Muscle building has several important health benefits other than looking good at the beach. Muscular fitness can be defined as the strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility that are needed to carry out daily tasks and avoid injury.
How you attain a certain degree of muscular development is dependent upon a number of factors. One thing is clear, however: a program that incorporates weight lifting along with weight-bearing aerobic activity is essential. Creatine and all the supplements in the world will make very little difference in terms of muscle building if resistance training is not included.
Even if you decide you don't need muscle building for injury prevention, performance, or even bodybuilding, you should still consider a minimum program throughout your life. A minimum program of muscle maintenance will go a long way in the prevention of lower back and posture-related problems. In addition, research shows that a muscle-building program can help avoid the progressive decrease in the density of bones commonly known as osteoporosis (Petermans 2001).
Now that we realize the importance of resistance training in regard to muscle building, let's look at some of the things that may hinder the muscle-building process and what remedies or therapies are available to help.AGING AND MUSCLE LOSS
Muscle loss can result from the combined effects of many age-related changes. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a growth hormone responsible for cell growth, maintenance, and repair in a variety of different tissues including muscle, GI (gastrointestinal) tract, and skin. Reduced IGF-1 signaling is implicated in muscle atrophy resulting from reduced growth hormone and treatment with drugs such as corticosteroids, dexamethasone, and cyclosporin. Under-nutrition resulting in a lack of vitamin D and physical inactivity are also factors in age-related muscle loss. In addition, elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha and IL-6 can cause muscle wasting (cachexia), although this is usually associated with disease (Visser et al. 2002). TNF-alpha may also act (at least in part) by inhibiting IGF-I signaling (Grounds 2002). In aging males, muscle loss can also be the result of the down-regulation of the hypothalamic-anterior pituitary-testicular axis (see the Male Hormone Modulation Therapy protocol).
As aging progresses, there are relative increases in body fat and decreases in muscle mass. The increase in adipose tissue is connected to an increase in the enzyme aromatase which converts testosterone to estradiol and leads to diminished testosterone levels and the deposition of visceral fat. As the total body fat mass increases, hormone resistance for insulin ultimately develops (Cohen 2001). For women, it is now well established that the decline in testosterone and the adrenal preandrogens also plays a significant role in affecting perimenopausal and menopausal symptomatology and quality of life. Loss of circulating levels of androgens affects libido, vasomotor symptoms, mood and well being, bone structure, and muscle mass (Burd et al. 2001).HORMONESInsulin Metabolism
DHEA, growth hormone, and testosterone are hormones that can restore aged muscles to a youthful anabolic state (Nestler et al. 1988; Yen et al. 1995). In fact, growth hormone does something no other weight-loss regimen does: It recontours the body, melting away fat and building muscle. In many cases, people look like they've shed years away along with the fat they have lost. Even better, the greatest loss occurs in deep belly fat--the area associated with increased risk of heart attack. In every study of growth hormone's effects on "normal" people who are aging, GH reduced body fat and increased lean body mass. In a 6-month placebo-controlled trial at Thomas Hospital in London of 24 adults with GH deficiency, the hormone-treated group had no net change in weight, but lost an average of 12.5 pounds of fat and gained an average of 12.1 pounds of lean body mass. Although scientists have been exploring the use of high doses of nutrients to restore GH to younger levels, the most effective way of boosting GH blood levels is regular injections. Although the cost of synthetic GH injections for antiaging purposes is still quite high, it is now available from various doctors in North America. Call (800) 226-2370 for a physician in your area.
Likewise, supplemental DHEA may reduce body weight in humans and increase lean body mass. DHEA has been shown to elevate IGF-1 (Morales et al. 1998). It has been established that aging causes a decline in IGF-1 levels which contributes to the loss of lean body mass, as well as to excess fat accumulation (For more information about DHEA refer to the DHEA Replacement Therapy protocol in this book).
