Detox diets, L-arginine, and antioxidants

5 Myths Revealed
Myth #1: Everyone loves working out

Obviously false. Arguably one of the best strength and conditioning coaches around, Mike Boyle says it perfect in his list of 25 things about me post, “I don’t really enjoy working out. I do it sparingly so I will not die or embarrass my business.”

Myth #1: Everyone loves working out

Obviously false. Arguably one of the best strength and conditioning coaches around, Mike Boyle says it perfect in his list of 25 things about me post, “I don’t really enjoy working out. I do it sparingly so I will not die or embarrass my business.”

Coach Boyle owns several amazing gyms in Boston and this is him saying this – not one of his clients. It is normal to think that the couch and a bag of popcorn seem more appealing then running a couple miles on the iron horse (elliptical). But that doesn’t give you an excuse to skip your workout and opt for the couch. Even more of a reason to seek out different ways to exercise… just ask us at 1RM performance, we have plenty of creative ideas on how to add some activity into your life.

Myth #2: L-arginine supplementation can increase muscle mass

False. Here’s a little background: L-arginine is an amino acid and precursor to Nitric Oxide (NO). NO is a vasodilator, meaning it increases blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to skeletal muscle during exercise. But, lots of research has shown that orally taking L-arginine has little or no effect on blood NO levels. But get this, beetroot juice has been shown to increase nitrate levels, enhancing performance during aerobic exercise (running, biking, swimming, etc). Not only that, but beetroot juice and other fruits and veggies high in nitrate can have a positive affect on blood pressure. Foods like celery, lettuce, spinach, leek, parsley and fennel are all high in nitrate. So how does it work? Researchers have found that daily supplementation of beetroot juice is necessary (8 or more days) of around 500 ml/day (around 16 oz). That’s a lot of juice considering the awful taste and the fact that it normally comes in 16 oz bottles ($5.00). Beetroot juice has the greatest affect on diastolic blood pressure, which indicates that peripheral resistance is decreased, allowing for increased oxygen delivery to active muscles. So you might want to pass on those gimmicky NO products you will see in your local supplement stores, but give beetroot juice a try if you have the stomach for it. Check back soon for an addition from Bobby (hint: NO benefit post exercise, decreased endurance following arginine supplementation… and more!).

Myth #3: You need to periodically cleanse your body of toxins

False. What are toxins anyways?

Definition: A poisonous substance, especially a protein, that is produced by living cells or organisms and is capable of causing disease when introduced into the body tissues but is often also capable of inducing neutralizing antibodies or antitoxins (

These detox diets are based on the theory that your body needs help eliminating harmful toxins (from processed foods or environmental stressors). The idea is that if you free yourself from toxins, your metabolism will speed up so you can burn calories quicker. However, we know that your body is designed to eliminate any type of harmful substance like this, specifically by the liver and kidneys. The kidneys filter all the blood in the body over 60x per day, and then pass the waste (urine) to the bladder to store. The liver has a lot of roles, but in regards to this topic, it breaks down or modifies toxins through a process called drug metabolism. For example, if ammonia wasn’t removed quickly from the body, then the Central Nervous System would fail.

All of these fad cleansing diets are essentially a waste of money because our bodies don’t store toxins. I became interested in the topic a few weeks ago while chomping down on a burger and some fruit at a barbeque. I overheard a lady saying she wasn’t eating because she was doing a “cleanse to rid herself of those awful toxins”.

On the other hand, intermittent fasting could have some benefits for those of you who are looking to shed a few pounds. However, intermittent fasting is a stressor on your body and can increase stress hormones (such as cortisol). If you have a stressful job, stressful life, eat crappy low quality foods, are sleep deprived, or excessively exercising, don’t try fasting. For example, I would be a poor candidate for intermittent fasting because my job is full of early mornings and late nights and requires working out almost all day long. Not an ideal situation to restrict calories. Check out this article on intermittent fasting at Cressey Performance for more info. 

Myth #4: Antioxidants only come from berries

False. First of all, let’s go back to our toxins lady and take a look at her statement again. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and say she meant to say “free radicals” rather then “antioxidants”. If she had said she was cleansing herself of free radicals, she would have a more valid concern. Ever heard of something called antioxidants? Well, antioxidants can play a vital role in neutralizing free radicals. Let’s take a quick step back into our old days of high school chemistry. In simplest terms:

- Every cell is composed of many atoms

- Each atom has a nucleus, protons, neutrons and electrons

- Electrons surround and orbit the nucleus

- Electrons try to reach a state of maximum stability by either sharing or taking electrons from other    atoms

- Sometimes weak bonds form between atoms and split, creating some free radicals

- Free radicals can also be formed through daily processes like metabolism, but also environmental factors like smoking, pollution, radiation, and herbicides can create free radicals

Sounds scary, but the cool thing is that there are several things that can neutralize free radicals. First of all, foods rich in antioxidants can help to minimize the affects of free radicals. Ofcourse, berries are high in antioxidants but other foods like beans, artichokes, russett potatos, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, and so on are great sources. But second, chronic exercise can also help defend against future free-radical damage. Several studies have shown that acute intense exercise bouts can increase oxidative stress (and free radicals), but consistently exercising will help antioxidants neutralize free radicals. So yes, you are causing damage to your body by exercising, but your body is also building a sort of immunity to free radicals. 

Myth #5: The best test for determining lower body explosive power is a vertical jump test

False. Vertical jump testing will give you an idea of an athlete’s lower body power, however it may not be the BEST test for that. Some argue that a medicine ball overhead backwards toss could be more sport specific when compared with just a vertical jump. The reason is that many sports require transfer of power from the lower body, through the core, and then through the upper body (like in a tennis serve, basketball jump shot, or volleyball spike). If you are going to do the test on youth athletes, use either a 4 or 6 lb MB. Make sure you take into consideration the learning curve associated with doing a MB test. At 1RM, we generally test our athlete’s power through a broad jump, and OH backwards and forwards MB test. When working with a group of athletes, it’s safer to just test OH backwards because it is a safer loaded position for athletes with underlying shoulder injuries. We incorporate a broad jump because research has shown that it is more closely related to sprint speed in athletes.