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Can too low a cholesterol count be holding back your gains? It's very possible. Yet for years the medical establishment has been warning us of the health risks associated with cholesterol, mainly that it
attaches to the arterial walls, causing restricted blood flow which can lead to a heart attack. We've been led to believe that as long as we lower fat and cholesterol in our diet we can circumvent the
disastrous consequences with which elevated cholesterol is associated. But is cholesterol really the problem? Maybe not. Even if you were to eliminate all cholesterol from your diet, your body would still
produce cholesterol on its own. The less you eat, the more your body will make. Therefore, dietary intake of cholesterol will have little effect on your overall level. Like so many other factors regarding
health, longevity and even muscle growth, the result is determined by genetics.
Cholesterol comes in two forms: LDL (bad) and HDL (good). The key is to lower the "bad" while raising the musclebuilding "good" cholesterol. One of the misconceptions regarding total cholesterol count as evil is that many people relate all high-fat foods to high cholesterol. If you're a bodybuilder and are lowering your intake of oils in an effort to lower calories, cholesterol and body-fat, you're doing yourself a major disservice. Oil contains zero cholesterol! True, oil is 100 percent fat, but you need fat for fuel for the body to burn fat effectively. According to Udo Erasmus, author of Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, the secret may be as simple as making sure our intake of the essential fatty acid omega 3 exceeds the omega 6's and omega 9's, commonly found in dietary fats. We can accomplish this goal simply by supplementing with an omega 3 source such as fish oil or flaxseed oil. Many professional bodybuilders are adopting this practice with terrific results.
Studies showing high overall cholesterol as a factor in heart disease fail to mention not only the disparity between HDL and LDL, but the weight of the subjects tested as well. A 1998 study performed in several hospitals among patients who died of coronary complication showed that 87 percent had normal cholesterol levels. However, 92 percent of the victims were classified as overweight. That's the real problem, not how much fat and cholesterol you eat.
One's triglyceride level appears to be more significant to heart health than one's cholesterol count. Triglyceride levels can also become elevated through obesity as well as stress, alcohol consumption, a deficiency in antioxidants, insufficient fiber, hydrogenated products (such as margarine), and the ingestion of sugary snacks. Any serious weight trainer already avoids such foods but this fact proves once again cholesterol isn't the culprit.
Okay, so cholesterol isn't as bad as some may have thought, and high LDL levels can be kept in check, but is there any benefit to ingesting extra cholesterol? Plenty. Cholesterol is the building block of every cell in our body. Without it we die. We also need cholesterol to make hormones, including the bodybuilder's best buddy - testosterone, the main factor in how much muscle you can obtain. So in effect, low cholesterol equals low testosterone production which, in turn, equals low muscle growth. Using the same math, we see that increasing cholesterol equals increased testosterone, which adds up to more muscle growth. Not bad.
Have you noticed that whenever you read about a weight-loss diet plan, certain fatty foods are always off limits? There's a stroke of genius! Naturally, if you omit food from your diet, you'll be eating less. Eat fewer calories and you'll lose weight and lower cholesterol. Pretty simple, eh? So why do researchers, nutritionists, dietitians and scientists continue to bombard us with information on the dangers of certain foods? The reason is mainly due to the nature of the testing. If they're trying to find something wrong with any particular food, there's a good chance they'll find it. Anything in excess will have detrimental effects. (But you knew that already, didn't you?) Let's not discount the specious postulating made by antifood authorities. For instance, an argument against milk is that no other species besides humans continues to feed on milk after infancy. So what? No other species cooks its food, drives a car or applies deodorant. Should we stop those practices as well?
In regard to elevating the dastardly cholesterol count, eggs are the poster boys for bad eating, yet they're perhaps the most anabolic substance on Earth - so much so that training guru Vince Gironda recommended his clients eat up to a dozen eggs a day! This may be a case of extreme excess, but oddly enough, no one suffered any side effects - other than a major boost in muscle growth! Egg consumption makes sense if you think about it. What is an egg but all the components of life itself? The cholesterol in eggs is a big deterrent for a lot of people, but it shouldn't be.
The theory that the external cholesterol from eggs raises endogenous cholesterol is based on studies conducted as far back as the early 1960s on animals such as rabbits which don't normally eat eggs. Of course their bodies couldn't handle them. Humans, on the other hand, are designed to ingest cholesterol. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. Bodybuilders have always eaten eggs and taken egg protein supplementation and should continue doing so.
If the aforementioned benefits of eggs aren't enough to convince you, try this on for size. Scientists have recently discovered that eggs also contain a compound known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is an essential fatty acid which is a vital component in mental function, focus and energy - imperative for intense training sessions. Low levels of DHA have been correlated with changes in disposition, memory loss, fatigue and vision impairment. Some evident exists that DHA, which is abundant in human breast milk but not in cow's milk, is responsible for increased immunity, greater growth, and infants' ability to learn.
DHA has become a hot supplement among bodybuilders, life extensionists and anyone interested in improving brain and body function. Supplemental DHA is costly, however - as much as a buck per 500-milligram capsule. Yet, organic eggs contain plenty of DHA! That feature alone makes eggs an outstanding bargain.
Incidentally, DHA is found in the yolk, the part that health-conscious people often throw away. Egg yolks also contain lecithin, which emulsifies the bad (LDL) cholesterol in our bodies while leaving the good cholesterol (HDL). They're also abundant in choline, a known aid in the removal of arterial plaque.
Organic eggs are as close to a perfect food as we have and may very well be the bodybuilder's greatest ally. At one time the bio-availability of protein supplements was gauged against the egg, which was considered perfect. Throughout the years this formula has been debated, argued, challenged and distorted. Science has now proven the original findings were correct. Eggs provide the perfect protein balance, surpassing even the almighty whey.
The reason organic eggs are recommended is partly that the hens are "free range." Caged hens are subjected to 12-hour days through the artificial manipulation of light and darkness in an effort to get them to lay more eggs. (They can lay only one a day - or one every light passage.) That process produces less potent eggs. Free-range chickens also eat insects, which are essential to their health. Caged chickens eat just grain. Organic is always best.
If you've been looking for a new supplement that'll bring about "steroid-like gains," you may not need to go beyond your refrigerator. Besides the protein count of eggs, their cholesterol is an anabolic powder keg!
Although a diet too high in saturated fats isn't recommended, don't discount the need for cholesterol in your diet. As long as you keep bodyfat in check through proper eating and sufficient exercise, your balance of LDL to HDL cholesterol will take care of itself- at least as well as your genetic disposition will allow. Let's stop blaming food for everything from heart disease to cancer and start eating the way nature intended us to eat. It's time cholesterol got its proper respect. Don't fear it and don't ignore it.
Instead, start bolstering the good fats in your diet and you'll soon be experiencing a wealth of benefits, including improved immunity, clearer skin, glossier hair and vital ingredients for more muscle growth. Leave those veggie burgers for the pencil-necks.