When Rehydrating with Water Is Not Enough

In the midst of a strenuous exercise session, it is natural to grab the nearest bottle of water when thirsty. While this might help you feel rehydrated, it actually won’t give your body what it needs to recover after being physically tested. Whether you are training for a marathon or about to enter a professional tournament, be aware of your body’s physical requirements and hydrate yourself in the proper manner.

A Lengthy Exercise Session

The truth is that water will only give your body what it needs within the first hour of exercise. If your training session, competition or tournament lasts longer than that, your body will lose more fluids and essential nutrients than drinking plain water can replace.

If you exert yourself for longer than 60 minutes, you will need some other form of beverage to properly replenish what your body has lost. High energy electrolyte sports drinks are the best choice here as they will boost your physical performance while providing you with substances like sodium and potassium that aid hydration.

The Science of Salt

You might know sodium from another common substance: table salt. While it might seem counterintuitive that salts can help with hydration, this is backed up by scientific research which says that salt helps athletes rehydrate faster. This is the main reason why water isn’t as effective with hydration especially after a lengthy exercise session longer than 60 minutes. On the other hand, a sports drink loaded with electrolytes will help by:

  • Making you want to drink more. Your brain has a small section called the hypothalamus which checks your blood electrolyte levels and makes you thirsty if they are too low. Plain water overrides this reaction and can stop you drinking before you’re fully hydrated.
  • Encouraging your body to retain fluid. Drinking normal water means your bodies will want to urinate soon afterwards which increases fluid loss. By adding salt to the beverage, your kidneys will retain liquid for longer which then assists with rehydration.

If you are about to commence a rigorous training routine or enter into a long distance running or bicycle race, remember that water will be ineffective after 60 minutes. To fully prepare for this strenuous exercise, pack some high energy sports drinks containing useful electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium and potassium. You will feel much more hydrated and ready to perform your personal best on the big day.

Whether you are an amateur or professional athlete, chances are you have heard of energy gels – tubes of carefully formulated natural ingredients tailored to assist you before, during and after a race. So how do these products work? What is it that makes them so popular with runners and other sportsman?

A Quick Energy Boost

First, let’s look at the obvious benefit: that these gels provide an added dose of energy. Where this comes from depends on the included ingredients so always read the label. Here are some more common sources:

  • Honey
  • Caffeine
  • Fructose
  • Maltodextrin

These ingredients will give your body a quick energy boost when you need it, waking you up once you have “hit the wall” or giving you an extra push before an upward hill stretch or the finish line.

Replenishing Your Electrolytes

Some energy gels also come with added electrolytes to help replenish any salts you have lost through sweating. Substances such as sodium and potassium are essential for regular cell function and their levels should be maintained at all times. Using energy gels with electrolytes is especially important for anyone exercising for longer than an hour. After this time, water won’t be enough for hydration and replenishing lost salts, meaning your performance will suffer.

Calories for Endurance

If you are going on a marathon, triathlon or some other long distance activity, you will also need a boost in calories to fuel your physical pursuits. Energy gels can again help with this as they contain up to 150 calories (630 kJ) depending on the brand. By consuming one gel pack every 60 minutes, you’ll gain enough calories without overloading your body on the simple sugars these gels use to give you extra energy while exercising.

Beating the Glycogen Debt

The last benefit of energy gels is they help avoid excessive ‘glycogen debt’ in your body. While in training or during a competition, your glycogen stores will be depleted, making you fatigued and sore. Your mind may also feel blurry. Energy gels prevent this from occurring by being full of easily-digestible carbohydrates which replenish your lost glycogen. This means you can gain a second wind after hitting the wall during strenuous physical exercise.

For these reasons, energy gels are highly popular among athletes in all types of sports. If you have yet to try them during training and competition, you are missing out on all these advantages!

With so many protein products on the market, practically all of which are touted as the best of the bunch, it can be difficult to make sense of the options we’re presented with.

However, of all the protein products on the market, whey protein stands out head and shoulders above the rest with regard to muscle recovery, because unlike most other protein products, whey is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.

What is a complete protein?

A complete protein is a protein that contains all nine essential amino acids - histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, with isoleucine, leucine and valine being the three branch-chain amino acids which play an important role in the muscle repair process.

These nine essential amino acids are the ‘building blocks of protein’ and as they’re not produced by the body they must come from the food we eat.
Eggs and meat are complete proteins, but as we can’t rely exclusively on eggs and meat for our protein intake needs, we need to get protein from other sources as well, and this is one of many reasons why whey protein proves so invaluable.

What is whey protein?

