Avoiding The Anti-Anabolics For Maximum Muscle Growth!

This article reviews many aspects of what the common bodybuilding Anti-Anabolics are and how to avoid them. These topics cover a range of nutrition and training issues. Read on to learn more...

If you are trying your best at bodybuilding nutrition and training, and still not getting the muscle building results you want, it may be from the Anti-Anabolics in your programs.

As the trainer of fitness trainers, I get a constant flow of questions about how to achieve optimum bodybuilding training. Combine this with what I see going on the gyms and questions from the Bodybuilding.com community, and a new category of topics has recently emerged, which I call the "Anti-Anabolics".

Yes, over the years you have read many articles about anabolics and anti-catabolics, but the flip-side of these topics is where the Anti-Anabolics concept picks up the slack. This article reviews many aspects of what the common bodybuilding Anti-Anabolics are and how to avoid them. These topics cover a range of nutrition and training issues.

So when you need to go 'super-anabolic' make sure you avoid the Anti-Anabolics to get fantastic muscle building results, especially during the competition season.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Overcooking

You spend your hard-earned money on eating out, or buying expensive good protein sources, the last thing you want to do is have the cooking method ruin the nutrition content. The way you cook can adversely affect the nutrition content of the foods you eat.

Generally speaking, the higher the heat, the more those precious organic nutrients, like vitamins, proteins, creatine, and essential fatty acids, are broken down and altered during the high heat cooking processes.

High heat cooking methods to avoid or minimize during periods of being super-anabolic included grilling, pan frying, oven, toaster ovens and deep-frying. Lower heat cooking methods include boiling, steaming and microwaving.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Eating Too Fast

When you eat too fast, your digestive processes become disrupted, which may lead to causing progressive gastrointestinal problems. Eating right starts with taking your time to chew food thoroughly, in a calm eating environment.

Avoid "inhaling" your food on the run or cramming big chunks of food in to your mouth. Chew your food the way your mouth is designed too eat; slowly, until the food in your mouth is mixed with saliva, and the chewed food forms a semi-liquid food mass that is easy to swallow.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Skipping Meals

Obvious enough, but people still do this. In order to be more anabolic and promote positive nitrogen balance, eating several meals per day does the trick. When you skip meals, your catabolic processes start to dominate, which means breaking down your body's protein and energy stores.

Eating meals stimulates your insulin, which in turn activates your body's cells to uptake more of the essential nutrients you need for tissue growth and maximize your energy stores.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Over-Eating

While you need to eat several meals per day, you want to make sure not to be overeating at any one meal. When you over eat, your body needs to turn the excess calories to fat, which in turn conditions your body in to being a fat building machine, instead of a lean muscle building machine.

A big mistake many people make is overeating after they workout, with the idea that they just burned up a bunch of calories. Ideally, you should plan meals and caloric intake to meet your activity needs that will come after the meals. Also, smaller, more frequent meals are more energizing, both physically and mentally.

Eating larger meals everyday can make you fat and lethargic. It takes some planning and discipline, but after a few weeks, eating this way will become normal and more satisfying. Remember a golden rule that can help keep you focused when eating out: eating out does not mean pigging out.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Not Drinking Enough Water

Again, obvious, but often neglected, is keeping well hydrated. The body needs to be well hydrated 24/7 to work properly. Your physical and mental abilities start to decline even with just a few percent loss of body water.

Make sure your water intake matches your hydration needs, all day long. But, as with any nutrient, also don't over do it and become over hydrated. Like with your other food and supplement intake, keeping well hydrated is a balancing act.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Drinking Alcoholic Beverages

When you want to be super-anabolic, you need to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages. In addition to the well known adverse health and adverse performance effects (dehydration and nervous system sedation, for example) alcohol also interferes with protein synthesis.

I discussed in other articles and my lectures about the mTOR protein synthesis pathway, in which the amino acid leucine is major player in controlling. Well, alcohol interferes in this important mTOR protein synthesis control pathway and reduces protein synthesis, including your rate of muscle growth.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Not Ingesting Enough Protein

Protein is a primary macronutrient needed for muscle growth, yet most people still come up short ingesting adequate amounts of this vital macronutrient.

A good rule to follow for macronutrient intake during bodybuilding preseason and season training is to maintain a daily average intake of calories as 25%-30% Protein, 50%-55% Carbohydrate and 15%-20% Fat.

Don't beat yourself up tying to get the calculation percentages of the foods and supplements you ingest 100% accurate, because most food content labels and tables have a wide margin of error, typically plus or minus 10% but can be up to 20%. Aim for the range, and most importantly, day-to-day consistency.

