Food and Drink

“Trainers Hate Him.” Why…Coz he uses steroids?

If you’ve become about as tired of the “trainers hate him” ads as I have, you might be ready for some natural muscle building insider information.

Obviously, the “trainers hate him” ads are meant to manipulate you; to lead you to the conclusion that the heavily muscled guy in the photo became that way by using the advertised nutritional supplement. The trainers supposedly hate him because his now easily obtainable physique is putting them out of business.


Trainershatehim
'Trainers Hate Him': Is anyone still niave enough not to recognize pics of drug-built bodybuilders that have been photo-shopped to the point of caricaturization?

 

Okay, I get it. Isn’t that brilliant?

I guess it would be if the advertisers were correct in their assumption that you and I have mush for brains. In a world where athletes with as mundane appearing bodies as those of cyclists and baseball players are getting busted for “doping”, does anyone really believe that baby-faced bodybuilders with excessively swollen muscles aren’t doing steroids? Really… could people be that gullible?

Of course, the “trainers hate him” ads signal that there might be enclaves of people who do carry that kind of gullibility. The ads promote a product called Force Factor. It’s basically a nitric oxide product. No further steps are required than to ‘Google’ nitric oxide in investigating what it is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Such a simple search would show that nitric oxide has no muscle building research behind it. But the ads have run long-term, indicating that enough people are continuously fooled by the ad’s promises to signal marketers that they shouldn’t discontinue running them.

Bottom line: The “trainers hate him” ads awaken curiosity which leads to many web surfers clicking on the ads. The many who ‘click’ are led to a sales page that persuades them to believe nitric oxide accelerates recovery following muscle building workouts. This leads a good many to try Force Factor. Of the many who try it, some are convinced it’s “working” because nitric oxide might accentuate the “pumpthey experience while lifting weights.

However, if the magnitude of a pump experienced while lifting weights has any effect on recovery and muscle growth, someone needs to show me even the slightest evidence of such.

 

“Trainers Hate Him”: Steroids, Natural Training, and Muscle Growth

Let’s start with the topic of steroids. I feel compelled to begin there because the fitness and muscle building worlds have been so distorted by use of these drugs that it’s no wonder to me that training ambiguity and confusion abound. It’s also no surprise that pics used for the “trainers hate him” ads are a dime a dozen.

I don’t care how many people I piss off by saying this; it needs to be said for the sake of retaining the sanity of natural muscle building newbies. Many owners of even the ALMOST best-built bodies around have built their physiques using steroids. My bet is that the guys you see in the “trainers hate him” ads built their bodies with steroids. Swaths of personal trainers, assumed to be repositories of muscle building knowledge, built their foundational muscle with steroids.  The use of these drugs has not been reserved for professional bodybuilders and highly competitive athletes. I’ve known weekend warriors – guys and gals with no goal other than to improve their daily appearance – that admittedly used steroids to gain that appearance.

Do I mention this to point the finger or revel in some kind of self-perceived, “I’ve never done drugs” sense of righteousness?

No way. I honestly don’t care if people use muscle building drugs. Those are their bodies, their decisions.

I mention this for constructive reasons. The following is a lead-in as to why I’m mentioning it. Bodybuilding Couple

Way back when I began bodybuilding, I knew a guy who’d done a few cycles of steroids and gave me feedback on the experience. Along with some mild side effects, he experienced some big gains. Here’s only a slight paraphrasing of what he said:

“Scott, it didn’t matter what I did in the gym, I gained strength and muscle. The gains were fast and constant. Every week I was slapping two more dimes on the end of a barbell and cranking out more reps with the added twenty pounds. It was a HUGE advantage.”

Now, rightfully assuming that much of those steroid-helped muscle gains stick around even after a user is done with his ‘roids, what should the experience of a drug user tell you?

Okay, I don’t know about you, but it tells me that my training system and schedule should not even closely resemble his if I expect to make progress. Personally, it also says that if one of these drug guys tries to give me advice on anything other than exercise form, I’ll tell him to save it for someone else who sticks steroid needles in his ass. But maybe that’s just me.

Bottom line: When steroids are used, recuperation greatly accelerates, cortisol gets squelched, and rapid gains are experienced in spite of the user’s haphazard approach. No problem, except for the distorted muscle building “education” it provides the user. No problem again – except that THAT… education is then what’s passed onto unsuspecting natural trainees. 

 

“Trainers Hate Him”: Steroids, Supplements, and Muscle Growth

While steroids make building muscle work like the predictable clockwork described by the quote of my buddy above, bodybuilders who’ve used them, along with bodybuilding supplement marketers, go on exploiting their effects. Even the before-and-after pictures that have become nearly as ubiquitous as muscled bodies themselves are ripe for suspicion. Just consider the inside info provided me years ago by the younger brother of a trainer/physique model/steroid user who also spent twenty or thirty hours each week making commission off anything anybody was willing to pay for in a bodybuilding supplement store.

According to the candid little brother, ‘Mr. Physique Model’ liked to have as many professional pics taken as possible when he was maximally jacked up on synthetic testosterone. He was tanned, he was dieted lean; he was ready for his friggin’ close-ups.

There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

No, unless you do it for the purposes he did – to use them as the ‘after shots’ in your upcoming contrast photos. He’d come off the steroids and stop training for two or three months. He’d lose the tan while spending time on the couch in front of the TV downing extra-cheesed, meat-lovers pizzas and doughnuts.

Hey… a couple months of that and it’s time to take the “before” pics, right? That’s what he’d do, according to little bro. He’d then sell the impressive “before-and-after” pictures to supplement marketers for a thousand bucks a pop.

Of course, we haven’t seen the before/after picture thing done in any of the “trainers hate him” ads. I’ve only revealed this story to let readers know how easily the effects of steroids are used to manipulate unsuspecting new prospects who surf for promising muscle building products.

Does this mean I’m claiming that all bodybuilding supplements are a fraud?

No, I’m not. But it’s important to realize that there are a very few that make a difference. Of those few, the obtainable boost is subtle. That means it can easily be overridden by ineffective training. So, a small handful of muscle building supplements work, but only when added synergistically to an already effective muscle building routine.

 

“Trainers Hate Him.” But I Attempt to Give Reason not to ‘Hate on Me’

Personally, my definition of a true natural bodybuilder is someone who’s been a lifetime natural. That means they’ve never used drugs to build their strength and muscle. It’s not someone who came off steroids a while back. It’s not even somebody who was body building with drugs up to five or ten years ago before quitting and becoming a “current natural.” To me, it’s a person who’s always been clean; someone who knows what it’s like to build every ounce of their muscle under endogenously natural conditions.

Front Biceps PoseWhy does this matter?

Because a good many of those who’ve used steroids have a distorted perception of what’s required to build muscle without them. That’s why at least 99 percent of users never appear to make additional gains once they’ve stopped using the drugs. If you look closely, they appear lucky to hold onto the majority of what they’d gained on steroids once they’ve come off.

But, (here’s the bad part)… they become trainers. They train people at the gym. They become online trainers selling coaching programs. I watch them on video as they take protégés through workout routines that literally annihilate the trainees’ muscles. I’m not surprised when those trainees never appear to get bigger or more muscular. Meanwhile, it appears of little concern to the drug using trainer as he knows in the back of his mind that he’ll offset all his stupid training methods with his next steroid cycle. Curiously, he doesn’t appear to think they’re stupid; he thinks they’re the reason he’s so big. And they might actually be that reason, if they’re used in conjunction with a big fat stack of muscle building pharmaceuticals (steroids).

This whole scene has become so ubiquitous that when I see a “trainers hate him” ad, I’m evermore incredulous at the idea that anyone can be manipulated by them.

An additional effect of its ubiquity is to prompt me to take a polygraph test in providing evidence of my lifetime natural status. This is for the benefit of those prospecting my training products and services.

I’ll be taking and posting an updated polygraph test soon, using a different tester this time.


“Scientific Bodybuilding”: Can it help you build muscle?

You see it with more frequency all over the web: ‘Scientific Bodybuilding’;

“Use our system because it’s bodybuilding that’s backed by science.”

IStock_000025813984XSmallIn conjunction with these claims, those making them will often sling the term “bro science” as a label to describe any opinion that’s not in alignment with theirs; the ones purported to be scientific. Simply put, the purveyors of “scientific bodybuilding” appear to think that all opinion that’s not backed by a research study here or there is simply the guess work of knuckle-dragging idiots.

