By Wietse In het Panhuis
We probably all know the good feeling during exercise. Either we are in the gym lifting weights to become stronger, bigger and fitter, or we are running or cycling outside or practicing any performance sport. All of us who are very dedicated to training a lot experience this positive feeling during our training and a feeling of satisfaction afterwards. Exercise makes you feel confident in your body and makes you stress free. For those who train every (other) day of the week probably also know the feeling of not exercising for a couple of days in a row. This gives a feeling of restlessness, perhaps makes you a bit down, while being impatient to train again. For some people not training for three days in a row can be stressful. Is this a sign that exercise may be addictive? It isn’t, because training a lot is healthy, right? If it’s an addiction it’s a healthy addiction , and nothing compared to a substance addiction such as alcohol. It is better than going out, drinking a lot or unhealthy snacking. Of course, these things are much different when they are compared with each other, but does that mean that exercise is not an addiction nonetheless?
What defines addiction?
Like any other term, phenomenon or condition there are countless definitions. Thus, while one definition may refer to addiction, another might not. Therefore it is always difficult to come to a conclusion and reach consensus. However, a distinguishment can be made between dictionary definitions and clinical definitions. Where dictionary definitions shortly and broadly describe something, clinical definitions are elaborate and detailed. Hence, in a clinical situation such definitions are needed to establish whether a certain disease is present or not. Hereby, there may be a difference in what the public refers to as an addiction compared to what a clinician would refer to.
Let’s start off with the following definition regarding addiction by the Cambridge dictionary: “The need or strong desire to do or to have something, or a very strong liking for something”. By means of this definition, exercise could be an addiction. The word addiction has quite a negative undertone, but when looking at this definition, is it really? Is it bad to have a strong desire for and liking of exercise? No, probably not. An exercise addiction in light of this definition seems neither negative nor positive. It’s just a matter of liking.
Another definition states addiction to be “a persistent compulsive use of a substance or action known by the user to be harmful”. Knowing that exercise is beneficial for human health, exercise would not be an addiction according to this definition. This definition mainly implies addiction to substances like drugs.
A medical definition, from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, regarding addiction states the following: “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry[…] This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response […]” Note that all of those definitions acknowledge that behaviours, in addition to substances, potentially lead to addiction! Still, only gambling is officially recognized as a behavioural addiction as of yet, though internet and food addiction are vivid areas of research [2,3]. A clinician would hereby be careful to diagnose an excessive exerciser as an addict. Some aspects of this definition – such as the pursue of reward, inability to abstain (or stop) exercising, craving and possibly more – might hold true for exercise, but these are much less severe than when compared to a substance (or gambling) addiction. These aspects translate to a physical or mental dependency on exercise. This would mean that when the use of for example a substance would stop, the addict would suffer physical or mental consequences, also referred to as withdrawal symptoms. So when someone is used to exercising very often and suddenly stops doing this, he or she would probably experience some negative withdrawal symptoms. These are different for every person. While some may not experience these symptoms at all, others might become depressed, and everything within that spectrum.
During exercise, dopamine and many other chemicals such as endorphins are released in the brain. All these hormones and neurotransmitters lead to increased euphoria (happiness), reduction of anxiety and increases in pain threshold. Dopamine and endorphins are the feel-good neurotransmitter that play a role in the reward center of the brain. From eating delicious foods to winning a game and taking certain drugs, dopamine is the chemical that make us want it, and endorphins the one that makes us enjoy it. Without dopamine, you wouldn’t be stimulated to eat dessert after you are already satiated once you finished a two-course meal. Dopamine makes us repeat the actions that lead to its release in order to get the feeling of happiness again. Endorphins inhibit pain signals and could give a feeling of euphoria (a well-known example of this is the runner’s high). Endorphins act on opioid receptors. The opioid receptor works like any other receptor: it is plastic, meaning that it can change. Receptors can adapt to a changing environment by increasing or decreasing in number and also by becoming more or less sensitive, depending on the amount of substrate (in this case endorphins) that is present. We probably all recognize this in caffeine: when you hardly ever drink caffeine, you get very energetic after drinking one cup of coffee, but when you drink it more often you need more cups to get the same effect. This receptor desensitization (becoming less sensitive to stimuli and needing more of a stimuli to reach the same effect) also occurs with the opioid receptor. When one exercises very often, more endorphins are released on a daily basis than without the exercise. One becomes used to these higher levels of endorphins. Suddenly stopping with exercising daily would thereby result in a ‘blue Monday’: a lack of ‘happy hormones’ that makes you feel down. This could cause a physical dependence of exercise.
However, like stated before, an exercise addiction is not the same as an alcohol addiction. Where exercise is healthy for the body, excess alcohol is detrimental. So according to the definitions of liking or dependency as a criterion of addiction exercise can be an addiction, but not according to the clinical definition, nor is exercise harmful to the user. So is any dependency on something by definition an addiction? Are the things that stimulate dopamine and endorphin release in the reward center of the brain addictive? If you love listening to music and would suddenly stop having music in your life, would that be considered an addiction? Probably not. Or if you would have problems with abstaining from the toilet which results in a bit more than minor discomfort… 😉 The same goes for reading a good book, enjoying good company, dancing, fishing, and so on. These are the many simple things in life that we enjoy doing. If we can’t have those simple things we would be disappointed, but that does not mean we are addicted. Like mentioned before, the brain simply functions in this way in order to stimulate behavior that is considered beneficial. These little things make us happy and make us enjoy our lives. Without them, there would be no happiness in this world, therefore we must be allowed to enjoy them. It is only when these things become too important that they bring you physically or mentally out of balance, that it could become a problem.
