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Muscle Gain

  • Creatine use, safe or not?

    Many of my articles intended to debunk common myths surrounding the perceived effectiveness of certain supplements in the world of fitness. On the other hand, although sometimes the effects can be inconsistent, creatine generally works, there's no question about that and with the currently available scientific data to back this up, I am in no position to criticize its efficacy. However, the increase in strength and energy comes at a cost, kidney damage, liver problems, muscle camping, diarrhea, impaired thermoregulation and death just for starters. Or is it really? The well-publicized side effects of creatine are generally hypothesised theories based on how the supplement works inside the body under extreme doses. Creatine is an organic acid that is synthesized by the kidney, pancreas and liver to help to supply energy to the body by increasing the formation of ATP. Theoretically, creatine uptake in muscle can result in an increase in fluid retention hence may affect the body's fluid balance and ability to dissipate heat. On the other hand, the body needs to get rid of and compensate for the extra creatine consumed, which puts extra strain on the kidneys and liver. The association between creatine use and liver and kidney damage was thus made based on a few case reports and small changes in organ function indicators. The theorized side effects have their scientific merits. However, if used properly, hardly any of the proposed side effects of creatine have been confirmed in well-controlled, randomized studies conducted on healthy subjects. Of course, you should not use creatine if you have an underlining health condition, especially kidney or liver problems, and you should not overdose, which may result in unwanted side effects. But if you are perfectly healthy, not allergic to any of the contents in the supplement that you ingest, and follow the proper guideline of oral creatine supplementation, it is very safe. How much creatine should I use then? One should always strive to achieve the best results with the lowest dose possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, a typical loading dose could be anywhere around 9-25 grams daily (depends on body weight) with good fluid intake for 4-7 days and a typical maintenance dose would be 2-20 grams daily for 5 days up to 12 weeks depends on body weight. This is just a general guideline and you should always tailor your regime based on your own circumstances. But remember, the effect of creatine can be inconsistent between different people and if you feel that the creatine you are taking does not give the expected result, it may not be the problem of dosage but the efficacy of the supplement itself. All in all creatine is safe supplement to use when taken properly.
  • Mass Gainers: What They Are & When to Use Them

    There is often debate about whether it is harder to gain muscle or lose fat. This isn’t due to the actual physiological needs, but due to other individual factors, such as consistency, mental commitment, etc. When building muscle, however, people need to add some extra calories to their daily intake, and mass gainers are an excellent tool for this. When it comes to building muscle, one of these big difficulties is trying to consume enough calories. By providing your body with more calories than you burn every day, your body will use that excess energy to either build muscle, or gain fat. By consuming weight gainer shakes, you make this goal much more attainable. What Are Weight Gainers? Weight gainers are shakes that are loaded with calories and have been formulated for a nice balance in macronutrient ratios. Not every shake is the same, however, so it is important to understand that you need to choose one that fits your goals. For example, some weight gainer shakes are designed specifically with the macro split that is best suited for post-workout. This is because the body is in more of an anabolic state during that time, and these mass gainer shakes are formulated in order to give your body the best nutrients after your workout. Other varieties include mass gainer shakes that are more of a meal replacement, as well as others that just provide a solid, dense addition in calories to your daily nutrition plan you already have in place. Post-Workout Weight Gainers Post-workout weight gainer shakes will have little amounts of fats, and high amounts of carbohydrates. This is because your body needs to be fed fast acting carbohydrates post-workout, since your muscles are in need of fuel after being broken down during the course of your training session. These shakes often include creatine as well, which has been shown to have benefits in your fat free mass, and even 1-rep max1. Since you can take in more calories post-workout, these shakes will contain higher amounts of calories than you would see in other shakes, such as protein powder supplements. If you are looking for a boost that will help you with both your overall calorie needs, and your post-workout nutrition, then look for weight gainer shakes that contain higher calories. Meal Replacement Weight Gainers These weight gainers will hold less calories, but a more balance macronutrient ratio. While post-workouts really put emphasis on high amounts of carbohydrates, you will find that these types of shakes contain around the same amount of protein, but will hold more of a balance between fat and carbohydrate content. These shakes are beneficial if you feel that you just struggle to get your calories in from solid foods, but don’t feel that you have a flaw in your post-workout nutrition. While these shakes will be lower in total calories, they will still provide a high volume of calories that can be downed much easier, allowing you a quick boost to your total calorie needs. Conclusion Weight gainers are an excellent addition to your arsenal if you really struggle with getting your calorie needs in. They provide a quick boost, and do have multiple macro ratio formulas to choose from, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your situation. Keep in mind, however, that these should only be added when your nutrition is already dialled in. If you are struggling on the basics, don’t try to add in supplements.
    1. Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
  • Whey Protein Isolate vs Concentrate

