors are also scrumptious with every sip.


Garden Of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein

One of our testers loved Garden of Life Sport’s plant protein so much she now swears she’ll never take another protein home. This buzzy protein packs everything the most active us could need from a protein supplement, including 30 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of BCAAs, five grams of glutamine, probiotics, tart cherry, and turmeric. The chocolate and vanilla flavors are simple and un-messed-with; our taste-testers said they’d drink them both with H20 and in smoothies.

6 Ways Bad Posture Impacts Your Body Long-Term

Your mother might have nagged you to stand up straight throughout your adolescence—but she was right to do so. Good posture and correct body alignment prevent excess strain on your joints, muscles, and spine, reducing pain and the chance of injury, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most people don’t sport ideal posture, says Mt. Sinai, NY-based Kristine McCarren, PT, DPT. And it can cause a world of hurt in the long-term

Here are six ways poor posture can affect your body—plus tips for how to improve your stance.

1. Headaches

Poor posture strains the muscles at the back of your head, neck, upper back and jaw.

“The human head weighs about 10 pounds,” McCarren says. “Your cervical spine is designed to support this weight with its structure, alignment and surrounding musculature and soft tissue.”

When your muscles are pulled in directions other than their normal tension, this puts pressure on nearby nerves, triggering tension-type headaches, explains Alex Cadwallader, DPT, who practices at Linwood, NJ-based Coron Physical Therapy.

2. Jaw pain

Have you ever noticed that when you’re sitting at your desk, you roll your shoulders forward and your head slouches? Now your rear neck and shoulder muscles are sitting in a constant lengthened position, while your anterior neck and shoulder muscles are chronically shortened, McCarren says.

“Then, the muscles attached to your jaw’s bony structures become misaligned at rest and with movement, such as chewing, causing pain,” McCarren says.

When you open or close your mouth, you might also experience popping in your jaw’s temporomandibular joint (TMJ). “In addition to a dental evaluation, patients with TMJ disease can benefit from postural education and regular exercise to optimize muscle and soft tissue function,” McCarren says.

3. Back and neck pain

Poor posture commonly contributes to chronic back and neck pain, tightness or stiffness—and can reduce your quality of life.

In addition, belly fat increases pressure on your spine’s intervertebral discs and other bony regions. “Any time there’s altered mechanics in one section of the spine, the other regions must compensate,” Cadwallader says.

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4. Knee, hip, and foot pain

Muscle weakness or tightness, limited flexibility, and poor alignment from your hips down might keep your kneecap from sliding neatly over your femur, according to the Mayo Clinic. What can result is a condition called patellofemoral pain, causing knee pain.

Poor foot and ankle alignment can also trigger plantar fasciitis, where the tissue connecting your heel to the ball of your foot gets inflamed and causes heel pain.

5. Shoulder pain and impingement

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons connecting your upper arm to your shoulder. Muscle tightness or weakness from poor posture can irritate these tendons, causing discomfort, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Your shoulder is made up of four joints, connected by 17 muscles,” McCarren says. “Many of these muscles become weak or tight with prolonged poor posture.” Ultimately, your rotator cuff tissue could tear. This can cause major pain and weakness, really impacting your daily activities.

6. Fatigue and breathing problems.

Poor posture can restrict your rib cage, compressing your diaphragm. This reduces your lung capacity, leading to shallow or labored breathing, exhaustion, and lack of energy, which affects your overall productivity.

“Bad posture affects the intercostal muscles between each rib,” Cadwallader says. “Plus, rolled shoulders cause your shortened muscle fibers, which keeps your rib cage from fully expanding and affects your breathing.”

How to Improve Your Posture—Today

You can introduce smart posture habits right now, but unlearning years of bad habits may take work. “Because posture is usually a lifelong development, it’s very difficult to completely eradicate deficits,” Cadwallader says. “Hard work and dedication are the only true ways to improve posture.”

Keep these five tips in mind each day:

1. Walk Tall.

Take a breath in, rolling your shoulders up and back. Then, exhale, rolling your shoulders down. 

2. Do posture checks throughout the day, especially at work.

At first, set a reminder on your phone for a quick check every 15 minutes, McCarren suggests. “Work from your head down: chin tucked back, shoulder blades down and back, abdominals drawn in, pelvis tilted into a neutral position, hips and knees at a 90 degree angle, and feet flat on the floor,” McCarren says.

3. Try seated pelic tilts.

Sit on the edge of a chair, your hands on your thighs and feet on the floor. As you inhale, rock your pelvis and ribs forward as you expand your chest and look up. Then, exhale as rock your pelvis and spine back and forth, looking at the floor.  

Related: Got Back Pain? Here’s What To Do About It

4. Try chin tucks.

These help with headaches, jaw pain, and upper back pain, says Cadwaller. “Give yourself a double chin by driving your cervical region toward your back and holding for the position for three to five seconds 20 to 25 times.

5. Do a wake-up or bEDTIME bridge pose.

Lie on your back in bed with your knees bent and your feet resting on the mattress. Inhale, then slowly exhale and curl your tailbone to lift your buttocks and spine, one vertebrae at a time, until your shoulder blades bear your weight. Pause and inhale, then slowly exhale as you roll your spine back down.

Assessing your posture

To really maintain good posture, according to the American Chiropractic Association, you need to have sufficient muscle flexibility and strength, postural muscles that are in balance on either side of your spine, and normal joint motion throughout your body.

The “wall test” is an easy way to assess your postural alignment at home, explains Pamela J. Bigelow, PT, MSPT, MTC, a physical therapist at New Jersey at Rehab Excellence Centers and Advanced Physical Therapy.

To do it, try this: Stand so that the back of your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks touch the wall. Your heels should be less than six inches from the wall. Put a flat hand behind the small of your back. “If your low-back curve posture is correct, the back of your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks should touch the wall,” Bigelow says. “There should be less than two inches of space between the back of your neck and small of your back, and the wall.”


Blind Taste Test: Which Natural Proteins Reigned Supreme?

The clean eating trend is no longer just for hippies and health nuts. And if you’re looking for a cleaner, meaner whey protein supplement, you’ve got plenty of options. But can a shake really exude the spirit of a chocolate fudge brownie or vanilla ice cream without artificial flavors and sweeteners? Yes, friends. Yes, it can.

We gathered a bunch of whey lovers in one room to taste test shake after shake (chocolate and vanilla), and pit the latest and greatest natural proteins against each other.

Here were their top picks.


Garden Of Life Organic Grass-Fed Whey Protein

Garden of Life has finally gifted us all with a line of organic whey proteins. Our expectations of the latest product from the leader in super-clean, natural supplements were high, but we weren’t disappointed: Both the chocolate cacao and vanilla flavors were crowd favorites. The vanilla had a ‘buttery vanilla flavor’ that our taste-testers compared to vanilla pudding, and said they could sip on all day. Meanwhile, the chocolate boasted a ‘pleasant, genuine cocoa flavor.’ Garden of Life uses ingredients like organic cacao, organic vanilla flavor, sea salt, and organic stevia for flavor that’s rich (but real!) and a serving packs 21 grams of protein.

Want to mix things up? Try the strawberry or peanut butter flavors.


Optimum Nutrition Naturally-Flavored Gold Standard 100% Whey

It was only a matter of time before protein giant Optimum Nutrition launched a natural whey protein—and no surprise that it was another taste test winner. With 24 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of BCAAs, it packs all the muscle-building power of your favorite Gold Standard, but swaps out artificial sweeteners for good ol’ sugar (just four grams a serving, don’t worry). Taste-testers loved the smooth, subtly sweet flavor of the vanilla and compared the chocolate to hot cocoa.


Isopure Natural Whey Protein Isolate

With just three grams of carbs and a solid 25 grams of protein per scoop, Isopure’s natural protein also swaps artificial flavors and sweeteners for sugar. The testers’ taste buds loved Isopure’s slightly thicker consistency, along with the caramel vibe of the vanilla flavor.

Isopure also packs added vitamins and minerals—including B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium—for a more nutritionally-balanced refuel. Win win!

6 Carbs That Can Help You Lose Weight

Carbs have it pretty rough. Meal after meal, they do their job, tirelessly working to fuel our bodies with the energy we need to thrive, be active, and, yes, even lose weight. And how do we repay them? By cutting them out of our diets.

“Many fad diets like the Atkins Diet have vilified carbohydrates as a dietary evil and blamed them for weight gain,” explains Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.C.S., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss. These fad diets (and the slew of best-selling books that accompany them) have used cherry-picked shreds of evidence to suggest that obesity is caused solely by carbohydrates—and as convincing as they may be, they’re wrong, she says.

It’s time set things straight: Carbohydrates are not the enemy.

Carbohydrates are our body’s primary energy source, helping to power everything from brain function to our workouts. The key is making sure that the carbs we eat are from whole, nutritious foods—straight from good ol’ mother nature, says Canada-based nutrition counselor Abby Langer, R.D. These carb sources, like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, contain fiber, which increases satiety, regulates digestion, and is consistently linked to weight loss. (Men need 38 grams a day, while women need 25.) Studies have even shown that just increasing fiber intake can be as effective for weight loss as full-fledged dieting.

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To reach your daily fiber (and other nutrient) needs and hit your healthy weight for good, Langer recommends incorporating about half a cup of healthy carbs into each meal. Here are your six most weight loss-friendly options.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are subject to tons of hate from the low-carb clan, but sweet potatoes, white potatoes—they’re all good. “I cannot say anything bad about potatoes. There’s nothing unhealthy about them,” says Langer. One particular perk: Potatoes are full of resistant starch, a type of fiber that literally resists digestion, filling you up but never making its way to your bloodstream. (It’s one reason potatoes are often identified as one of the most satiating foods around!)

Related: Why Everyone Needs To Stop Hating On White Potatoes

Carb up: Try serving up your spuds baked, and play around with healthy toppings like Greek yogurt, black beans, poached eggs, or cheese. Be creative; just don’t fry them or drown them in butter and sour cream.