One might say that in general something is not an addiction as long as there are no negative consequences. Does this mean that as long as one just exercises frequently without any adverse mental or physical effects, exercise is not an addiction? We already know that clinically speaking, exercise is probably not an addiction. However, if at any point exercise has adverse mental of physical effects, can it be considered a sort of addiction or compulsive behavior? One review that looked at people who are exercise dependent found that compulsive exercise is associated with eating disorder pathology, perfectionism, neuroticism, narcissism, and obsessive compulsive traits. This doesn’t mean that anyone who exercises a lot will get these problems or traits, but it means that these problems or traits occur more often in an exercise dependent person that in an exercise independent person. It might be that people who are more likely to get these traits become exercise dependent more often than other people. It might also be that an extreme form of exercise triggers these problems or traits. However, this topic of research is still behind, due to the lack of research and methodological problems. If these problems or traits are not present we probably tend to conclude that exercise is not harmful, but is that true? Would there be a realistic situation that could occur in any of us where an exercise dependency becomes harmful?
When the consequences of exercise become negative
There seems one possible and logical situation where exercise dependency has negative consequences: when one is not able to exercise anymore, of which injuries are the most common cause.
There are two problems regarding injuries with exercising a lot. First of all, exercising a lot could lead to training too much and thereby an increased risk of overuse injuries. Knowing how to train safe and smart could help a great deal with injury prevention, but there is always a chance on an accident. Secondly, exercise dependency makes one want to train often without skipping a training. It is therefore difficult to get enough rest to recover and to rehabilitate steadily without overtraining. One study that nicely illustrates this looked at interviews with physiotherapists, who had treated injured people with an exercise dependency . These therapists stated that the largest problem in treating these people was the low compliance when they asked them to exercise less. In other words, recovery from their injuries was hampered by the fact that they were not able to abstain from exercising.
Mainly this last aspect complicates the whole injury situation. Rationally one knows to take it easy in order to recover, but often this is too difficult. One ends up doing too much, resulting in a worsening of the injury, leaving you at the end and beginning of a vicious circle. One could stay within this circle for quite a while during which the situation keeps spiraling downward, until one finally realizes: it can’t go on like this. Meanwhile, the situation has hit rock bottom, where exercising (daily) has become impossible. In addition, daily life has become a struggle: walking, standing, even sitting causes pain. The feeling of missing a normal training becomes stronger and stronger. The body starts to become weaker and less muscular, stress increases, and one misses its most important outlet. Feelings of stress, anxiety and depression increase. At this point one wonders how much he would give to get out of this situation. Looking jealously how others are exercising like ever before, wondering why they can while you can’t. At this point you realize: I show signs of addiction. Which is just like what happened to me.
My personal experience
I wrote this article because I found out for myself how addicted I was to exercise while I had been injured for a very long time. I suffered from a back injury for three years. The paragraph above roughly describes the development of my injury. I was in this downward spiral where I tried to train, ending up worsening the injury and the situation, after which the circle started again from the beginning. I quickly started to notice the injury in my daily life. I couldn’t walk for 20 minutes without noticing it, the same went for sitting. Standing was even worse. It caused me stress. There were moments I felt depressed (depression is a condition from which I did not suffer and I don’t want to speak lightly of it, but you get the point). I couldn’t enjoy the simple things anymore, because I was too distracted by the injury. I had been to six different physiotherapists. All of them were able to help me in the beginning, but after ending up in another downward spiral, they did not succeed in lifting me up from it again. At one point, it was so bad I couldn’t even go to the supermarket and do groceries anymore. It was the first year of my master, and it started halfway the first year of my bachelor. At this point I was often thinking about doing an internship in the next year, requiring 9 to 5 attendance. How would that on earth be possible, when I was laying down in bed half of the day? Let alone getting a job after my internship?
In the meantime I had been to so many physiotherapists, I started losing something much more important than my strength, fitness and muscle mass I had been working on for years. I started losing hope. I always thought at some point in my life I must recover from the injury, naturally. It made sense that this was a temporary thing and that it must go over at some point, but now I started to lose that confidence. If it had to end at some point, it first should be preceded by change or improvement, but improvement was not coming. Therefore, I gained the mentality to try anything that would give a slight chance of improvement. Someone recommended a physiotherapist who had helped him before. I did not have much confidence that it would help, but I went anyway.
At the beginning of every first session with a physiotherapist, the therapist will ask you to explain the situation and the symptoms of the injury. Like any other time, I explained in a mere 10 minutes what was going on. To explain the whole situation I would need about a day or write a whole book, but I did the best I could to give a good depiction of the situation. I told about all the advice I had been given by previous therapists and that I took all their advice to heart by doing all the required exercises, stretches, and any other possible beneficial action on a daily basis. Somewhere in the middle of my story he interrupted me and said “what exactly is the problem? You are not in great pain, your back can make all movements without problems, nothing seems to be wrong with your back. All you seem to have is some feeling in your back. You know, I think all those physiotherapists have driven you crazy: “Pay attention to this, pay attention to that, keep this straight, don’t forget that”. Just let it go. Just move on.” And so his speech continued for a while. Within half an hour I stood outside of his practice. After three years I found out that the problem had grown in my head. I was so intensely focused on my injury that anything I felt in my back caused me anxiety. Any stimulus would tell me something was wrong, that I was exhausting my back, that I had to lay down. This pattern had caused me to become so inactive and not used to moving, that it made sense that any movement would result in some feeling in my back. It made sense that when I would walk for 20 minutes I would start feeling my back, because I was not used to it anymore. I misinterpreted the stimuli since I didn’t know the reaction of my own body anymore. The day prior to the visit to this therapist I was not able to go to the supermarket and do groceries. This day I went cycling and walked for over half an hour. The week after I started exercising. I could again go out on a trip, visit family, go on a weekend trip. All things I couldn’t do before without having stress and anxiety, without enjoying them, I could now do again. It felt like my life has stood still for three years and I could start living again. Nowadays I am no more limited by my injury and I am doing my internship from 9 to 5.
