Body-building Nutrition

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Here is a brief discussion of some popular body-building nutrients:

AKG, or alpha-ketoglutarate, is the ammonia-free skeleton of glutamine, and as such, can provide the anti-catabolic effect of glutamine, preserving muscle during and after exercise, without the downside of loading the body with toxic ammonia, which can happen when large amounts of glutamine are taken. Perhaps the best way to obtain this is in the form of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate, which besides functioning as an ammonia scavenger and a ready-source for anti-catabolic glutamine, also releases growth hormone, stimulates insulin secretion, and ends up increasing the arginine pool, another growth hormone releasing agent.


Arginine-Ornithine were first publicized when Sandy Shaw and Durk Pearson came out with their book, Life Extension. Their studies showed Arginine-Ornithine increased the secretion of growth hormone. Many bodybuilders have noticed that their muscle pump is enhanced when they take ornithine and arginine. It is now recommended to take Lysine along with Arginine, to prevent the outbreak of latent herpes, to further promote growth-hormone release, and to otherwise balance amino acids.

Free-Form Amino Acids are taken by many successful bodybuilders.They give an edge when it comes to muscle size, strength and hardness.

B-6 helps the utilization of protein foods, as well as fats and carbohydrates. It is best taken as part of a balanced B-complex.

Bee Pollen has been found to have a nourishing and energizing effect. Bodybuilders take it before a session, to energize, intensify, and lengthen their workouts. One proponent of the "apiary life-style", Royden Brown, claims in his book, Bee Hive Product Bible, to have rejuvenated his body by consuming large amounts of bee pollen and other bee products.

Branch-chain amino acids, specifically, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, have been shown to be the primary components of muscle protein. Ingesting increased amounts of these important nutrients during and after working-out offers the muscle cells their preferred nutrition, helping exercise to increase muscle size and strength. This effect occurs in part because these amino acids provide a substrate for glutamine, an essential nutrient both for the muscle cells and for cell replication in the immune system, and in part because the branch-chain aminos are burned for fuel, sparing other aminos for tissue growth.

Carnitine is known for it's ability to increase the utilization of stored body-fat, helping people to slim down and increase lean muscle mass. Most often they also notice a significant increase in energy, partly due to feeling better about their new size and partly due to the energy derived from the better burning of fat. Carnitine is also considered protective of heart function, both because the heart uses lipids as the source of most of it's energy, and because it helps to reduce blood levels of fat and triglycerides. Bodybuilders find carnitine especially useful when cutting-up, because it helps transport cellular fat, speeding the fat-burning process.

Chromium Picolinate is the brainchild of Dr. Gary Evans, a chemistry professor at Bemidji State University. His studies showed that the compound "bulked-up" lean muscle mass and cut down body-fat percentages. There is also evidence that this supplement can reduce cholesterol levels in the blood. Chromium Picolinate as well as GTF Chromium potentiate the action of insulin.

Creatine Monohydrate is a naturally occurring compound produced mainly in the liver and involving the pancreas and kidneys. In human clinical studies it has proven to increase force production and muscle mass. Dr. Julian Whitaker recommends its use for "reversing the symptoms of age-related deterioration of muscle" (Health and Healing, March, 1994).
Creatine supplement converts into phosphocreatine within the muscle. Phosphocreatine is critical to the maintenance and continued production of energy by donating a phosphate group to ADP to make ATP, the substrata utilized for powering all body movements and biochemical reactions in the body. So creatine supplements can create more ATP without needing carbohydrates, fats, or oxygen to recharge the ATP. This makes it a source of super fast energy because it does not need to undergo a complicated process to produce energy. It can also lead to the absorption of hydrogen ions released into muscles from lactic acid, which cuts-back the "burn" and reduces exercise fatigue.
Creatine is unique in that it increases the production of proteins and builds muscle (anabolic) and it also acts to decrease the breakdown of muscle protein (anticatabolic). These benefits could be used to retain muscle mass as a person ages. Absorption is best after some exercise. Jarrow produces an excellent combination product of 1000mg creatine combined with Co-Q10 60 mg.

