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Proof Before Promises Part 2

This month we continue our interview with Anthony Almada, nutrition scientist, founder of EAS and founding partner of GENr8 (

JB: Branched-chain amino acids are said to be particularly important for those seeking added muscle size and strength. Do you agree?
AA: A recent study directly compared the effects of 15 grams of whey to 15 grams of essential amino acids, which includes the branched-chain amino acids, in older subjects. They produced identical anabolic effects. I’m aware of no published research that shows long-term muscle gains from using amino acid supplements.

One highly touted amino acid derivative, HMB, just doesn’t work at all in advanced trainees, although it may help beginners and older people. If HMB did provide a significant anabolic effect, it would be at least as popular as creatine, which does encourage long-term muscle gains. As with other supplements, HMB came in with a bang, then promptly went out with a fizzle based largely on consumer reports of lack of effectiveness.

JB: Are there any true safety issues and long-term dangers of using creatine supplements?
AA: Infants and children with neurological diseases have been given more than double the suggested loading dose of creatine for more than 10 continuous years, with the only side effect being harmless creatine crystals in the urine. Creatine did prove effective in the treatment of the children’s neurological deficits, however. I would suggest that if such huge doses are well tolerated by children for over a decade, it bodes well for creatine’s long-term safety.

JB: Let’s talk about dietary fat sources for bodybuilders. What’s best?
AA: Wild fish—not farmed—almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts and organic extra-virgin olive oil are all excellent fat sources for both health and bodybuilding purposes. Fish oil supplements vary enormously and include persistent organic pollutants that are passed up the food chain. People should buy only the highest-quality commercial fish oil supplements, preferably those that have been certified free of contaminants by an organization called International Fish Oil Standards.

JB: Carbohydrate intake is a controversial topic in bodybuilding, with some suggesting that it’s been overplayed. What’s your belief?
AA: You must consider various factors in determining bodybuilders’ carbohydrate needs—exercise intensity, training volume and how often you train. If you’re in the gym for 90 minutes and actually training rather than socializing, you may exhaust your liver glycogen, which maintains blood glucose during training. You’d burn 800 to 1,000 calories an hour while training, and most of them would be derived from carbs. That amounts to depleting about 250 grams of carbs by the end of your workout. Consider also that most bodybuilding workouts involve training various muscle groups, which lowers local muscle glycogen content in the exercised muscles.

JB: What happens if bodybuilders completely cuts carbs out of their diets?
AA: Their training intensity would take a nosedive, since it’s difficult to maintain training intensity without taking in carbs. While the brain can run on various fuels, it prefers glucose, which goes down with a consistent lack of carb intake. That translates into a feeling of persistent fatigue and lack of concentration during training. Recent studies also show that a lack of carb in the diets of advanced resistance trainees blunts the release of anabolic signaling factors, which would hamper gains in muscle size and strength.

JB: What are the ideal percentages of protein, fat and carbs for those seeking added muscle mass?
AA: If you go by percentages alone, you can fall short of optimal nutrient intake, particularly protein. While there’s much talk about carbs making you fat, it’s rare to find an athlete who got fat from eating a high-carb diet. You get fat from overeating, period. When you gain weight, you gain not only fat but also muscle. That’s the response to overeating. About half the weight you gain, assuming you’re not using anabolic drugs, is muscle. That’s true even if you do nothing more strenuous than lie on a couch all day.

JB: Is there a preferred diet for boosting fat loss in bodybuilders?
AA: The old standard dieting technique among bodybuilders was to bulk up with excess calories, followed by strict dieting to achieve muscular definition. It’s possible to lose 30 percent of your bodyweight in three months, but you lose fat and a considerable amount of muscle. I don’t believe it’s necessary to get fat to gain muscle. It’s better to monitor calorie intake and adjust calories according to the way you look in the mirror. Pay special attention to areas that tend to accrue fat more rapidly, such as the abdominals and lower body, and then adjust total intake accordingly—and possibly increase aerobic training. You don’t need to do hours of aerobics, either. New studies show that relatively short bouts of interval training are far more effective at reducing bodyfat and require much less time than conventional steady-state aerobics.

JB: How much pure bodyfat can a person lose in a week?
AA: Starvation studies, in which no food at all is eaten, show a two-to-three-pound loss of fat in a week.

JB: What’s the major dieting error made by bodybuilders?
AA: Too much protein, too few carbs.

JB: What is Vitargo, and where did it come from?
AA: Vitargo was originally developed at the request of elite Swedish endurance athletes who wanted a superior carbohydrate recovery source. The initial Vitargo products were extracted from potato starch that was specially processed. The original formula was awarded four international patents.

The first studies examining the effects of Vitargo were published by the same group of Swedish scientists who developed the carbohydrate-loading technique in 1966. They showed that you will get 1.7 times faster muscle glycogen recovery when you take Vitargo after exhaustive endurance training. The next study found that Vitargo was absorbed twice as rapidly as maltodextrin and sugar. Vitargo was introduced without fanfare into products back in the 1970s. An EAS product contained Vitargo more than a decade ago.

