Everyday we get emails with the same old question, are there any supplements out there that are equal to steroids. We’ll answer this question right now, NO! The closet thing we had on the market were pro-hormones and you say all the bullshit the FDA made over those. Don’t get discouraged though because food is still the number one source of growth for the human machine. steroids are a synthetic hormone that acts on the cellular level to achieve all of its gain in strength and size. This is why people on steroid go up fast and come down just as fast when their cycles are over. We all seen some of these people there a freaking monster for a couple of weeks then they kind of shrink back to normal and continue this cycle throughout the year. The biggest reason we didn’t want any of you taking and steroids is that like any sport most (95%) of us will never reach the pro level because most of these have genetic disposition to add muscle over everybody else.
Like we said before food is the most anibolic of all nutrients the human body can recieve. You may be asking youeself that if this is so then why do people us e steriods at all? Well food and hard work will get you a long way but coupled with the use of synthetics you can acheive much more. This is not to say that professionals are not training just as hard or harder than you it’s that their proffession dictates that their standards be a lot higher than the normal trainer.
Food does none of those things. You have to work as hard or harder than a pro (and trust me those guys earn their living) and take care of things in the kitchen. Most people love to train, but they are just too lazy to take care of the other aspects of the sport. Excuses like “I don’t have time to eat”, or “I can’t eat that much” don’t cut it. If you can get up off the couch and make a sandwich then you have time to eat. Most should come to realize that eating is something that has to be learned over a course of time. No one can say to them self that I am going to eat 5000 calories today when before they only took in 3000 and do it on a consistent basis day in and day out. This is the effort that is required to pack on serious mass. Don’t be fooled eating like this requires just as much effort as the intensity put forth in the gym. What it comes down to is “Are your willing to pay the cost to be the boss?”
Calories: Are You Eating Enough
How do you figure out if you’re eating enough and what is enough calories for your personal growth plan. Old rule of thumb is to eat 500 calories over your daily maintenance amount. Whats your maintenance amount? Easiest way to calculate this is to take 10 -15 calories per pound of body weight. We use 10-15 calories based on body type. Ectomorphs should use the high end of the scale 13-15 per pound, mesomorphs should be at about 10-12 per pound.
Once you’ve calculated the amount of calories needed to maintain your present bodyweight increase that amount by 500 calories. Now does this mean that the 500 is set in stone, NO. Adjust the calories up depending on activity. The more activity you have in your life add more calories. Now with this being said we still need to watch the scale each week to make adjustment to keep us in the 1-2 lbs per week range. The more work you put in, the more food you need it just that simple. The thing is that you never want to let workout expenditure exceed the energy your bringing in. Just like a car that has enough gas for 150 mile trip but needs to go 200 mile your going to come up short. So you want to gradually increase calories before you start adding sets to your workouts, so your nutrition doesn’t have to play catch-up to your energy expenditure.
The more you eat, the more you can handle in work output, and that way you prevent over-training. In most cases you aren’t over-training at all, you are under-eating. So get at least a minimum of calories for growth, and as long as you are using them, the more the better.
Nutrient Ratios: 50/35/15
So that when you reach maintenance or below you are eating 35% carbohydrates, 45% protein and 20% fats. Along with that you also need your daily requirements of vitamins, minerals and water. Getting your daily requirements also helps increase your bodies ability to function under the stresses of training and life itself. They also help with the assimilation of the macronutrients and increases their benefits as well.
There are three forms of simple carbohydrates:
- Simple sugars (saccharides),such as those in honey and fruits, are very easily digested.
- Double sugars (di-saccharides),such as table sugar or corn syrup, which require some digestive action.
- Multiple sugars (oligo-saccharides).
Complex carbohydrates (starches) require prolonged enzymatic action in order to be broken down into simple sugars (glucose) for digestion. This prolonged digestion create a steady stream of glucose into the bloodstream for more proloned energy. Glucose or blood-sugar. So the intent of ingesting carbs is to get a higher blood-sugar level. Once that happens one of two things can happen. The first is that the higher blood-sugar level stimulates the pancreas to create insulin. Insulin, when it gets to certain receptors on a cell, can stimulate that cell to absorb more nutrients like protein and fat and micronutrients. The entire goal of bodybuilding nutrition is after all to get the building blocks, amino acids, into the muscle cells to build muscle mass.
