How’s Your Lymphatic System? (it’s important)

Until the other day I had only heard of the Lymphatic System in serious conditions and  not given much thought to the role it plays in our body and how an efficient Lymphatic System can help increase your recovery and overall health.

What is the Lymphatic System?

Your Lymphatic System removes waste from every cell in your body and regulates your immune system, its function is to move a clear liquid called Lymph, containing white blood cells around your body to clear out waste and toxins. You have almost twice as much Lymph in your body than you do blood! the network is HUGE! Throughout the Lymph network are small structures called Lymph Nodes, in times of attack/inflammation/harmful organisms your lymph nodes go into overdrive to product antibodies and often can become sensitive or tender.

This is part of the reason I started to read up on the Lymphatic System, a few months ago I detached my Adductor and burst several blood vessels in my leg resulting in blood pooling, my leg filled with blood and became severely bruised, over the next few weeks I could feel tender areas around my groin and swelling, researching online it suggested that my Lymph Nodes could be in overdrive and even congested, preventing a speedy recovery. As I was sitting on the couch on my ass all day unable to move my leg…good times!…I started researching and reading about the incredible role your Lymphatic System plays in the body.

Interestingly your Lymphatic System does not have a pump, like your heart, to move Lymph around your body, instead it requires your movement/muscle contraction and help to get around, one of the best ways of course is exercise!

This is where it gets tricky with a busted leg, being sat on my backside all day, certainly was not helping in Lymph drainage and recovery of my injury. I wanted to find out further symptoms of a sluggish Lymphatic System and to see if there were any supplements or dietary changes I could make to improve the overall well being of my system, reaching the conclusion that an optimal and efficient Lymphatic System would not only assist in the recovery of my injury, but now armed with this information meant that keeping a healthy system at the top of my priority list will help long term with training, recovery and health!

Let’s imagine you’re injured or have toxins in your body, but you sit on the couch or lay in bed not moving, this can lead to a pooling effect of toxins, and in severe cases create a blockage in your Lymphatic System.

What are some of the symptoms of a sluggish Lymphatic System?

As I researched this, I started to realize that perhaps my Lymphatic System needed help a long time ago!…

  • Dry skin
  • Feeling tired
  • Bloating
  • Trouble sleeping/staying asleep
  • Holding on to water in trouble areas (lower back for me)
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Migrains
  • Loss of appetite
  • GI Issues
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Acne
  • Cellulite

Just to name a few! have you ever had a day where you feel sluggish and mental fog? again these could be symptoms of a poor Lymphatic System.

For me sleep was big thing, I often wake in the night and find it hard to get back to sleep, in the afternoons I feel an overwhelming fatigue and as the day goes on I find water retention increases and bloating becomes an issue.

So how can we maintain a healthy Lymphatic System or even repair it?

  1. Clean up your diet, stop eating processed crap, meat, dairy, gluten and reduce sugar/refined carbohydrates.
  2. Supplement with liver and kidney enzymes/support/supplements
  3. Take an intolerance test to foods or allergies test that may be putting added stress on your body.
  4. Drink at least 2 liters of filtered or purified water a day
  5. Exercise regularly – skipping or jumping on a trampoline can be one of the best ways to increase efficiency in less that 10min a day!
  6. Try not to sit/be inactive for extended periods of time
  7. There are specialist lymphatic massage experts that can stimulate lymphatic drainage
  8. De-stress – take time for yourself, reduce general stress around you

As I already take part in most of the above! I decided to seek out some additional supplements and a tiger roller! to support my Lymphatic System.

Supplements I found were…

  • Swanson Condition Specific Kidney Essentials
  • Swanson Ultra Diosvein Diosmin/Hesperidein
  • Swanson Condition Lymph Essentials with Yellow Clover Extract
  • Liv-52
  • Milk Thistle

As for the Tiger Roller, this thing is amazing, it is a massage roller that I have been using all week on my leg and feels like it makes a huge impact!

