Creatine can add 10 pounds of muscle mass, and up to a 10% strength gain. Creatine uptake can be maximized by taking it with a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs. Because of this, a creatine and protein stack is extremely beneficial.
Nitric oxide, creatine and beta alanine are popular pre-workout supplements. Many pre-workout formulas contain these vital supplements, but very few pre-workout formulas contain protein. Research has revealed that protein consumption pre-workout can be more important then post-workout protein. One of the best pre-workout approaches you can take is to stack protein, waxy maize and a NO (or pre-workout) drink. This insures that you have the energy and positive nitrogen balance to power through your workout, and the NO and creatine to maximize your efforts.
Taking whey protein and waxy maize intra-workout helps you to sustain energy and retain a positive nitrogen balance. But more can be done to maximize your workouts. Intraworkout supplements are becoming very popular. Intra-workout supplements often include vitamins C and E, a quality blend of aminos and BCAAs, beta alanine, B vitamins, creatine, glutamine, arginine and more. Because of the variety of supplements included in an intra-workout product, they are a great value.
The whey protein, waxy maize combination is an essential workout stack. Not only does waxy maize assist the body in delivering and absorbing protein, heightening the potency of whey protein, but it also is a fast digesting complex carbohydrate source that fuels your muscles with much needed glycogen.
Multivitamins are often one of the most overlooked supplements. The body needs proper amount of vitamins and minerals to function. And it should go without saying that athletes, and those looking to add muscle mass, generally need more vitamin and mineral building blocks then the average man or woman. Make sure you purchase a quality and reputable vitamin and mineral supplement pack.
If you’re looking to cut fat or lose weight, you can’t go wrong with a protein supplement and fat burner stack. Protein is a natural fat burner, requiring more energy to digest and process then carbs and fats. By adding a fat burner to the mix, you will be amplifying the effects of your fat burning efforts.
It’s funny. Once you realize the relationship between nutrition, disease, health, and metabolism is complicated, complex, and completely interdependent, things somehow get a bit simpler. Everything is connected to everything else. Chronic stress begets chronic inflammation, which chronically elevates cortisol, which induces insulin resistance and belly fat accumulation. Celiacs are usually intolerant of casein, too. Diabetics get heart disease more and have higher cancer mortality rates. Diabetics are often insulin resistant and usually overweight. Celiacs are often Type 1 diabetics. The overweight sleep less, work more, and get less sun than leaner folks.
Now, it’d be difficult to map out the precise relationships between myriad maladies and their nutritional triggers or risk factors. To do so definitively would produce a mostly unreadable mess. What we do instead is speculate. Make good guesses based on clinical, anecdotal, even anthropologic evidence. We look at what those people with chronic inflammation, obesity, autoimmune disease, diabetes, and celiac are eating, sleeping, and exercising, and we go from there. The precise physiological mechanisms behind some of these relationships have yet to be fully teased out, but the relationships exist and that’s usually enough to get results. Hence, simplicity.
Okay, maybe relative simplicity is a better descriptor. My point is this: the human body is incredibly complex, its every process multi-factorial. As soon as we decipher cause-and-effect, we’re beset with more questions. There are intermediary steps along the way. What’s causing the “cause” to have the “effect”? What’s it like on the cellular level? How many steps, how many mechanisms are at play between cause and effect? It’s almost like there’s an infinite regression of steps simply because there are so many things going on at the cellular level to make basic physiological processes go.
We do know that inflammation, especially chronic, systemic inflammation seems to be involved in nearly every disease under the sun. Obesity, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease – if it’s killing people, increasing health care costs, and reducing quality of life, inflammation is bound to be involved at some level. That makes things easier, in my opinion, because we have a good idea how to avoid chronic inflammation, and that should take care of half the battle.
Get plenty of sleep.
Get regular sun.
Now there’s a new (ancient) wrinkle to consider in the fight against chronic inflammation: the gut flora. Understanding our own bodies is difficult enough, but now we’ve also got to make sense of how the droves of foreign (but symbiotic) microbes living in our guts interact with our health. We know a fair amount already.
