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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Does the Speed of Protein Absorption Affect Performance and Muscle Gains?

The answer is yes and no, lets dig into this further to see why.  Post workout is probably the most important time for protein intake and getting some to the muscles quickly has been shown to speed recovery.  Quality and absorption rate are definitely important, see our previous article on protein quality for more info on this topic.  The rate of protein absorption is basically the rate at which the body will break down a given protein and turn it into amino acids which are utilized by the muscles.  Whey protein has been shown to be the most effective and the fastest absorbing of the protein options available.  It is pretty safe to say that whey protein is universally accepted as a good option for post workout nutrition.  What many people get confused about are the varying grades of whey protein; whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey hydroslate, whey peptides, etc.  There are also different protein percentages that are found within each protein grade.  For instance you can get a whey protein concentrate that is between 34% and 80%, the 80% being much higher quality than the 34%.  Whey protein that is a concentrate and is 80% protein or a whey isolate are sufficient for post workout recovery purposes or for protein intake at other times of the day.  As the marketers look for new products to push you see variations of whey isolates, and hydroslates being touted as “faster” than regular protein which would supposedly provide benefits to the end user.  Most have interesting stories but before you open your wallet and jump on board understand that you will often pay more and there is not research to support that these proteins actually do absorb more quickly and if they did that you would receive any benefit in performance or body composition.

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In my store in Nashua, NH I get people every day asking how to build size and strength.  Teenagers to, lets say, “pre-seniors” are somewhat baffled at how some people can just add globs of muscle with relative ease.  First let me just say that these so called easy gainers are working their butts off to gain every ounce of muscle they get.  Second these easy gainers are utilizing age old training techniques that have recently fallen out off the mainstream.  Do these guys know something you don’t?  Are these guys using some super secret supplement that allow them to adorn that Herculean physique?  The answer is no.  Every bodybuilding magazine and weightlifting publication agree; the key to gaining dense slabs of muscle is old school powerlifting and olympic lifting.  These multi-joint exercises increase overall hormone output (testosterone and growth hormone) and increase androgen receptor sensitivity (gives testosterone a place to go and do its job).  The best piece of lifting advice i’ve ever got when i was first starting out was this: “If you want to make your arms grow, squat, and if you want a stronger bench press, power clean.”  This type of lifting will increase overall size and strength.  Its amazing how many guys come into my store and are frustrated that they are not making any size or strength gains.  When I ask them what they are doing for their work outs I get the same answer; “I mainly concentrate on benches and curls.”  Although these are good exercises, they will not give you the hormone output of other powerlifting and olympic lifting type movements.  These movements include but are not limited to squats, deadlifts, rack pulls, power cleans, hanging cleans, clean and jerk, bench presses, and standing presses.  I recommend for all lifters looking to gain size and strength to read more about the subject.  There is a ton of literature out there and in the words of G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle.

            Currently I am preparing for a strongman competition and am using these particular training techniques.  My weight class is 200lb-231lb.  Natrually I weigh about 220lbs at about 9 or 10% bodyfat.  I decided it would be in my best interest to gain weight and come in right at the top of the weight class where I would be at my strongest.  Some guys in this weight class are about 245lbs and are cutting down to get under 230lbs.  This made me decide to get as heavy as possible before the contest and then cut back down to 231lbs.  Power and olympic lifting has primed my body for the weight and strength gain.  Now its all about getting the right amount of calories and using the right supplements for growth and recovery.  For the first time in my life I am using a weight gainer, Optimum Health’s Mass 600 chocolate.  This stuff is providing me with the extra calories for growth and intense training sessions, not to mention its tastey as hell.  I also add extra fiber in the form of Now Foods Brand Psyllium Husk to each mass shake just to prevent getting bound up.  I’m also using BioRhythm’s O2 Positive for a pre-workout powder.  This stuff gives me incredible strength and endurance gains.  It is caffiene-free which is perfect for me seeing that I want to save my adrenal sensitivity for the day of the contest (load up on the stimulants then).  I always follow up my workout with BioRhythm’s AfterGlow.  This recovery drink is the best on the market bar-none.  It allows me to fully recover in time for my next intense training session.  Lastly I am using MSI’s Test Revolution.  This is a potent natural testosterone booster and I think we all know what testosterone does for strength and size.  I started this size and strength gain routine about 3 weeks ago at 220lbs.  I have gained about 8lbs and am three weeks out from the compitition.  Using the same training and supplementation techniques I have outlined here you too can gain the size and strength of Hercules himself.  