Whey protein is derived from milk and can be produced using either of two methods; as a by-product of cheese making, or separated from the other protein in milk, casein.

There are three primary types of whey protein products to choose from - whey protein concentrate, isolate and hydrosolate, all of which contain alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, bovine serum albumin and immunoglobins.

How does whey protein stimulate muscle repair?

Whether you’ve just completed a long ride or workout in the gym, your muscles are going to be tired, stressed, and in need of repair.

Because muscle tissues are predominantly made of protein, you need to consume protein immediately after your ride or workout to start the muscle recovery process. This involves increasing the bulk of existing muscle fibres with the integration of newly synthesised muscle fibres.  
Whey protein, which is rich in essential amino acids, is the best source of protein you can consume to aid the recovery process because it provides your muscles with the nutrients they need.

However, whilst whey is the best protein product to aid muscle recovery, you also need carbohydrates to spike your insulin levels, so consider making a protein shake with high-carb fruits like bananas, mangos and pears.
With all the information on the subject of which protein products to take and when, it’s hardly surprising that many people are no wiser regarding the best time to take a protein shake – before or after a workout?

If you’re trying to build muscle mass – increasing muscle mass in your legs empowers you to cycle harder, faster and for longer – then you need protein in your system before your start your workout and you’ll need to take protein afterwards also, preferably immediately, though definitely within 30 minutes of completion.

The sooner after your workout you take protein the better for the muscle recovery process. The protein you take can be in any form, and not necessarily a shake, as many of us like our light post-workout cardio and who brings a blender to the gym?

Why take a pre-workout protein shake?

Pre-workout protein has long been overlooked in favour of the traditional post-workout serving of whey protein, often mixed solely with water, but better mixed with other ingredients as a shake (see below).

Here are three reasons why you should take a pre-workout serving of whey protein.

1. Increase muscle synthesis
By taking a protein shake before your workout you’re starting the protein synthesis during rather than after your workout – this is known as ‘priming the pump’ – which results in greater muscle mass gains.

2. Provide your muscles with fuel
To get the most out of your workout your muscles need to be fuelled. Whey protein with BCAAs (Branch-Chain Amino Acids) is the muscle fuel of choice because it protects against the catabolic effects of exercise.

3. Speed up fat loss
Researchers at Syracuse University in New York State found that those who consumed protein pre-workout had higher metabolic rates than those who only consumed carbs.

According to the study author, Dr Kyle Hackney, “Consuming a protein shake and training speeds fat loss and helps build lean muscle.”
Why mix whey protein as a shake?

You need protein both before and after your workout but you’ll likely only have time to make a tasty protein shake once a day.
Whey protein powder can be mixed with water, but it’s better to mix it with other ingredients, including milk – almond, dairy, rice, soy, etc. – and fruit, particularly high-carb fruits like bananas and mangos that spike your insulin levels, aid the muscle recovery process, and help you to improve your cycling performance.

Heres some good info on the awesome benefits of taking Raiseys Original Honey & Ginger. With all the "buzz" around about drugs in sport and whats in what supplement, you may find it refreshing to read the ingredient list below. Nothing sinister there! Honey & Ginger is our best selling protein supplement and it's easy to see on!.  


We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or confuse you with a nutritional information overload. Our goal is to provide active people and athletes, great tasting, effective and healthy supplements that aren’t sprinkled with trace amounts of unpronounceable ingredients for the sake of it. Every serve of Raiseys Originals Honey & Ginger contains an effective amount of each quality ingredient. It is your “performance food for life!” 

Whey protein concentrate: New Zealand whey protein is acknowledged as the best in the world. Whey protein concentrate offers rapid absorption and faster muscle recovery while still providing maximum immune boosting properties. 

New Zealand Honey: Honey has been used for thousands of years as a natural performance food. It’s a great source of carbohydrates and energy and contains antioxidants and friendly bacteria. Its relatively low GI and antiseptic properties make honey an ideal food for health conscious active people and the perfect carb with your protein. 

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has many health benefits for an athlete or active person. These include anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering properties. When taken with honey, cinnamon has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels meaning post exercise muscle recovery can be  maximised. 

Ginger: Ginger is a natural thermogenic/fat burner and digestive aid. This super food has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and can help soothe aching joints and muscles making it ideal for both endurance and resistance athletes.  Ginger also has a history of helping with migraine relief and preventing blood clotting and stomach cramps. 

DIRECTIONS: Take 3 level scoops (40g) of powder up to 3 times daily. A serve of Honey & Ginger is ideal as a pre race/training snack 15 minutes before activity. It is also a very effective protein recovery shake taken within 30 minutes of completion as it helps to increase insulin and burns slower, extending the recovery window while soothing aching muscles and joints. 