Vitamin C is highly regarded by many bodybuilders. It is often forgotten that working-out intensely is a heavy stress on the body, especially the immune system, and vitamin C can be of great benefit to support immune response. It helps speed recovery from workouts, prevent bruising, and promotes the release of subcutaneous water.

DHEA See Article

Dibencozide is the co-enzyme form of vitamin B-12. Although already-buffed bodybuilders often don't notice much effect from it, we have heard numerous reports of sudden and significant increase in energy and ability to effectively workout from ectomorphs, sometimes referred to as "pencil-necks". This may be due to a correction of a possibly long-term and marginal B-12 deficiency, which your doctor could determine through a simple blood test.

Digestive Enzymes may not be needed by "genetically-gifted" bodybuilders, but for most of us, any help we can get in breaking down and absorbing our food is greatly appreciated. Without this process, whatever we eat is wasted and doesn't help build mass and strength. Especially when "bulking-up", enzymes can not only improve progress but also rescue one's social life.

Dimethylglycine (DMG) is the active nutrient behind what was called B-15, calcium pangamate, or pangamic acid. It is an intermediary metabolite that is useful in the production of neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA, choline, and methionine. It enhances the immune response system, normalizes blood glucose levels and reduces high blood pressure levels. It enhances oxygen utilization, reduces lactic acid formation, and aids detoxification- improving liver, pancreas, and adrenal function. In 1960 Russia reported DMG benefited people suffering from diabetes, alcoholism, mental disorders, and cardiovascular ailments. Also, DMG enhanced athletic performance, as demonstrated by the Olympics. It is especially useful for those who train to exhaustion. DMG delays this drop-off in energy, allowing more intense workouts.

Gamma Oryzanol was first researched extensively by Japanese scientists, who derived it from rice bran oil. It increased the anabolic efficiency of food, increasing mass with less food, possibly by stimulating the pituitary to release growth hormone releasing hormone. There is also some evidence that it helps increase energy levels and overall stamina and that it aids tissue repair.

Ginseng, Asian, or Panax ginseng, is the herb of ancient Chinese lore and folk medicine. The Latin name Panax derives from the Greek word panakos meaning "cure-all" or panacea, a testimony to the wondrous reputation this herb had in the mid-1700's when the famous Swedish botanist Linnaeus named the plant.The wild root is virtually extinct in Asia today, with a few kilos of the roots still being found in the wild. These roots command prices of up to $10,000 each on the Hong Kong market. Most Panax ginseng is commercially cultivated in China and Korea, in both red and white forms. White (actually beige or cream colored) is the natural, dried root material, while the "red" is basically the white roots which have been steam-treated. This process engages a preservation process, besides the natural color change. In South Korea, the red is considered higher quality by the Korean government's Office of Monopoly, which controls all processing and export of Red Korean Ginseng.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) consider the Asian ginseng to be an energy tonic, stimulating and heat producing, increasing yang energies. It is employed in a number of degenerative and "wasting" diseases where chi or vital energy is deficient. It is contraindicated in conditions such as colds and flu. The red variety is considered by traditional herbalists to be more potent and stimulating than white. Some scientific tests appear to confirm this notion.

In recent years, many companies have come out with ginsengs that have standardized the amount of ginsenosides, the known active ingredients. Because of this development, an impressive array of research on Asian ginseng has been conducted in Europe, and the results of this research has validated some of the traditional "tonic" reputation of Asian ginseng root. These studies confirm the stress-reducing properties, heightened endurance levels, cardiovascular and other activities of Asian ginseng.

Ginseng, Siberian, Eleutherococcus senticosus, became famous in the late 1970's because it was reportedly used by Russian Olympic team members and Soviet cosmonauts as part of their daily training regimen. A Soviet scientist, Dr. I.I. Brekhman, did the early research on Siberian ginseng, and it is his work that popularized the term "adaptogen", indicating a substance that tends to restore normal physiological function, whether it is deficient or excessive, and that allows the body as a whole to respond to a non-specific stress (such as over-exercise). Siberian ginseng belongs to the same Araliaceae family as the other ginsengs, but genus Eleutherococcus instead of Panax. It is the premier substance for enhancing physical stamina and endurance.