2. Starchy Vegetables

Potatoes are technically starchy veggies, but the other carb-rich veggies out there—think carrots, squash, corn, and beets—deserve a shout-out too, Langer says. Starchy vegetables sometimes get a bad rap simply because they contain more carbs than non-starchy vegetables (think spinach or asparagus), but that’s not a bad thing! For example, a third of a medium carrot’s six grams of carbs come from fiber, plus a carrot packs a full day’s-worth of vitamin A.

Carb up: Exactly how you integrate starchy veggies into your meals depends on which you prefer. Fear’s personal favorite? Kabocha squash. “I love it cubed, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted,” she says. “It’s a great thing to toss on a salad to make it more filling than it would be with just leaves.” The cube, roast, and toss rule-of-thumb applies to pretty much any starchy veggie out there, whether it’s squash, beets, or parsnips.

3. Whole Grains

This is a big category, and includes everything from whole-wheat bread and brown rice to ancient grains like spelt, millet, barley, oats, freekeh, bulgur, sorghum, farro, quinoa, and amaranth. Unlike refined grains, these good-for-you grains all have one thing in common: fiber—and lots of it. Replacing any white carbs in your diet with whole grains can both reduce overall calorie intake and boost your metabolism, according to 2017 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Carb up: If you regularly eat white carbs, swap them out for their whole-grain counterparts. Or, cook up your favorite ancient grain and mix in your favorite veggies and protein for a satisfying, balanced meal, suggests Langer.

4. Legumes

Carb- and fiber-rich legumes (think beans, chickpeas, peas, and lentils) are all over your weight-loss goals. After all, a single serving provides about half your daily fiber needs, and according to one 2016 meta-analysis, simply adding about three quarters of a cup of legumes into your daily diet can directly contribute to weight loss. Not to mention, legumes are also a great source of plant-based protein, which makes your meals more satisfying and revs your metabolism. A cup of cooked lentils packs 18 grams!

Carb up: Stock up on canned legumes, rinse them to remove excess sodium, and then throw them on top of everything from salads to pastas to potatoes to open-faced sandwiches—the options are endless!

5. Fruit

Fruit—be it bananas, apples, or blueberries—can absolutely be a part of your weight-loss plan. Despite the fact that they’re rich in simple sugars, fruits are linked to better blood sugar control, which supports healthy weight loss.

Carb up: When you need a healthy snack, pair your favorite fruit with a source of fat and protein, like string cheese or peanut butter, for example. The combo will help slow digestion and keep you feeling fuller, longer, says Fear. Just stick to three or fewer servings of fruit a day and you’ll be golden.

6. Dairy

Aside from being a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and protein, dairy can help your weight-loss efforts. In fact, one Harvard University review found that dieters who ate a serving of yogurt daily lost more weight than those who didn’t.

Carb up: Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, and even regular cheese can all help you hit your goals. And, no, you don’t have to opt for low-fat; new research shows that full-fat diary might be more effective for weight loss, since fat is so satiating. As long as dairy doesn’t bother your stomach, feel free to incorporate up to one serving of full-fat dairy with each meal, Fear says.

Consider this infographic your quick healthy carbs guide:

Is Drinking Raw Water Really A Good Idea?

Twenty years ago the idea of eating raw food was brave and adventurous, but nowadays preteens are noshing on tuna sashimi at the mall and the ‘raw food movement’ has an ever-growing membership.

Just when we were getting really used to the idea of tossing our pots and pans, however, a new raw trend had emerged: drinking raw water.  In the wake of the Flint, Michigan crisis and with watchdog groups like the Environmental Working Group raising questions about harmful contaminants in tap water across the country, raw water companies like Live Spring Water and Tourmaline Spring claim to offer a bottled-at-the-source alternative that’s so pure it doesn’t need to be treated or filtered—basically the next best thing to dipping your cup into a bubbling mountain stream.

Any water that’s untouched, directly from its natural source—be it a spring or the rain—is technically raw water. Drinking water this way was normal practice throughout most of human history, but companies marketing it to the public in the age of widespread water treatment? That’s something different.

These new raw waters—sometimes also called ‘live’ or ‘living’—are said to taste better and contain beneficial compounds like minerals or probiotics that are often removed from treated water. They are also marketed as free of sewage remnants, antibiotic and medication residue, and other undesirable substances that can leach into the tap water.

These waters also don’t contain chlorine and fluoride, which are added to public drinking water to kill bacteria and prevent cavities, respectively. (Despite the CDC’s assurances that the amounts of chlorine and fluoride in drinking water are safe for human consumption—and data confirming the widespread benefits of fluoride—there are still skeptics out there, which makes raw water appealing to these groups). Raw water companies even promote the fact that their H20 doesn’t pass through lead pipes, which, despite being banned in 1986, have again become a major concern in recent years.

But is it all too good to be true? In a word: yes.

Sure, raw water, with all the claims of its beneficial nutrients and probiotics, sounds great in theory, but it can actually be pretty dangerous, says Christine Moe, Ph.D., the Eugene J. Gangarosa Professor of Safe Water and Sanitation at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Water treatment (which includes multiple steps to filter out any potentially-harmful components and disinfect the water that reaches our sinks), though not perfect, has a long history of preventing diseases like cholera and typhoid, and protecting people from pathogens like E.coli. These diseases are still significantly more common in parts of the world that lack this infrastructure, explains Moe.

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“Raw water is a huge question mark in terms of its contaminants and supposed benefits,” Moe says. It’s very possible that straight-from-the-source water contains substances like soil, microorganisms, and even remnants of animal feces (yes, poop) that can be dangerous—especially for people with compromised immune systems, she adds.

Related: 10 Products Health Experts Can’t Live Without

The bottom line: It’s much more important for your drinking water to be free of contaminants than it is for it to contain extra minerals and come from an exotically-named spring. If you see bottled water labeled ‘raw’ on your supermarket shelf, though, consider it a marketing ploy, since bottled water is regulated by the FDA and has to undergo testing and whatever treatment necessary to ensure the water is safe.

If you’re concerned about drinking your local tap water, Moe recommends using a reverse osmosis filter system—which pushes water through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out potential contaminant particles—instead of turning to raw water.

Are Lectins The New Gluten?

When it comes to nutrition, there’s always a new bad guy. First, we avoided fat. Then, carbs got the boot. It seems the more we dissect the foods we eat, the more likely we are to find something to worry about.

Take the gluten-free craze, for example: Life-changing for people with Celiac’s disease or gluten sensitivities—but pretty darn confusing for the rest of us. Ask two different experts about whether or not you should avoid gluten and you’ll get two different answers.

Adding to the confusion, lectins—a protein found in plants—are on the chopping block now, too.

You’ll find some type of lectin in all sorts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy—with grains, legumes, and nightshade vegetables often at the center of the controversy. Cut out chick peas? Say it ain’t so!

First, a little background: Lectins are basically a defense mechanism, protecting plants from harmful pathogens—like fungi, insects, molds, and diseases—in their environment by binding to the cell membranes of certain sugar and carb molecules. Lectins also help seeds travel through animals’ (humans included) digestive systems unscathed, so they can make it back to the soil and grow.

Since we don’t digest lectins, they may cause GI issues like gas and bloating (you know what they say about beans, after all) and even trigger our immune system’s inflammatory response as they pass through our systems, according to Precision Nutrition. And since lectins bind to sugars and carbs, they can interfere with our absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

While some experts suggest issues are more pronounced in people who already have compromised guts or immune systems, others go as far as to label lectins as straight-up toxic. According to the best-selling book, The Plant Paradox, one of the leading works on the anti-lectin train, lectins “incite a kind of chemical warfare in our bodies, causing inflammatory reactions that can lead to weight gain and serious health conditions.” The author, Steven Gundry, M.D., suggests lectins are implicated in everything from autoimmune diseases, cancer, heart disease, mental health issues, and dementia.

But don’t freak out just yet. Some lectins can be toxic (which is why we don’t eat castor beans, for example), but others can have powerful beneficial effects, such as modulating inflammation and grabbing onto harmful molecules associated with disease. (After all, oxygen is technically a toxin, but that doesn’t mean you should stop breathing!)

You don’t need to stop eating foods that are otherwise healthy just because they contain lectins, confirms David L. Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Most of the research on lectins out there is done on small animals or cell cultures, not humans, and while some do suggest the potential toxic effects of certain lectins, the results are very preliminary and don’t necessarily translate to humans, Katz says.

And even then, “the research suggests this tends to be the case only if lectin foods are consumed raw—and when’s the last time you ate a raw chickpea?” says Abbey Sharp, R.D. When you cook your food, lectins often bind to compounds in whatever you’re eating instead of molecules in your body, so cooked beans are completely safe and healthy.

It’s also possible that the culprit behind the stomach issues often associated with legumes is actually a type of carbs called ‘oligosaccharides,’ which humans also don’t digest well, Sharp adds.

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Ultimately, most people have more to gain by eating lectin-containing foods than they have to lose. Research overwhelmingly supports that people who eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains have a lower risk of obesity and chronic disease, and one study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology estimates that up to 7.8 million deaths could have been prevented in 2013 if everyone ate 10-plus servings of fruits and vegetables a day. How? Higher consumption of these whole foods is associated with lower risks of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

What’s more, eating just one serving of fiber– and protein-loaded beans, peas, chickpeas, or lentils a day can help keep your weight in check, according a review published in The American Journal of Clincal Nutrition.

The bottom line: There’s really no reason to lose sleep over lectins just yet. Until larger, human studies show that lectin-rich foods offer more risk than reward, eating a diverse diet loaded with whole plant foods—whether they contain lectins or not—should be your number-one nutritional priority. If you have any immune or gastrointestinal issues (like an autoimmune condition or Crohn’s disease), talk to a dietitian about trying an elimination diet to identify any food sensitivities that might be involved.

