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Vitamin C fights stress hormone. The Perpetual Pump?

You’ve heard that it’s important to consume a carbohydrate-protein-and-amino acid cocktail immediately after exercise to maximize the anabolic effects of weight training, right? The timing of a meal may be just as important for weight loss.

You’ve heard that it’s important to consume a carbohydrate-protein-and-amino acid cocktail immediately after exercise to maximize the anabolic effects of weight training, right? The timing of a meal may be just as important for weight loss.

Japanese scientists had 17 fat men take part in a 12-week program that consisted of mild weight training (with three-to-five-kilogram dumbbells) and a 17 percent reduction in energy intake.1 (Okay, laugh out loud; your grandma could throw those dumbbells around.) One group took a low-calorie supplement (10 grams protein, seven grams carbs, 3.3 grams fat) immediately after exercise; the other group took a placebo. Both groups ate the same number of total calories and protein daily. After 12 weeks the researchers found no differences in fat loss; however, the control group had lost a significant amount of lean body mass while the supplement group had not.

Bottom line: When you’re on a calorie-restricted diet, it’s important to eat a small meal or take a supplement right after training to ensure that you maintain lean body mass levels. That will translate into a higher resting metabolic rate.

Vitamin C fights stress hormone. Forty-five participants in a 90-kilometer (that’s more than 55 miles) road race were divided into three groups: those who took 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, or a placebo for seven days before the race, on the day of the race and for two days after the race.2 True, running more than 50 miles is probably a bit more strenuous than doing killer sets of squats or bench presses, but keep in mind that vitamin C might be useful to those of us who don’t partake of such extreme exercise.

The researchers found that immediate-postrace serum cortisol, the notorious stress hormone, was lower in the 1,500-milligram vitamin C group than in the lower-dose or placebo groups. According to the authors, there’s an ‘attenuation, albeit transient, of both the adrenal stress hormone and anti-inflammatory polypeptide response to prolonged exercise in runners who supplemented with 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C per day.’ Bottom line: It might help to take 1.5 grams of vitamin C for seven days before an intense athletic event as well as the day of the event and two days after.

The Perpetual Pump? Some supplements claim to amplify muscle growth via nitric oxide production with the ingredient arginine alpha-ketoglutarate. That’s hardly a novel supplement. In fact, some research looked at different salts of alpha-ketoglutarate, a metabolite in the Krebs cycle. For instance, ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG), has some animal- and human-based data that support that idea.

Unfortunately, there aren’t compelling human data of any sort, only a magnificent leap of faith that arginine is involved in nitric oxide metabolism. Nitric oxide is involved in skeletal-muscle metabolism and growth. The basic mechanism for that is not known. So the logical’or illogical’next step would be to assume that swallowing boatloads of arginine, or AKG, would somehow have an effect on muscle growth.

When you look at the AKG data, however, it ain’t impressive. For example, OKG has been shown to have anticatabolic effects after severe surgical stress. Some scientists believe that may have something to do with the fact that alpha-ketoglutarate is a glutamine precursor. Yet arginine alpha-ketoglutarate does not have a similar effect. OKG is superior to AKG when it comes to raising plasma, or blood, glutamine levels. Bottom line: Is AKG worth it? It’s up to you. The data aren’t there, and for the money, creatine works 1,000-fold better.

References 1 Doi, T., et al. (2001). New approach for weight reduction by a combination of diet, light resistance exercise and the timing of ingesting a protein supplement. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 10(3):226-32. 2 Peters, E.M., et al. (2001). Vitamin C supplementation attenuates the increases in circulating cortisol, adrenaline and anti-inflammatory polypeptides following ultramarathon running. Int J Sports Med. 22(7):537-43. 3 Le Boucher, J., et al. (1997). Enteral administration of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate or arginine alpha-ketoglutare: a comparative study of their effects on glutamine pools in burn-injured rats. Crit Care Med. 25(2):293-8.

Editor’s note: Jose Antonio, Ph.D., CSCS, earned his doctorate at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is a co-editor (with Jeffrey R. Stout, Ph.D.) of and contributor to Sports Supplements (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), Sports Supplement Encyclopedia (Nutricia), Supplements for Strength-Power Athletes (Human Kinetics) and Supplements for Endurance Athletes (Human Kinetics). For more information visit IM

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