L-Glutamine has many functions in the body. Recently it has been used to help heal leaky-gut syndrome and chronic immune problems, because of it's importance as a fuel in the mitochondria of both the gut lining and other cells in the body. Glutamine is a primary nutrient for muscle growth, comprising over 50% of the free amino acids in muscle. Studies show that muscle protein synthesis is highly correlated with the level of glutamine. Also, recovering alcoholics have used L-glutamine for many years as part of a program to help control sugar cravings and for mental clarity.

Inosine has a unique ability to increase ATP production. It is so closely related to ATP structurally that no oxygen is required for this conversion and is the quickest pathway for the cell to get its ATP. It works best when taken on an empty stomach with an electrolyte mixture, such as ALACER'S Emergen-C and with Coenzyme Q-10 before exercise. This enhances oxygen transport throughout the system, improving workload efficiency, and prevents any increase in uric acid synthesis.

Lipotropics include methionine, choline, inositol, B-6, and betaine. Lipotropics have been used by bodybuilders to decrease subcutaneous fat, perhaps by emulsifying fat under the skin. They also can help the proper digestion and utilization of dietary oils.

Liver has been used by bodybuilders since the beginning. Vince Cironda became famous for his advocacy of liver supplements for bodybuilding, citing a study where rats whose diet was supplemented with liver for two weeks survived a swimming test in ice-cold water far longer than the control group. This indicates an increase in stamina, heat, and just plain 'ol strength. Many customers report similar results from taking liver (though nobody we know has timed their survival rate swimming in the S.F. Bay!) We recommend Enzymatic Therapy Liquid Liver and TwinLab Predigested Liver Aminos.

MCT Oil stands for Medium Chain Triglycerides. They are derived from coconut oil. Because they are shorter chains than most dietary fats, MCT's don't require bile to be absorbed and can go directly to the liver. They supply 2 and 1/4 times the energy of the same amount of carbohydrates, making them ideal for endurance athletics and as a protein-sparing supplement. Because they are soluble in biological fluids, they aren't converted to body fat but are burned for energy.

Octacosanol was identified by Professor Thomas Cureton at the University of Illinois as the component of wheat-germ oil that improved strength, reaction time, and endurance. His studies were conducted over a 20-year period and involved weightlifters, swimmers, wrestlers, and track and field athletes. Octacosanol is a solid white alcohol, whose exact mechanism of action is still unknown, although some evidence suggests it works to improve the efficiency of transmission of nerve impulses. Many customers who run, bike, or engage in other endurance sports have reported a strengthening and steadying effect from octacosanol.

PAK has been scientifically proven to be valuable for those involved in both aerobic or anaerobic activity. It increases cellular energy as well as cutting down on lactic acid production.

