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.
Recent studies have shown some controversial findings that high-rep training is as effective as the traditional medium rep training for muscle growth. If you missed it, check out my two previous articles:
In this article I will show some examples of how high-rep sets can be implemented in a serious weight lifting program, and look at the results of some studies that have investigated this.
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!
Viagra and muscle? Does Viagra, or Cialis help build muscle? Athletes from body builders to football players to mountain climbers use these PDE inhibitor drugs. Why? In this vid I cover the facts behind their use.
Sildenafil Increases Muscle Protein Synthesis and Reduces Muscle Fatigue
Clinical and Translational Science
Volume 6, Issue 6, pages 463–468, December 2013
Reductions in skeletal muscle function occur during the course of healthy aging as well as with bed rest or diverse diseases such as cancer, muscular dystrophy, and heart failure. However, there are no accepted pharmacologic therapies to improve impaired skeletal muscle function. Nitric oxide may influence skeletal muscle function through effects on excitation-contraction coupling, myofibrillar function, perfusion, and metabolism. Here we show that augmentation of nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate signaling by short-term daily administration of the phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitor sildenafil increases protein synthesis, alters protein expression and nitrosylation, and reduces fatigue in human skeletal muscle. These findings suggest that phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors represent viable pharmacologic interventions to improve muscle function.
This is a topic so large it could take stacks of text books (and it does!) and many semesters in college and years of research afterward, so an exhaustive review is both beyond the scope of this article and my brain!
There’s a few key areas however I plan to address in this article people will find helpful to making smart decisions the over hyped ads for protein, amino acids, and peptides don’t cover. For the most part, I recommend whole protein sources, such as whey, eggs, lean meats, fish etc. in terms of dietary protein* intakes, but some individual amino acids can be of benefit in specific applications. Those applications may be sports performance related, general health, or medical, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Back In The Day…
Back in the day when I was taking my first nutrition courses and reading what research existed - right after the Pleistocene era – the mantra of nutrition was that digested proteins were broken down into individual amino acids during digestion and absorbed, and that was that. As with virtually all overly simplified models generated from the early research examining human nutrition and physiology, it was wrong. To this day however, there are still those who believe it, but I digress. However, most know that ingested proteins are broken down primarily into small peptides and individual amino acids. The fact is, to this day, human digestion, absorption, and utilization of nutrients we ingest is still being elucidated with more discoveries being made than most people realize or appreciate. It’s amazing to me however the number of people – some educated enough in the sciences to know better – who think digestion, absorption, and utilization of the food we eat can be summarized as “it get’s dumped into the acid in your stomach, then absorbed via voodoo, the end.” Human digestion, absorption, and utilization of the nutrients we ingest, is an incredibly complex process, that as previously mentioned, still being elucidated. If you want to get a glimpse of how complex, the Encyclopedia Britannica site has a nice write up on that, and remember: digestion, absorption, and utilization of protein is but one very small aspect of it.
As mentioned previously, there are benefits and potentially unique effects to using individual amino acids, but studies indicate peptides are better absorbed and or utilized than individual amino acids. What that suggests is, even if the goal is to derive benefits from a singe amino acid (e.g., Leucine, Glutamine, etc.), it’s likely best to get it in peptide form. For example, instead of taking L-leucine alone as the free amino acid, to increase intakes of L-leucine, ingesting a leucine rich peptide is likely to be the superior approach. The science and understanding of the value of peptides in human nutrition, be it for health, performance, increased muscle mass, etc., is an evolving area of research yielding useful findings, and still in it’s early stages in fact. Because this is such a wide-open and extensive topic, I’m going to stay focused on a few key issues, such as the value of using individual amino acids or “free” amino acids vs. peptides even if the goal is to increase levels of a specific amino acid.
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.
Due to a recent study and media reports – and contact by the media to comment – on this survey of teens I have addressed the possible use of HGH, and claims of increased use, by teens below:
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…