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Cocktail Anyone?


Enhance your workout performance by starting right with key pre-workout supplement combinations.

Pre-workout energy powders have lately been finding their way into the supplementation regimens of many bodybuilders. These products commonly contain a blend of stimulants and strength-promoting ingredients that are marketed as synergists (ie., when combined, the benefits of each ingredient are enhanced). Until recently, however, scientific research and studies to test the acute effectiveness of these increasingly popular supplements have been very limited.

In a study published in Nutritional Research, scientists from the University of Oklahoma tested a supposed synergistic cocktail of commonly prescribed pre-workout supplements to try and determine whether the effects on anaerobic performance and aerobic power were in fact augmented. The cocktail contained a mixture of C. sinensis, arginine AKG, Kre-Alkayn, citrulline AKG, Eleutherococcus senticosus, taurine, leucine, R. rosea, sodium chloride, valine, isoleucine, caffeine and whey protein concentrate. After familiarisation and baseline testing 10 subjects completed two test days that included running to exhaustion on a treadmill. On days one and two only, subjects drank either the pre-workout supplement mixture or an isocaloric placebo 30 minutes before the exercise session. The scientists reported participants who consumed the pre-workout energy supplement experienced substantially increased anaerobic running capacity and time to exhaustion, with no difference recorded in aerobic power s compared to the control group. The one shortcoming of this study is that the authors did not test each ingredient in the pre-workout cocktail separately, but they speculated caffeine was likely the main ingredient to play a key role in creasing anaerobic performance among the test group.

The ingredients in the test supplement from this particular study are very common to most pre-workout formulas you will see on the market today. Although this study was quite short and the design simple, the findings are important. Based on the outcome subjects experienced, pre-workout energy powders seem to boost workout intensity the day you start taking them. Thje fact that subjects underwent treadmill running during testing may put into question the applicability of the findings to bodybuilders focused primarily on weight training. However, because the supplement mixture caused better performance only under anaerobic conditions (and had no effect on aerobic power), the study lends much credence to the use of supplements before resistance training to enhance energy and strength.


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Whey Protein Promotes Muscle Hypertrophy


A literature review published in Nutrition Metabolism, concluded that consuming whey protein supplements before or after weight training promotes protein synthesis and muscle growth. The amino acids from proteins act as building blocks for muscle hypertrophy. Also, specific amino acids, such as leucine act as chemical signals to turn on muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein supplements may decrease muscle damage and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) due to weight training, and may allow athletes to increase training volume and prevent overtraining. However, other studies found that whey protein supplements do not promote muscle hypertrophy beyond the effects of training alone.


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Adequate Protein Intake Preserves Muscle Mass During Weight Loss


Weight loss is extremely difficult because reduced caloric intake increases hunger sensations and slows metabolic rate. A low-calorie, mixed diet triggers protein mobilisation for fuel which results in muscle wasting. A review of the literature by Suzanne Devkota and Donald Layman, concluded that substituting protein for fat and carbohydrate in the diet reduces insulin levels, and suppresses hunger and food cravings. Protein, particularly sources high in the amino acid leucine, triggers protein synthesis and helps maintain muscle mass during periods of caloric restriction. People trying to lose weight should consume protein, particularly during breakfast and lunch. This will help curb appetite and maintain muscle mass.


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Recovery Returns


Improve recovery and increase muscle growth with these 7 post-workout supplements.

1) Whey Protein
A high-quality milk protein that contains all the amino acids the body requires for muscle protein synthesis.

Whey protein breaks down fast upon ingestion, shuttling its amino acids into the bloodstream to hit your muscles quickly. Research has shown that consuming whey protein after training promotes muscle protein synthesis and reduces protein degradation (breakdown), thus stimulating muscle tissue repair and growth.

Take 20-30 grams immediately after training. Choose a whey powder that contains whey protein hydrolysates (whey protein broken down into smaller fragments for even faster digestion) or whey protein isolate.

2) Casein Protein
Although it is not a fast-digesting protein, this other milk protein is a perfect complement to help boost recovery following your workouts.

Casein protein is a slow digesting because it forms a gel in the gut, which results in the amino acids being released slowly into the bloodstream. Since it enters the bloodstream slowly, it was originally believed to have very little immediate impact on protein synthesis. However, newer research shows that after workouts, casein does, in fact, boost protein synthesis and also has a powerful effect in suppressing protein breakdown, both key elements in muscle growth. Research suggests that to tip the balance in your favour, supplement with both whey and casein proteins after training.

Choose a casein protein that contains micellar casein (the slowest-digesting casein) and add 20-30 grams casein top your post-wrokout whey protein shake.

3) Branched-Chain Amino Acids
The term branched-chain amino acids refer to leucine, isoleucine and valine, the most important aminos for repairing and building muscle tissue. BCAAs make up approximately one-third of muscle protein.