INGREDIENTS  Whey protein concentrate (58%)(contains soy lecithin), native rewarewa honey (25%), calcium caseinate, ground ginger, cinnamon, anticaking agent (551).    


June 28, 2012


Aaron was our 1st Team Raiseys athlete. He's a multiple NZ Kayak Slalom Champion and as of 2012, an Olympic coach. He uses BUILD to help with his strength training and recovery. 

Aarons website:  

Thanks for all your help Aaron. 

They walk among us...

September 24, 2010


Elite Kiwi athletes are often a humble bunch. They go about their everyday business just like everyone else. Working, socialising, taking part in community events.  You may pass one in the office everyday. You may chat with one while waiting to pick your kids up from school or he/she could even be their teacher! But behind the scenes they are training, competing and winning, sometimes in the international arena and you wouldn't even know. They often don't broadcast their achievements. They often don't tell those around them just how good they really are at their chosen sport, but prefer to do their talking on the sportsfield and quietly reflect on their success with family or close friends. How many times have you known someone reasonably well for a while and then have someone else say to you..."did you know that he used to be the National champ?" or notice that someone hasn't been at work for a couple of days only to find out off the boss that " shes in Sydney with the NZ  Development Squad". Funny thing is though is that although unexpected, its not that much of a surprise to find another elite kiwi sportsperson sneaking around with the rest of us. 

I had a friend at school who was a top swimmer. He was head and shoulders above anyone in his age group in Hawkes Bay at pretty much every style of swimming. His room was full of medals and trophies but he never talked much about it though. He was in the pool at 6am every morning before school. One day I saw his dad at the Central School Store and mentioned that I hadnt seen his son around that weekend. His dad casually (but proudly) said that his son had just broken the U-15 World 50m Backstroke Record at the Pan Pacific Champs in Australia. My friend never once mentioned it and I never asked him. I actually wondered whether or not it was true and soon forgot about it. Many years later I happened to be talking to a Commowealth Games NZ Swimming Rep who was about my own age. I took the opportunity to ask him about my friend and I mentioned his name and what I heard his dad say that day in the dairy about a world record. This swimmer guy chuckled and I thought "here we go.." But he then looked at me and said very seriously..."that guy was way ahead of his time....he was the champ and no-one could touch him." He also confirmed that he was indeed the WR holder and I put that little question mark happily off to bed. 

P.S. As Im finishing this article, an example of what I am writing about has just happened in our little shop here this week. A guy came in and was interested in our HYDRATE-X Anti-Cramp. He had tried it on the weekend and had ridden 100kms on his bike with no cramp...(very rare for him apparently). He introduced himself and I knew his name immediately as an elite track and field athlete from a few years ago although he didn't make any reference at all to his stellar career. We chatted a while and as he was leaving I said to him..."Hey you did ok at the Commomwealth Games didn't you?"  He quietly said "Yes...Gold Medal..." After he left I did a little research and found that not only did he have a Gold, he had a Commonwealth Games Silver as well as a Commonwealth Record to his name....they walk among us!

You probably have your own story of a sporting legend friend/relative who just didnt seek anything other than personal satisfaction for them and their families. 


In the past few years, honey has made its entrance into sport with claims of improving endurance performance and recovery from strength training. Honey has many practical uses including use as a medicine, anti-microbial agent, wound healer, antioxidant in food preparation. This article will focus on the use of honey in sport, although its other uses are interesting to note.

Honey Statistics

According to an Associated Marketing survey conducted for the National Honey Board in 1997, almost 77 percent of U.S. households use honey along with other sweeteners and syrups and 45 percent of them consider honey a good value because it is a “natural, good for you and better for you than sugar.”

History of Honey

Honey dates back to 6000 BC or possibly earlier when stone-age paintings in several locations depicted honey hunting, which documents human use of honey for at least 8000 years. References to honey as a medicine are found in ancient scrolls some 5000 or more years ago. Although honey has been prescribed for uses other than improving athletic performance, it has only been in the last few years that researchers have begun to study the properties of honey relative to athletes.

Spartan warriors were feed Honey from a young age. They would also eat Honey before and after battle.

Composition of Honey

Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution that is made up primarily of the simple sugars fructose and glucose and water, 38, 31, and 17 percent, respectively. Disaccharides and oligosaccharides are present also but in much smaller quantities. Honey also contains a small amount of protein/amino acids (proline, lysine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, glutamic and aspartic acids), vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin C) and minerals (calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese). In addition, honey is known to be rich in both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants, including catalase, ascorbic acid, flavonoids and alkaloids..

