Note: This is part one, click here for part two!
In my first article, I talked about the importance of the right nutrition and the right sleep in order to have more productive workouts every time you hit the gym. Today I will talk the importance of supplements.
Many people have argued with me about if a bodybuilder that does not want to compete, should he use supplements or not. Most of them believe that a natural bodybuilder should never use any kind of supplement, and the only supplements that they can use are through food and natural fruit juices. But if you want to be a better bodybuilder you can not count only on them. The reasons are many, but let me just report a few of them.
- When you are exercising intensely (since every bodybuilding workout is very intense), you can not get better using only food. When you are taking care of the nutrition and dieting almost on a yearly basis, you can not get all the proper vitamins and minerals and amino acids that you need only through food.
- Since a bodybuilder should eat 5-6 good nutritional meals every day, he/she can not eat the usual (and to be honest, sometimes boring), "bodybuilding foods" everyday. Meal replacement powders(MRP's) have their place here.
- Most of us are not living in a healthy environment. Air and water pollution have increased as much as 20 times what it used to be, and unfortunately that means we have increased the pollution load on the human system by enormous amounts. Only if we take anti- oxidant components (in much bigger amounts than the RDA recommends), we can help ourselves to reduce the free radicals that are so hazardous to our bodies since they do oxidative damage to cells.
Of course there are hundreds of different supplements on the market today that more or less enhance performance. It would be quite impossible to analyze all of them, even though this will be a "two-part" article. I will talk only about the best ones this week, and the very good ones in next week.
Also, since most bodybuilders that want to train naturally can not afford a fortune every month in order to get the "perfect" supplementation, I will report only for the supplements that can help you be much better, without paying "an arm and a leg".
Multivitamin/Mineral Formulas - Learn More
Many people underestimate the importance of them. They think that since you can not get 10 pounds of muscle, it is useless to take them. But here is something very important. If your body is deficient in just one of the essential vitamins and minerals over a thousand chemical and enzymatic processes in your body could be impaired. Each and every vitamin and mineral is responsible for thousands of biochemical reactions, including the formation of hormones. Bottom line? If you don't use a good multivitamin and mineral formula you will never reach your fullest potential.
Extra Anti-Oxidants - Learn More
As I said before, using a good multivitamin/formula can help you to reach your fullest potential. But unfortunately, in order to give your body the extra anti-oxidant protection, you need an even bigger consumption of 4 basic vitamins, and 1 mineral. Again it is impossible to get the right amount that you need, even if you eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
I will analyze each one of them very briefly and remember that maybe they work better in bigger quantities but always avoid mega doses. Also it's very important that many scientific studies of these vitamins, have shown possible anti-cancerous activities.
- Vitamin C It maintains connective tissue, including tendons, ligaments, bones, joints and skin, and its "famous" for its antioxidant activities.
Recommended dosage: 500mg-1gr per day.
- Vitamin E It protects cell membranes from free radical damage. Exercise increases the need for antioxidants.
Recommended dosage: 400-800 IU per day
- Carotenoids (Like Beta-Carotene and Lycopene) In order to maintain and protect your skin and your vision, you need them.
Recommended dosage: 25,000mcg per day.
- Folic Acid It's the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. This vitamin is very important because it works as an "oxygen carriage", in your body.
Recommended dosage: 600mcg-800mcg per day.
- Selenium It plays a crucial role in helping to maintain adequate activity of the anti-oxidant enzyme "glutathione peroxidase", which is the most powerful endogenously produced anti-oxidant in the bloodstream.
Recommended dosage: 150mcg-200mcg per day.
When should you take multivitamin/minerals and extra antioxidants? Simply take your multivitamin/mineral formula first thing in the morning, and IMMEDIATELY after your weight training, take one multivitamin/mineral plus your extra antioxidants. On the days you don't train, take only one serving of vitamin/mineral formula in the morning, and in the afternoon take your antioxidant protection.
Creatine - Learn More
For many people this is the number one supplement and thats due to its quick-resulting size and strength gains. Many people that have used creatine for the first time have experienced 10 pounds in only one week, having at the same time noticably larger muscles. And one very good "plus" of creatine, is that it is very safe. (If you don't have of course any pre-existing problem with your liver or kidneys).
Creatine is a compound that's naturally made in our bodies to supply energy to our muscles. It is formed from the amino acids "Glycine-Methionine-Arginine". It is manufactured in the liver and it can also be produced in the pancreas and kidneys. Once creatine is bound to a phosphate group, it is permanently stored in a cell as phosphocreatine until it is used to produce chemical energy called adenosise triphosphate (ATP).
Increased creatine levels in the muscle help optimize energy turnover so that you have more energy for high intensity exercise and faster recovery, during and after workouts. The richest source of creatine is meat, but unfortunately you have to consume more than 10 pounds of red meat per day in order to get just 4-5 gr of creatine. Since that is impossible you have to take creatine through supplements. There are many different types of creatine available on the market. There is Powdered Creatine, Micronized powdered, Creatine Plus Potentiators (ie with dextrose), Effervescent Creatine, and Creatine available in capsules, tablets, liquid, or chewable.