I experienced for myself the huge impact of restraining from training after exercise dependence. From physically feeling down and stressed to mentally seeing everything I worked for disappear. If I would have to answer the question “Is exercise addictive?” I would say that it can be considered a small addiction, even though clinically it is not recognized as an addiction. However, the purpose of the article was not to quarrel about definitions or only show scientific articles, but I wanted to show the human perspective, hence I called this an opinion article. I would say that if exercise would be considered addictive, it doesn’t have to be a problem. Like anything or any activity that brings us joy, exercise can brighten our lives as long as it doesn’t get out of proportion. If your whole world does not evolve around exercise, it wouldn’t be unbearable when suddenly exercising wouldn’t be possible anymore.
I would just advise to sometimes stand still and think about the transience of life. One day we will be old and our exercise performance will decline, so it should not happen that we lose our happiness when we get older. Realizing this from time to time will bring us perspective on what is important in life. Similarly, something detrimental could happen to us at any moment in life. When we are aware of this, we will be prepared and able to deal with it when it happens.
Always wanting to lift more weight, to get stronger, to be fitter, to look better is something you strive for when you are training passionately. However, at some point we must be satisfied with where we are. Enjoying what we have without always wanting more is an undervalued capacity nowadays. When we think in light of this about the endorphin story again, we know that exposure to more endorphins desensitizes the receptor. Always wanting more does therefore not work. When you get more, the next time you need even more to stay happy. Finally you would end up drinking 10 cups of coffee a day. A man who wins the lottery is thrilled of excitement one day, but this effect slowly wears off and in the end the money didn’t buy long-lasting happiness. It becomes boring. Similarly, this can be compared to a phenomenon called muscle dysmorphia (or in bro terms ‘bigorexia’), during which people feel like they are not muscular or can only see their shortcomings, even though these people are very ripped. It’s programmed in our brains and society to want more, but wanting more is not possible every single day. Happiness without sadness doesn’t give happiness. You can’t be happy every moment of the day during every day of the year. In our current society we have the idea that we should always be happy and when this doesn’t happen we are afraid that we don’t enjoy our lives.
Maybe our opioid receptors need a day off every now and then. Just once in awhile, a single day to not experience much joy. To stay inactive. To rest and sensitize. So the next time they get a glimpse of happiness, they take the opportunity to enjoy it to the fullest. And maybe so should we.
 ASAM Board of Directors, American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011, April 19). Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction
 O’Brien, Charles. “Addiction and dependence in DSM-V.” Addiction 106: 866–867 (2011): 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03144.x
 Potenza, Marc N. “Non-Substance Addictive Behaviors in the Context of DSM-5.” Addictive behaviors 39.1 (2014): 10.1016/j.addbeh.2013.09.004. PMC. Web. 8 Dec. 2017.
 Lichtenstein, Mia Beck et al. “Compulsive Exercise: Links, Risks and Challenges Faced.” Psychology Research and Behavior Management 10 (2017): 10.2147/PRBM.S113093. 85–95. PMC. Web. 8 Dec. 2017.
 Adams, J., & Kirkby, R. (1997). Exercise dependence: A problem for sports physiotherapists. Australian journal of physiotherapy, 43(1), 53-58.
By Fleur van Griensven
Stuffing your face all day long without getting fat seems like the ultimate dream for most people, right? For some people however, eating a lot with the purpose of gaining weight can be difficult. They have probably tried many things to get more calories in, but this resulted in a smaller amount of weight gain than they had hoped for. If you are one of those people, keep on reading here to find out which foods and tricks you can use to make your bulk a bit easier and more enjoyable: ….
This article might be a bit more practical than you are used to. I am not going to tell you what bulking is, the best way to do so in my opinion or whether you should bulk or cut. I might write a series of articles about bulking in the future if there is interest. For now, I just want to help by giving tips on how to make eating a lot of food easier if you are struggling to get your daily bulking calories in.
What is a hardgainer?
The term hardgainer is often used for people who find it difficult to gain weight and eat a lot of food. Sometimes there is confusion about the term hardgainer: it is thought that these people can’t gain as much weight as ‘normal’ people and are thus in a metabolic disadvantage for weight gain. This is not what is meant when someone is a hardgainer. These people can gain as much weight as everyone else. They just have more difficulty eating all the food they need to eat in order to gain weight. Often it is a lack of discipline to sustain a caloric surplus, so it is a psychological problem instead of a physiological one. That is also where the solution to this very simple problem seems to be: just eat more food and you will gain weight!
Why and when can bulking be difficult?
Simply saying eat more food to someone who is a hardgainer might not be the proper answer. There are many reasons why bulking can be more difficult for some than for others, thus recognizing them can help to counteract them.
I have listed down a few things that people encounter. This especially holds true when you bulk for a long period. Since the purpose of a bulk is to gain muscle (whilst keeping fat gain to a minimum), you will gain weight. This means that as you bulk longer your body needs more calories to simply maintain its increased weight as a result of the bulk. On top of that, you need to eat above maintenance calories or in a caloric surplus to gain muscle. So, as your weight increases you need to adjust your calories upward to maintain a caloric surplus and to continue gaining muscle.
Look below if you have encountered one of these problems whilst bulking yourself:
- Feeling full or not hungry. As said before, you are basically ‘overfeeding’ your body whilst bulking. You are eating more calories than you need in order to use the extra calories for the process of muscle building and recovery. However, physiologically you can run into some struggles: not hungry, feeling full all day and as a result not wanting to eat all the food you should eat in order to be in a caloric surplus.
- Busy all day, no time to make food or forgetting to eat. The number one answer you will get when you ask: ‘Why do you find bulking difficult?’ is going to be ‘I don’t have the time to prepare all the food’. Seriously? We live in a society where food is basically everywhere. No need to hunt for your own protein or bake your own bread. The next time you hear someone saying that they don’t have the time to make food, you just tell them to run to the nearest supermarket! Okay, no nonsense, but everyone is busy these days so it’s more a matter of making time to buy groceries or prepare meals if this helps you to keep up with a busy schedule.
