Mad May Mega Sale! 25% Off Supps Store-wide! | Extended Until Tuesday 28 May | Coupon: MADMAY [Video here]

Tag Archives: muscle gain

  • Ingredients Explained: L-Glutamine

    What is it?

    L-Glutamine is an amino acid, which is a building block of protein. It is naturally produced in the body and is found in many foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products. 

    L-Glutamine is also available as a dietary supplement, which people use for a variety of reasons, such as to improve their gut health, enhance athletic performance, and support their immune system.

    Why would someone take L-Glutamine?

    • Individuals that want to gain muscle or improve their recovery but do not consume enough protein with high glutamine content may consider supplementing with L-Glutamine.
    • People who suffer from specific gut health or digestion issues. L-Glutamine can improve the health of your gut, which is essential for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. L-Glutamine facilitates the cells in your gut lining, promoting growth and repair, resulting in improved gut health and easier digestion.
    • People who’re searching for natural ways of improving their immune function. L-Glutamine has the potential to enhance immune function by fighting against things that can damage it, such as inflammation and oxidative stress.

    Who’s L-Glutamine not for?

    While L-Glutamine is generally safe for most people, certain groups of individuals should reconsider supplementing L-Glutamine or consult with a healthcare professional before doing so. 

    These groups include:

    1. Individuals with certain medical conditions: If you have liver or kidney disease, you should avoid taking L-Glutamine, as your body may not be able to process it effectively. Additionally, individuals with epilepsy or bipolar disorder should consult with a healthcare professional before taking L-Glutamine, as it may interact with certain medications used to treat these conditions.
    2. Pregnant or breastfeeding women: It is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women to take L-Glutamine, as there is not enough research to confirm its safety for these groups.
    3. Allergies: If you are allergic to monosodium glutamate (MSG), you may also be allergic to L-Glutamine, as they have similar structures. In this case, it's important to avoid supplementing with L-Glutamine.

    What to look for in L-Glutamine?

    Thankfully, L-Glutamine is a simple supplement that doesn't require a bunch of complex considerations.

    1. Quality: Look for a supplement that is high quality and from a reputable brand. You can check the company's website, reviews, and certifications to ensure that the product is safe and effective.
    2. Purity: Look for a pure supplement free of additives, fillers, or contaminants. 
    3. Form: L-Glutamine is available in different forms, such as powder, capsules, and tablets. Choose the form that is most convenient for you and fits your lifestyle.
    4. Dosage: Look for a supplement that provides an adequate dosage of L-Glutamine per serving. The recommended dosage may vary depending on your age, weight, and health status, so consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplement.
    5. Price: Look for a supplement that fits your budget and offers good value for money. However, don't compromise on quality or purity for a lower price.

    How to take L-Glutamine?

    The recommended usage will vary based on the intended purpose.

    For the amino acid supplementation purpose: To take L-Glutamine for protein synthesis, it is typically recommended to consume 5-10 grams of L-Glutamine per day. This can be taken as a single dose or divided into smaller doses throughout the day. It's often recommended to take L-Glutamine immediately after exercise to help with muscle recovery, but it can also be taken at other times of the day as well. 

    For gut health purposes

    If you are taking L-Glutamine for gut health, it's best to take it on an empty stomach so that it can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream and reach the cells of the intestinal lining. It's also important to drink plenty of water to help with absorption. The typical recommended dose ranges from 5 to 10 grams per day. 

    For immune health

    There is no specific recommended dosage of glutamine for immune health, but a general guideline is to take 2-5 grams of glutamine per day. 

    When to take L-Glutamine?

    Please refer to the section outlining the recommended usage for further guidance.

    How long should I expect to see results?

    The time it takes to see results with L-Glutamine can vary depending on the individual and the purpose for which it is being used. Some people may experience results within a few days, while others may need to use L-Glutamine for several weeks or even months before seeing any noticeable benefits. 