If blood-sugar is too high and carbohydrates are ingested insulin levels decrease and cell receptor sites close down turning those extra carbs into fat. Not exactly what you were looking for, but that just means you shouldn’t eat high carb meals to close to each other. A small portion of the glucose is converted to glycogen and stored by the liver and muscles. Glycogen is the main ingredient for the body’s energy source Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). So you need a high glycogen stock pile is neccessary to function at optimal levels and deliver great workouts in the gym. Every time you expend energy though, like with exercising, you lower glycogen storages by burning off ATP. So you need to replenish those sources if you want to keep doing well.
The interesting thing about glycogen replenishment, and the reason we like keeping high carbs when adding mass, is that 1 gram of glycogen in the muscle cell also increases the water inside the cell by 2.7 grams. The benefit of this is that for every gram of glycogen absorbed in a muscle cell you gain 3.7 grams of weight. What more water in a cell also does is increase the volume, and allows more of other nutrients inside the cell membrane which means more muscle growth. Transient behavior allows things like protein and micronutrients to enter the cell in larger amounts, and that combination improves your chances of making that 2.7 extra grams you gained a more of a permanent thing. This is the same reasoning behind supplementing creatine which recycles ATP and increases water inside the cell. So that’s why we need carbs.
The GI Index
The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It compares foods gram for gram of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly during digestion have the highest glycemic indexes. The blood glucose response(isulin spike – the pancreatic hormone responsible for the storage of nutrients in cells) is fast and high. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have low glycemic indexes.
A carbohydrate high on the index will very likely be stored as glycogen and will also probably, for a small duration and in the right amount, be capable of absorbing a great deal of other nutrients including protein and creatine. That is the only purpose of the index. If it has a low ranking, its not always a bad thing, it may have a slow conversion, it may have almost no conversion but for a particular reason and so on. A di-saccharide (made of two sugar molecules) such as lactose for instance is not good at raising insulin. But on the other hand there is no fear of fattening, since it is not readily stored as fat, and it doesn’t have stimulatory effects, so unlike sugars high on the GI-index, lactose will not keep you up at night.
Even though we recommend eating slighty more carbs than protein, believe us when we say protein is the #1 nutrient to a growing bodybuilder. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body. Protein is one of the most important elements for the maintenance of good health and vitality and is of primary importance in the growth and development of all body tissues. It is the major source of building material for muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, and internal organs, including the heart and the brain.
Protein is needed for the formation of hormones, which control a variety of body functions such as growth, sexual development, and rate of metabolism. Protein also helps prevent the blood and tissues from becoming either too acid or too alkaline and helps regulate the body’s water balance. Enzymes, substances necessary for basic life functions, and antibodies, which help fight foreign substances in the body, are also formed from protein. In addition, protein is important in the formation of milk during lactation(in women) and in the process of blood clotting. So all other nutrients are important, but protein is numero-uno.
Dietary protein, when it is digested, enters the blood as amino acids, which is made up of 22 amino acids. All but eight of these amino acids can be produced in the adult body. The eight that cannot be produced are called ‘essential amino acids’ because they must be supplied in the diet. The bulking bodybuilder should get more than his share of essential amino acids. Your diet should include a minimum of 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That much you need, and that should be 35 to 45 percent of your diet, and everything else should be in relation to your protein consumption. Protein has to be the center of any eating plan for a bodybuilder.
What do amino acids do in the body? Well, they can function in many different ways. Some work as neurotransmitters to allow nerve functioning, some help with fatty acid transport, other help keep the body clean, and so forth. They fulfill so many actions in the body it’s hard to keep track. But they all have one thing in common: They can be used for the manufacture of new protein. And new protein in the body is used for the making and repairing of tissue, including muscle tissue. So these are the bricks you build your body with. Even the sources of life, DNA and RNA, are based on amino acids. So you can’t do without them. You need to get a daily minimum of each, but provided you get 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound or mostly essentials, you should get as much as 4 or 5 times the daily minimum.
Food Combining: Proteins/Carbs
This is a discussion that has been going on for many years and centers around acids and alkalines. You see proteins digest in a acids solution. Where as carbohydrates digest in an alkaline solution. If you don’t know chemistry, these two substance cancel each other out, resulting in indigestion. Some have said we need to keep the two separate for total absorption, but recent studies say that protein uptake in the cells is greater when limited amount of carbs are combined. We recommend tha if you consume carbs with your protein meal make them quick digesting so as not to limit each others absorption. As stated earlier simple and double sugars require little to no digestion.
