This article was featured in Flex Magazine, June 1995 issue. For more information on how to subscribe to Flex, please take a look at our Magazine section. The information in this article is for
educational purposes only. It is not medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice or attention of healthcare professionals.
The following is a list of supplements, all of which are supported in the
scientific literature relating to supplementation. Flex Magazine's
recommendation is that they are worth considering if you want to maximize
your bodybuilding efforts. These supplements are not only cool, but effective.
This substance is without question one of the biggest advances in bodybuilding
supplements in the past 10 years. Significant weight gains are frequently
reported after utilizing creatine monohydrate in 20 grams per day amounts
for seven to 14 days.
For some individuals, however, such high creatine doses are not tolerable
either physically or financially. Fortunately, recent data show that lower
amounts of creatine monohydrate can have a beneficial effect on growth. Bob
Fritz and Thomas Fahey, PhD, have completed field tests that indicate that
doses of creatine as low as six grams per day increase nitrogen retention.
While 20 gram doses may be required to increase sprint performance, smaller
amounts may be adequate to support increases in muscle protein synthesis,
growth and strength, albeit at a slower rate.
Vanadyl's ability to mitigate insulin resistance and improve carbohydrate
utilization efficiency may be indirectly responsible for the results of field
studies (again by Fahey and Fritz) that demonstrate that vanadyl increases
nitrogen retention in bodybuilders and other strength athletes.
Vanadyl's effects on insulin resistance make it a prime candidate for athletes
who are exposed to lengthy training sessions that often result in overtraining.
For these applications, vanadyl may not only improve carbohydrate utilization
efficiency but also lower catabolic hormones such as cortisol that tend to rise
Vanadium (IV), however, has a newer form that is considered safer than vanadyl
sulfate. Bis vanadium, Bis (maltolato) oxovanadium (IV). This substance has been
shown to have a greater margin of safety over its close relative, vanadul
sulfate, due to its improved absorption and decreased tissue accumulation.
In addition to bodybuilders, other athletes, including football players, may
also benefit from supplementation advances such as vanadium and creatine.
Maintaining bodyweight and strength throughout an entire season can mean
the difference between not only winning or losing but staying healthy.
This is another supplement that produces noticeable ergogenic and anticatabolic
effects when taken as mahuang extracts containing various amounts of ephedrine
isomers. The most potent of the active isomers is 1-ephedrine and is
responsible for increased muscle contraction strength, endurance, thermogenesis
and lipolysis, and decreased muscle protein degradation.
In addition to ergogenic effects that benefit resistance training, mahuang also
facilitates fat loss without loss of lean mass by helping to maintain
metabolic rate and thyroid function, both very important to any long term fat
Ephedrine effects and margin of safety are strongly supported in scientific
literature. Although there are contraindications, such as cerebrovascular and
cardiovascular disease, mahuang can be taken in small enough doses to improve
tolerance and increase its margin of safety in those individuals who may
initially be highly sensitive to its effects.
This is one of the most important amino acids for hard training bodybuilders.
Leucine and the other branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), isoleucine
and valine, escape liver metabolism and can directly and significantly
influence muscle protein metabolism. Dietary leucine serves as a substrate
for muscle metabolism during periods of cellular energy depletion,
thereby sparing critical contractile and enzyme muscle protein from
degradation to supply leucine requirements.
Because leucine contributes to glutamine synthesis, taking supplemental
leucine before and after intense training and between meals can help to
normalize glutamine levels in both the serum and muscle, thereby promoting
anticatabolic muscle metabolism as well as supporting immune function.
KIC is another very important nutrient capable of producing significant
anabolic effects. KIC is the branched chain keto acid of leucine, and it
occurs naturally in muscle and liver metabolism. Unlike leucine,
however, dietary KIC affects the liver to a greater extent than muscle tissue.
Eighty percent of dietary KIC is taken up by the liver, where it decreases the
catabolism of amino acids.