5 Nutrients That Are Good For Your Heart—Other Than Fish Oil

As inconvenient as fish burps may be, they’re well worth the heart health benefits that omega-3s offer. After all, these fatty acids bolster our immune system, support artery function, and play a crucial role in our cell membranes and receptors.

Loading up on salmon, taking your fish oil, and penciling in those cardio workouts aren’t the only things you can do to take care of your heart, though. “The food you eat is the most important factor that directly impacts your heart health,” says Rebecca Lee, R.N., creator of natural health and wellness site Remedies For Me. In addition to a balanced diet of lean proteins, unsaturated fats, vegetables, and fruits, there are a number of specific nutrients (like omegas) out there that help keep your ticker ticking on strong. Make sure they make it onto your plate regularly, or consider adding a supplement to your daily routine.


1. Magnesium

Magnesium is crucial to many processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation. “Higher magnesium intake has been associated with lower blood pressure, and helps stabilize the cardiac membrane,” says Amnon Beniaminovitz, M.D., cardiologist at Manhattan Cardiology.

We need 310 (women) to 400 (men) milligrams of magnesium daily, which is found in leafy greens, like spinach (78 milligrams per half cup) and Swiss chard, cashews (74 milligrams per ounce), black beans (60 milligrams per half cup), avocados (44 milligrams per cup), edamame (50 milligrams per half cup) and dark chocolate (41 milligrams per ounce).

To supplement with magnesium, you can stir powdered magnesium citrate into water and sip throughout the day or pop a magnesium tablet or capsule.


 2. Turmeric (Curcumin)

Turmeric, the yellow spice used in Indian curries, has been a star in traditional Ayurvedic medicine and your Instagram feed because it contains an antioxidant compound called curcumin, which supports our cardiovascular health by bolstering our body’s immune response. The antioxidant helps promote blood flow and blood vessel wall function.

Related: 12 Tasty Ways To Eat Turmeric (Other Than Golden Milk)

Experts recommend pairing turmeric with black pepper, since piperine, the active compound in black pepper, increases our absorption of turmeric’s curcumin. Look for a turmeric supplement that contains both curcumin and black pepper, or brew yourself some golden milk with coconut milk, two and a half teaspoons of turmeric, and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper.


3. Vitamin D

Not only does vitamin D regulate how much calcium makes its way to our bones, but it’s also crucial for our immune and cardiovascular systems. While we can get some vitamin D from egg yolks, fatty fish, and fortified dairy, between 50 and 90 percent of our vitamin D should ideally come from the sun, says Lee. Given the limited time many of us spend outside—especially in the wintertime—most of us fall short.

Lower concentrations of vitamin D are associated with a number of cardiovascular issues, while higher concentrations appear to support overall cardiovascular health.

Our vitamin D needs increase as we age and there’s a lot of back and forth about just how much D we need to reduce disease risk. Doctors now recommend as much as 1,000 to 2,000 IUs—but too much of this vitamin can damage our kidneys, so the National Institutes of Health recommends adults get 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. If you’re concerned about your D levels, talk to your doctor about testing your levels to find the right dose for you.


4. Red Yeast Rice

Made from a strain of yeast that’s grown on rice, red yeast rice is a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chinese cuisine. Its heart health benefits come from a compound called monacolin K, which helps support healthy cholesterol—particularly that LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol, says Beniaminovitz.

Since red yeast rice isn’t a staple in the American diet, Dr. Beniaminovitz suggests supplementing with 600 milligrams daily after checking with your doctor. (It can interfere with certain medications.)


5. CoQ10

Coenzyme Q10 (a.k.a ‘CoQ10’) is a naturally-occurring compound found in organ meats, chicken, sardines, cauliflower, and broccoli, that acts as an antioxidant and helps cells produce energy. Research suggests CoQ10 has a number of cardiovascular benefits, including supporting healthy blood pressure.

There are two types of CoQ10 supplements out there: an active form called ubiquinol and an oxidized form called ubiquinone. Most of the CoQ10 found in our bodies is in ubiquinol form, and some studies have found it to be more bioavailable, though you’ll find supplements containing both forms. Most CoQ10 supplements offer about 100 milligrams a pop, but check with your doctor before supplementing if you’re on blood thinners.

Pin this handy infographic for heart health reference!

6 Possible Reasons Why Your Teeth Are Yellowing

If recent toothpaste commercials prompted you to try the ‘tissue test’ and hold a bright white tissue up against your smile, chances are your suddenly lackluster-looking chompers made you feel self-conscious. After all, most of us aim for pearly whites—especially since research shows someone’s teeth influence our first impressions of them. But before you spend your paycheck on laser or at-home treatments, you should probably figure out what’s yellowing your teeth in the first place—because prevention is much cheaper!

It’s most likely one of these six culprits.

1. Medication Mayhem

That’s right, the very medicine you trust to support your health could actually be standing in between you and whiter teeth.

“Medications such as anti-histamines and anti-hypertensives can leave people with a dry mouth, which leads to staining,” says Mazen Chehab, D.M.D., of Town Center Family Dentistry. (Being on multiple medications at once can also have this effect.) You see, your saliva actually helps protect your teeth from stain-causing bacteria, acids, and leftover food—and without enough, your teeth are left unprotected.

Since giving up medicine isn’t always an option, the Mayo Clinic recommends drinking plenty of water—but not coffee or soft drinks, which also dry out your mouth—and chewing sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production.

2. You Are What You Eat (And Drink)

If you’re a connoisseur of tea, coffee, soda, wine, curry, or literally any food or drink that has some color to it (processed foods included), chances are you’re staining your teeth. Even those innocent-looking blueberries in your morning oatmeal can contribute to discoloration!

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No one expects you to give up your nightly glass of Pinot Noir, but you should rinse your mouth out with water after eating or drinking anything particularly pigmented, says Gene A. Sambataro, D.D.S., F.A.G.D., of Julian Center Dentistry. You can also try a whitening activated charcoal toothpaste like My Magic Mud to ward off some inevitable food and drink staining, he says.

Related: I Brushed My Teeth With Charcoal For 2 Weeks—Here’s What Happened

3. Reflux Redux

As if the discomfort of acid reflux isn’t crummy enough, that gurgly acid can also discolor your teeth.

“Acid reflux, bulemia, and even vomiting during pregnancy, lead to acid erosion of the outer white enamel layer of our teeth, exposing the naturally-yellow inner dentin layer,” says Chehab. (Drinking a lot of soda can also have this unfortunate effect.)

Unlike food-, drink-, or dry mouth-related stains, a yellow smile caused by acid erosion is difficult to correct because you can’t bleach the inner layer of your teeth. “Some companies have developed pastes and gels using ingredients like tri-calcium phosphate to try to re-mineralize the white enamel layer, but that’s as close as we can get to ‘reversing’ the process,” Chehab says.

4. Wear and Tear

If you brush with a firm toothbrush, handle with care; all that extra elbow grease in the name of clean, shiny teeth can do more harm than good. In fact, many of our seemingly harmless day-to-day behaviors can contribute to unwanted stains over time. Grinding or clenching your teeth, using abrasive teeth-whitening remedies too often, and brushing too vigorously with a hard-bristled brush can wear down your enamel, revealing more and more of that yellowy inner tooth layer, says Chehab.

Treasure your chompers by brushing gently with a soft toothbrush, seeing your dentist if you clench or grind, and avoiding DIY teeth-whitening treatments that use abrasive ingredients, like baking soda, he recommends.

5. Age Effects

Like it or not, we all get older—and each passing birthday affects the state of our chompers. “As we age, the nerves in our teeth shrink and the teeth become darker,” says Scott Asnis, D.D.S., CEO and founder of dentistry franchise Dental365.

Since we can’t stop the clock, Asnis strongly recommends consistent dental cleanings to help your teeth stand the test of time. “Regular dental visits and professional-strength whitening products can help with yellowing, and your dentist can help you find the care options specifically catered to your needs,” he says.

6. Smoke

Any dentist will tell you that if you smoke, you’re going to end up with stained teeth. In fact, one study found that 81 percent of daily smokers reported having oral health issues within the last six months, with discoloration being their greatest concern (followed by dry mouth).

Do your smile—and overall health—a favor, and avoid nicotine and tobacco. But if the damage is already done, professional teeth whitening can help restore your smile.

4 Possible Reasons Why You Smell Funny

Ever get caught sniffing your armpits in public? Yeah, you’re not alone. No matter how wonderfully-scented our deodorant, lotion, perfume, or cologne may be, we’ve all worried about B.O. at some point or another.

We have millions of sweat glands all over our bodies, but nose-crinkling body odor comes specifically from mischievous sweat glands called apocrine glands. These glands are concentrated in the hair follicles around our underarms and below the belt, and release a thick fluid (some experts believe it contains the chemical pheromones animals secrete when they want to mate), which mixes with the bacteria on our skin and hair, and creates an unpleasant stink, explains Kachiu Lee, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.

While we can’t change our sweat glands, there are a number of factors that can take us from feeling fresh to reapplying antiperspirant every 10 minutes.

1. Your Genes Aren’t Working In Your Favor

Go ahead and blame it on Mom and Dad—our individual ‘odor profiles’ depend in part on our genes, says George Preti, Ph.D., organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a non-profit institute for research on the science of taste and smell. In fact, according to Monell’s research, people of African and Caucasian descent have higher levels of a gene called ABCC11, which is associated with underarm odor, than people of Chinese, Japanese or Korean descent.

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About 10 percent of people are particularly prone to B.O. because of a genetic defect that leaves them unable to produce an enzyme called FMO3, which breaks down a foul-smelling compound called TMA found in foods like eggs, conventional milk, beans, seafood, and cruciferous veggies. People with this condition—known as ‘trimethylaminuria’—are often followed by a fishy odor.

Health conditions like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and hyperhidrosis (in which overactive nerves constantly trigger sweating) can also contribute to body odor when not managed, so talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how much you sweat (and smell).

