The bodybuilding and sports supplements industry is a bit like fashion. Each season there's something new and hot to help you build muscle. The brand of the moment will tell you a fantastic new nutrient break through yet to be confirmed by 'science' is finally here. They'll go on to say that things look highly promising and after a great deal of exhaustive effort, research, and legal battles they've been fortunate to secure a worldwide patent securing exclusivity to them alone. Big name bodybuilders offer glowing testimonials of new found muscle. Athletes will tell us the difference made for winning gold medals. The astounding reviews go on. Wow, it all sounds incredible - and convincing.
But hang on a minute we've heard this before. What happened to that other sports nutrition product from last year, wasn't similar said about that? Now what was the name again, they said it would turn the world of sports nutrition on it's head?
Welcome to the world of bodybuilding supplements. Looking at the above scenario it's no wonder the supplement industry has attracted a fair share of cynicism. There's an endless flow of products pumped in exactly this way - and plenty more to come. It's marketing that at the end of the day sells well, proving itself (at our expense) more times than not.
Bodybuilding supplements come and go, and today faster than ever - so do they ever live up to the hype? Unfortunately a lot of the time they don't, and the handful that do are often nothing new. Instead they will be something that has worked well for years - only this time with bells and whistles added to dress it up in the hope to convince us it's something unique.
The rare supplements that do offer benefits pass the test of time. So when looking for credibility look for historical evidence. The next step is translating label nutrition panels to reveal the good from the bad - although this isn't always easy. US bodybuilding and sports nutrition supplement makers are skilled at obscuring what's really inside - ranging from fictional ingredient names to undeclared weights of individual ingredients (there's no way to tell how much of what you want is in there). When deciphering ingredients look for the following trio, they have the 'history' behind them and might prove most helpful if you are on a mission to reshape your body.
1) Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is naturally found in your body, and is the source of energy used for intense exercise such as lifting weights or sprinting. Your Creatine stores will normally last for about 10 seconds of muscular activity. By supplementing with Creatine you may increase the amount your body can store. This can help you push your muscles to work at a higher intensity for longer, and speed up recovery between bursts. Through raising the level at which you train, increased lean muscle growth development may occur. A 12 week study at Pennsylvania State University demonstrated participants gained significantly greater strength and twice as much muscle than those using a placebo (1). This study and others that support the effectiveness of Creatine use a form called Creatine Monohydrate. Although there are many types of Creatine on the market the only proven form is Creatine Monohydrate Powder.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle cells. Officially coined a 'Conditionally Essential Amino Acid' your body can make Glutamine on its own. Under certain 'conditions' (like intense weight training and stressful times) natural levels can become depleted and your body may not be able to make enough to meet demand. For this reason experts suggest supplementation. Weight trainers and other athletes praise Glutamine for helping them achieve faster lean muscle growth. One study showed over a 12 week period that high levels of Glutamine supplementation led to 4 x the lean muscle growth of a control group (2). The other significant benefit of Glutamine that's been recognised in research is it's ability to boost the immune system to help protect you from illness when training hard (3). Glutamine is ideal help to increase physical performance and lean muscle, as well as support optimum health through a strong immune system.
1. Volek J.S., Duncan N.D., Mazzetti S.A., Staron R.S., Putukian M., Gomez A.L, Pearson D.R, Fink W.J., & Kraemer WJ. (1999). Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, 31 (8), 1147-1156.
2. Shabert J.K., Winslow C., Lacey J.M., Wilmore D.W. (1999). Glutamine-antioxidant supplementation increases body cell mass in AIDS patients with weight loss: a randomized, double-blind controlled trial. Nutrition, 15, 860-864.
3. Castell L.M., Newsholme E.A. (1997) The effects of oral glutamine supplementation on athletes after prolonged, exhaustive exercise. Nutrition, 13 (7-8), 738-742.
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