Honey and Athletic Performance

It is well known that carbohydrate ingestion prior to, during and after exercise affects an athlete’s performance and recovery. Research on the effects of fructose and glucose feedings demonstrated that neither was ideal when used alone. Fructose is poorly absorbed and can cause GI distress but has a low insulin response and spares muscle glycogen. Glucose, however, is well absorbed and quickly metabolized but has a high insulin response that stimulates glycogen storage instead of mobilization, which is important for endurance athletes who need a more constant supply of glucose. Studies have shown that a mixture of carbohydrates is better tolerated and better suited for fatigue prevention and enhanced performance.

There has been a multi-phase research study conducted at the University of Memphis under the supervision of Dr. Richard Kreider, prior to his departure to Baylor University, that documents some of the benefits of honey in sport.

In the first phase of the study, honey was evaluated regarding its efficacy as a pre-workout energy source. Blood glucose, insulin concentration, glycemic index and the insulin response index were determined in seventy-one subjects. After an eight-hour fast, the subjects were given one of seven gel packets. The packets contained either dextrose, sucrose, fructose, maltodextrin, honey, Power Gel (a commercially available gel product), or similarly flavored placebo. At the conclusion of the study, the investigators found that dextrose, sucrose, maltodextrin, honey and Power Gel significantly increased blood glucose levels following ingestion although honey had the lowest glycemic index response. When ranked in order from lowest to highest, the glycemic index of each gel was:

*Fructose 5

*Honey 35

*Power Gel 43

*Sucrose 71

*Dextrose 100

*Maltodextrin 121

Another finding from this first phase was that the insulin response (insulin response index or IRI) of honey was relatively low. Comparisons between the gel groups showed that maltodextrin has the highest, or fastest, IRI. When ranked from lowest to highest, the IRI for the gels were:

*Fructose 41

*Honey 59

*Dextrose 100

*Power Gel 113

*Sucrose 147

*Maltodextrin 158

Overall, the results from this first phase demonstrated that honey provides a low glycemic response or slow release of sugar into the blood accompanied by a low insulin response. The investigators concluded that because high glycemic food ingested immediately prior to exercise may actually hasten the use of muscle glycogen, therefore, honey can be a beneficial sugar prior to exercise.

In the second phase8, nine competitive cyclists received one of three supplements in gel form per week, over a three-week period: honey, glucose, or a flavored, calorie-free placebo. The endurance test conducted each week was a 40-mile time trial on each subject’s racing bicycle. The cyclists received 15 grams of carbohydrate in gel form along with 250 milliliters of water prior to and every 10 miles during the time trials.

Both the glucose and the honey produced a statistically significant reduction in the time to finish (over 3 minutes), and a significant increase in the athlete’s average power (6% increase), when compared to the placebo. The results from this second phase indicated that honey was an effective alternative carbohydrate source for endurance athletes and that honey was well tolerated by all of the subjects.

The third phase studied the post-exercise recovery from strength training with the addition of honey as the predominant sugar in a whey protein powder drink. Thirty-nine weight-trained male and female athletes underwent an intensive weight workout and then immediately consumed a protein supplement blended with either sucrose, maltodextrin, or honey powder.

The results from the third phase demonstrated that the honey group maintained optimal blood sugar levels throughout the two hours following the workout and that the subjects taking the honey supplement showed favorable changes in a hormone ratio that indicates a positive muscle recuperative state. The investigators concluded that the combination of honey powder and whey protein performed well by increasing blood glucose concentrations. Maltodextrin also performed well but did not yield as great an increase in blood glucose concentrations as the honey powder. The honey powder/whey protein supplement performed better than sucrose and was well tolerated as determined by self-reported symptoms of hypoglycemia, dizziness, headache, stomach upset and fatigue.

These studies are far from conclusive, but overall, this three phase preliminary study investigating the efficacy of honey use pre-, during and post-exercise is beneficial for future research studies to replicate. More importantly, it suggests that honey could be another option for endurance athletes, and possibly strength athletes, for improving athletic performance.

Article from:

Author Unknown.

If you’re serious about putting on size, you have to be serious about getting a continuous supply of nutrients into your body. If you don’t get hungry every two hours, keep a constant vigil on your wristwatch. Two hours after you finish eating, it’s time to eat again. You must never go into a catabolic state, in which your body begins to feed off your muscles for their protein content. It may seem impossible to get that many meals down, but with plastic containers and a cooler it’s fairly simply. Just cook all your food at the same time, pack it up and carry the cooler with you all day.

