Friday, May 12, 2006

Supplements For Building Muscle

I get asked, time and time again, which supplements people should be taking to help them build muscle and lose fat.

After speaking with them, I realize often times that all the supplements in the world wouldn’t help this person because they're under the assumption that just by taking supplements, they'll totally transform their bodies.

Supplements are exactly that. They're supposed to supplement your well-balanced diet and your hard work in the gym. They are not a substitute for them. In fact, if you do not train correctly or eat a well-balanced diet, supplements are a total waste of money.

Supplements must be used correctly to be effective. You cannot be haphazard in your approach to taking them, missing days here and there or cutting down the amount taken to make it last longer.

Supplements must be taken on your off days from training just as well as when you are working out. It is on your off days that your body is recovering from strenuous workouts and needs the proper nutrition to support muscle growth.

There is a place for supplements in just about everyone’s muscle building routines. The correct supplements will assist you if you are unable to take in the nutrients that are required by your body that you normally get from ingesting whole food sources.

Using the correct supplement will give you an edge in your weight loss and muscle building efforts. I say correct because there are literally more supplements on the market that do not work than those that do.

There are many supplements being sold that guarantee the world to you and produce no results, except a lighter wallet. Just be careful what you read and who you talk to. Everyone seems to be an expert in supplements, often times recommending a product that they believed caused them to gain strength and size when in fact it wasn’t the supplement at all that caused this.

Again, supplements are not magic. They are not truly needed to gain muscle, shed fat, and get into great shape. However, the right ones can help you get there and stay in better shape if taken correctly. I have benefited from a few specific supplements that we will talk about.

Stick with reputable, well-known brands that have been around for a while. The scum companies usually get chased out by consumers, reputable competing companies, or sometimes by the FDA (AB belts for example).

Twinlab, AST Sports Science, Nature’s Best, Met-Rx, Sportpharma, Lee Labrada, EAS, Balance, NOW Foods, Syntrax, and Optimum Nutrition are just a few of the brand that have been around for a while and do not have overwhelmingly bad publicity.

Remember that there is no magic pill, no cure-all supplement. They are beneficial if you use them often, not once a week. They will produce results if taken consistently over time. Most are not instantaneous (except energy enhancers, which work in about an hour).

Meal Replacements

This is the ONE supplement that holds value for anyone looking to build muscle, lose body fat, and lead a healthier, fit lifestyle.

Often times, because of a busy schedule, it may be difficult to eat the correct way and the right types of food. Meal replacements provide a perfect, compact meal in a packet that is high in protein, low in fat (some have no fat) are low in carbohydrates, and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals. They're low in sugar and cholesterol.

They are very nutrient dense and can be mixed easily and conveniently.

I also like AST Sports Science Ny-Tro Pro-40, which is delicious in the Strawberry flavor. Met-Rx is the granddaddy of all meal replacements. It’s been around for 10 years. If something did not have any value to a consumer, it would not be around for 10 year. Met-Rx and AST Ny-Tro Pro-40 are a bit more expensive than Natures’ Best Perfect Rx. They are about $3.00 per packet.

Protein

Protein is the major nutrient responsible for muscle growth and repair. Weight-training athletes require more protein than a sedentary person does. Studies with both strength and endurance athletes have indicted that exercise increased the need for protein and amino acids.

Your body is in a constant flux of protein turnover 24 hours a day. Whether you train or not, your body demands a constant supply of protein to fuel virtually all metabolic processes required for proper health.

Add weight training to the equation and the demand for quality protein in the body soars. It's no secret that protein builds muscle; no other nutrient can do this. Proper protein consumption should be the number one nutritional concern (other than water) for the bodybuilder, endurance athlete, weekend warrior, or anyone looking to sustain or grow lean muscle tissue.

As far as the type of protein supplement you should take, whey protein is the most biologically valuable protein source available,

This means that more of it is utilized by the body than, say, egg protein or soy protein. This also means more is used for muscle growth and immune system enhancement. Milk protein, egg protein, and soy protein are other sources or protein available on the market. Try adding a protein shake or two a day and watch your results on strength and muscle tissue development start to increase.

I enjoy AST Sports Science VyoPro, VyoPro 2 (also called VP2), Nature’s Best Whey Protein and their Isopure Protein, and Met-Rx Protein Plus or Whey Protein.

A word of caution, do not go for the biggest bucket of protein at the cheapest price. You get what you pay for. You will probably get a very low-grade protein source that offers little to no biological value because of the way it has been processed. An average price for a quality whey protein is about 20-25 dollars for a two-pound jug.

If you are paying 20 dollars for 10 pounds, you are getting a very cheap, probably worthless product.

Creatine

Without a doubt, this one works to build muscle and increase strength. You would be hard pressed to find any health food store or drug store that doesn’t carry creatine. This is a must-use supplement for gaining strength, muscle size, and endurance. Virtually every athlete in every sport today uses creatine for these advantages.

Creatine is a compound that is naturally made in our bodies to supply energy to muscles. We just make very little of it and get very little from whole foods. It is used in the body to produce ATP. Creatine will increase muscle fiber size, strength and overall power. It does this primarily by shuttling water into the muscle cells, forcing the body to hold water intramuscularly (within the muscle), not directly under the skin.

So contrary to myth, it will not bloat you. The size you gain is from water being held in the muscle.