2. You Hang Out In Sweaty Gym Clothes

The skin bacteria that makes apocrine sweat so smelly thrives in moist environments, and when you exercise, your workout gear—especially anything tight—traps your sweat in your skin and allows B.O. to flourish. If you sweat a lot during a workout, don’t spend a second longer in your gym clothes (socks included!) than you have to, says Lee.

Related: We Put 5 Natural Deodorants To The Test—Here’s How They Held Up

And when you hit the showers, make sure you really scrub off your deodorant or antiperspirant. While they form a barrier that blocks sweat and stank in the short term, these products can clog your pores and react with the bacteria on your skin, possibly making stank worse if left on for a few days, Lee says.

3. You’re Stressed

As if pre-presentation jitters aren’t bad enough, stress can also make you smell. Anxiety often causes your apocrine glands to kick into high gear and produce more sweat, leaving you victim to body odor, explains Preti. Scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes this ‘stress sweat’ phenomenon, but the only way to nip it in the bud is to squash the stress itself. Preti recommends meditating or using breathing exercises to keep your mind, nervous system, and sweat glands as calm as possible when stress strikes.

4. You Ate A Stink-Inducing Food

Sad but true: Some of the foods that leave you with dragon breath can also stink up your entire bod. The perpetrator? Hydrogen sulfide, a chemical produced when you eat foods that contain sulfur-like compounds, like garlic and broccoli. Hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs and can leave you with nasty breath and smellier-than-usual body odor when you eat a lot of these foods, says Preti.

Research also suggests your overall diet can impact your natural scent and even influence your ‘attractiveness.’ One study published in Chemical Senses, for example, found that women rated the scent of men who didn’t eat red meat as more attractive than that of those who did—so apparently you really are what you eat!

6 Keto Diet Myths—Busted

With over 14.4 million Google search results for the term ‘keto diet,’ there’s clearly a huge (and growing) appetite for this unconventional way of eating. But with so much information—and misinformation—floating around out there, it’s hard to get a clear picture of what the diet really is.

On a ketogenic diet, the bulk of your calories come from fats from a variety of plant and animal sources, with protein and carbs making up the few remaining calories. Eating this way shifts the body into a state called ketosis, in which it uses fat for energy instead of the usual sugar. Keto eaters report weight loss, more stable blood sugar, and steady energy as its major perks.

That doesn’t mean you’ll eat nothing but spoonfuls of butter and oil, though. To reap the potential benefits of eating keto, you need to separate fact from fiction. Look out for these keto misconceptions the next time you take to Google.

Myth #1: Keto Is Protein-Heavy

Contrary to what you may have heard (or what’s tagged #keto on Instagram), protein isn’t the focus of the keto diet—and too much of it can actually throw keto off track. Our body can convert protein into glucose, which it can then use for fuel instead of fat, shifting you out of the fat-burning state you’re striving for.

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While protein won’t be the star of your plate, you can still meet your needs on a keto diet. Most people need between 0.8 and one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is just about 55 grams a day for someone who weighs 150 pounds, says dietitian Kristen Mancinelli, M.S., R.D.N., who specializes low carb diets. Getting there takes just three ounces of salmon (20 grams), three ounces of chicken (28 grams), and either an egg or an ounce of almonds (six grams each).

Myth #2: Low-Carb And Keto Are Basically The Same

Though a keto diet is certainly low-carb, a low-carb diet isn’t necessarily keto, says Mancinelli. For most people, about 100 grams of carbs a day would be considered low-carb. On keto, that intake needs to be significantly lower, around 20 to 30 grams a day—though people who are very active and have a lot of lean body mass may be able to handle a little more. Eat just a few grams of carbs too many and your body shifts right back to burning sugar for fuel, she says.

Myth #3: Eating Fat Automatically Makes You Fat

With plenty of low-fat foods still inhabiting grocery store shelves, many people still can’t shake the idea that eating fat will make them gain weight—but we now know that it’s the combo of fat with highly-processed carbs and sugars that leads to weight gain, says fitness and nutrition expert Carrie Burrows, Ph.D., C.P.T.

With processed carbs and sugar off the table in keto, you’ll get your fats from wholesome, nutritious sources like grass-fed butter, avocado, and nuts. You may even end up eating fewer calories overall, since ketones—the energy-producing compounds your body produces from stored fat—have an appetite-suppressing effect, adds Jadin.

Related: 8 Low-Carb Food Swaps That Won’t Make Your Taste Buds Cry

An article recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association notes that keto dieters tend to have fewer hunger pangs than other dieters. And while keto dieters may initially shed a few pounds of water weight (from slashing carbs), the diet supports continued weight loss by encouraging the body to tap into fat stores for energy.

Myth #4: Keto Isn’t Heart-Healthy

The illusion that keto is high-protein diet loaded with saturated fat-containing burgers and bacon also leads to the fallacy that it isn’t optimal for health, since a disproportionately high intake of saturated fat is linked to an increased heart disease risk, says Mancinelli. (A higher intake of unsaturated fats reduces this risk.)

A healthy keto diet contains a variety of fats: monounsaturated fats from olive oil, avocado, and nuts; polyunsaturated fats from fatty fish; and saturated fats from meat, eggs, and coconut oil. “Remember: a ketogenic diet is one in which you consume mostly fat from a variety of plant and animal sources, not mostly meat,” Mancinelli says.

It’s also important to keep in mind that heart disease develops over time due to many factors, including smoking, weight, family history, and more, says Sarah Jadin, M.S., R.D., C.S.P., C.D., C.N.S.C, of Keto Diet Consulting. “To draw a direct (and short) line from eating a high fat diet to having a heart attack is oversimplified and cartoonish at best,” she says.

Myth #5: You Don’t Eat Veggies On Keto

One big misconception about keto is that there isn’t room for vegetables on your plate, primarily because they contain too many carbs. But plant-based foods—and the vitamins, minerals, and fiber they offer—are key to a balanced keto diet, urges Jadin.

It’s true, you’ll want to steer clear of starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, which rack up the carbs quickly; but you can (and should) still load up on non-starchy vegetables—especially fiber-rich leafy greens. Spinach, arugula, and broccoli, for example, all contain less than two grans of net carbs per serving.

When building your meals, start with your fat source, and then incorporate a non-starchy veggie, says Jadin. For breakfast, you might have a vegetable omelet; for lunch and dinner, help yourself to a serving of greens sautéed in oil.

Myth #6: Keto Isn’t Sustainable Long-Term

It’s true, keto’s strict nature isn’t for everyone, but people who enjoy structure and routine can do really well on the diet long-term, says Jadin. “There are many people who have been following a keto lifestyle for years,” she says. The key to making keto stick is to think of it as a lifestyle and not just a ‘diet’—and many people are so motivated by the weight loss and health benefits the experience after going keto, that they readily make it a permanent lifestyle, says Jadin.

Going keto for good may still sound intimidating, but a growing body of research suggests it may have some benefits for metabolic and cognitive health.

Planning out meals in advance and carrying keto-friendly snacks like nuts, seeds, cheese sticks, and hard-boiled eggs can help you stay on-track with keto long-term.

Keep your keto facts straight with this handy infographic:

How To Train And Supplement For Every Fitness Goal

When your workouts don’t reflect your goals, what you see in the mirror won’t either—and nothing is more frustrating than spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

How you spend your time in the gym—and which supplements you take to support your workouts—depends on whether you want to get strong, pack on muscle, shed fat, or boost your endurance. Use this quick fitness cheat sheet to make sure every rep you perform and supp you take accelerates your progress.

Goal: Strength

Training: When you’re training for absolute strength, you want your body to use the ‘phosphagen energy system,’ in which it breaks down a form of creatine to rapidly produce energy. Thing is, your body can’t produce energy like this for very long—we’re talking less than 30 seconds—so your workouts will need short periods of all-out work and long periods of rest.

To maximize strength gains, lift between 80 and 95 percent of your one-rep max and perform four to eight sets of just two to five reps, says New Jersey-based trainer Bryant Klein, C.S.C.S.  Rest for three to five minutes between sets.

Supplements: The more creatine stored in your muscles, the greater capacity those muscles have to churn out that fast and hard work when they need to—and research shows that how much you consume affects your stores. Studies have found that just two weeks of consuming between five and 20 grams of creatine a day can improve exercise performance and support strength gains.

“One study also showed that participants who took a daily creatine supplement while following a resistance training program significantly increased their resting testosterone levels after 10 weeks,” says dietitian Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition. Research suggests taking 20 to 25 grams of creatine a day for five days to increase muscle creatine levels, and supplementing with between two and five grams a day from there. Up your creatine stores deliciously with a powdered supplement like BodyTech’s Fruit Punch 100% Creatine Monohydrate.

Goal: Hypertrophy

Training: If you’re set on building muscle mass, you need to increase the amount of time your muscles spend under tension to tap into your body’s glycolytic energy system, which relies heavily on the glycogen stored in your muscles and is associated with stimulating muscle growth.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Not Building Muscle

To ramp up that time under tension, perform three to six sets of eight to 15 reps (about 90 seconds of work) with 65 to 75 percent of your one-rep max, recommends Klein. Rest for one to three minutes between sets.

Supplements: Whey protein, which is made from cow’s milk, can be a major player in a muscle-building diet because it contains a high proportion of essential amino acids (which cannot be made by our body) and branched-chain amino acids (which play crucial roles in the muscle protein synthesis process responsibly for size gains).

In fact, supplementing with whey protein while resistance training regularly is the ideal combo for promoting muscle hypertrophy and exercise recovery, says research published in Nutrition & Metabolism. Studies suggest that 20 to 40 grams of protein both before and after exercise offers the most muscle-building benefits. Optimum Nutrition’s Vanilla Ice Cream Gold Standard 100% Whey and BodyTech’s Rich Chocolate WheyTech Pro 24 both pack 24 grams of protein per scoop.