This raises a question: Is there really such a thing as ‘scientific bodybuilding?’ Of course there have been some studies done on bodybuilding and strength training over the past few decades. But as with anything, those study’s topics have been selectively chosen among countless that could have been. Also, as with anything, the research performed has varied in its strength of credibility. Along with this and sometimes as a result of it, the findings of some studies conducted a decade or so ago have been refuted by more recent studies of a few years ago. So, as with “science” in anything, scientific bodybuilding is not infallible.

This inherent fallibility, along with the scatter-gunned approach by which strength and muscle building topics have been researched, should have any thinking bodybuilder asking:

What does it mean for something to be legitimately labeled “scientific?

Should you trust that the best advice for you to follow is that labeled “scientific” just because a trainer or muscle building guru tells you it is?

“Do findings from ‘scientific bodybuilding’ always trump the tribal knowledge from gyms that’s been so arrogantly dismissed as ‘bro science’?”

And of all significant scientific bodybuilding discoveries made, which ones even add to your ability to build muscle? Which are just nice-to-know pieces of information?

 

‘Scientific Bodybuilding’: First… what does “scientific” mean?

For information to be legitimately labeled “scientific”, it needs to be borne out of the findings of scientific studies. That means certain questions have been asked, hypotheses have been formed from those questions, and scientific research experiments have been performed on the hypotheses. These experiments need to have been as controlled as possible using large enough, carefully chosen sample populations of research subjects. Those subjects need to have been divided into ‘control’ and ‘experimental’ groups. The groups need to have been compared to test a hypothesis for a legitimate length of time. Measurements in such studies need to be thorough and accurate, while being performed by researchers with no biases about the research outcomes.

In addition, the most reputable research studies are those that have been peer reviewed and published in respectable scientific journals. “Peer reviewed” means other scientists within the field have scrutinized a new study before it’s submitted for publication. This objective analysis by a fresh set of eyes ensures the study meets certain scientific standards. The peer review makes certain the experiment was well designed and that the study’s researchers used logical reasoning of deduction to arrive at answers, or more questions. It also ensures the work was built on reputable findings of past research. This is because scientific knowledge is cumulative.  

So now that we have an idea of what ‘scientific’ means, let’s look more closely at some claims that are being made about bodybuilding methods being scientific.

 

“Scientific Bodybuilding”: Is it… just because a trainer says so?

As mentioned, some trainers and online muscle gurus are labeling their methods ‘scientific bodybuilding.’ They contrast these methods with those they deem “bro science” or hearsay information that’s of, hence – in their minds, menial value. From what you and I know about the word “scientific”, however, these claims are fairly easy to verify or refute.

Obviously, the first things you’ll want to check when someone throws the words “scientific bodybuilding” around is reference material. Look to see if they have any. It should exist within their written materials. There should be a listing of the reputable studies that have led the trainers/authors to their conclusions. For example, following any verbal or written claim that appears something like this:

“Research has shown that resting 40 to 60 seconds between sets is optimal for hypertrophy… yadda, yadda, blah-blah-blah…”

... There should be a small number after the sentence that corresponds with a footnote or endnote that looks something like THIS:

Kraemer WJ, Adams K, Cafarelli E, Dudley GA, Dooly C, Feigenbaum MS, Fleck SJ, Franklin B, Fry AC, Hoffman JR, Newton RU, Potteiger J, Stone MH, Ratamess NA, Triplett-McBride T, ‘Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults’ American College of Sports Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [2002, 34(2):364-380]  IStock_000025552260XSmall

A reference like this at the end of an article, book, training manual, or training video starts by crediting the researchers of the study being referenced. Then it provides the name of the study, which clearly describes what the study was about. It then names the research publication in which the study’s been published. After that there are some document reference numbers for locating the study within the publication, along with a date that it was published. 

If the guru’s training material is absent of references that appear like this example, it’s your first indication that his or her claims of “scientific bodybuilding” could be a farce.

 

Scientific Bodybuilding: ‘Scientific’ doesn’t always mean conclusive

Even when a scientific experiment demonstrates certain evidence of measurable results, it’s not always conclusive. Follow-up research studies will sometimes produce quite different results. This is occasionally an outcome of imperfect controls or too small a sample size having been used in the first study. Whatever the reason, this phenomenon is why results of multiple studies of a hypothesis carry more weight than a single study. And it’s why a statistical study called a “meta-analysis” is sometimes used by researchers to draw out more conclusive findings.

A meta-analysis is a study of a group of studies. It’s a statistical method that can be used to detect patterns among a collection of research results that explored a specific hypothesis. Obviously, findings from a meta-analysis of studies will typically carry even greater weight, garnering more respect than the results of one or two studies. To my knowledge, there’s not yet been any meta-analysis published in strength training or muscle hypertrophy.

 

‘Scientific Bodybuilding’: Assumptions are made when ‘PhD’ follows names

Human beings are prone to making assumptions; we do it easily and often. But assumptions are what too often lead us to false conclusions. That’s why true science tries to eliminate or isolate assumptions as much as possible through acknowledgment and control of variables.

Many claims you hear from today’s online bodybuilding gurus are made using MASSIVE assumptions. You see it in their emails. In order to grab your attention, they’ll resort to telling you something alarming, such as the possible “poisoning effects” of a popular bodybuilding supplement. If you investigate these assumptions, however, you’ll often find that they’re flimsy – based on a patching together of hear-say stemming from disparate and unreliable research.

Since at least the late 1980s, many bodybuilding assumptions labeled as “scientific” have been made from the work of a single researcher and his team. The researcher is William J. Kraemer PhD. Dr. Kraemer is, without doubt, an accomplished and outstanding scientist in the fields of kinesiology, strength, and sports performance. Given his scientific professionalism, he concludes articles about his study findings with distinctions between what those findings can conservatively conclude and what calls for further research. But such careful wrap-ups by a scientist don’t stop self-proclaimed bodybuilding experts from going forth with runaway assumptions under the banner of ‘scientific bodybuilding.’

For example, back in 1990, Dr. Kraemer and a research team did a study published here in the Journal of Applied Physiology. It demonstrated how different heavy resistance training protocols (HRTPs) produced varying degrees of acute endogenous hormone release during training. The study showed the greatest growth hormone (GH) release occurred among subjects when they trained with 10 repetitions at a 10-reps maximum weight using only 1 minute of rest between sets.

So what have the gurus of muscle knowledge done with this?

Some have taken it as gospel and based their most prized muscle building routines around it. Furthermore, they’ve used other research showing that anabolic hormones drop after an hour of weight training and decided that workouts of less than 60 minutes are the road to anabolic paradise.

But these conclusions don’t come without a HUGE assumption; that increases of exercise-induced anabolic hormones will result in greater muscle growth. Do they?

Interestingly, a 2010 study published in the same ‘Journal of Applied Physiology’ claims they don’t, at least not in younger men. Twelve male subjects were tested for both strength increase and muscle hypertrophy under the control of two conditions – one being low hormone-release training and the other being a high hormone-release protocol. Each respective training regimen produced hormone release response as expected – the high intensity training stimulating a big growth hormone and testosterone boost above baseline. But results showed no difference in hypertrophy or strength between the two, leading researchers to finish their abstract with the following:

“We conclude that exposure of loaded muscle to acute exercise-induced elevations in endogenous anabolic hormones enhances neither muscle hypertrophy nor strength with resistance training in young men.”

By pointing this out, am I concluding that enhancement of acute, exercise-induce anabolic hormone surges have no value? No; I can’t be sure, especially in the case of older trainees. However, I am pointing out that anyone citing the first study with grandeurs of being a purveyor of scientific bodybuilding is definitely jumping the gun. There appears to be enough assumption going around to allow anyone spreading so-called “bro science” nearly the same credibility as anyone else.


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'Scientific Bodybuilding': Learning about it can definitely make you aware of the importance that measurement and feedback plays in your long-term muscle building success.