The original potato-starch extract used in Vitargo was hard to manage. It tended to turn into a rock-hard mass if used incorrectly. The next formula featured waxy maize starch, but it could also be made from other carb sources—rice starch, corn starch and wheat starch. The current version contains barley starch.

JB: Many products contain waxy maize starch, and a lot of people think it’s the same thing as Vitargo. What exactly is waxy maize starch, and how does it differ from the ingredients used in Vitargo?
AA: Waxy maize starch was originally developed in China in the early 1900s, then shipped to the United States. It’s a type of corn starch that derives its name from its waxy appearance when viewed under a microscope, although it doesn’t contain any more wax than other starches. Around 2002 the Nutrex company obtained the rights to combine Vitargo with creatine. Later pro bodybuilder Art Atwood acquired the rights to distribute Vitargo in various flavors.

The company that I’m now associated with became the sole distributor of Vitargo after 2006. Other companies are selling waxy maize products and making Vitargo claims for them, but waxy maize starch is not Vitargo, and the claims being made for waxy maize are complete lies. If anything, the properties of waxy maize are the opposite of Vitargo’s. For example, unlike Vitargo, waxy maize is not effective at rapidly increasing insulin, does not rapidly increase glucose, and so on. What makes Vitargo special is its rapid uptake. Waxy maize is slowly digested and is not efficient at rapid glycogen replenishment or boosting insulin the way Vitargo is.

JB: Based on the history of its use and development, it sounds as if Vitargo is more suitable for endurance athletes. Is that correct?
AA: Again, it depends on how hard you train and how much recovery you require from intense training.

JB: How can Vitargo aid the recovery from typical bodybuilding training?
AA: We don’t have any published studies related to Vitargo use for strength-training recovery. On the other hand, the increased insulin released as a result of Vitargo gives you a pronounced blood vessel dilation independent of arginine or nitric oxide release. That translates into a superior muscle pump and blood perfusion in the muscle.

JB: I would think that Vitargo would be an excellent supplement for those interested in precontest carb-loading techniques.
AA: A number of top bodybuilders do use Vitargo for precontest preparation. Since they often restrict fluids shortly before a contest, they add small amounts of water to Vitargo and make it into a gel or pudding form. That lets them increase muscle glycogen stores without having to drink a lot of fluids and produces a “drier,” more defined appearance. Vitargo produces no bloating, as many other carb sources do.

JB: Who shouldn’t use Vitargo?
AA: Those who don’t train hard enough to make inroads into glycogen stores should avoid using Vitargo. Interestingly, because of its superior absorption characteristics, Vitargo is excellent for use by diabetics. We have not yet, however, compared using Vitargo to glucose for diabetics.

JB: Is there is a best method of using Vitargo?
AA: On heavy training days take a full dose—two scoops—of Vitargo 30 minutes prior to the workout. Or take half a dose before the workout, then sip the rest throughout your training session. That will maintain optimal energy without indigestion or bloating. After the workout mix two scoops of Vitargo with your favorite protein supplement, meal or shake. Using Vitargo after training will raise insulin twice as high and twice as fast as simple sugars—in only 10 minutes. Increasing insulin after the workout immediately stops muscle protein breakdown.

JB: Are there any gender differences in the effects of Vitargo?
AA: We haven’t examined that aspect yet.

JB: What about Vitargo for older bodybuilders?
AA: Insulin resistance increases with age but less in athletes. So I’d expect any results obtained with Vitargo use to be similar, regardless of age.

JB: Since Vitargo is a concentrated carb source and does significantly boost insulin, is there a danger of gaining bodyfat from its use?
AA: To answer that question, consider that some people get more than 70 percent of their daily calories as carbs and eat as many as 12,000 calories a day yet show no signs of excess bodyfat. One example is Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the athletes who compete in the Tour de France. Do they look fat? Phelps’ diet is, frankly, gross and unhealthful, taking no apparent account of long-term health effects. The point is that insulin promotes fat storage only when accompanied by overeating and inactivity.

JB: Are there any interesting developments in sports nutrition?
AA: Emerging studies show that combining Vitargo and carnitine has amazing effects. When you take carnitine supplements, blood carnitine rises, but little of it is absorbed into muscle. When a sufficient amount of carnitine is loaded into muscle, however, carb burning is replaced by pronounced fat oxidation. The muscle uses 40 percent less lactate at rest, and carbs are directly shunted into muscle glycogen rather than stored as fat. It turns out that your body needs a lot of insulin for carnitine entry into muscle, and Vitargo is ideal for that purpose. I predict some interesting benefits will emerge when Vitargo is combined with carnitine.

JB: That reminds me of a study I read that discovered that an enzyme that works with carnitine in shuttling fat into cell mitochondria was upgraded in rats. Those special rats could eat anything they wanted yet never gained any fat whatsoever. I look forward to when something like that is produced in humans. Then I can put pizza back into my diet. IM

Instantized Creatine- Gains In Bulk

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