As I sit here and write these words, my mind returns to the first time I picked up a weight seven years ago. Young and full of enthusiasm, I would scan the magazines in eager anticipation of learning the "secrets" that would enable me to add muscle to my frame. This looking and searching happened because I thought, perhaps, that if I looked hard enough the elusive secrets would be revealed, and the easy way to muscle would be mine.
Seven years later, it is obvious to me that this mindset was naiieve, but useful. There is no easy way to building a good physique, and virtually none of us will ever be Mr. Olympia. But a young mind full of enthusiasm is needed to make the transition into the lifestyle. So is a mind with a vision.
But not any vision will do. To live the lifestyle, and to succeed and persevere, it is important to have the right mindset, guided by a realistic vision that is focused on health and wellness.
Vision is related to purpose, and without the right purpose even a great vision will never become reality. This is why so many lift for a time, and then stop. The wrong purpose guided their visions of greatness.
To achieve your vision via the bodybuilding lifestyle, the right purpose is critical. Why do you bodybuild? What are your motivating factors? What do you hope to obtain, and why?
Answering these questions takes self-insight and honesty. It requires self-examination and integrity.
Bodybuilding can teach all of these qualities, but somewhere in your being you must have the potential for these qualities to grow, even before you pick up a weight.
True purpose in bodybuilding comes not from exercising to gain the admiration of others - because second-hand approval is fleeting. True purpose and lasting success comes from intrinsic motivation, and the desire to physically and mentally progress.
But recognizing these inner signals comes only with experience. For those who last in the sport, regardless of their initial motivations, learning to detect and nurture these inner feelings is the true secret - a secret that is never revealed in the magazines - and for good reason. Should bodybuilders ever become self-reliant, the magazine kings would be unemployed.
Regardless of initial motivation, a change - a paradigm shift - occurs somewhere for successful bodybuilders during the course of their careers, and then bodybuilding becomes about the self, instead of competition with others. When a bodybuilder reaches this point, he or she is a bodybuilder for life.
Challenging yourself and listening to inner signals by examining your motives, desires and direction is the true way to live a healthy life based on bodybuilding.
So, once again, I challenge all athletes to answer the following questions: Why do you bodybuild? Where do you EXIST psychologically and emotionally? And, most importantly, is what you are doing in your career consistent with who you are, or who you would like to be? If you can answer these questions to your satisfaction, then you know you've arrived.
I have a question about body types in your article Grocery Shopping for The Bodybuilder! Because endomorphic body types hold more estrogen, would it be beneficial for me to take testosterone supplements to lose weight?
For anyone looking to lose weight, dietary manipulation is often seen as the key, but this is true only insofar as dietary manipulation affects hormone profile. It is not the diet, par se, that determines weight loss - it is ones hormone profile.
Often, caloric restriction has been touted as the surefire way to lose weight. I would agree that caloric restriction, more than any other factor, will determine overall mass gain or mass loss, and the research consistently backs up this assertion. However, caloric restriction in and of itself will not determine weight loss - it is the effects of restriction on hormone profile that will prove determinative.
Caloric restriction often involves a reduction in the consumption of carbohydrate. Reducing the intake of simple carbohydrates will favorably impact the action of insulin, leading to a decrease in the storage of lipids.
Persons who diet typically increase protein consumption as well, and protein is known to have thermic properties that increase metabolism, thereby leading to a sustained and increased caloric burn. An improvement in the action of insulin and an increase in metabolism will result in weight loss. In the final analysis, weight loss is a hormonal process.
| Overweight or obese persons are known to have higher estrogen levels.
As one gains unwanted adipose tissue, estrogen levels rise and testosterone levels fall.
Therefore, the hypothesis of supplementing with a testosterone boosting supplement is sound. However, not all supplements are suitable for your purpose.
Research has demonstrated that sex hormones, typically those of male type, cause a reduction in subcutaneous water, as well as an increase in the liberation of fatty-acids from adiposities. 1, 2 This is assuming that the conversion rate of aromatase is low.
Any time that an exogenous substance is introduced into the body, the compensatory mechanisms of the body adapt to restore equilibrium. If you don't want down regulation of your HTPA (and a subsequent rebound effect), I suggest that you avoid prohormones and steroids, and instead stick with substances that manipulate your hormones naturally.
These natural substances will raise your levels of free testosterone, without causing a down regulation of your own testosterone production. Should you take exogenous testosterone supplements, you will be left with very low testosterone levels (and high estrogen levels), when you discontinue the use of the supplements. If this happens, you can count on gaining bodyfat.
Two of the best natural substances that increase free testosterone are Avena Sativa, and Tribulus Terrestris. It is thought that both of these substances increase testosterone levels via LH (leutenizing hormone). They are safe, and users report noticeable results - namely feelings of well being, an increase in acne, improvement in strength and muscle tone, and less subcutaneous water.
