The harder an exercise is – both in terms of technicality and physical/mental demand – the more rest there should usually be. So exercises like squats and deadlifts should have more rest between sets than exercises like leg extensions and leg curls. And exercises like various bench presses, shoulder presses, rows and pull-ups should have more rest between sets than bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest flies and lateral raises.
In people whose kidneys don’t function optimally, supplemental creatine seems to be safe, too. However, studies in people with suboptimal kidney function are fewer than in healthy people, and they are short-term. People with kidney dysfunction, or at risk for developing kidney dysfunction (e.g., people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or family history of kidney disease; people over sixty; and non-Hispanic blacks), might wish to forgo creatine, or otherwise take only the lowest effective dose (3 g/day) after talking to their doctor.
Another category of muscle-building supplements that lifters and bodybuilders use to improve their results are branched-chained amino acids (BCAAs), or BCAAs. Of the 20 amino acids that make up protein, just three are referred to as BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are the specific amino acids that have been shown to stimulate protein synthesis and help regulate protein metabolism.
I’m telling you all of this because no matter who you are, keeping your testosterone levels balanced is more important now than ever before. Modern living has not been kind to our hormones. In American men, serum testosterone levels have declined by about 1% each year for the past 30 years , and you can make a few educated guesses about why. Hormone-disrupting chemicals are more prevalent than ever before, physical activity is less and less common, veganism is popular (I was a raw vegan for a while), and many doctors insist on pushing a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet for health (by the way, the concept of a low-fat diet began in the mid-70s, shortly before the nationwide testosterone decline. It could be a coincidence, but I doubt it).
In contrast to the above null effects, ingestion of creatine both before and after a workout (alongside protein and carbohydrate) over 10 weeks seems to promote muscle growth more than the same supplement taken in the morning, farther away from the time of the workout. The benefits of creatine around the workout, relative to other times, have been hypothesized to be related to an upregulation of creatine transport secondary to muscle contraction, a known phenomena.
Adequate hydration is essential to muscle building, yet few people get enough water, even without daily exercise. So in addition to the daily 8 to 10 glasses of water recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Karas suggests an additional 12 to 16 ounces before working out. He then recommends another 8 to 10 ounces for every 15 minutes of vigorous exercise.
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.
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.
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.
It may seem odd to put such a common supplement as minerals on this list, but few people are aware that minerals are enzyme activators. Many vitamins, on the other hand, are coenzymes, which means that without minerals they're useless. Many minerals, such as zinc and chromium, also interact with various anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin.
Eating the right carbs is important too. Carbohydrate is stored in your body in the form of glycogen. Glycogen in the muscles is an important fuel reserve during intense physical exercise or in times of energy restriction – protein sparing. It is best to restrict or to keep away from junk carbohydrates such as sweets, cakes, and biscuits, and stick to foods like porridge, pasta (wholemeal), rice (brown), bread (wholegrain), and cereals (try to choose the versions with low or reduced sugar and salt). For more on carbohydrate and the effect of sugar on the body, click here.