A: The literature supports roughly 0.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight in young adults. Can you eat more? As long as you have healthy, functioning kidneys, yes. Will you receive any further physiological benefit from it? Most likely, no. Not only that, since our calories are set, if we choose to overconsume protein then we must reduce either carbohydrates and/or fat in order to keep caloric expenditure within our set range. Once protein needs are met (~0.8-1g/lb of bodyweight) you will likely see greater benefits from higher carbohydrate consumptions given the influence they have on anabolism and the anaerobic energy pathway. However, as I mentioned above, these recommendations will differ for older trainees given the blunted anabolic response from the ingestion of amino acids.
In otherwise healthy adults subject to leg immobilization for two weeks while taking 20g creatine daily during immobilization and then 5g daily during eight weeks of rehabilitation, it was noted that the creatine group failed to reduce atrophy during the immobilization (10% reduction in cross sectional area and 22-25% reduction in force output) despite preventing a decrease in phosphocreatine, yet experienced a significantly enhanced rate of regrowth and power recovery. A similarly structured and dosed study has also noted greater expression of skeletal muscle, GLUT4 expression, and a 12% increase in muscle phosphocreatine content.
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.
It is known that intracellular energy depletion (assessed by a depletion of ATP) stimulates AMPK activity in order to normalize the AMP:ATP ratio, and when activated AMPK (active in states of low cellular energy and colocalizes with creatine kinase in muscle tissue) appears to inhibit creatine kinase via phosphorylation (preserving phosphocreatine stores but attenuating the rate that creatine buffers ATP). While phosphocreatine technically inhibits AMPK, this does not occur in the presence of creatine at a 2:1 ratio. It seems that if the ratio of phosphocreatine:creatine increases (indicative of excess cellular energy status) that AMPK activity is then attenuated, since when a cell is in a high energy status, there is less AMP to directly activate AMPK.
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Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. They give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote secretion of insulin, a hormone enabling cells to get the glucose they need. Insulin also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis. Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains. It is impossible to promote protein synthesis without the existence of insulin, which means that without ingesting carbohydrates or protein—which also induces the release of insulin—it is impossible to add muscle mass. Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) just before, during, and/or just after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Beach muscles and Olympic lifts draw more attention. But the many little stabilizer muscles around your shoulders, hips, and midsection — collectively the core — provide a strong foundation. Challenging the stability and mobility of these key muscles with medicine balls, physioballs, mini-bands, and rotational movements (lifting, chopping) pays huge dividends.
Creatine (/ˈkriːətiːn/ or /ˈkriːətɪn/ is an organic compound with the nominal formula (H2N)(HN)CN(CH3)CH2CO2H. This species exists in various modifications (tautomers) in solution. Creatine is found in vertebrates where it facilitates recycling of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell, primarily in muscle and brain tissue. Recycling is achieved by converting adenosine diphosphate (ADP) back to ATP via donation of phosphate groups. Creatine also acts as a buffer.
A great analogy that I like is that the balance between training and recovery is like digging a hole. Each time you lift, you dig yourself deeper and make it harder to climb out of the hole. To get back out again, you have to fill in the hole to return to ground level, and the only way to fill it is with food and rest. If you overdo it in the gym by pushing too hard, you won’t be able to train as often or at a high capacity. Eventually, you’ll get injured.
It’s perhaps best known for the aesthetic benefits. Creatine increases muscle size relatively quickly and while that’s in part due to an increase in muscle water content — a good thing, since it means we’re better hydrated — it does indeed appear to lead to actual hypertrophy over time. And bigger muscles aren’t just aesthetic: larger muscles can improve work capacity, explosiveness, fat oxidation, injury resilience, and recovery.
It’s true—your genes can play a role when it comes to building muscle. In general, there are two types of muscle fibers: Type I, which are slow twitch, and Type II, which are fast twitch. Depending on which you have more of, you may have an easier or harder time gaining muscle. “Fast twitch muscle fibers are two times as thick as slow twitch muscle fibers, lending to the overall thickness of the muscle without any activity,” explains Lovitt. “Those people with a genetic predisposition of a high percentage of these fibers can increase muscle size very easily while the people with a higher percentage of slow twitch muscle fibers have to work really hard to put on mass.” It’s the reason why a world-class sprinter genetically has more fast twitch muscle fibers than a world-class marathoner—it comes down to what we’re born with.
