Monthly Archives: August 2016

Bodybuilding Supplements Tips

download-6If you’re new to bodybuilding or just want to gain an edge during your workouts, then supplementation is a no-brainer. With so many to choose from, it’s easy to become paralyzed by all the types, doses, companies, and, not to mention, promises. What’s a newbie to do?

It’s time to learn the basics. Here’s an uncomplicated beginner’s guide to what you need to get started. After a while you may experiment with others or simply stick to the ones listed here. But wherever your training journey takes you, rest assured that these make up the foundation of any healthy supplement plan.

First, some wise words of advice. The term supplement is roughly defined as “in addition to” not “in place of.” You should adhere to a balanced, healthy diet with ample supplies of protein, complex carbohydrate and fiber, and healthy fats. Without a solid, real food foundation in place, all the supplementation in the world won’t get you to your goals any faster. Eat first, then supplement.

1. WHEY PROTEIN

For the past decade or two, whey protein has established itself as the cornerstone to any supplement plan. Chock full of amino acids, it’s especially plentiful of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine. The BCAAs are vital in the protein synthesis process required to build new muscle tissue – especially leucine.

Used as a staple for pre and post workout nutrition, whey protein is a fast acting protein which is absorbed quickly due to its high filtration processing and small molecular make-up. It’s readily available to starving muscle cells when taken after a hard training session.

When and How Much?

The prime times to use whey protein powder are post workout and at other times when getting in a whole food meal proves difficult – such as after work and prior to your workout. Another critical time is for those who train first thing in the morning and don’t want any amount of solid food in their stomach for a lengthy digestion. Whey, with its fast digestion, fits that criterion quite nicely.

For most gym-goers, a single dose post workout could include anywhere from 20 to 30 grams per serving. If you are a heavier trainer who weighs north of 200 pounds, a slightly higher amount may be needed such as 40 grams.

2. CREATINE

The research on this wonder supplement continues to grow. No longer a freshman,creatine has affixed itself as the real deal. Supplement manufacturers have been scrambling for years to develop the “next creatine” but are still champing at the bit in the lab. Found as a naturally occurring substance in foods such as fish and steak, creatine works by helping to replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores during bouts of intense training.

It does this by “superhydrating” muscle cells full of fluid so other processes can take place as well like protein synthesis. This, in turn, will increase the rate of recovery between and during workouts. Initially, the bodyweight gained is mostly water, but over time your body will build new muscle easier and faster.

When and How Much?

There are two schools of thought regarding how much creatine to take. Originally, when it was new to the market, it was thought that you needed to load for five or so days in order for it to completely saturate your muscle tissue. This led to fast water weight gain and a positive sense of accomplishment.

However, some experienced stomach pains and other gastrointestinal (GI) tract issues due to the amount taken daily. As time went on and more research was done, and it is now recommended that starting with a maintenance dose yields the same end results.1 Go with 3 to 5 grams pre and post workout for best results.

3. FISH OIL

Fish oil may not seem like a “sexy” choice for a supplement, but its benefits are long-term and vital to a healthy body. High in the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fish oil is not necessarily an acutely effective supplement. Its main benefit has been found in reducing inflammation in the body.

So what, you say? Inflammation has been shown to be the instigator of myriad health problems including heart disease. For training purposes, inflammation can prevent the body from properly utilizing macro and micronutrients and hinder performance and recovery from training.

When and How Much?

With fish oil, taking in more isn’t a good thing as too much can lead to a higher risk of stroke. A moderate supplementation plan is the best route since you are using it more as a preventative measure versus an acute performance supplement. 2 to 3 grams per day is the normal recommended amount taken with a meal. Other forms of healthy oil, like krill oil, are available as well if you find fish oil gives you an unwanted aftertaste.

4. MULTIVITAMIN/MINERAL

Another “boring” but necessary supplement is the tried and true multivitamin/mineral. Although recent research has blasted its efficacy, the benefits of getting certain amounts of these vital micronutrients prove essential for optimal health.2 These nutrients are necessary for countless bodily processes and overall balance. For example, zinc is used in tissue (muscle) repair and magnesium helps the body get appropriate rest.

Why wouldn’t you want a little insurance since no one’s diet is perfect day-in and day-out?

When and How Much?

A simple name brand multivitamin/mineral supplement will do just fine. One with 100% of most vitamins and minerals listed is your best bet. Mega-doses don’t do much in the way of getting any healthier.

Most Popular Supplement

imagesThe effects of creatine are nothing new. As one of the most researched supplements on the market, it should be a part of any serious lifters supplement stack.

Not only has it been unofficially proven to work by bros at your local gym, it is also a clinical superstar producing real, substantial results when it comes to muscle mass and strength gains.

Let’s look at not only the tried and true benefits of creatine, but also what new information has been found about this super strength building supplement.

What else does it have to offer your blood, sweat and tears in the gym and how can you benefit?

CREATINE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Creatine is a supplement used by many athletes and bodybuilders to help increase performance of high intensity training. Made of 3 amino acids (methionine, arginine, and glycine), creatine helps replenish our ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) stores once they have been depleted. This, in turn, allows us to train harder and longer and recover quicker between bouts of exercise.

It increases strength levels, muscle mass and even aids in recovery between sets of exercises. As a natural substance found in our muscle cells it is also made by the liver and we also ingest it from our diet.