    For example, individuals using L-Glutamine to support gut health may need to use it consistently for several weeks to see improvements in digestion and nutrient absorption. It's important to note that L-Glutamine is not a quick fix and that results may take time to manifest. As with any supplement or health-related change, it's important to be patient and consistent in your use to see the best results.

    Can L-Glutamine be used with other supplements?

    Yes, L-glutamine can be used with other supplements. However, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional or a qualified nutritionist before combining supplements. Some supplements may have interactions with L-glutamine or may affect its absorption, so it's important to make sure that the combination is safe and effective. It's also important to follow recommended dosages and not exceed the maximum daily dose.

    What differs from product to product?

    So long as the product is pure L-Glutamine, free from additives like colours and fillers, and is manufactured by a reputable company, it is recommended that you choose a product that fits your budget or aligns with a brand that you trust.

    References:

    1. Gao, Z., Tseng, C. H., Strober, B. E., Pei, Z., & Blaser, M. J. (2018). Substantial alterations of the gut microbial ecology and function after antibiotic treatment. ISME Journal, 12(11), 2833-2843. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-018-0160-7
    2. Varnier, M., Leese, G. P., Thompson, J., Rennie, M. J., & Pacy, P. J. (1995). Stimulatory effect of glutamine on glycogen accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 269(2), E309-E315. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1995.269.2.E309
    3. Windmueller, H. G., & Spaeth, A. E. (1974). Intestinal metabolism of glutamine and glutamate from the lumen as compared to glutamine from blood. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 165(1), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1016/0003-9861(74)90280-7
    4. Castell, L. M., Poortmans, J. R., & Newsholme, E. A. (1996). Does glutamine have a role in reducing infections in athletes? European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 73(5), 488-490. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02425410
    5. Cury-Boaventura, M. F., Levada-Pires, A. C., Folador, A., Gorjão, R., Alba-Loureiro, T. C., Hirabara, S. M., & Pithon-Curi, T. C. (2008). Effects of exercise on leukocyte death: prevention by hydrolyzed whey protein enriched with glutamine dipeptide. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 103(3), 289-294. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-008-0719-9
  • Ingredients Explained: L-Arginine

    Ingredients Explained: L-Arginine

    What is L-arginine

    L-arginine, a semi-essential amino acid, is both produced by the body and available as a supplement. It plays a crucial role in various bodily processes, such as the creation of nitric oxide, which boosts blood flow and circulation and therefore in theory, improves your workouts.

    Why would someone take L-arginine

    From a training perspective, L-arginine has been shown to enhance exercise performance by increasing blood flow, dilating blood vessels, and promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscles (Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 2005; Current Sports Medicine Reports 2009). Some research also indicates that L-arginine stimulates the production of growth hormone and insulin, which can aid in muscle growth and recovery (Nitric Oxide 2008). L-arginine may also reduce muscle fatigue and improve endurance.

    Additionally, some people take L-arginine for its potential health benefits, including improving heart health, enhancing sexual function, aiding in wound healing, and reducing symptoms of conditions such as angina and erectile dysfunction. 

    Who’s L-arginine not for

    Whilst a body of research supports L-arginine benefits in exercise performance, there are some things to consider.

    If the goal of supplementing with L-arginine is to improve nitric oxide production and exercise performance, a cheaper alternative like L-citrulline may be a better option. This is because L-citrulline is absorbed more efficiently through the intestines than L-arginine (Khalaf et al., 2019). If you have experienced gastrointestinal discomfort or bloating after taking a pre-workout, it may be due to a high dose of L-arginine mixed with caffeine.

    L-arginine may interact with some medications, such as blood pressure medications, and may cause side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort and bloating. People with liver or kidney problems should consult their physician before taking L-arginine supplements.

    What to look for in an L-arginine supplement

    When choosing an L-arginine supplement, look for one that is as pure as possible, with the highest concentration of the amino acid. L-arginine malate 2:1 is a widely available alternative to pure L-arginine, while L-arginine malate 1:1 is less ideal. Note: Some companies may not specify the type of L-arginine on their label - don't be afraid to ask!