These substances definitely increase available testosterone. I recommend them and coupled with a high protein, low carbohydrate diet, they should assist you greatly.
How can I get a question answered in your monthly column?
Would you believe that in the two years that I have been writing this column, no one has asked that question? This is not surprising to me, because I understand that most of the time we, as people, think of ourselves before all else.
What is often surprising is how the letters sent to me are written with little or no effort given to spelling, punctuation, or even congeniality. Many letters - not all, but many - indicate in style and substance that the sender couldn't be bothered to take the time to think of the person to whom he or she is sending - but they expect me to take time to consider them. Well, it just doesn't work that way.
As a writer, I am a VERY busy person. I work full time in this industry, and I spend a lot of time talking with various companies and their representatives either in person, or on the telephone. It is not unusual, as a writer, for me to put in ten hours of work every day.
When I receive a letter of correspondence from someone, I expect that it should be addressed with my name on it. It should also be polite, courteous, to the point, and well laid out. I don't have time to read someone's haphazardly arranged autobiography, and I really don't care about their grandmothers favorite apple pie recipe. By personalizing the letter, by making sure it is grammatically correct, free from spelling errors, and by making sure it is concise, it shows that time and consideration were given to my time constraints.
Signing your name on the bottom line is something that, in this industry, goes a long way. Often when I receive letters and they are unsigned, I discard them. Why? Because I won't communicate with someone at a disadvantage. I won't talk into the dark. It's not fair.
As a writer, I am passionate about my work, and I always go the extra mile for my readers by making myself available to them. I expect that when someone wishes to communicate with me, they do it on the level - they at least tell me who they are. So for those of you out there who are thinking about sending in a question in hopes of an answer, here it is, summarized for you:
- Address the letter properly
- Be polite
- Be concise
- Spell check
- Sign your name on the bottom line
In today's day and age, e-mail has allowed people to become sloppy. That's fine, but that doesn't mean that being rude is appropriate or that manners have gone out the window. This industry is all about dealing with people.
To do this successfully, you have to appeal to their self interests and consider things from their perspective. If you do this, you will find that they will be much more responsive and open to your needs.
A friend brought me a supplement that claimed to be much stronger than regular creatine. I read the booklet he brought me, and it looked convincing. The company was Elite-K, and the creatine was in purple pills. Is this product legitimate, or just another rip off?
To answer this question and to provide this supplement with a fair evaluation, I had one of my contacts send me a sample of the product and also the literature issued from the company.
After reviewing the literature, I can safely tell you that I wouldn't buy it for use in my supplement regimen. That's not to say that it's not a quality product - it may be. But there are some concerns that I have, and I will outline them here for you.
The brochure issued with the sample I received is fairly standard - in other words, the company believes that this product is the best on the market, will help you build a massive physique, etc. I could go on, but you get the idea. Every company has a vested interest in promoting their version of the wheel, and this company is no exception. However, the advertisement does make some questionable claims that can not be backed by science - and this is the etymology of my concerns.
First among the questionable claims is the statement that this product is incapable of being converted into creatinine. It should be fairly obvious that creatine is metabolized and broken down into creatinine. Any time that you ingest creatine - from food or from a supplement - it IS metabolized into creatinine. Creatinine is a protein produced by muscular action, and this protein is released into blood. So it is false to claim that none of this product will ever convert to creatinine.
Another claim is made by the company that raises concern: "Kre-Alkalyn is the only safe way to take a creatine product." The general tone of the brochure is that all creatine products - with this one as the exception - are unsafe. Research has demonstrated this to be false, many times over. In fact, modern medicine administers creatine to burn victims, persons with eating disorders, heart conditions, and the extreme elderly, to name a few. Creatine has been shown safe, time and again in research.
I won't get into the rest here because I have provided enough to demonstrate the tone of the advertising. The bottom line is that the brochure goes to great lengths to paint other creatine products as unsafe and inferior. It does so without discussing the science behind this product. It does so without providing the science to back up its claims about other creatine products.
Aside from the Neitchzien-like axioms and one-liners thrown out on this product and others, little else is said. This tells me that the company making this product probably doesn't have the research to back up its claims - and it doesn't want to provide the research because then its claims would be refuted.
It's fairly obvious that one of the easiest ways to look good is to make the other guy look terrible. It's all relative. But even if he looks bad, that doesn't mean you are any better - just that he is worse than you are. And that doesn't say much for you, either. We'll see where this product goes in the future. Maybe it will make it, maybe it wont. As for the samples given to me? I just flushed them down the toilet.
I have tried prohormones in the past, with mixed results. On some, it seems I would get strong and then weak, after I came off. Have you tried Tribulus? I've heard that it works, but I am skeptical.
The issue you raise is exactly why I don't prefer or recommend prohormones. The simple truth is that prohormones are drugs and serious questions have been raised as to whether they are worth taking.
Any time exogenous testosterone (or a precursor) is introduced into the body, the bodies natural reaction is to down regulate its own natural production to compensate. This is why bodybuilders, on even the highest doses of testosterone, can suffer side effects like testicular atrophy.
