MFW Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Section VIII. Supplements
Supplements are just that, supplements. Before even considering the use of supplements you should ask yourself if you're doing everything you can to make progress in you workouts. Are your weight workouts intense? Is it possible that you are overtraining? Are you regularly performing aerobic exercise to aid in the fat burning process? Is your diet the best it can be? If you haven't answered these questions, you probably have more fundamental problems than whether or not some supplement will aid your muscle gains or fat loss.
Some supplements can be beneficial. Some are quite toxic. Many are promoted by the companies who make them because of the quantity of money that can be made. Many supplements have absolutely no value other than the money they make for those who produce it.
Beware of all claims. Those that sound too good to be true, usually are. Almost all of the supplements below do have some scientific studies behind them. So, there will usually be some small grain of truth in an advertising claim. However, upon reading the study, it is rare that the advertising claims are actually supported. The producers of supplements will often make leaps of faith (extrapolating rodent data to humans, increases in growth hormone are often equated with increased muscle without substantiating evidence) that no scientist would ever make.
Many "studies" of these supplements involve only isolated cases (showing those lovely before and after pictures). Although the pictures can be quite dramatic, they do not constitute valid evidence for the efficacy of the supplement.
Protein powders are food. It doesn't matter how many engineers and physiologists they had working on the project, it is still only food.
Often you'll see ads for protein powder listing its "Biological Value" or BV. Biological Value is the ratio (nitrogen retained)/(nitrogen consumed) for a single protein source consumed in relatively small quantity and without any other foods. (Nitrogen is used because all proteins contain nitrogen, whereas fats and carbohydrates don't.)
Expressed as a percentage, the maximum theoretically possible biological value is 100%, but sometimes you'll see ads and articles claiming that a particular supplement has a biological value greater than 100. Generally, when you see this, the number you're reading is not "biological value" but "protein score" which is a different, but similar, measure that compares the nitrogen retention of a food or supplement to whole egg protein. Since it is possible for protein sources to have a nitrogen retention greater than whole egg protein, protein score can be greater than 100.
How much difference does this make to anyone who might be likely to be purchasing protein powders? Very little. The differences between milk, egg, whey, and other common animal-derived proteins are small and if you have foods in your diet other than a particular brand of protein powder (which I hope) or you eat more than small amounts of it at a time, then those measures are not valid to begin with.
Net muscle protein accretion (synthesis minus breakdown) has been shown to improve if essential amino acids (EAAs) are added to the bloodstream after a workout, even more so if the EAAs are added prior to the workout. However, the effect of those circulating EAAs only seems to enhance muscle protein synthesis for about two hours after the workout, and by six hours after the workout, muscle protein synthesis is back down to basal levels, even though there is still a high level of circulating EAAs.
However, the same researchers recently found that adding another dose of EAAs an additional hour after the workout caused another increase in muscle protein synthesis. They hypothesize that it may not be a high circulating level of EAAs that stimulates muscle protein synthesis, but rather, a positive *change* in the levels of circulating EAAs.
To put it simply, taking your protein powder (with a CHO drink to stimulate insulin) *before* a workout is most effective. Taking another one *after* the workout should still be effective. Or if you take your first one after the workout, taking another one an hour later should still be effective. So far as I know, the one-hour period is the longest one tested so far, at least as it applies to a positive showing of muscle protein synthesis.
[John M. Williams / 2003.09.08]
MRPs are also food. There is nothing special about their formulations that you can't get from food. Many people find these to be very convenient (some even tasty) and enjoy using them regularly. Some view protein powders and MRPs like turning the wording on your plates toward the middle of a bar - it's just what experienced lifters do. :->
Weight gain powders are also food and should be treated accordingly. They
are not a magic potion. In fact, most of them simply have high levels of
sugar to drastically up the calorie content. Eat more rice, potatoes, pasta
and breads if you want to increase your carb intake.
Many wild claims were made for this product, including the "better than
steroids." As usual, it is a joke, at the public's monetary expense.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. So, like protein, amino acids are food. They can be obtained in your diet through ingestion of both animal and vegetable sources.
One study of hospital patients actually found that nitrogen retention was
poorest when using amino acid supplements instead of food. Also, there is
little reason to obtain amino acids in free form because studies have shown
that intact protein (in foods) is actually absorbed more readily than free
form amino acids.
Studies have found that branched chain amino acid (BCAA - leucine, isoleucine and valine) ingestion before exercise may alter hromonal responses to high intensity exercise and reduce the catabolic effects of endurance exercise. BCCA supplementation during endurance exercise may prevent the decline in plasma BCAA levels, stabilize the free tryptophan to BCAA ratio, minimize elevations of serotonin, and improve physiological and psychological responses to endurance exercise. These data should be viewed as preliminary because many more experiments are necessary to confirm these findings.
In addition, most of the positive findings with BCAAs were a result of studies on endurance athletes. It is unknown if they will be of benefit to anaerobic athletes. However, the data look very promising for all athletes who train intensely. For more information see: Sports Medicine 16(3) 190-209, 1993.
It may be worth noting that whey protein supplements generally claim to be approximately 50% BCAAs (although the number is probably closer to 30% for natural whey protein) so that, should you wish to supplement your diet with additional BCAAs, eating a little whey protein is likely to be close to an order of magnitude cheaper per gram than eating BCAAs in pill form. (And, quite honestly, taking 20 500mg BCAA tablets is much less fun than downing a small scoop of whey protein.) Cottage cheese is another source of whey protein. The Tree By The River (TTBTR)
l-carnitine is involved in the transport of long chain fatty acids through the mitochondrial membrane. Carnitine is synthesized endogenously from the amino acids lysine and methionine. Minor amounts are consumed in meat and dairy products. The average diet provides 100 - 300 mg carnitine daily.
Endurance athletes have shown have shown an increase in VO2 max and a reduction in respiratory quotient in some studies of this compound. Other studies have been unable to replicate this finding.
The d-isomer of carnitine should be avoided because it can result in muscle weakness and myoglobinuria.
Carnitine supplementation is likely a waste of money for those trying to build muscle or lose fat.
** AZT Muscle Problems: L-Carnitine Study Recruiting
The Neuromuscular Diseases Section of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is now recruiting for a study of high-dose L-carnitine as a possible treatment or preventive for AZT-related muscle problems. Patients may be eligible if they are using AZT and experiencing either fatigue, decreased endurance, or weakness; these can be symptoms of AZT-induced muscle toxicity. [Note: persons with HIV and nerve or muscle disorders, whether or not they are taking AZT, may be eligible for a separate NINDS study of a different treatment; for more information, see the announcement below.]
This six-month study is being conducted at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington D.C. All expenses are paid, except for the cost of travel for the first trip to Bethesda to see if you qualify for the study. (Lodging is paid for this first trip, and all expenses are paid for later trips.) No insurance company will be billed, and all information will be kept confidential.
There are no T-helper count requirements for this study. All test results (including physical examination, laboratory tests, EKG, echocardiogram, and muscle biopsy) will be forwarded for the patient's clinical care.
