Every culture has its myths and bodybuilding is no exception. Like most myths, most are nine parts fantasy and one part truth, though of course, some myths have no truth to them at all. I have spent much of my career attempting to expose myths surrounding bodybuilding and topics that relate to it, such as drugs, nutrition and supplementation etc.
For my Italian reading members, I have a series of articles in the Italian Iron Man/Olympian’s News. I have been published in Italian before, via Power Magazine, as well as other languages; Polish, Spanish, Japanese, etc.in a wide variety of publications world wide. Click on the cover to read or go HERE. My article starts on page 32. Buon divertimento!
Creatine is one of the few dietary supplements that have a very solid scientific support for its efficacy in increasing strength, explosive performance and muscle mass. So the question in not whether it is effective, but rather how to supplement it to reap maximal effectiveness?
There are several theories on how to take creatine; some say you should load and then lower the dose to maintenance, while others say you can get good results by a constant low dosage regimen without loading. Yet others say you should cycle the creatine and take breaks from it in between cycles. And then we have the issue of dosages and how to ingest it. In addition, there is a lot of confusion about the myriad for creatine forms that claim to be superior over the gold standard creatine monohydrate – the form that was used in research which proved its efficacy. Are the new fancy creatine-super-duper formulations really worth their price? Let’s tackle all theses creatine issues here…
“The human body is an infinitely complex, but wholly logical system” – Will Brink
Back in the day I wrote the first article on the value of omega-3 fatty acids (via fax oil) for health and fat loss in the major bodybuilding publications. In fact, my first article on the value of flax oil – a source of the Omega 3 lipid LNA – was rejected because the very idea of intentionally adding fat to lose fat and improve health was such a foreign concept at that time. Yes, we are talking pre Internet here! Lucky for me, another magazine – MuscleMag International – ran the article, and the rest is history. It’s safe to say I have been researching and writing about Essential fatty acids (EFA’s), the value of omega-3 fats, the importance of balancing fatty acid intakes, and so forth, for a extensive amount of time. I am also partially to blame for the overly simplistic view of these fatty acids that followed and hope to atone for that with this article.
Much of what we understood at that time, and is still being pushed to this day by some, was an overly simple and generalized view of the essential fatty acids (EFA’s) and their effects on human physiology. As time progressed, and additional research was published, the picture has become much more refined and accurate.
The old paradigm could be essentially summarized as “Omega-3 good, Omega-6 bad” and that was about it. Other than a few who have really taken the time to research the topic, a position that remains to this day. Per usual, such entrenched views tend to change very slowly.
How did that start? Early research found the Standard American diet (SAD) provides excessive intakes of omega-6 lipids and minimal omega-3 lipids which resulted in an elevated omega-6/omega-3 ratio. As science writer Monica Mollica put it so accurately in her recent article on BrinkZone.com, “In turn, an elevated omega-6/omega-3 ratio has been linked to a number of common chronic diseases, notably cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, cancer, and certain psychiatric diseases such as depression. The omega-6 fatty acid that has been vilified and blamed to give rise to these detrimental health outcomes is arachidonic acid (ARA).” Hence, we ended up with an “Omega-3 good, Omega-6 bad” model that attributed most of the negatives to ARA, with advice people should avoid ARA. Those concerned with their health increased their intake of omega-3 fats via fish, flax, supplements, etc., and reduced their intake of omega-6, to improve their 03/06 ratios.
All well and good, but it’s just not that simple as life rarely is, much less human biology. As Candice Pert Ph.D., discoverer of the opiate receptor said “Whenever something does not fit the reigning paradigm, the initial response in the mainstream is to deny the facts.” Such is the case with the “Omega-3 good, Omega-6 bad” model that some cling to in spite of the ever mounting data showing it to be an outdated model not supported by the modern data.