Our relationship to gut flora is confusing and rather precarious. If the right conditions are met, we exist in harmony. If good bacteria is stable, breaking down fiber (like pectin and inulin) into short chain fatty acids (like butyrate), and working harmoniously with the body, gut inflammation is suppressed, intestinal permeability is reduced, and multiple health biomarkers (lipids, insulin) improve. But we must remember – gut flora doesn’t exist for our benefit. Even if gut flora species were sentient, they’d only be acting out of self-interest. They wouldn’t “care” about us. They’re just trying to survive. It just so happens that keeping us happy by mediating immune responses and tight junction function, helping identify harmful intruders, and producing short chain fatty acids like butyrate puts the flora in good standing with our immune systems. They scratch our back, we provide room and board and don’t dispatch antibodies to destroy them.
Gut flora influences the human immune response (provides a blockade against damaging bacteria; gives a “safe word” to avoid the immune system wasting resources on attacking; influences size of the thymus). Mice without gut flora have a severely truncated immune response, for example.
Now what is the primary immune response to damaging stimuli? Inflammation. In correct doses, inflammation is a boon, necessary for healing and protection from foreign invaders. But in excess, inflammation is at the heart of many diseases. Gut inflammation especially is associated with a number of autoimmune diseases. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, for example, is associated with inflammation of the gut, and with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or SIBO, occurs when the gut flora is compromised. Remember, normal gut flora acts as a physical barrier to foreign flora; they are stubborn tenants, old ornery relics of the neighborhood who refuse to leave and who dissuade pathogenic flora from settling in. If the good gut flora is gone or disrupted, pathogenic bacteria can populate the gut at will. The result is SIBO, and it leads to gut inflammation and intestinal hyper permeability.
Barriers called tight junctions guard the pathways between intestinal epithelial cells. Tight junctions, and their governing toll-like receptors, rely on cooperative gut flora in order to know which proteins and which molecules are to be barred entry; compromised gut flora and leaky tight junctions allow proteins and other molecules to enter the blood stream haphazardly. If damaging proteins (like lectins from grains and legumes, for example, or gluten) slip into the blood stream, they are recognized and the immune system responds as it normally would to foreign, damaging intruders: with inflammation.
In correct doses, inflammation is a boon, necessary for healing and protection from foreign invaders…
See where I’m going with this?
It’s all a vicious cycle. Inflammation leads to disturbed gut flora (or maybe it’s the other way around – the classic chicken and the egg dilemma), SIBO, malfunctioning toll-like receptors, and leaky gut, allowing proteins to enter the body and provoke an inflammatory response by the immune system. More inflammation, more bacterial overgrowth, maybe a bout of antibiotics thrown in for good measure which wipes out the bacteria, leaving a clean slate and prompting another mad dash by microbes to fill the vacancies, and the result is – potentially – a permanently altered/disrupted distribution of gut flora both supporting and supported by chronic systemic inflammation. Where does it end? How do we fix it?
Common tactics don’t seem to work too well. Excessive antibiotic usage negatively impacts the population of gut flora, destroying the good with the bad. Think indiscriminate carpet-bombing. Living a sterile, bacteria-less early existence (dirt avoidance, lack of breastfeeding, C-section) has a similar effect by limiting the variety and the amount of gut flora from the very start. Whether you had it and lost it or never had it at all, the effect is the same: suboptimum levels of intestinal bacteria. Neither avoiding nor eradicating bacteria is the solution.
So what is the solution, beyond traveling back in time to populate your infant gut with probiotics?
I mentioned Dr. Art Ayer’s Cooling Inflammation blog, and I’m going to do so again. First, Art suggests adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. His dietary recommendations are essentially identical to mine – high SFA, moderate animal protein, low O-6, O-3 supplementation, leafy greens, some fruit and nuts. He also suggests probiotic usage, either in supplement or whole food form (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut), to repopulate the gut with good flora. The next one is the most interesting: eating fibrous vegetables fresh from the garden, unwashed, in order to feed your new flora as well as introduce new bacteria and new digestive enzymes to diversify your gut’s digestive skill set (similar to how seaweed-borne bacterial enzymes taught Japanese gut flora to break down seaweed). Foods like jicama, onions, garlic, and Jerusalem artichokes provide the prebiotic inulin (a type of fiber) which gut flora consume and convert to helpful short chain fatty acids.
