This trio of natural muscle-builders can help you add size safely and effectively.
Don’t you hate the thought of not getting results in the gym? When it comes to building muscle, the se-cret of success is to understand the fine balance between muscle anabo-lism and catabolism. If you have the same amount of muscle mass from one month to another, your anabo-lism and catabolism are equal. You gain as much muscle as you de-grade, and that is the normal state. There are some very simple and effective ways though to change this balance in the favor of muscle anabolism. The results will come gradually, but they will be massive over time if you continue to keep the scales of muscle metabolism tipped so that the anabolic side is domi-nant. Here, I’ve described the three best strategies for promoting natural anabolism. You can use these three tips for the rest of your life to create a truly magnificent physique.
High-quality calories (what I call HQCs) are crucial for building a massive and lean body. Your body has several components that make up your energy demand. The first is your basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy your body uses during regular body processes, regardless of activity. Another factor is thermogenesis, what your body needs to keep your core tempera-ture at the right level. The liver and your brown adipose tissue are ex-cellent at transforming nutrients to heat, and your muscles are also in-volved. A third factor is your physical activity. This can vary from almost nothing if you’re just lying in bed at home to thousands of calories daily if you’re exercising intensely. You can easily find online tools to help you calculate each of these figures. My point is that the laws of biophys-ics demand that your body prioritizes these functions before any calories are used for muscle anabolism. That means if you don’t cover your en-ergy demands and then some, you will not gain muscle mass.
How To Use HQCs
HQCs consist of protein in the form of meat, eggs chicken, fish, shell-fish, legumes, and dairy products without additives. The carbs should be unrefined and low glycemic so they’re digested slowly and fill your muscles with glycogen instead of filling your cells with fat. Good carbs are potatoes (boiled or baked), brown rice, oatmeal, fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, and sweet potatoes. The fat you eat should come from olives, avocado, coconut (or their respective oils, and add rapeseed oil to that list), soybeans, butter, fatty fish, and seeds. If you eat plenty of this food, you will cover your energy demands and get the surplus your anabolism needs. You will also get all the vitamins, miner-als, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that enhance muscle growth further. A good strategy is to exchange the bad foods for the good and then add one extra meal a day. That could give you the excess 500 calories you need to tip the scale toward anabolism. Refined foods, sugar, white flour, additives, and refined fats are poor in nutrients and could actually decrease the amount of performance-enhancing micronutri-ents you absorb.
Creatine is an amazing substance first discovered in the 19th century. Researchers found that wild foxes had much higher levels of creatine in their muscles than their caged counterparts. Soon it was evident that creatine played a major role in muscle function, and during the Cold War era it was rumored that many Eastern Bloc athletes ex-perimented with creatine extracted from meat and fish. There are sig-nificant amounts of creatine in those sources, and that might be the number one reason that the Olym-pians in ancient Greece ate massive amounts of meat in their preparation for competition.
In modern history, creatine has been studied since the early 1990s, and we now know a lot about it. It is the most researched supplement for athletes, and it has many inter-esting effects. One-rep maximums (1RM) are increased by approxi-mately 10 percent, which is a huge gain when experienced athletes use it. The maximum number of repeti-tions in a set is also increased, and of course this will affect the ability to grow muscle. Heavier weights and more reps always do. Another interesting effect is that muscles actively absorb creatine, which makes them retain more water in the process. Your muscles will grow instantly, and may gain as much as four to eight pounds, and since the water ends up in the muscles rather than between the muscles and the skin, it won ́t make you look bloated but rather like you gained pure muscle mass. However, most of it will drop off when you stop using creatine. You will keep some of the gains though, which could be because of better and more effective workouts, but it could also be because of a direct anabolic action caused by the creatine. When your muscles absorb the water with the creatine, they are experiencing an increased internal osmotic pressure. In plain English, this means that the muscle cells are like balloons that are blown up to the limit. If you use creatine for a month or more, your muscles will adapt to this higher pressure by growing larger and stronger. This is anabolism at its purest.
How To Use Creatine
It is important that you dissolve creatine fully before drinking it, otherwise you won’t absorb it from the intestines and deliver it to the bloodstream where it reaches your muscles. Micronized creatine dis-solves the best, and even tepid water will work, but don’t use warm water, because heat can degrade the creatine. That also happens if it is dissolved for too long, so drink im-mediately. Consume creatine before meals or exercise for the maximum absorption. Your muscles have the capacity to increase its creatine con-tent by approximately 20 percent, and this is achieved either by ingest-ing 20 grams of creatine daily for five days, or consuming four grams daily for a month. You won’t be able to increase the muscle content more, so there’s no need for higher doses. Since it’s hard to absorb more than five grams at a time, you should divide the 20 grams in four portions. The safety of creatine has been carefully investigated, and you could use it up to eight weeks straight without losing potency. After that, it seems that the creatine levels drop a little, but they’re greater than before using the supplement. You could therefore use it longer than a couple of months, but then you must accept a slight drop in effect.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
There are around 20 amino acids in your muscles, but none as special as leucine, isoleucine, and valine, known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). They are three of the nine essential amino acids that your muscles need to grow. BCAA represent around 20 percent of all amino acids in your muscles and can be used directly as a fuel when you exercise hard. This is why the toughest sessions in the gym could actually result in a loss of muscle mass, especially when you’re dieting and when you’re doing prolonged cardio. A BCAA supplement will not only give your muscles impor-tant energy to utilize but will also block some enzymes responsible for muscle catabolism. The result is that you indirectly favor anabolism by suppressing catabolism. Studies show that too few BCAAs in your diet will result in less lean body mass and they become much more important during periods of nega-tive energy balance. Regular protein powders and protein-rich foods are sources of BCAA, but many times a supplement of leucine, isoleucine, and valine directly after exercise is faster, more efficient, and provides better results when it comes to stopping catabolism. BCAAs also af-fect muscle-building hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone, meaning they deliver a truly anabolic benefit.
How To Use BCAAs
The optimal dose seems to be five to 10 grams daily depending on body mass, in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine and valine. Split your intake of BCAAs before, during, and after working out for best results. Interestingly, we do not fully under-stand this supplement even though research has been conducted for de-cades. We know that it promotes fat loss, enhances immune system, and decreases fatigue, but new benefits and innovative uses for supplemen-tal BCAAs seem to be uncovered all the time.
Fredrik Paulún is a nutritionist based in Sweden. He holds a Master of Science in nutrition and specializes in improving body composition. He has been published in fitness maga-zines throughout Europe. For more info, check out paulunsfood.com.