- High activity levels. There are also people with a very physically active job. Compare two men: one has a 9-5 job at the office and one works in the construction sector. They both have the same weight, height and age but completely different activity levels. The daily activity, or also called PAL (=Physical Activity Level), is taken into account when calculating maintenance calories. To calculate maintenance calories the BMR (=Basal Metabolic Rate) is multiplied by the PAL. This PAL will be anywhere between 1.40-1.69 for the man working at the office, since he is considered to live a sedentary lifestyle. The construction worker can have a PAL anywhere between 1.70-1.99 . If their BMR is 1800 kcals, it gives a minimum maintenance calories of 2520 kcals for the man working at the office and 3060 kcals for the construction worker. This is a difference of 540 kcals. Making use of PAL for calculating maintenance calories will probably be a good starting point, but it might needs some tweaks here and there to find out your own true maintenance calories. To get back to the point, high activity levels can result in an increased energy expenditure and therefore require a higher food intake. This can lead to a lot of extra food that needs to be eaten, which can be difficult if you’re extremely active at work.
- Unconsciously being more active. Maybe you have noticed it yourself during a bulk: pace up and down (in Dutch: ijsberen) whilst waiting for the train and not being able to sit still for a second. Even small movements with your hands/feets, that you probably aren’t conscious of, are part of this. These movements and all the energy expended for every action that does not belong to sleeping, eating or exercise are called NEAT (=Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis). Physiological studies demonstrate that NEAT is modulated with changes in energy balance: NEAT increases with overfeeding and decreases with underfeeding .
A study done by Levine et al. concluded that an unconscious increase in NEAT explains why some individuals can purposely increase daily energy intake above maintenance (1000 caloric surplus for 8 weeks in this study) and still experience a lack of weight gain. Without them knowing they get more active during the day and thus partly cancel the targeted caloric surplus .
Which foods make bulking easier?
- Lower volume or foods with a high energy density. Energy density, that is the calories in a given weight of food, could affect satiety by influencing the rate at which nutrients reach receptors involved in satiety . Eating foods with a high energy density, that contain a lot of calories per 100 g of product, helps reducing the amount of food consumption required for a given level of energy intake . This comes in handy for hardgainers who can make use of eating high energy dense foods. Most of these high-energy dense foods are considered not to be rich in nutrients like minerals, vitamins and fibers and thus considered to contain ‘empty calories’. Realize that it is not so black and white and that not all energy-dense foods are bad for you. Even though one particular food might not be the healthiest option or contain a lot of nutrients, you still have to look at the diet as a whole. A few high energy dense foods are: deep-fried foods, pasta, full fat cheese, nuts and seeds.
- Making foods liquid or making shakes. There are weight gainers on the market these days, but it is also simple to make shakes high in calories yourself. These homemade shakes can be full of nutrients, among which complex carbs, healthy fats and fiber. For example, you can use oats, (full)milk, whey protein as a basis and additionally add fruits, avocado, peanut butter or even olive oil if you are a real diehard. The evidence that liquids are truly less satiating than solid foods remains inconclusive, so more research is needed . You can find out for yourself if you feel less satiated when consuming liquid calories instead of solid foods.
- Foods high in (healthy) fat. As a macronutrient, fats are relatively energy dense with 9 kcals per gram in comparison to 4 kcals per gram for both carbs and protein. They therefore are a great addition to your bulking diet. A few foods high in (healthy) fat are listed below:
– Full dairy products. These products often contain a high amount of saturated fatty acids, also called SFA’s. Those SFA’s do have a bad reputation these days. However, saturated fats are probably not as bad for our health as thought. A review performed by Lawrence and colleagues revealed that dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are not associated with CAD (=Coronary Artery disease, which could result in heart failure) and other adverse health effects. At worst saturated fats are weakly associated in some analyses when other contributing factors may be overlooked. Several recent analyses indicate that SFAs, particularly in dairy products and coconut oil, can improve health . We can’t conclude that saturated fats are 100% sure not bad for our health because there still is a lot of research going on. It seems that saturated fat in dairy products isn’t so bad, but no recommendations can be made yet.
More foods which are high in (healthy) fat:
-Nuts or nut butters.
-More than 70% cacoa chocolate.
- Carbohydrates. They are the main energy source of a diet . How many carbohydrates you can consume before it becomes not that healthy is dependent on the situation. A diet which is high in sugar is probably not beneficial for your health . Some key points to keep in mind whilst bulking: limit the amount of sugar, consume enough fibre and don’t overshoot on calories.
Next to this, research indicated that carbohydrates are less satiating than protein . Consuming extra protein when protein requirements are fulfilled is thus not smart. You are probably better of eating these calories in the form of carbohydrates or fats. Another argument for not consuming excessive protein is that the TEF (=Thermic Effect of Food) is the highest for protein. This is the amount of energy needed to digest and absorb food. Since the TEF is the highest for protein, they are the hardest to digest .
There are way too many carbohydrates to sum up here, but one thing that I really like to eat when bulking are dried fruits. Raisins, figs, dates and apricots can be a great addition to your diet. Next to containing a lot of calories they do contain lots of vitamins (B1&B6), minerals (magnesium, iron, potassium, folic acid) and fiber.
Any other tips
As I said before, unconsciously being more active and thus burning a part or your whole caloric surplus can be easily tackled. Make yourself conscious of doing this and don’t get your energy expended on NEAT if you have a hard time getting a lot of calories in.
The same goes for doing cardio whilst bulking. True, numerous studies have shown that moderate to high levels of physical activity are protective against cardiovascular disease . However, cardio also burns calories depending on the time/duration/intensity and type of cardio performed. Hardgainers, who already struggle, are making it even harder for themselves. They thus need to eat the extra calories burned in order to be in the same caloric surplus at the end of the day.