This is a placebo-controlled study. At the end of the study, if the treatment is determined to be effective, it will be provided.
L-carnitine is an essential nutrient, which is found especially in muscle tissue. Deficiencies can cause muscle and heart problems. A study published last year found low levels in 72 percent of AIDS patients who were using AZT.1 Another study2 gave a high dose of L-carnitine for two weeks to AIDS patients treated with AZT, and found improved results of certain blood tests. The goal of the NINDS study is to see if correcting an L-carnitine deficiency (if there is one) could relieve AZT-related muscle problems.
Carnitine is sold in health-food stores and buyers' clubs. But be sure to use only L-carnitine (not DL-carnitine, which at one time was the only kind available there). DL carnitine consists of a mixture of equal parts of L-carnitine and D- carnitine. Only L-carnitine is active; and some people suspect that D-carnitine might be harmful.
Better yet, if you can get your physician to prescribe L- carnitine, you can be assured of getting the highest quality. Some physicians will be reluctant, because this use (for AZT- related muscle problems) is experimental and unproven at this time. Tim Fogarty
1. De Simone C, Tzantzoglou S, Jirillo E, Marzo A, Vullo V, and Martinelli
EA. L-carnitine deficiency in AIDS patients. AIDS. February 1992; volume 6,
number 2, pages 203-205.
2. De Simone C, Tzantzoglou S, Famularo G, and others. High dose
L-carnitine improves immunologic and metabolic parameters in AIDS patients.
IMMUNOPHARMACOLOGY AND IMMUNOTOXICOLOGY. January 1993; volume 15, number 1,
pages 1- 12.
Gamma-amino butyric acid acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that is tends to shut things down. For this reason many people suggest the use of GABA to aid with sleep (and possibly recovery). It is calming, relaxing, sleep-inducing and it even cause the release of Growth Hormone. Unfortunately, the ability of this substance to cross the blood brain barrier is limited and it must be injected directly into the brain. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! This substance holds little potential for helping bodybuilders.
A related chemical, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is capable of penetrating the blood-brain barrier and producing at least the relaxing and soporific effects, but is not available over the counter.
Glutamine is another nonessential amino acid. So, the human body can also make this amino acid. Some studies indicate that intravenous infusion of glutamine can be anticatabolic. Oral supplementation with glutamine has not shown the same success, possibly because the gut tends to hold on to the extra glutamine. Still, this compound (like the branched chain amino acids) should not be ignored for its potential benefits if someone can figure out a way to get it past the gut.
HMB is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. Preliminary studies indicate that HMB may help increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat. However, these studies were published only in abstract form and have yet to go through a rigorous peer-review. However, the above-mentioned effects of BCAAs may be mediated through this metabolite.
Very few bodybuilders have actually observed positive results with this supplement. Studies in animals indicate that HMB can make up for leucine deficiencies (see branched chain amino acids) in their diet. One possible, very simple, explanation for the results obtained in the preliminary studies on HMB is that the control groups are actually leucine deficient (maybe eating too little protein). Based on the cost of HMB, it is definitely not worth it. Studies are underway to determine if HMB is indeed better than leucine supplementation.
In addition, a recent study was unable to replicate the earlier findings.
Keto-isocoproate is another metabolite of leucine. Little evidence supports its benefit beyond what it can do for a leucine-deficient diet.
Some claim this substance is a cortisol blocker. No evidence currently supports that claim. This is likely a waste of money.
Note that all published studies have been done with PS derived from cow brains; even if you didn't want to avoid bovine-source PS because of BSE concerns, commercially available PS is derived from soybeans, and no studies have shown any effects from consumption of soy-derived PS. TTBTR
Tryptophan is another amino acid that is attributed with the capacity to help people sleep and even cure certain ailments, like cramps. While tryptophan is a precursor of the combination neurotransmitter, inflammatory substance serotonin, taking in excess tryptophan does not automatically indicate that more serotonin will be produced or that it will have a net effect on the person. Bodybuilders are unlikely to be deficient in tryptophan even though it is an essential amino acid.
However, there have been some cases of people who are tryptophan deficient (and other essential amino acids as well) who ate nothing but supplemental amino acids from various supplement products. Moral: get most of your amino acids from food.
Tyrosine is an amino acid used to synthesize the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenalin). Some claim that an increased intake of tyrosine will increase the levels of these neurotransmitters. Then, presumably, the higher level of neurotransmitter will exert some beneficial effect. Unfortunately, taking extra tyrosine does not automatically mean that the neurotransmitters will be made in larger quantities because the enzymes that synthesize these neurotransmitters are tightly regulated. In addition, even if neurotransmitter production is increased, it does not mean that it will have a specific effect. In addition, tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid, meaning that the human body can synthesize tyrosine when needed. Be wary of any claims regarding tyrosine.
A combination of arginine, ornithine and lysine, according to advertisements, will increase growth hormone (GH) secretion, increase lean muscle and reduce body fat.
In fact, arginine can increase levels of GH when given intravenously at a concentration ranging from 0.2 to 0.5 g/kg. That is a huge IV dose of arginine. Do not try this at home. Smaller doses of oral arginine have been found to increase GH levels slightly as well. One study showed that oral arginine hydrochloride showed better increases in GH than L-Dopa, a drug used for increasing GH levels.
Isidori A. Lo Monaco A, Cappa, M.
A study of growth hormone release in man after oral administration of amino acids. Current Medical Research and Opinion 1981;7:475-481
Also, another study showed that 30g of oral glycine gave 10 times more GH secretion than placebo. Another study showed that 6,75g of glycine taken orally gave 4 times more secretion.
Kasai K, Kobayashi M, Shimoda S.
Stimulatory effects of oral glycine on human growth hormone secretion. Metabolism 1978;27:201
And another study showed that 170mg of ornithine hydrochloride per weight kilo gave 4 times more serum GH than placebo.
Cynobar L., et al.
Action of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate, ornithine hydrochloride and calcium alpha-ketoglutarate on plasma amino acid and hormonal patterns in healthy subjects. J American Coll Nutrition 1990;9:2-12
So amino acids can increase growth hormone levels. If the increased GH levels do not constitute as increased muscle mass, that's a different subject altogether.
GH releasing amino acids may be worth trying, but not worth using, if you don't see any help from them. Individuals differ, because of differently working feedback mechanisms and other hormone levels (like natural testosterone levels, GH won't do much good, if there's no testosterone available).
One study has shown that arginine and ornithine increases strength and lean body mass (Effects of arginine and ornithine on strength, lean body mass and urinary hydroxyproline in adult males) J Sports Med Phys Fitness Mar 1989:29(1);52-6
However, the fact remains that more studies must be done to conclude that this rise in GH will subsequently result in any of the improvements hoped for. Many bodybuilders who have tried this supplement have been very disappointed. Natural increases in hormones are often counteracted by feedback mechanisms.
Colostrum does contain some growth factors. Unfortunately, it is not in the least bit beneficial for adults. Adults do not have the same capacity as a newborn animal to take up entire proteins in the GI system without digesting them first. Do not waste your money on colostrum unless you're less than 6 months old and of bovine origin.
