January Clean Up - The Brain Always Wins - Strategies to outsmart our primitive survival mechanisms

Trying to Clean up a bit for January?


There’s a saying the brain always wins.


This means the brain will choose habits and foods which stimulate it and give it pleasure signals.


When we stop these generally it doesn’t feel great cause the brain starts craving the neurotransmitter response.


In addition, if you are doing something unusually hard or difficult the brain can start saying ‘this is boring’ or just too difficult. It’s missing the comfort and it wants you to avoid the pain. Or course reframing this is part of successful behaviour change.


If you give something up, you always need to replace it with something else.


Remove = replace. Normally you start to get a decent endorphin buzz from exercise after a few times of doing it. This can be a great replacement from eating or drinking too many of the wrong types of things to excess in the evening.


Often if we are adjusting a habit it’s because we might have been doing too much or too little if it before. Then we have a choice. Do we reduce or avoid?


Stepping things down means less ‘cold turkey’ which you may have had enough of already. Sometimes though getting straight into things is a better choice. Depending on how disciplined you can be.


Focusing on the towards goals and positive outcomes is good. You can read the goal setting piece on the blog on the website www.aminoman.com


As the brain is often craving you can use aminos to upregulate things and make life feel a little easier. Things like tyrosine will help with energy and focus. For carb cravings it’s better to use serotonin and GABA helpers, these include 5HTP, glycine, calming herbs like rhodiola.


Lots of people find the R5’s with a little hot water helpful in the evening times to avoid booze cravings or just fall into a more relaxed state.


Something I make which is really excellent for cravings is the Amber Aminos hot chocolateadaptogen mix. You need to make this with a milk substitute and some honey like manuka honey. I’ve not added any extra sugars just pure ingredients and organic hot chocolate, tons of adaptogens and serotonin helpers. I’m discounting it for January to help you guys along. It’s down to £39.99 and you can use the brochure20 for an additional 20% off.


Amber Aminos, also has tons of additional ingredients,B-vitamins and gram doses of MACA, Siberian ginseng and ashwaganda.


Like most of the PM formulas I make – I feel a little bit chilled and a little bit frisky I know I’ve hit the nail on the head so to speak.


The muscle gain and fat loss bundlesalso feature my Metabolic Amino Complex – they represent really good value for money if you are thinking about investing in your health and well-being this year. If you have time and are interested in nutrition you can read about the ingredient selection for the Metabolic optimiser below.


Lots of interesting information and also additional nutrients you may be interested in trying out for yourselves as part of your new fitness targets for 2019.


Metabolic Amino Complex

Metabolic Amino Complex

Is designed to support intra and post workout recovery and performance. A blend of essential and branched chain amino acids, supporting metabolic co factors, b-vitamins and herbs. Metabolic Amino – support protein synthesis though high levels of leucine, blood glucose sensitivity through key trace minerals, zinc, chromium, magnesium and anti-oxidants, hormonal balance, reduced cortisol and increased testosterone from supporting herbs, maca and Siberian ginseng along with phospholipids. Additional energy and mitochondrial support is derived from CO Q 10, carnitine and taurine. Beta alanine is added for lactate acid buffering and anti-glycation properties. Finally, TMG, green tea extract and citrulline and a full electrolyte blend complete one of the most in depth, all round amino acid exercise supporting supplement on the market today.


At 9 calories per serving and 1.3g of carbs, the blend is also viable for ketogenic style and low carb dieting patterns.


Muscle function, energy, electrolyte balance, blood glucose and performance support……


The primary role of chromium is in glucose metabolism. It is thought to potentiate the action of insulin [2] – in other words, amplify insulin’s effect on our cells, helping glucose to be taken into the cells and removed from the blood.

Through this effect on insulin, chromium also supports macronutrient metabolism. This means the processing of carbohydrates, fats and proteins from the food we eat, breaking them down and converting them into other substances.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

Phosphatidylserine is one of the phospholipid molecules that make up our cell membranes. It’s found in particularly high amounts in the cells of the brain and nervous system, and is thought to be vital for their survival, and for neurotransmission (the communication betweennerve cells that allows nerve signals to travel around the body). For this reason, PS is also critical for normal cognitive function (memory, thought, reasoning etc.); and supplements of phosphatidylserine have been found in some studies to be helpful for improving cognitive function in those with existing memory problems.[10]

Phosphatidylserine in supplement form has also been widely researched for its capacity to reduce or help balance stress hormone levels such as cortisol – including the high levels that can be induced by exercise. As cortisol is a catabolic hormone that breaks down tissue, it’s desirable to reduce cortisol levels after training in order to initiate repair and rebuilding of the muscle, as well as support mental relaxation and recovery.

An early placebo-controlled trial by Italian researchers on 9 men found that supplementing with PS for 10 days lessened their exercise-induced increases in cortisol and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH, which stimulatescortisol release), without affecting growth hormone levels [11]. A later (2008) study also found similar results: men who took phosphatidylserine for 10 days showed lower peak cortisol levels after moderate exercise compared to those taking a placebo. [12] The participants taking the PS in this study also showed a higher overall testosterone-to-cortisol ratio after training; this is beneficial in women as well as men, as testosterone is an anabolic (building) hormone that can support muscle repair.