    How to take L-arginine

    L-arginine supplements can be taken orally. The recommended dosage can vary based on the individual's needs. Typically you’ll find that the dosages range from 1g-10g

    When to take L-arginine

    The suggestion around when to take L-arginine will vary based on the individual's needs, as well as the purpose behind its use. 

    Can L-arginine be used with other supplements

    We previously mentioned that L-arginine is a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements as a nitric oxide enhancer. However, we prefer other compounds, such as L-citrulline, over L-arginine for pre-workouts.

    Some research suggests that it may not pair well with medications, such as Viagra, so it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before combining supplements with medication, especially if you have an existing condition.

    What differs from product to product

    As previously mentioned, L-arginine comes in a variety of grades. Our suggestion? Go for the good stuff, aka 100% pure L-arginine. With that in mind, choosing between products is easy peasy - simply pick the one that fits your budget and/or aligns with your preferred brand.

    References:

    Ali A, Al-Sohaibani M, Al-Daghri N. (2005). "Effects of oral administration of L-arginine on athletic performance of young soccer players," Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 4, pp. 112-116.

    Nosaka N, Suzuki K. (2008). "The role of nitric oxide in exercise performance and adaptations," Nitric Oxide, 19(2), pp. 149-156.

    Madar Z, Chen J, Lipsitz LA. (2009). "The effects of L-arginine supplementation on athletic performance," Current Sports Medicine Reports, 8(6), pp. 305-311.

    Khalaf, D., Krüger, M., Wehland, M., Infanger, M., & Grimm, D. (2019). The Effects of Oral l-Arginine and l-Citrulline Supplementation on Blood Pressure. Nutrients, 11(7), 1679.

  • Ingredient Explained: Theobromine

    Over the last decade caffeine has become known as the most effective pre-workout and thermogenic ingredient on the planet -- a reputation that is well supported by the research.

    However, we have seen numerous other compounds emerge as suitable alternatives for those that are intolerant to caffeine, or that work synergistically with caffeine to improve results.

    And theobromine is one of these.

    Step 1: What is it?

    Theobromine is a unique compound found naturally occurring in highest concentrations in the cacao plant (latin name theobroma cacao) and tea leaves.

    This particular compound was commonly used by ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations during weddings and various other religious ceremonies due to the euphoric effect it can cause. It is also what gives dark chocolate its bitter taste.

    Theobromine is a type of compound known as an “xanthine alkaloid,” and it has a very similar structure to caffeine., which is where it derives most of its benefits.

    Step 2: What does it do?

    When ingested, theobromine works by blocking adenosine receptors in the body.

    Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is produced by the human body. Broadly speaking, neurotransmitters are what your body uses to transmit information to cells, with adenosine being responsible for creating feelings of fatigue and tiredness, preparing your body for sleep.

    However, by blocking your body’s adenosine receptors, theobromine stops adenosine from acting on your body. This leads to increased sensations of wakefulness and alertness, improved mood, and heightened energy levels.

    Taking this into consideration, the supplementation of theobromine can have some unique benefits.

    Firstly, it has been shown to improve mental performance and cognitive function, while simultaneously reducing mental fatigue and lethargy [1]. Secondly, it has been shown to improve sensations of alertness, and enhance the ability to perform demanding tasks [2]. 

    Collectively these two factors highlight why it has become increasingly common as a pre-workout ingredient. Additionally, some of this research [2] has indicated that it provides these effects via slightly different means than caffeine, suggesting they could complement one another nicely.

    Thirdly, there is also some evidence indicating that theobromine can reduce blood pressure [3]. While this is unlikely to affect your exercise performance in the gym, it may improve long term health -- which is never a bad thing.

    Lastly, it has also been shown to increase blood flow and the secretion of key hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. As these hormones increase both heart and metabolic rate [4], theobromine may make maintaining an energy deficit (and long term weight loss) easier.

    This is why theobromine is often found in thermogenic supplements, as well as pre-workouts.

    Step 3: How do I take it?