They are also food. Use them if they taste good or if they're convenient. If the claims on the package look different from other foods you pick up at the grocery store, they are pulling your leg.
Conjugated linolenic acid. Several studies exist supporting a potential health benefit of CLA. No studies suggest that it will aid muscle growth or fat loss. It is food, certainly better than some other fat sources, but treat it accordingly.
Some claim that this compound can make joint pain decrease. DMSO is an anti-oxidant which scavenges hydroxyl free radicals, which is one reason why it is effective at reducing inflammations.
DMSO is sometimes used in transporting other chemicals through the skin (like certain oral anabolic steroids); while this is an often-touted 'feature' of DMSO, many people have claimed that it offers no benefits in this regard beyond simply fully hydrating the skin. This compound also has side effects like a nasty taste in the mouth and horrible breath following its use. TTBTR
Flax seed oil is used to combat cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver and gut disorders, skin complaints ad impairment of the immune system. Flax is the world's richest source of omega-3 fatty acids (see 4.13). It also contains natural anti-oxidants, carotene and vitamin E which help slow the oxidation process of this highly active dietary essential fatty acid. The fatty acids in flax seed oil are essential and play many physiological roles. It has been used with some success in treating skin afflictions that have resulted from a loss of cell membrane integrity. Flax can also relieve constipation and generally assists bowel movements. Flax can also help regulate the body's levels of triglycerides.
Flax oil, when fresh, has a light consistency and a delicate, nutty taste. It should be bought in an opaque, glass or special plastic container to protect it from the oxidizing effects of light. It should also be stored in a cool place and consumed within three weeks after opening. Flax oil should never be cooked. Dave Greenwalt & RR
Lecithin is naturally found as part of bile secretions. It is important for increasing fat solubility so that fat can be absorbed through the gut.
MCTs are used in malabsorption disorders because they are more readily absorbed and oxidized than long-chain fatty acids. The claims associated with MCT often state that it will increase energy and reduce body fat. To some extent these claims are supported by rat studies. These studies indicate that MCT feeding increases the thermic effect in humans. Other studies found that the inclusion of MCTs in hypocaloric diets did not enhance the rate or amount of weight lost. MCTs should be avoided by those who are diabetic or have liver disease. Some reports of diarrhea are noted with the use of this supplement.
All sorts of fantastic claims have been made regarding omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils in general. Conclusively, studies have shown that omega-3s can reduce blood triglyceride levels. Presumably, this will decrease the risk of developing atherosclerosis. However, more studies must be done to examine whether this is indeed the case.
There may be some other health benefits of omega-3s, but they have yet to be confirmed. Almost all the studies involving humans and omega-3s are purely epidemiological studies which can find correlations, but do not establish causation.
Flax seed oil is mainly alpha-linolenic acid, ALA, C18:3w3. Fish oil is also omega 3, but its mainly eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, C20:5w3 and docosahexaenoic acid, DHA, C22:6w3. The body can generate EPA and DHA from ALA, but not at a tremendously fast rate. Borage seed oil, black currant and evening primrose oil are all sources of gamma-linolenic acid, also an omega 3 fatty acid. Gamma-linolenic acid likely has liver protectant properties that may be of interest to steroid users who sometimes ingest hepatotoxic substances.
The w3s are generally good at lowering triglyceride levels and at slowing the growth rates of tumors, and they are all good anti-inflammatories, but I'm skeptical of any claims of them increasing muscle mass.
If you live on cheeseburgers and pizza (CHANGE YOUR DIET), you are most-likely missing some of the essential micronutrients known as vitamins and minerals. If you eat vegetables and fruits throughout the day, you are probably obtaining all the vitamins and minerals you need. If you fall somewhere inbetween, you may wish to consider a vitamin and mineral supplement. If you never eat fruits and vegetables, you may want to supplement daily. Those who get some vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables may wish to supplement with one vitamin pill every other day.
Actual deficiencies of vitamins and minerals are rare. The levels for optimal health are difficult to determine, making the matter subjective. However, any claims regarding increased energy and vigor from supplemental vitamin intake are almost always false. Purchase vitamins only if you find your diet to be less than ideal. Even then consume the tablets in moderation. No evidence exists indicating that megadoses are useful (the excess is usually lost through the urine) and some of the fat soluble vitamins (like A, D and E) are actually toxic in high doses.
Some people claim that supplemental B vitamins give them a sense of well-being. In the absence of deficiency, supplemental B vitamins are unnecessary. Sufficient B vitamins can be obtained from foods (such as meat, nuts and grains) or by taking a one-a-day multivitamin and mineral tablet. Excess B vitamins are readily lost in the urine, although it gives a wonderfully bright yellow color to the urine.
A perfectly acceptable source of B vitamins; ads generally proudly state its high RNA and DNA content which won't hurt you, but won't provide any benefits either.
Boron has been advertised as a testosterone booster and some even claim that boron can increase muscle mass. A couple of studies actually showed that boron supplementation increased serum testosterone levels. No studies have shown any lean muscle gains with the use of Boron.
Reports from bodybuilders in the trenches indicate that this compound is worthless. This may be a lesson with respect to the fact that increasing testosterone naturally may not mimic the effects of taking exogenous testosterone. The body has natural feedback mechanisms to prevent testosterone, or its effects, from causing drastic changes. Do not waste your money on boron.
There are at least 14 different chromium compounds currently offered. The most common form sold is chromium picolinate. Chromium is promoted as both a growth stimulator and fat burner. A couple of early research studies indicated that there might be some truth to these claims. However, these studies used poor methods and subsequent studies failed to replicate their findings. It is unlikely that chromium supplementation will increase muscle mass or help burn fat.
Chromium is also advertised as an insulin enhancer. Chromium is a component of glucose tolerance factor and this role may have led to its description as an insulin enhancer. However, weight trainers usually have some of the best glucose tolerance and insulin response already. Further supplementation is unlikely to change this fact.
Some US populations have shown chromium deficiencies and endurance exercise can cause increased urinary loss of chromium. Therefore, some athletes may wish to insure that they avoid chromium deficiency by taking supplemental minerals (see vitamins and minerals) or increase their intake of chromium containing foods, like nuts.
50 mcg per day of chromium is probably sufficient and a dose of 200 mcg should not be exceeded because the excess is simply excreted.
Coenzyme Q10 is also known as Ubiquinone. Ubiquinone is an electron carrier, essential for energy production in mitochondria, that can act as an antioxidant. Several studies support the idea that supplemental CoQ10 can be beneficial for a person's health. No evidence supports the idea that it will make your muscles grow faster or your fat burn more easily.
Dibencozide (5-deosyadenosyl cobalamin) is often promoted as an anabolic growth promoter. Several advertisements list dibencozide as the active form of vitamin B12. Several cobalamins are active for humans, but what is used in most pharmaceutical preparations is actually cyanocobalamin. This cobalamin is obtained through the inclusion of animal products in the diet. Studies showed no increase in strength or muscle mass through the use of this dibencozide.