In prior posts, I have discussed my hypothesis that growth hormone and related growth factors, as a possible therapy for connective tissue/joint degeneration in active populations. The study below finds testosterone therapy (TRT ) appears highly valuable treatment in SCI; to prevent the loss of skeletal muscle post SCI. These results do not surprise me in the least and why this is not a common therapy for people with SCI is a tragedy in my view. If you, or someone you know, has suffered a SCI, I highly recommend you send this info to your/their doctor and pursue this as a possible option. It’s important to note that testosterone deficiency is common after SCI, and according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SCI unit:
“These findings confirm both a substantial population of men with SCI and with testosterone deficiency, and a significant association between testosterone level and severity of SCI. Measuring serum total testosterone levels should be included in standard screenings for patients with SCI…”
I can say, a very common report of those who go on TRT is a big reduction in general aches and pains in my experience, and again, it makes perfect sense to me. The future treatment of SCI will be the of use various growth factors and other modalities (such as stem cell therapy) to re grow/re connect the spinal cord. That technology is much closer than people realize, but it seems the med/sci community very slow to pursue this area as quickly as they should. Obviously, this approach could be used to repair damaged nerves and other tissues far less challenging than repairing a severely damage or severed spinal cord.
Useful summary info from this study Effects of testosterone replacement therapy on skeletal muscle after spinal cord injury:
“The most important finding of this study was that TRT ameliorated the decrease in fiber CSA resulting from SCI. TRT also attenuated the slow to fast fiber type shift as well as the decrease in oxidative enzyme activity. To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate the potential of TRT to prevent atrophy in SCI. TRT in aging sarcopenia and in other diseases with muscle wasting (for example, AIDS) results in favorable effects on bone, muscle size and strength in both low-average and hypogonadal men.19 Increases in muscle CSA were equal, if not greater in TRT only groups than in exercise groups without TRT.20 These data and ours for SCI both demonstrate a positive effect of TRT on muscle size without traditional overload…”
Someone once said “there’s no sunshine without coffee.” I tend to agree. However, there’s a great deal more to understand regarding the benefits of caffeine – the central nervous system stimulant most people associate with coffee – and its effects on mental acuity, performance, etc. In this article I’m going to cover what people really need to know about this topic, and suggest a way to get the most bang for your money when it comes to this highly popular beverage and supplement.
Caffeine – a compound in the methylxanthine family – has its effects through various mechanisms on the central nervous system, and to be honest, I doubt those mechanisms are of great interest to most readers, so I won’t bother with an extensive discussion on it here. Suffice to say, caffeine positively impacts memory, performance, endurance, coordination and increases arousal, vigilance, while reducing fatigue, to name a few effects. Anyone who has used straight caffeine knows the stuff works, which is why the military, for example, adds it to gum as well as other things like bars and such. We all know the “energy drink/shot” category is all the rage these days even outside the gym setting. Although caffeine is not for everyone to be sure, it’s amazingly non-toxic. OK, so users of caffeine either know all this, or have at least experienced it, and don’t need much convincing it’s effective stuff for its intended uses. Let’s move into the more interesting info of this article, shall we?
EDITORS NOTE: I (Will) recently did a video on ARA which discusses a study that found ARA had positive effects on strength and muscle mass, but was not able to give details on the study at that time as it had yet to be published as an abstract or full paper. Finally, Monica now covers the meat of what most people really want to know about ARA: Can it increase strength and muscle mass as a supplement? The answer appears to be a solid yes. This excellent article below covers the recent study mentioned in my vid and write up on the study and gives the details, as well as a prior study. This is the must read article of the ARA series of articles on BrinkZone!
