Here’s what you need to know:
-Methylation is the main regulator of genetic expression. This is good in that we don’t grow a third eye in our bicep despite the fact that those cells have the genetic “blueprint” to do so. This is bad in that there are many factors that can disrupt proper methylation.
-Methylation is the beginning pathway that eventually produces crucial compounds such as: creatine, phosphatidylcholine, nitric oxide, dopamine and chatecolamines, serotonin, glutathione and many more.
-Methylation is disturbed by: inadequate nutritional support, stress, toxicity, pathogens, oxidative stress, too much nitric oxide, gut health, inflammation, and genetic mutations.
-It is estimated that nearly 50% of the population has some type of genetic mutation for the MTHFR enzyme. This can reduce the enzyme’s work capacity by up to 70%
In the never ending pursuit of “mad gainz brah” bodybuilders and fitness freaks alike are searching for all the information they can find on how to improve performance and results. This has led to some awesome paradigm shifts and some downright stupid ideas (“it’s okay! This muffin fits my macros”). I’ll be the first to admit that early on in my bodybuilding days and fitness career, I definitely was more concerned about getting all my grams of protein than I was living as clean as possible. That being said, I think it’s time to close the gap between Naturopathic medicines and smashing that iron. Enter methylation.
In the world of biochemistry a methyl group is a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms. I’m not going to pretend to have a PHD in organic chemistry, but I strongly believe that there are some key pieces of knowledge that can be readily applied to improve over all physiological function. Methylation, as the name might imply, is the process of transferring methyl molecules in the body. It is a process that is constantly hard at work in all of your cells every minute of every day.
Some of the key functions of methylation include: DNA repair, genetic expression, process and eliminate toxic chemicals, synthesize and metabolize neurotransmitters, process hormones, build and repair cell membranes, build immune cells, produce energy, and protect nervous tissue.
That’s a pretty solid list there! Now do you get why it’s so important? NO?!!!???! Seriously?! Do I need to read it again? So let’s break this down a bit to get you a little more pumped up about this stuff. Starting from the top, DNA repair and genetic expression. DNA is like the body’s blue print for building proteins right? You’re trying to maximize protein synthesis (tissue repair) right? Need I say more? Just kidding, but seriously methylation supports proper cell division and repair. So whether you are talking about muscle cells to get bigger and stronger, bone cells to have a stronger frame, liver cells for detoxification, or neurons for proper motor recruitment……it’s all crucial.
Methylation is the cycle that ultimately produces and regulates dopamine (motivation/pleasure), serotonin (satisfaction, happiness), norepinephrine and epinephrine (fight or flight response to smash those weights right?), and even nitric oxide (still drinking pre-workout?). It also processes steroid hormones such as estrogen and its metabolites. Chances are a few of you might be interested in your estrogen levels if my guess is right! Methylation is imperative for the production of creatine and phosphatdylcholine, so if you are not supporting these pathways your anaerobic performance could be suffering as well as your cell membrane health.
The list goes on and on, and I’m not going to go through a lecture on all the mechanisms, but needless to say, I think you can see why this stuff matters. Methylation is a very complex process that involves many biochemical pathways, but that doesn’t mean it is too complex to start improving its function. The cycles can be disrupted by stress, environmental toxicity, poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, nutrient deficiencies or surplus, and genetic mutations. Some of those are kind of generic I know. “Wait, you mean I have to work out for my body to function well?”
Obviously the more you strive to live an optimal and clean lifestyle, the better off you’ll be but it’s the small things that most people overlook that can make a world of difference. How many of you think about detoxing regularly? Or limiting pollutants in the air and water? Or stress management. As I mentioned earlier about myself, I don’t think some of these “clean living” aspects are given enough thought in the fitness world and even if you are ahead of the curve and do consider some of these aspects…..what happens when that is not enough?
It is estimated that nearly 50% of the population have some type of SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) in the MTHFR genetic code. MTHFR (methylene tetra hydro folate reductase) is one of many enzymes that regulate the methylation cycles and is perhaps the single most important step. Depending on which mutation is present the enzymes function can be impaired anywhere from 40 to 75%. Imagine if all of the end products we covered above were only being produced at 25% full capacity?
The list of crucial nutrients for the multiple cycles of methylation is quite lengthy, but for now the key nutrients I’d like to mention would be: vitamin b9, b12, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin b6. “Oh that’s it? I’m covered. I take a multi-vitamin.” Hold your horses there!! The various chemical forms of micro nutrients can DRASTICALLY change what happens in the body, so just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for. Vitamin B9 being perhaps the single most important nutrient in the methylation cycle can be in over 150 different chemical forms. Folate is a generic name for vitamin B9, but you must understand that it is merely a category. Folates are primarily found in dark green leafy things. Folic acid is the man made synthetic chemical form of Vitamin B9 BUT IS NOT AT ALL IDEAL!! It is in most processed, vitamin fortified foods and can “clog up” your folate receptors!! The magic of methylation happens inside the cells. Therefore the folate molecules must successfully be transported into the cells from the blood. The problem is that folic acid binds to the folate receptors 5x as strongly as other more bioavailable forms. Look for a vitamin with the chemical form: L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate that is bound to a calcium salt or glucosamine salt. I personally take this multi-vitamin most of the time.
Supporting methylation is by no means as simple as taking a quality multi-vitamin or a few random supplements. Being under or over methylated can cause many different symptoms and over time, can play a major role in the onset of chronic disease. Different nutrients are needed in different quantities based on that individual’s unique condition. I am not a medical professional and don’t pretend to be, therefore I do encourage you seek out Naturopathic Physicians that have training in this area of medicine (head to my contact page to gain access to a resource for finding such professionals) while working in conjunction with your primary care physician, for testing and specific treatment. If you are simply looking to optimize health and performance start by focusing on the big picture. Eat plenty of whole foods from the earth and lots of uncooked leafy greens. Try filtering your water for drinking and bathing. Cut down on environmental toxins with air filtration, limiting plastics, and swapping out common cleaning chemicals for natural ingredients.
At the end of the day we all know that the better our lifestyle is, the healthier you’ll be. Or at least that is the hope. Methylation is a complicated subject that isn’t talked about enough. I believe we will be hearing more and more about it in the next few years and it is something I intend to write about more in the future in my never ending efforts to close the gap between the fitness and medical industries. In the meanwhile, if you feel you could benefit from learning more or getting some recommendations, feel free to head on over to my “services” tab to contact me directly, or use the link below.
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