Some dietary sources include fish and red meat; however, supplementing is the easiest and most convenient way to achieve optimal levels since food contains very little. For example, a half-pound of meat can contain only 1 gram of creatine only. So, supplementing is needed to reap the full benefit.

CREATINE DOSAGES

There are two schools of thought when it comes to dosing. The traditionalists out there stress that a loading phase needs to precede a maintenance phase. This loading phase can contain up to 20 grams of creatine powder per day divided into four 5 gram doses. One advantage of this method is a sudden onset of muscle fullness and a rather quick weight gain.

The other school of thought is to simply start with a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams, twice daily – once prior to training and once again post training. Which is superior? Many studies have pointed that the loading phase is unnecessary in longitudinal trials. In other words, the same end results were recorded with both protocols.

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

Another factor to consider is the type of creatine to take. With so many forms flooding the market (citrate, ethyl ester, nitrate, malate and pyruvate just to name a few) which is the most effective?

The bottom line is that research, again, dictates that good ole-fashioned creatine monohydrate is still the most effective form. Not only is that good news to cut down on confusion, it’s also great news for your wallet since you can still get creatine monohydrate at a great price at most supplement outlets.

As science tries to make an even better version of creatine, just stick with the simple stuff for the best performance results.

Branched Chain Amino Acids

images-1Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential amino acids (meaning our body does not create them) that contain an aliphatic (branched) side-chain.

There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids are key players in the regulation of muscle mass and must be consumed through your diet.

One interesting aspect of BCAAs is their metabolism in the human body. The breakdown of BCAAs is regulated through an enzyme complex known as the branched chain amino acid dehydrogenase complex, which we are going to shorten to something more manageable and call it BDC.

To take biochemistry from test tube to muscles, this means that when we have higher levels of BDC around, more BCAAs are broken down.

Levels of BDC in the human body are increased when we exercise, indicating that exercise promotes breakdown of BCAAs.

Another important aspect of this complex (which we will discuss later in this article) is that when the metabolites of BCAAs are present (i.e. the products of the breakdown), they inhibit the BDC complex. Which means if you have a lot of BCAA breakdown products around you preserve the currently available amino acids.

THE ANTI-FATIGUE HYPOTHESIS: BATTLING TRYPTOPHAN

Before we dive into the individual BCAAs and their functions, we need to cover one aspect of the collective group of BCAAs, their proposed ability to reduce fatigue.

There is a hypothesis about fatigue during training, it is called the central hypothesis of fatigue.

The Central Hypothesis of Fatigue states that elevated levels of serotonin in the brain caused by increased levels of tryptophan (tryptophan is converted to serotonin) during exercise induces fatigue.

BCAAs are thought to prevent this because they compete for the same transporter into the brain. So the hypothesis is that if you increase your BCAAs in the blood by supplementation, you prevent tryptophan uptake and thus reduce fatigue.

Now this sounds great as a biochemical and physiological theory. . . but unfortunately the research hasn’t created any promising results and any anti-fatigue effects of BCAAs by reducing “Central Fatigue” appear to be minimal if any.

VALINE: GLUCOSE CREATION

Valine is the least researched or well understood of the 3 BCAAs, and as such the currently known biological effects of it are minimal.

Valine is a glucogenic amino acid, meaning it can create and/or be converted into glucose1,2. The methyl carbons of valine can be utilized to produce glucose and ultimately glycogen.

This process of valine oxidation for glucose is increased in skeletal muscle following injury, which suggests that consuming extra valine in times of muscle injury (i.e. heavy training) might be beneficial for muscle recovery. Unfortunately for valine, it is far less effective at this than Leucine (a theme that repeats itself).

LEUCINE: THE KING OF BCAAS?

The main reason people use BCAAs is to optimize muscle building, and in the land of BCAAs, leucine is the king of promoting muscle protein synthesis.

When we think of the science behind muscle protein synthesis we think of two proteins, mTOR and S6K.

Interestingly, leucine is able to activate the mTOR pathway independently of other growth signals, like insulin.

Leucine is a major contributor to the anabolic capabilities of protein supplementation by activating mTOR. For example, 5g of leucine elicits a greater muscle protein synthesis signal than 5g of a mixture of BCAAs.

There is even evidence that leucine provides the most potent growth signal when you compare leucine to other amino acids and even insulin!

Do you get it yet? Leucine is probably pretty important for muscle protein synthesis.

LEUCINE AND INSULIN: DYANMIC DUO

Just in case you don’t really care about growing muscle (which if you don’t, I am sorry for your loss), leucine might also help with recovery.

One of the critical components of recovery is how quickly you can replenish your glycogen stores. For hard-charging athletes the mantra is “the faster the better”. The quicker one can reload their glycogen stores, the faster they are able to recover. Leucine can actually speed up the recovery process by increasing glucose uptake. It does this with a nifty little trick.

Leucine signals for insulin to be release from the pancreas without the presence of carbohydrate. Working in conjunction with insulin, leucine can actually have a positive two-fold effect on glucose uptake into muscle cells.

Combining leucine supplementation with post-workout carbohydrate has been shown to be incredibly effective in restoring muscle glycogen, more so than amino acid or carbohydrate supplementation alone. Interestingly enough, insulin also works synergistically to control muscle protein synthesis in response to diet and training. When it comes down to recovery and muscle growth, leucine is critical for optimizing both!