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The Truth: You Need Those Supplements

In a recent commentary appearing in Sports Nutrition Insider, Jose Antonio, Ph.D., president of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, made note of the never-ending statements by many medical scientists, clinicians and health-care professionals who don’t use supplements and devalue their need. He states that the “best strategy is to pair what athletes do in the real world with what scientists learn in the lab.”

Today, after decades of research, sports scientists and sports nutritionists have confirmed that the recommended dose ranges for nonathletic and/or sedentary individuals are fine for preventing nutritional deficiencies but don’t provide optimal amounts of nutrients to sustain the energy, repair, recovery, immunologic and growth needs of people who engage in resistance training or other high-impact physically challenging sports. Also, studies show that high-intensity training can cause deficiencies of many basic nutrients, on par with what people who have poor nutritional habits experience.

Without some catalyst to jump-start chemical reactions that initiate, maintain, sustain or prolong anabolic-charged processes, those reactions wouldn’t occur at a rate fast enough to have any noticeable results. That could be compared to trying to start your car without any spark plugs—or an ignition key. The bottom line: Vitamins and minerals act as anabolic ignition keys. Here are a few “keys” you may want to consider:

• Vitamin C. Best known for its antioxidant properties and ability to boost immune function, vitamin C also produces collagen, the glue that holds your muscles together. Collagen is a healing nutrient and can assist in improving muscle recovery after workouts. New research has confirmed that vitamin C also assists in synthesizing protein and amino acids, as well as suppressing the production of cortisol, a hormone that accelerates muscle wasting and bodyfat storage. Vitamin C assists in producing steroid hormones, including testosterone. Furthermore, there is evidence that it helps stimulate fat burning as a result of its ability to speed up the synthesis of the amino acid L-carnitine, and increases nitric oxide in the bloodstream. Researchers at Athens University Medical School in Greece found that when L-arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide, was combined with vitamin C, the combo significantly upped nitric oxide levels at greater rates than did L-arginine taken alone. Suggested dose: 1,500 to 3.000 milligrams a day.

• Vitamin A. Well-known for preserving eye health and improving immune function, vitamin A is involved in the manufacture of glycogen, the stored form of glucose in the liver and muscle tissues. It also enhances protein synthesis. Ironically, increased intake of protein reduces the body’s vitamin A. What’s more, researchers also now know that having increased amounts of vitamin A in the testes accelerates the production of testosterone and other growth factors. Additionally, A has the ability to reduce the production of estrogen, the female hormone that can increase water retention and fat production. Suggested dose: 5,000 to 10,000 international units. per day.

• Vitamin B6. B6 maintains proper nervous system function. Without it 60 essential enzymes would malfunction, and in the process normal nucleic acid and protein synthesis would completely shut down. Multiplication of cells, particularly red blood and immune system cells, would be impossible. Additionally, the nervous system and brain would cease to function, as the production of neurotransmitters would come to a grinding halt. Researchers have also identified over 100 enzymes that depend on vitamin B6 to regulate proper amino acid protein synthesis. Besides enhancing carbohydrate metabolism and the breakdown of body fats, B6 acts as a diuretic and regulates the enzymatic reactions that trigger the release of glucose from glycogen. Suggested dose: 10 milligrams a day.

• Calcium. As your body mass and size increase, maintaining a robust skeletal frame becomes paramount. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and keeps bone strong. Calcium maintains rhythmic heartbeat and in unison with magnesium regulates proper contraction and relaxation of smooth and striated muscles. Calcium also helps shunt amino acids and creatine into muscle tissue. Researchers had believed that calcium loss was extremely low during intense workouts; however, current research indicates that in male athletes loss of calcium via sweating after a two-hour workout can be as high as 400 milligrams. To offset those losses, researchers suggest that people engaged in intensive workouts take up to 3,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Studies have also shown that getting excessive protein can accelerate the excretion of calcium, thus causing bone loss. Suggested dose: 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams a day.

• ZMA. In bodybuilding circles the initials ZMA are synonymous with the minerals zinc and magnesium aspartate. It’s well-known that the zinc is involved with male maturation and immune health and that magnesium is involved with energy production. When those two supplements are united and attached to aspartic acid, however, they stimulate the production of testosterone. In fact, several studies have shown that ZMA can increase testosterone counts by up to 30 percent, with a simultaneous rise in strength. ZMA can boost insulinlike growth factor 1 significantly and works best when taken about one hour prior to sleep. ZMA appears to bring on deeper sleep cycles that can increase secretion of growth hormone. Suggested dose: 20 milligrams of zinc and 300 milligrams of magnesium daily.


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