Phosphatidylserine may also be beneficial for exercise performance. A study on 14 active men found that a taking a PS supplement at 750mg for 10 days significantly increased their time to exhaustion in a cycling exercise at 85% VO2 max. In those who took the PS supplement, the average time to exhaustion (i.e. how long they could exercise at high intensity) increased from 7 minutes 51 seconds to 9 minutes 51 seconds, whereas no increasewas seen in the placebo group, who averaged 8 minutes 2 seconds in the final test. [13]

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA)

Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like substance that is made in the body. It is found primarily in the mitochondria of our cells – the ‘energy-producing factories’ – where it acts as a co-factor for several enzymes involved in energy metabolism [14]. (In other words, it’s one of the many substances needed by our cells to produce energy.)

ALA is an important antioxidanttoo. Whereas most antioxidants are either fat-soluble (e.g. vitamin E) or water-soluble (e.g. vitamin C, glutathione), alpha lipoic acid can dissolve in both fat or water, meaning it’s active both in protecting fatty substances such as our cell membranes, andin watery environments such as in our blood and inside our cells. It is said to help ‘recycle’ vitamins C and E; and to increase levels of glutathione and coenzyme Q10 – all of these are also vital antioxidants. [15,16] Supplementing alpha lipoic acid has also been found to have anti-inflammatoryactivity [16].

Due to its antioxidant activity and its presence in the mitochondria, alpha lipoic acid may have a specific role in protecting the mitochondria from free radical damage, and help to protect against age-related decline in mitochondrial function [22]. This is another mechanism by which it contributes to energy production for our cells.

As well as these primary functions, it’s been found that ALA has a role in regulating blood glucose. It’s been found to stimulate glucose uptake into cells [17,18] and improve insulin sensitivity [21]. For this reason, several clinical trials have been carried out on the benefits of ALA supplementation for patients with type 2 diabetes. One study, for example, found that patients taking 300mg of ALA daily over 2 months saw their fasting blood glucose and post-meal glucose levels decrease significantly [19]. Another study found that ALA was able to improve pancreatic islet function (i.e. the function of the cells that produce insulin) as well as improve patients’ blood glucose levels [20].

Although most of the human studies on ALA and blood sugar control have been carried out on patients with type 2 diabetes, improved management of blood glucose is helpful for all of us. It can help to reduce sugar or carb cravings, support fat loss and weight management, and support energy, mood and hormone balance. Perhaps most importantly for athletes, improved insulin sensitivity (that comes with better glucose control) helps to optimise the uptake of glucose and amino acids into the muscle after exercise, supporting the process of glycogen replenishment and muscle repair.


L-Carnitine is an amino acid that is not used in protein synthesis. The primary role of carnitine in the body is in energy production – it is needed to transport fats into the mitochondria (the ‘energy-producing factories’) of our cells so they can be used in energy production, in a process called beta-oxidation.

Carnitine is a popular supplement for supporting athletic performance and endurance, and has had positive results in some studies. For example, a 2014 study on 26 professional footballers found that taking 3–4g of L-carnitine before exercise was associated with lower lactic acid production and lower heart rate response during a running test (suggesting more efficient energy utilization) [23]. And in a study on 20 male athletes, those taking 2g of carnitine a day for 10 days showed a significant improvement in performance times in a 1500m running test – and reduced lactic acid build-up – whereas the control group did not improve from their baseline results. [24]

It was thought that carnitine improves performance by increasing beta-oxidation of fatty acids in the mitochondria – i.e. transporting more fats into the mitochondria to be burned for energy. However some studies suggest that this is not the case. Other possible ways it could be working include increasing blood flow to the muscle tissues, and decreasing ‘hypoxic stress’ – i.e. stress or damage to the cells and tissues due to lack of oxygen. [26]

Carnitine may also spare muscle glycogen in low or moderate-intensity exercise: in a trial on 14 men, those taking 2g of carnitine in addition to 80g of carbohydrate utilised 55% less muscle glycogen when exercising at 50% of maximum compared to those just taking the carbohydrates.[28] Sparing muscle glycogen may result in improved endurance and time to exhaustion.

Carnitine has been found to help protect against muscle sorenessand muscle damageafter exercise, supporting recovery. In a study on 21 active men, those taking 2g of carnitine a day for 14 days had significantly lower levels of creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase – markers of muscle damage – 24 hours after exercise than those taking a placebo [26]. A double-blind trial on 18 active men and women found that those taking 2g of L-carnitine a day for three weeks had significantly reduced markers of muscle damage, free radical formation and muscle soreness after a squat/leg press exercise challenge [27].