Aside from the effects seen while on a cycle of steroids or prohormones (including, but not limited to: gynocamastia, abdominal distention and water retention brought about by estrogen), once a person comes off of anabolic steroids or prohormones, it will take the body time to up-regulate natural testosterone levels. The result?
Depression, water retention, low energy levels, low motivation, shrunken testicles, and muscular atrophy. This is known as the "crash" and it can happen with prohormone use as well, although with less severity than anabolic steroids.
Tribulus Terestris is derived from a plant with the same name, and is a natural way to boost testosterone levels through an increase in leutenizing hormone. The key to testosterone levels and muscle gain is not how much testosterone one has in circulation, but how much of it is unbound and free for use. Free, unbound, active testosterone is the key to increasing protein synthesis and muscle growth.
I have tried prohormones in the past, and I can tell you that using tribulus in conjunction with Creatine Monohydrate and Glutamine will produce similar results, the only difference being that tribulus is side effect free. Give it a try - you will be pleased with the results.
Lately I find it impossible to get into the gym. I have no motivation, and I'm getting fat. I'm looking for a supplement to give me energy, but I'm not sure what to buy. Which one would be good for me?
Whenever I recommend a product, I always advise that a doctors checkup be done prior to administration. That being said, here are your options insofar as energy products.
Products containing ephedra are, despite the ban, still an option. Manufacturers have switched from making "weight loss" pills to pills for "persons with asthma." So, as always, ephedra is the classic supplement used to provide energy and focus that make for a successful workout.
Another option is creatine monohydrate and ribose. Creatine and Ribose work by increasing ATP in muscle stores, allowing for increased stamina and endurance. 3, 4
Aside from ephedra, another central nervous system stimulant is Caffeine. Caffeine is a great drug - and it is a drug - to give you motivation. If coffee is your preferred choice of cafffine delivery, I recommend a nice dark, thick, brazillian blend to get the most bang for your buck. These coffees are very high in Caffeine, and can get you wired in no time.
Caffeine is a popular ingredient in weight loss supplements, and it is well known to improve performance. It is also a diuretic, so if you supplement with it, be sure to increase fluid intake. Dehydrated muscles are catabolic muscles that function at less than peak performance.
Ginseng is also an energy booster, and is a popular ingredient in herbal energy tonics. It gives energy by stimulating the pituitary system, thereby producing more excitatory hormones. If you are going to use a ginseng supplement, be sure to pick a product that is at least 200mg containing 7% ginsenosides, and take it three times daily. Your problem might be related to a lack of Iron, or B-vitamins. You can try supplementing these and making note of your response.
One supplement that I have come across is called Diablo, by Nutrabolics. I obtained an advanced sample from a company representative a while back, before it hit the market. It is a new supplement, and a lot of feedback has not been available to date.
When my contact provided me with a sample of the new product, I was skeptical to say the least. I've come across supplements making wild claims before, and I didn't think this would be any different.
Well, I was surprised to say the least. This product contains a number of ingredients that are now coming into use in bodybuilding. They are: L-citrulline Malate, DiArginine Malate, Bis-beta-carboxyethyl-germanium-sesquioxide, trimethyl-aminoethanol and nicotinamine Adenine Dinucleotide.
To make a long story short (I have only so much space) this stuff is potent! I took the product as directed and within three minutes I felt a spike in my energy levels that lasted two hours. I was so focused it was unreal, and my rest time between sets was cut in half! It made me want to rip up the gym.
From experience, I can tell you that even though this product is ephedrine-free, it leaves ephedrine in the dust! Taking one serving of Diablo produced similar energy boosting results as 20mg of Ritalin! I kid you not - this product is amazing and I would recommend it to anyone looking to step it up in the gym.
This is by far the best energy boosting product I have ever seen, and it is well worth it as an alternative to countless supplements with questionable efficacy. Try Diablo, it might be what you are looking for!
- Friedl KE, Dettori JR, et al. Comparison of the effects of high dose testosterone and 19-nortestosterone to a replacement does of testosterone on strength and body composition in normal men. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 1991;4:607-612.
- Kuipers H, Wijnen JAG, et al. Influence of anabolic steroids on body composition, blood pressure, lipid profile and liver function in bodybuilders. International Journal of Sports Medicine 1991;12:413-8.
- H.G. Zimmer, et al. "Ribose Intervention in the Cardiac Pontose Phosphate Pathway is not Species Specific," Science 223 (1984): 712-714.
- H.G. Zimmer and H. Ibol, "Ribose Accelerates Repletion of the ATP Pool During Recovery from Reversible Ischemia of the Rat Myocardium" J. Mol. Cell. Cardiol. 16 (1984): 863-866.
Come back next month to see YOUR questions answered! From steroids to supplements to sexuality, workouts to weight loss and more, the answers you want are here!
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