As we know, testosterone is much more than a sex hormone. It is also one of the most misunderstood hormones. Body builders tarnished the reputation of testosterone by putting large amounts of synthetic testosterone drugs into their young bodies. Synthetic testosterone abuse can produce detrimental effects, but this has nothing to do with the benefits a man over age 40 can enjoy by properly restoring his natural tes-tosterone to a youthful level. Men should refer to the Male Hormone Modulation Therapy protocol for information about testosterone replacement therapy.Insulin Metabolism
Optimizing insulin metabolism can support the muscle-building process. Therapies that might help include alpha-lipoic acid, essential fatty acids like GLA and DHA, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These supplements are effective in improving insulin efficiency and sensitivity. In fact, alpha-lipoic acid is now touted as the "new insulin-mimicker" in many gyms. In several studies involving Type-II diabetics (noninsulin dependent), alpha-lipoic acid was shown to increase the body's utilization of blood sugar (Mooney et al. 1995; Estrada et al. 1996; Yaworsky 2000). A greater uptake of blood sugar by muscles could lead to enhanced glycogen synthesis and ultimately greater gains in lean muscle. Research has now shown a strong connection between the intakes of essential fatty acids (EFAs), in particular GLA and DHA, and improved insulin sensitivity (reduced insulin resistance).
Until recently, however, scientists did not understand the deeper mechanisms behind the influence of EFAs on insulin resistance. The discovery of a fundamental mechanism for the regulation of fat metabolism in the body has shed light on the effect of EFAs: the nuclear receptors and transcription factors called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors or PPARs. Recently developed drugs, called glitazones or thiazolidinediones, that bind to and activate PPAR, increase insulin sensitivity. We now know that GLA and DHA, as well as certain other EFAs, work in the same way, binding to and activating PPAR. It is also speculated that the activation of PPAR-gamma may also be responsible for CLA's positive effect on insulin sensitivity (Yu et al. 2002).PROTEIN AND NITROGEN BALANCE
Anyone interested in muscle building needs to be aware of the importance of maintaining a positive nitrogen balance. A positive nitrogen balance indicates that the body is receiving the optimum amount of protein that's required for muscle growth. Whey protein has the highest biological value of any protein yet studied. Its other health benefits include boosting immune function and protecting against muscle wasting. A daily dose of 3-4 scoops of Enhanced Life Extension Protein (containing whey and lactoferrin) will ensure that one is obtaining a highly bioavailable and digestible source of protein. In addition, 6-10 grams of the amino acid glutamine can also help the muscle-building process. Research shows that levels of glutamine are closely associated with muscle protein synthesis (Hammarqvist et al. 1989; Vinnars et al. 1990; Darmaun 1994; Roth et al. 1996).
Creatine is another amino acid that is phosphorylated in the muscles to store energy. Creatine is a natural by-product of liver, kidney, and pancreas metabolism. More than 70 years ago, it was found that creatine was associated with weight gain and improved nitrogen balance, and it has been shown to increase endurance, strength, and stamina (Harris et al. 1992; Bosco et al. 1997; Greenhaff 1997; Grindstaff et al. 1997; Jacobs et al. 1997; Prevost et al. 1997; Tarnopolsky et al. 1997; Volek et al. 1997; Kreider et al 1998; McNaughton et al. 1998). The most stable and cost-effective form sold today is creatine monohydrate. It is one of the few supplements available to athletes that has legitimate research studies backing its benefits.
Studies reveal that combining creatine with high-glycemic carbohydrates such as grape juice will elicit an insulin response that will drive more creatine into muscle cells. This combination of creatine and carbohydrate appears to increase the rate of absorption (Green et al. 1996). However, by loading the muscles with creatine more quickly, muscle cell threshold will be attained that much quicker. Human muscle appears to have a creatine ceiling or limit. Once the saturation point is reached, only 2-3 grams of creatine per day will keep the cells supersaturated. Many athletes dissolve creatine in a warm beverage like tea. This method dissolves the creatine more efficiently and helps alleviate gastric problems sometimes associated with creatine. Although the kidneys remove excess creatine, those people with preexisting kidney problems should use the supplement with caution.CREATINE AND CELLULAR WATER
A 2000 study, headed by Michael Powers, Assistant Professor at the University of Florida, and funded by the National Athletic Trainers Association Research and Education Foundation, shed new light on certain unpleasant side effects long associated with creatine use but never understood. Research by Powers (2000) showed that creatine increases both the body's overall water content and its ratio between intracellular and extracellular water. This finding is significant because as we exercise, water is lost naturally from extracellular space. Creatine consumption causes an increase in the level of water in the intracellular space. This increase has been found to cause a disruption in the body's natural balance leading to muscle cramps, heat-related illness, and even kidney problems.