Goal: Endurance

Training: “Muscular endurance training improves performance swimming, running, and other sports that require you to reproduce force over an extended period of time,” says Klein. To train your muscles for endurance, you’ll need to tap into the oxidative energy system, which can utilize fat (with the help of oxygen) to help your muscles work for long durations.

Endurance workouts need to be lower intensity, so you’ll drop your weight down to 50 percent of your one-rep max, says Klein. Perform three to six sets of 15-plus reps and rest for a minute between sets.

Supplements: When it comes to muscle endurance, a few minerals can be particularly helpful: iron, copper, and zinc. According to Warren, these minerals play key roles in the flow of oxygen to working muscles and throughout the body, and warding off oxidative stress. And since many young athletes don’t get enough of them, supplementing can help boost performance and workout recovery.

The National Institutes of Health recommends adults get about 900 micrograms of copper, eight (women) to 11 (men) milligrams of zinc, and eight (men) or 18 (women) milligrams of iron, per day. A daily multivitamin can help you reach your needs.

Goal: Fat Loss

TrainingBurning fat requires a strategic combination of cardio, strength training, and nutrition—but to lose fat in a sustainable way, you also need to preserve (or build) muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you need to live every day), and the fewer calories you need to slash to support weight loss, explains Klein.

To maximize muscle mass and shed fat, you’ll strength train just like you would for hypertrophy (that’s three to six sets of eight to 15 reps with a couple minutes of rest in between).

Supplements: Carnitine, an amino acid-like compound our body produces and that we get from food, helps our body convert fat into energy by escorting fatty acids into our cells’ energy-producing machines (called mitochondria), says Warren. “When you increase levels of muscle carnitine, you support the fat burning-process because your body becomes more efficient at processing fuel,” she explains.

One 2016 Obesity Reviews meta-analysis found that those who supplemented with carnitine lost significantly more weight than those who took a placebo. BodyTech’s Carnipure Carnitine supports fat metabolism—and tastes like raspberries (win-win!).

What Happened When I Started Drinking Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning

I take my coffee black. Aside from the fact that I genuinely enjoy the taste, I prefer the no-fuss approach: coffee, mug, done. Plus, I’ve seen a lack of creamer in the office kitchen ruin a co-worker’s entire morning, and I just don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

But when I heard that a coffee concoction called Bulletproof coffee promised boundless energy and all-day satiety, I was intrigued. The supposedly life-transforming latte is the birth-child of ‘biohacker’ David Asprey and consists of just three surprising ingredients: coffee, MCT oil, and clarified butter (a.k.a. ghee).

As a writer who works full-time and freelances on the side, the idea of steady energy from early morning interviews to late-night writing definitely appealed to me. Curious to see if this fatty brew could ‘hack’ my biology and help me become a master of using and storing energy, I armed myself with the ultimate Bulletproof coffee ingredients—Bulletproof brand coffee grinds, Asprey’s MCT Brain Octane Oil, and ghee—and decided to give it a go for two weeks straight.

Day One

According to Asprey, a proper Bulletproof coffee is made by blending a cup of black coffee, up to two tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil, and one or two tablespoons of grass-fed ghee until frothy. But on that first morning I was running late for a call with a cardiologist for a heart health article I was working on, so I just threw all of the ingredients into a mug as I dialed the phone.

Big mistake; the concoction was gross.

I choked down my oily cup of Joe as I asked the cardiologist to walk me through what he eats on a typical day—and that’s when fate intervened. The first thing Rohan Bhansali, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at LIJ Medical Center told me? “I start my morning with a cup of something called ‘Bulletproof coffee.’”

I couldn’t believe it. “Wait, I’m literally drinking that right now!” I told him, eager to pick his brain about how this stuff actually works.

Related: Why Is Everyone Talking About MCTs?

He explained it all: “Bulletproof coffee calls for medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. This specific type of fat is more easily used by the body and brain for energy, and Bulletproof’s Brain Octane Oil is a refined form of MCT oil that eliminates some of the less effective medium-chain triglyceride,” he said. While our body turns all fats into compounds called ketones that can be used for energy, MCTs are processed in the liver and can churn out those ketones more effectively.

From there, the butter adds calories to help keep you feeling satisfied and energized all morning.

After hanging up the phone and finishing my coffee, I realized that skipping the blender hadn’t been my only mistake that morning: I’d used two full tablespoons of Brain Octane Oil. Asprey recommends starting with just a teaspoon and working your way up—and the sudden lurch in my stomach explained why. The contents of my extra-fatty first Bulletproof coffee had shot straight through my system. I’ve never been so grateful for the short sprint to the bathroom in my studio apartment.

The Next Few Days

The next morning, I used just half a tablespoon of the Brain Octane Oil and blended my Bulletproof coffee until it was nice and frothy. Much to my delight, it tasted like a fancy, creamy cappuccino from an overpriced coffee shop—and my stomach kept quiet.

Throughout the next few days, I definitely felt more awake during the first half of the day. I continued eating breakfast as I had been before, and felt hungry for lunch around 11 o’clock—earlier than usual. As always, I ran out for coffee around three o’clock when my energy tapered off, but more and more noticed I didn’t need to finish it.

On day three I signed up for a boot camp class, wondering if my new Bulletproof beverage would help me power through, and was bummed when it still felt like Struggle City. So far, my life did not feel biohacked.

One Week In

By the end of the first week I had successfully worked up to the full tablespoon of Brain Octane Oil, and that’s when the magic started happening.

Suddenly my go-to breakfast of two eggs, a lean protein (usually homemade turkey sausage), and a handful of strawberries felt like way too much food, so I cut it down to just an egg and a few berries. I also stopped going for that second cup of coffee around mid-afternoon—my three o’clock slump had faded away!

I didn’t exactly feel a turbo boost of energy (it was more like a slow burn), but I found it easier to make it through the day and head home to work some more without dragging my feet. I happened to glance over at the clock while working on a freelance project one night about a week in and was shocked to see it was 10:30—much later than I’d ever been productive!

My newfound steady energy also started to make a difference in my workouts. I was unusually ready to jump into the two morning workouts I’d scheduled that week, and didn’t feel like a sloth as I boxed or got my HIIT on.

After 2 Weeks

By my fourteenth Bulletproof morning, I’d stopped eating breakfast altogether. I’d always sworn by my morning meal, but I just wasn’t hungry. I felt energized and ready to take on whatever chaos was thrown at me all morning long. Around noon I was ready for lunch, but even then I wasn’t ravenous. I let half of my go-to bowl of veggie soup go cold most days and noticed my dinner portions shrink a bit, too.

At that two-week mark, I also made it through my boot camp class without feeling wiped after the warm-up. I didn’t even skimp on that last round of burpees like I usually would!

Yes, making Bulletproof coffee definitely takes more effort than dumping black coffee into my mug and calling it a day, but I’ve continued to drink it even after completing my experiment. My 1980s-era relic of a blender is now a permanent fixture on my counter-top and I’ll take my coffee with plenty of fat in it, thank you!

6 Supps That Enhance Your Memory And Help You Focus

In the age of endless push notifications and news updates, some days it feels like the only time we really slow down is when we take a bathroom break. This go-go-go lifestyle can be exhausting, so it’s no wonder 85 percent of Americans turn to caffeine to get them through the day—and many end up feeling even more strung out.

That’s where a newly-hot category of supplements—sometimes referred to as ‘nootropics’—comes in. “Nootropics are broadly defined as anything that enhances your cognitive capacity, from memory to mental agility to concentration,” explains Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of The MIND Diet. Biohackers, workaholics, and wellness junkies alike turn to these natural substances to give their brains a boost.

If the following six natural brain and memory supplements aren’t on your radar yet, they should be.


1. Ginseng

The herb ginseng has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years for everything from stomach upset to brain fog, explains Sumeet Sharma, Emory University M.D./Ph.D. candidate and head of Medicine and Science for Nootrobox—but it’s been used primarily for its cognitive benefits in recent decades.

Ginseng is an ‘adaptogen,’ a type of herb that helps protect our body from the negative effects of stress. Studies suggest these herbs can help modulate fatigue and low mood, and enhance attention and stamina.

Related: Adaptogens 101: These Herbs Are Trending For A Reason

Ginseng, in particular, seems to work its magic by boosting blood circulation and neurotransmitter activity in our brain, with one study finding that it helped people feel calmer and improved their performance on a math test.

You can find ginseng extract in capsule or tablet supplements (200 to 400 milligrams) and herbal teas. Just talk to your doc first if you take blood-thinners or diabetes medications, which may interact with the herb, says Jonathan Valdez, R.D.N., owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


2. MCTs

MCTs, or ‘medium-chain triglycerides,’ a type of fatty acid found in fats like coconut oil, are not only known for their weight management benefits, but also for their ability to support cognitive function.

Much of the research on MCTs and cognitive function looks at people with cognitive decline. Why? The brain’s ability to use glucose (sugar) for energy can decline over time, which contributes to cognitive decline by essentially starving brain cells to death. Meanwhile, the brain’s ability to use ketones (the energy source made from MCTs) remains intact, leading researchers to believe that using MCTs for fuel may help to promote brain health.

Research on healthy adults also suggests MCTs to be a viable and sustainable energy source for the brain, with one study finding that taking 20 to 30 grams of MCTs per day increased ketone levels enough to contribute to almost 10 percent of the brain’s total energy use.

Coconut oil is rich in MCTs, but you can also find pure MCT oils and supplements, says Valdez, who recommends shooting for about 20 grams a day.


3. L-Theanine

The amino acid l-theanine, a major component of black and green tea, increases levels of two hormones that help us feel less stressed and more balanced: GABA and dopamine. It’s no wonder a big mug of tea has such a soothing effect!

Interestingly, a study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 50 milligrams of l-theanine (about two cups of black tea-worth) stimulated something called ‘alpha activity’ in the brain, which is associated with mental calm (but not drowsiness), alertness, and focus. Other research suggests l-theanine is especially helpful when taken alongside caffeine.