Insulin Mimickers and Muscle Gain

Testosterone and growth hormone have been widley documented and touted as highly anabolic compounds that will increase the rate of protein synthesis and in turn increase musculature.  Lifting weights at a high intensity results in a testosterone and growth hormone release.  This release signals the body into an increased rate of protein synthesis.  To keep up with the increased protein synthesis and create a positive nitrogen balance in the body we consume extra protein in our diets.  But if you think it ends there you are sadly mistaken and are missing out on crazy muscle gains.  This is where insulin comes in.  Insulin’s main role in the body is to regulate blood sugar levels.  When blood sugar is raised say after a meal, insulin is released from the pancreas to shuttle the sugar into the various cells of the body to be stored as gycogen, the body’s main energy source.  This by itself can beneficial toward muscle gain in that increased muscle glycogen results in higher energy levels for workouts and a fuller looking physique.  Insulin also plays a role in shuttling proteins into the muscle cell where the actual protein synthesis takes place.  So to recap, testosterone and growth hormone increase the rate of protein synthesis, we then increase our daily intake of protein, and insulin is what transports the proteins into the muscle cell where the protein synthesis takes place.  You see all these hormones work together like team to help you gain muscle.

            “How do i increase insulin in by body?” you ask.  Well there are a few different ways.  Some bodybuilders and weight lifters actually inject pharmacuetical insulin which is very dangerous and can cause the user to become diabetic and even result in an insulin coma and death.  Yikes!  Another way is to eat high doses of sugar but i think we all know that doing that will make you fat and rot your teeth among other things.  Probably the best and safest way to increase insulin in the body is with insulin mimickers.  These are natural compounds that help to shuttle proteins and glycogen into the muscle cells without the risks of using actual insulin.  They act like insulin without being insulin, follow me?  Some of these compounds include cinnulin, which is a cinnamin extract, at 100-250mg dose before and after a workout.  4-hydroxyisoleucine can increase the amount of insulin excreted by the pancreas in a dose of 300-600mg post-workout taken with simple carbs.  Alpha-lipoic acid can be used pre and post workout at doses of about 500mg.  Using these key insulin mimickers will lead to greater muscle gains and you will be well on your way to a bigger, leaner more muscular physique.

Gender Specific Supplements – Worth It or Worthless?

What is the difference between men’s and women’s supplements?  Is there a protein designed for women and one specifically for men?


When it comes to gender specific supplements be careful that you are not being sucked into clever marketing vs. actual science.  Think about this, have you gone to the store to purchase a women’s steak, a man’s chicken, a women’s apple, etc.  Obviously you haven’t because there is no such thing.  Nutrients as they occur in nature are not gender specific and often with supplements the concept of gender specificity is nothing more than a good story with compelling marketing.  After all who doesn’t want to buy a product that is specifically tailored to their needs?  The problem is that there is usually no science to support the role of the gender specific product.


The one area where gender is relevant is when dealing with products that may influence hormones.  For women products relating to PMS, Menopause or other hormonal factors would necessitate gender specificity.  For men products which boost testosterone or that are related to sexual health would be valid gender specific products.


While there are some valid reasons for gender specific products many companies simply use it as a marketing ploy so make sure you understand what you are looking at before you make a purchase.

Is Protein Quality Important

Many people think all proteins are created equal.  This is not the case.  Many proteins are chemically altered or manufactured using harsh chemicals.  These proteins will have a low assimilation rate (low rate of absorption), often cause digestive and intestinal problems and can taste terrible. 