Current research indicates that the best protein supplements for going super-anabolic contain pure whey protein isolate, fortified with the branch chain amino acids, in particular with the branched chain amino acid, leucine.

Whey protein concentrate would be next on the list, but leucine fortified, whey protein isolate is on the top of the list.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Not Ingesting Enough Calories

Even when your protein intake is correct, and other aspects of your nutrition and training are on target, something as simple as not ingesting sufficient calories will have anti-anabolic effects. This mostly occurs when people are getting ready for contests or on weight loss programs for other reasons.

This is why it is important to allow plenty of time for reduction of body fat, because if you reduce your daily calories too much, you will also lose hard earned muscle mass.

Keep track of your body composition a few times per week to know where changes in your weight are coming from; body fat or lean body mass, and plan, plan months in advance. If you are a competitive bodybuilder, you need to follow periodized year-round planning, which I discuss in detail in my lectures.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Ingesting Too Much Caffeine

Regular intake of caffeine reduces your muscles strength and resistance training performance by slowing down the muscle contraction and relaxation cycle.

High intake of caffeine also displaces calcium absorption, which may partially explain the adverse effect to muscle contractions, as calcium plays an important role in nervous system function, as well as bone growth and structure.

Therefore, the chronic, day-after-day ingestion of caffeine should be avoided during these serious super-anabolic periods of training. The occasional (once or twice a week) pick-me-up caffeine containing drink or pill is less damaging, but ideally abstaining from caffeine intake is best to be super-anabolic.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Taking Saw Palmetto-Containing Supplements

I often scratch my head in bewilderment when I see saw palmetto used in muscle building products. Saw palmetto is a popular prostate health herbal supplement that works for its "anti-anabolic" activity.

In the prostate gland, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to exert its primary anabolic and androgenic effects. One thing DHT does is stimulate prostate cells to grow. As a man ages, an imbalance can occur, that is, too much DHT, and the prostate becomes enlarged.

This usually starts to occur at age 50, and the condition that develops is called BPH (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, or Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia).

BPH primarily develops in the part of the prostate directly adjacent to the urethra, compared to carcinoma of the prostate, which develops in the peripheral parts of the prostate. This is why BPH is usually associated with urination problems, as the enlarged prostate tissues interfere with the flow of urine in the urethra.

Some of the bioactive substances in saw palmetto extracts inhibit the enzyme (5-alpha-reductase) that is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to DHT. This reduction in DHT in the prostate gland, reverses the overgrowth of prostate cells.

In experimental animals given saw palmetto it was observed by researchers that the size and weight of their genital organs were smaller when compared to animals that did not receive saw palmetto.

Some of these animal research studies indicated potential anti-fertility effects of saw palmetto. Saw palmetto taking animals also had a reduction of total body weight.

In humans, studies of young muscle building people taking saw palmetto supplements are rare, however, one well designed research study of resistance training young men determined no muscle or strength building effects from taking saw palmetto containing supplements, along with other supposedly anabolic supplements.

It is very important for young, developing males to consider avoiding the use of saw palmetto supplements, especially during puberty and early adulthood while their gonads are under peak development.

Finally, saw palmetto does not increase total testosterone in the body or free testosterone. The bioactive substances in saw palmetto may actually interfere with the function of testosterone by blocking the androgenic and anabolic receptor sites of cells that testosterone needs to bind with to turn on cellular protein synthesis.

Tests using tissue samples revealed that substances in saw palmetto actually reduced the tissue uptake of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, which means saw palmetto bioactives blocked these anabolic hormones from entering cells, which is very anti-anabolic.

So, while saw palmetto is very useful and effective for people who have BPH, it should be avoided when people who are training to be super-anabolic.

Other prostate health herbs with similar anti-anabolic actions include stinging nettle and pygeum. Consider using these supplements for prostate health concerns later in life.

There are plenty of other anabolic supplements to put on the top of your list, starting with an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals, protein, creatine, etc., as well as all-in-one supplements.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Working Out Too Little

The number of times per week you can resistance your muscles for maximum growth in size and strength will vary from individual to individual. In general, each muscle should be resistance trained at least twice a week, varying the intensity of the workloads from training session to training sessions.

Fine-tuning your resistance program takes effort, and is best achieved with the help of a strength training coach or fitness trainer who has experience with training bodybuilders.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Performing Aerobic Exercise

Exercise that is low intensity and long in duration, like cycling, treadmills, running, walking, etc, should be avoided during periods of training to be super-anabolic.