That is why you can add carbs, as long as they are simple sugars. They don’t require much digesting and thus they don’t add much alkaline to the mix. Glucose (natural blood-sugar) and sucrose and so don’t even need any digestion they just enter the blood, as does most of the fructose and dextrose (corn-sugar, similar in structure to glucose). Lactose breaks down immediately into the two simple counterparts and is absorbed. So these sugars will not hinder the absorption of large amounts of protein, but complex carbs take a while to digest, some as long as three hours, during which alkalines are gushing into the stomach. Not only do you not disallow protein to be absorbed, but also the carbs, because the acid cancels out the alkaline needed to digest them.
So what about the complex carbs? Easy, as we said earlier eat them by themselves. Usually a good way to replenish lost glycogen and assure enough energy for the entire day is to eat an all complex carb meal in the mid-morning. Nowhere near your times of rest or post-workout nutrition. That can fuel you for the entire day and it should be all digested by the time you get to lunch. That means 150 grams of spaghetti with a baked potato and a few slices of bread would make a great midmorning snack. And it really fills you up. This also means that when you eat meat, an important compound of healthy fat and protein, you can’t eat potatoes or bread with it. And you should avoid as much complex carbs in post-workout nutrition as well since this is the time you need more protein. If you do take complex carbs, use maltodextrin because it is broken down easier and much more efficiently, but the best mix is still your protein requirement (35-50) with an equal amount or higher in simple carbs and some clean fats. So if you are looking for a quality weight gainer, you know what to watch. Protein and sugar.
Fat is very important in the human diet. Fats, or lipids, are the most concentrated source of energy in the diet. When oxidized, fats furnish more than twice the number of calories per gram furnished by carbohydrates or proteins. One gram of fat yields approximately 9 calories to the body. In addition to providing energy, fats act as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. By aiding in the absorption of vitamin D, fats help make calcium available to body tissues, particularly to the bones and teeth. Fats are also important for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A. Fat deposits surround, protect, and hold in place organs, such as the kidneys, heart, and liver.
These days there is such an emphasis on high cholesterol that people start equating dietary fat with body-fat, and the two are simply not the same. People shy away from fat, as if it were the plauge. Well lets shine a little light on the situation. One there are good fats and bad fats. Obviously you need to avoid bad fats because they raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and turn to tri- and di-glycerides that increase chances of coronary mishaps. Bad fats are anything that has been overly processed or stored for excessive amounts of time (bags of chips, canned foods, etc.). The good ones are found in fresh meats, nuts and oils. The best way of getting more good fat in your diet is by taking a few tablespoons of some oils like flaxseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower seed oil and olive oil. You don’t need a whole lot because unlike protein and carbohydrates, which are 4 calories per gram, fats are 9 calories per gram so you need less than half the amount to get the same amount of calories. And since they only make up 15 to 25 percent of a diet, you don’t need all that much. This way those 10 or 20 extra grams make a huge difference.
Fats contain EFA’s, or Essential Fatty Acids. These substances, if I still haven’t convinced you of their benefit, are also known as Vitamin F.
Vitamin F, essential fatty acids are composed of two fatty acids – linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linoleic acid (LNA) – with linoleic acid being the most complete fatty acid. There are two basic categories of EFA’s (essential fatty acids) – omega-3 and omega-6 which include linoleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid. The body is not capable of manufacturing essential fatty acids, while the fatty acid arachidonic acid can be synthesized in the body from linoleic acid.
Some EFA’s are alpha-linolic acid and linoleic acid. Fat turns to cholesterol. Bad fats turn to LDL (low-density lipoproteins) and good fats to HDL (high-density lipoproteins). As long as you have more HDL than LDL, you are actually improving your cholesterol rate and decreasing chances of coranary problems.
To the bodybuilder, cholesterol is a very important substance. Leydig cells, also known as interstitial cells of Leydig, are found adjacent to the seminiferous tubules in the testes. They produce the hormone Testosterone when stimulated by Luteinizing Hormone (LH) secreted from the anterior pituitary, cholesterol can than be turned into DHEA and will eventually turn to testosterone or estrogen in men and women respectively. Hormones drived from cholesterol are known as steroid-hormones. We all know how anabolic testosterone is, just look at the pro ranks. Another beneficial and popular steroid hormone made in several tissues is Vitamin D, which improves the use and absorption of calcium, whose importance we will discuss later on. These things make EFA’s great to stack with LH secreting products such as tribulus or ZMA.