Combining different products makes you able to eat more food . For example, when going out for a fancy 10 course dinner. After course 7 you are already full, but still got room for a dessert and coffee/tea with chocolate. Because you have been eating savory things, you can still eat a sweet dessert. You can also use this yourself, by making meals or even shakes where you combine sweet/savory/bitter products.
Next to that, the faster you eat the more you can eat before you will be satiated . There is a small delay in experiencing satiation. If you eat a soup half an hour before dinner, you will eat less of that meal compared to when you would only eat dinner. Thus when bulking, stop snacking just before having a meal!
There are hardgainers who think that they are gaining a lot of weight just because once in awhile they go all out and stuff their face with an enormous surplus of calories. They believe that they have consumed such an amount of food on this one day, that they also eat this much on a daily basis. It is something psychological which they are convinced of. Consuming occasionally an enormous surplus, also called binge eating, isn’t as effective as consuming a (small) daily caloric surplus. Have you ever tried drinking 5 protein shakes consecutively and 10 minutes later you find yourself on the toilet for the next hour? Still convinced that you have absorbed it all?
After reading this article, i hope you got some insight into why bulking can be more difficult for some than for others. Yes, eating a lot of food isn’t always easy. It is often more a psychological than a physiological problem which causes people not to gain the amount of weight they had hoped for during a bulk. I have listed some foods and gave some tips which will hopefully make your next bulk a piece of cake. Oh wait, with icecream and whipped cream of course, all for those extra calories which are more than welcome if you believe you are a hardgainer!
 Physical Activity level. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_activity_level. Retrieved on 4-11-2017.
 Levine, JA (2002). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice&Research Clinical Endocrinology&Metabolism. 16(4), 679-702
 Levine, JA et all. (1999). Role of non-exercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science. 283(5399), 212-4.
 Kissileff, H.R. et all. (1984). The satiating efficiency of foods. Physiology of Behavior. 32, 319–332.
 Rolls, B. (1995). Effects of food quality, quantity and variety on intake. Not eating enough: overcoming under consumption of military operational ration
 Almiron-Roig, E (2003). Liquid calories and the failure of satiety: how good is the evidence? Obes Rev. 4(4), 201-212.
 Lawrence, G (2013). Dietary fats and health: dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv. Nutr. 4, 294-302
 Jequier, E (1994). Carbohydrates as a source of energy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 59(3), 682-685.
 Bertenshaw, E (2008). Satiating effects of protein but not carbohydrate consumed in a between-meal beverage context. Physiology of Behavior. 93(3), 427-436
 Westerterp, K. (2004). Diet induced thermogenis. Nutrition&Metabolism.
 Joyner, M (2009). Exercise protects the cardiovascular system: effects beyond traditional risk factors. Journal of Physiology. 587(23), 5551-5558
 McCrory, MA (2012). Dietary (sensory) variety and energy balance. Physiology of Behaviour. 107(4), 576-583
 College Regulatie van honger en verzadiging, WUR HNE-20306 Nutritional Behaviour.
Restaurant Review: H41 in the city center of Wageningen
by Danique Haas
Last Tuesday we went out for dinner with the beasts. This year we went to H41 for a
three course meal. H41 is a very cozy restaurant located in an old wood-sawmaker
in the city center and is one of Wageningen’s most visited restaurants.
You have different three course menu’s you can choose from but we choose menu
3, which costs € 24.95. For the menu you could choose what kind of appetizer, main
course and dessert.
Soup of the day
Fried shrimps with oriental sauce
Salad with smoked chicken & almonds
Combination with steak of venison & fillet of kangaroo with H41 sauce
Steak with a mushroom cream sauce
Salmon prepared in the oven with white wine
Giant mushrooms, stuffed with nuts and Roquefort
Plate H41 (vanilla ice cream with banana, egg nogg, chocolate sauce & whipped
Chocolate trio with homemade brownie, ice cream and mousse
I chose the salad with smoked chicken & almonds as the appetizer while almost
everybody else chose for the fried shrimps with oriental sauce. The portions were
relatively big for an appetizer I must say so we were all very pleased. I also really
liked the ratio chicken vs salad which was about 50/50 since I am not much of a
For the main course we all had something different. Again the portions did not
disappoint us. I had the salmon and it was cooked really nicely. We also got salads
and French fries with mayonnaise with it. Where you would normally get a small
basket of French fries in a restaurant we now got a big bowl of fries.
For the dessert we were all same minded, almost everybody chose the chocolate
trio. If you are a chocolate addict like me it is the perfect dessert. I also really liked
the different textures in the dessert.
We really enjoyed the food and I would definitely go back another time. I thought the
prize was really good for the quality and amount of food that we got. I would rate the
food with a 8,5, service gets a 8 and the total ambiance gets a 9.
This is a nice and easy recipe to make for breakfast or lunch.
Ingredients (for 3 small pancakes):
- 1 banana
- 1 egg
- 1 table spoon of flour
How to make the pancakes
- Mash the banana with a fork and put it in a bowl
- Add the egg to the banana and mix it, then also add the flour and mix it so you have no lumps in the mixture
- You can also add more flour if you like your pancakes to be more firm
- Heat up a pan with some oil and pour the mixture in the pan, divide the mixture into three small pancakes
- Bake the pancakes first om one side till they are golden brown on the bottom and the batter is solid on top (so you can turn them).
- Bake the pancakes on the other side thill they have a nice golden brown color
Serve the pancakes with some syrup or with some fresh fruit, or both.
|Per portion||Per pancake|
|Proteins||10.4 g||3.5 g|
|Carbs||30 g||10 g|
|Fat||16.4 g||5.5 g|
Last Saturday, our FoodCie member Koen had the spontaneous idea to go out for dinner with the FoodCie. So we did! The choice of restaurant was determined very quickly. The burgers from ‘De Kater’ were calling for us!