EDITORS NOTE II: The brand of ARA used in the studies covered in this article – the brand with longest track record and most extensive feedback by users – is X Factor by Molecular Nutrition. For supplement companies looking to carry ARA, the manufacturer of ARA is Cargill and the contact (wholesale inquiries only) is firstname.lastname@example.org
In part 1 I outlined the background on ARA and why it traditionally has been, and still is in certain circles is, deemed the “bad guy” fatty acid. Part 2 covered its safety aspects and presented research findings indicating, to the contrary of the “ARA is bad dogma”, potential health benefits of ARA supplementation. In this part I will present new research showing potential beneficial effects of ARA supplementation, in conjunction with resistance training, on physical performance, muscle growth and strength gains…
The impetus for human studies on the effect of ARA supplementation on muscle growth and strength gains came from early studies on isolated animal muscle and muscle cell culture.[1-6] It was found that an increase in ARA flux through the COX enzyme (either induced by stretch or ARA supplementation) promotes production of the prostaglandins PGF2-alpha and PGE2 in muscle tissue, and that PGF2-alpha potently stimulates muscle protein synthesis [2, 5, 6] while PGE2 stimulates muscle degradation.[1, 2]
Frequent consumption of red meant and processed meats has been shown in population studies to be associated with cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes [1-3]. It has also been suggested that eating meat increases all-cause mortality . Hence, a high meat intake (regardless of its fat quantity and quality) is generally perceived to be unhealthy and something that should be avoided.
However, although there are many studies documenting these associations, results are not always consistent and there are many important methodological issues which weaken the conclusions (more on that in a bit). In the same way as the putative health risks of red meat consumption is investigated, its documented health benefits (which I will cover below) are equally as important and must be given a fair chance in the establishment of dietary recommendations related to red meat consumption.
In this article I will therefore cover both the risks and benefits associated with red meat consumption, and after having taken all the available scientific data into consideration, present a more balanced conclusion about the “meat is bad” dogma…
EDITORS NOTE: I (Will) recently did a video on ARA which discusses a recent study that found ARA had positive effects on strength and muscle mass readers will want to check out. The results of this study will be covered HERE and in a future article by Monica. This excellent article below by Monica discusses the safety of ARA supplements and possible health benefits that set the record straight on this fatty acid…
In part 1 I outlined the background to the “ARA is bad” theory, and presented studies that have refuted this notion. Part 1 also explains the importance of distinguishing the different omega-6 fatty acids, LA and ARA, and describes the bell-shaped relationship between ARA and EPA + DHA in cell membranes.
In this part you will learn about safety aspects and potential health benefits (!) of ARA supplementation…
Safety and Health Effects of ARA supplementation
With the bad reputation that ARA has, let’s start by looking at safety data. On a typical modern diet (that includes meat, eggs and fish) the average intake of ARA is approximately 100–200 mg ARA per day.[1-5] Several studies have investigated safety aspects of ARA supplementation in different populations.
When healthy volunteers were given over 7 times the usual intake of ARA (i.e. 1500 to 1700 g ARA per day, compared to usual intake of 200 mg ARA per day) in a 7 week controlled feeding study, no effects on platelet aggregation, bleeding times, the balance of vasoactive metabolites, serum lipid levels, or immune response were observed.[6-10] Likewise, in a recent study on healthy men aged 26-60 years, supplementation with 840 mg ARA per day for 4 weeks had no effect on any metabolic parameter or platelet function.
A study in healthy Japanese men and women aged 55-70 investigated whether ARA supplementation affects clinical parameters involved in cardiovascular, inflammatory, and allergic diseases. Subjects were supplemented with ARA-enriched oil (240 or 720 mg ARA per day) or placebo for 4 weeks, followed by a 4-week washout period. The fatty acid contents of plasma phospholipids, clinical parameters, and AA metabolites were determined at baseline, 2, 4, and 8 weeks. It was found that ARA content in plasma phospholipids in the ARA supplemented groups increased dose-dependently and was almost the same at 2 weeks and at 4 weeks. The elevated ARA content decreased to nearly baseline during a 4-week washout period. Contrary to expectations, during the supplementation and washout periods, no changes were observed in plasma phospholipid EPA and DHA content. There were no changes in clinical blood parameters related to cardiovascular, inflammatory and allergic diseases.