According to Powers, "As you work out, you're losing water from the extracellular space. If you already have a higher level of water in the intracellular space because of the creatine, you end up with even more of an imbalance. Over time it may make you dehydrate faster, which is associated with heat illness and cramping."
During a 5-week trial period, Powers tested creatine supplements on 16 subjects and gave placebo supplements to another group of 16 controls. Muscle samples and cellular water content readings were taken from both groups. In the first week, average weight gain in the creatine users was 3 pounds along with a significant increase in muscle creatine levels. Body water weight rose from 55-57%, and intracellular water level increased from 58-60%. These numbers may be small, but according to Powers, they are large enough to alter the body's natural balance.
The research also suggests that proper dosing be followed. Exceeding the recommended loading and maintenance doses will not cause the body to bulk up faster. The higher doses of creatine will be wasted because the body cannot absorb it in high amounts over time. Powers recommends giving the body a week or two off when taking creatine to ensure that your body is still able to produce creatine naturally.ANTICATABOLIC AGENT
Another supplement popular with bodybuilders is HMB. HMB, or beta-hydroxy beta-methyl butyrate, is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. In addition to what our bodies make, HMB is present in small amounts in both plant and animal foods. In several studies involving HMB, participants gained both strength and lean body mass in as little as 3 weeks when 3 grams of HMB were added to their diets. Keep in mind, in these studies HMB was used in conjunction with resistance training (Nissen et al. 1996, 1997). Although no one is exactly sure how HMB works, one hypothesis is that it appears to minimize the breakdown of muscle tissue, thus making it an effective anticatabolic. Catabolism refers to the breakdown of muscle tissue and is not conducive to gains in lean muscle. Another supplement that may help with the muscle-building process is the brain nutrient phosphatidylserine. Several studies show that this nutrient, which is primarily known to accelerate brain function, may reduce cortisol levels as well (Monteleone et al. 1990, 1992). Cortisol is one of the primary catabolic hormones in the body and is typically secreted in response to physical trauma or prolonged stress. In one study, when 800 mg of phosphatidylserine were administered for 10 days, it significantly reduced cortisol levels in response to physical exercise. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has also been shown to protect muscles against catabolic wasting while helping to reduce excess body fat (Miller et al. 1994; Sisk et al. 2001).LOSING FAT WHILE PRESERVING LEAN MUSCLE
Excess body fat accumulates via two distinct mechanisms. People either form more adipocytes (fat cells) and/or existing adipocytes absorb too much fat-glucose and become larger. The effect of too many adipocytes and/or bloated adipocytes is the unsightly and unhealthy amassing of body fat.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has been shown to decrease the volume of adipocytes and thus reduce body fat. However, many overweight people have too many adipocytes. These people need more than CLA to achieve effective weight control.
In a study presented at a meeting entitled Experimental Biology 2002, scientists supplemented a group of mice with CLA or CLA plus guarana. Guarana is an herb that contains a form of caffeine called guaranine which is 2.5 times stronger than the caffeine found in coffee, tea, and soft drinks. After 6 weeks, both groups of mice showed a substantial reduction in fat mass. In the CLA-only group, the decreased fat mass was due to dramatic reduction in adipocyte size without a change in adipocyte number. In the CLA plus guarana group, both adipocyte size and number were reduced by 50% (FASEB 2002).
The results of this study demonstrate that dietary CLA decreases excess fat accumulation by reducing the capacity of adipocytes to store fat. When guarana is added to CLA, there is an additional effect of reduction in adipocyte number, as well as a decrease in adipocyte size. The impact of this finding in preventing obesity is profound.
In weight-loss studies, CLA consistently shows an ability to reduce body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. In one study, mice fed the human equivalent of 3000-4000 mg a day of CLA achieved a 60% reduction in body fat and a 14% increase of lean body mass (Park et al. 1997). Another study conducted at Louisiana State University showed up to an 88% reduction in the body fat of male mice fed CLA after only 6 weeks (West et al. 1998).