Taking carnitine supplements taken with carbohydrates may also increase energy expenditure (calorie burning) and prevent body fat gain. In a study of 12 men, it was found that those who took 1.36 g of carnitine together with 80g of carbohydrate twice a day for 12 weeks improved their whole-body energy expenditure by 6%, and did not gain fat; whereas those taking justthe carbohydrates gained 1.8kg body fat mass over the 12 weeks and had no increase in energy expenditure [29]. This indicates that carnitine could be helpful in fat loss/weight management too, especially for those who need to have a higher carbohydrate intake to support muscle glycogen replenishment and recovery from exercise.

Carnitine and its metabolites (e.g. acetyl-l-carnitine) may also have significant antioxidant activity. Several in vitro and animal studies have found this to be the case [30]; and a human study on 12 healthy participants, 2g of L-carnitine a day was found to increase levels of the body’s antioxidant enzymes including superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase, and increase total antioxidant capacity (i.e. ability to scavenge free radicals) [31]. In one of the other studies quoted above, participants taking 2g of carnitine for 14 days were also found to have a higher plasma total antioxidant capacity than those taking a placebo [26].


Peak performance and fast muscle recovery require optimal nutrient delivery and waste removal from the muscles. This in turn requires good blood flow. A substance called nitric oxide (NO) that is produced in the lining of the blood vessels causes the muscle of the blood vessels to relax, dilating them and allowing more blood to flow through.

Nitric oxide can be made in the body from the amino acid L-arginine, and this is the primary reason L-arginine is often included in performance or recovery-focused supplements. Another amino acid – L-citrulline – can be converted into L-arginine in the body, and in turn converted to nitric oxide. Although you would think the opposite would be true,some research indicates that taking supplementary L-citrulline is moreeffective in producing nitric oxide than L-arginine.This is because much of the L-arginine we ingest is broken down in the intestines and liver before it can circulate around the body, whereas L-citrulline is not – it can reach the tissues (e.g. the blood vessel lining) intact, and then be converted to L-arginine, and then nitric oxide. [32] Researchers investigating this idea ran a study on 20 volunteers, finding that L-citrulline increased L-arginine levels in the blood moreeffectively (i.e. with a smaller dose of the supplement) than L-arginine itself [33].

L-citrulline supplementation has also been found to stimulate muscle protein synthesis– even to a greater extent than L-leucine, one of the branched-chain amino acids [34,35]. By stimulating protein synthesis, we support muscle repair, recovery and strength gain.

L-citrulline may also enhance performanceandreduce muscle soreness after exercise. In a 2010 study, 41 men underwent two training sessions consisting of 16 sets of pectoral exercises. Before one session they were given 8 grams of L-citrulline, and a placebo before the other session (in a placebo-controlled, crossover design). In the session where they took the citrulline, the participants achieved 53% more reps, and had a decrease of 40% in muscle soreness after 24 and 48 hours! [36]


Like L-carnitine and L-citrulline, the amino acid L-taurine is not used to make protein. However, it is found in high levels in the muscles, and has various important roles including maintaining calcium balance in our cells(necessary for nerve signals to travel, and for muscles to contract). It also acts as an osmolyte– a substance that affects osmosis and plays a role in maintaining cell hydration and volume.

L-taurine also seems to play a role in regulating energy metabolismin our muscle cells (how well they make and use energy) and affect exercise endurance. In an animal study, mice that were taurine-deficient experienced muscle wasting and reduced exercise endurance and performance [37].

Supplementing taurine has also been reported to reduce muscle sorenessand muscle damageafter exercise. In a recent study on 21 participants, those taking taurine had increased overall strength levels, decreased muscle soreness, and decreased markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase activity and lactate dehydrogenase) and oxidative damage compared to those taking a placebo [38]. Another recent study found that combining BCAAs and taurine was effective in reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle damage in 36 untrained men [39].


For optimal muscle repair and recovery after training, we need to do what we can to reduce protein breakdown and promote protein synthesis in our muscles. This is not only the case when we’re trying to increase muscle sizebut also simply to improve muscle strength and tone.

The branched-chain amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine (a sub-group of the essential amino acids) have been widely researched for their role in this process. All three BCAAs – leucine in particular – have been found to both increase protein synthesisanddecrease protein degradationin resting human muscles. [40,41] They are thought to work not only as a substrate (raw material) for protein synthesis, but also affect the signalling pathways that control it [40,44] – i.e. they act like a ‘switch’ to turn on protein synthesis in the muscle.

