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Remaining anabolic whilst training.

Updated on October 27, 2009

Nutrition and nitrogen retention

Nutrition and rest are the two most important factors in realizing your gains from your workouts. To start, ONLY protein can build muscle tissue. While carbohydrates are important for fuel (energy- but don't mistake fuel for a feeling of being energized!!!), and fats for a plethora of biological mechanisms, energy, and the production of many hormones-- muscles are protein only. There are intramuscular fat deposits, and *some* glycogen stored in muscles (less than 2% of the mass)Proteins are amino acids assembled through peptide bonds. Many of these amino acids can be synthesized by the body, but those that can't be are the *essential* amino acids. A complete protein possesses all ten (NOT nine, vegans!).

Muscle protein synthesis is the arrangement and subsequent binding of these amino acids to build muscle. L-leucine is THE amino acid responsible for eliciting this mechanism!

Many animal proteins contain creatine, too. This is in the form of phosphoceatine, not the monohydrate (malate, gluconate etc. that's available as a supplement-though it serves the exact same purpose). Creatine must be metabolized in the body to form phosphocreatine). It must also be converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in order to improve strength (but not size- as it promotes more water storage in muscles). Also, bear in mind that the preponderance of evience shows that supplementing ATP (and Peak ATP is the ONLY form shown to survive the trip through the gut) will not improve strength one bit. It may serve as an aid in increasing circulation as a vasodilator, but has not been shown to be an ergogenic aid.

Bear in mind that carbohydrates can "spare" lean muscle, though.

Hate to tell ya, but caffeine plays a role in catabolism, too. Caffeine elicits a cotisol secretion. Cortisol is by far THE biggest catabolic hormone. Testosterone is not the most anabolic hormone, either.

Protein is essential for keeping your body in a constant state of anabolism. It is absolutely THE only macronutrient that can do this! Protein serves this role by helping the body retain nitrogen. A positive nitrogen balance (+N) indicates an anabolic state, while negative nitrogen balance (-N) indicates a catabolic state (breaking down lean muscle for energy).

That said, I'll focus on good proteins (even some name brands who I am not affiliated with!) and the amino acids involved in muscle protein synthesis, as well as nitrogen retention. This will occupy quite a bit of space, so for ease of reading- much of that will be in the following capsule.

The last important point that I'd like to make: Those who train very hard must also keep protein coming in regularly. The recognized parameters are every 2.5 hours or so, and a total of 1-1.5 grams per pound of *lean* body mass.

Protein supplements

There's a lot to say here, so I'll keep each capsule concise. For those who don't know, whey protein has the highest biological value (amino acid profile+digestability+rate of assimilation). Whey is the 20% fraction of milk protein after the 80% casein. Whey is a by product of cheese production, along with lactose. That means as a supplement, you'll want a lactose reduced or lactose free whey! A whey supplement with a very high sugar content is probably LOADED with lactose.

It's important to remember that the FDA does not evaluate supplement claims. Only false advertising is eventually addressed by the Federal Trade Commission, though the FDA has banned certain substances (androstenedione, nor 19 andro, Promagnon 25 {and the other steroids marketed by Gaspari Nutrition, though they removed Halodrol-50 voluntarily after being warned by the FDA})

That said, choose reputable companies. Two of the finest companies currently marketing protein supplements are Cytosport and Next Proteins. I recommend Next's Designer Whey for post workout supplementation (and I've to date not been compensated to say so) and any of the Cytosport proteins for before sleep. Cytosport uses primarily casein protein. That's the other 80% in milk. Casein curdles when it comes in contact with stomach acid. This gives it the ability to trickle peptides and amino acids over a longer period of time. I like Designer Whey because it's an engineered protein, but also hydrolysed. This is the process of breaking peptide bonds with water to speed digestion.

Under NO circumstances would I ever recommend a soy protein! NOT a complete protein (there are ten essential amino acids, not nine as many vegans profess) and is particularly high in phyto-estrogens. No thanks to the testosterone antagonist!

I also don't recommend amino acid supplements, unless somewhat peptide bound. Amino acids compete for absorption making the timing and amounts nearly impossible to determine. do use a few exceptions to this rule: Arginine alpha ketogluterate pre workout, I don't supplement free form glutamine-as the glutamine peptides show much greater assimilation, and leucine post workout. Leuine is the branched chain amino acid responsible for triggering muscle protein synthesis.

That's just a brief synopsis. I will go into much more detail in future capsules. Including the timing and amounts for the best results.

Important timeframes

   Remaining anabolic really isn't as simple as some would like to think. The only way this can happen is to have a steady and prolonged supply of amino acids and peptides. Not everyone trains as hard as everyone else. But for the select few that push their body to extremes, that supply runs out very quickly--resulting in catabolism.

   A basic rule of thumb, with plenty of reliable research to support it, is to get some form of complete protein every 2.5 - 3 waking hours. Again, the body can synthesize glutamine (from glutamic acid), but getting glutamine with all of your meals increases the likelihood that your nitrogen balance will remain positive.

   What to do at night? Getting up every two-three hours would be monumentally stupid! The disruption of your sleep cycle alone would ensure you'd stop growing (actually, some evidence points the other way, but that evidence is based on people sleeping 20 minutes at a time over a long period of acclamation. It's also very new thinking, and the studies are not 100% conclusive). Casein is a fraction of milk protein, and it has some of the best capability of delivering over a long period of time. A little known fact to some, though. The addition of fat to that before bed feeding will slow the protein's digestion, and delver sustained nitrogen. Ann old standby favorite is peanut butter. Most of the fats are healthy monounsaturates, and PB is loaded with glutamine.

   Post workout supplementation is absolutely vital, too. The presence of insulin is an undesirable effect while training, as insulin is a growth hormone antagonist. Conversely, though, post workout supplementation within 15-30 minutes, and the resulting insulin spike will elicit a GH response, thus triggering the production of IGF-! (metabolized from GH in the liver. This is best done with simple carbohydrates, but the addition of protein (preferably whey or hydrolysed whey for fast delivery) is absolutely vital. The glutamine, arginine and ornithine can help spur GH and IGF-1, while leucine will signal muscle protein synthesis.

   The standard for weight trainers who train with great intensity is 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.


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