Sharma recommends taking l-theanine with your coffee or tea at a two-to-one ratio of l-theanine-to-caffeine—so if you’re drinking a mug of tea that packs around 50 milligrams, take 100 milligrams of l-theanine. Up to 200 milligrams of l-theanine a day appears to be a-okay, but talk to your doctor before taking it if you’re on blood pressure medication, says Valdez.


4. Ashwagandha

The name of this plant may be difficult to say five times fast, but its many syllables come with many benefits. The root of the ashwagandha herb has long been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for cognitive function and overall well-being, and is now a popular supplement among biohackers and wellness influencers alike.

Like ginseng, ashwagandha is also considered an adaptogen, and is specifically known for its ability to modulate cortisol production and ease feelings of anxiety, says Sharma. Studies also support its mental performance benefits, with one finding that people with mild cognitive impairments performed better on attention and information processing tests (and reported improved overall memory) after supplementing with 600 milligrams daily for eight weeks.

You can find ashwagandha supplements in capsule or powder form in dosages between 300 and 500 milligrams.


5. Maca

Maca root is another adaptogen that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately. Not only has this root herb been shown to help us adapt to stress and support overall vitality, but it’s also been shown support reproductive health and libido.

There isn’t a ton of research on Maca out there yet, but early studies suggest its potential for boosting energy. Maca is popular in both capsule supplements and powders—typically in doses between 1.5 and three grams.


6. Fish Oil

Sure, you’ve heard about fish oil’s cardiovascular benefits, but omega-3s also support memory and brain function through their involvement in communication between brain cells.

In fact, one study found that older adults with age-related cognitive decline performed better on memory tests after supplementing with 900 milligrams of omega-3s every day for 24 weeks. A second study also suggests that omega-3s support overall mood stability and feelings of wellness.

Experts recommend eating eight ounces of fish per week to stock the body on ample omega-3s, but if you’re not regularly consuming fish, you likely need a supplement (they often provide about a gram of omega-3s), says Valdez.

6 Foods That’ll Put You To Sleep

From work to hyper kids to newly-released shows on Netflix, there are a million reasons why many of us (one in three, to be exact) fail to get the Zzz’s we need. And in addition to our already-late bedtimes, many of our sleep cycles are also sabotaged by our late-night eats (like ice cream, cookies, and even wine) or four o’clock cappuccinos.

One way to ensure you drift off to dreamland as soon as your head hits the pillow? Switch out your usual nighttime snack for one that works with your body to help you sleep. Below are six foods that’ll wind you down; if they could talk, they’d practically sing you a lullaby.

1. Cheese

This protein-packed snack is also chock-full of calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, all of which support sleep.

Tryptophan (which so many of us associate with turkey) is an amino acid that produces the ‘feel-good hormone’ serotonin, which stimulates the production of melatonin, the hormone our body releases when it’s time to slow down and sleep. Calcium helps our brain use that tryptophan, while magnesium also activates sleep-related neurotransmitters and regulates melatonin.

Just choose a lower-fat cheese and stick to one serving, since eating more calories—especially from fat—before bed can leave you counting sheep.

2. Chamomile Tea

A relaxing mug of chamomile tea should be a bedtime staple—especially if you’re frequently kept up by digestive issues. Chamomile has long been used in traditional medicine for its calming, relaxing effect—both on our mood and bellies—plus, the tea’s warmth has the power to soothe.

Related: How To Find The Best Herbal Tea For Your Needs

3. Tart Cherries

Tart cherries are magical in that they actually contain that sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. In fact, research shows that drinking tart cherry juice can even help troubled sleepers score a whopping 85 extra minutes of shut-eye. What’s more, the cherries are jam-packed with antioxidants, and their sweet-tart flavor may squelch late-night cravings.

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If you’re going for dried tart cherries, stick to a quarter cup to avoid calorie and sugar overload—but you can also drink tart cherry juice or munch on the fruit fresh in the summertime when they’re in season.

 4. Bananas

Bananas are a natural source of melatonin, and take literally zero work to prepare. As an added bonus, research published in Sports Health suggests that the potassium in bananas may prevent you from waking up during the night with muscle cramps after tough workouts. When you’re craving ice cream, mash up a frozen banana for a healthy, sleep-supporting substitute.

5. Kiwi

The fuzzy brown fruit makes a great vitamin C and serotonin-filled bedtime snack. In fact, research published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate two kiwis one hour before hitting the hay slept almost an hour longer than those who didn’t.

6. Nuts

Different nuts provide different nutrients, but many varieties can help promote a quality snooze.

Let’s start with almonds: These popular snack-time nuts contain tryptophan, magnesium, calcium, and protein, so they can both satisfy cravings and promote rest. Next: walnuts, which have been shown to increase our production of melatonin. And last but not least: pistachios, which are basically the bedtime jackpot because they contain protein, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which plays a role in our production of certain neurotransmitters and processes related to sleep.

Pin this infographic for the perfect sleepytime snack in a pinch:

Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., C.D.N., is an award-winning author, spokesperson, speaker, consultant, and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC. She has been featured on TV, radio, and print, as well as in digital media, including Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Women’s Health, and U.S. News & World Report. She is a recipient of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Media Excellence Award and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

From 5Ks to 50-Milers: How I Became An Ultramarathon Runner In Two Years

In the summer of 2008 I had just finished law school, but I hadn’t started working yet. I was running a bit for exercise, because I had the time, but once my first son was born, running just didn’t stick.

Seven years later, knee deep in parenthood and my career, I weighed around 210 pounds—and wasn’t doing a single thing about it. So I made a few New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, get healthier, and start building better habits. I had to face that I wasn’t 20 years old anymore.

I started and stopped working on my resolutions many times (just like everyone else in the world). I was trying a lot of different things to keep up momentum—my wife and I even bought a water rower, but that got boring fast—and when I started running a couple of miles a few times a week, I learned that there was a 5K race in town. It was sponsored by a local pub, which didn’t hurt, so I signed up (even though I found myself questioning why, considering I still wasn’t very good at running).

I practiced for a few months and by the time the 5K rolled around, I didn’t exactly kill it (I came in around 28:25), but I did enjoy it, especially hanging out with fellow runners afterward.

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As I kept up the running after the race, I noticed I was losing significant weight—about 45 pounds! And by the middle of summer 2016, it stopped being about losing weight. I was really just loving the running. So I began focusing on races and getting fit for different events.

It wasn’t always easy—in fact, it was a real challenge. When I ran my first actual marathon in 2016 in Brooklyn (a nostalgic moment for me because I had lived there from 2009-2015), I completely crashed after the first 16 miles. I sat down, then laid down. The longest I had ever run before was 16 miles, so I was pretty unprepared, and I thought about quitting. What kept me going was that I had told everyone that I was doing the marathon, and I just couldn’t live with quitting. That’s when I got a second wind.

From there, I was totally hooked.

Runner’s High

There’s so much to love about running. You’re alongside elite athletes, you can experience gorgeous scenery, and you get to inspire your kids. My youngest son, Nate, who is five, has done two 5Ks with me and I didn’t even have to carry him! During the first, he was hurting at mile two and a half, but he didn’t want to stop. When he saw the finish line, he bolted!

The social aspect of running kept me coming back for more, too. At the end of 2016, I looked for a running buddies club so I could meet other runners. I found one called Fueled by Doughnuts (our group was just featured in Runner’s World, in a piece called “One Pretty Sweet Club”) so I attended one of their group runs one December night.

The group is founded by the owner of a local doughnut shop who provides doughnuts and coffee after every run. The founder also hosts two insanely popular races in Montclair, NJ—a 5K in December and a half marathon in March. Running with Fueled by Doughnuts is how I met all of my running buddies, some of whom have turned into very good friends.

Full Steam Ahead

In early 2017 I decided that it would be fun to do something a little more adventurous than a road race. I found a cool 50-mile ultramarathon (an ultramarathon is any race longer than 26.2 miles, which is a standard marathon) near Ithaca, New York, called Cayuga Trails 50. The ultramarathon, which took place in June 2017, was a 50-mile trail run with more than 9,000 feet of elevation gain. The scenery was beautiful but the course was tough.

Carlos, on one of his runs.

I made it about 42 miles in 14 hours, but I was so mentally defeated by mile 42 that I just gave up and asked my wife to pick me up where the trail was intersected by a road. That night I ate three dinners and then fell asleep.

As soon as I woke up, I felt regret for not pushing myself to finish those last eight miles. I had been on my feet for 14 hours—what were a few more? Physically I know I could have done it, but it was a failure of mental toughness.

This year, I’m going to run an easier 50-miler called The Dirty German in Philadelphia. Then I’ll try Cayuga Trails 50 again down the road. (I’ve also been toying with the idea of trying a 100-miler instead!)

To amp myself up for these runs, there’s a lot of Lupe Fiasco on my Amazon Prime playlist; his music is upbeat, introspective, and addresses different issues. I listen to him if I’m doing a treadmill run or a hard run outside when I’m not with friends. For easier runs, I like to just catch up with friends and need to make sure I can talk.

But all of that doesn’t make running easy all the time. When I’m lacking motivation, my friends get me out of the house. I’d say about 90 percent of my running habits today are because I’m going to hang out with friends. I actually haven’t had this many friends since high school!

My advice to people who want to start running or working out:

  • Create a habit of laying your clothes out ahead of time, especially early in the morning. After a while you won’t have to think about it, you just do it. Getting your stuff ready for beforehand reduces the need to make that early morning decision: Do I get up and run? The easiest way to build a habit is to make it happen on autopilot, and by knowing you’re all set and ready to go, there’s no more mental struggle about whether or not to hit the snooze button.
  • Give yourself something to look forward to after your workout, like coffee.
  • Consider it a mental workout, too. Your body is capable of a lot more than you think it is. When you’re fatigued and want to slow down, it’s not really a physical limit—it’s an emotion. Your brain makes you feel it, but you can push past it. Once you understand that, it’s motivating.

