In the last week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders usually decrease their consumption of water, sodium, and carbohydrates, the former two to alter how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading is undertaken to increase the size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins, or "vascularity". The muscular definition and vascularity are further enhanced immediately before appearing on stage by darkening the skin through tanning products and applying oils to the skin to increase shine. Some competitors will eat sugar-rich foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step, called "pumping", consists in performing exercises with light weights or other kinds of low resistance (for instance two athletes can "pump" each other by holding a towel and pulling in turn), just before the contest, to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their size and density.
Lyoo, I. K., Yoon, S., Kim, T. S., Hwang, J., Kim, J. E., Won, W., Bae, S., & Renshaw, P. F. (2012, September). A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial of oral creatine monohydrate augmentation for enhanced response to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor in women with major depressive disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry. 169(9):937-45. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22864465
A maintenance phase of 2g daily appears to technically preserve creatine content in skeletal muscle of responders either inherently or after a loading phase, but in sedentary people or those with light activity, creatine content still progressively declines (although it still higher than baseline levels after six weeks) and glycogen increases seem to normalize. This maintenance dose may be wholly insufficient for athletes, a 5g maintenance protocol may be more prudent.
"It's especially important to eat a carb- and protein-rich meal immediately after a workout," Aceto says. "Right after training, it turns out that your body is really lousy at taking carbohydrates and sending them down fat-storing pathways," he says. "So post-training, carbs will be sent down growth-promoting pathways instead." And when these carbs are combined with a protein source, you've got a strong muscle-feeding combination because carbohydrates help deliver the amino acids into muscles by boosting insulin levels. This anabolic hormone drives nutrients into the muscle cells and kick-starts the muscle-growth process.
While most of these muscle building supplements can be taken at any time of the day, some are best to include in your pre-workout routine. Citrulline malate, in particular, is one that should be taken about an hour ahead of your workout. Because this supplement boosts performance, taking it ahead of your workout will maximize its effect, making sure you get the most out of the supplement.
However, in the beginning weeks of starting a new workout routine, the majority of strength gains aren't actually a result of this muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy. Rather, they are a result of the body's neurological system learning when and how to fire the needed muscle cells, explains Abbie E. Smith-Ryan, associate professor of exercise physiology at the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. Think of it this way: The first time you perform a new exercise, say a bench press, you likely feel pretty shaky. Your arms aren't totally in sync and the weights may sway a bit from side to side. But by the time you perform your second or third set of that same exercise, the practice gets a little smoother. That's your neurological system at work.
According to BodyBuilding.com, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is made up of a nucleotide bonded to three phosphate groups. When one of those phosphate groups is cleaved from the ATP molecule, a lot of energy is made available. That energy is used to fuel chemical reactions in cells, and ATP becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Creatine enables the release of energy from stored ATP and is converted to creatinine.
Older women with knee osteoarthritis given supplemental creatine at 20g for five days followed by 5g for the rest of the twelve week trial experienced improvements in stiffness (52% reduction), pain (45%), and physical function (41%) as assessed by WOMAC, despite no improvements in physical power output relative to placebo. This study paired supplementation and placebo with a mild exercise regimen.
Competitive and professional bodybuilders, however, can often build up to two to three pounds of muscle per month during dedicated bulking periods. "But they are living and breathing muscle growth. They aren't just in and out of the gym like most people," Simpson says, noting that under extreme conditions, hyperplasia, or the growth in the number of muscle cells in a given muscle tissue, may actually occur, further adding to muscle growth results.
Cornelissen, V. A., Defoor, J. G., Stevens, A., Schepers, D., Hespel, P., Decramer, M., Mortelmans, L., Dobbels, F., Vanhaecke, J., Fagard, R. H., and Vanhees, L. Effect of creatine supplementation as a potential adjuvant therapy to exercise training in cardiac patients: a randomized controlled trial. Clin.Rehabil. 2010;24(11):988-999. View abstract.
In another case, supplements touted as "myostatin blockers" were formulated from a type of sea algae. In a test tube, they effectively blocked the activity of the protein myostatin, which inhibits muscular growth in the body. The supplement ads implied that they'd enable you to develop unprecedented levels of muscular growth, but as it turned out, they didn't actually work in the human body.
In humans, studies that investigate links between serotonin and creatine supplementation find that 21 trained males, given creatine via 22.8g creatine monohydrate (20g creatine equivalent) with 35g glucose, relative to a placebo of 160g glucose, was found to reduce the perception of fatigue in hot endurance training, possibly secondary to serotonergic modulation, specifically attentuating the increase of serotonin seen with exercise (normally seen to hinder exercise capacity in the heat) while possibly increasing dopaminergic activity (conversely seen to benefit activity in the heat).
The first open label trial on ALS failed to significantly alter lung function as assessed by FEV (when comparing the rate of decline pretreatment relative to treatment). Creatine has elsewhere failed to benefit lung function at 5g daily for months relative to control and failed to significantly attenuate the rate of lung function deterioration over 16 months at 10g daily and 5g daily over nine months.
Of the three, protein will of course play the most important role in the muscle building process (like calories, it’s one our required “supplies”), although fat and carbs will still be important for other reasons which range from optimizing hormone production (e.g. testosterone, the muscle building hormone) to enhancing training performance and recovery.
Whey, the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained, is rapidly digested and absorbed and has a remarkable ability to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (Hayes & Cribb, 2008). Whey is available in three varieties — whey protein powder, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate — and all provide high levels of the essential and branched chain amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Another supplement that’s ideal to take pre-workout is protein. Depending on your goals and your workout time, taking protein before your workout can help you keep your energy levels elevated while working out. Make sure you give yourself at least an hour between the time you take your protein and your workout time so that your body has time to digest.
Prohormones are precursors to hormones and are most typically sold to bodybuilders as a precursor to the natural hormone testosterone. This conversion requires naturally occurring enzymes in the body. Side effects are not uncommon, as prohormones can also convert further into DHT and estrogen. To deal with this, many supplements also have aromatase inhibitors and DHT blockers such as chrysin and 4-androstene-3,6,17-trione. To date most prohormone products have not been thoroughly studied, and the health effects of prolonged use are unknown. Although initially available over the counter, their purchase was made illegal without a prescription in the US in 2004, and they hold similar status in many other countries. They remain legal, however, in the United Kingdom and the wider European Union. Their use is prohibited by most sporting bodies.