Vanadyl sulfate is a non-essential trace mineral that has shown some potential for reducing blood glucose and insulin levels in diabetic rats and there is also one study that showed similar effects in humans. Vanadyl may result in increased glycogen storage in muscle cells, with the hope being that this would provide for increased energy during exercise. No studies have yet confirmed this hypothesis. However, the increased glycogen storage may account for the increased "pump" and harder feeling that many lifters feel when taking vanadyl.
Furthermore, weightlifters usually have some of the best glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, decreasing the chances that this compound would be of benefit to weightlifters and bodybuilders. Also, those who take vanadyl sulfate while on very low carbohydrate diets run a small risk of developing extremely low blood glucose levels. For this reason the supplement may actually be detrimental to your workouts.
However, some steroid users find this supplement useful for the increased pump when they are coming off cycle and begin to miss the steroid pump.
Vanadium comes in several forms including vanadyl, vanadate and BMOV (Bis-maltolato-oxovanadium). Research studies (mostly involving rats) have use the compounds vanadyl sulfate and BMOV. Two other new forms of vanadium are also being researched. They are VPA and Naglivan
It's well-established that zinc deficiency is associated with reduced testosterone levels in otherwise healthy adults and that zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient adults will raise testosterone levels, even in cases of mild zinc deficiency. (Prasad, et al. (1996, May). Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 12(5), 344-348)
This does not mean that zinc supplementation will further elevate testosterone levels in individuals who aren't zinc-deficient, but since mild-to-moderate zinc deficiencies are common in the Standard American Diet, it's a good argument for taking supplements that contain zinc just in case.
What is creatine: Naturally occurring in muscle tissue, creatine functions as a secondary reservoir for short-term energy to be drawn upon when ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores--the energy storage molecule that drives muscular contraction--are depleted. Supplemental creatine monohydrate added to the diet will increase the concentration of creatine phosphate within muscle tissue which may increase one's ability to perform brief, high-intensity exercise.
How much one will benefit from creatine supplementation will vary greatly from one individual to the next; at most, expect small but significant increases in the amount of weight or number of reps that one can handle. Increasing the creatine content of muscle tissue also draws additional water into the muscle cells; this will cause an immediate increase in muscle size and weight, with anywhere from two to seven pounds of retained water being common.
Note that the immediate weight gain one experiences when beginning creatine supplementation is just water and not additional muscle tissue; if you stop taking creatine, this water weight will slowly go away again, but any benefits you gain from increased exercise intensity while taking creatine will remain. It has also been claimed that the increased size of individual muscle cells due to the greater water uptake while taking supplemental creatine is itself an anabolic stimulus and can increase muscle growth, but this is merely a hypothesis at this time and has not been studied sufficiently to draw any conclusions.
Because creatine phosphate, once in the muscle tissue, serves only as a small additional source of short-term energy, creatine supplementation will not aid one's performance in aerobic activities such as running or cycling, though it has been shown to improve short-term bursts of anaerobic activity during endurance activities. Because of the additional water weight carried while using creatine, it may actually hinder performance where weight is an issue.
Dosage: The optimal amount of creatine to take remains controversial and, as with any other supplement, recommended doses vary considerably, particularly depending on whether the one making the recommendation is trying to sell you some. Many have recommended a "loading phase" with doses ranging from 15-30 grams/day for the first week followed by a "maintenance phase" with anywhere from 2-15 grams/day consumed, while a few discount the "loading phase" as unnecessary. The typical recommended dose falls about in the middle of the above ranges; load with 20g/day for a week, then drop to 5-8g/day for a while, then feel free to experiment with increasing or decreasing the dosage and see how it affects you. As with any supplement, start out slowly--consume the initial "loading" dose in several portions throughout the day; some people have reported experiencing gastric upset when taking creatine, so you may wish to make sure it doesn't cause you any problems in this regard before taking very much at one time.
Creatine and Insulin: The "conventional wisdom" is that creatine uptake into muscle tissue is improved in the presence of insulin and also when insulin sensitivity is increased. However, recent studies have suggested that this may not be a significant factor at physiologically realistic insulin levels: "Insulin had no effect on the rate of creatine uptake in vitro." (Creatine uptake in isolated soleus muscle: kinetics and dependence on sodium, but not on insulin. Willott CA, Young ME, Leighton B, Kemp GJ, Boehm EA, Radda GK, Clarke K.; Acta Physiol Scand 1999 Jun;166(2):99-104) "...insulin can enhance muscle creatine accumulation in humans but only when present at physiologically high or supraphysiological concentrations." (Stimulatory effect of insulin on creatine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. Steenge GR, Lambourne J, Casey A, Macdonald IA, Greenhaff PL.; Am J Physiol 1998 Dec;275(6 Pt 1):E974-9)
Types of creatine: Creatine is available in a variety of forms, the most common of which is creatine monohydrate; this is available in both bulk powder and in capsule form. Given the low cost of creatine, its lack of flavor, and the quantities generally consumed, buying creatine in capsules offers no significant advantages, but is likely to cost ten times as much for the same quantity. (Bulk creatine monohydrate is commonly available from numerous mail-order suppliers at about $30/kilogram.) Creatine citrate and creatine phosphate have also occasionally been sold, but the former offers no known advantages over creatine monohydrate and generally costs more to use, given that its creatine content is lower due to the weight of the citrate ion. Though creatine phosphate is the eventual form creatine will be used in by the muscle cells, it will not make it through the digestive tract and it is not useful as a supplement.
Breakdown of creatine: Creatine, once in solution, will slowly degrade into creatinine which does not have creatine's beneficial effects; however, this process takes quite a few hours and, while this is a good reason not to mix your creatine into a protein shake a day ahead of time, it's completely unnecessary to worry at all about mixing it into a drink just before consuming it. Both heat and acidity will accelerate this process, but, again, we're still talking about several hours time before it's something to worry about. (The main purpose of the "creatine breaks down instantly when wet" rumor is to sell you various forms of "stabilized" creatine at a much higher cost, but with no actual advantages.)
Creatine and Caffeine: much talk has been made recently about a study that's usually described as showing that caffeine negates the usefulness of creatine supplementation. However, the study in question administered very large doses of caffeine to the subjects and then cut out all caffeine consumption 24 hours before the subjects were tested. While this does provide fairly strong evidence that major caffeine withdrawal does not enhance athletic performance, it has essentially no relevance to anyone who uses caffeine as a pre-workout stimulant or in the manner in which caffeine is normally used in the E/C/A stack. Caffeine does have a diuretic effect and it is possible that this could reduce the amount of water weight generally gained when taking creatine, though even this is questionable, given that caffeine primarily increases the elimination of extracellular water and not intracellular water, which is what is increased by creatine.