Other areas of research include therapeutic uses of creatine to help patients with muscle wasting caused by disease states such as muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Small-scale preliminary studies show some gains in strength may be possible for these patients, which could improve their quality of life. One study of 81 patients with various neurologic diseases found that giving 10 g/day of creatine for five days, followed by 5 grams for another week, increases their muscle strength by about 10% . Large-scale studies should be done before recommendations are made to such patients.
Even if your focus is on a particular body part, say getting flat abs or losing fat around the hips, it's important to work all your muscle groups. Spot reduction doesn't work, so doing crunches for your abs or leg lifts for your thighs isn't going to help you achieve your goal. What does work is building more lean muscle tissue and burning more calories.
This increased permeability is noted in glioma cells, where it exerts anti-cancer effects related to cell swelling, and in other membranes, such as breast cancer cells and skeletal (contractile) muscle cells. The kinetics of cyclocreatine appear to be first-order, with a relative Vmax of 90, Km of 25mM and a KD of 1.2mM.
The reasons for differences in the effect of creatine on testosterone vs. DHT across studies are not clear, but also not mutually exclusive. A measured increase in DHT could indicate that testosterone levels were increased by creatine, but rapidly converted to DHT through a homeostatic mechanism. Differences in study subject populations, methodology, or the presence and type of concurrent exercise could also be contributing factors. At any rate, the literature collectively suggests that creatine has the general ability to cause a modest increase in androgen levels in men.
But muscle can’t turn into fat, just like mud can’t turn into gold. If you quit lifting, your muscles mass will decrease over time because there’s no training to stimulate your body to keep it. And your body-fat level will increase if you don’t start eating less (since you burn less). The obvious solution when you stop lifting is to also stop eating so much.
Don’t get us wrong—cardio is important for keeping your body fat down and keeping your heart health in check. (Bonus points if you run or bike, since outdoor exercise is linked to better energy and improved mental health.) But when it comes to building muscle, hitting the treadmill won't help you much. “Every component of exercise, minus cardio, can help with muscle hypertrophy,” which is the scientific term for muscle building, says Michelle Lovitt, an exercise physiologist and trainer in Los Angeles. “Cardio tends to burn calories and puts your body in a deficit, which is great for leaning out, but not building mass.”
In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics, which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did not happen and Olympic recognition for bodybuilding remains controversial since many argue that bodybuilding is not a sport.
If you're a beginner, just about any workout will be intense enough to increase protein synthesis. But if you've been lifting for a while, you'll build the most muscle quickest if you focus on the large muscle groups, like the chest, back, and legs. Add compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, pullups, bent-over rows, bench presses, dips, and military presses to your workout to work them the most efficiently.
While some supplements may in fact provide health benefits, generally speaking, consumers should purchase and use these products cautiously as they are not closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, bodybuilders are advised to discuss supplementation plans with a registered dietitian or primary care physician prior to use to optimize effectiveness and minimize potential harmful consequences.
Contrary to certain rumors that animal-based protein is more suitable to trigger muscle growth than plant-based protein, a study by Mangano et al. (2017) could not provide any evidence for this. In contrast, if combined properly, plant-based protein can even have a higher biological quality. A combination of one part wheat protein (e.g. seitan) and two parts soy protein (e.g. tofu) has thus been favored by many bodybuilders. Some bodybuilders, such as Patrik Baboumian and Robert Cheeke, follow a strict vegan diet.
Creatine supplementation appears to be somewhat similar to TMG supplementation in the sense that they both promote localized synthesis of phosphatidylcholine, effluxing triglycerides from the liver into serum and thus potently protecting from diet-induced fatty liver. The concentration at which this occurs is within the range supplemented by humans.
Fish oils are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide myriad benefits for the body. For strength athletes and bodybuilders, we're most concerned with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Intense resistance training can cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, leading to muscle damage and inflammation. While some inflammation is desirable, too much can delay the post-exercise recovery process.
