"Hey, what are you running in here? A pharmacy?"
Back in my undergraduate college days, this was a not uncommon jest aimed at me by friends, upon entering my room to find multiple containers of powders and pills that were all supposed to synergistically work in magical fashion to transform my body. Those sports supplements weren't cheap (especially on my student budget), but I was committed to building a physique I could be proud of. In those days, I had enough time to train six days a week and sometimes two times per day. If achieving my goals meant juggling a dozen different supplements, with their varying dosages, timing, and interactions, then so be it.
Fast forward to the present day and the process of buying multiple supplements for various physiological benefits is exponentially more complicated as many more ingredients (and even whole classes of supplements, such as pre-workout products
) have hit the market. In defense of myself and others, a picture that outlines all of the factors that influence muscle hypertrophy is complicated and has multiple boxes, arrows and other characters capable of making your eyes spin, whereby you ultimately end up shaking your head in confusion.
I was reminded of my own youthful, expensive (and sometimes, surely, counterproductive) supplement shopping sprees recently when I received an advance sample of a new kind of all-in-one muscle enhancement formula called
, from BioQuest.
has been developed for the express purpose of drastically simplifying purchasing decisions for the consumer, while providing a comprehensive array of nutrients to halt catabolic processes and ramp up anabolic processes inside your working muscles. At the center of their proprietary blend are two macronutrient (think carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) complexes focused upon achieving maximum stimulation of muscle growth and insulin, a
powerful anabolic hormone
muscle growth proprietary blend
is anchored by a blend of
high-quality whey protein isolate
along with irreplaceable
such as creatine, arginine-AKG, glutamine, beta-alanine and the branched-chain amino acids (e.g., leucine, isoleucine and valine). Many scientific papers suggest that a high-quality protein source like whey protein is a critical first step in promoting an anabolic environment in your muscles (1-3). Recently, however, studies have suggested that the quality of the protein source may be a determining factor in how your body responds to the physical pounding of your training program.
Whey protein isolate and hydrolysate are the two purest forms of
, containing greater than 90% of their weight as protein (or >90 gms protein/100 gms product). To illustrate this point, Tang and colleagues (4) had three groups of young, healthy men complete a single bout of lower-body exercise and then consume equivalent doses of whey protein hydrolysate, casein (another milk protein) or soy protein isolate. At rest, the hydrolysate increased muscle protein synthesis by 93% more than casein and 18% more than soy and after exercise the increase was 122% and 31%, respectively. The authors concluded that ingestion of whey protein hydrolysate produced a more anabolic environment in the muscles at rest and after just one bout of resistance exercise (4).
The next key ingredient is
. The fact that creatine monohydrate can improve performance (5), help build muscle (6) and is the most scientifically supported nutritional supplement (7, 8), has been well documented for over a decade now. For those of you that think weight gain from creatine is just due to water increases, researchers at Baylor University have clearly indicated this is not entirely true and weight gain is in fact from increased muscle building ability (6, 9).
Similarly, a comprehensive formula to support muscle growth isn't complete without the addition of other key
which have been shown in scientific studies to improve distinct aspects to heavy exercise training. Without these critical building blocks (think Lego�
blocks), the walls of muscle you envision on your chest and back might as well be made of wet paper. To promote optimal delivery of nutrients through modulation of
nitric oxide (NO) production
, arginine AKG is important while beta-alanine and histidine should be considered for the role they play in buffering fatigue and ATP production, especially when paired alongside creatine.
Why are these nutrients important? Well, arginine-AKG has previously been shown to
increase maximal bench press
peak power production
while sprint cycling after healthy men aged 30-50 years supplemented daily over a period of 8 weeks (10). Beta-alanine is somewhat new over the last five years and is getting rave reviews for its ability to improve total work after completing high-intensity sprints (11). Similarly in resistance training athletes, beta-alanine has been shown to increase the volume of training completed during a workout while also improving how fatigued you feel during a workout (12) and when combined with creatine, can promote greater improvements in body fat % and gains in lean muscle tissue (13). Talk about a dynamic duo for beta-alanine, an increase in volume of training is a surefire way to maximize exercise training adaptations and you can feel less tired while doing it. "I'll have what he's having please!" As you can see the combination of nutrients needed for a comprehensive formula cover many important physiological areas that are critically important for your hard work in the gym and to building a few more pounds of the good stuff on the scale and in the mirror.
So what good are all these high-powered nutrients if you can't create an optimal delivery mechanism for shuttling them into your muscle tissue? Professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities aren't driving around in domestic sedans, so why should these invaluable nutrients for your muscles be left to travel in subpar environments? If you want to pack on muscle you need to do whatever is possible to promote an anabolic environment inside your muscles. For this to be accomplished, maximal stimulation and release of insulin needs to happen in conjunction with an increased availability of the essential amino acids, creatine and other valuable amino acids.
Insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone
produced by your body and increases in insulin are one of the primary biochemical ways in which our cells are signaled to grow (14). Insulin is released when glucose or sugar levels go up in the blood, especially when in conjunction with high intensity, high volume resistance training (15). Like protein, various forms of carbohydrate are available and can act in slightly different ways to not only provide valuable energy to the muscle building process, but also work to increase insulin levels in the blood. The greater the insulin spike, the greater delivery of nutrients and for this reason a wide array of carbohydrates is important for any individual seeking maximal improvements from their training no matter kind of training it is. In effect, what an optimal delivery of carbohydrates creates is a scenario similar to a young child sliding rapidly down a waterslide. The water coming down the slide is the blood in your body with high levels of insulin inside it and the child(ren) are critical amino acids and nutrients needed for muscle growth being transported by the blood throughout the body. Sure you can go down a slide with no water and end up at the bottom eventually, but adding water to the mix makes the process much more efficient (and more fun). Not only can adding carbohydrate to protein help promote a greater muscle-building environment in your muscles, recent studies have found that combining carbs with protein can help to maximize recovery. For example, one study reported that when carbohydrate was ingested with protein after exercise the amount of soreness and muscle damage experienced was reduced (16). Also related to optimal recovery, two studies have concluded that co-ingestion of carbs and protein after prolonged, strenuous bouts of endurance exercise was responsible for the greatest recovery of lost muscle glycogen, a primary fuel source for working muscles and a key determinant in exercise intensity (17, 18).
Outside of the primary sources of energy needed to fuel muscle building, having nutritional support to sharpen your focus can add quality to your workouts and ultimately improve how your body adapts to the training program. Makes sense, right? What good is flooding your bloodstream with the best nutrients available if you're not able to train at a level of intensity that requires these nutrients to be available that can help transform your body? Admittedly, less research has been conducted in this area, but that doesn't mean it isn't important.
Overall the mental and physical challenges of training intensely on a regular basis can take its toll on your body. Add these challenges to the hassle created by keeping track of two, three, four or even more supplements and no wonder people get frustrated, forget things and wish it could be easier. Throw in the typical busy lifestyle of many working individuals and the convenience of utilizing a supplement which provides several different areas of nutritional support is apparent. Certainly, while buying a single ingredient product for many different areas of nutritional support can also be effective, it can also be expensive, inconvenient and impractical.
At the very least, you might to consider a change when your friends ask if you work for CVS or Walgreens.
1. Campbell B, Kreider RB, Ziegenfuss T, La Bounty P, Roberts M, Burke D, Landis J, Lopez H, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr2007;4:8.
2. Hayes A, Cribb PJ. Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care2008 Jan;11(1):40-4.
3. Phillips SM, Hartman JW, Wilkinson SB. Dietary protein to support anabolism with resistance exercise in young men. J Am Coll Nutr2005 Apr;24(2):134S-9S.
4. Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol2009 Sep;107(3):987-92.
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9. Willoughby DS, Rosene JM. Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on myogenic regulatory factor expression. Med Sci Sports Exerc2003 Jun;35(6):923-9.
10. Campbell B, Roberts M, Kerksick C, Wilborn C, Marcello B, Taylor L, Nassar E, Leutholtz B, Bowden R, Rasmussen C, Greenwood M, Kreider R. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Nutrition2006 Sep;22(9):872-81.
11. Smith AE, Walter AA, Graef JL, Kendall KL, Moon JR, Lockwood CM, Fukuda DH, Beck TW, Cramer JT, Stout JR. Effects of beta-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in men; a double-blind trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr2009;6:5.
12. Hoffman JR, Ratamess NA, Faigenbaum AD, Ross R, Kang J, Stout JR, Wise JA. Short-duration beta-alanine supplementation increases training volume and reduces subjective feelings of fatigue in college football players. Nutr Res2008 Jan;28(1):31-5.
13. Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab2006 Aug;16(4):430-46.
14. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training. Sports Med2005;35(4):339-61.
15. Kraemer WJ. Endocrine responses to resistance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc1988 Oct;20(5 Suppl):S152-7.
16. Baty JJ, Hwang H, Ding Z, Bernard JR, Wang B, Kwon B, Ivy JL. The effect of a carbohydrate and protein supplement on resistance exercise performance, hormonal response, and muscle damage. J Strength Cond Res2007 May;21(2):321-9.
17. Ivy JL, Goforth HW, Jr., Damon BM, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol2002 Oct;93(4):1337-44.
18. Berardi JM, Price TB, Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Med Sci Sports Exerc2006 Jun;38(6):1106-13.