Through this mechanism, taking BCAAs may also reduce muscle damage, reduce muscle fatigue andsoreness andpromote recovery. In a trial on 30 young men and women, half were given a 5g (5000mg) BCAAs mixture and the other half a placebo drink before performing a squat exercise test designed to induce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and muscle fatigue. Those who took the BCAAs reported lower levels of muscle soreness from immediately after the exercise to four days later, with the women actually experiencing a greater reduction than the men. The ratings of muscle fatigue were also lower in the BCAAs groups, from day 2 to day 5 after the exercise. [42] In another study on 12 long-distance runners taking part in a 3-day intensive training, those who took a BCAA-containing drink throughout the training reported 32% reduced muscle soreness and 24% lower muscle fatigue compared to the group taking the placebo drink (that contained the same number of calories). They also had lower levels of creatine kinase and other markers of muscle damage in their blood. [43]

BCAAs may also reducecentralfatigueduring exercise. Central fatigue occurs in the nervous system rather than the muscles, and is thought to be caused by changes in neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin; it can cause feelings of fatigue even when the muscles should still be able to produce energy. A human study found that supplementing BCAAs reduced ratings of perceived exertion (how hard subjects thoughtthey were working) and mental fatigue in participants doing a cycle ergometer exercise. [45]

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Siberian ginseng is a herb that grows in Russia and the Far East, and is traditionally used as an ‘adaptogen’[46]. Adaptogens are substances that can be said to have a general normalising or balancing action in the body, including increasing our resistance or ability to ‘adapt’ to stress.

In a study on mice, Siberian ginseng extracts were found to increase swimming time of the mice (i.e. reducing fatigue) and decrease the elevation in corticosterone induced by the swimming test (corticosterone is a stress hormone similar to cortisol). Unfortunately, however, there seem to be few human studies examining this effect. [48]

Siberian ginseng may also support athletic performanceand endurancewhen taken regularly. In a study carried out in China, nine recreational athletes took either Siberian ginseng or a placebo for eight weeks and were then subject to a cycling test, before the groups were reversed. It was found that when the participants were taking the Siberian ginseng their endurance improved by 23% and their VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake, a measure of aerobic endurance) increased by 12%. [47] Early Russian studies also found beneficial results, including a study on runners that found those who took 2ml or 4ml of a Siberian ginseng extract before a 10-k race had better finishing times (48.7 and 45 min) compared to the control group (52.6 min). [46]

Maca (Lepidium meyenii)

Maca is a plant that grows in the Andes in Peru, and has been used there for its nutritional and ‘medicinal’ properties for up to 2,000 years. Its traditional uses include supporting energy and vitality [49,50].

Maca is sometimes described as an adaptogen[49], like Siberian ginseng. Adaptogens are substances that can be said to have a general normalising or balancing action in the body, including increasing our resistance or ability to ‘adapt’ to stress. In animal studies and in studies on hormone balance in women, maca has been found to reduce levels of cortisol.[51,52] Cortisol, which is one the body’s primary stress hormones, has a catabolic effect – it’s therefore desirable to reduce cortisol levels after training in order to initiate repair and rebuilding of muscle, as well as support mental relaxation and recovery. In these studies maca was also found to reduce levels of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), the hormone that stimulatesproduction of cortisol in the adrenal glands.

Maca has also been studied for its effects as an energiserand for its ability to support athletic performance andendurance. In a study on rats, those given a high dose of maca extracts for 21 days showed significantly increased time to exhaustion in a swimming test compared to the placebo group. It was also found that they had reduced build-up of lactic acid and lactate dehydrogenase (a marker of muscle damage), and also higher activity of glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase in their brain, muscle and liver – these are antioxidants that help protect against oxidative (free radical) damage. [50] In a study on eight male cyclists, those taking maca for 14 days showed improved performance in a 40km cycling time trial, although the difference was not considered significant compared to the placebo group.[53]

Another of maca’s potential benefits is supporting hormone balance in women, in particular for post-menopausal women and for menopause symptoms. One study on 22 post-menopausal women found that an extract called Maca-GO balanced hormone levels including oestrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone and thyroid hormones, as well as cortisol (as above). It was also found to alleviate menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats. [52]


Magnesium is needed for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body. These include reactions that synthesize and use ATP – the body’s energy molecule.

There are also many other reasons why we need magnesium for optimal performance and recovery. Here are some of them:

  • Magnesium is needed for the function of our muscles and nerves, in balance with calcium. It allows nerve signals to travel around the body, including to and from the muscles; and it’s needed for the muscles to contract and relax as they should. About a quarter of the body’s magnesium is stored in the muscles.[56]
  • Magnesium is needed forprotein synthesis.This means it helps to convert the amino acids and peptides from protein into new proteins to build and repair muscle. It also has a role in cell division, and hence allprocesses of growth and repair.
  • Magnesium supplementation has been found to increase free and total testosterone levelsin the blood [57]. This is beneficial in women as well as men, as testosterone is an anabolic (building) hormone that can support muscle repair and strength gain.
  • Magnesium may be beneficial for sleeptoo, which in turn supports repair and recovery. It’s thought that magnesium may stimulate production of inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitters such as GABA. Having adequate levels of magnesium may also be necessary for proper function of the pineal gland, which secretes melatonin that helps us to feel sleepy at night. [58]
  • Magnesium may help to regulate glucose metabolism [59]. This means helping the cells to take up glucose efficiently where it’s needed – vital for optimal glycogen replenishment after exercise, as well as for performance.
  • Magnesium is needed for glutathione production[56]. Glutathione is a vitally important antioxidant that plays a key role in protecting our cells and tissues against oxidative damage (such as that induced by exercise).