    When you buy whey protein powders, you are probably looking to pack on some easy protein into your diet, and help reach your goals of building or retaining lean muscle mass. But do you know what’s in that whey protein powder? Whey protein has three main forms: whey protein concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate. We are going to be comparing the differences between whey protein isolate and concentrate, so that you understand what makes them different. Concentrate vs Isolate: What’s The Deal? You’ve probably heard of whey protein isolate far more than concentrate, and it is the most important ingredient found in protein powders. While both are mixed in most protein powders, marketing will focus on the isolate side, due to its benefits. Whey protein isolate is more expensive that concentrate, due to its higher quality, higher biological value, and higher amount of protein per serving. When comparing the numbers of protein per serving, isolate brings in around 90-98% protein, while whey protein concentrate contains anywhere from 70-85% protein per serving. The rest of these servings is made up of fat and lactose. So, as a result of a higher protein percentage, whey protein isolate becomes the more pure option, as it reduces the amount of lactose and fat that is ingested. However, the biggest thing that is talked about with whey protein isolate is its absorption abilities. Isolate is a high quality, fast acting form of protein, and is the best of its kind. It fuels the muscles quicker for exercise, and helps them recover faster after exercise. This helps increase your potential of gaining muscle mass, or preserving lean muscle mass on a cut. Studies have shown that elderly individuals can still respond to the anabolic signals that come from protein ingestion, with the proper amino acids1. Because of the high amount of beneficial amino acids found in whey protein powder supplements, they are best known for providing a great jumpstart in protein synthesis, and thus are very effective at helping with the recovery and growth of lean muscle mass. Now, while whey protein isolate is superior when it comes to purity and effectiveness, it doesn’t beat whey protein concentrate in every category. If you are on a budget, whey protein isolate may not be the best option. This is because it the more expensive of the two, due to its purity. It’s also important to remember that just because it is more pure, this doesn’t mean that it will give you noticeably more size and strength gains than whey protein concentrate would. It just means that there is a slight difference in quality between the two, and isolate just happens to be known for its effectiveness more so than concentrate. What Should You Choose? If you have the budget, whey protein isolate clearly is the better choice. It does have many more benefits than concentrate, and is the best fast acting protein out there. However, if you are tight on money, or just don’t think the difference is big enough to have that much of an effect on you, go with whey protein concentrate. It is more cost effective, and it isn’t going to leave you weaker or smaller.
    1. Hayes, A., & Cribb, P. J. (2008, January). Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 11(1).
  • The 5 Most Beneficial Movements for Gaining Muscle Mass

    When looking for, or designing, an exercise program, you should always have a few “golden rules” you should incorporate, especially when the goal is gaining muscle mass. An example of this would be having more pulling movements than pushing movements, to help trainees get into proper spine position. When it comes to designing routines with the focus on building muscle mass, you should always find a way to incorporate some variation of a few movements that provide the biggest “bang for your buck.” Without these, you are limiting progress on yourself or your trainee. Chances are this probably won’t be shocking news to you. That isn’t the intent of this article. Instead, we hope to educate or remind you that these movements should be included in your routine AT ALL TIMES if your goal is to gain muscle. Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at what the best exercises are, and why they have earned their way on to this list:

    The Barbell Squat

    While many fitness professionals will undoubtedly argue about the best exercises, this one is #1 on probably all of the lists. Why? Because this movement requires so much effort from your entire body, and it can be easy to build up to heavy loads. Of course, with the heavier the load is, the more stress you are placing on the muscles. Because of the ability to load high amounts of weight onto the body, this exercise is always going to claim the top spot.

    Deadlift

    Believe it or not, this one is actually widely debated. You see, you often here the deadlift coined as the “king of all exercises.” This is because it is, like the squat, a common movement pattern we use every day. At some point during the day, everyone has to drop down and pick something up. Now, it may not be heavy, but the deadlift teaches you how to properly brace your body and set up so that you can protect your body when lifting heavy things off the ground. Pretty important, right? Well, the deadlift doesn’t incorporate an eccentric movement at any point during the lift, which is a problem when trying to build size. It also offers very little time under tension, which is key in producing size gains. So why is it on this list? Well, simply put, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The deadlift fights for the top spot when it comes to building strength. Much like the squat, it is a full body movement that is excellent at recruiting many muscle fibres, and is also a movement that many can use with relatively heavy weight. Size gains come as a by-product of strength gains, and the deadlift is among the best at producing strength. With the results it has given to countless numbers of individuals, it is easy to see why you fill also find this movement among many coaches’ lists.