In otherwise healthy bodybuilders, supplementation of creatine at 5g either immediately before or after a weight training session (with no directive on days without training) over the course of four weeks noted that while both groups improved, there was no significant difference between groups overall. This null result has been found in another study with 0.1g/kg creatine thrice weekly over 12 weeks in otherwise healthy adults. It has been suggested that post-workout timing may be favorable (based on magnitude-based inference) since more individuals experience benefits with post-workout when compared to pre-workout despite no whole-group differences.
Branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) play important roles in muscle building. Some researchers have found that following exercise, the branched-chain amino acids, especially leucine, increase the rate of protein synthesis and decrease the rate of protein catabolism (Blomstrand, 2006). The billion dollar supplement industry has been quick to respond; leucine supplements are widely available in health food stores, with a cost upwards of $50 per container. However, because the research findings are inconsistent and little is known about the safety of these products, the American Dietetic Association (soon to be renamed the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) advises against individual amino acid supplementation and protein supplementation overall (Rodriquez, 2009). It may be that food sources of these proteins and amino acids provide the same effect for a small fraction of the cost.
He pointed to data sets in Mayo Clinic Proceedings that found resistance training reduced the risk of developing metabolic syndrome or hypercholesterolemia. “If you build muscle, even if you’re not aerobically active, you burn more energy because you have more muscle. This also helps prevent obesity and provide long-term benefits on various health outcomes.”
A meta-analysis found that creatine treatment increased muscle strength in muscular dystrophies, and potentially improved functional performance. Creatine treatment does not appear to improve muscle strength in people who have metabolic myopathies. High doses of creatine lead to increased muscle pain and an impairment in activities of daily living when taken by people who have McArdle disease.
K. Aleisha Fetters, M.S., C.S.C.S., is a Chicago-based personal and online trainer. She has a graduate degree in health and science reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and regularly contributes to Men's Health, Women's Health, USNews.com, TIME, and SHAPE. When she's not lifting something heavy, she's usually guzzling coffee and writing about the health benefits of doing so.
Still, it's important to realize that for everyone, at a certain point, building muscle becomes more difficult. "We all have an endpoint to our genetic potential," Matheny says. "Someone who is starting strength training for the first time can build muscle with a lower percentage of their 1RM [the maximum amount of weight they can lift one time] than a more tenured athlete. The longer you train and the closer you to get to your natural potential, the more specific you need to get with your training and nutrition to keep making progress. And that week-by-week progress will likely be much smaller than it once was."
Whey Protein: This protein is a product of cheese making. Whey is the watery milk that’s separated and removed from the cheese curd. Through further processing, it’s turned into a powder. Whey protein is a great source of amino acids and nutrients. You can find whey protein from a number of manufacturers in different flavors including vanilla and chocolate.
Knowledge – When it comes to building the best physique possible, you have to be willing to experiment and learn from your body. No one will be able to tell you what’s the most effective nutrition or training split for your individual genotype. Not only that, they don’t know your personal preference, injury history, asymmetries, experience level, or current work capacity.
Brain injury. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 7 days increases the ability to exercise by increasing lung function in people with a spinal cord injury. However, other research shows that creatine does not improve wrist muscle or hand function. Early research also shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 6 months reduces amnesia following a traumatic brain injury in children.
Although it does not appear to influence baseline antioxidant enzymes (measured in red blood cells), one week of creatine loading in otherwise healthy young adults has increased red blood cell (RBC) content of the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme in response to a sprint test by 8.1% immediately after exercise. This was no longer detectable after an hour since placebo increased to match. Glutathione and catalase are unaffected.
Synthesis primarily takes place in the kidney and liver, with creatine then being transported to the muscles via the blood. The majority of the human body's total creatine and phosphocreatine stores is located in skeletal muscle, while the remainder is distributed in the blood, brain, and other tissues. Typically, creatine is produced endogenously at an estimated rate of about 8.3 mmol or 1 gram per day in young adults. Creatine is also obtained through the diet at a rate of about 1 gram per day from an omnivorous diet. Some small studies suggest that total muscle creatine is significantly lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians, as expected since foods of animal origin are the primary source of creatine. However, subjects happened to show the same levels after using supplements.