Take in plenty of high quality proteins and carbs

Don’t mistake bulking up for an excuse to eat all kinds of junk. tt fine if you have a treat every day or two, but the majority of your food should be high-quality proteins like poultry, fish, eggs and lean red meat; complex carbohydrates like potatoes, yams, rice and oatmeal; and fibrous carbs, which are raw vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to make your meals about one-third protein and two-third carbs, and be sure that your total protein for the day comes out to approximately 1 1/2 grams for each pound of bodyweight, including protein from supplements, such as weight gainers and amino acids.

Have a shake after every training session

Training depletes your body of protein and glycogen, so the perfect time to put nutrients back and speed up your recovery is immediately after training. Your body is much more receptive to absorbing nutrients at this time. if you haven’t been doing this, you’ll be amazed at how effective it is. A good choice for postworkout nutrient loading is nonfat milk mixed with either weight-gain powder, Met-Rx or any of the metabolic optimizer products like Metabolol. It’s faster than eating and much easier on the stomach.

Eat lean red meat at least once a day

Even back in the old days the strength-building benefits of red meat were well known. It’s packed with protein, iron and creatine, a strength and energy-enhancing substance that is the latest rage in bodybuilding supplements. While red meat in general is loaded with cholesterol, you can minimize the intake by eating only the leanest cuts, like sirloin, London broil and filet mignon.

Train Big

Use the basic exercises

Very little of the world’s muscle was built with cable crossovers, concentration curl or leg extensions. These so-called shaping movements should only be used by trainees who are refining existing mass. If you want to put on inhuman size, go with the heavy basic barbell exercises. Movements like the squat, bench press, deadlift, barbell row and military press will pack insane amounts of muscle on anyone who has the guts and the discipline to stick with them and work up to very heavy poundages.

Stick to a low volume of training

Thanks to Dorian Yates and Mike Mentzer, the Heavy Duty concept from the early ‘80s is making a tremendous comeback, Rather than performing eight exercises and 40 sets per bodypart, these men advocate just two or three exercises per bodypart with only one or, at most, two sets. With this low volume you’ll be able to use heavier weights and pour on the intensity rather than saving your strength, so to speak, for more sets. Select the absolutely heaviest weights you can use to get out four to six reps on upper-body exercises and six to 10 reps on leg movements, a time- proven strategy for building maximum size in the shortest time.

Rest between sets

To use the heaviest weights possible, you must not run from one set to the next, huffing and puffing. You need to rest and let your body recharge. For bodyparts like arms or calves a minute is all you need, but if you’re squatting or deadlifting heavy, you definitely need three to five minutes to recover for your next set. If you want to develop cardiovascular fitness, do cardio work occasionally, but don’t try to get your cardio benefits by training fast. If raw size and strength are your goals, take your time and rest.

Train with a partner

While you don’t need to train with a partner, it’s highly recommended. Not only can partners spot you and help you get forced reps, but the rivalry between training partners can make for better gains than you can imagine. Some days you can’t get motivated, and that’s when your training partner can get you back on track and fired up.

Rest Big

Get plenty of sleep

With the pressure of work, school and family problems life is stressful enough. Add the stress of heavy training, and it’s very easy to burn out physically and mentally. To combat this, you need to sleep as much as possible. eight hours per day is the minimum, and nine or 10 would be even better. If your schedule is free on the weekends, take advantage of it and load up on sleep. It’s an absolutely essential element to putting on muscle, so avoid going out or staying up late at all cost-unless you have the next morning to sleep in.

Never train more frequently than two days in a row

If you want to continue progressing and avoid overtraining, you need to recover from your workouts. Working out three days or more in a row will make this nearly impossible. You just can’t beat up your body like that and expect it to grow new muscle tissue. For maximum recovery never train more than two days in a row. Take a full day of rest after this, and for even better recovery take two days off after every second or third two-day run. You’ll be hilly rested and ready to go every time you hit the gym.

Eliminate aerobics and other sports

Aerobic exercise and sports like tennis and racquetball might be great for your heart and fun to play, but they sap precious energy and recovery reserves that you need to build muscle. If you want to get huge, drop them. If you’re concerned about the health of your heart, do moderate aerobic exercise two to three times a week, but don’t do it so hard that your legs burn or you’re out of breath. When that happens, you’re burning glycogen, not bodyfat. You may lose size in your legs as a result, and who wants that?

Important Guidelines for Bulking Up

Don’t get fat

Yes, the objective is to put on weight, and, yes, you’ll gain a little fat along with the muscle, but the key word here is “little.” You should still be able to see the outline of your abs in favorable lighting. Anything beyond that and you’re becoming a slob. You can have a great physique, but if you let too much fat cover it, you’ll just look fat, So keep a close watch on that gut and butt.