Creatine and health: creatine is one of the (if not the) most widely-used and extensively studied of athletic supplements and, despite the media's occasional urge to demonize athletic supplements, it is also one of the safest:
The consumption of oral creatine monohydrate has become increasingly common among professional and amateur athletes. Despite numerous publications on the ergogenic effects of this naturally occurring substance, there is little information on the possible adverse effects of this supplement. The objectives of this review are to identify the scientific facts and contrast them with reports in the news media, which have repeatedly emphasised the health risks of creatine supplementation and do not hesitate to draw broad conclusions from individual case reports. Exogenous creatine supplements are often consumed by athletes in amounts of up to 20 g/day for a few days, followed by 1 to 10 g/day for weeks, months and even years. Usually, consumers do not report any adverse effects, but body mass increases. There are few reports that creatine supplementation has protective effects in heart, muscle and neurological diseases. Gastrointestinal disturbances and muscle cramps have been reported occasionally in healthy individuals, but the effects are anecdotal. Liver and kidney dysfunction have also been suggested on the basis of small changes in markers of organ function and of occasional case reports, but well controlled studies on the adverse effects of exogenous creatine supplementation are almost nonexistent. We have investigated liver changes during medium term (4 weeks) creatine supplementation in young athletes. None showed any evidence of dysfunction on the basis of serum enzymes and urea production. Short term (5 days), medium term (9 weeks) and long term (up to 5 years) oral creatine supplementation has been studied in small cohorts of athletes whose kidney function was monitored by clearance methods and urine protein excretion rate. We did not find any adverse effects on renal function. The present review is not intended to reach conclusions on the effect of creatine supplementation on sport performance, but we believe that there is no evidence for deleterious effects in healthy individuals.
(Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: fact or fiction? Poortmans JR, Francaux M.; Sports Med 2000 Sep;30(3):155-70)
Studies of the effect of creatine supplementation on things other than athletic performance have yielded interesting results. Some have suggested possible neuroprotective effects in the case of stroke or hypoxia; studies have suggested that creatine may have antioxidant properties (Direct antioxidant properties of creatine. Lawler JM, Barnes WS, Wu G, Song W, Demaree S.; Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2002 Jan 11;290(1):47-52); and creatine supplementation has even been shown to reduce mental fatigue when performing repetitive mathematical calculations: "Using double-blind placebo-controlled paradigm, we demonstrated that dietary supplement of creatine (8 g/day for 5 days) reduces mental fatigue when subjects repeatedly perform a simple mathematical calculation. After taking the creatine supplement, task-evoked increase of cerebral oxygenated hemoglobin in the brains of subjects measured by near infrared spectroscopy was significantly reduced, which is compatible with increased oxygen utilization in the brain." (Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Watanabe A, Kato N, Kato T.; Neurosci Res 2002 Apr;42(4):279-85)
In summary, if you wish to experiment with creatine supplementation, a typical approach would be as follows:
1. buy a tub of bulk creatine powder (you may as well get a full kilo; smaller quantities tend to cost significantly more for how much you'll get).
2. For the first week or so, take a level teaspoon (about four grams) of creatine powder 3-5 times throughout the day, with one of the doses before breakfast and another following your workout on workout days).
3. When taking creatine, you may mix it with the liquid of your choice or simply put the powder in your mouth (it's pretty near tasteless) and wash it down with water, juice, or whatever. If you experience gastric discomfort, either take less creatine at once, drink more fluids at the same time, or make sure the creatine is fully dissolved before drinking.
4. After the "loading phase," decrease your consumption to 1-2 level teaspoons/day, preferably taken before breakfast and/or following workouts. Feel free to experiment with greater or lesser dosages and see what works best for you.
If creatine supplementation is effective for you (and, though most people report good results, not all do), you should expect 3-10 pounds of weight gain by the end of the first week, larger and fuller-feeling muscles, and noticeable increases in the weight and/or reps you can handle in the gym.
This is a dieting aid. HCA goes under the trade name CitriMax. HCA is useful for reducing appetite. In addition, there is some evidence from rodent studies that HCA may aid fat loss by blocking the enzyme which is used in converting proteins and carbohydrates into fat. Whether this effect happens also in humans is debatable.
HCA has the potential for developing anemia - use in moderation.
"Glucosamine sulphate administration in animals tends to normalize the cartilage metabolism so as to prevent degeneration and stimulate biosynthesis of the cartilage ground substance, the mucopolysaccharides. This rebuilds the damaged articular cartilage and restores articular function. Orally administered glucosamine is selectively taken up by the articular cartilage." "...oral glucosamine sulphate treatment produced significant improvement in the symptoms of pain, joint tenderness and swelling, as well as in restriction of movement... moreover, treatment was extremely well tolerated." 
"The main component of [connective tissue] is collagen ... the second component is ... glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The GAGs are the tissue framework that collagen models onto. ... [glucosamine] is the major precursor of GAGs. But even more important, the making of glucosamine from glucose and glutamine is your body's rate-limiting step in GAG production, and hence the rate-limiting step in re-modeling your connective tissues." 
The dosage used in references #1 and #2 was 1.5 grams daily, in 3 divided doses.
1. Pujalte JM, Llavore EP, Ylescupidez FR. 1980. Double-blind clinical evaluation of oral glucosamine sulphate in the basic treatment of osteoarthrosis. Curr Med Res Opin. 7(2): 110-114.
2. Crolle G, D'Este E. 1980. Glucosamine sulphate for the management of arthrosis: a controlled clinical investigation. Curr Med Res Opin. 7(2):104-109.
3. Colgan M. Glucosamine saves your joints. Musc Devel Fit Health.
Inosine is used to synthesize nucleotides (used in DNA, energy exchange and intracellular signaling). Inosine is promoted as an energy enhancer. One study found no effect of 6 g of inosine of 3-mile run time or VO2 max in highly trained runners. All indications are that this supplement is a waste of money.
"Prohormones" are actually hormones themselves and are chemicals produced by the body (or close "chemical cousins" of such chemicals, as is the case with the nor- varieties). The "pro-" part is used for two reasons: first, because rather than themselves being the hormone one is actually interested in supplementing, they are instead used by the body's biochemical pathways to produce the hormone of interest; second, marketing.
The supplementation of precursors to biochemicals normally produced in the body is nothing new or unusual; individual amino acids are often consumed for this reason (l-tryptophan, which is used to synthesize serotonin, l-tyrosine, which is a precursor to catecholamines like epinephrine (adrenaline)) and these days beta-carotine (which the body will use to synthesize vitamin A as needed) is found in most multivitamins. The most common goal of prohormone supplementation is to augment the body's natural production of testosterone, though obviously the prohoromones themselves do have some metabolic effects themselves and will be used to produce any and all "downstream" hormonal products, including dihydrotestosterone (the primary hormonal culprit in male pattern baldness) and estrogen, not just testosterone. The prohormones and the chemicals syntheized from them will, of course participate in the body's natural feedback mechanisms effecting its natural hormone synthesis.