Perhaps the main use for fat is that it increases the digestion and use of protein by lengthing the time it takes to pass through stomach by slowing secretions of hydrochloric acid. This can increase the bio-availability of the protein, making sure you get more in your blood and muscle and take the risk out of taking in to much protein. Too much protein can damage the liver if there isn’t enough fat to process all of it. If you have more fat with your protein, you can use more protein, so they help each other. Take eggs for instance. And egg white, which contains all the protein, has a biological value of 91. And a whole egg, though the yolk contains only fats and micronutrients, has a biological value (BV) of 100. These are arbitrary scores with 100 being the highest natural available source. Now there are proteins that are higher. But the BV is calculated by matching the percentage of protein by weight of a product (for eggs only 12 percent) and how much of it is actually used (for eggs that is 94 percent). That is why whey isolates have such a high BV, they have a better utilization (up to 97 percent) and they are almost pure protein (80 to 98 percent of the weight is protein). So fat increases the use of proteins in the diet.
Like amino acids, micronutrients can make a big difference in the way the body functions. Depending on the place in the body where they are used or stored, what liquid they are absorbed in be it fat or water, and the length of time the nutrient stays present in that medium. There are way to many to name so we will concentrate on the water soluble because they tend to be the ones of most deficiencies. This includes the entire B-complex and the C-vitamin. The mains sources for these are in vegetables and fruits. Both sources are limited in a bodybuilding diet because they aren’t very calorie-dense and the point is after all to get in as much calories as you can use. So its always wise to supplement these two. All B-vitamins improve the use of macronutrients, and individually they can give energy, speed up digestion, necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system, health of the skin, eyes,hair, mouth, liver, and a zillion other useful things. The C-vitamin is both anabolic and anti-catabolic. One of vitamin C’s main functions is the maintenance of collagen, a protein necessary for the formulation of connective tissue in skin, ligaments and bones.
It also functions as a antibacterial which aides in the fighting of infections. This is why it is used in the fight against the common cold. Vitamin C also functions as an important enzyme in many anabolic processes and acts like an anti-oxidant as well as support the action of other anti-oxidants. You can use plenty of both, sometimes thousands of percentages. Vitamin C is usually dosed in 1000 to 3000 mg in 2 or 3 doses daily and B-complex vitamins are usually stacked, so some may be 100 percent of daily value and others 3000 or more. You don’t need to worry about negative effects from high doses because water-soluble vitamins that are in excess are easily excreted from the body, sometimes within the hour.
That’s not all there is to micro-nutrients of course, there are also minerals. Lets look at the essentials that need to be maximized in the diet and supplemented if need be: Calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron.
While we are talking about it, calcium is perhaps the most important micro-nutrient to the bodybuilder. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. About 99 percent of the calcium in the body is deposited in the bones and teeth. One percent is involved in the blood-clotting process, in nerve and muscle stimulation, parathyroid hormone function, and metabolism of vitamin D. Calcium aids in the body’s utilization of iron, helps activate several enzymes (catalysts important for metabolism), and helps regulate the passage of nutrients in and out of the cell walls. The calcium ion in the blood is the transport ion for both protein and creatine. So after you’ve done your hardest to eat correctly and get all that stuff in your blood, the last thing you want to do is mess it up by not being able to get that stuff to the muscle-cells. Increasing calcium is not just beneficial to nutrients transport, but also nutrients delivery. Calcium gets in the cell rather easily. And on top of that the high concentration of calcium in the cell increases the absorption of potassium in the cell. That is beneficial to the potassium/Sodium pump for energy and nutrient delivery. So calcium does all that to help us reach our goals. Calcium is also the largest proponent of the bone structure. Every day approximately 3 grams of calcium is replaced in the skeleton. With some overlapping that means you renew all your bones in around a year. So a high calcium uptake and its proper use are extremely important. The best way of getting a lot of calcium is drinking milk and mineral water. Supplementation is not a bad idea however.