    Bench Press

    I almost put dumbbell chest press here. But I didn’t. I stuck with the barbell bench press because you won’t find anyone who can bench press 225 pounds with a small chest. It’s just not possible. It is also an excellent exercise at building overall strength as well, and is among the most respected of the lifts today. But the dumbbell chest press does at least deserve to be discussed. This is because it requires more stabilization, and is more isolated, thus putting a larger emphasis on the chest. But, it is important to remember that the dumbbell chest press is just a variation of a chest pressing movement, so they both serve the same goal.

    Standing Military Press

    To close out the “Big 4” movements comes the military press, another staple in almost any training program. It is another movement that challenges your body to stabilize, and really hits the shoulders hard, as well as a few other areas. This full body exercise will be more a challenge to your ego than any of the others previously mentioned. Your weight isn’t going to be as high, and it is far more challenging as the weights increase. But once you can press a good amount of weight over your head, there is no doubt that your physique will show proof of that.

    Pull Ups

    After the big 4 exercises, choosing the 5th becomes a bit more difficult. This one was a toss-up between a few other exercises, such as straight legged deadlifts (which I didn’t choose, as they are a variation of the deadlift), and push-ups. But pull ups earn their way on to this list because they are difficult to do for so many people, and yet they are so important! Not only that, but they also target the muscles differently depending on your grip, allowing you to focus on the weaker areas of your body just by a slight change in grip style. But, regardless of which grip you choose, this exercise will build your back. It is a challenge for almost anyone to even hit 7-8 repetitions with full range of motion, and a startling amount of individuals can’t even perform one pull up. When choosing your next exercise routine to pack on some serious lean muscle, you need to make sure that it includes these five movements. By doing so, you are guaranteeing that you are placing great amounts of stress on the body, and leaving yourself the opportunity for fantastic gains in muscle. It also helps that these movements are very functional, and all of them will help you in your day to day life.
  • Why You Should Use Carnitine

    L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that has become an effective supplement for a multitude of goals. It is so dynamic that it can fit into almost any goal or nutrition plan, and still come out as one of the main benefits of your regimen. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many benefits L-carnitine can provide for you, so that you know when to include it into your nutrition plan (which is always!).

    Carnitine For Muscle Mass

    One study showed that oral ingestion of L-carnitine helps to increase work output1. Because of this, you will experience increases in strength, power, and muscular endurance during your training. Due to this consistent improvement in performance, you can expect to see increased muscle mass, since you have a greater ability to overload the muscles. And speaking of placing stress on the muscles…

    L-Carnitine for Recovery

    During exercise, your muscles are placed under serious stress, and you will be breaking down the muscles throughout a workout. Because of this, you often see how important post-workout nutrition is, since you need to fuel your muscles. If this isn’t done properly, you won’t allow your muscles to recover. Over time, your performance can be decreased due to your muscles not being fed the proper amount of energy it needs, and they can even experience atrophy. Muscle atrophy is something that everyone wants to avoid, since it is a difficult and slow process to add on muscle mass. In order to do this, you need to fuel your muscles with proper amounts of protein and amino acids. L-Carnitine has also been proven to assist in recovery of exercise, after the completion of high-repetition squat sessions2. These are some of the most intense training sessions known, so seeing evidence that carnitine boosted recovery in these types of sessions goes to show just how effective it is at helping to repair your muscles.

    Shred the Fat

    When trying to get lean, amino acids play a tremendously important role. First, they help in sparing your muscles and preserving your strength, which is something that L-Carnitine assists in, as I have already shown you. However, L-carnitine adds another layer onto the benefits in terms of helping with the fat loss battle. The primary role of carnitine in the body is to provide your body energy. It does this by transferring fatty acids to the mitochondria. From there, these long-chain fatty acids are oxidized to produce energy for your body to use. So, this helps to keep your body from storing fat, due to its role in energy production. Another bonus of this is that it helps to increase your aerobic capacity, since fatty acids and mitochondria play a vital role in providing the body with the energy it needs to perform long-duration cardiovascular exercise. Because you will be working for longer periods of time, you will see another added benefit in terms of burning more calories.

    Carnitine Can Help With Any Need

    L-carnitine has many benefits outside of the bodybuilding realm, including in assisting with heart problems, kidneys, sperm production, diabetes management, and benefits to the immune system. It is an extremely versatile supplement that should be included in any lifter’s supplement plan, as it has proven time and time again to produce massive results.
    1. Wall, B. T., Stephens, F. B., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Marimuthu, K., Macdonald, I. A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (2011, February 15). Chronic oral ingestion of L-carnitine and carbohydrate increases muscle carnitine content and alters muscle fuel metabolism during exercise in humans. The Journal of Physiology.
    2. Volek, J. S., Kraemer, W. J., Rubin, M. R., Gómez, A. L., Ratamess, N. A., & Gaynor, P. (2002, February). L-Carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favourably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. American Journal of Physiology.
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