We arrived without a reservation on a busy Saturday night, so we obviously had to wait a little bit at the bar. Our fellow beast and bartender at de Kater, Sven, made us some nice drinks and cocktails and soon a table became available!
Koen and Ricky ordered the chicken burger, me (Eva) and Nacari ordered the bacon and cheese burger, Jasmijn had a beef skewer and Kevin was just there for the fun (and alcohol)!
Our meat was cooked medium (the way we wanted it) and seasoned nicely. Koen got a cute salad on the side instead of fries. The chicken burger had a different seasoning than last time, and Koen thought that the previous seasoning was a bit better!
Unfortunately we had to go to a festival after this dinner, so we did not get a dessert.
The final score for this restaurant:
The service was great, everything was arranged quickly and efficiently.
We are giving the general atmosphere of the restaurant a 7, this is because of the old fashioned style that they went for. Some of us liked it very much, some of us did not.
The burgers are wonderful, just like the other dishes. The price-quality ratio is great, good food for a small price.
We would definitely recommend to everybody to eat at ‘De Kater’!
By Fleur van Griensven
When a girl tells people she just started lifting, they often think that she will wake up as a Hulk the next day. They think that lifting makes women look bulky, so they shouldn’t train like men. Another thing you often hear, is that women can never get as big as men, but is that true? Do women naturally have less muscular potential than men? Or can we finally acknowledge the fact that women should train heavy too and that a lot of girls are not living up to their potential by lifting 2 kg pink dumbbells?
The natural muscular potential of women.
Popular opinion is that men have more muscular potential than women and thus can gain more muscle. However, some research indicates that women naturally have roughly the same muscle building potential. A prospective intervention study examined the influences of gender on muscle size responses to strength training. The results were that women can gain the same percentage of muscle mass compared to men during strength training .
Studies on protein synthesis came also to the same conclusion. Women have similar muscle protein synthesis rates and thus seem to build the same amount of muscle protein after training compared to men . This is however the conclusion of only a few studies, so more research is definitely needed to be 100% clear that women do naturally have the same muscle building potential. However, this is difficult because these studies take a long time and need to be well-controlled.
When women start training they do have a different body composition. Most of the times, women have less muscle mass and more fat mass compared to men. Women have +/- 12% essential body fat compared to just +/- 3% fat in men . Essential body fat is all the fat which we can not lose without it negatively affecting our physiological functions. It surrounds our organs and nerve tissues. Men and women do have a different starting point when it comes to muscle mass, but they seem to be gaining muscle mass at the same rate. Keep in mind that for the rest of this article I always compare men with a starting point to women with the same starting point, so a same body composition.
How about testosterone?
Testosterone is the most important male sex hormone. Women however do also produce testosterone, even though they have 15 times less active testosterone than men, under normal circumstances . Besides the known functions of testosterone in our body, like development of primary/secondary sexual characteristics and production of sperm, it also plays a positive role in muscle building. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, which means that it stimulates muscle protein synthesis and thus muscle growth.
Is it then true, because women have less testosterone they also have less potential to build muscle mass? No, this is probably not the case. The testosterone functions are different in men and women. What comes next might be a bit of a complicated story with terms you never heard about, but do not worry about that and try to see the big picture in why having less testosterone as a woman is not that bad at all.
It seems that testosterone is not needed for muscle development in women because growth factors like IGF-1 and growth hormone take over the anabolic role that testosterone plays in men . This has been found in an animal study done with mice, so more studies are necessary to test if this is the case in humans too. However since women can gain muscle with lower testosterone levels, it can be safely assumed that other hormones besides testosterone are involved in this muscle building process.
Women have just as much IGF-1 and produce +/- 3 times as much growth hormone as men . This study shows that despite the fact that women have lower testosterone levels than men, they do have higher growth hormone levels. It could be possible that in women growth hormone partly takes over the role of testosterone. This explains why having less testosterone does probably not limit how much muscle women can build. People think that testosterone is the most important hormone, but there are more hormones that play a role in muscle growth.
The other (sex)hormones combined with the advantages/disadvantages women have.
Where testosterone is the most important male sex hormone, estrogen is the most important female sex hormone. Estrogen is commonly seen as the hormone that makes you fat and frail. However, its positive effects should not be disregarded. Some of these positive physiological effects are:
- It is anti-catabolic, which means that it prevents muscle loss .
- It aids in muscle repair .
- It is good for connective tissue (bones, ligaments etc.).
The bad reputation of estrogen is based on nothing more than the assumption that if testosterone is anabolic, estrogen must be catabolic. There is a lot of ongoing research and there are indications that it plays a role in muscle growth and the well-being of skeletal muscle. However, more research is needed in the future.
One big disadvantage for a lot of women these days is the use of the anti-contraceptive pill. This holds especially true for the ones containing a lot of progesterone. They do have a negative effect on muscle growth compared to not using an anti-contraceptive pill, because progesterone competes with testosterone for the androgen receptor. Basically, this comes down to less active testosterone when you take in an anti-contraceptive pill with a lot of progesterone . How much of a negative effect occurs is hard to tell, because it is very difficult to study.
Here is a practical tip which you can use to take advantage of the benefit we have being a woman. Hopefully this and more research in the future about some other topics relating the effects of hormones on muscle growth will help you get the most out of your training sessions!
- We can use a higher rep range.
There are two types of muscle fibres: Type I&II. Type I muscle fibers are known as slow-twitch muscle fibers, which makes them able to contract for a long period of time and more resistant to fatigue. Being able to contract for a long period of time could mean that women can benefit from a higher rep range. This could mean that for women to grow to their full potential, more reps per set need to be done to benefit from the type I fibres which are more resistant to fatigue and can contract longer. One study came to the conclusion that during exercise in women, a potential conversion to type I muscle fibers or no conversion at all takes place . This study looked at the muscle fibre adaptations during execution of a knee-extension exercise in both young men and women. They found a significant increase in percentage of type I fibres in young women. The study has its limitations: if the muscle fibres had been splitted into type Ia, IIa, IIb etcetera, no significant result would have been found. This also is anecdotal evidence and more research needs to be done.
