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Supplement Spotlight: Bromelain

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know, there’s only two things I love more than bodybuilding itself. 1) Research 2) spending money on new shiny things and road testing them!


6 weeks ago I entered my first peak-week and whilst doing my monthly supp shop at Yamamoto Nutrition, they popped up with a blinding offer.. a free towel if I spent £100.

A FREE TOWEL PEOPLE??! Of course I was going to take them up on it!

Whilst perusing my usuals I came upon Bromelain – a compound derived from Pineapple stem, and being hungry, an absolute fan of pineapple on my pizza and making absolutely no sense or reasonable judgement on spending due to prep brain, it was a no brainer. Add-to-frickin-cart.

6 weeks later, and a restock. I’m actually glad I did.


So.. why Bromelain? What is Bromelain?

(OK.. SO HERE COMES THE RESEARCH BIT! I’MMA BREAK DOWN SOME OF THE LONG WORDS IN QUOTES SO WE ALL BECOME WALKING PUB-MEDS AND DAZZLE FUTURE TINDER DATES)

Bromelain, is a crude extract from pineapple, usually the stem that contains, among other components, various closely related ‘proteinases’.

Proteinase (also a peptidase or protease) is an enzyme that "speeds up" proteolysis (whuuuut??), (that’s the breaking down of proteins into smaller polypeptides or single amino acids) – for use in the formation of new protein products within the body (think blood clotting for wound healing, or muscle building.. etc). Proteases are involved in many biological functions, including digestion of ingested proteins, protein catabolism (breakdown of old proteins), and cell signaling’.

People in white coats, locked in labs, have demonstrated that Bromelain has ‘antiedematous’ (eh?), ‘anti-inflammatory’ (what?), ‘antithrombotic’ (gah) and ‘fibrinolytic’ (jeeeeezus freckin wept) properties.


Bromelain studies also have shown anti-cancer properties, anti-microbial, and possible therapeutic benefits have been claimed for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, bronchitis, Asthma, Sinusitis.. even SARS Covid, as well as enhanced absorption of some drugs - particularly antibiotics.


Sounds like a bit of a wonder drug doesn’t it? What’s not to like?

Well whilst all this sounds fab, I’d rather not take on the burden of curing cancer or treating surgical trauma myself.. so we’ll just focus on two main areas of interest for me and why I used it in my peak-weeks.


Lets go back to those first two points: Bromelain has ‘antiedematous’ (eh?), ‘anti-inflammatory’ (what?) properties.

OK so, Edema, also spelled oedema, is the build-up of fluid in the body's tissue - we mostly refer to it as fluid/water retention. Most commonly, the legs or arms are affected. Inflammation is part of the complex biological, protective response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out dead cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and initiate tissue repair. The five main indicators are heat, pain, redness, swelling, and loss of function.


NOW THERE ARE 2 MAIN FUNCTIONS OF A PEAK WEEK..

..Firstly, we’re looking to “fill you out”, you’re probably depleted by the beginning of peak week, either from weeks of low carbs and intense training, or purposefully, you’ve depleted yourself to get that “supercompensation” (more about all this to come in another post), but we’re looking to pump carbs and water into those muscles to make them look nice and full.


Secondly, we’re going to dry you out a little - so while we want water in the muscle, we want to draw away subcutaneous water (water under the skin) to show a little more definition. Not too much mind, as bikini is a softer look than any other category, but what we don’t want is lots of water retention around the abs and legs.. which for women, do tend to be the problem areas.


THERE ARE MANY REASONS, SIMPLE AND COMPLEX, KNOWN AND ABSOLUTELY INEXPLICABLY UNFATHOMABLE AT TIMES, WHY WE HOLD WATER..

and going back to edema (mainly in the legs and feet) this can be caused by standing and sitting in the same position for too long. You’ve probably experienced this on a flight for example. I myself, until recently was working a pretty gnarly project management contract in a bank, and sitting for up to 70 hours a week at a desk, and in the weeks leading up to my first peak of the year suffering terribly with water retention in the legs. At the weekends, my time was full with posing clients, so again I was then on my feet for a further 16 hours, and I found the water was pooling in my lower half.