‘Scientific Bodybuilding’: When it became subordinate to my own “bro science”

Personally, I take all research studies in bodybuilding with respectful consideration and a grain of salt. I enjoy the insights they can provide to whatever extent they can enhance my fitness and bodybuilding education. But I view very few of their findings as irrefutable conclusions. Holding this attitude while being experimental with my own body (with sensitivity to feedback) has opened my mind to the possibility that gigantic assumptions are what could be causing widespread frustration for many would-be natural muscle builders.

For example, when I was really young in 1990, I bought a training manual by Leo Costa. In that book, the author said that recent research had shown that muscles begin to atrophy sooner after training than had previously been thought. Basically, he alleged that a muscle trained any less often than every 36 hours was a shrinking muscle. He recommended frequent training of each muscle (2X per week) and short training sessions (45 min), twice a day.

I bought it – both the book and his ideas, much to my later chagrin. I not only didn’t gain muscle on the system, I lost a little (and a lot of time).

All these years later, I’m making very gratifying bodybuilding gains by not only ignoring the “scientific bodybuilding” he’d allegedly cited, but thumbing my nose at it completely. I train muscles with an infrequency that’s scoffed at by both bodybuilding experts and their followers alike.

Scientific Bodybuilding: Will it help you build muscle?

To the extent that it motivates you to start making your workouts measurable and your mind receptive to feedback, I’d say… “Yes, it CAN help you build muscle.

 

References
  1. W. J. Kraemer, L. Marchitelli, S. E. Gordon, E. Harman, J. E. Dziados, R. Mello, P. Frykman, D. McCurry, and S. J. Fleck ‘Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols’ (Journal of Applied Physiology; October 1, 1990 vol. 69 no. 4 1442-1450)
  2. Daniel W. D. West, Nicholas A. Burd, Jason E. Tang, Daniel R. Moore, Aaron W. Staples, Andrew M. Holwerda, Steven K. Baker, and Stuart M. Phillips ‘Elevations in ostensibly anabolic hormones with resistance exercise enhance neither training-induced muscle hypertrophy nor strength of the elbow flexors’ (Journal of Applied Physiology January 1, 2010 vol. 108 no. 1 60-67

“Does c9-t11 Work”; does it help build muscle?

If you’re online researching the question “does c9-t11 work”, you’re probably getting bombarded with mixed messages. Such is the nature of the Internet: You find an article about an overly-hyped supplement. Unlike ads for the supplement, the article has pros and cons of using the supplement, presented with apparent objectivity. The posted scrutiny of the product and discussion in the comment section appear to even lambaste the stuff in question. Then, smack in the middle of the article, is the image of a steroid-built bodybuilder with slightly obscured text above the pic – ‘Sponsored Link.’ You click on the advertisement and are presented with wild claims about ANOTHER hyped-up muscle building product. “Great”, you say to yourself… “The guys who are exposing a scam product are making money off another scam product.”

C9 T11Before you know it, you’ve forgotten you were trying to find an answer to the question “does c9-t11 work.” Worse, you’ve probably got a half dozen other hyped products written down, with a need to research those too.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve no-doubt seen the outrageous claims: “c9-t11 increased muscle growth by 600% in weight trained males.”

Let’s start by posing a great question: If this were true, do you think you’d need to read about it in an ad? It’s safe to say that it would be all over the media. If a university study really supported such dramatic muscle augmentation from a natural supplement, some drug companies would have snatched up c9-t11 long ago as it would otherwise wipe out there sales of anabolic steroids.

But the question still remains: ‘Does c9-t11 work’; even just a little bit? Would it provide an edge in your quest to build muscle?

‘Does c9-t11 work’: What is it anyway?

C9-t11 is one of two of the most common isomers of CLA, conjugated linoleic acid. So what is ‘conjugated linoleic acid?’

Simply explained, the word ‘conjugated’ means “joined together.” Linoleic acid is an unsaturated Omega 6 fatty acid. CLA is a “joining together of an 18-carbon chain of these Omega 6 fatty acid isomers with two ‘cis’ double bonds, meaning the double bonds occur on the same side of the molecule. CLA is present in beef and dairy products. There’s also trace amounts of it produced in the human gastrointestinal tract. CLA has been around as a dietary supplement for about the past quarter century.

The c9-t11 isomer is one of twenty-eight that are conjugated by the CLA carbon chain. So basically, if you use the supplement CLA, you’re getting c9-t11.

‘Does c9-t11 Work’; should you believe the hype?

Marketers of c9-t11 would like to have us believe it increases testosterone to a significant degree. In attempting this, they cite an actual study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. But the study basically concludes that CLA increased testosterone in vitro after 48 hours, but failed to increase testosterone in vivo to any noteworthy degree. In other words, when CLA was added to leydig cells in a laboratory, it increased their production of testosterone after a period of 48 hours. But when weight training male subjects were given CLA, it failed to produce significant T-level increases in them at all. The following is exactly what the abstract of the study concluded:

‘These findings suggest that CLA supplementation may promote testosterone synthesis through a molecular pathway that should be investigated in the future, although this effect did not have an anabolic relevance in our in vivo model.’

It’s peculiar to me that marketers of CLA would promote it as an anabolic agent by citing a study that clearly demonstrates CLA as NOT being an anabolic agent. CLA at least doesn’t show any anabolic qualities through being a testosterone augmenter.

Is it anabolic by some other means; does c9-t11 work by “sparing protein?”

C9-t11 marketers make four more bold claims about c9-t11, three of which make reference to a journal called ‘Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.’ The following three claims made in marketing material are what that material attributes to being published in the aforementioned publication:

  • 600% Increase in Muscle Growth
  • 9-Fold Increase in Biceps Mass
  • 202% Increase in Muscle Strength

Wow, sounds like front-page news material. But if anyone can actually find any online documentation of studies that show even a fraction of these claims, I’d love to be pointed to them. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened; just saying I haven’t seen it. Rear Back, Delt, and Arm

For those asking “does c9-t11 work” by way of some protein sparing effect, let’s just ponder this idea. Personally, I find it a little amusing when supplement marketers promote their products as substances that “reduce muscle tissue breakdown.” Think about why that’s questionable: The big stimulus that sparks muscle growth is a significant amount of muscle tissue breakdown. Without enough of that, nothing has a reason to happen. And if there’s too much of that, all that’s required to lessen it is a reduction of workout frequency, intensity, duration, or an increase of rest time between workouts. So if a supplement really can minimize muscle tissue breakdown, why is that such a great thing? How exactly would it result in greater net muscle gain?

Marketers of c9-t11 also claim that it “works” as a muscle builder by increasing fatty acid-derived ‘prostaglandins.’ They say that these lipid compounds increase muscle protein synthesis. All that’s required to check on this, however, is a search on Google Scholar. You can simply type in a search with the words ‘c9-t11’ and ‘prostaglandins.’ Unless you get more promising search results than I did, you’ll find nothing about increased protein synthesis from c9-t11 or CLA.

Bottom line: There might be a study somewhere that shows the c9-t11 in CLA as being slightly beneficial to muscle recovery and growth. But whether one study’s results justify the hype being generated by marketers of c9-t11 is questionable, at best.

‘Does c9-t11 Work’… even a little bit?

Since beginning this post, I’ve finally stumbled upon the study that c9-t11 marketers are likely citing. It was an experiment done in 2006 at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Publication of the study results can be found right here.

The seven-week research study was done on 85 subjects undergoing a three-times-per-week weight training regimen. There were 43 females and 42 males ranging from 18 to 45 years old. The subjects were all healthy and had prior resistance training experience. They were randomized; some receiving 5 grams per day of CLA and others receiving a placebo. In addition to measuring muscle hypertrophy, the study’s researchers measured for changes in body composition, muscle thickness of the elbow flexors and knee extensors, resting metabolic rate, bench and leg press strength, and urinary markers of myofibrillar breakdown.

Let’s just focus on muscle size and bench press increases, since those were the only significant positive changes the researchers observed in the CLA users.  The Smith-Machine Squatsresearchers say the CLA group gained an average of 1.4 kg (about 3 lbs.) of muscle during the seven weeks. This is in contrast to the control group’s average gain of .2 kg. (.4 lbs.). It’s also reported that the males in the CLA group had an average .05 gain in bench press strength. That’d be equivalent to someone going up to 210 lbs. max bench from a previous best of 200 lbs.

So, does c9-t11 work?