Give yourself time to gain weight

Gaining muscular weight is a slow process. If you have your heart set on putting on 50 pounds in a month, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll hit that goal and be fat, or you won’t hit it and you’ll be devastated. Five pounds per month is a reasonable amount of weight gain when you’re in a full-blown bulk-up phase. Obviously, you’ll hit a sticking point eventually-that’s why we don’t have 500- pound bodybuilders populating the gyms. Five pounds a month will probably work for the average 180- to-2l0-pound bodybuilder, enabling him to put on muscle with a minimum of fat. And as you know, little gains quickly add up to huge gains.

By Will Brinks

Readers note: this is one of my favorite articles, and in my opinion, one of my best. However, this article was turned down by several magazines. At first I could not figure out why. I have been writing articles for many magazines for years (see bio) and I know a good article when I see one..if I say so myself. Then it hit me. The article goes against what the mags think people want to hear about their protein products. Soy has been bashed for so long, and the market for other proteins like whey has becomes so big, that they didn’t want any article showing soy in a positive light. Once an industry or an individual has set a position on something, they would rather ignore new evidence to the contrary then change their position. As for me, if I find new information on something that alters my position, that’s fine by me. I just change it to reflect the new information, which is exactly what I had to do with my view on soy proteins. The article did finally get published in MuscleMag International. MMI might have its faults, but they are one of the most open minded and flexible magazines and didn’t have any problems with publishing this article with them. Hope you all find it useful.

Not more than a month ago, I was standing in a field of soy beans in Peoria Illinois doing a commercial for a Japanese film crew. The guy to the right of the camera was holding up my little cue card as I said “Soy products have been shown to reduce cholesterol and possibly prevent cancer, yada, yada, yada…” I found it hard to keep a straight face and say nice things about soy protein as I have always considered soy protein basically a waste of time for bodybuilders. However, this commercial was for “normal” people so I did not feel like a “sell-out” for saying positive things about soy protein. On the plane ride home, with a glass of red wine firmly in hand, I decided to take a closer look into the properties of soy proteins and see if there were not some useful applications of this protein for bodybuilders after all.

The bodybuilding community has been pretty hard on soy protein generally relegating it to “crap” status among most bodybuilders and bodybuilding nutritionists. I will be the first to admit I have helped the negative reputation of soy among bodybuilders along by telling them how inferior it is to such proteins as whey or egg in various articles and my book. I still think soy protein is inferior to such proteins as whey and egg, but I do believe that it has some potentially useful applications if used correctly and tweaked just right. More on that later.

The Downside of Soy

So why does soy have such a bad reputation among bodybuilders? On the surface, it would appear that soy protein is pretty lousy stuff for most athletes. Soy protein has a low BV score of 74. What does that mean? There are several ways of assessing protein quality. You have the protein efficiency ratio (PER), the net protein utilization (NPU) and the biological value (BV). The PER is an outdated measure of protein quality and is not used much anymore by most supplement manufacturers or nutritionists “in the know” about protein quality. The NPU is a little better than the PER, but fails to take several important factors into account involved with proteins, such as absorption and digestibility, so it too is not used much either. That brings us to the BV. The BV is the most accurate indicator of biological activity of a protein and measures the actual amount of protein deposited per gram of protein absorbed. As a rule, high BV proteins are better for nitrogen retention, immunity, IGF-1 stimulation, and are superior for reducing lean tissue loss during various wasting states than their low BV counterparts. That is, as a general rule, high BV proteins are more anti-catabolic than low BV proteins. As most people already know, the highest BV protein available is whey protein with whole egg a close second (see chart), which is why bodybuilders and other athletes rely heavily on these two protein foods and tend to avoid soy and other proteins with low BV scores.

In addition to its low BV score, soy has several other nutritional drawbacks that make bodybuilders avoid the stuff like it was fake D-bol. One reason soy is so low on the BV scale is it is lacking in the sulfur containing amino acid methionine. The sulfur containing amino acids (cysteine being the other one) are particularly important for protein synthesis/growth, proper immune system function, and the body’s production of glutathione (GSH). GSH is one of the most important anti-oxidants found in the body and protects cells and serves to detoxify a variety of harmful compounds such as hydrogen peroxide, carcinogens, reactive oxygen species, and many others. In particular, GSH is also partly responsible for keeping low density lipoproteins (LDL) from oxidizing and clogging our arteries. Several studies have shown soy protein to be inferior to whey for the production of GSH and improvements in immunity. Though soy has a reputation for reducing cholesterol in man and animals, in one study rats fed soy protein that was not fortified with methionine as 13% of total calories, had an increase in cholesterol and an increase susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to peroxidation . So not only did the rats cholesterol go up, the LDL fraction oxidized easier potentially leading to clogged arteries. It is well established that an increased susceptibility of LDL to peroxidation is an essential step for the development of atherogenesis. These rats were found to have low levels of GSH and did not grow as well as another groups of rats fed casein.