The degree to which prohormone supplementation can effect one's overall hormonal balance in real terms is in large part limited by the availability of the enzymes used to synthesize one steroid from another. Because the capacity of a given biosynthetic pathway is limited, consuming greater quantities of a given prohormone will not necessarily increase the amount of testosterone produced. The following diagram is incomplete and doesn't include all prohormones commercially available at this time, but it should at least give you some feel for the branching "tree" of steroid hormones and their chemical interrelationships:
MAJOR STEROID BIOSYNTHESIS PATHWAYS IN THE ADRENALS (taken from the AMA Drug Evaluations, Annual 1995) CHOLESTEROL | (20-a-hydroxylase) (22-hydroxylase) (20,22-desmolase) | (17-ketosteroid | (17-a-hydroxylase) (17,20-desmolase) reductase) | 5-PREGNENOLONE_____ 17-a-HYDROXY-_____ DEHYDROEPI- ______5-ANDROSTENEDIOL | PREGNENOLONE ANDOSTERONE | | | | (steroid sulfo- (3-b-dehydro- | | | transferase) genase) | | | | | | |___________ DEHYDROEPI- | | | ANDOSTERONE | | | SULFATE | (3-b-dehydrogenase) (3-b-dehydrogenase) | (4-5-isomerase) (4-5-isomerase) | | | | | | | (17-a-hydr- | (17,20-desmo | (17-ketosteroid | oxylase) | lase) | reductase) PROGESTERONE_______17-HYDROXY-_______4-ANDROSTENEDIONE_____TESTOSTER0NE | PROGESTERONE | | | | (21-hydrolase) (21-hydrolase) (aromatase) | | | | | | 11-DEOXY- 11-DEOXY- ESTRONE CORTICOSTERONE CORTISOL | | | (17-ketosteroid reductase) | | | | | | (corticosterone (11-b-hydroxylase) ESTRADIOL methyloxidase) | (18-hydroxylase) | | | | | ALDOSTERONE CORTISOL
As you can see above, your body will happily use pregnenolone to synthesize everything from estrogen to cortisol. If you are looking for something to aid recovery in bodybuilding, you should probably put any bottles of pregnenolone down and keep looking. The ad copy might hype it as "the mother of all hormones"; you're probably more interested in an ad more like, "this is not your mother's weightlifting supplement."
The first of the prohormones to hit the market, it was initially very expensive and hyped as a "miracle supplement." Much of the push behind this hype was a single study that showed subjects to have gained muscle and lost an equal amount of bodyfat with no change in body mass or their exercise and eating habits. It's a remarkable coincidence that the subjects in question would have lost exactly as much fat as they gained in muscle so that they experienced no change in total bodyweight; since no study has since shown any remotely similar effect for DHEA supplementation, it seems far more likely that a methodological defect in this study produced a consistent error in body composition measurements.
Other prohormones are almost certainly better choices for weightlifters.
Effect of oral DHEA on serum testosterone and adaptations to resistance training in young men.
Brown GA, Vukovich MD, Sharp RL, Reifenrath TA, Parsons KA, King DS
J Appl Physiol 1999 Dec;87(6):2274-83
This study examined the effects of acute dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) ingestion on serum steroid hormones and the effect of chronic DHEA intake on the adaptations to resistance training. In 10 young men (23 +/- 4 yr old), ingestion of 50 mg of DHEA increased serum androstenedione concentrations 150% within 60 min (P < 0.05) but did not affect serum testosterone and estrogen concentrations. An additional 19 men (23 +/- 1 yr old) participated in an 8-wk whole body resistance-training program and ingested DHEA (150 mg/day, n = 9) or placebo (n = 10) during weeks 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8. Serum androstenedione concentrations were significantly (P < 0.05) increased in the DHEA-treated group after 2 and 5 wk. Serum concentrations of free and total testosterone, estrone, estradiol, estriol, lipids, and liver transaminases were unaffected by supplementation and training, while strength and lean body mass increased significantly and similarly (P < 0.05) in the men treated with placebo and DHEA.
These results suggest that DHEA ingestion does not enhance serum testosterone concentrations or adaptations associated with resistance training in young men.
Androstene, or 4-androstendione is closer to testosterone; its conversion to testosterone is limited by the availability of 17-ketosteroid reductase. Note that it can be aromatized into estrogenic hormones directly as well as through conversion to testosterone (which aromatizes to estrogens).
4-androstenediol or androdiol converts to testosterone through the action of 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, which is more efficient than the pathway used by androstenedione; it also does not aromatize directly, though any fraction that is converted to testosterone will still aromatize into estrogens.
5-androstenediol differs from 4-androstenediol in the position of the double carbon bond (5-alpha rather than 4-alpha) and has been touted as an immune system enhancer as well as a muscle-building supplement. Its conversion to testosterone is much less efficient than 4-androstenediol and it has a significant degree of estrogenic activity in its unconverted form.
The nor- versions differ from their non-nor counterparts in having reduced androgenic effects and increased price tags; they are likely to be somewhat less effective in enhancing muscle growth and recovery, and have fewer or at least different side effects (4-androdiol might accelerate male pattern baldness and increase body hair growth in women, while the nor- version might suppress libido). How much (or whether) you might experience any of these side effects of any prohormone is, of course, going to depend entirely on your own biochemistry and individual degree of sensitivity.
The cyclo- prefix refers not to a modification of the supplement in question's chemical structure, but to it's "encapsulation" on the level of individual molecules to water-soluble "carrier" molecules. Prohormones (and steroid molecules in general) are fat-soluble but insoluble in water. Embedding water-insoluble molecules in a cyclodextrin "carrier molecule" allows them to dissolve in water and may increase the portion of the supplement that makes it through your digestive system (and past the liver) to enter the bloodstream.
Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. Its secretion is decreased by light and increased by the absence of light. Melatonin helps regulate sleep patterns in people and this also explains how daylight can affect sleep patterns. People take melatonin to fall asleep more easily and to sleep more soundly. In addition, melatonin can be useful to help reset the internal clock to avoid jet lag. Unfortunately, a small percentage of users report increased nightmares while using melatonin. This may be a result of the dose in the tablets (3 mg). This dose may be too high, and smaller doses may help people avoid these problems. Fortunately, some stores carry a sublingual version of melatonin, making it easier to reduce the dose.
Melatonin has antigonadotropic properties, and decreases greatly at night when gonadotropic releasing hormone is pulsed. However, no one has complained that the extra sleep they acquire with melatonin has hurt their bodybuilding progress.
A side effect for a small portion of the population is the onset of depression. People with depressive disorders should not take this supplement.
herb or herbal extract supplying protodioscin, which has been shown to increase erectile response in rabbits ( Ann Acad Med Singapore 2000 Jan;29(1):22-6, Proerectile pharmacological effects of Tribulus terrestris extract on the rabbit corpus cavernosum. Adaikan PG, Gauthaman K, Prasad RN, Ng SC ). It has not, however, been shown to increase total or free testosterone levels and studies on strength and body composition on resistance-trained males have shown reduced gains in the tribulus group compared with the placebo group.
The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males.