Magnesium is of course found in our foods – especially green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts, and beans and pulses. However, it’s thought that many people don’t get adequate amounts through food. Physical exercise depletes magnesium, as it’s used up more quickly by the body during exercise (e.g. to produce energy) and also lost in sweat and urine. This means that athletes may be particularly prone to deficiency [60], especially athletes who are also controlling their weight [61], and femaleathletes. For this reason, supplementation may also helpful for many individuals.

In addition, magnesium supplementation may support hormone balance in women and help to alleviatethesymptoms of premenstrual syndrome.A study on 32 women of 24–39 years with PMS found that those taking a magnesium supplement three times a day during the second half of their menstrual cycle for two cycles had reduced pain and mood changes [54]. Another study on 38 women found reduced symptoms of fluid retention in the second cycle when taking one 200mg magnesium supplement per day [55].

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 – also known as Co Q10 – is a vitamin-like substance that is present in all our cells. One of its primary roles is in the production of ATP the body’s energy molecule– in the mitochondria of our cells: it’s a vital part of the ‘electron transport chain’ which is the final stage in production of ATP. Because it’s so important for energy, it’s found in particularly high concentrations in the heart muscle [62].

Thanks to its role in energy production, supplements of Co Q10 have been studied for their potential to support exercise performance and endurance. In a study on 22 trained and 19 untrained young males and females, those who took 200mg of Co Q10 per day for two weeks showed increased time to exhaustion in a treadmill test [63]. Another study looked at the effects of Co Q10 supplements on maximum power outputin 100 elite trained athletes. The athletes took either 300mg of Co Q10 (as ubiquinol) over 6 weeks while training for the Olympic Games in London 2012. Both groups (Co Q10 and placebo) experienced an increase in power output over the 6 weeks, but those taking 300mg of Co Q10 a day showed a 2.5% greaterincrease than those taking a placebo. The researchers concluded that “the effect of Ubiquinol supplementation significantly enhanced peak power production in comparison to placebo”. [64] However, several other studies have found no benefit on exercise performance in athletes [66].

There is also some indication that Co Q10 supplementation may help to reduce muscle damagefrom exercise. A study on 18 male kendo athletes practising kendo for 5.5 hours a day for 6 days found that markers of muscle damage such as creatine kinase were decreased at certain time points in the athletes taking 300mg of Co Q10 a day compared to those on placebo. [65]

The other primary role of Co Q10 (in addition to its role in energy production) is as an antioxidant. For this reason it may help prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress(free radical damage) in muscles, which can affect recovery. In a study on 15 men, those taking 100mg of Co Q10 a day showed lower levels of malondialdehyde in their blood – a marker of oxidative damage – both before and after exercise compared to a placebo group.[67] A study on rats also reported that Co Q10 supplementation reduced exercise-induced oxidative damage in muscles by protecting muscle cell membranes [68]. However, again, other studies on the antioxidant benefits of Co Q10 for athletes have failed to produce beneficial results [66].

TMG (Trimethylglycine / Betaine)

Trimethylglycine – also known as betaine – is a natural substance found in foods, and can be made in the body from choline.

One of the primary roles of TMG is as an osmolyte[69] – a substance that affects osmosis. This means it can help to maintain cell hydration and volume.

The other well-known role of TMG in the body is as a ‘methyl donor’ in the cycle that converts homocysteine to methionine and SAMe (s-adenosyl methionine). This conversion is essential for the proper function of many of our body’s processes – from neurotransmitter production, to DNA repair, to controlling inflammation, to heart protection – meaning TMG could have a wide influence on our health.

TMG’s role in production of SAMe also means it may be important for fat metabolismin the liver– i.e. breaking down, removing or preventing the build-up of fat (which can lead to ‘fatty liver’). This in turn may help to prevent insulin resistance and obesity. In an animal experiment it was found that mice fed a high-fat diet developed insulin resistance, obesity and fatty liver; they also had reduced natural levels of TMG in their livers. But when they were given TMG in supplement form together with the same diet, this produced a reversalof insulin resistance and fatty liver. [70] Through this same mechanism, TMG supplementation may support body compositionin humans too. In a study on 23 strength-trained men who were matched for body fat percentage, those who took 2.5g of TMG a day for 6 weeks while undergoing a training programme showed significantly improved body composition including body fat percentage and lean body mass, whereas the placebo group (doing the same training) showed no improvement in these measures [71]. And in a population study on almost 2,000 older adults in China, those who had higher levels of TMG in their blood tended to have lower body weight, body mass index and waist circumference compared to those with lower levels of TMG [72], further supporting the idea that TMG may be important for body composition.