The reported increase in muscle mass does represent a 600% increase over the control group:

(1.4 Kg. - .2 kg) / .2 = 600%

So one has to wonder why the researchers concluded so modestly in their abstract:

“Supplementation with CLA during resistance training results in relatively small changes in body composition accompanied by a lessening of the catabolic effect of training on muscle protein.”

This summation becomes even more confusing when followed by the following paragraph in their ‘discussion’ section:

The main findings of our first 7-wk study were that CLA supplementation during resistance training significantly increased lean tissue mass and reduced fat mass. Although these results were statistically significant, the changes in the CLA group were small, and one could question their clinical significance. The small increase in lean tissue mass may be attributed to a lessened catabolic effect of training with CLA supplementation, as evidenced by an increased urinary

3-methylhistidine output in the placebo group with no change in the CLA group. The small increase in lean tissue mass with CLA was not sufficient for increasing muscular strength, with the exception of bench press strength in males.

As usual, researchers are downplaying the results as marketers are hyping them.

Give Me Your Feedback; I’ll Give You Mine

Testing CLA out on oneself shouldn’t cost a small fortune. I just picked up a Vitamin Shoppe bottle of 180, 1000 mg. soft-gels for about 36 bucks. If I take the 5 grams-per-day dosage that was used in the study, it’ll cost me about a dollar a day. Since I’ve never really given CLA a long-term test run, I’ll give it at least eight weeks and report back with my results. And given that I already have a system that gives me steady and reliable gains, I’ll be able to observe any increases very clearly.

If you’ve used CLA/c9-t11, please give us your feedback in the comment section. And if you’re marketing the stuff, keep your hype to a minimum. Or at least provide some untouched, legitimized before/after photos.


References

  1. Macaluso, Filippo; Morici, Giuseppe; Catanese, Patrizia; Ardizzone, Nella M.; Gammazza, Antonella Marino; Bonsignore, Giuseppe; Lo Giudice, Giuseppe; Stampone, Tomaso; Barone, Rosario; Farina, Felicia; Di Felice, Valentina ‘Effect of Conjugated Linoleic Acid on Testosterone Levels In Vitro and In Vivo After an Acute Bout of Resistance Exercise’ (Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research; June 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 6 - p 1667–1674)
  2. CRAIG PINKOSKI, PHILIP D. CHILIBECK, DARREN G. CANDOW, DALE ESLIGER, JULIA B. EWASCHUK, MARINA FACCI, JONATHAN P. FARTHING, and GORDON A. ZELLO ‘The Effects of Conjugated Linoleic Acid Supplementation during Resistance Training’ (MEDICINE & SCIENCE IN SPORTS & EXERCISE) 2006

“Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements?” A Really Good Question

Vitamin D seems to be all the rage right now. And it’s probably for good reason: At least a couple decade’s worth of pasting ourselves with UV protective sunscreens and blocks have got us asking some pertinent follow-up questions:

“Am I blocking out something we vitally need from sun exposure?”

“Am I getting the daily amount of vitamin D I need?”

“Do I need vitamin D supplements?”

Vitamin D Supplementation (1)Chances are, if you’re not getting a good dosage of sun exposure on a broad section of your body each day, you’ve got good reason to ask ‘do I need vitamin D supplements.’ It’s estimated that at least a billion people worldwide are short of the recommended dosage of this vitamin – a nutrient that acts more like a hormone than a vitamin and is showing increasingly in studies to be vitally important for health.

If you’re an athlete or bodybuilder, it appears you’ve got even more reason to ask “do I need vitamin D supplements.” This stuff has been shown to have an effect on natural testosterone levels. By what mechanism this occurs is not really understood. But it appears that if you’re a male with low testosterone, a concurrent low blood level of vitamin D might be one of the reasons.

How about vitamin D’s importance for the nervous system? For years we thought it was vital only for good bone health – a tidbit of knowledge that might make us yawn and assume no worries about vitamin D levels until older age. It turns out, however, that we might need healthy levels for maximum brain function, a factor that could have an effect on how we score on any standardized test.

Possibly being smarter, stronger, and more virile. If those aren’t good reasons to ask “do I need vitamin D supplements”, I can’t imagine what would be.

‘Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements’… or Will Sunshine Do?

It’s estimated that an average beach lifeguard gets as much as 50,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Before assuming, however, that this is enough to cause an overdose (there is an upper safe limit), consider that sun exposure appears to be the body’s preferred method by which to obtain vitamin D.

But vitamin D doesn’t, of course, come directly from the sun’s rays; it’s a multi-step process. Upon contact with the skin, the UVB rays from the sun stimulate a type of cholesterol (called 7-dehydrocholesterol) that’s present in the skin. That stimulation by the UV turns 7-dehydrocholesterol into vitamin D3. The vitamin D3 then travels to the liver, via the bloodstream, where it’s converted into 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25(OH) D, or calcidiol. This is actually a pro-hormone, which is the active form of vitamin D.

This whole mechanism by which the body makes UVB-stimulated vitamin D is fool-proofed with a built-in down regulator. In other words, even sun-soaked, Bay Watch-type beach lifeguards don’t have a chance of overdosing on their sun derived creation of the vitamin. The overdosing possibility is quite different with vitamin D supplementation, however, as we’ll discuss later.

Even though sun exposure can make vitamin D free and plentiful, it’s estimated that a huge portion of the population is vitamin D deficient. Many of us work in careers that keep us indoors and exposed to only intermittent sunlight that hits just our arms and faces. Considering that 30 minutes of full-body exposure to high-noon sunlight is required to produce 10,000 to 20,000 IU of vitamin D, it’s no wonder many of us are undersupplied.

Sources of vitamin D from food are woefully insufficient to compensate. Known foods with relatively high amounts of D3 are not exactly abundant. The top food sources comprise such disparate items as salmon, sun-dried mushrooms, and fortified milk.

Given vitamin D’s easily elusive acquisition, it’s not difficult to surmise that asking “do I need a vitamin D supplement” is a great question.


Vitamin D (1) 

'Vitamin D Sources': Getting enough vitamin D from the sun can be as elusive as sand-drawn text near the surf zone.


‘Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements’… for Higher Testosterone?

For guys who are experiencing low testosterone, there might be really good reason to ask “do I need vitamin D supplements.” At least one study shows a correlation between sufficient blood levels of vitamin D and raised levels of total testosterone. This should be of extreme interest to any guy who’s attempting to build muscle.

A 2005 study at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany demonstrated the correlation. Researchers took 54 healthy, overweight men who initially showed testosterone levels in the deficiency range and put them through a one-year randomized controlled trial. All the men had low initial vitamin D levels (below 19 ng/ml) and low initial testosterone levels (around 400 ng/dl). Thirty-one of the participants received 3,332 IU of vitamin D daily for a year while twenty-three of the subjects received a placebo. This gradually brought the vitamin D group’s blood levels of D up to above 50 ng/ml.

What were the results after a year?

The total testosterone of the vitamin D group was boosted by an average of 25% while the control group stayed, essentially, unchanged. And while this type of study does not prove cause and effect, the correlative difference between the two groups is significant enough to warrant further study.

It might also be worthy of eliciting a great question if you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, or just a middle-aged guy wanting to maximize testosterone: “Do I need vitamin D supplements?”

‘Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements’… for Better Cognitive Functioning?

In the past few years, quite a few articles in various publications have cited findings of connections between brain function and vitamin D. One of the more prominent pieces is titled ‘Does Vitamin D Improve Brain Function’, and was published in in Scientific American. It quotes Dr. Robert J. Przybelski, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in making the following connections between vitamin D and the nervous system:

  • There are receptors for vitamin D throughout the central nervous system and hippocampus.
  • Vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid that are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth.
  • Animal and laboratory studies suggest vitamin D protects neurons and reduces inflammation.

The article goes on in citing two European studies that show a link between cognitive function and vitamin D. The first study involved an assessment of 1,700 subjects, both men and women aged 65 and older. The second one looked at men in the age range of 40 to 79. In both studies, low vitamin D levels were correlated with impaired mental functioning. Outdoor Exercise (1)

Led by neuroscientist David Llewellyn of Cambridge University, the first study made an assessment of vitamin D levels and cognitive function by dividing subjects into four groups. These four groups were categorized by vitamin D blood levels and labeled as severely deficient, deficient, insufficient (borderline), and optimum. The researchers then had the subjects take a battery of mental exams in order to assess cognitive performance. The scientists definitely saw a correlation between vitamin D levels and results; low levels of D appeared to have a negative impact. In fact, those in the lowest quartile for blood levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to show cognitive impairment.