    The most common recommendations for theobromine supplementation is between 80 and 500 milligrams per day. This seems to be the sweet spot where you can maximize the positive benefits without any notable side effects.

    It is important to note that some research has explored higher dosages (up to 1000 milligrams per day), but this has shown negative effects on sensations of wellbeing, and has even caused decreases in alertness (similar to what occurs when you have too much coffee).

    With this in mind, we would suggest starting on the lower end of these recommendations to assess tolerance. You can then increase slightly over time as needed.

    Step 4: What are the top products?

    As we have already discussed, Theobromine is rarely sold in isolation, largely due to the synergistic effect it has with other compounds like caffeine. As such, you are most likely to find it in either pre-workout or thermogenic supplements.

    And this is what you need to look out for when you buy it.

    Firstly, make sure the ingredient list is clear.

    Because theobromine is sold in a mix of larger compounds, it is often underdosed. As a result you should try and find something that clearly describes how much theobromine contains, and it should be close to 100 milligrams. 

    Secondly, check the quality.

    If you are purchasing online, you want to make sure that the theobromine is at least 95% purity. Any decent company will provide regular lab tests on their website, so you should be able to check these for clarification.

    Lastly, don't pay too much. 

    Most pre-workouts and thermogenics are overpriced. Look for those that have minimal marketing, simple packaging, and a small amount of select, evidence-based, ingredients. And if they have a proprietary blend, ignore it.

    And that is how you find the best Theobromine containing supplement today.

    References:

    1. Scholey, Andrew B., et al. "Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort." Journal of Psychopharmacology 24.10 (2010): 1505-1514.
    2. Cova, Ilaria, et al. "Exploring cocoa properties: is theobromine a cognitive modulator?." Psychopharmacology 236.2 (2019): 561-572.
    3. Mitchell, E. S., et al. "Differential contributions of theobromine and caffeine on mood, psychomotor performance and blood pressure." Physiology & behavior 104.5 (2011): 816-822.
    4. Baggott, Matthew J., et al. "Psychopharmacology of theobromine in healthy volunteers." Psychopharmacology 228.1 (2013): 109-118.
  • Ingredient Explained: Huperzine-A

    Every few months a new ingredient finds its way into the market, makes a bit of a splash, and then quickly disappears into the sunset, never to be seen again.

    Which is why we take notice when a slightly newer supplement not only sticks around for a good chunk of time, but also gets some quality evidence to support its use.

    Supplements like Huperzine-A, for example.

    Step 1: What is it?

    Huperzine-A is a naturally forming compound that is found in two types of moss, being:

    1. Chinese club moss (latin name Huperzia serrata) and;
    2. Fir club moss (latin name Huperzia selago).

    The reason I have indicated that Huperzine-A is relatively new to the supplement game is because it was first identified for medical use by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the early nineteen-eighties.

    With this in mind, it is much younger than many of the other Chinese herbs commonly used in supplements today. 

    Step 2: What does it do?

    Huperzine-A is classified as an “acetylcholinesterase inhibitor.” 

    Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme found in the body that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into smaller components (that are then used in the production of other compounds). 

    As such, the consumption of Huperzine-A can stop the breakdown of acetylcholine, leading to higher concentrations of acetylcholine in the body. This is important, because acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that delivers messages throughout the brain, while also impacting your neuromuscular system.

    In the brain it plays a key role in the maintenance of motivation, increasing arousal and attention, enhancing learning and memory retention, and is even involved in facilitating deep sleep states.

    Conversely, within the neuromuscular system, acetylcholine plays an important role in facilitating the contraction of muscles, as well as the dilation of blood vessels, by acting on neurons throughout the body.

    With this in mind, the supplementation of Huperzine-A appears to have some unique benefits.

    Firstly, there is evidence to suggest that its regular supplementation can reduce some of the more severe symptoms associated with Alzhimers and dementia, including memory loss and cognitive function [1].