Also there are other different forms of creatine, such as Creatine Phopsphate, Creatine Citrate, and new Creatine Pyruvate, but personally I believe the best form is Creatine Monohydrate.
Finally, remember that creatine belongs to the supplements that you should be cycled on a yearly basis because it requires your liver and kidneys to work at their highest level. The safest way to use it is to have a cycle of eight weeks of using it, followed by four weeks off.
For the first 5 days, take 20gr seperated by 4 equal doses of 5gr each (Pre loading phase). The best times are a)when you wake up b)30 min before your lunch c)after your training, and d)before you go to sleep. One important note: On the first 5 days that you don't train, take one 5gr dose at the time you wake up, and after that, every 4 hours (having always the last dose before you go to sleep). From the sixth until your last day, start using only 5gr every day. (Maintenance phase). Always take 5gr IMMEDIATELY after your training, and at the days you don't train take 2.5gr (half a tea spoon), when you wake up, and another 2.5gr before you go to sleep. (If you don't take at the same time L-Glutamine, or if you do, take your last Creatine dosage before your dinner). Click here to learn more about Creatine.
L-Glutamine - Learn More
Also a very "famous" supplement. It's the most abundant amino acid in our muscle tissue. It comprises 61% of the amino acid pool in skeletal muscle. Glutamine alone is responsible for 35% of the nitrogen that gets into the muscle cell. Glutamine drives muscle building nitrogen into the muscle cell where it is synthesized for growth. Glutamine is a key factor in muscle growth, and controlling the skeletal muscle/whole body glutamine gradient is critical in maintaining and building muscle tissue. The higher the muscle glutamine levels you can maintain, the less chance you have of falling into catabolism and the faster muscle will grow. And last but not least, it is very important for immune function.
As you understand, Glutamine is a very important "cutting-edge" supplement. Many scientific studies have said that it works. So in order to become better (bigger), you should use supplementary L-Glutamine. The best part about Glutamine, is that it is not toxic at all, even in high consumption. Also you don't have to cycle it. Everything looks fine for Glutamine consumption, but you have to take care something. Glutamine will not work good at all if you take it at the same time when you are going through your Creatine cycle. I will explain why.
Creatine and Glutamine depend on many of the same substrate carriers and cotransporters. When the two are competing with one another for the same carriers, one wins and one loses. Let's say for example you have a molecule of sodium (sodium is a carrier for both glutamine and creatine) available to carry a molecule of creatine or glutamine into the muscle cell. Well it's only going to attach to one of them. It's not going to carry both. Therefore one is out of luck and thus will perform some other possibly mundane task or just get excreted as waste.
So having always in mind that you should take Glutamine at different times of Creatine (2 hours distance is fine), 5-10gr per day seems to work very good for many people. Of course you might hear that you need much bigger dosages but l think after some point, whatever you take (l am not talking only about L-Glutamine), is counterproductive. The best times of the day to take it, are 5gr just before you go to sleep, and again 5gr before your training (optionally). Click here to learn more about Glutamine.
MRPs (Meal Replacements) - Learn More
As I said in my previous article, only protein can build muscle. But you should eat the right food in order to get the amount of the protein you need, otherwise if you eat a high protein meal, but it has also many calories from fat it is counterproductive. Of course there are foods that are high in protein and low in fat, such as chicken and turkey breasts, tuna, or extra lean beef. But how many meals of them you can eat every day without getting bored? One? Two? Three? Maybe even four? The point is that you should eat at least 5-6 good nutritional meals every day. And also:
- You need some taste in our foods
- You can not spend all day in the kitchen in order to prepare your meals and
- It's not easy at all to carry tapers all day at work or in high school/college in order to eat what you want and to avoid junk food.
And if some of you are saying that they won't eat junk food and they wait till they go home to eat, don't forget that since it's very good to eat every 2-3 hours every day in order to keep your insulin levels in positive nitrogen balance, and to increase your muscle mass, it would be very counterproductive if you ate nothing and just wait after breakfast to eat again after 7-8 hours.
That's where MRP's take place. Most of them taste delicious,and have no fat. They provide 100% of the necessary vitamins, minerals and amino acids that your bodies need, they have very low cholesterol, and they are very convenient since you can take them anywhere. Also at the crucial point after your weight training, they are better than regular food since they are getting absorbed and digested in your bodies faster. (Having as a pioneer the whey protein powder).
The recommended dosage depends of many parameters such as what kind of protein powder you use (how big of a concentration the protein contains), what is your primary purpose (get bigger, or leaner), and how many grams of protein you are consuming with the other regular meals of the day. I won't talk about quantities but about servings. So the best time to take your MRP's (except when you are out of your house and you can not have anything better to eat), is IMMEDIATELY after your weight training, and before you go to sleep. And about with what to mix: either with water, milk or fruit juice.
This was the first part of my article and you learned what are the BEST supplements with what dosages and when you should take them in order to help you increase your performance and your muscle mass. In my next week's article you will read the second part, about other important supplements that can help you be a better bodybuilder.