Conclusion, do women naturally have less muscle building potential than men?
There is some research which indicates that women can gain the same percentage of muscle mass compared to men during strength training [1,2]. However more research is needed.
Why you see more men with a significant amount of muscle mass compared to women and why women aren’t 100% living up to their potential can be contributed to a lot of factors:
- Mostly social-cultural. There are not as many women compared to men training with weights. If they do train, some of them just do not want to build as much mass as possible. Everyone has their own goal and idea of how they want to look. That is okay, as long as you do what makes you happy and never have someone telling you what you shouldn’t or can’t achieve.
- If women go to the gym, they spend countless hours on the treadmill or playing around with pink dumbbells, that is for sure not 100% optimal if you want to build as much muscle mass as possible.
- Oral-contraceptives, which have a negative effect on muscle growth. Part of the anabolic role of testosterone will be taken over by other hormones in women, so testosterone production probably does not limit how much muscle women can build.
More information about this topic for sure will come available in the future as more and more studies are being done on this interesting topic. When that time comes we will update this article and bring you the latest conclusions.
One take home message for all the women out there busting their ass off (or on) in the gym: you probably are not less capable of putting on muscle mass than men, and the only limitations you have are the ones you put on yourself!
 Roth, SM (2001). Muscle size responses to strength training in young and older men and women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 49(11), 1428-33.
 O’Hagan, FT (1995). Response to resistance training in young women and men. International journal of sports medicine, 16(5), 314-21.
 Vehrs, P (2013). Assessment and interpretation of body composition in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 46-51
 Wisse, B (2016, 2 March). Testosterone. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003707.htm
 MacLean, HE (2008). Impaired skeletal muscle development and function in male, but not female, genomic androgen receptor knockout mice. FASEB journal, 22(8), 2676-89.
 Van den Berg, G (1996). An amplitude-specific divergence in the pulsatile mode of growth hormone (GH) secretion underlies the gender difference in mean GH concentrations in men and premenopausal women. Journal Clinical endocrinal Metab, 81(7), 2460-2467
 Hansen, Mette (2014). Influence of Sex and Estrogen on Musculotendinous Protein Turnover at Rest and after exercise. Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews, 42(4), 183-192.
 Velders, M (2013). How Sex hormones promote skeletal muscle regeneration. Sports Medicine, 43(11), 1089-1100.
 Woock, C (2009). Oral Contraceptive use impairs muscle gains in young women. The FASEB Journal, 23(1).
 Martel, G (2006). Age and sex affect human muscle fibre adaptations to heavy resistance strength training. Experimental Physiology, 91(2), 457-464
In case you don’t want to eat some breakfast during the summer but want something refreshing and filling, smoothies are delicious in the morning and if done properly healthy AF. Here are some combinations of some breakfast smoothies.
Serve them cold!
Amount per shake are to your tasting. All combinations are possible, just experiment.
– Whey (neutral or vanilla)
– Strong (fresh) mint tea
– (Frozen) Strawberry
– Oatmeal- Whey (neutral or vanilla)
– Banana or honey
5# Orange chocolate
– Whey (chocolate)
– Mint thee
6# Peanut butter time
– Whey (chocolate)
– Peanut butter
Summer is basically here (and God knows for how long) and if there’s one thing I love baking in this season it’s delicious pies. It’s a perfect finish to a nice barbecue, especially with a side of ice cream.
This my personal favorite apple pie recipe. Although I like the Dutch version of the apple pie very much (which is excellent in its own right) I have a slight preference towards the American way of doing things when it comes to this pomaceous desert. The main difference in this case is that the pie crust in the American way is flakier and less sweet. Just for clarification, I’m not completely sure this recipe is up to par with the traditional standards they us back in Murica, but this is simply a pie based on the same concepts they use on the other side of the pond. It’s easy, has few ingredients and you can play with it as you like. The only downside is that it usually takes about a whole day to make, so be sure to make it in advance!
Basically you make two dough balls. One for the base and the other one to cover up with.
(per dough ball, meaning you have to make this twice):
1.5 cups of flour (not self-raising)
0.5 cup of butter (cold)
Pinch of salt
4-6 Granny Smith apples (peeled and diced)
Add the flour and salt together and mix. Then add the butter by cutting off small cubes and dumping it into the dough. Mix this with a fork. Not with an electric mixer! You don’t want the butter to spread evenly – the little clumps will make for pockets of air in the dough when it’s baking, making your dough flakey (luchtig) instead of hard and dense. Now you add the cold water. Make sure it’s cold as you don’t want the butter to melt. With each spoonful stir the mixture until your dough starts to stick together a little. It’s okay if it’s still in clumps! What’s important is that it can be formed into a ball when you knead the though – and adding too much water makes it sticky. When finished wrap plastic foil around your dough and refrigerate for about 5 hours-overnight.
Afterwards take the first dough out and roll it out into a nice thin bottom. Place this over pan, make sure you push it into the edges and refrigerate this for about half an hour. Then put apples (and cinnamon and sugar and raisins, if necessary) into the bottom. Roll out the second dough ball and put over the filling, making sure to pinch the sides of your two doughs (top and bottom) together. Now slice a couple of holes on the top of your pie and it’s ready for the oven! Put it into a 1800c preheated oven and it should be ready in about 45 minutes.
Wait an hour to cool and enjoy!
This recipe is perfect for a birthday, valentine’s day or for any other day that you just want to treat yourself with some deliciousness!
- 150 grams of Spritz cookies (or any other butter cookie)
- 50 grams of butter
- 1 can of condensed milk
- 100 grams of frozen raspberries
- 100 grams of fresh raspberries
- 500 grams of white chocolate
- baking tin (for example 20x20cm)
- baking paper
- little sauce pan
- Crush all the cookies. Melt the butter in a little sauce pan. When the butter is completely melted, add the cookie crumble and mix it together.