TMG may also have an anabolic effect, stimulating muscle growth and repair. Researchers carrying out an in vitro (test tube) study found that TMG could stimulate differentiation and growth of muscle fibres from immature muscle cells, potentially by increasing the activation of IGF-1, an anabolic hormone. [73] To investigate this further, another group of researchers carried out a clinical trial on 12 trained men. The participants took either a TMG supplement (2.5g per day) or a placebo for two weeks, then took part in an acute exercise session, after which their levels of hormones were measured. They found that after the two weeks of TMG supplementation, the men’s blood levels of IGF-1 and growth hormone increased, and cortisol (a catabolic hormone) had decreased in comparison to placebo. Their levels of muscle Akt, a signalling molecule that triggers protein synthesis, also increased. The TMG seemed to be enhancing the anabolic environment and encouraging protein synthesis. [74] (Remember this doesn’t mean it’s going to build huge muscles, simply support muscle recovery, strength and tone, which in turn also supports metabolism.)

Essential amino acids (EAAs)

For optimal muscle repair and recovery after training, we need to do what we can to reduce protein breakdown and promote protein synthesis in our muscles. This is not only the case when we’re trying to increase muscle sizebut also simply to improve muscle strength and tone.

Among the nutrients that can help specifically with promoting muscle protein synthesisare the essential amino acids (EAAs). These are the amino acids we must get through our diet, as our body can’t make them itself: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, threonine and valine. They are of course found in protein foods, but can also be taken as free amino acids in supplement form, where they can be isolated from other (non-essential) amino acids.

Several human studies have found that taking a combination of carbohydrates and essential amino acids after exercise can stimulate muscle protein synthesis in humans, and can be more effective than carbohydrates alone [77, 78]. But what about EAAs alone? In a small study on six volunteers, researchers found that taking a drink containing just 6 grams of free EAAs (without the addition of carbohydrates or other nutrients) after resistance exercise was also able to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Worth noting is that the researchers found better results when just the essentialamino acids were used compared to the same amount (6g) of a combination of essential and non-essential amino acids – suggesting that EAAs alone are more efficient than a mixed blend or the same amount of a whole protein. The researchers also found equal results when the drink was taken either one or two hours after the exercise, demonstrating that EAAs don’t necessarily need to be taken straight away to have a positive effect. [75]

A study on rats also found that in addition to promoting protein synthesis, EAAs may also reduce muscle sorenessafter exercise. [76]

Beta alanine

Beta-alanine is another amino acid that has a role in muscle function. It combines with L-histidine, another amino acid, to make a dipeptide called carnosine, which is stored in the muscles. Beta-alanine supplementation has been found to significantly increase carnosine in the muscle – one human study found that giving 3.2g and 6.4g of beta-alanine for four weeks resulted in an increase of 42% and 64% in muscle carnosine [79].

One of the primary effects of carnosine in muscle is that it buffers lactic acid that builds up during intensive (anaerobic) exercise, delaying the onset of muscle fatigue [80]. This may help to improve endurance. Several studies have examined the effects of beta-alanine in reducing muscle fatigue in this way. One placebo-controlled trial on 15 sprinters gave the participants either beta-alanine (2.4g/day building up to 4.8g/day) or a placebo for 4–5 weeks. Before and after the supplementation period, their performance on 5 x 30 sets of knee extensions and a 400 m race was evaluated. It was found that those taking the beta-alanine had significant improvements in peak torque (force) for sets 4 and 5 of the knee extensions, relative to their pre-supplementation performance and relative to the placebo group. (The 400-m run performance was not improved.)[81] Another notable placebo-controlled trial gave 22 women either a beta-alanine supplement or a placebo for 28 days, testing several measures of exercise performance before and at the end of the supplementation period. It was found that those taking the beta alanine had a 13.9% improvement in ventilatory threshold (the point when breathing surpasses normal ventilation rate – a measure of anaerobic capacity and lactate accumulation), 12.6% increase in ‘physical working capacity at fatigue’ (a measure of ability to resist fatigue) and a 2.5% increase in time to exhaustion. The placebo group showed no improvements.[82] These studies therefore indicate that beta-alanine can help to delay fatigue in the muscles, especially in intensive exercise.

Beta-alanine supplementation may also specifically improve explosiveperformance and enhance muscle contractility (capacity of the muscles to contract). A study on nine male elite alpine skiers found that supplementing with 4.8g per day of beta-alanine for five weeks improved measures of explosive and jump performance that were not seen in those taking a placebo [83]. This may happen through a different mechanism than buffering lactic acid: it’s thought that carnosine may improve muscle contractility by increasing free calcium inside the cells (calcium is needed for muscle contraction) and sensitising contractile proteins to calcium.[84]

Carnosine has also been found to have antioxidant and anti-aging activity, as well as hypoglycaemic (blood sugar-lowering) and anti-glycation activity [85, 86, 87]. As an antioxidant, its activities are thought to include scavenging reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species – specific types of free radical [88]. Glycation is a process in which sugar molecules bind to protein or fat molecules in an uncontrolled way, preventing the function of those molecules and causing damage to cells and tissues – for example stiffening of the arteries. Carnosine has been found to inhibit protein glycation and even reverse glycated protein, helping to prevent this damage. It has also been found to lower blood sugar in animal studies of diabetes, possibly by increasing insulin secretion to improve uptake of glucose into the cells. [87]

Green tea

Green tea is perhaps best known for its potential to supportmetabolism, body compositionand fat loss. It’s been found to have thermogenic properties, which basically means it can increase the rate at which your cells burn energy. Many studies on both animals and humans – with and without including exercise in the mix – have demonstrated positive results.

