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Muscle Gain

  • Why You Should be Taking Dextrose Post-Workout

    15As an avid disciple of the iron, you probably go the extra mile to ensure that your diet is spot on (right?). Or maybe even if you have the occasional cheat meal turned-cheat-day, there is probably one cardinal sin that you would never commit- consuming high glycaemic carbs.

    But what if you found out that dextrose; made from corn and chemically identically to glucose, could turn your post-workout protocol on its head, and in the process, enhance your recovery?

    You’d be very likely to take advantage of it, we’re sure, why is why in this article we’ll be addressing why you should be adding dextrose to your post-workout shake.

    Why Dextrose Is Important

    Under normal circumstances, the body’s primary source of energy is glucose, which also happens to be fast digesting and absorbed. The body uses this energy source in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), otherwise known as your “energy currency”. But enough about what it does under normal circumstances. Time to see what is does when consumed post-workout.

    Dextrose Refuels Muscle

    Even though dextrose is essentially glucose, you may not have appreciated the fact that it does not necessarily stay elevated in the blood for hours on end. Rather, following consumption, the body immediately uses the free glucose it needs to meet its requirements, and subsequently proceeds to storing the extra as glycogen in muscle and liver cells.

    These muscle glycogen stores are paramount to exercise capacity[i]. During exercise, your muscles utilize these glycogen stores to liberate free glucose that in turn fuels your workout session. This is why it is critical to refuel with dextrose following your workout.

    Ensuring you restock muscle glycogen stores means that your next workout will not suffer because of impaired fuel tanks, and as a result you are rewarded with an enhanced capacity to lift before muscle failure ensues.

    Dextrose May Enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis

    Muscle protein synthesis (MPS), is the Holy Grail every bodybuilder or strength athlete is after. Essentially, this dictates whether you gain muscle over the long term, as an accrual of muscle mass occurs when the rate of protein synthesis exceeds that of protein breakdown.

    A study published in The American journal of physiology, regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology in 2010[ii] sought to investigate if the consumption of 20 g essential amino acids (EAAs) and either 30 g or 100 g dextrose would enhance protein synthesis.

    The findings confirmed that there was a significant increase in post-workout protein synthesis for both groups, along with a small degree of impaired muscle protein breakdown.

    It is also important to note that the combination was administered within 1 hour post workout to take advantage of the greatest rate of protein and glycogen synthesis during this time period.

    Dextrose Can Assist With Muscle Sparing

    Know what’s worse than keeping the muscle status quo? Losing muscle. But this is what inevitably occurs following intense exercise, and which is exacerbated if proper post workout nutrition is not employed.

    To confirm the fact that dextrose helped with protein sparing, a study was conducted which administered glucose at a rate of 0.88 g/ kg/hr, to adults using a treadmill over the course of 3+ hours.

    The findings confirmed that glucose impaired the rate of protein breakdown and nitrogen excretion[iii], both indicators of muscle loss and not conducive to athletic endeavours.

    Dextrose Stimulates Insulin Secretion

    It’s no secret that consuming carbohydrates of any sort elicits an insulin response, but the sheer speed of dextrose’s absorption sets it apart. During the post-workout period, timing is everything.

    Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone, and one that is rightfully referred to as a storage hormone. This is because many of its actions relate to storing nutrients- primarily carbohydrates, in suitable cellular space.

    Following your workout, nutrients, namely glucose and amino acids, are preferentially shuttled into hungry muscle cells to initiate recovery, as opposed to the liver or fat cells, two other sites insulin also sends nutrients to.

    Insulin also shuts down catabolic processes at this time, bringing protein degradation to a crawl and reducing energy expenditure.

    This is why adding dextrose to your post workout protein shake works so well. Not only is a greater magnitude of insulin secretion[iv] achieved, but also a faster onset of action and longer duration of activity.

    How Much Dextrose?