It seems like a solid, familiar plan. The basic Primal diet is already anti-inflammatory, and we promote the consumption of fermented foods and probiotics, but perhaps a greater focus on feeding flora prebiotics is in order, too. It makes sense.
If there’s anything I’ve learned as a married father of two, it’s that keeping the organisms living under your roof happy and well-fed is absolutely essential if you intend to live a low-stress, anti-inflammatory life.
Choosing a protein powder can be confusing. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of protein powder brands, variations, and flavors. Please read the following to help you decide on the best purchase.
Not all protein powders are created equal. Choosing a protein powder based on cost alone is a mistake. There are many factors that go into the creation of a protein powder. Generally, lower cost equals a low quality of raw ingredients, and an inferior quality control process. A poor manufacturing process can decrease the quality of the finished product, making less of the protein bioavailable. Simply put…you may be flushing money down the drain because inferior protein that isn’t as easily digested.
As with most products, price equals quality. Take time and do your research. Generally, the more you spend, the more you get for your money.
Whey isolates are the purest form of whey protein. A whey isolate is 90 to 98% pure protein, and contains very little fat and lactose. Because of this, whey isolate is a good, low calorie protein source for lifters who are watching their weight or trying to cut. Because of its purity, whey isolate protein is also more expensive.
A whey concentrate contains more fat and lactose then a whey isolate, and is approximately 70 to 85% pure protein. Whey concentrate is less expensive, and higher in calories. Because of these factors, whey concentrate is a better choice for lifters who are bulking or trying to gain weight.
A whey protein blend is a good middle ground whey protein. If want a quality, cost-effective whey protein, and are not cutting or bulking, a whey blend is the best way to go.
An amino acid profile is simply the amount of amino acids, BCAA, and essential amino acids that are contain in a protein powder. When looking at an amino acid profile, you look primarily at the amount of essential amino acids and BCAAs per serving.
There are 12 non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the body. It is far more important to have a protein powder with a good essential amino acid profile, then it is to worry about the protein powder’s non-essential amino acid content.
When choosing a weight gainer, consider the following 7 points:
1. Price vs. Quality. A weight gainer is no different then a protein powder. Low cost often means a lower quality of ingredients, poor manufacturing standards, protein that isn’t as easily digested, and the possibility of inaccurate label claims. Look for a weight gainer manufactured by a reputable supplement company.
2. Taste. What good is a quality weight gainer if it tastes horrible? If possible, check product reviews before purchasing. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a weight gainer that is chalky, lumpy, grainy and ill-tasting.
3. Protein. Look for a good protein range per serving. You want at least 40 grams of protein per weight gainer shake. Eating more protein first thing in the morning, or post-workout is also a good idea. A weight gainer with 50 to 60 grams of protein per serving is perfect for these times of day.
4. Protein and Carb Ratio. A weight gainer should be proving you a good amount of calories from carbs. Look for a carb to protein ration of 2 to 1 per serving.
5. Sugar. Watch the sugar content per serving. Some weight gainers are barely more then sugar mixed with flavoring and protein powder. Look for a weight gainer that has under 30 grams of sugars per serving. Many quality weight gainers have fewer then 10 grams of sugars per serving.
6. Cholesterol. Look for a weight gainer that has fewer then 100 mgs of cholesterol per serving.
7. Saturated Fats. Saturated fats are bad fats. Most quality weight gainers keep the saturated fat content per serving at 5 to 10 grams. Some weight gainers have as much as 20 grams of saturated fats per serving.
Muscle is not built in the gym. It is built after you leave the gym, during the recovery process. Recovery powders are usually taken post-workout. When comparing recovery powders, look for:
1. Waxy Maize. Waxy maize is a rapidly digesting complex carb that can quickly restore glycogen to your depleted muscles.
2. Amino Acids. You want your recovery powder to be rich in essential aminos and BCAAs.
3. Creatine. Some recovery powders contain creatine, and provide you with more bang for your buck.
4. Protein. While protein is not the prime focus of a recovery powder, some recovery powders contain quite a bit more protein then others.
5. Sugars. Some recovery powders are very high in sugar. Keep a close eye on sugar content when comparing products.
6. Misc. Many recovery powders have added plant extracts and added supplements, like beta-alanine and glutamine.
The ingredients contained in recovery powders are extremely varied. Do your homework before purchasing a recovery powder that isn’t right for your needs.
