There has, and will continue to be, many volumes written about the thorny subject of the role of supplements in true natural bodybuilding. After all, the term “Natural Bodybuilder” has come to mean different things to different people. However, it would be wise to remember a few basics here. Do not listen to the hype and waste your money on a pile of bodybuilding supplements before establishing exactly what it is you are hoping to achieve. Never, ever lose sight of the fact that sound nutrition forms the basis of any muscle building program and no amount of supplementation with the latest and greatest products will make up for bad eating habits.
The bottom line is, bodybuilding supplements should be used IN ADDITION to regular food, not INSTEAD OF it However, for the purposes of this article we will take a look at the more popular forms of supplementation and break them down into bite size chunks.
Firstly, it should be noted that anything that comes in tablet form, unless otherwise stated, is likely to have been created from non natural sources. There are also the issues surrounding the true effectiveness of pills. Other than the obvious placebo effect that taking a pill can induce, there is very little evidence to support the taking of vitamin and mineral pills as an effective muscle builder over the long term.
There are also the urban myths surrounding tablet absorption and these seem to be backed up by a number of official reports prepared by numerous government agencies in the US. For example, 250, 000 pounds of undigested vitamin and mineral pills have been reported as being pulled out of the sewers in Tacoma, Washington, every six weeks, and 159 gallons of undigested pills are showing up in sewer filters in Salt Lake City every month, In fact, a National Advisory Board investigation has revealed only 8.3% of every 100mg of nutrients consumed in tablet form is absorbed.
There is one form of supplement that is both absolutely essential to your muscle building plan and completely 100% natural, and that is Protein. Every single natural bodybuilder would agree that supplementing with whey protein is an important element in achieving serious muscle gains. Whey protein is produced during the process that sees milk turned into cheese. It is also found naturally in dairy products, eggs, soy and vegetable proteins but none of these compares in quality to whey protein powder. It also scores highly in providing the branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) that are important in the building and retention of muscle.
Whey protein is highly favored by bodybuilders because it provides the necessary building blocks to produce the amino acids that the body uses to build lean muscle tissue. Many studies have shown that whey protein contains the perfect combination of amino acids, in just the right concentration for optimal performance in the body. It is also thought that whey protein has a role as an anti-oxidant and immune system builder.
It is best taken in powder form mixed in juice or milk, spread throughout the day to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. Serious bodybuilders often consume up to 150 grams each day but as a rule of thumb, daily protein intake for active trainers can be calculated by taking your weight in pounds and multiplying by 1 or 1.5. But remember, you need to work out how much protein is taken from food and other sources, and then spread the remaining whey protein balance over the day.
Whey protein is a relatively safe supplement but no more than 30 grams of protein should be taken at one sitting as excessive single doses could overload the liver. The safety of whey protein has been well documented in many scientific studies and there is clear proof that taken consistently, coupled with regular exercise, it will result in meaningful muscle gain.
You will undoubtedly be aware of the popularity of Amino acids as a from of muscle building supplement. In my own personal opinion they are probably unneccessary, certainly in the early stages if you are taking on board enough protein, as they occur naturally anyway.
Creatine is a naturally formed amino acid that is found in the human body, especially around the skeletal muscle. The human body generates Creatine naturally, partly from the diet we take and partly on its own. A healthy person has about 120g of Creatine, most of it being in the form of a compound called PCr. The body can store a maximum Creatine quantity of 0.3 g per one kilogram of body weight. The body produces about 2g of Creatine per day. The chief food sources of Creatine are fish and red meat. Half a pound of raw meat provides about 1g of Creatine for the body. Creatine that does not come from food is produced endogenously by the body from amino acids.
Creatine monohydrate can rightly lay claim to being the most popular and arguably most effective bodybuilding supplement currently available. The beauty of creatine is that it is 100% natural and occurs in many foods so it’s unlikely to be banned from any sports or competitions.
Let’s first establish what creatine actually is. In brief, creatine is produced naturally in our bodies to help supply energy to the muscles. It is produced in the liver, pancreas and kidneys before being transported in the blood to our muscles. It is then converted into phosphocreatine which is a powerful metabolite used to regenerate the muscles’ ATP source of energy.
From a bodybuilder’s perspective, Creatine can significantly increase lean muscle mass quickly, improve performance in high intensity exercise, raise energy levels and speed up recovery rates. Creatine’s ability to raise energy in muscles is due to its muscle protein synthesizing action whilst reducing the breakdown of protein. This happens because creatine has the effect of super-hydrating muscle cells with water. It also improves muscle growth adding size and strength to muscle fibers.
Creatine is normally taken in two ways. The first involves loading the muscles with 20 to 30 grams of creatine per day for four to seven days. At the end of this phase maintenance involves a regular intake of 5 to 15 grams per day. The other method is more gradual in that it skips out the loading phase and simply involves supplementing with 5 to 15 grams per day for an extended period.
Two questions remain to be answered – does it work and is it safe? Creatine has undoubtedly been proven effective in recent years – over twenty scientific studies have concluded that creatine can increase energy levels and result in enhanced strength, endurance levels and recovery rates. As a training aid it therefore has many merits. In terms of safety, no study to date has shown creatine to be anything other than safe, provided manufacturers’ instructions are followed.
TO BE AVOIDED
Supplements can be a tricky subject so if you are in any doubt whatsoever as to the validity and saftey of a form of supplement then the best thing to do is simply not take it. Thankfully the governing body in the world of natural bodybuilding, the WNBF provides a comprehensive, although not exhaustive list of banned substances. They include the following:
Absolutely all Anabolic Steroids including bolasterone, boldenone, clostebol, fluoxymesterone, mesterolone, methandienone, methyltestosterone, nandrolone, norethandrolone, oxandrolone, oxymetholone, stanozolol, testosterone and all other related compounds are strictly banned.
Testosterone, in any form or for any reason, whether that be injections, patches or gels and even if they are prescribed by a doctor. There is also a limit to the amount of testosterone found naturally in the body and this is measured by what is known as the T/E Ratio. This stands for Testosterone/Epitestosterone and a ratio of 6/1 and above would be ruled as a positive.
Pharmaceutical Human Growth Hormones. The use of any hormones, whether orally or via injection including insulin is prohibited.
Prescription diuretics, ephedrine, amphetamines, speed, cocaine (unsurprisingly) GHB, clenbuterol, and any substance banned by the following agencies. The Government, FDA and IOC. You should visit their relevant websites for further details. The best advice would be to make sure you rigorously check the ingredient list on any medication or supplement you might take. Some cold and flu remedies can contain significant levels of paracetomol, codeine or pseudoephedrine, so be careful.
The key to being a safe and natural trainer really comes from within. You and only you will really know if you are taking a 100% natural approach. If you are taking your training seriously and have crossed the line from being someone who just works out now and again, then you will have educated yourself as to all the assistance that is available to you. You will need to fully understand your own metabolism and genetics and will have to devise a specific diet and training plan to suit you, with the correct amount of recovery time built in.
The satisfaction and self esteem you will feel as a direct result of knowing that your results are completely down to you will far outweigh any feelings of under achievement you may have when you compare yourself with one of our assisted brothers. Stay natural and stay safe. Use natural supplements wisely and in moderation to begin with, and remember as we stated at the beginning of this article that supplementation is no substitute for hard work and good diet!