A particularly significant study entitled "Dietary Conjugated Linoleic Acids Increase Lean Tissue and Decrease Fat Deposition in Growing Pigs" appeared in the November 1999 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. The key element of the study was the confirmation that CLA is able to decrease fat storage and maintain lean muscle tissue. In this study, researchers used young female pigs to illustrate the effects of combining a relatively small amount of CLA with the pig's normal diet. Pigs have organs and metabolisms similar to humans, so they are good experimental models for human nutrition. Sixty pigs were randomly placed in one of six dietary treatments, one being the control group that received no CLA. Each other group received one of five different concentrations of CLA added to the animals' feed. The pigs had free access to water and their diet at all times (2 kg of food per day) (Ostrowska et al. 1999).
After just 4 weeks of CLA supplementation, there was significantly less fat and more lean tissue in the groups receiving the CLA. After 8 weeks, the pigs with the highest CLA supplementation showed a 31% loss of body fat and a 5% increase in lean tissue. In addition, at the highest level of CLA supplementation, the back fat depth was reduced by 25%. This study was the first to show the profound effects of CLA supplements on the composition and deposition of body fat, in relation to protein, water, and other pig tissues (Ostrowska et al. 1999).
A study in the August 2001 issue of the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders concluded that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) reduces abdominal fat among men classified as abdominally obese. The study participants taking CLA lost an average of 1.4 cm in waist circumference after only 4 weeks (Riserus et al. 2001).
This double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial observed 25 men with significant abdominal fat for 4 weeks. Some participants (14) received 4.2 grams of CLA per day, while the others received placebo. At the conclusion of the study, there was a significant decrease of abdominal diameter among the CLA group. None of the study participants changed their eating or exercise habits during the trial period (Riserus et al. 2001).
Results of this study support data in the December 2000 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. That study concluded that CLA reduced body fat and preserved muscle mass among the 60-person study group. Participants lost an average of 6 lbs while taking CLA (Blankson et al. 2000).Other Dietary Supplements
Many of today's athletes are using a variety of supplements to assist in generating an anabolic effect so as to increase endurance, strength and, ultimately, gains in lean body mass. For example, acetyl-L-carnitine and coenzyme Q10 can enhance a cell-energy program. In addition, many athletes are realizing the importance of antioxidants and minerals and are using a multinutrient formula such as Life Extension Mix and a comprehensive mineral formula with vitamin D, such as Bone Assure.SUMMARY
The key to successful muscle building is to combine resistance training with proper nutrition and effective supplements so that an optimal anabolic environment is created.
- To optimize insulin metabolism:
- Super GLA/DHA provides a balanced blend of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Six softgels daily provide 920 mg of GLA, 1000 mg of DHA, and 400 mg of EPA.
- Super Alpha Lipoic Acid, two 250-mg capsules daily are recommended.
- Super CLA with Guarana can enhance thermogenesis to help reduce body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. CLA functions by other mechanisms to build muscle. Take three to four 1000-mg capsules early in the day. For people sensitive to caffeine, CLA without guarana is also available at the same dosage.
- DHEA will help increase insulin sensitivity and maintain lean muscle. DHEA is contraindicated in both men and women with hormone-related cancers. The usual dosing is 50 mg daily for men and 15-25 mg daily for women. Refer to DHEA Replacement Therapy Protocol for further information including precautions.
- To enhance cellular energy, take acetyl-L-carnitine, 1000-2000 mg a day and coenzyme Q10, 100-300 mg a day.
- To maintain nitrogen balance and protect against muscle wasting, whey protein is recommended. A daily dose of 2-3 scoops (40-60 grams) of Enhanced Life Extension Protein is recommended for athletes and body builders.
- To maximize physical performance and reduce exercise fatigue, take creatine monohydrate as follows: loading phase (2-5 days), 5 grams 4 times daily; maintenance phase 5 grams daily following exercise for up to 3 weeks. Follow maintenance phase with 1-2 weeks off creatine to allow the body to naturally produce the substance.
- For men over 40, testosterone replacement therapy may be indicated under physician supervision. Refer to Male Hormone Modulation Therapy protocol for details.
- The amino acid glutamine aids in protein synthesis and building muscle, 6-10 grams daily.
- HMB, a metabolite of the amino acid leucine, may improve strength and lean body mass, 3 grams daily.
- For people over 40, human growth hormone therapy may be indicated. HGH raises IGF-1 levels leading to improved insulin sensitivity, loss of body fat, and increased lean body mass. HGH therapy is administered and monitored by an antiaging specialist.
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