If that were not bad enough to convince you to avoid soy, it gets worse. Soy protein contains something known as “anti -nutrients” that block the digestion and absorption of many nutrients. Two of the more important anti-nutrients found in soy are Lectins and protease inhibitors. Lectins are nasty constituents of various plants and can cause all sorts of problems from interfering with the absorption of important nutrients to intestinal damage. Proteases are enzymes that assist in the digestion of proteins. Soy has several protease inhibitors that interfere with the enzyme trypsin and chymotrypsin, both of which are important for the digestion and absorption of proteins in the gastrointestinal tract. Finally, soy is rich in estrogenic compounds such as genistein and diadzein. There are over 300 plant derived phytoestrogens found that vary substantially in their physiologic effect and potency in animals and man. As any bodybuilder worth his weight belt already knows, a change in the testosterone/estrogen ratio in favor of estrogen can lead to increased bodyfat and other ill effects as it relates to the strength athletes goals.

BV of common proteins

Whole egg=100
Egg white=88
The Upside of Soy

“You mean there could possibly be an upside?” you are thinking. I realize the previous section does not paint a very pretty picture of soy proteins, but I did not give you the entire story. As I said, on the surface soy looks like a pretty miserable protein for the hard training bodybuilder trying to eke out some new muscle tissue and/or lose bodyfat. The problem of the anti- nutrients found in soy protein has been taken care of as the manufacturers of high quality soy protein isolates remove them or dramatically reduce their activity during processing, so this is not a big point of concern anymore. Also, the addition of methionine to soy isolates greatly improves its BV and nutritional value, though it still does not reach the BV of whole egg or a good whey protein for that matter. Rats fed soy protein enriched with methionine grew at a similar rate as those fed casein.

As for the estrogenic compounds found in soy, that’s a bit more complicated. For years, soy protein has been found to reduce cholesterol in a wide range of animalsspecies and man. One recent study found that when they separated the estrogenic compounds from soy, it failed to have the usual cholesterol lowering effects. This does not come as a big surprise as the cholesterol lowering protective effects of estrogen are well known. However, soy protein appears to have several mechanisms by which it lowers cholesterol (i.e. isoflavones, endocrine effects, fiber, saponins, etc.) and its mechanism on cholesterol probably depends on the animal species being studied. In addition to soy proteins ability to reduce cholesterol, epidemiological research also suggests soy can reduce certain forms of cancer and longevity companies such as the Life Extension Foundation are now recommending soy protein isolate for the treatment of certain cancers.

Ok, now here is where things start to get interesting as it applies the bodybuilders. Though soy proteins contain these estrogenic compounds, it appears that they are “tissue specific.” One study that used Rhesus monkeys found that soy proteins had no effects on the reproductive hormones of these animals. Testosterone, DHEAS, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), testicular weight, prostatic weight, and other measurements were taken. They found no difference between male animals who ate soy protein that contained the plant estrogens and those who ate soy with the estrogens removed, leading researchers to conclude: "thus, the isoflavones (genistein and diadzein) in soy protein improve cardiovascular risk factors without apparent deleterious effects on the reproductive system…, " and “Genistein’s effects appear to be tissue specific, with estrogen agonist effects on plasma lipid concentrations, plasma lipoprotein distributions and preservation of bone mass that are similar in magnitude to mammalian estrogens, but without estrogenic effects…” They finally conclude “Our data support an interpretation that soy beans estrogens have tissue specificity in part because of their mixed estrogen agonist and antagonist properties.”

From this and other data, it seems the phyto estrogens in soy can lower cholesterol and improve heart disease risk without systemic estrogenic effects (i.e. gyno, bodyfat increases, etc.) that would normally be seen if say a bodybuilder took estrogen pills or from the conversion of certain steroids to estrogen. This study is a little more relevant to us humans being it was done with male monkeys which are far more similar animals to people than rats. However, I think that an upper level of soy protein that contains phyto estrogens could cause systemic estrogenic effects if enough were taken, but that’s only speculation on my part. Also, the use of soy isolates by men might be better cycled rather than taken all the time being we are not 100% sure at this time about the long term estrogenic potential of soy proteins in athletes. The ability of soy protein to lower cholesterol without other estrogenic effects could be useful to bodybuilders using anabolic steroids who tend to see a rise in cholesterol and/or LDL.

