Bodybuilding & Gym Supplements

Anabolic Nutrition

Lots of times I will open my e-mails and find tons of questions from people who want to know what supplements work as good or nearly as good as steroids. If there was such a supplement, there is no way the FDA would approve it. There is something you can take though that is more anabolic than the strongest steroid. Most people call it food. Nothing packs on lean mass like a load of food. So why don’t the pros just eat more? Well, unlike steroids, food can only take you to your natural limits and that is not enough to make it in the pro leagues. But for you and me, steroids shouldn’t even cross our minds. First of all, most of us have no intention of becoming a pro, or even becoming that big. First and foremost because we don’t have the genetics to make it big and secondly because that look may be good from a fan’s point of view, but you can’t call it aesthetic. Most people in this society shun that monster-look. Heck, some of us naturals get funny looks sometimes. And the last and best reason for me: Steroids take the fun out of training and they seriously endanger your health. Food does none of those things. You have to work as hard or harder than a pro (and trust me those guys earn their living) and take care of things in the kitchen. Most people love to train, but they are too lazy to secure the other aspects of the sport. Excuses like “I don’t have time to eat”, or “I can’t eat that much” don’t fly. If you can put something between two slices of bread and stuff it in your mouth between two things, you have time to eat. And eating a lot is something you teach yourself by gradually increasing your calories. It’s all about effort, in the gym and in the kitchen. What it comes down to is “How bad do you want it?”

Eat the right foods to make gains.

Calories

First of all, make sure you eat enough. I will give you one way of knowing. Are you growing? Or is your scale getting rusty because the arrow hasn’t moved in the last month? If the latter is the case, I assure you, you aren’t eating enough. Growth is the result of eating, not training. If your scale moves but it’s not muscle your gaining, it’s most likely a bad division of nutrients or you aren’t training hard enough, but your calories are ok. What you should be consuming is at least 500 calories more than 10 calories per pound of Lean Bodyweight. 10 calories per pound is your maintenance line that stretches for 500 calories? If you eat less than that you will lose weight, if you eat 500 calories more you will grow. If you happen to be very active and/or have a racy metabolism you’ll need even more. Again, I refer you to your good old scale as the best judge. The more work you put in, the more food you need. That’s the thing. So you want to gradually increase calories before you start adding sets to your workouts, so your nutrition doesn’t have to play catch-up to your energy expenditure. The more you eat, the more you can handle in work output, and that way you prevent over-training. In most cases you aren’t over-training at all, you are under-eating. So get at least a minimum of calories for growth, and as long as you are using them, the more the better.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are basically sugar. You have simple sugars or saccharides, double sugars or di-saccharides and multiple sugars like oligo-saccharides. Then there are complex carbs and starches that contain even more of these sugars, but in return free them much slower into the blood. So what do we need these sugars for? Well, once in the blood the sugar invariably converts to glucose. It doesn’t matter whether you ingested glucose, dextrose, fructose or sucrose or any combination of these and other sugars, the end product in the bloodstream is glucose. Glucose or blood-sugar. So the intent of ingesting carbs is to get a higher blood-sugar level. Once that happens one of two things can happen. The first is that the higher blood-sugar level stimulates the pancreas to create insulin. Insulin, when it gets to certain receptors on a cell, can stimulate that cell to absorb more nutrients like protein and fat and micronutrients. The entire goal of bodybuilding nutrition is after all to get the building blocks, amino acids, into the muscle cells to build extra mass.

The second thing that can happen is that the body feels that blood-sugar is too high. In first instance that means insulin decreases and the receptors downgrade at which point extra carbs turn to fat. Not really what you want, but that just means you shouldn’t eat high carb meals within a certain time of each other. What it also does is absorb the carbs into the cell and turns them to glycogen. Glycogen is the building block of the body’s energy source Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). So you need a high glycogen storage to function to optimal extents and deliver good work in the gym. But every time you expend energy, like with exercising, you lower glycogen storage by burning ATP. So you need to replenish those sources if you want to keep doing well.

The interesting thing about glycogen replenishment, and the reason I have kept advocating high carbs for bulking even in the face of much disapproval, is that 1 gram of glycogen in the cell also increases the water inside the cell by 2.7 grams. What are the benefits of this? First of all this means that for every gram of glycogen absorbed in a muscle cell you gained 3.7 grams of muscle-weight. Not too shabby huh, because you just increased food efficiency by 370 percent. What more water in a cell also does is increase the volume, and it allows more other nutrients in the muscle. Transport becomes easier and that allows things like protein and micronutrients to enter the cell in large amounts, and that combination improves your chances of making that 2.7 extra grams you gained a permanent thing. More water in a cell is anabolic. That is the same reasoning behind supplementing creatine which recycles ATP and increases water inside the cell. So that’s why we need carbs.

Protein

I may encourage the use of more carbs than protein, but don’t ever let anyone tell you that a nutrient is more important than protein to the bodybuilder. After all the word protein means most important. Carbs and fats can do a lot, but what would they do without protein? Carbs may build muscle, but what do you think they build it with? Almost all tissue and a lot of hormonal substances in the body are made up from proteinacious substances. Dietary protein, when it is digested, enters the blood as amino acids, which make up every protein. There are 8 essential, 1 conditionally essential and 13 non-essential amino acids, and a whole heap of metabolites derived from them. The non-essentials are nutritionally not relevant to a bulking bodybuilder because they aren’t used unless you have a shortage, and if there is a shortage they can be made from essentials. And the bulking bodybuilder should get more than his share of essential amino acids. Your diet should include a minimum of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That much you need, and that should be 35 to 45 percent of your diet, and everything else should be in relation to that. The protein is the center of any diet to a bodybuilder.