Meal replacements come in a wide range of products and choices. There are meal replacement breakfast cereals, and meal replacement bars. There are meal replacement shakes designed for women, and meal replacement powders aimed at adding lean mass. When shopping meal replacement products, please pay close attention not only its ingredients, but also what specifically it should be used for.
Regardless of product type, here are some factors to consider when purchasing a meal replacement product:
1. Protein. Consider the protein content per serving, and if it is a blend, or fast or slow digesting proteins. Breakfast meal replacement products should contain some form of fast digesting whey protein. Meal replacement shakes or bars for lunch or dinner should contain a slow digesting protein source, such as casein protein. Also, some meal replacement products contain less then 30 grams of protein per serving. While this is an acceptable level for athletes and female bodybuilders, it may not be enough for men who are looking to pack on muscle mass.
2. Value. Don’t just look at the overall cost of the product. Consider the overall cost per serving.
3. Calories. Many meal replacement products, though nutritionally sound, don’t have many calories. In fact, most meal replacement products hover around the 200 calorie mark.
4. Vitamins and Minerals. The point of a meal replacement is to replace a meal. Meal replacement products need to be rich in vitamins and minerals. Always compare the vitamin and mineral content or MRPs before purchasing.
5. Added Value. Some meal replacement products contain extra supplements, or are rich in aminos and BCAAs. This hidden value can save you money.
A quality protein supplement made with quality ingredients, and manufactured by a reputable company can still be less then desirable. After all, good ingredients don’t always make for the best tasting meal. A good protein supplement also has to have solid intangibles…great taste, quick mixability, and no aftertaste.
One of the best ways of finding out about these protein supplement intangibles is via product reviews and the Muscle and Strength forum. Do your research, and don’t hesitate to ask others.
Some lower quality protein powders mix well. And some expensive, quality powders are chalky, mix poorly, and have a very bad aftertaste. On the same note, the taste and texture of protein bars varies greatly.
Protein timing is the science of when and how to take protein powder supplements for the best results. It isn’t as simple as just choosing a great tasting protein flavor, mixing and enjoying. Other factors come into play.
First Thing In The Morning. After waking, your body is in a fasting condition. You haven’t eaten protein for quite some time, and your body needs a fast digesting protein source to insure that you remain in a positive nitrogen balance.
At this time it’s a good idea to use both a fast and slow digesting protein powder. This could be a whey protein drink with a solid protein source such as eggs and cheese, or a whey/casein proteinpowder mix.
A fast digesting protein will quickly place the body into a positive nitrogen balance, and get the day off to a good, muscle building start. A slow digesting protein source, like casein protein, will continue to feed amino acids into the blood stream, and hold you off until your next protein meal.
Pre Workout. Your pre-workout meal should consist of a slow digesting protein powder that will keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance as you workout.
Post Workout. You should take the same approach post-workout as you did first thing in the morning. Consume a mixture of fast and slow digesting protein sources to help you recover from the workout, and propel you in a positive nitrogen balance to your next meal.
Between Meals. Regular protein supplement meals and snacks eaten throughout the day should be from slow digesting proteins, such as casein or egg protein. Slow digesting protein in between major meals assures that you will maintain a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day.
Night Time. Having a slow digesting protein supplement before bed maximizes your nitrogen balance while sleeping. Casein protein is a good choice before hitting the sack.
Meal replacements are one of the most underrated and underused supplements on the market. They are much more then just a protein source – they are complete and nutritious meals.
A meal replacement bar or shake can contain fast or slow digesting proteins, or protein blends. Before purchasing meal replacements, make sure you are familiar with its protein source. As with protein powders, meal replacements can be taken at various time of the day. It should be noted that some meal replacements are designed to help you during diets, and some are aimed to help you gain weight.
Meal replacements with whey protein (or whey blends) are best eaten first thing in the morning, as a replacement for breakfast. The fast digesting whey protein will help to restore a positive nitrogen balance, and will get your body on the road to building or repairing muscle.
Meal replacements specifically categorized as “lean” are for weight loss, and are best eaten as a replacement for a main meal such as breakfast or lunch.
Meal replacement shakes or bars with slow digesting, non-whey protein sources are best eaten as replacements for lunch or dinner. The slow digesting proteins will keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance for longer periods of time.