Now I have saved the best part for last regarding the upside of soy proteins. Soy protein has been found to raise thyroid output in a wide range of animals from rats to rabbits and pigs. Studies done with human subjects have been harder to quantify (what else is new?), but several studies suggest an effect on thyroid hormones in people eating soy protein isolate. Soy protein has been shown to raise thyroid hormone output which could be a real advantage to bodybuilders trying to shed some fat. The intake of various high quality proteins has been associated with higher levels of thyroid hormone, but soy appears to have thyroid hormone raising abilities unique to that of other proteins. Though some research has shown changes in T3 and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), the real effect appears to be with T4 which is elevated consistently in the studies done using animals-and to a lesser degree people-eating soy proteins. Also, some studies have found changes in the insulin/glucagon ratio that would favor reductions in cholesterol and possibly bodyfat. At this time, exactly how soy proteins have this effect on thyroid output is not well understood, but their working on it.

So what does the above information mean to the bodybuilder? There are two points I think are the most relevant to strength athletes. (1) Though thyroid hormones are considered catabolic hormones, they are actually more catabolic to fat and carbohydrates, but stimulate protein synthesis if adequate calories are eaten and the amounts of thyroid hormones are not to high. This could be useful for increasing protein synthesis and reducing bodyfat. More research needs to be done in this area of course. (2) When a person diets the success of that diet is quickly brought to a screeching halt when the body figures out what you are up to and reduces the output of thyroid hormones. This is a reaction by the body brought on by a reduced caloric intake which reduces metabolic rate and a new caloric set point is established and the dieter is now screwed! The use of soy protein isolate to boost thyroid output could be exactly what the doctor ordered to keep thyroid levels raised during reduced calorie intake when dieting if the above evidence with soy proteins and thyroid function holds true in humans on reduced calories diets. Lets hope it does!

Solving The Soy Dilemma

Taking all of the above information on soy protein that we have looked at in this article I think we come up with something of a dilemma for the bodybuilder. For the average person, there is no real dilemma here as they don’t care much about protein quality. Unfortunately, if a bodybuilder starts to replace too much of the other high quality proteins in their diet in favor of soy to reap some of the potential benefits of soy, than he (or she) runs the risk of losing muscle due to this lower quality protein. This would be particularly noticeable during a reduction in calories (i.e.dieting). The lower the calorie intake the higher the quality of protein needs to be to maintain lean body mass. Make no mistake about it, soy protein does not have the nitrogen retaining, anti catabolic, muscle building abilities of proteins such as whey, whole egg, red meat, etc. However, soy does appear to have some other real benefits to the bodybuilder. So what do we do? So far, it appears that a person does not need to eat a great deal of soy protein isolate to get the benefits. Estimates of ten – thirty grams a day of a high quality soy protein isolate should do the trick for most people.

This is how I solve the dilemma and I have found this strategy works well for people. By mixing a high quality whey protein powder with a high quality soy isolate in a 2:1 ratio and eating that two – three times a day, the bodybuilder can have the best of all possible worlds (as it relates to the high BV, immune enhancing, nitrogen retaining abilities of the whey and the cholesterol lowering/thyroid stimulating abilities of the soy). To date, I have no reason to believe that mixing these two proteins will negate or interfere with the benefits or properties of either protein, but there is scant research in this area with healthy athletes. Anecdotally, the people I have told to do this mixture have given me mostly positive feedback so far.

Plain and simple, mix in a blender two scoops of whey protein to one scoop of high quality soy protein isolate and take the mixture two-three times per day. In fact, I think with a few other key ingredients, this could make a real nice pre mixed meal replacement product for use when dieting. For now however, you can make it yourself and you might be surprised at the results…

About the Author – William D. Brink

Will Brink is a columnist, contributing consultant, and writer for various health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications. His articles relating to nutrition, supplements, weight loss, exercise and medicine can be found in such publications as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.

He is the author of Priming The Anabolic Environment , Body Building Revealed & Fat Loss Revealed. He is the Consulting Sports Nutrition Editor and a monthly columnist for Physical magazine, Musclemag and an Editor at Large for Power magazine. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.

He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. He runs the highly popular web site which is strategically positioned to fulfill the needs and interests of people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge. The BrinkZone site has a following with many sports nutrition enthusiasts, athletes, fitness professionals, scientists, medical doctors, nutritionists, and interested lay people. William has been invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs.

William has worked with athletes ranging from professional bodybuilders, golfers, fitness contestants, to police and military personnel.