In a placebo-controlled study on 36 overweight women, it was found that those taking a green tea extract for 8 weeks without adding any exerciselost weight and reduced their waist circumference and BMI. Those taking a placebo saw no improvements. As part of the same study, women who did resistance training andtook the green tea had better increases in their metabolic rate and better reductions in body fat and waist circumference compared to the women who did the same training but took a placebo rather than the green tea. [89] Another small study on 14 women found that those taking green tea capsules the day before and 90 minutes before exercise showed increased levels of fat oxidation (burning fat for energy) both at rest and after exercise. Those taking a placebo only showed improved fat oxidation after the exercise [90]. This reinforces the idea that green tea may be helpful for burning fat whether you’re exercising or not!

But could it be just the caffeine in green tea that is responsible for these effects? It seems not. The catechins in green tea (a type of polyphenol thought to be responsible for many of green tea’s health benefits) – are thought to play a primary role too. A review article published in the journal Obesity Reviewsanalysed the results of six human studies examining effects of caffeine only and caffeine combined with catechins on energy expenditure (the amount of calories burned) and fat oxidation (the burning of fat for energy). The researchers found that while caffeine on its own could increase energy expenditure, only caffeine and catechins togethertended to increase fat oxidationover 24 hours. [91]

Green tea may also support recovery and performance. In a 2013 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a group of Japanese researchers examined the ability of green tea catechins to help recovery of physical performance in mice after a downhill running challenge. One group of mice was given green tea catechins for 3 weeks beforehand, and the other was not. When tested again one day after the challenge, it was found that the mice given catechins were able to run significantly longer than those who had not, indicating improved recovery. Their blood also showed much lower levels of creatine kinase – a marker of muscle damage; and lower markers of inflammation such as TNF-alpha and interleukin-1 beta (pro-inflammatory signalling molecules). The researchers suggested that the green tea extract reduced muscle damage by suppressing oxidative stress (i.e. free radical damage) and inflammation in the muscle. [92, 93]

And finally, green tea may have an anabolic effecttoo – i.e. helping to build or prevent loss of lean body mass. In the study on 36 women mentioned above [89], the women who drank green tea (2 cups a day) in addition to doing resistance training 3 times a week showed greater increases in lean body mass and muscle strength after 8 weeks compared to those not drinking the tea.


Choline is commonly considered to be a B vitamin, but it can be manufactured in the body (vitamins, by definition, cannot). Choline has multiple roles in the body, including being present in all our cell membranes in the form of phosphatidyl choline, where it’s necessary for cell structure and cell signalling (transmission of messages into and out of the cells) [94].

Choline one of the many nutrients needed for healthy brain function and memory. One reason is that it’s a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that has many functions in the nervous system but is most associated with memory and cognitive function. In animal studies, choline has been found to improve learning and memory, and support the release of acetylcholine in the brain [95]. Supplementing with choline has been found to improve memory in people who are deficient in choline [96].

Choline is needed for muscle functiontoo. It’s been found that a deficiency of choline in the diet can result in muscle damage, by reducing levels of phosphatidyl choline in muscle cell membranes, making them more fragile [97]. Another similar study found that choline deficiency caused muscle cells to accumulate more fats, which also affected their function [98]. Choline may also help to prevent muscle fatiguethrough acting as a precursor to acetylcholine, which – in addition to its role in memory and cognition – is also required for muscle contraction.

Choline supplementation may also support fat loss. One of the functions of choline in the body is in fat metabolism – breaking fat down so we can use it for energy. In a study on 22 female taekwondo and judo athletes, one group took 2 grams of choline per day for a week, and the other group took a placebo – both while doing their normal training. Those who took the choline had an average 10% reduction in their body fat percentage, whereas body fat in the placebo group only decreased by 4%. Their average BMI showed a greater improvement too, with 12% reduction in the choline group versus only 8% in the placebo group [99].


Like choline, inositol is a component of our cell membranes. Also like choline, it’s sometimes considered as part of the B-vitamin family, but it is not strictly a vitamin as it can be made by the body.

Inositol has a role in blood glucose balanceand therefore may help to manage and prevent cravings. It’s needed for the action of insulin, allowing our cells to ‘hear’ insulin’s instructions to take up glucose and remove it from the blood [100]. Both animal and human studies have indicated that inositol supplementation can help to regulate blood glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity. A recent 2015 double-blind clinical trial on 40 healthy participants found that those taking a drink containing 2.23g of inositol per day for 12 weeks showed a significant reduction in insulin levels, a decrease in measures of insulin resistance, and a mean reduction in blood glucose levels after meals of 14% [101]. Several studies have investigated the effects of inositol supplementation for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), in which insulin resistance is often a factor. In a 2014 study, 24 PCOS patients given 3g of myo-inositol per day showed a reduced insulin response to an oral glucose tolerance test, indicating improved insulin sensitivity [102]. In terms of day-to-day benefits, this means that our blood sugar stays on a more even keel, reducing sugar and carbohydrate cravings and supporting weight management or fat loss. 