Share your own victories, both big and small, on Instagram using #VictoryIsMine and tagging @vitaminshoppe. We might feature you on our page!


What To Know If You’re New To Plant Proteins

If you want to up your fitness game, taking a protein supplement is an easy way to get more of the tissue-repairing, muscle-building nutrient your body needs. Milk-derived whey protein has long been the go-to for people interested in showing their muscles a little extra love, but plant-based proteins are now more popular (and delicious) than ever.

Whether you follow a plant-based diet, can’t stomach dairy, or just want to try something new, plant protein supplements are definitely worth a try.

What’s Actually In Plant Proteins?

Most plant-based protein powders out there today contain about as much total protein per serving as whey protein, but different types of plant proteins contain different levels of different amino acids (there are 20 total). Most—like the popular pea and hemp proteins—don’t contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids (which our body can’t make) to fulfill our daily needs, with one exception: soy protein.

Considered the OG plant protein, soy is the subject of a lot of controversy because it contains compounds called isoflavones, which mimic estrogen.

That said, the research on soy is all over the place, and most people can try soy protein without worry, says Alix Turoff, R.D. (She does recommend, though, that vegetarians—who may rely more on soy foods and products—chat with an R.D. about their total intake.)

Featured Plant Proteins

Most of the plant-based protein supplements out there today combine multiple types of plant protein in order to fill and balance out their amino acid content so that it’s more similar to that of whey. Check out a tub or two in your local The Vitamin Shoppe, and you’ll see blends of proteins from peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, hemp seeds, brown rice, chia seeds, sacha inchi nuts, and more!

Related: 5 Plant-Based Protein Bars That’ll Make You A Believer

If you’re still hung up on plant protein containing every single milligram of every single amino acid that whey contains, consider this: “You don’t have to get all nine essential amino acids in one sitting,” says dietitian Andy Yurechko, R.D. So if you find a pea protein powder you like or a combo plant protein that doesn’t quite match the amino acid content of whey, that’s okay. As long as you eat a varied, healthy diet, you should be able to get enough of the essential amino acids you need throughout the course of the day.

Find The Right Plant Protein Powder For You

Ready to play for Team Plant-Based? When you shop, make sure your protein powder lists its plant protein source as the first ingredient (and the next few, if it’s a combo protein), says Yurechko.

From there, pick a powder that’s unsweetened or naturally sweetened (like with stevia) and contains less than five grams of carbs. This way, you keep your supp au-naturale and your sugar intake low.

Today’s plant proteins are tasty enough to mix into water or almond milk and drink straight—though recent whey converts may want to add a touch of honey at first, since plant proteins aren’t quite as creamy as milk-based proteins.

If you’re blending your plant protein in a shake, Turoff likes the following balanced blend: four to eight ounces of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a scoop of protein powder, a tablespoon each of chia seeds (for fiber) and flaxseeds (for omega-3s), and one cup of fruit.

Spread the plant protein love with this quick infographic!

If You’ve Hit A Health Wall, Functional Medicine Could Be For You

Whether you’re dealing with inexplicable weight gain, mood imbalance, irregular periods, breakouts, or other chronic health challenges, you might feel like you’ve hit a wall with your treatment plan, and that the options you’ve been given are more like bandages than solutions. That frustration can lead some patients to explore alternative therapies and modes of care, such as functional medicine, a discipline that has been touted by practitioners like Deepak Chopra, an avid alternative medicine advocate, author, and speaker.

According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), the discipline “is an approach to health care that conceptualizes health and illness as part of a continuum in which all components of the human biological system interact dynamically with the environment, producing patterns and effects that change over time.” Functional health practitioners have advanced professional degrees in licensed health care fields, which means post-graduate training is necessary for a doctor or other healthcare professional (in certain fields) to practice it, according to Functional Medicine University.

“At its core, functional medicine is designed to find the root causes of imbalances and dysfunction within the body that lead to chronic symptoms or disease,” explains Linda Matteoli, DO, owner of Origins Functional Medicine and a board-certified family physician in Longwood, Florida.

Related: Shop our range of immune support products. 

There’s more to it than that, though—here are four things you should know about this form of medical treatment.

1. Functional medicine practitioners aim to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of your health concerns—and their causes.

Dr. Matteoli explains that diagnostic testing, like blood work and lab, is certainly utilized in functional medicine practices, but providers “look for imbalances in all areas of a person’s life—such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships, and stress management.” In other words, their goal is to go “beyond laboratory or imaging studies.”

Another way of looking at this concept: “In general, the body will never harm itself. Everything the body does, even cancer, is done as a protection mechanism to repair damage and maintain life,” explains Raul Serrano, DC, doctor of functional medicine and owner of Ignite Chiropractic & Wellness in Palm Harbor, Florida. “The problem happens when there is outside interference of some sort that either prevents the body from functioning properly or causes the body to take defensive measures.” He goes on to say that this could be related to nutrition, toxins, physical impairments, or other factors.

“In functional medicine, we work to eliminate the interference and create the environment for the body to function at its maximum potential,” says Serrano.

2. Functional medicine is also preventative medicine.

Even patients who aren’t struggling with a frustrating chronic health concern could benefit from seeing a functional medicine doctor. Dawn DeSylvia, MD, owner of Whole Life Health in Los Angeles, California, says that in her practice, she looks to “identify early risks for disease, many of which may go undetected for years. With early identification of risk factors, along with treatment interventions, we can greatly reduce the risk of disease developing in the first place.”

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For instance, one major precursor to disease that functional medicine doctors will investigate is inflammation, Dr. DeSylvia notes. “From there, we work to remove the risk factors contributing to this inflammation,” she says. Doctors may also work with their patients to come up with an anti-inflammatory protocol in which they incorporate certain foods and nutrients into the diet.

3. Functional medicine aims for long-term healing

“Functional medicine is truly for everyone,” Dr. Matteoli shares. “Often these individuals have had many previous doctor appointments without clarity and answers or have been told that prescription drugs or surgery are their only options for managing their symptoms.”

For patients who have been in this position, Dr. Matteoli notes that functional medicine may be appealing, as providers are focused on investigating the origin of a health concern and identifying subtle imbalances.

Dr. DeSylvia concurs that functional medicine is often an attractive avenue for “people who either have been diagnosed with a disease, and are suffering side effects from their current treatment, or ‘falling into the statistics’ that treatment fails.” She adds, “Also, I see people who have been to specialist after specialist and told, ‘Nothing can be done.’”

The focus, then, would be to address the issue—but to also come up with a long-term plan. Though functional medicine can address an acute issue, providers aim to hone in on the underlying cause of a chronic imbalance and then come up with a treatment game plan that will promote wellness now and in the future. “The combination of this expanded workup with holistic treatment helps to balance the entire person, which in turn leads to true long-term healing,” explains Dr. Matteoli.

4. Providers work with patients to come up with an individualized treatment plan.

Patients who see a functional medicine doctor will be able to have a true back-and-forth conversation with their provider, as opposed to being given directives around their treatment.

The IFM notes that, “Patients and providers work together to determine the diagnostic process, set achievable health goals, and design an appropriate therapeutic approach.”

That said, no treatment plan—functional or otherwise—should be seen as a magic bullet, Dr. Matteoli points out. “One pill or one surgery is not going to correct chronic disease,” she says. “Rather, it takes the approach of a widespread treatment—identifying and rebalancing multiple systems simultaneously to achieve wellness.”

What’s REALLY In Your Pre-Workout?

Using a pre-workout supplement can help you reap the benefits of every rep you put in at the gym—but sometimes it feels like you need a degree in chemistry to figure out which one is best for your goals.

Here’s the full breakdown of the most popular pre-workout ingredients in the game, so you can sprint faster, lift heavier, or cycle further without having to wonder what the heck you’re sipping on.

1. Caffeine

Many fitness enthusiasts have one major demand of their pre-workout: energy. So more often than not, caffeine will be one of a pre-workout’s MVPs. Stimulants like caffeine don’t actually give you extra energy (only food can do that), but they can make you feel more energized and alert by stimulating your central nervous system, boosting your heart rate, opening up your blood vessels, and increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.

Featured Pre-Workout Supps

You’ll find anywhere from 100 to 300 milligrams of caffeine in pre-workout supplements. (400 milligrams total of caffeine per day seems to be the safe upper limit.) If you don’t do caffeine or work out at night, look for a pre-workout labeled ‘caffeine-free’ or ‘stim-free.’

2. Creatine

This natural compound, which is made from three amino acids, affects how energy is used, recycled, and stored in your muscles, and helps you use your finite supply efficiently during weight-lifting or high-intensity interval training, according to Tod Cooperman, M.D., President and CEO of ConsumerLab.com, which independently tests health and nutritional products. Creatine also helps jump-start the muscle-building process by drawing in water and stimulating a compound called insulin-like growth factor, or IGF. Research shows creatine can support muscle growth and strength, as well as improve sprint performance.

Related: How Many Times A Week Should You Strength Train?

Since creatine takes a few weeks to build up in your system, you have to use it consistently, according to Cooperman. In addition to your pre-workout supp, you can also find it in foods like eggs, beef, and fish. Experts typically recommend about five grams a day.

3. L-Arginine And L-Citrulline

The amino acids arginine and citrulline are used to produce nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes our blood vessels to increase blood flow.  “And since your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your tissues, this increased flow ups the supply of the good stuff to your muscles.” Research show citrulline to be the more effective of the two, with one study, for example, finding that citrulline helped cyclists feel less fatigued and perform better on time trial tests. Fitness enthusiasts also often find this nitric oxide-induced blood flow boost contributes to a satisfying muscle ‘pump’ and extra ‘vascular’ look.

The amount of arginine and/or citrulline in pre-workouts varies greatly from brand to brand—but experts often recommend up to six grams total before getting sweaty. (If you have any cardiovascular issues, check with your doc before supplementing with these, advises Cooperman.)