What do amino acids do in the body? Well, they can function in many different ways. Some work as neurotransmitters to allow nerve functioning, some help with fatty acid transport, other help keep the body clean, and so forth. They fulfill so many actions in the body it’s hard to keep track. But they all have one thing in common: They can be used for the manufacture of new protein. And new protein in the body is used for the making and repairing of tissue, including muscle tissue. So these are the bricks you build your body with. Even the sources of life, DNA and RNA, are based on amino acids. So you can’t do without them. You need to get a daily minimum of each, but provided you get 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound or mostly essentials, you should get as much as 4 or 5 times the daily minimum.

Fat

Most people forget the importance of fat. These days there is such an emphasis on high cholesterol and people start equating dietary fat with body-fat and that is simply not the case. People shy away from fat, as if it were a bad thing. Well lets rectify the situation, there are clean fats and rancid fats. Obviously you need to avoid rancid fats because they raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and turn to tri- and di-glycerides that increase chances of coronary mishaps. Rancid fats are anything that has been overly processed or stored for excessive amounts of time (bags of chips, canned foods, etc.). The clean ones are found in fresh meats, nuts and oils. The best and cleanest way of getting more fat in your diet is by taking a few tablespoons of some oils like flaxseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil and olive oil. You don’t need a whole lot because unlike protein and carbohydrates, which are 4 calories per gram, fats are 9 calories per gram so you need less than half the amount to get the same amount of calories. And since they only make up 15 to 25 percent of a diet, you don’t need all that much. This way 10 or 20 grams extra can make a huge difference.

Fats contain EFA’s, or Essential Fatty Acids. These substances, if I still haven’t convinced you of their benefit, are also known as Vitamin F. Some EFA’s are alpha-linolic acid and linoleic acid. Fat turns to cholesterol. Rancid fats turn to LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and clean fats to HDL (high-density lipoproteins). As long as you have more HDL than LDL, you are actually improving your cholesterol rate and decreasing chances of arterial deficiencies. Cholesterol is a very important substance in the body and even more so to the bodybuilder. In the Leydig cells, under the influence of Luteinizing hormone (LH) secreted from the anterior pituitary, cholesterol can be turned into DHEA and will eventually turn to testosterone or estrogen in men and women respectively. Hormones made from cholesterol are known as steroid-hormones. That is what the name steroids, given to chemically manufactured hormonal substances, is derived from. And we all know how anabolic testosterone is, just look at the pro ranks. Another beneficial and popular steroid hormone made in several tissues is Vitamin D, which improves the use and absorption of calcium, whose importance we will discuss later on. These things make EFA’s great to stack with LH secreting products such as tribulus or ZMA.

Fats also transport and absorb all fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamins D, A and E. That makes them very important in obtaining and maintaining good levels of these micronutrients that are not without use to us.


Hydration

Vitamins, minerals, fats, protein and carbohydrates… That’s all of the nutrients isn’t it? Wrong! People always forget that water is a nutrient too and that hydration is one of the most important factors in nutrition. Especially if you are doing hard work that cause you to sweat and so on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because somebody told you that you need like a gallon or more a day that you should drink a gallon of pure water everyday, anything liquid contains water as well. Just be careful though. The first problem is that people don’t drink enough. They drink three times a day at meals and don’t even bother with getting a few sips in between just to stay hydrated. Even when working out most don’t drink enough, and those are times when you should be getting more. When they do drink they do it at the wrong time, like in the middle of a meal. Instead of drinking after the meal and letting the food and then the water absorb, you are letting the water wash the food away for both to be excreted due to lack of digestion. The second problem is what people drink. Popular soda drinks contain carbon dioxide and some of them caffeine or a likewise substance. The Carbon dioxide makes you think something has more water than it really does, and the caffeine acts as a diuretic so you may not just be losing out on the water in your drink, you may be excreting more water than you took in on your next trip to the bathroom. So most people shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to proper hydration.

And yet, over 60 percent of the body is water. So you need more. Beer and soda aren’t the answer however. In my opinion the best solution is to drink a lot of milk. It’s 90 percent water, it’s rich in protein and clean fats, calcium and Vitamin D. That’s two birds with one stone. Or more. I drink 1 or 2 gallons of the stuff every day. Of course pure water and fruit juices work just as well to meet your hydration demand. Try to pay attention to this too, if you want to stay healthy and get big.

Last but not least, all of the dietary factors are important, protein takes the prize in this case, but without fats, carbohydrates and micronutrients, not to mention water, what use would that protein have? Not much is the answer. So proper nutritional habits are a must for anyone, but especially you who are trying to create a huge, muscular physique. If your calories are not the problem, but all you are gaining is fat, it’s time to get your stuff together and start re-arranging where you get your calories from. And pretty soon you too will be on the road to muscular growth.

After all nutrition is 80 percent of the game in this sport, so forsaking your duties in the area would be shortchanging yourself. If all else is perfect, but you do a half-assed job on nutrition, you are only operating on 60 percent of your potential capacity. So don’t sell yourself short and pull your own weight in the kitchen too.

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