It is very early to tell with the supplements as this is only day 3, but last night I had the highest quality night sleep I have had in about 6 weeks and woke up today looking drier than normal. Time will tell, but I am positive about the assistance these supplements can give me and will keep the health of my Lymphatic System at the top of my list for overall body efficiency and well being.

Do Vegans Need BCAA Supplements?

You may have heard people claim that those who don’t eat meat, won’t be able to get all the required protein they need to build muscle.

They normally go on to express that plant based protein sources are not complete proteins and do not contain a full amino acid profile, which can be misleading.

In fact all plant protein sources are complete and do contain a full amino acid profile. The confusion I believe people come across is that although, yes, plant protein sources are complete proteins, most are deficient in at least one of the 9 essential amino acids and therefore are considered incomplete.

vegan leucineWhat’s an amino acid? 

Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it. When you digest protein, your body will break this down into amino acids to make proteins to help the body:

  • Break down food
  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Perform many other body functions

What is an essential amino acid?

Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body on it’s own and as such must come from food.

There are 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Of all the amino acids, there is 1 that is considered king when it comes to building muscle, Leucine. Before we dive into the benefits of leucine in muscle growth, first lets cover some basics.

When you lift weights, your body enters a catabolic state, whereby skeletal muscle protein degradation is increased, the overall effect is a negative net protein balance.

Post workout when you consume protein, this flips the switch to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and begins the process of repairing and building new muscle.

Why is Leucine king?

It is the rise in blood concentrations of amino acids and particularly the level of Leucine in your blood that stimulates protein synthesis.

Leucine is the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in muscles (the other two are isoleucine and valine) and has a unique ability to stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis and activate major components of the muscle building pathway.

How much Leucine do you need to stimulate protein synthesis?

The ideal amount of Leucine is up for debate, but in studies using single doses, just 2.5g of Leucine stimulated protein snythesis. In long-term studies, the recommended outcome is to consume 8 or more grams of Leucine per day in divided doses of at least 2.5mg at each meal.

and THIS is where I believe the “complete” amino acid profile of plant based protein sources comes into question.

Most plant based protein sources are deficient in the no1 vital amino acid to trigger protein synthesis. It’s not to say that protein synthesis wont occur with plant based sources, but it’s probably not the most optimal if your goal is to build muscle.

Check out the Leucine content of these popular vegan protein sources, remember you likely need at least 2.5g of Leucine for the best results.

  • Mycoprotein (QUORN) 0.95g of Leucine per 100g
  • Chickpeas 0.63g of Leucine per 100g
  • Lentils 0.62g of Leucine per 100g
  • Quinoa 0.33g of Leucine per 100g
  • Tofu 0.73g of Leucine per 100g

Should you supplement with BCAA or Leucine?

Depending on how often you eat, it’s quite possible that over the course of a day you will hit the required 8g of Leucine, which is why there are many vegans out there who don’t supplement with BCAA that have great physiques, however you will unlikely be hitting the minimum requirement of Leucine per single dose (each meal), to maximally stimulate protein synthesis.

Personally, I do supplement, first and foremost I focus on whole foods across the day, but alongside each meal I will supplement with either 10g BCAA or 5g Leucine to ensure that I am exceeding that threshold and increasing my chances of building lean tissue.

Vegan Leucine Supplements

Be careful when choosing your BCAA or Leucine supplements, most that you will see come from animal sources. Instead look for “fermented” BCAA and if in doubt always contact the vendor.

My go to is (use code MARKFOX10 at checkout for a discount) Fermented BCAA 4:1:1 or Fermented Leucine..whatever you do, DO NOT get the unflavoured Leucine, you will cringe and shudder every time you try to drink it.

NOTE: supplementing with just Leucine alone will not result in optimal effects if the your diet is low in protein. This is because other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) will be preferentially oxidized and lead to a BCAA imbalance that compromises anabolism. Therefore, if total protein intake is low, supplement with all three BCAAs.

Have something to add or say about this article? comment below 🙂