4. B Vitamins

B vitamins are often credited for giving us energy, but what they really do is help our body better convert the energy from food into energy it can use. The four you’ll most often see in pre-workout formulas: vitamin B6 (involved in hundreds of functions, including central nervous system activity), folic acid (key for brain function and production of DNA), vitamin B12 (important for nerve health and energy production), and niacin (supports the metabolism of fats, carbs, and protein into energy.)

Different formulas pack different amounts of these B vitamins, but they’re often higher in B12 than the other Bs.

5. BCAAs

Of the 20 amino acids (the building blocks of protein) our body needs, three in particular—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—are especially crucial for our muscles. These three aminos are known as the BCAAs, or ‘branched-chain amino acids.’ Of the three, leucine gets the most glory for its pivotal role in triggering muscle protein synthesis, the process through which our muscles recover and grow. Meanwhile, isoleucine can be converted to energy in our cells, regulate our blood sugar, and enhance our hormonal and immune responses. Valine can also be converted into energy, but also helps keep the ‘feel-good’ hormone serotonin—which can make us a little drowsy—from getting in the way of our performance.

Supplementing with about five grams of BCAAs before a workout can promote muscle-building and ward off soreness afterwards, says Cooperman. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness confirms this, finding that athletes who supplemented with BCAAs during intense training reported less fatigue and soreness and had lower measures of muscle damage than those who did not.

6. Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine, which is produced in the liver, contributes to our levels of muscle carnosine, another amino acid-like compound that supports performance and endurance by buffering the compounds that cause that burning, fatigued feeling in your muscles. Carnosine is found in type-two muscle fibers, which help you power through high-intensity activities like sprinting or heavy lifting, so beta-alanine offers a boost for circuit- or interval-style workouts that involve bouts of effort lasting one to four minutes, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN).

You can find beta-alanine in protein-rich foods like eggs and meat, but a supplement can best ramp up your muscles’ concentrations of carnosine. According to the ISSN, it takes about four weeks of four to six grams of beta-alanine a day to make the magic happen.

7. Betaine

Though this amino acid-like compound has been understood for a while, betaine has recently gained popularity with fitness enthusiasts for its ability to help the body utilize protein efficiently. One recent study tested betaine’s potential and found that fit men who supplemented with 2.5 grams daily throughout a six-week training period increased muscle size and power, and improved their body composition (amount of body fat compared to lean mass, like muscle), better than those who took a placebo.

Since other studies on less-active individuals did not return such favorable results, researchers believe that betaine is most effective in already-fit people performing high-intensity exercise.

Read pre-workout labels like a pro with this infographic:

5 Natural Ways To Soothe A Sore Throat

If you feel like you spend half of winter with a sore throat, you’ll try anything to be able to swallow without cringing. No matter how torturous your sore throat may be, though, there’s only so much cherry-red syrup you can chug.

Luckily, there are a number of natural foods and drinks that can soothe your soreness. The next time your throat is a fiery tube of anger, keep these five throat-savers in mind.


1. Licorice

A Twizzler has never (ever) cured a sore throat, but actual licorice root might be able to help. The sweet root has been traditionally used for its soothing, coating properties and can benefit your everyday sore throat, says Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.

You can find licorice in supplements, candies, and teas—just be careful to only use regular licorice when needed, since over-consumption can increase sodium levels and affect blood pressure, Jones says. If choosing a supplement, look for ‘deglycyrhizinated licorice’ (DGL), which doesn’t affect sodium levels.


2. Ginger

Need a break from your same old throat drops? Try ginger candies instead. Not only are they deliciously warm and spicy, but ginger is packed with antioxidant compounds called ‘gingerols’ and ‘shogaols’ that can help your immune system pull through.

Research suggests that through its interaction with our immune systems, ginger has a calming, soothing effect throughout the body. In addition to candies, it’s also popular in teas and capsule supplements.


3. Sage

This delicious herb—a staple of Mediterranean diets and Eastern schools of medicine alike—is revered for its potent antioxidant activity, making it a helpful immune system-booster when you’re feeling under the weather. In fact, one study found that throat spray made from sage and Echinacea (another herb known for its immune benefits) can soothe a sore throat.

Related: 5 Supplements Nutritionists Take During Cold Season

Incorporate more sage into your routine by sprinkling it into warm soups or sipping on sage tea.


 4. Tea & Honey

Speaking of tea… “The warmth of tea alone can work wonders on a sore throat, but certain ingredients, like honey, ginger, and slippery elm bark can add extra benefit to your mug,” says Jones. Raw local honey has long been thought to support the immune system, thanks to its polyphenol and antioxidant content, but honey’s thick consistency also provides some relief by coating the throat. You can add it to your tea or eat it straight out of the spoon.

Like honey, slippery elm bark also coats the throat, Jones says. Its moistening effect makes it able to relieve dryness and itchiness.


 5. Applesauce

If your sore throat has left you with a hot or burning sensation, integrative medicine expert Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., recommends eating cool, smooth foods like applesauce for relief.

In addition to its slightly throat-numbing chill, applesauce also contains pectin, a type of fiber found in fruits, that becomes gel-like and can coat and soothe the throat, Trattner says.

8 Healthy Things You Can Flavor Your Coffee With

For many of us, coffee is a non-negotiable part of any morning. Not only does the caffeine help us snap out of zombie-mode, but it also contains a number of antioxidants that can support healthy blood sugar and cognitive function.

What we add to that coffee has the power to either make it even healthier—or undermine its benefits by way of excess sugar and empty calories. Make your morning java work double-duty by adding one of these science- and nutritionist-backed ingredients..


1. Collagen

Whether you want to promote healthy aging or simply make your morning brew more satiating, collagen is just the add-in you need. This protein makes up the supportive structure of many of our tissues and research has shown supplementing with it can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. “Collagen is rich in nutrients and amino acids that can support healthy joints, muscle growth, and recovery,” explains Theresa Kroog, B.S., N.Y.T., nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe.

Collagen powder supplements are often unflavored and mix easily, so you can enjoy your coffee without even realizing they’re there. A serving of Vital Proteins’ Collagen Peptides offers 18 total grams of protein for just 72 calories, helping you feel nourished and satiated as you sip.


2. Coconut Or MCT Oil

As the keto diet and buzz around eating more fat continue to explode, more and more people are adding coconut oil—yes, oil—to their coffee. It’s subtlety sweet and high in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), a type of saturated fat that our body breaks down differently than other fats. Because of this, MCTs are a good, quick energy source and less likely to be stored as fat and contribute to weight gain, says Kroog. For a satiating brew than keeps you energized all morning long, blend about a tablespoon of coconut oil into your coffee.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Ketogenic Diet Trend

If you want to really maximize the benefits of those MCTs, you can also find pure MCT oil to blend in instead.


3. Ghee

Another fat finding its way into coffee mugs everywhere: ghee, or clarified butter. Made by boiling butter into a golden liquid, ghee may be lower in lactose than regular butter. Kroog recommends opting for grass-fed ghee, which is more nutrient-dense. Research has shown that butter made from grass-fed cows contains up to 500 percent more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—a fatty acid that prevents a step in our body’s fat storage process and can reduce how much of the fat we consume gets stored—than butter made from grain-fed cows.

Blend about a tablespoon of ghee into your coffee on its own or in addition to up to a tablespoon of coconut or MCT oil for sustained energy, says Kroog.


4. Cinnamon

If you’re looking to sweeten up your mug of coffee without an actual sweetener, Kroog recommends using cinnamon. Not only does it add flavor, but the spice is high in antioxidants called ‘cinnamaldehydes’ and “supports healthy joints and blood sugar levels,” she says. Research has also shown it to support healthy blood pressure. Kroog recommends about half a tablespoon of cinnamon per 12 ounces of coffee.


5. Powdered Creamer

Whether you’re following a keto diet or just want your coffee creamer to actually add nutrition, a powdered creamer supplement can level up your coffee. Option number one: MAN Sports’ French Vanilla Iso-Amino Coffee Creamer Bliss, which adds five grams of muscle-supporting branched-chain amino acids and flavor without any dairy, sugar, or calories. Option number two: BPI Sports’ French Vanilla Keto Bomb, which contains powdered MCTs and essential fats so you can flavor your coffee with a boost of healthy fats instead of the usual carbs.


6. Maca

Maca, an antioxidant-rich root vegetable native to Peru, has been used in traditional medicine for its fertility and vitality benefits and is now revered as an ‘adaptogen,’ meaning it supports the body’s response to stress. Research has shown that supplementing with maca is particularly helpful in mediating low mood and feelings of anxiety.

Maca has a nutty flavor that hazelnut or toasted almond coffee lovers will enjoy, and just a tablespoon stirred or blended into your java will do the trick.


7. Protein Powder

If you leave the house with your shaker cup in one hand and your travel mug in the other, The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Jaclyn Jacobsen, M.S., recommends subbing protein powder in for coffee creamer. Not only does the protein powder provide your muscles with the nutrients they need to stay strong and grow, but it also turns your coffee into more of a meal and helps keep your blood sugar stable, Jacobsen says.

Whisk up to a scoop of your go-to protein powder (we like BodyTech French Vanilla WheyTech Pro 24 or Optimum Nutrition Double Rich Chocolate Gold Standard 100% Whey) into your brew until evenly mixed.


8. Mushroom Powder

After a long history of use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, mushrooms are everywhere right now—and varieties like reishi and cordyceps are getting extra-special attention for their ‘adaptogenic’ benefits. While reishi mushrooms support overall health and longevity because of their role in cell and immune function and their high antioxidant content, cordyceps are best known for improving energy and stamina.

You’ll find these mushrooms in all sorts of supplements these days (including pre-workouts), and Jacobsen likes to add Matrix FIT Organic Mushroom Powder to coffee to reap the immunity-boosting benefits of reishi, cordyceps, and other medicinal mushrooms. You can even satisfy your sweet tooth with mushroom hot cocoa mixes like Four Sigma Foods’ Cordyceps and Reishi Mushroom How Cacao Drink Mix.