Other contributing factors to water retention, especially around the midsection for ladies, can of course be hormonal - your monthly period, the pill, or if you are assisted, hormonal changes due to peds.

Again for myself, I turned 40 this year, and it’s clear my hormones are “on the move”, a little off kilter, and I do have a tendancy to hold water around my midsection.


Another common cause for holding water, is inflammation.

Now, before we go on, lets clear something up right here.. inflammation, is a NATURAL immune response. It is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. It’s the bodies response, to trauma, infection, illness etc. It’s purpose is to protect you.. you bang your knee really hard on a table (been there) or drop a 20kg weight on your thumb (done that), you’re going to see swelling pretty quickly.. that’s a trauma response to protect the site.


The same is true if perhaps you overindulge in sh*ty food all day, you might set off an inflammation response in your body - bloating, discomfort etc.

Even training really hard, is going to induce inflammation.

The problem is, when that inflammation becomes chronic, this is when we start to see our health take a nosedive, and this over time can kick start a chain reaction of other serious issues.. inflammation can become a pre-cursor for cancer.


I don’t want to delve too much more into this, because I am not a doctor, or an expert in this field, and this blog is related to competing.. but I just want to state clearly, low levels of inflammation are needed in the body, both for protection and as indicators to us that there are underlying issues to be addressed.. and we should never seek to entirely ‘eliminate’ inflammation.


NOW.. BACK TO THE BLOG

On peak week, you’re going to be run down. Low on food, tired. Your immune system is going to be at an all-time low. Training, by this point is probably kicking off a bit more of an inflammatory response. You will have been eating really clean for months too. And now, you’re going to hit your body with higher carbs. If you’re like me and suffer a little with IBS and IBD, you’re probably already having a few “belly issues”, digestion is sluggish.


Anything we can do to safely reduce water retention and lower inflammation in the body, keep digestion in check.. is going to be a tiny victory this week.


And that’s why I had a bash with Bromelain. A digestive enzyme, with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-edema properties - a very mild natural diuretic with possible applications for IBD. It seemed worth a punt to me.


AND THE VERDICT?

3 wins baby!!

Ha ha. OK in all seriousness, I cannot attribute them entirely to Bromelain, neither can I make any concrete claims here to an undeniable efficacy. I am one person, this is not a clinical controlled trial, and there were obviously a lot of other factors being manipulated in over the past 6 weeks to try and bring the desired looks.


What I will say though, is that these have been my best looks in my 5-6 years of competing. I have always, always struggled with water retention on show day, whether I coached myself or had help of some very respected coaches in the industry.


My legs and abs were the driest they have been, and I had the least amount of digestive, stomach swelling and bloating issues - a couple of bouts but nothing compared to the usual.

Yamamoto nutrition recommends 4 tablets a day. I took 1 a day, increasing slowly to 4 a day the day pre-show and that seemed like enough for me. I have continued to take 1 - 2 a day with a meal in between shows, again increasing again through the tail end of each peak week. I have used it in synergy with my other protocols and supplements, and I’ll continue I think to keep it as part of my pre-show stack.


WARNING/CONSIDERATIONS

As said. I am not a doctor, and none of this is medical advise. You should ALWAYS do your own research on any supplement! And believe me there is plenty out there to keep you going on Bromelain. A few downsides you should consider before taking it. It can be a blood thinner (it has been shown to help with blood clots) and to that end should probably not be taken with aspirin or any other medication that thins the blood - and perhaps best not to take it if you’re off for surgery or a tattoo either!


As said it can enhance the potency and absorbency of other drugs - if you are on medication I would check with your doctor before using it. I cannot stress enough - please, please do your research.


Lastly - I am not affiliated in any way with Yamamoto Nutrition. I’m just a geek who likes their products :)


Muchos love


Leonie xx



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