For underweight “hardgainers” or trainees looking to bulk, quality carbohydrate intake is just as important as frequent protein feedings. Weight gainer protein supplements provide a great source of complex and simple carbs, and generally digest faster then whole foods.
To maximize weight gain, it is best to use a weight gainer protein supplement at least 2 to 3 times per day. A solid approach is to drink a weight gainer shake in between meals, and then have a third before bed.
Quality carbohydrates should be eaten with every protein meal. Quality carbs improve protein transport and utilization. There are numerous fast digesting carbohydrate products that are designed to compliment protein supplementation.
Waxy maize is a fast digesting complex carb source that is perfect before, during or after training. It is able to replenish glycogen stores faster the whole food complex carb sources, and is the king of all carb supplements.
Carb powders, such as Carbo Gain or Carbo Plus, provide quality complex carbohydrates. These powders mix easily with protein powders, and can be utilized throughout the day to maximize your gains.
Protein Supplementation Plan for Gaining Muscle.
The following is a list of suggested times for various protein supplements. It is not recommended that you eat only protein supplement foods. Protein variety is essential for good health and muscle mass.
The following is a list of suggested times for various protein supplements. It is not recommended that you eat only protein supplement foods. Protein variety is essential for good health and muscle mass.
Whey Protein. Whey proteins account for 20% of the protein in milk. Whey protein is a by-product in the production of cheese. Initially thought of as just a waste product, whey protein is now the most popular protein supplementation protein source. It has a very high BV rating, and is rich in the muscle-building amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Whey protein is a fast digesting protein source, and isn’t filling. Whey protein is also low in glutamine and arginine.
Whey Isolate. Whey isolate is a more expensive version of whey protein. It is a higher quality protein source with a higher biological value (BV), and contains less fat and lactose per serving thenwhey concentrate. Whey isolate generally contains 90 to 98& protein, while whey concentratecontains 70 to 85% protein.
Whey Concentrate. Whey concentrate is a more cost-effective member of the whey family. It requires less processing time, but also contains more fat and lactose. Whey concentrate is 70 to 85% protein.
Whey Protein Blends. Whey protein blends are specialized protein formulas that contain both whey Isolates and whey concentrates. Whey protein blends are generally more cost effective then whey isolate, and have a higher protein percentage ratio then whey concentrates.
Casein Protein. Casein proteins account for 80% of the protein in milk. Casein protein is a slow digesting protein that is isolated from milk. It is 92% protein, and has a very “thick” taste. Because of this, it is a very popular protein in weight gainers. Casein protein, although it has a lower BV value then whey, is more efficiently used to build muscle. Because casein protein is used by the body to build muscle, and less is used as a energy source, casein supplementation encourages the body to use carbs and stored fat for energy. Casein is also very high in the popular bodybuilding supplement glutamine.
Egg Albumin. Egg albumin is the egg white. It is popular in bodybuilding circles because of a higher essential to non-essential amino acid ratio, and because egg whites contain less cholesterol then egg yolks. Eggs are often considered the king of natural food proteins because of their high essential amino acids levels. Egg protein is the best alternative for those that are lactose intolerant.
Soy Protein. Soy protein is high quality, but not as efficient as milk or casein protein, It is a fast digesting protein source that has an average amino acid profile. Because of this, it is not the most desirable protein source for those looking to build muscle.
Goat Milk Protein. No other protein source has a higher bioavailability then goat milk protein. In addition, goat milk protein is extremely high in BCAA and is 100% lactose free. Its BV rating of 104 is superior to most foods, including eggs, which have a 100 BV.
Wheat Protein. Wheat protein is a healthy and natural alternative to dairy and egg-based proteins. It is lactose and cholesterol free, and is perfect for vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes. Wheat protein is also very high is glutamic acid.
Pea Protein. Pea protein is a 100% gluten free protein source that is a great alternative for vegetarians. As with wheat protein, pea protein is lactose free and does not contain any cholesterol. It is very easy to digest and is rich in amino acids.
Complete Milk Protein. Complete milk protein is the dried protein from milk, with the carbs and fat removed. Milk protein is nutritious, and contains calcium and high levels of other vitamins and minerals. Complete milk protein contains both whey and casein proteins.