The second study, led by researchers at the University of Manchester in England, demonstrated a correlation between low vitamin D levels and mental ‘processing speed.’ Data from the research showed that the lower the blood levels of vitamin D, the slower were subjects able to process information. This was especially distinct among men over the age of 65.

Granted, these studies raise a lot more questions than they answer. Scientists don’t know if there’s a cause and effect between vitamin D levels and cognitive function. It’s also unclear whether optimum levels of vitamin D will reduce cognitive losses. But one thing is clear: If you want to be on the safe side of preserving your mental speed and acuity, it’s not unreasonable to ask…

… “Do I need vitamin D supplements?”

‘Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements”; are blood levels optimal?

You can’t really know what your vitamin D levels are unless you get a blood test. In other words, simply taking a haphazardly arrived-at daily dosage of vitamin D supplements could leave you with blood levels that are too high or too low. Complicating this a little more is the fact that the amount of sun exposure you’re currently getting can drastically change whether you even need supplementation.

So what’s the “right” amount of vitamin D?

There’s actually a fairly big window. The medical community generally considers anything from 30 ng/ml to 70 ng/ml as being the “normal” range. They consider 100 ng/ml to be “excessive.” But the toxic level isn’t reached until blood levels hit 150 ng/ml.

The Vitamin D Council recommends that adults aim for blood levels of 50 ng/ml.

So how much vitamin D supplementation would that require if sun exposure isn’t quite cutting it?

The answer to that is so dependent on age and the skin’s melanin levels that it can’t be estimated. Therefore, experimenting with vitamin D blood tests and supplementation (if needed) is the only way to find out.

“Do I Need Vitamin D Supplements?” It turned out that I did

Personally, I started by taking a vitamin D supplement, about 8,000 IU per day. Then, as an afterthought, I went in to get a blood test – about 5 days after starting this heavy supplementation.

What were my results out here in sunny Southern California?

My blood levels were 19 ng/ml. I was surprised, to put it mildly. I don’t even know what my blood levels had been five days prior, before starting to jack them up with that hefty supplemental dosage. I proceeded to increase my dosage to 10,000 IU per day, along with taking four Cod Liver Oil capsules (high in vitamin D) each morning.

After a full month of this, a second blood test showed my levels to be 46 ng/ml. That was a nice jump, but still short of the 50 to 60 ng/ml for which I personally wanted to aim. Based on the rate of increase I’d observed, I decided to continue the 10,000 IU for another week, then I’d cut down the dosage by at least half.

I’m now taking 4,000 IU per day along with the four Cod Liver Oil capsules. I’m awaiting the results of a vitamin D home blood test I administered well into my regimen of using this dosage. I will post the results of that test in the comment section below. This is simply for any value readers can get from my own experience; not as a recommendation for what anyone else should do.

In other words, if you’re asking “do I need vitamin D supplements”, get a blood test, consult your physician, and regularly monitor your levels from there.

But please, share your comments about vitamin D supplementation in the comment section below; other readers (and I) would love to hear your experiences, whether good or bad.


“Does Deer Antler Velvet Work”; does it build muscle?

The time I recall first hearing about deer antler velvet was way back in the 1990s. By the middle of that decade, I’d been regrettably pulled into multi-level marketing. In the midst of discussing the numerous dietary supplements being promoted in that industry, a telephone acquaintance I was talking with mentioned ‘Deer Antler Velvet.’ I can still remember his bold claim about what it was purported to do:

Deer Antler Velvet“Have you heard of Deer Antler Velvet?” … he asked. “It’s been shown to stimulate the leydig cells in the testes of men who take it. It increases natural testosterone production.”

Although I was partly intrigued by this claim, the more critical thinking side of my mind was asking “does Deer Antler Velvet work” for this? After all, the idea sounds primitive; like a throwback to the days when humans believed that eating the heart of a lion would build a man’s courage. One has to wonder what could uniquely exist in the tissue of an animal – tissue composed of the same basic building blocks of life with which man’s tissue’s composed – that could possibly stimulate increased hormone production in a specific part of the human body.

Nearly twenty years later, Deer Antler Velvet has suddenly surfaced into some degree of limelight. But rather than being sold as an ingredient in an updated version of Ageless Male, we’re hearing that it’s a booster of IGF-1 instead of a direct stimulator of natural testosterone production.

Regardless, ‘does Deer Antler Velvet work’… for anything? Does it increase IGF-1? Does it raise testosterone? Will it increase muscle mass for the natural bodybuilder?

These are the claims and notions we’ll investigate in this article.

‘Does Deer Antler Velvet Work’… and just what is IGF-1?

Anyone asking the question “does Deer Antler Velvet work” can still find online claims that it increases testosterone levels in men. What’s sometimes cited as the reason for the raised T-levels, however, is an increase in blood levels of IGF-1.

But just what is IGF-1?

IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1) is an endocrine hormone consisting of 70 single-chained amino acids with three intramolectular disulfide bridges. Most of its endogenous existence is produced and released by the liver after being stimulated from Human Growth Hormone release. IGF-1 is similar in molecular structure to insulin, hence, its name: “Insulin-like”… growth factor. Once released into the blood, IGF-1 goes to and binds with specific receptors within the cell types of numerous bodily tissues, including muscle. Once there, it stimulates cell growth and proliferation.

Obviously, the prospects of such an anabolic hormone are attractive to anyone wanting to increase muscle growth. Significant elevations in IGF-1 will likely result in faster inter-workout recuperation. And quicker recuperation is what leads to faster muscle growth.

The next question becomes obvious: Do Deer Antler Velvet supplements provide a biologically active form of IGF-1 for people who use them?

‘Does Deer Antler Velvet Work’… and what started the question?

Now that we know IGF-1 is an anabolic hormone capable of increasing muscle growth, the question “does Deer Antler Velvet work” becomes a matter of answering two precedent questions:

  1. Does Deer Antler Velvet contain substantial amounts of IGF-1?
  2. If so, is the IGF-1 from Deer Antler Velvet biologically active in humans when orally administered?

The assumption that both these questions can be answered in the positive is intertwined within Deer Antler Velvet marketing and press release hype. It all started when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article to have solicited a Deer Antler Velvet marketer about substances that could possibly speed Lewis’ recovery from a torn right triceps. Ray Lewis denies ever using products being hawked by the marketer’s company, a firm out of Alabama called SWATS (Sports With Alternatives To Steroids).

But this denial by Mr. Lewis appears to fuel speculation and subsequent marketing leverage for Deer Antler Velvet. If he denies using the products, they probably work, right? After all, athletes often deny using drugs right before getting popped by testing positive for using them.

In addition, some articles about Ray Lewis’ association with ‘SWATS’ will follow claims by Mr. Lewis that he never used Deer Antler Velvet with the point that IGF-1 is an illegal substance for which blood presence is tested by the NFL. In other words, some press coverage has little intervening analysis of the far-fetched likelihood of the IGF-1 contained in these products even being effective in humans. That spurs assumptions in many a person’s mind that Deer Antler Velvet is probably as effective as a drug. And if this isn’t marketer-driven press material made to order for coaxing athletes and fitness enthusiasts to try this stuff, then it must be one of the most serendipitous stumbles upon cleverness that I’ve seen in the sport’s supplements industry.

Bottom line: You’re smart to ask “does Deer Antler Velvet work” before betting your money on it.


Buffed Torso
'Deer Antler Velvet': Can the IGF-1 it purportedly contains help you build a body like the one above?


‘Does Deer Antler Velvet Work’; can it come close to the hype?

I began this article by mentioning that I first heard about Deer Antler Velvet back in the mid-1990s. Based on that, let me pose a good question:

If Deer Antler Velvet could live up to half the hype that’s being generated about it, wouldn’t almost 20 years be enough time for word-of-mouth to have spread about it already?

Instead, the stuff’s been wallowing in obscurity for a long time. Then suddenly, a world-class pro athlete is merely quoted as inquiring about it. Subsequently – and probably much to its marketer’s delight – he denied making such an inquiry, or of ever using the product.