Antonio J, Uelmen J, Rodriguez R, Earnest C
Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2000 Jun;10(2):208-15
The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of the herbal preparation Tribulus terrestris (tribulus) on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males. Fifteen subjects were randomly assigned to a placebo or tribulus (3.21 mg per kg body weight daily) group. Body weight, body composition, maximal strength, dietary intake, and mood states were determined before and after an 8-week exercise (periodized resistance training) and supplementation period. There were no changes in body weight, percentage fat, total body water, dietary intake, or mood states in either group. Muscle endurance (determined by the maximal number of repetitions at 100-200% of body weight) increased for the bench and leg press exercises in the placebo group (p <.05; bench press +/-28.4%, leg press +/-28.6%), while the tribulus group experienced an increase in leg press strength only (bench press +/-3.1%, not significant; leg press +/-28.6%, p <.05). Supplementation with tribulus does not enhance body composition or exercise performance in resistance-trained males.
The form available for purchase is dried pond scum harvested from Klamath Lake and widely advertised to cure every ailment known to man, whether real or imagined; while probably reasonably efficacious on imagined ailments, no evidence currently exists to support any claims for its ability to cure real ones. Its popularity is largely due to the fact that much of it is sold through multi-level marketing schemes, leading to a vast number of distributors hoping to become rich by selling you some. Legitimate Blue-Green Algae (which is actually cyanobacteria and considerably less closely related to true algae than you are) contains various amounts of a mild neurotoxin related to cocaine; anecdotal evidence suggests that these amounts are small enough that most people will not notice any effects, but some individuals will be sensitive enough to experience slight cocaine-like effects when consuming blue-green algae.
The interest in shark cartilage largely stemmed from a book titled _Sharks Don't Get Cancer_. Interestingly, the author mentioned in that book that sharks do get cancer. Still, many people claim that shark cartilage helps with connective tissue disorders and cancer. Unfortunately, evidence does not support these contentions.
Shark cartilage may have benefits in accelerating the healing of cartilage; claimed to have anti-angiogenic effects (inhibits the formation of new blood vessels). If this latter effect is significant, it may have benefits in the treatment of cancer, but athletic benefits would seem to be limited or nonexistent. Bovine cartilage is where gelatin comes from, so if you wish to give this a try, you might start by eating Jell-O or other gelatin product which would likely be much cheaper.
Many, less than reputable, companies will offer products that have names very similar to those of steroids or some confusing wording that make them appear to be better than they really are. Remember that these companies are looking to separate you and your money, buyer beware.
Some herbs clearly have effects on human subjects. Others are hyped even though they have little effect on any animal species. Some herbs are safe; others are extremely dangerous and should be treated as any other medicinal drug.
Anyone interested in further reading should obtain the Honest Herbal_ by Varro Tyler. It can be found (or ordered) from most local book stores. Dr. Tyler is Professor of Pharmacognosy in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences at Purdue University. For those wishing to pursue a more pharmacological approach to herbs, they should obtain _Pharmacognosy_ for which Tyler is senior author.
Herbs are natural, but do not equate this with safe!
Avena sativa is the genus and species name for oats. This is largely mentioned in conjunction with high fiber diets. Fiber can be obtained from many sources with Avena being only one. Fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. More studies are being done to determine if there are other benefits of fiber.
Borage seed oil consists of about 20% gamma-linolenic acid (GLA, an omega-6 fatty acid). In animals borage seed oil was found to be relatively inert except for a mild constipating effect, likely due to its tannin content.
Omega-3 fatty acids may have some benefits. They have been shown in several studies to reduce blood triglyceride levels, hopefully reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. In addition, some evidence exists showing that GLA is liver-protecting.
On the other hand, in the mid-1980s very low levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids were detected in various parts of the borage plant. These compounds are very toxic, even in small quantities. In light of this, chronic consumption of seed oil should not be done unless it is certified free of UPAs.
Capsicum is the Latin name for the family of peppers, red, green, chili peppers, etc. are Capsicum annuum. Capsaicin is an alkaloid present in hot peppers, chiles etc. It's concentration will define how hot they are. Wild type peppers are hot. Mutant sweet peppers have been selected during the last 2000 years.
The alkaloid, capsaicin, found within these peppers is currently used in an ointment for the treatment of chronic, or persistent, pain with some moderate success.
In addition, capsaicin is mildly thermogenic. For this reason some people add it into the ECA stack (see ephedrine).
Ephedrine is a beta-adrenergic agonist. This means that it acts similar to adrenalin (epinephrine) at receptors known as the beta (as opposed to alpha) subtype. It is a potent reliever of constriction and congestion of bronchial asthma and it's an effective nasal decongestant. It can also be used in the treatment of some allergies. It is a central nervous system stimulant. Studies have shown that it can aid in weight (fat) loss.
Unfortunately, ephedrine can increase blood pressure, increase heart rate. It can cause dizziness, insomnia and headaches. If you have a heart condition, hypertension, diabetes or thyroid disease you should not take ephedrine. Consult with your doctor before attempting the use of ephedrine because it is quite dangerous for people with these conditions. Also, keep in mind that ephedrine will not alleviate the problems of a poor diet. It has been shown to aid fat loss in conjunction with Calorie restriction.
Ephedrine is often used in a single dose of 25 mg/day. Some crazed people have taken far more than that amount - and many of those have suffered complications. There is no reason (even for a larger person) to exceed 75 mg of ephedrine (in divided doses) daily.
Caffeine is also a central nervous system stimulant that can enhance the effects of ephedrine. Caffeine potentiates both the stimulatory effects and the fat burning effects of ephedrine. However, the side effects will increase with this combination as well. Keep in mind that very large doses of caffeine (around 5 grams) can induce seizures. This has been reported in competitive athletes.
Some athletes find the caffeine and ephedrine combination to aid in their performance. This can largely be attributed to the central nervous system stimulatory effects of these two compounds. Long-term reliance on these compounds to get "up" for every workout is not a good idea.
Aspirin can further potentiate the fat burning effects of ephedrine and caffeine, although some people still think this evidence is inadequate. Some even argue that aspirin may be detrimental to this process.
Hormones, such as epinephrine (or epinephrine agonists like ephedrine) glucagon and thyroxin stimulate the breakdown of fat. The enzyme responsible for this fat breakdown is inhibited by a prostaglandin (local acting hormone). Aspirin blocks the production of this prostaglandin, along with others. This allows for ephedrine (and caffeine) to exert greater fat burning effects. Therefore, the ephedrine, aspirin, caffeine stack can definitely aid fat loss. However, these compounds can not be relied upon in the long run. In addition, aspirin has the potential of decreasing testosterone production, which might inhibit anabolic effects. Nothing aids fat loss better than permanent changes in diet and exercise. However, for occasional use or motivation they can be very useful tools. Although these compounds are readily available, they are still very dangerous. The ratios commonly used are ephedrine:caffeine:aspirin of 1:10:10.
There are also several herbal thermogenic supplements that combine Ma Huang, Kola Nut (containing caffeine) and willow bark (containing some aspirin). Many people report good effects with these substances as well. In fact, some claim that the herbal sources of ephedrine work better than those synthesized in a lab. However, in the book _Fat_Management_, Mowery harps continually on the point that willow bark is not a reasonable substitute for aspirin. He is very strong on the use of standardized ma huang and kola nut, but says that natural silicilin won't inhibit prostoglandins.