Considering muscle is over 70% water, this is a good thing. The first time I ever tried creatine, I took more than the recommended dosage, which really isn’t that much. I gained over 20 pounds of body weight and my bench press went up over 30 pounds in a couple weeks.

This was accomplished by taking 20-30 grams a day (loading phase) for the first week and then taking 15 grams after that (maintenance phase).

Creatine works and is a very safe supplement. I would include it as a very inexpensive, very effective tool in my arsenal to build muscle mass.

Glutamine

Glutamine is probably the most underrated and little known muscle-building supplement. It also may be one of the most important.

Intense weight training has an impact on our recovery process and immune system. Glutamine can combat this. It is used by the body to help recover after weight training. Research has shown a link between stress and your body’s need for glutamine.

In fact, the founder of Met-Rx, the popular meal replacement, is a physician that gave his patients glutamine to speed up their recovery time in the hospital. The secret ingredient in Met-Rx that produces such great results is glutamine.

Glutamine is the most abundant single amino acid in muscle tissue. It comprises 61 % of the amino acid pool in skeletal muscle. Glutamine literally drives muscle-building nitrogen into the muscle cell where it is synthesized for tissue growth.

Glutamine concentrations fall markedly after training and remain low until complete recovery. What this means is the very rigors of weight training "leaks" nitrogen-carrying glutamine from muscle tissue. This fall in glutamine is catabolic to muscle tissue, meaning it breaks muscle tissue down.

Supplementing with glutamine spares free glutamine in muscle tissue, counter acts the fall in muscle protein syntheses, and improves nitrogen balance. A bit scientific, I know, but very important to keep nitrogen retention levels high after training. You train with weight to build muscle. The more intensely you train and the heavier the overload becomes, the greater the muscle growth response will be.

Glutamine is a key factor in muscle growth and controlling the whole body glutamine gradients is critical in maintaining and building muscle tissue. The higher the muscle glutamine levels you can maintain, the less chance you have of falling into muscle tissue breakdown.

I have used glutamine from AST Sports Science, Met-Rx, and Nature's Best. It is tasteless, odorless, and colorless. Just mix it into juice, milk, or water three to four times a day and you will start to "feel" the difference within a week or two. You will not be as sick as often and your recovery time will greatly improve!

These were just a few of the muscle building supplements that I feel are valuable. If you're on a tight budget, stick with one of the above. If you have a little more to spend, then the more of the supplements above that you use, the better off you may be.

You can find more about muscle building supplements in my Simple Steps To Get Huge and Shredded training program...

http://www.shawnlebrunfitness.com/getshredded.html

As well as on my website, where I show you which supplements are proven to help you build muscle, shed fat, and get results fast!


http://www.shawnlebrunfitness.com/supplements.html

Monday, May 08, 2006

Keep Track Of Your Muscle Building Progress

When working out to build muscle or lose fat, you need to see if what you are doing is working or not. If it isnt, you need to stop, regroup, figure what you're doing wrong, and start heading in the right direction again.

So in order to make progress, you have to measure your results. You can look in the mirror and see if you're achieving the muscle gains or fat loss you want. You can tell by the way your clothes fit or by what your friends say. You can judge by the scale, although this is not the greatest way to measure success.

After starting a weight-training program, you'll soon start gaining muscle mass. This muscle weighs more than fat, so the scale may not show a difference in weight, in fact, it may say you have gained weight. So it's misleading.

You may have lost body fat, but the scale doesnt distinguish this. The way to properly measure your progress is through body fat testing. This is a very accurate method to test the percentage of fat mass and muscle mass that you have.

Obviously, if the goal is to lose body fat, you need to see if what you are doing is working. Its good to test body fat at least every 30-60 days. You need to know where you currently are before you know where you are going.

So having your body fat tested is just one way to keep track of your progress.

Another is to always, always, always keep a written journal or log for your workouts.

If you're at all serious about building muscle and increasing strength--this is a must.

It’s the only way you can keep track of your lifts and know when its time to go up in weight.
Just use a small pocket notebook and write all your lifts and weights used in it.

Let’s say you didn’t use a notebook and decided to go by memory. Say that you had a great bench day and ended up going up 5 pounds in weight.

But you fail to write it down and think, "I’ll remember that I went up."

Now, a week goes by and you’ve totally forgotten the weight you used last bench day, so bench time comes around again and you’re scratching your head, wondering what it is you last did for weight.

Chances are, you’re going to put on your old weight, not the new weight (that you added 5 pounds to). When that happens, you went backwards and have lost the progress you made.

Building muscle only happens from progressively increasing the amount of weight you lift, over time. Muscle mass has to be forced to grow, it doesn't happen without increased overload.

Believe me, forgetting your weights happen.

And when you fail to increase the amount of weight you lift, on any exercises, your results will suffer.

You have 30 or so exercises to keep track of, it’s easy to forget one or two of your weights.
And if you forget a weight and do the same weight again when you should have went up, you just wasted your time and energy.

You just did something you were already capable of doing and have missed the chance to increase the overload you were using (and in turn, the muscle and strength that would have come with the new overload).

Please use a journal for your workouts.

These are just a few of the ways to keep track of your muscle building and fat loss progress.

--Shawn LeBrun
http://www.shawnlebrunfitness.com/shred.html