For cardiovascular health benefits, you can schedule a few moderate intensity resistance training sessions per week, during which you can keep up a fast pace, and minimize rest between sets to keep your heart rate up during these resistance training sessions.

Remember that for maximum muscle growth, training in the anaerobic zone is ideal, and a trade-off between anaerobic conditioning and aerobic conditioning is required to become super-anabolic.

Use your nutrition plan to minimize and or reduce body fat levels. When you start including aerobic exercise in to your training program, this will have anti-anabolic effects.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Not Lifting Heavy Workloads

Your skeletal muscles get stronger and larger with exercising with progressively increasing workloads. Lifting heavy workloads stimulates the large fast-twitch muscle fibers to grow.

In general, each muscle group should be exercised using heavy workloads every once a week, but your tolerance to heavy workloads needs should be evaluated by an expert for best results.

But, keep in mind it takes years to get to this point, another reason why you want to avoid the anti-anabolics, which will slow your overall progress down; in other words, you can make faster progress when avoiding the anti-anabolics.

So, lift progressively heavier workloads, but do it right to minimize your risk of injury, which includes using variable intensity threshold training like that used in David Robson's training program.

Anti-Anabolic Factor: Not Working With Experts

Training and nutrition for optimum bodybuilding results is an art and science. If you are serious about getting the best results (fastest, safest, and economical), it is wise to work with an experienced fitness trainer and nutritionist to establish your winning training and nutrition program.

You can also attend seminars and purchase educational nutrition and training products to learn what works and what to avoid.

But, watch out for gimmicks, and also keep in mind that everybody has differences, so exactly following someone else's program might not work to produce the best results for you; another reason why working with an expert to monitor your progress is best.

Selected Scientific References

  • Brown, GA, et al. "Effects of anabolic precursors on serum testosterone concentrations and adaptations to resistance training in young men." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Sep;10(3):340-359.
  • Burke, D.G. et al. "The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength." Int J Sport Nutr. 2001, 11, 349-364.
  • Casarosa, C, et al. "Lack of effect of a lyposterolic extract of Serenoa repens on plasma levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone." Clin. Ther. 1988; 10(5): 585-588
  • Derave ,W, Eijnde BO, Verbessem P, Ramaekers M, Van Leemputte M, Richter EA, Hespel P. "Combined creatine and protein supplementation in conjunction with resistance training promotes muscle GLUT-4 content and glucose tolerance in humans." J Appl Physiol. 2003 May;94(5):1910-6. Epub 2003 Jan 10.
  • Gastelu, D "Creatine Super-Feature", Bodybuilding.com, 2005.
  • Gastelu, D "The Complete Nutritional Supplements Buyer's Guide." 2000. Three Rivers Press: New York.
  • Gastelu, D and Hatfield, F. "Dynamic Nutrition for Maximum Performance." 1997. Avery Publishing Group: New York.
  • Housh, . J, et al. "Effects of leucine and whey protein supplementation during 8 weeks of dynamic constant external resistance training on strength and thigh muscle cross-sectional area: a preliminary analysis." National Strength and Conditioning Association annual conference, July 2004.
  • Lehmkuhl M, Malone M, Justice B, Trone G, Pistilli E, Vinci D, Haff EE, Kilgore JL, Haff GG. "The effects of 8 weeks of creatine monohydrate and glutamine supplementation on body composition and performance measures." J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug;17(3):425-38.
  • Lemon, PW "Effect of exercise on protein requirements." J Sports Sci. 1991 Summer;9 Spec No:53-70.
  • Lemon, PW. "Protein and amino acid needs of the strength athlete." Int J Sport Nutr. 1991 Jun;1(2):127-45.
  • Millward, DJ. "Optimal intakes of protein in the human diet". Proc Nutr Soc. 1999 May;58(2):403-13.
  • Sheikh, MM, et al. "The effect of Permixon on androgen receptors." Acta Obstet. Gynecol. Scand. 1988; 67(5): 397-399.
  • Shephard RJ, Shek PN. "Immunological hazards from nutritional imbalance in athletes." Exerc Immunol Rev. 1998;4:22-48.
  • Talpur, N, et al. "Comparison of Saw Palmetto (extract and whole berry) and Cernitin on prostate growth in rats." Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Aug;205(1-2):21-26.
  • Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, MacDougall JD, Chesley A, Phillips S, Schwarcz HP. "Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes." J Appl Physiol. 1992 Nov;73(5):1986-95.

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