Some researchers question the validity of the use of aspirin with the ephedrine/caffeine combination. There are a lot of choices out there, but many people find success with the various formulations, whether herbal or man made.
Pseudoephedrine: an isomer of ephedrine, found naturally in the ephedra herb; while a reasonably effective decongestant and mild stimulant, trying to substitute pseudoephedrine for ephedrine in the E/C/A stack or otherwise is unlikely to yield satisfactory results.
Ephedrine HCl vs. Sulphate: ephedrine HCl is the more common and generally cheaper version. Ephedrine sulphate is somewhat slower acting and, due to the greater molecular weight of the sulphate ion, slightly more ephedrine sulphate must be taken to produce the same effect as a given amount of ephedrine HCl. Otherwise they are identical.
"Herbal thermogenic supplements": coming in a variety of forms, generally some combination of ma huang/ephedra (a natural source of ephedrine) and guarana (a natural source of caffeine), these are primarily a way of providing ephedrine and caffeine in a manner that can have "natural" or "herbal" on the label at a significantly higher price than just buying ephedrine and caffeine tablets. There may be some benefit to the additional compounds found in these herbs, or there may not.
Ultimate Orange is one such product made by Next Nutrition and Dan Duchaine that contains Ma Huang, which contains ephedrine. Many people notice the stimulatory and thermogenic effects of this supplement right away and find it useful before a workout or for helping in fat loss.
Guaifenesin ("what's this 'guaifenesin' doing in my ephedrine?") An expectorant generally added to ephedrine tablets because the FDA doesn't like people selling pure ephedrine any more; it won't help you do anything besides loosen phlegm, but shouldn't hurt anything either.
Approximately 9% of the oil (2% of the total seed) in Evening Primrose oil is gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. There is much debate over evening primrose oil in the scientific literature. Many of the preliminary studies on its benefit to disease states look promising, but more are needed before definite conclusions can be drawn.
GLA has been shown to offer some liver protection which may be of interest to steroid users taking substances that may have liver toxicities. However, evening primrose is a poor source of GLA. Black currant contains more (about 6%) and borage seeds are a better source of GLA (about 9%).
Gamma-oryzanol is obtained from rice bran oil. It is a potent antioxidant that can prolong the shelf-life of rice bran oil. Of 24 commonly available supplements containing this compound, 5 contained only gamma-oryzanol, 14 contained only ferulic acid (usually bound to gamma-oryzanol via an ester bond), and 5 contained both compounds. This supplement is commonly claimed to be anabolic. One study has shown that IV administration of ferulic acid in cows increases serum GH. However, even with the cows, no increase in growth was observed.
In addition, plant sterols are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract making this supplement largely worthless.
Obtaining authentic ginseng product is a problem. Quality root is extremely expensive, some more than $20 an ounce. The relatively high cost plus the lack of quality control have resulted in commercial ginseng products of astounding variability. Of 54 ginseng products analyzed, 60% were worthless and 25% contained no ginseng at all.
Despite previous reports, the potential for abuse of ginseng is low and the herb does not exhibit estrogenic properties. Problems commonly seen include insomnia, diarrhea and skin eruptions. Even the prolonged and excessive use of ginseng appears to involve relatively low risk.
Because of the lack of reliable, standardized preparations, the near impossibility of patent, fundamental differences between eastern and western medicine, and a lack of info on proper dosage very few human studies have been conducted with ginseng. Despite the absence of evidence, ginseng is often given credit for the ability to help with numerous diseases.
One definite conclusion: it can act as a stimulant.
Cordyceps (Dong Chong) is a CNS stimulant, but the mechanism by which it works has apparently not been studied much. It was originally a Chinese folk medicine - a fungus which grows on the cadavers of certain caterpillars. More recently it is grown in laboratory cultures.
There is no quality control in this, and I fear that the Cordyceps available to us may be contaminated by aflatoxin, which results from another fungus. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic in very low concentrations. Dong chong, or Cordyceps, is a fungus. Ginseng is a tubiferous plant, but they are often attributed similar properties.
References on this substance can be found in:
Jpn. J. Pharmacol. 70, 85-88 (1996)
Jpn. J. Pharmacol. 70 (1), 85-88 (1996)
Mice were given the extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis (Cs) (200 mg/kg daily, p.o.) for 3 weeks. In vivo phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra of the liver were acquired at weekly intervals using a surface coil. From 1 to 3 weeks, a consistent increase in the ATP/inorganic phosphate ratio, which represents the high energy state, was observed in the Cs extract-treated mice. The intracellular pH of the Cs extract -treated mice was not significantly different from that of the control mice. No steatosis, necrosis, inflammation or fibrosis were observed in the liver specimens from Cs extract-treated mice.
The results of numerous studies indicate that milk thistle has much therapeutic potential. Human trials have shown it to be liver protective for conditions including hepatitis and cirrhosis. It also stimulates protein synthesis in liver cells.
Milk thistle is poorly soluble in water, so it is ineffective to ingest it by drinking tea. It is also poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract (only about 20-50% gets through).
It is commonly marketed in a 200 mg capsule that is approximately 70% active ingredients. Toxic effects have not been reported.
Saw Palmetto has an antiandrogenic action. It prevents the binding of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) to androgen receptors. This has important consequences for those who are concerned with hair loss and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), both mediated by DHT binding to androgen receptors. 320 mg per day are necessary to reduce hair loss, and even then it only works for a percentage of people. Similar doses may be necessary to help with BPH.
In Europe it is still used for the treatment of BPH. However, in the US the FDA has banned the sale of all nonprescription remedies for BPH. This may cast some doubt on the quality of saw palmetto currently available. [this rule may have changed recently?]
Those lifters who are not concerned with either of the above problems should avoid the use of saw palmetto (assuming it's real) because an antiandrogenic effect is the last thing a natural lifter would want.
The genus Smilax includes about 300 different species of plants. Sarsaparilla is made from the root of Smilax aristolochiifolia (not officinalis) and subsequently some androgens can be synthesized from sarsaparilla.
Most Smilax is advertised as natural testosterone or means of boosting testosterone levels. However, there is no evidence supporting these claims.
Yohimbine is an extract from the bark of the tree Pausinystalia yohimbe. Most supplements of yohimbine are promoted as natural sources of testosterone or test enhancers. Yohimbine is an alpha-adrenergic blocker used clinically to treat impotence (often in conjunction with methyltestosterone). Actual yohimbine is difficult to come by over the counter. It will definitely enhance the libido (get the real stuff by prescription if you want to know by how much), but it won't cause an increase in lean muscle mass as most lifters would hope.
Dan Duchaine has mentioned, at least in BodyOpus, that Yohimbe is beneficial for fat loss. Anecdotal observations seem to support this notion, especially in women. Note also that over the counter Yohimbe bark capsules and "extracts" generally contain little to none of the active ingredient, yohimbine; unless the container actually states the yohimbine content (e.g., Twinlab's Yohimbe Fuel), it's safe to assume you are simply buying an inert powder at an inflated price.
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