“Ah-Ha! He must have used it”… right?

Even if he did, so what… aren’t professional athletes as susceptible to gullibility as the rest of us? Aren’t they as likely to deny using a product out of desire to mask their gullibility as to hide any guilt borne of benefiting from performance enhancing substances? Besides, there’s word that Lewis denied using the product because he wasn’t certain it didn’t contained NFL-banned substances of which he was unaware.

Okay, am I implying that I know without a doubt that Deer Antler Velvet doesn’t work?

Not by a long shot. I’ve personally never tried Deer Antler Velvet and cannot vouch for its effectiveness or lack thereof. But I’m not inclined to try it simply because a top athlete is said to have used it, and then claimed he didn’t.

And there’s good reason to doubt this extract does anything. Dr. Roberto Salvatori was quoted in the Baltimore Sun as saying that there is no medically valid way of delivering IGF-1 either orally or via spray. Dr. Salvatori is an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, so he has credibility on the topic. The following is what he had to say:

"If there were, a lot of people would be happy that they don't need to get shots anymore. It's just simply not possible for it to come from a spray."

Think about that. There are lots of people who need IGF-1 to be medically administered. If there were suddenly a viable way of doing it without needles, we’d likely hear about it as an incredible scientific and medical breakthrough. No such news is forthcoming; just a lot of unscientific claims by supplement marketers. Fit Woman

In fairness, it’s worth mentioning that Deer Antler Velvet has a long history as a folk medicine. Evidence uncovered by way of a 2,000 year old Chinese tomb-encased scroll shows writing that says Deer Antler Velvet was used back then as a health aid. It is said in Traditional Chinese Medicine that tonic made from the antlers instills in the user everything from enhanced energy levels to improved health and vitality.

There could be some truth to those claims. Dean Nieves of Florida-based ‘Bio Labs Naturals’ contends that Antler Velvet is simply a nutritional super-food. He’s one of the few marketers of Deer Antler Velvet who doesn’t buy into or sell anyone on the notion that the extract contains bioavailable IGF-1.  Nieves told the Baltimore Sun:

“IGF-1 is very unstable. It could not exist outside of a very controlled environment. And when you order bottles of deer antler extract, it's not coming in a freeze-dried case.”

And the Bio Labs Naturals website reflects this. Rather than making claims of hormonal enhancement from using the extract, the company claims the product contains an array of amino acids along with phospholipids, glycosaminoglycans, and saturated fatty acid molecules. The only two ingredients it lists that I find questionably ambiguous are “extracellular matrix components” (don’t ask me what those are) and “beneficial growth factors” (if those are non-hormonal, then what are they?).

So, does Deer Antler Velvet work?

Well, I guess if the only thing standing between your current muscle building potential and something better is another substance in the long list of “super foods”, then “yes”, it might do something.

But I wouldn’t expect it to do anything beyond what could be expected from any other nutritious food.

‘Does Deer Antler Velvet Work to Build Muscle?’ Your Feedback

I’ll confess to having a bias against products like Deer Antler Velvet. That’s because, as I said at the start of this article, they remind me of that primitive mindset whereby mankind believed ingesting organs of certain animals would provide him with desirable characteristics of those animals (i.e. eating the heart of a lion for courage).

Granted, in the case of Deer Antler Velvet, we’re probably a step up from that lion example – maybe more in alignment with the impulse of buying liver tablets that were so popular with bodybuilders in the 1970s. But marketers are still tapping into that primitive instinct: If deer antlers are the fastest growing mammalian organs on earth, then consuming them will bestow us with those same qualities of regenerative growth… right?

If you’ve bought into this notion and tried Deer Antler Velvet, readers would love to get your feedback. Please give us your thoughts on the product in the comment section below.

And keep making ‘smart training’ your number one ingredient for success.


“Muscle Myths”: ‘The PostGame’ nails it this time

Late in 2012, I wrote a blog article titled ‘Which Muscles do Women Like.’ This was in response to an entry of nearly the same title by The PostGame. I was fairly critical of that PostGame entry given that I think it links out to web pages containing bad workout advice. There are already enough frustrated gym members who are spinning their wheels; there’s no need for more of them.

Muscular Arm, Delt, PecBut with their recent ‘Muscle Myths’ entry, ‘The PostGame’ has hit a small homerun. I say “small” homerun only because there are just 4 ‘muscle myths’ that the article debunks. But these four are definitely worth exposing. The short article does that nicely. I commend the author for helping spare those new to bodybuilding from heading down a time-wasting path to which these muscle myths can lead.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the muscle myths cited by the PostGame entry don’t deserve some clarification. In my opinion, the author has accurately identified the myths while missing the mark on some of the reasoning and remedies. That’s what I’ll cover in this article. While doing so, I’ll also bring up some other muscle myths and attempt to debunk some of erroneous beliefs surrounding them. This is all in the name of clarifying and simplifying the process of natural muscle building, an endeavor for which many people get mired in frustrating progress plateaus.

So let’s begin with the muscle myths discussed in ‘The PostGame’ entry. 

‘Muscle Myths’: The PostGame’s four

  1. Muscle Confusion Spurs Muscle Growth
  2. You Can Digest Only 25 grams of Protein at a Time
  3. Body Weight Workout can Make You Big
  4. Lifting to Failure is Essential to Muscle Growth

 

Muscle Confusion Spurs Muscle Growth:

Here’s a ‘muscle myth’ started by Joe Weider and recently perpetuated by Tony Horton’s P90X marketing. I’ve written extensively about the muscle confusion myth in previous entries.

The shortcoming I see in the scant coverage of this muscle myth within the PostGame article is that the author (Michael Easter) rightly debunks the myth and then inadvertently gives it credence. Easter very wisely points out that ‘adaptation’ is not something we want to avoid; it’s actually what causes muscle growth. But he follows that terrific point by claiming that muscle growth can be sustained with “small weekly tweaks” such as “altering your grip, pace, or rest.”

Excuse me, but didn’t he just attempt to discredit muscle confusion by crediting it?

For muscle growth to occur, we need to systematically overload, adapt, and then re-overload the tissue. Each overload session (workout) needs to be followed by adequate recuperation, along with compensatory adaptation. This does not occur by adding “weekly tweaks” of “altered grips, pace, or rest.” On the contrary, these meaningless little tweaks will only lead to inconsistent stress being put on the muscles.

For example, let’s say you successfully engage your pectoral muscles with an optimal grip while doing bench presses this week. You then widen your grip next week, unknowingly putting more of the stress on your deltoids and less on your pectorals. The following week, you shorten your rest between sets, resulting in even more stress on your possibly over-worked deltoids. You’ve now gotten so off track on successfully overloading and recuperating your pectorals that it’s more difficult than ever to track your progress. That’s what leads to frustrating plateaus.

Yes, muscle confusion is a farce. But it needs to be replaced with workout clarity, not advice that’s simply a lighter version of muscle confusion nonsense.


Dumbbell Lunges
'Muscle Myths': Light weights are terrific for a photo opp. However, to think they'll build visually discernible muscle mass could be considered a muscle myth

 

You Can Digest only 25 Grams of Protein at a Time:

I agree that this is a myth, just as the PostGame article claims. I’ll even concede to the author’s claim that the body will “digest and absorb up to 125 grams of protein in a sitting.” However, this doesn’t mean the body needs or will efficiently utilize that much protein if it’s consumed in one sitting. As is so many times the case, people need to pay attention to wording. If not, they tend to equate “digest and absorb” with ‘convert into muscle.’ Forcing down more protein than the body needs in a given meal will not accelerate muscle growth.

The article quotes fitness expert Alan Aragon as claiming people should shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of the bodyweight for which they’re aiming. I agree with this; it’s old-school wisdom that’s stood the test of time against a scientific community that’s never reached a concession on protein intake.

I just think that an important caveat to this is to keep in mind that excessive protein CAN make you fat. Yes, many people will improve their fat loss by increasing protein intake. But there’s a point of diminishing return, and a point just beyond that at which the calories from excessive protein will add up like any others. That’s when protein foods start making you fat rather than fighting your fat.

 

Body Weight Workouts Can Make You Big:

In this section of the ‘PostGame’ article on ‘muscle myths’, the author gets a bit nonsensical by once again alluding to muscle confusion. He does this with the following sentence:

‘Using your body as your barbell is a smart way to vary your routine and boost overall fitness, but it won't help you pack on serious size.’