    Secondly, research has shown that supplementing with Huperzine-A for as little as 4 weeks can improve learning outcomes, as well as improve measures of memory and general mental function [2], suggesting it may have benefits for skill learning.

    Lastly, Huperzine-A has also been shown to increase the power of muscular contractions [3]. This may have the potential to improve training performance in the gym, increasing long-term training outcomes.

    Collectively, these results suggest that this unique supplement may have merit when taken before your workout. 

    Improvements in cognition may improve workout quality, increases in learning capabilities may improve technique efficiency (via enhanced skill development), and boosts in muscular contraction may improve gym performance -- all of which could mean more gains.

    Step 3: How do I take it?

    In the research, Huperzine-A supplementation can range from 50 to 500 micrograms per day. As such, if you are interested in trying it out for yourself, we would suggest starting with a conservative dose of 100-200 micrograms per day and adjusting as needed.

    Research thus far indicates that Huperzine-A does not require food to be taken with food, and can be taken in a fasted state without any issues.

    Lastly, anecdotal reports suggest that there may be merit in cycling Huperzine-A, where it is taken for 4-5 weeks at time, and then broken up with 1-2 week periods where it is not taken at all. This is suggested to maintain tolerance to the compound, ensuring it does not become less effective over time. 

    Step 4: What are the top products?

    If you are keen on purchasing Huperzine-A, there are a couple of things you should look out for. 

    Firstly, check the dosage. Although Huperzine-A is commonly found in pre-workout supplements, it is typically underdosed. As such, you should make sure that your pre-workout contains 100-200 micrograms of Huperzine-A per serve.

    Secondly, stick with reputable brands. Although you might find an amazing deal on Huperzine-A on ebay, there is a genuine risk that it is heavily underdosed, or even contains a completely different (and undisclosed) compound. Stick with brands that provide regular lab tests on their website so you can be sure you are purchasing exactly what you should be.

    Lastly, have a look at online reviews. Make sure that other people have had a good experience with the supplement -- because that means you probably will too.

    And that is how you find the best Huperzine-A containing supplement on the market.

    References:

    1. Li, Jun, et al. "Huperzine A for Alzheimer's disease." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2 (2008).
    2. Sun, Qing-Qi, et al. "Huperzine-A capsules enhance memory and learning performance in 34 pairs of matched adolescent students." Zhongguo yao li xue bao= Acta pharmacologica Sinica 20.7 (1999): 601-603.
    3. Tang, Xi Can, and Yi Fan Han. "Pharmacological profile of huperzine A, a novel acetylcholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herb." CNS Drug Reviews 5.3 (1999): 281-300.
  • Bulking and Cutting or Recomping: What's More Effective?

    Bulking and Cutting or Recomping: What's More Effective?

    Most people who train in the gym (myself included) do so because they want to look jacked, plain and simple.

    The goal is to grow muscle, lose fat, and build a lean muscular physique.

    But what is the best way to approach this?

    Bulking and Cutting, or Recomping

    If you want to change the way you look, you can take one of three approaches:

    1. You can commence a bulking phase, in an attempt to build some muscle. 
    2. You can commence a cutting phase, in an attempt to lose some fat.
    3. You can try and recomp, which describes the process of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.

     

    Keep in mind that, realistically, if you are going to choose a bulking phase, it will need to be followed by a cutting phase (or vice versa), as that will only get you halfway to building a solid physique.

    With this in mind, we normally consider bulking and cutting a single approach, where you can change the order of them as needed.

    Body Recomposition?

    The first approach I want to discuss is body recomping, because this is the one that seems to garner the most attention -- probably because it is the one that sounds the best.

    I mean gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time… What more could you want?

    Before anything else, I do want to highlight that for a long time people thought that recomposition was impossible. Because these two processes were “physiological” opposites, they simply could not be accomplished.

    But that is not the case at all.

    Over the last few years we have seen an abundance of research clearly demonstrating that individuals can gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously [1]. In this manner, you do have the capacity to make large changes in your physique in a short amount of time.

    However, because building muscle is easier when you are in a calorie surplus, and losing fat requires a calorie deficit, body recomping does become more challenging as your training age increases.