As protein costs have gone up many manufacturers have also turned to lower grade proteins.  Manufacturers have the choice of using high quality grades of protein that are primarily protein or the lower grades which use inferior raw materials and are higher in fat, lactose, carbs, and ash.  For instance with whey concentrates manufacturers can choose from a range of raw materials ranging from 34% protein up 80% protein.  In an effort to bring down the cost of products some manufacturers are using the lower grades of proteins rather than raising prices.  The problem with this is that these proteins are not assimilated well by the body and often cause digestive problems.


Most bodybuilders and athletes take in high amounts of protein that are not usable by the body.  As a result they see less results for their training efforts and they are allowing toxins to potentially build up within the body as a result of undigested protein.  Make sure you spend your money on protein that is going to help you achieve your fitness goals.  While affordability is obviously an issue it doesn’t make sense to get a product that will not help you achieve your goals and may cause health issues.


On the inexpensive end we recommend the Pro Whey, when looking at higher quality products check out Pro Complete 40 or Isopure.  For a naturally sweetened product take a look at NOW Foods whey.

Intek CLA Evolution – Product Review

Working out and dieting can help create a calorie deficit (taking in fewer calories than burned) which is necessary for weight loss.  The ideal situation is one in which you lose body fat and maintain muscle tone.  The trick is to get your body to use fat as a fuel source.  This is where CLA and L-Carnitine can help.


Conjugated Linoleic Acid or CLA has been shown to inhibit the activity of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme involved in the uptake of fat into fat cells.  This can reduce fat uptake into cells preventing accumulation of body fat.  CLA also promotes the body’s use of fat as fuel, helping to breakdown fatty acids allowing them to get into the blood stream to be used as fuel.   Several studies have shown that CLA can positively affect body composition and has a beneficial effect on lean muscle mass. 

Carnitine is a nutrient responsible for the transport of long-chain fatty acids into the energy-producing centers of the cells (known as the mitochondria). In other words, carnitine helps the body convert fatty acids into energy, which is used primarily for muscular activities throughout the body. 

Intek CLA Evolution combines both of these ingredients in the doses researched to provide results.  Try Intek CLA Evolution for a non stimulant product to help your body burn more fat. 

Understanding EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids)

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are considered “good” fats.  Your body cannot make Essential Fatty Acids, and therefore they need to come from your diet or from a supplement.  Since most of us do not consume a diet high in these fats it may become necessary to take a dietary supplement.  EFAs contribute to your health in too many ways to list here.  Research with EFAs as supplements has been performed in relation to their potential benefits to your heart, skin, brain, eyes, joints and more.

The ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1.  This means for every gram of Omega-6 you need up to one gram of Omega-3.  The typical American diet often leads to a ratio between 10:1 and 25:1, a proportion which may lead to health related issues.  Changing your diet to improve your ratio is an important factor in experiencing the full health benefits of EFAs – that’s why so many people take an Omega-3 supplement every day.  


Omega-3 and Omega-6 are scientific terms for two different classifications of EFAs. These names are derived from the chemical composition of the fatty acid molecules. Omega-3 fatty acids include ALA, EPA DHA.  Omega-6 fatty acids include GLA and LA.


The most popular dietary supplements for EFAs are Fish Oil, Flax Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Oil.


The reason fish oil is so popular as a supplement, is that not all of us convert ALA into EPA and DHA.  DHA is important for health and, even if the body converts the ALA to EPA, it still has to make DHA.  Since we are unaware of who is able to make the conversion, make sure to take fish oil to assure to assure you are getting adequate EPA and DHA.


Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) (Omega-3 Fatty Acids) are responsible for many of the beneficial effects of fish oils.  Research has shown that fish oils containing EPA and DHA may have therapeutic benefits throughout your body, especially for the health of your heart, brain and joints.


Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) (An Omega-3 Fatty Acid) is found primarily in Flax seed oil. ALA helps support heart health, including healthy cholesterol already within the normal range, and may also provide immunity benefits.  In some of us, the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA.


Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid) is found in borage, black currant and evening primrose oils.  GLA helps the body’s inflammation response and supports healthy circulation.  It supports mood in pre-menopausal women as well.


Linoleic Acid (LA) (An Omega-6 Fatty Acid) is found in processed foods, margarine, and vegetable oils.  LA helps improve skin conditions.  It may also be partially converted to GLA in the body.

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