    While it may seem common sense to assume that a larger amount of dextrose consumed post workout would yield superior results, this is not necessarily true. In fact, unless you are a competitive super endurance athlete, the need for a massive amount of dextrose is not advised.

    Studies have been done comparing the consumption of amount between 30-100 g at the post interval window, and there are really no significant differences observed. Thus, it may serve you best (depending on your physique goals) to limit the consumption at this time to 30-60 g.

    Stacked with a protein powder, a ratio of 1.5-2:1 (dextrose to protein) works well, and is enough to not cause a significant calorie burden.

    In Summary

    Dextrose is cheap, sweet, and highly effective. There aren’t many post-workout supplements that deliver such a bang for your buck, and yet, it is often overlooked altogether.

    The next time you work out, add some dextrose to your post workout protein shake for a sure way to enhance your muscle gain and take performance to the next level.


    [i] W J Evans, V A Hughes, Dietary carbohydrates and endurance exercise, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 41, Issue 5, May 1985, Pages 1146–1154, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/41.5.1146

    [ii] Glynn EL, Fry CS, Drummond MJ, et al. Muscle protein breakdown has a minor role in the protein anabolic response to essential amino acid and carbohydrate intake following resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010;299(2):R533–R540. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00077.2010

    [iii] Millward, D.J., Davies, C.T., Halliday, D., Wolman, S.L., Matthews, D., & Rennie, M.C. (1982). Effect of exercise on protein metabolism in humans as explored with stable isotopes. Federation proceedings, 41 10, 2686-91 .

    [iv] Komatsu M, Takei M, Ishii H, Sato Y. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion: A newer perspective. J Diabetes Investig. 2013;4(6):511–516. doi:10.1111/jdi.12094

  • Tribulus terrestris truth or hype

    Tribulus terrestris (tribulus) is a dicotyledonous herbal plant of the Zygophyllaceae family. The plant is widely naturalised and extracts of its fruits and aerial parts have been used in ancient medicine for its diuretic, tonic and aphrodisiac properties. It was also claimed that the use of tribulus could increase the body's natural testosterone levels, and hence can improve male sexual performance and enhance muscle building potential. Here we review the scientific evidence available about the effects of tribulus on human sexual performance, testosterone levels and exercise performance.

    Tribulus extracts has been shown to possess aphrodisiac effects on rats (Gauthaman et al 2002, Life Sciences). Supplementation of tribulus has been shown to significantly increase serum testosterone levels in a limited number of animal studies (Qureshi et al 2014, Journal of Dietary Supplements). One recent study found that tribulus supplementation can improve desire in women with hypoactive (not active) sexual desire disorder and may be used as a form of treatment in the future for such disorders (Raisi et al 2014, Daru). However, the use of tribulus did not appear to have any effects on male erectile dysfunction in a recent randomise, double-blind study (Santos et al 2014, Actas Urologicas Espanolas).

    The effect of tribulus on testosterone levels has been debated. Even though some claimed that tribulus supplementation could increase serum testosterone levels in some animals, such effect has not been observed in humans. Evidence to date suggests that tribulus is ineffective for increasing testosterone levels in human (Qureshi et al 2014, Journal of Dietary Supplements).

    Supplementation of tribulus extracts also showed no significant effects on the body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males compared to the placebo (Antonio et al 2000, International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism). Supplementation of tribulus over a 5-week period did not increase strength and lean muscle mass in twenty-two Australian male rugby league players (Rogerson et al 2007, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research).

    The existing scientific literature on the effects of tribulus on humans is still quite limited. Nevertheless, the data available to date indicates that the hype surrounding tribulus extracts is not warranted. To date, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that tribulus increases testosterone levels in humans. Furthermore, there is a lack of scientific evidence to suggest that it helps to improve athletic performance or to increase muscle mass. The best way to improve your performance is to through proper training, good rest and proper nutrition, there are no shorts-cuts or quick fixes.

  • 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.


    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).
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