- Put baking paper in your baking tin and put the cookie mixture in the tin. Spread the cookie mixture evenly with a spoon and put it in the fridge.
- Melt the chocolate au bain marie. When it is melted, add the condensed milk and wait for it to be slightly thickened.
- Add the frozen raspberries to the chocolate mixture and stir.
- Get the baking tin with your cookie mixture out of the fridge. Put the chocolate mixture in to the tin and spread evenly with a spoon.
- Top the cake of with some fresh raspberries. Put the cake in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.
|Whole cake (12 pieces)||Per piece|
By Fleur van Griensven
BCAA’s are thought to put you in an anabolic state. Some people claim that you should use them before training when you are in a fasted state to prevent muscle loss. Is this true and should we all run to the nearest shop to spare our gains? Or is it just a smart marketing strategy from producing companies?
What are BCAA’s?
BCAA’s are branched-chain amino acids. These amino acids are branched (in Dutch vertakt), which in comparison to other amino acids makes it easier for enzymes to digest. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. When we consume protein our body uses specific enzymes which breaks these down into smaller units, the amino acids. There are 20 amino acids which can be converted into one another. At least, that’s true for the non-essential ones. The essential amino acids need to be present in our food because the body can’t synthesize them itself. There are 8 essential amino acids: Lysine, Tryptophan, Phenylalanine, Leucine, Isoleucine, Threonine, Methionine and Valine.
The three BCAA’s are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. During intensive activity, muscles will convert these quickly into energy. BCAA’s are supplemented just before or during training. The reason for supplementation is to stop muscle breakdown, recover quicker and in the long run build more muscle mass and strength. 
Are BCAA’s useful?
Many studies have been done on BCAA’s. A lot of people claim that you should take them before training fasted or during training. Some studies do find an effect of supplementation, whilst others don’t. There are many promising abstracts, but they are almost always hampered by lack of dietary control and/or a low protein intake. Making real conclusions based on these studies is hard.
The effectiveness of BCAA supplementation to reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness is mixed. One randomized placebo controlled study compared a BCAA’s + carbohydrate versus a carbohydrate sports drink following 3 days of intense weight training. BCAA + carbohydrate supplementation did not improve markers of muscle damage/soreness compared to carbohydrates only. 
A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study concluded the opposite. Participants received a BCAA supplement or a placebo. Before and after the damaging exercise (100 drop-jumps) they measured different muscle damage variables. They concluded that BCAA administered before and following damaging resistance exercise reduces markers of muscle damage and accelerates recovery in resistance-trained males. This might be due to greater bioavailability of substrate to improve protein synthesis. 
Research which shows a net anabolic effect of BCAA supplementation before, during or after training is often used to sell these powders . Supplementing BCAA’s would eventually increase build-up of muscle. No evidence supports that ingestion of BCAA supplements is more effective than consuming a proper amount of food (protein) with respect to building muscle. In fact, there’s research to the contrary: food, and whey protein specifically, may be even more effective than a BCAA drink . This is why you can consume a whey shake before training to get into a net anabolic state. It’s cheaper than BCAA powders, comes in many delicious flavours and is more effective.
What are the costs of BCAA’s?
BCAA’s can be bought in shops and online. The prices differ per brand and they sell both powders as tablets. For example, BCAA’s from Body & Fitshop will cost you €14,90 for 500 grams. The recommended daily serving is 20 grams before or during training, so a package lasts for about 25 days. Thus, quite expensive.
The amino acids shown in the picture above (Amino X from BSN) are even more expensive. You pay €19,90 for 435 grams. The daily serving is 29 grams, so you would pay €1,33 on a daily. Are these any better than Body & Fitshop own label? They both contain the three amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine but probably in a bit different ratio. The Amino X also contains L-alanine, Taurine and L-arginine and vit D3 + vit B6. Will this add any effect to the product itself? Not sure, but you will just pay for something extra next to the BCAA’s you actually want to buy.
Selling BCAA’s on the market is a smart marketing strategy, because you basically pay for only three amino acids with a bit of a nice flavour added to it. Companies make good use of this by slogans as: ‘Amino X BSN, next level technology!’ or ‘BCAA Sensation V2 only contains the perfect ratio amino acids’. Yeah right if this would all be true, would just not one product with everything be enough? Companies try to come up with new things to make us consumers think that we just have to buy the new product. Smart marketing strategy it is!
Conclusion, BCAA’s: a smart marketing strategy?
Concluded can be so far:
- The studies find a mixed effect of supplementation, but if they do find an effect are lacking in many aspects.
- They are a smart marketing strategy.
- They are expensive.
- You can get your BCAA’s from food instead which is cheaper and more satisfying.In general, there are studies that seem to show promising effects of supplementation. These however are hampered when taking a closer look. A whey shake just before training has shown to be even more effective in provoking a net anabolic response.
If you think that you need to take a serving of BCAA’s before training fasted, first ask yourself the following. Is training fasted going to be any better in losing fat than having a meal and smash the hell out of your cardio session? An article about fasted morning cardio might follow, but at the end of the day it still comes down to being in a negative energy balance. If you enjoy doing cardio first thing in the morning go ahead, but don’t get deceived by this BCAA marketing strategy, drink a whey shake and save yourself money!
 BCAA. Retreived from: http://www.eigenkracht.nl/supplementen/specifieke-supplementen/bcaa
 Wesley C. Kephart et all (2016). Post-exercise branched chain amino acid supplementation does not affect recovery markers following three consecutive high intensity resistance training bouts compared to carbohydrate supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
 Glyn Howatson et all (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
 Sharp CP, Pearson DR (2010). Amino acid supplements and recovery from high-intensity resistance training. Journal Strength Conditioning Research.
 Hulmi JJ et all (2010). Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutrition & Metabolism.