Inulin is a fibre, meaning it’s not digested or absorbed into the body. It can have a prebioticeffect, ‘feeding’ the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine – especially bifidobacteria, which are associated with a range of health benefits [103]. Like other fibres, it can also support intestinal transit to encourage healthy bowel movements [104].

Inulin, like other fibres, may also help with satiety (feeling full)and managing appetite. In a recently published study on 19 women, it was found that those who consumed 6 grams of inulin fibre with their breakfast every day for 8 days reported lower appetite and less desire to eat than the women who did not consume the inulin (both groups had the same breakfast otherwise) [106]. Inulin could work in more than one way here. As well as absorbing water and providing bulk, studies suggest that inulin can actually affect the release of substances (peptides such as ghrelin) in the gut that feed back messages to our brain to regulate and reduce our appetite. [105].


Inulin also has a natural sweetness, making it a healthy natural ingredient for improving palatability of powdered supplements.


Chocamine is a cocoa extract. As well as providing flavour, Chocamine contains natural active substances found in cocoa, including theobromine (a substance similar to caffeine), polyphenols, and a substance called phenylethylamine (often abbreviated to PEA).

One of the beneficial actions of dark chocolate or cocoa may be improving insulin sensitivity, which leads to better blood sugar control. Like some of the other ingredients in this formula – such as inositol – this means it could help to manage cravings and support weight management or fat loss too.

Most of the studies that have shown benefits for insulin sensitivity have been carried out on people with high risk factors for heart disease, as cocoa and chocolate are thought to have several beneficial effects for heart health. A review article published in the Journal of Nutritionanalysed 24 separate clinical trials on cocoa – comprising over 1,000 participants – with the overall results indicating that cocoa consumption could significantly decrease insulin resistance (i.e. improve insulin sensitivity) in these participants [107]. A later review of 42 studies also found similar results [108]. Both these analyses indicated that cocoa could slightly reduce blood pressureand improve cholesterol levelstoo, confirming its heart health benefits. And in another recently published review study, the authors state that ‘cocoa flavonols have been proved to enhance glucose uptake through the promotion of glucose transport’ [109].

Obviously, this doesn’t mean consuming chocolate is necessarily going to help with fat loss! Chocamine is a concentrated cocoa extract, without added sugar or fat, that’s designed to provide only the beneficial constituents of cocoa.


Zinc is a trace mineral that has a role in many aspects of our health. This includes over 300 different enzymes that catalyse essential chemical reactions in our bodies.[110]

Zinc has a primary role in protein synthesis, and may directly affect growth hormonelevels [111]. This means it could have a primary role in building and repairing muscle. It’s also involved in overall macronutrient metabolism– our body’s ability to process and use proteins, fats and carbohydrates from the foods we eat, including for energy.

Zinc supports healthy testosterone levelsin the blood. Testosterone is essential not only for men, but also for women (in smaller amounts!), for building strength and lean muscle.

Zinc also plays an important role in the body’s antioxidant defences, helping to protect our cells against free radical damage. It has a role in one of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzymes, which remove damaging free radicals that are formed when we use up oxygen in our cells. Zinc may also have other mechanisms of action as an antioxidant, which are not yet fully understood [112].

And lastly, zinc plays a role in the health of our skin, hair and nails.

B vitamins

All of the B vitamins are included in this formula. One of their primary roles is to help the mitochondria of our cells (the energy factories) to produce energy from the foods that we eat.

Here are some of their other important roles:

  • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12 are needed for the function of our nervous system,which allows messages to pass between our brain and our muscles.
  • Vitamins B5 and B6 play a role in hormone balance. In particular, vitamin B5 supports production of the sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone. Testosterone is needed not only by men, but by women too, in order to increase strength and build lean muscle.
  • Vitamin B6 supports protein and glycogen metabolism. This means it helps to build and break down protein and glycogen stores as needed.
  • Biotin supports macronutrient metabolism– our ability to process and use proteins, fats and carbohydrates from the foods we eat, including for energy or for building muscle.
  • Vitamins B1, B3, folic acid, B6 and B12 play a role in psychological function. This means how we feel, and our mood – including our motivation to go and work out!
  • Vitamins B2, B6 and B12 are needed to build the red blood cellsthat carry oxygen around our body.


Electrolytes are the minerals in our blood that have an electric charge. They are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They play a role in hydration, allowing our body and our cells to hold on to water where it’s needed.

Electrolyte minerals are also necessary for the contraction and relaxation of muscle, and for nerve impulses to travel around the body, including to and from the muscles.





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