This is an important–and often overlooked–safety net for health-conscious muscle-builders.
Recommendation: Mega Men by GNC; it has all the usual vitamins and minerals, plus saw palmetto for a healthier prostate and even garlic for your heart.
Take it: With the first meal of the day.
No news here–research has shown consistently that creatine boosts muscle mass and strength. I stopped taking creatine the final 4 weeks because it’s hard to get really lean while using it.
Recommendation: TRAC from MHP.
Take it: Right after workouts and first thing in the morning on nontraining days.
This is the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue, and it can be up to 40 percent depleted after a hard workout. Try not to consume too much salt with your glutamine; it can compromise your results.
Recommendation: Glutamine Peptide by Sports Science Research.
Take it: I used 15 grams (g) daily (10 g after a workout, and 5 g before bed).
Natural Hormone Modifiers
Now we’re getting into some more esoteric territory. Supplements that help boost testosterone and growth hormone (GH)–your body’s two most potent muscle-building hormones–should, in theory, promote muscle growth. I used three different types.
To boost testosterone: I used a product called Acetabolan II by MuscleTech. I took the recommended dose 30 minutes before bedtime each night.
To boost growth hormone: I used Alpha GPC from Chemi Nutraceutical, split into two doses: 300 milligrams (mg) an hour before training, and 200 mg before bedtime.
To limit cortisol: An important part of building muscle is preventing muscle breakdown. Cortisol is the most potent muscle-breaker in your body, and the harder you train, the more you generate. I used two products for this: L-Arginine powder from NOW Foods (30 minutes before bedtime) and Cort-Bloc from Muscle-Link (400 mg twice a day–after training and 30 minutes before bedtime).
Vitamins C and E
These antioxidants serve two purposes: to speed up recovery from exercise by limiting postworkout inflammation, and to limit the damage that chemicals called free radicals can inflict on your exercising body.
Take it: Because some research has shown that your body can only absorb about 250 mg of vitamin C at a time, I took that amount five times daily. I also took 400 IU of vitamin E twice daily–an hour before training and with dinner.
Its marketers claim this ready-to-drink product is absorbed better and more effectively than regular creatine.
Reality check: One of the biggest shams in supplement history. There are no published, peer-reviewed studies in any reputable journals showing this product is more effective than plain creatine powder. In fact, a study presented at the 2003 Experimental Biology Meeting showed that while creatine powder increased creatine levels in muscles by about 30 percent, liquid creatine was totally ineffective, equivalent in performance to the placebo.
This fiber, naturally extracted from shellfish, is touted as a “fat trapper”–it claims to block fat absorption by binding to and getting rid of fat in the digestive system.
Reality check: A study published last year in Obesity Research concluded that “the fat-trapping claims associated with chitosan are unsubstantiated.” Another published study from the University of California-Davis showed that chitosan didn’t block fat absorption in males. To be fair, I did run across one international study showing weight loss with chitosan. However, it may cause gastric disturbances in some people and may block the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Supplements that feature this amino acid promise weight loss and improved energy.
Reality check: Although some research does confirm its benefits for fat oxidation, there are just too many studies out there showing it does not work. An Australian study published in 2000 showed that taking 2 g of L-carnitine twice daily for 8 weeks did not alter fat mass or total body mass in overweight women. A Swiss study showed that L-carnitine had no effect on metabolism and didn’t improve exercise performance. A study published in Sports Medicine concluded simply that there is no scientific basis to recommend L-carnitine supplements to improve exercise performance.
A natural compound that marketers claim will stimulate your metabolism.
Reality check: Pyruvate does have a few studies showing it works. But these studies, tracking pyruvate’s effect on fat and weight loss, used a whopping 22 to 44 g of pyruvate daily–a dose that would wreak havoc on your wallet and your stomach. Most pyruvate products only contain 500 to 750 mg per capsule, so you’d need to down about 50 a day to keep up.
This pentose sugar, naturally found in the body, plays a role in energy production and is being marketed as an exercise performance enhancer.
Reality check: Ribose was said to be the next creatine. Unfortunately, research squashed that idea. Although ribose may have some cardiovascular and heart effects, it certainly didn’t show much in terms of physical performance in three well-conducted published studies.