Choosing Effective Body Building Supplements
By Zoltan Rona MD MSc
Many people shy away from bodybuilding because they associate it with anabolic steroids, muscle-bound giants (Arnold, The Hulk and company), and the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. Yet, anyone who wants to look trimmer and feel stronger can become a bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding is for women too. In fact, a record number of health-conscious women are avid bodybuilders. Weight and strength training can enhance your bone mass at any age, thus preventing osteoporosis. Exercising to build stronger muscles also decreases body fat, thereby lowering your risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
It seems few people are aware that natural food supplements can be used to duplicate the benefits of anabolic steroids without life-threatening side effects. This is a subject where people get utterly confused and with good reason.
One 53-year-old woman, very knowledgeable about diet and fitness, recently consulted me on what supplements she could take to build up her muscles for better endurance in competitive swimming. She had visited the health food store and was overwhelmed by the number of supplement choices available.
While over 50 different natural supplements are advocated for bodybuilding, in practice, one has only so much time, money and room in the stomach. The supplements I recommended for this woman are discussed below. She found them extremely effective and has continued to use them on and off intensively a month or two prior to competitions.
In my experience, these are also the most cost-effective supplements for anyone wanting to build muscle, burn fat and enhance endurance. All are generally regarded as safe for both men and women.
The good news is that most of these products are available from Canadian health food stores. Fortunately, you won’t need to buy nine different bottles, either, as a number of the ingredients have been combined into fitness formulas.
Amino Acids for Your Muscles
1 Whey Protein – At least one gram of protein per pound of lean mass is required daily for maximum muscle strength and growth, as well as to prevent muscle deterioration and loss of lean body mass. The highest-quality proteins, in descending order of amino acid composition, are:
* lactalbumin (from hydrolyzed whey protein concentrate) * egg albumin (from egg white) * meat, fish and poultry * casein (from milk)
* soy protein * vegetable protein (half the muscle-building protein quality of lactalbumin)
The right kind of protein optimizes lean tissue health and mass, boosts metabolism, maximizes fat loss, minimizes recovery time and muscle soreness, boosts immune function, and helps prevent muscle and bone damage consequent to weight training.
2) Glutamine (L-glutamine) – The most abundant amino acid in the body, glutamine makes up more than half the amino acids found in muscle cells. It enhances stamina and exercise performance. The usual aches and pains we feel after heavy exercise can be significantly reduced by regular use of glutamine. Take 6,000 to 18,000 mg daily in powder or capsule form after workouts or before bed.
3) Arginine (L-arginine) – Whatever sport you enjoy, this essential amino acid will better your performance. Arginine works by stimulating the release of various hormones including growth hormone, which helps reduce body fat, improves healing and increases muscle mass. The body uses arginine as a base for making nitric oxide. This chemical relaxes the muscles in the walls of arteries and thereby increases blood flow and tissue oxygenation. The recommended dose of arginine is 6,000 to 12,000 mg daily.
4) Ornithine (l-ornithine) – Like arginine, this amino acid encourages your body to release more growth hormone. Ornithine also boosts the immune system and promotes healthy liver function and liver regeneration by detoxifying ammonia. Ornithine is used for bodybuilding and for improving athletic performance and wound healing. Take 3,000 to 6,000 mg daily.
5) Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine – These three are usually called the branched-chain amino acids because of their common chemical structure. Together they make up about one-third of the amino acid content of muscle. Found in proteins, they are important for mental vigour, alertness, blood sugar control, calm, and muscle co-ordination and muscle damage repair. Take 1,500 to 6,000 mg of leucine and 800 to 3,000 mg of valine and isoleucine daily in divided doses.
Other Aids from Nature
6) Creatine Monohydrate – This supplement has been the victim of much unwarranted criticism, moralizing and political debate. Creatine is not a steroid and is found normally in the body. It is a natural, tasteless and safe nutrient found in animal protein.
Creatine monohydrate is especially popular with competitive bodybuilders because it can make them look five to ten pounds more muscular by attracting water into the muscles. This should not be confused with the bloating and fluid retention caused by allergies, congested organs or other health problems. In such cases, the fluid accumulation is outside the muscles. Creatine also acts as a buffer against the build-up of lactic acid and neutralizes harmful free radicals produced by heavy exercise.
The suggested daily dosage is 20 grams per day (or 0.3 grams per kg of body weight) for five days followed by a maintenance dose of two grams (or 0.03 grams per kg of body weight). Drink at least 64 ounces of water per day while taking creatine.
7) Bovine Colostrum – This is a special non-milk breast secretion produced by all mammalian mothers during the first 49 hours after giving birth. Bovine colostrum is a friend to bodybuilders because it contains many muscle- building complex proteins, hormones and growth factors, including growth hormone. This nutritional package can help you achieve greater athletic prowess. The usual effective dose is four to six 500 mg capsules twice daily on an empty stomach.
8) Chrysin – Chrysin is an extract of a plant called Passiflora coerulea. Studies have shown it bolsters natural production and blood levels of
testosterone by 30 per cent, without the usual conversion of testosterone into estrogen or dihydrotestosterone. Too much estrogen can cause increased fat gain, water retention and breast enlargement in males, while excess dihydrotestosterone can lead to prostate enlargement and accelerated male pattern baldness. Take 500 mg twice daily.
9)Tribulus Terrestris – This herb is also known as gokhru, nature’s Viagra® and puncturevine. It naturally increases luteinizing hormone, a pituitary hormone that stimulates the manufacture of testosterone. Tribulus can increase testosterone by 30 per cent or more within five days, without any clinically proven toxic effects. The benefits for bodybuilders or any athlete are muscle cell growth and greater body strength. Tribulus also offers faster recovery from muscular stress. Further, it acts as a mild diuretic, increases muscle size and lean body mass, boosts immunity, lowers cholesterol levels, revs up libido and enhances mood. Take 750 to 1,500 mg daily in divided doses.
Whether you’re male or female, every one of the above supplements will help you lose excess body fat while gaining lean body mass – provided you exercise at least one hour four times a week. It’s best to take your supplements before and/or after heavy exercise for several months at a time, depending on your bodybuilding goals. For more information about these and other remedies, see my book Bodybuilding Supplements (Alive Books).