The immediate obvious effect of dietary KIC is that it reduces urine urea
nitrogen retention, the long term effect of which could be increased muscle
The salts of alpha-ketoglutarate (calcium, magnesium and potassium) have been
demonstrated to increase muscle glutamine stores in severely catabolic
hospital patients to a greater degree tan leucine. Alpha - ketoglutarate is
utilized in the Krebs cycle and provides the carbon skeleton for a portion of
glutamine synthesis. The combination of leucine and salts of alpha -
ketoglutarate can provide invaluable support for both muscle metabolism and
immune function during periods of physical stress.
The combination of KIC, leucine (or BCAA supplements high in leucine) and salts
of alpha - ketoglutarate can produce measurable anabolic effects. The strong
anticatabolic effects produced by the combination of KIC, alpha - ketoglutarate
and leucine can limit the use of amino acids for energy and promote the use
of fatty acids, resulting in deceased urine-urea nitrogen.
it's reasonable to assume that this combination of nutrients could eventually
lead to increased lean mass and decreased bodyfat, provided that appropriate
diet and training procedures are followed.
Whey protein is a clear improvement over other sources of protein for
athletes. Previously, egg protein (especially egg white) was considered the
best protein for bodybuilders. However, while egg protein does possess a very
high ratio of essential to nonessential amino acids, its ratio of BCAAs
to essentials is not as good. Due to the fact that BCAAs, especially leucine,
are utilized to a great degree during intense training, resupplying them is
very important. Because whey protein is very high in leucine, containing almost
twice as much as egg protein, whey becomes a better choice for athletes.
This is a plant sterol that has been shown to increase muscle deposition
in rats at a comparable level to Dianabol. Also, in field studies by
Fahey and Fritz, 30 mg of beta - ecdysterone were shown to improve nitrogen
balance in weight trained athletes. However, it was found that protein with
a high biological value (BV) was found to be a very important if not critical
component of this equation.
Hydroxycritic Acid (HCA)
Though not a thermogenic agent, HCA interferes with hepatic triglyceride
synthesis by inhibiting citrate lyase. The rationale of incorporating HCA in
a diet regimen is that it limits carbohydrate conversion to fat. When citrate
lyase is inhibited, serum glucose levels remain higher, depressing appetite.
HCA may also contribute to an increase in liver glycogen that may facilitate
longer periods of anabolism by maintaining serum glucose, which, in turn, can
reduce release of catabolic stress hormones.
Ornithune alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG)
Once hailed as the most anabolic of supplements, OKG has not produced the
effects of the supplements listed earlier in well nourished athletes. However,
there is no question that OKG decreases nitrogen loss and limits muscle
wasting during severe illness.
Every athlete has experienced periods in which an illness has produced training
setbacks. Part of the problem during illness is that sufficient calories and
protein can't be consumed, thus resulting in loss of muscle protein.
OKG may provide significant relief during periods of illness by protecting
stores of muscle protein. This is because of OKG's effects on
intramuscular glutamine stores. The loss of intramuscular stores of glutamine
during trauma, illness or stress leads to an increase in muscle protein
degradation. Subsequent to a variety of stressors, which includes caloric
restriction, glutamine is released from the muscle to support to metabolism
of tissues such as the gastrointestinal tract and immune system.
The alpha-ketoglutarate portion of OKG provides the carbon skeleton for
glutamine synthesis, while it is believed that ornithine slows the production
of urea, resulting in higher and more stable serum levels of glutamine.
Because maintenance of immune function is dependent on glutamine, adequate
serum levels of glutamine are important for optimal immune response and
timely recovery. Consequently, taking gram amounts of OKG during illness
not only limits muscle wasting but also supports immune response, facilitating
a quicker recovery.
OKG may be effective in conditions of overtraining as well. Overtraining can
readily occur after months of relentless workouts. The importance of
adequate nutrition and stress reduction in limiting the loss of bodyweight
as well as injury cannot be understated. Adding recommended maintenance
amounts of OKG to a bodybuilder's diet may go a long way toward stabilizing
muscle mass and limiting injuries linked to loss of strength and bodyweight.