    Which means that body recomposition appears to be most effective under a couple of different conditions:

    1. You are relatively new to training (and are yet to experience your “newbie gains”)
    2. You are regaining muscle after a period of not training
    3. You have a lot of body fat to lose

     

    If this sounds like you, and you are keen to try a recomp, you want to make sure that you are eating around maintenance calories, consuming 1.4 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, and training hard 3-5 times per week.

    This is going to provide enough protein to facilitate muscle growth, while making sure you are not eating enough to gain fat.

    With all this in mind, recomping may not be the best option for people who are quite advanced (and close to their genetic limit in terms of muscle mass), already quite lean, and have been consistently training for years without a break. 

    Which is where bulking and cutting enter the discussion…

    Bulking and Cutting

    Broadly speaking, if you are already somewhat lean and have been training pretty consistently for more than two years, then bulking and cutting cycles are probably your best bet.

    • Bulking

    As I have already alluded to, bulking refers to a phase dedicated to building muscle. 

    Within this, a bulking approach involves eating in a calorie surplus, which will also result in the accumulation of some fat mass -- however, because being in a calorie surplus facilitates muscle growth [2], this is a cost that most are happy to pay (especially if they want to make some progress).

    If you are unsure when to bulk, I recommend pursuing a dedicated bulking phase if you are keen to get bigger and currently have visible abs when tensing.

    One thing to note is that most people ruin a bulk by eating too many calories and gaining too much fat. The goal should be to maximize muscle gain while minimizing the amount of fat you gain.

    If you are starting to bulk, aim to eat ~300 calories more than maintenance each day here, while also aiming for 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.

    • Cutting

    Cutting phases are periods where we spend time in a calorie deficit to lose fat. 

    However, it is important to note that during periods of energy restriction (i.e., a diet) that muscle loss can also occur, the goal of a cutting phase should really be to lose as much fat as possible while minimizing muscle loss [3].

    I would suggest pursuing a cutting phase if you would consider yourself a relatively advanced trainee who is overweight (i.e., has poor muscle definition, despite holding a relatively high amount of muscle mass).

    Much like our bulking phases, we want to make sure that we don't cut too aggressively, as this is what can lead to higher degrees of muscle loss. As a result, when cutting, aim to eat ~300 calories less than maintenance each day, while also aiming for 1.8 to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight [4].

    When to stop a cut and start a bulk, or vice versa?

    Based upon this information, under most circumstances rotating through bulking and cutting cycles will be your best option for long term progress. But how do you know when it is time to change from one to the other?

    Well, for this I like to refer to the 10-20 rule.

    As a rule of thumb, you want to keep your body fat somewhere between 10 and 20 percent. If you are bulking, and you get up to around 20% body fat, it is time to start a cut. Conversely, if you are cutting and you get below 10% body fat, it is time to start a bulk.

    This is a simple way to ensure you keep making progress long term, without ever being too far away from leaning out if needed.

    Closing Remarks

    Recomping certainly is possible, although it does get harder the more advanced you become. 

    As a result, it should be reserved for people who are new to training, coming back from an extended period away from the gym, or for people who are quite overweight and have a large amount of fat mass to lose.

    For anyone else, bulking and cutting cycles is the best approach moving forward.

    References:

    1. Barakat, Christopher, et al. "Body recomposition: can trained individuals build muscle and lose fat at the same time?." Strength & Conditioning Journal 42.5 (2020): 7-21.
    2. Slater, Gary John, et al. "Is an energy surplus required to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy associated with resistance training." Frontiers in nutrition (2019): 131.
    3. Cava, Edda, Nai Chien Yeat, and Bettina Mittendorfer. "Preserving healthy muscle during weight loss." Advances in nutrition 8.3 (2017): 511-519.
    4. Helms, Eric R., Alan A. Aragon, and Peter J. Fitschen. "Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation." Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 11.1 (2014): 20.
1 2
GIVE $10 GET $10More info