He’s right; it won’t help you pack on serious size. But how does varying a routine necessarily boost overall fitness? This is an assumption that millions of people make without any reasoning to back it up. Furthermore, if it were true, what’s the reason that doing it with body weight exercises is a “smart” method of choice?

When I was in the U.S. Navy’s basic SEAL Training, we did an extraordinary amount of body weight exercises. We became exceptionally good at doing them. But what became increasingly noticeable from our exercise routines is that we weren’t developing anything even resembling balanced or aesthetically pleasing bodies. The little bit of pectorals we possessed were underdeveloped in the upper region, giving them a feminine appearance. Our deltoids were puny compared to our chests. Our lats were puny compared to our deltoids. And our arms had a little bit of triceps development with almost imperceptible biceps improvement. Granted, physique development was not the purpose of the training. But you probably get my point; there’s no logical reason that body weight exercises should be automatically labeled a “smart” addition to a workout routine.

Having said this, I’ll agree that it’s worth emphasizing that body weight exercises are a terrible choice for anyone wanting to add even a little bit of muscle size. Michael Easter is smart in quoting Bill Hartman as asserting the following: Curling Dumbbells

"You need sufficient overload to spur growth; that's where weights come in."

However, he should have added something else. It’d be of more help to people if he’d defined what overload is. Bodybuilders need to ‘overload’ the muscles with a certain amount of volume within a specific time constraint. Then they need to recuperate sufficiently so the muscle tissue can improve this performance. Then they should be able to overload the muscle again in the subsequent workout. And then successfully do this over and over in order that muscles become stronger and bigger.

 

Lifting To Failure is Essential To Muscle Growth:

The last of the muscle myths listed is another piece of good advice in dire need of clarity. If you don’t agree, just think about the absurdity of the first sentence in the section:

“Be wary of any advice that promises positive results from negative actions.”

What? Do writers sometimes think what they’re scribing is so clever that they never stop to think about it? There’s plenty of research in weight training that shows eccentric repetitions (negatives) as being extremely effective for making strength and size gains.

Aside from that, a blanket statement that claims ‘lifting to failure is counterproductive’ is incomplete advice, at best, and a progress detriment at worst.

How do I know this?

Because years of natural bodybuilding experience has shown me the following:

If a person lifts way too short of failure (inadequate intensity), that individual will undermine gains and likely make less progress than the person who lifts to failure while providing adequate recuperation for the higher degree of intensity.

More importantly, advising trainees to “not lift to failure” without telling them how close to failure they need to get is woefully inadequate information. Building muscle requires a minimum amount of intensity-of-effort that’s fairly high. Stopping much to short of that minimum is a very common mistake that doesn’t need to be encouraged. For that reason, I’ll give you a simple but powerful bit of advice that the ‘The Postgame’ muscle myths article didn’t:

Push your repetitions to one rep short of failure on your final set of an exercise. This provides just about the perfect amount of intensity without risking under-training or overtraining.

‘Muscle Myths’… to be continued

When it comes to muscle myths, the four listed in ‘The Postgame’ article are not even close to being exhaustive. There are numerous other myths within this realm that need to be dispelled. Moreover, the truths surrounding those myths need clearer explanation so as not to be the cause of tangential myths. Stay tuned.



“4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet”: Does it work?

As I’ve read other writer’s opinions of the ‘4-Hour Body slow carb diet’, I’ve wondered why many of them treat it as if it’s a novel tactic for fat loss. That’s not meant to slam Tim Ferriss, author of ‘The 4-Hour Body.’ It’s just that the words “slow carb diet” would seem to imply the regular intake of carbohydrate meals that are low on the glycemic index. They’re considered “slow carbs” because they’re slower digesting and, thus, less likely to significantly raise blood sugar and insulin. Given this, it seems that the ‘4-Hour Body slow carb diet’ is nothing more than a different name for a relatively old tactic.

The 4 Hour BodyBut is the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ really a low glycemic diet, or is it something else?

Let’s take a closer look at the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ to determine whether it’s just a modified low glycemic eating plan. In doing so, we’ll see if there’s anything distinctly valuable about it.

Right off the bat, I have to acknowledge that this diet’s tenets are really simple. This makes it a breeze for people to follow in a quest to improve eating habits. In an age of information overload, that’s always of value. So let’s dive in.

‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’: Basic tenets

To his credit, Tim Ferriss has his ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ first outlined with five basic rules. They’re listed as follows:

  1. Avoid “white” carbohydrates
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over again
  3. Don’t drink calories
  4. Don’t eat fruit
  5. Take one day off per week

So let’s go over each one of these and I’ll give you my take on them. Being that I often experiment with my own body (much as Ferriss does), I’ll share some opinions and personal caveats on these rules.

Avoid “White” Carbohydrates: Ferriss includes all breads, rice (including brown), cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas, and fried food with breading on this list. Basically, he’s advising people to avoid anything starchy. He mercifully provides a once-per-week cheat day (jumping to rule #5) in which, I assume, one can pile down on this stuff if desired.

Instead of starchy carbohydrates, Ferriss recommends eating plenty of protein, good fats, and what he calls “slow carbs” such as lentils, black beans, and vegetables.

Does this work?

I have no doubt that it’s effective; cutting starchy foods will inevitably lead to lower calorie intake. Additionally, eliminating “white carbs” can greatly lower and stabilize insulin levels – something that eventually leads to less fat storage and fewer hunger pangs.

Eat the Same Few Meals Over and Over: Tim Ferriss points out that successful fat shedders and muscle builders all tend to eat the same few food items and meals over and over. He stresses that although the average grocery store has nearly 50,000 food items, only a small percentage of them won’t make us fat. This reminds me of the wise advice about “shopping the perimeter of the supermarket rather than the middle aisles.” The perimeter is where the fish, chicken, meat, and vegetables sit. The middle aisles are where the chips, cookies, and canned/processed foods reside.

Anyway, I will personally attest to this; long ago I discovered that fat loss and a daily desire to tantalize one’s taste buds are not very compatible. Inshape Woman

However, this doesn’t mean that getting and staying lean condemns one to a life of eating boredom. What Ferriss fails to mention with the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ is that lean eating habits can eventually become as addictive as those that make us fat. You’ll know when you’ve reached this threshold when your once-per-week cheat day is no longer something that has you staring at the calendar in starchy carb-longing wait. 

Moreover, losing body fat typically requires a stricter eating regimen than keeping the fat off once it’s gone. In other words, you could adopt the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ for the duration of time it takes you to shed the fat you want to lose, but rest assured that you can reintroduce a few more “bad carbs” and greater meal variety once the fat’s gone and you go into maintenance mode.

Don’t Drink Your Calories: The ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ third rule is another that’s already widely encouraged. No real surprise; there are only so many ways to lose body fat and they’re all just different methods of taking fewer calories than are burned off.

Ferriss recommends limiting beverage intake to high quantities of water and unsweetened coffee or tea. This is wise advice given how many people unknowingly take in excess calories via sugary beverages. I still know individuals who think they’re consuming something “healthy” when drinking a daily fructose-filled fruit juice or making a lunch stop at Jamba Juice. They think this is the equivalent of eating a piece of fruit, which they’ve been told is healthy. But fruit juice is all that’s left when the pulp and fiber is separated from what’s left of the fruit, which is nearly nothing but sugar water. 

Furthermore, his recommendation to “drink massive quantities of water” is something I’ll wholeheartedly agree with. This practice has a huge effect on reducing hunger pangs that accompany calorie reduction.

Of course, it shouldn’t be news that the elimination of sugary soft drinks is necessary for fat loss. Ferriss is one of those who furthers this advice with an admonishment to limit diet sodas as well; “aspartame can stimulate weight gain”, he says.

Personally, I’ve never noticed this phantom weight gain from artificial sweeteners, and I’ve consumed a lot of them. However, I acknowledge that that’s highly anecdotal feedback from one person’s experience.

Don’t Eat Fruit: Here’s a tenet of the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ that probably takes many people by surprise. We’ve long been conditioned to think of fruit as a “diet food.” What’s more, we’ve been told from the time we’re young that fruit’s necessary as a regular staple in order to maintain a “balanced diet.”