The next micro-nutrient of such great importance is potassium itself. Potassium is an essential mineral found mainly in the intracellular fluid; a small amount occurs in the extra-cellular fluid. Potassium constitutes 5 percent of the total mineral content of the body. Potassium and sodium help regulate water balance within the body; that is, they help regulate the distribution of fluids on either side of the cell walls. As we hinted at, it is part of the potassium (K+) / Sodium (Na+) ATPase pump of supplying energy. It does this by changing the electric potential of a membrane forcing an action, such as for example a muscle contraction. Its called the action potential and it does this by letting K flow out of the cell and Na into the cell and when the desired potential is reached, it uses ATP to reverse the effect. To get an optimal effect here you need twice as much potassium as Sodium. Unfortunately we athletes use a lot of potassium and our diet is too rich in sodium. So we need more potassium. The best way for me to get more of it is by eating a banana in between, they are very high in potassium. But citrus fruits, leafy vegetables, fish and unprocessed meats supply a good source of potassium as well. If you supplement any mineral religiously it should be potassium.
Iron rarely needs to be supplemented, except in women who are having their period. You don’t need much and it stores very well in the body. Very high levels can be toxic. If you feel you are deficient in Iron, and it does happen (symptoms usually depression and lack of energy, looking pale), you can increase dietary intake by eating more chocolate. Preferably the dark kind. Cacao beans are without a doubt the richest source of iron, about twice as high as the other options with less calories : spinach and broccoli.
Zinc is another story, you need about as much as Iron and it stores rather well and all that, but the difference is you expend a lot of it as an athlete and most bodybuilders are severely deficient in this mineral. Getting more is not hard, except if you are a vegetarian, since the best sources are meat, poultry and fish. Magnesium is in the same class. You need a lot more of it and it doesn’t store as well, but it’s a mineral most are equally deficient in since it is used so readily by the body. Magnesium is needed in the formation of bone, protein and fatty acid, so you can see why you’d need a lot of it. Good sources are pretty much the same as for zinc. If you feel you need to supplement any of these three, take them at a time when no calcium is present in the stomach because calcium inhibits all three of them. Beware of products that combine calcium with one of these and always check ingredients to see if calcium wasn’t used to bind the stuff together in the tablet. If you feel you need supplementation in Zinc and Magnesium, it may be wise to invest in a pure ZMA product, which provides both and vitamin B6 in a chelated form (no calcium). Its very effective and in just the right dosage.
People always forget that water is a nutrient and that staying well hydrated is one of the most important factors in nutrition. Especially if you are doing hard work that causes you to sweat. We’re not going into that stuff about drinking a gallon a day) most hard training bodybuilders should be drinking more) stuff but about using hydration to help the body gain mass. These are the steps you should be following:
- First problem is that people don’t drink enough. Most drink three maybe four times a day with their meals and that simply ain’t enough.
- Second problem goes along with the first – You shouldn’t be drinking along with your meal but after your meal. Let your food have time to digest, then have a beverage. This way your food stands a better chance of being properly digested.
- Third problem is what the hell are you drinking. I have seen people drinking sodas PL meets, bodybuilders with diet sodas at contests and all kinds of other crazy crap. Sodas contain carbon dioxide and some of them caffeine or a likewise substance. The Carbon dioxide in the soda makes you think it has more water than it really does, and the caffeine acts as a diuretic, so your not only losing out on the water in your drink, you’ll be excreting more water than you took in on your next trip to the bathroom. Hey look your body is composed of H2O not Coke, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew. So drink mostly pure H2O okay.
Over 2⁄3 of the body is water, so staying hydrated is very important. Beer and soda aren’t the answer. One solution is to drink allot of milk. Milk is 90% water, has the right amount of fat, protein and carbs to help pack on mass. Milk has been a staple of every hard training strength athlete for the last hundred years for those very reasons. Pure water and fruit juices work just as well to meet your hydration demands. Try to paying more attention to this too, if you want to stay healthy and get big.
All of the dietary factors are important, protein takes the prize in this case, but without fats, carbohydrates and the micronutrients, not to mention water, what use would that protein have? The answer: NOT MUCH. Proper nutritional habits are a must for anyone, especially for those who are trying to create a huge, muscular physique. If your calories are not the problem, but all you are gaining is fat, it’s time to get off you butt and start rearranging where you get your calories from. And pretty soon you too will be on the road to muscular growth.