Protein Powders

  • Whey Protein is a new superior protein for all uses, including strenuous exercise, bodybuilding, chronic illness, and convalescence. The major protein in whey is lactalbumin, with lactoglobulins as minor proteins. Though whey itself has been considered a wonderful "healthfood" in times past, the prevalence of lactose intolerance has made it impossible for many people to use whey. However, with the new technique of ion-exchange filtration (used in Next Nutrition's Designer Protein), and the even better cross-flow micro-filtration (Unipro's Perfect Protein), everyone can enjoy the benefits of this fantastically-nourishing supplement!
    There are three important attributes of whey protein which make it an ideal source of protein: high quality, large amounts of branch-chain amino acids (BCAA's), and the immune-enhancing effects of lactalbumin.
    Recent studies have shown that athletes need greater amounts of protein than do non-athletes. Whey protein can be important for maintaining muscle structure and function during periods of strenuous exertion. High levels of high quality protein exert an "anticatabolic" effect, meaning that muscle breakdown is prevented. There are four methods commonly used to measure protein quality: protein efficiency ratio (PER), biological value (BV), net protein utilization (NPU), and chemical score. Although casein has been the "gold standard" of protein quality for many years, whey protein is higher quality, regardless of which technique is used. Whey also scores far higher than soy and other lower quality proteins such as rice, beef, and wheat. Egg is the only protein source that even comes close to whey, but even here, whey contains higher levels of BCAAs, which makes whey a better protein source for athletes and bodybuilders.
    Research has identified the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) as key amino acids for both bodybuilding and exercise performance. BCAAs (notably leucine) are known to be directly oxidized in muscle, thereby acting as a source of energy. In addition, leucine is used for alanine synthesis in muscle; alanine is subsequently transported to the liver and used to make glucose, which is then available as a fuel for muscular contraction.
    Finally, recent studies have shown that lactalbumin, the main protein in whey, can enhance immunity in animals. In a study of immuno-enhancement where mice were fed diets containing various proteins, lactalbumin proved to be 2.4 times better than egg protein, and five times better than casein! The stimulatory effect of lactalbumin became apparent at two weeks and persisted throughout the course of the study. Since strenuous exercise has recently been linked to a depression in both the cellular and humoral immune responses of humans, it may well be wise for athletes, bodybuilders, and everyone else to use high-quality whey as their source of dietary protein!

  • Milk and Egg Protein Powders, until the advent of whey protein, were considered the highest quality proteins. They are still great sources of complete protein for those who can digest them, and are more cost effective than free-form amino acid formulas.

  • Soy Protein is wonderful for the genetically and digestively gifted, as an adjunct to high-quality whey protein. It is best used in rotation with other proteins (i.e., not every day) and sometimes in conjunction with digestive enzymes. Used properly, it not only costs less but it also can be used in cooking and baking. Though the over-use of tofu by bodybuilders earned it the nickname "the White Death", the occasional intake of soy-protein brownies or shakes offers a welcome change in one's regular diet.

  • Spirulina contains around 65% easily-digested protein. This is high-quality, complete protein, including all the essential amino acids (those the body cannot make from other amino acids and so which must be included in the diet every day). Because the protein in spirulina is high in phenylalanine, it has also been found useful as an aid to appetite suppression and cutting-up.

Smilax is a plant sterol that reportedly increases testosterone level. Whether it actually does or not, many report feeling increased energy when they take it.

Vanadyl Sulfate is the best and safest form of the trace mineral vanadium. Vanadium is involved in cellular metabolism, growth, and reproduction, and in the formation of bones and teeth. Studies with rats have shown that it may be able to reverse diabetes. It seems that vanadyl "mimics" the action of insulin, stimulating glycogen production and the transport of amino acids into muscle tissue and preventing the breakdown of muscle protein. Body-builders have reported impressive gains in muscle size and strength when adding vanadyl sulfate to their regimen. Some research suggests that the trace mineral chromium, which also helps control blood sugar levels, is best taken at a different time from vanadium.

Vitamins/Minerals and Supersaturation:
from Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger with Bill Dobbins, Simon and Schuster, 1985, p 680-81.
"Experts are often heard decrying the ingestion of excess protein, vitamins, and minerals by bodybuilders on the grounds that the body is only capable of using small amounts of the various nutrients at any one time.... Bodybuilders and many other athletes, however, do not accept most of these theories. Their experience tells them that extra protein and vitamin and mineral supplements do make a difference... If the body is supersaturated with nutrients whenever an important reaction begins to occur - protein synthesis, for example, or the creation of creatine phosphate for energy - the nutrients required are right there on the spot. Therefore the body is able to work and grow in ways that would not be possible if you accepted lower nutritional minimums."
A good megavitamin/mineral program can be a great boost for bodybuilders, and it may well be considered imperative during periods of reduced caloric intake.

Yohimbe stimulates and energizes; it's also considered an aphrodisiac. Body-builders have reported a definite strengthening effect from taking it, in the short-term, which allowed them to increase the intensity of their work-outs. The major active ingredient is the isomeric alkaloid, yohimbine.

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