BCCAs offer a multitude of benefits, including growing muscle, reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) increasing energy and blunting cortisol (a catabolic hormone). Intense exercise causes a rise in cortisol, which can inhibit testosterone and lead to muscle protein breakdown. Research shows that supplementing with BCAAs, particularly at the time of muscle breakdown (such as during and after workouts), is the best insurance against catabolism.

Results from one study showed that subjects who supplemented with amino acids did not experience losses in muscle strength following a period of high-volume resistance training. The results were attributed to the anticatabolic effects that BCAAs promote in the body.

Because leucine is the key amino acid for turning on protein synthesis in muscle cells, look for BCAA products that provide leucine at a ratio of 2:1 per dose of isoleucine and valine. Take 5-10 grams of BCAA immediately after training with your post-work out shake.

4) Creatine
Creatine is made up of three amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine. The kidneys and pancreas produce them naturally, and the liver combines them to make creatine. However, the body only produces about 1-1.5 grams, not nearly enough to support the muscle-building efforts of a hard trainer.

Creatine has been the subject of hundreds of research studies, primarily because of its direct impact on increasing muscle mass, strength and power. It has been shown to trigger protein synthesis and minimise protein breakdown, because it creates an osmotic gradient whereby water is pulled into muscle cells (which is a signal for anabolism). Some evidence also suggests creatine may act as a lactic acid buffer, which can improve recovery time. Creatine has also been found to increase levels of insulinlike growth factor-1 in muscles, which is critical for stimulating growth.

Take 2-3 grams in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine malate, creatine hydrochloride ore creatine alpha-ketoglutarate with your protein shake immediately after training, a time when creatine will rapidly be taken up by muscle cells and the boost in IGF-1 will promote further growth.

5) Carb Powder
Choosing a carb powder used to be easy, you simply bought one brand or another of glucose. However, ongoing research has given light to a range of new products.
– Dextrose
Dextrose is a glucose, the simplest carb. It is in the exact form your body needs, your body doesn’t have to break it down to use it. It is a monosaccharide, which is about 70-80% as sweet as table sugar. It has a glycaemic index rating of 100 and is used for energy or refuelling after a workout. It is highly soluble in water and mixes easily.

– Maltodextin
Maltodextin is polysaccharide (a complex carbohydrate) usually produced form corn or potato starch. Although its a “complex” carb, the chemical structure is such that it can break down rapidly, thus digesting and absorbing very quickly to help you re-fuel post workout. In fact, its digested faster than regular table sugar, and has a GI rating of 105.

– Vitargo
Vitargo is a patented complex carb formula typically made form barley. Although the molecules that make up vitargo are a lot heavier and larger than those in other carbs, it has very low osmolality, which effectively means it can pass through the stomach faster, about 80% faster than dextrose. Vitargo is absorbed and assimilated faster after workouts, which minimises the risk of stomach discomfort (eg. bloating).

The fast absorption of certain carb powders makes them an ideal post-workout carb source that can rapidly elevate insulin levels and replace glycogen in trained muscle. Since insulin is highly anabolic, carb powders can promote muscle gain and recovery without fat accumulation when taken immediately after training.

A good post-workout shake contains about a 1:2 ratio of protein to a high-glycaemic (fast-digesting) carbs. Add 40-100 grams of carb powder to your post-workout shake.

6) Glutamine
This amino acid is central to both immune system regulation and muscle function, and is one of the most plentiful aminos found in the body.

During intense training, muscle glutamine levels drop sharply. Supplementing with glutamine not only stimulates immune function, but research has shown it decreases inflammation and protects muscle cells from the damage caused by hard training. It also aids muscle growth by by increasing levels of leucine in muscle fibres, helping suppress the production and circulation of cortisol, and maintain cell volume and hydration. By pushing water into muscle cells, glutamine helps to speed up recovery and encourage anabolism. In addition, research has demonstrated the ability of glutamine to drastically increase growth hormone levels. One study showed a meaningful increase from supplementing with as little as 2 grams of glutamine.

Add 5-10 grams of glutamine to your post-workout shake.

7) Alpha-Lipoic Acid
This antioxidant is made by the body and found in every cell, where it helps turn glucose into energy,

ALA mimics the effects of insulin, bolstering the uptake of amino acids and creatine into muscle cells. One study showed that subjects who consumed ALA with creatine and a high-glycaemic carb had greater increases in muscle creatine levels than those who took just creatine and a high-glycaemic carb, or creatine alone.

Take 300-500 milligrams along with your protein, creatine and high-glycaemic carbs post-workout.


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Leucine Improves Blood Sugar Control


Leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that serves as a building block for new proteins, and is a key signalling chemical for protein synthesis and blood sugar regulation. A study in Nutrition Metabolism, conducted by Columbia University in New York City, found that leucine improved blood sugar control in obese and diabetic mice. The mice were given leucine supplements in their drinking water for 8 months. Leucine stimulates insulin release by the pancreas and promotes the production of the amino acid glutamine, which is important for immune system health. Long-term supplementation of leucine improves the efficiency of insulin metabolism in people with type II diabetes.