Fruit possesses what many of us have referred to simply as “fruit sugar.” But technically, it’s ‘fructose’, a monosaccharide, which is the simplest form of sugar. Tim Ferriss points out that the reason to avoid fructose is due to its easy conversion to glycerol phosphate via the liver. That conversion leads to more triglycerides and fat storage in the body.

In the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’, Ferriss recommends eliminating all fruit for six days of the week, with the exception of tomatoes and avocados. This makes sense given that it’s difficult to determine whether tomatoes and avocados are actually fruits and not vegetables. They definitely contain a lot less fructose than all the other fruits.

Bottom line: I’d have to agree that all the vitamins, fiber, and minerals that are obtained from consuming fruit can easily be gotten from legume and vegetable consumption.

Take One Day Off Per Week: With the ‘4-Hour Slow Carb Diet’, Tim Ferriss builds in a ‘cheat day.’ Okay, so some people have thoughtfully renamed these ‘treat days’ to remove the negative connotation that we’re “cheating” when we indulge in them. Ferriss himself refers to it as a Dieters Gone Wild (DGW) day. Whatever you name it, it’s one-day-per-week to let loose and pig out on high quantities of whatever you’ve felt deprived of during the past week of stringent dieting.

Losing WeightBesides the obvious psychological relief by taking a weekly day off from the ‘slow carb diet’, Ferriss maintains that such treat days increase fat loss. He says spiking caloric intake this way ensures one’s metabolic rate doesn’t downshift from extended caloric restriction.

Although the extent of such fat-burning benefits from ‘treat day’ indulgences might be debatable, partaking in them seems reasonable if only for psychological purposes. Abstaining from starchy foods indefinitely would be a tough proposition. Even the most diehard Paleo Diet adherent would likely attest to that. Therefore, I’d have to agree that a weekend “DGW”-day is definitely called for on the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet.’ Ferriss recommends that it’s done every Saturday and that adherents of the ‘slow carb diet’ indulge in whatever they want to eat – in as high of quantity as they want to eat.

That’s it; that’s the five rules of the 4-Hour Body ‘Slow Carb Diet.’

‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’: Will it Work?

I think that most people who ask if an eating plan like the ‘slow carb diet’ will work are probably fairly new to dieting. That’s because those with experience at losing body fat can recognize the characteristics of an eating plan that will make losing fat a successful proposition. Those characteristics need to lead to a simple equation: fewer calories consumed than are being burned off. That’s the bottom line.

Will the ‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’ deliver on that?

I have no doubt that it will if it’s adhered to strictly. Substantial reduction of sugar and starchy carbohydrates typically reduces calorie intake. It also stabilizes blood sugar and insulin levels, making fat loss even easier than is the case with simple calorie-cutting alone.

‘Four-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’: Too Extreme?

It’s a good thing Tim Ferriss has included a weekly ‘treat day’ (DGW day) in his diet outline. Otherwise, these rules would be difficult to stick with for many people and recidivism would be a common consequence. It’s much easier to face the perceived deprivation of eliminating bread, cereal, potatoes and pasta when you know you can indulge in them at the end of the week.

Notice I’ve used the word “perceived”… deprivation. It’s important to keep in mind, when dieting, that feeling deprived of foods is merely a perception. I mention this with enlightenment from my own personal experience of both extreme carb addiction, followed by adequate discipline that resulted in eliminating that addiction. The first indication that those carb addictions are waning is a diminished enthusiasm for overindulging in the ‘treat day.’ That day typically starts out as something for which you can hardly wait. As you become more “addicted” to the all-day feelings of wellbeing provided by healthier eating, the idea of sending that wellbeing into a tailspin during a “cheat day/treat day” becomes less and less appealing. That’s been my experience, anyway.

This leads me to a doable modification, as I see it. I believe the complete elimination of starchy carbohydrates for 6 days a week is unnecessary. This is especially the case as an individual becomes more experienced with dieting and how his or her body responds to it. It’s also the case when considering that the timing of intake of such carbohydrates can greatly change their bodily effects. Whereas eating “white carbohydrates” at dinner time or later is an absolute no-no, I’ve noticed it having little or no negative effects when consumed at breakfast or lunchtime. This is even more the case when a dieter has a job that requires bodily movement as opposed to sitting at a desk most of the day. Those high glycemic calories get burned.

Ferriss recommends that the only time white carbs should be eaten during the week is directly after a muscle building workout. This is great advice, especially if the workout’s done on an empty stomach. But I think there’s room for many people to eat them every day, if the timing’s right, while still experiencing steady fat loss. Successfully doing this can result in less cravings for, and overindulgences in, the ‘treat day.’ It evens things out a bit while still being effective; sort of providing a “level-loading effect”, if you will.

‘4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet’: Feedback from Users

My opinions on this don’t occur in a vacuum of inexperience. As anyone can see from my before and after pics, I’ve gone from overly-carbed and fat to lean and muscular. One thing I’ll recommend from personal experience is for people to not go too extreme when losing body fat in order to avoid backsliding recidivism.

That said; I’d love to get feedback in the comment section from any individuals who’ve used the 4-Hour Body Slow Carb Diet. Let us know its effect on you and what you liked or disliked about it. And let us know if it was long-term doable for you without modifications. Or did you need to change some things?

To your success in training and eating intelligently.


“What Helps Muscle Growth?” Answer: Hard Work combined with Intelligence

There are now a seemingly countless number of online bodybuilding and fitness instructional videos. Along with these, we see dozens (if not hundreds of) downloadable reports available by self-proclaimed muscle building experts. Professional bodybuilders share their “secrets” of building muscle within the pages of hardcopy magazines. We’ve got literally hundreds of books that have been written and sold on the topic. And yet, people are still frustratingly asking…

Torso Muscles“… What helps muscle growth?”

It’s not helpful that many of the so-called experts merely answer the question with trite simplicity. They’ll say things like… “You’ve gotta work hard and be persistent”… and “you can’t miss workouts”… or “be patient; Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Of course, they’ll throw that last one at you only AFTER they’ve sold you a book they’ve marketed on the notion that there’s such a thing as fast muscle growth. First they’ll tell you what you want to hear and they might tell you the truth.

If you’ve heard all the above answers and you’re still asking “what helps muscle growth”, this article’s for you. I empathize with you. I feel your pain and frustration.

“Why”… you ask?

Because I’ve been in your shoes a hundred-fold. I’ve gone week-after-week, month-after-month, and even multiple years without making any muscle building progress at all. And, yes, I had to simultaneously listen to crap like those quotes above about being patient and persistent. Although these attributes are necessary, they aren’t nearly sufficient as answers to the question “what helps muscle growth.” I’d already demonstrated patience, determination, and perseverance in spades. All the while, I’d notice many of the guys with more muscular development than I had didn’t possess half the work ethic and perseverance that I was consistently demonstrating with my workouts and eating habits.

So I’d ask “what helps muscle growth” and I’d look to the slew of available bodybuilding supplements for the answer. I’d search where so many other frustrated trainees continue to seek answers to this day. I figured there must be some truth to the claims of marketers who touted the benefits of their advanced protein supplements and exotic testosterone boosters.

 

When I’d finally caught on that nearly all the consumable muscle building products were bullshit, I turned my attention in another direction with my question of “what helps muscle growth” – to the quest of finding the perfect bodybuilding workout routine. I used Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty System. I used Leo Costa’s workout methods that were said to be right out of the logbooks of scientific training discoveries made by eastern bloc Olympics coaches. I tried short workouts that consisted solely of ‘heavy compound movements.’ I experimented with every conceivable split routine you could come up with. And after fifteen years of natural bodybuilding, I was still frustratingly asking…

“… What helps muscle growth?”

It’s a good thing I kept at it so long. I eventually got an answer. And as you might expect, it came from a combination of discoveries along the way. I’ll share my ultimate answer, but first, let’s look at why it’s so hidden and difficult to find in the first place.

‘What Helps Muscles Grow?’ First… NOT following advice of Steroid Users

I’m going to attack this issue very bluntly. If you’re a frustrated natural bodybuilder, the root of your frustration is the very existence of bodybuilding drugs. Steroids have so distorted the realm of muscle building information that it’s no wonder there are literally millions of gym-goers who work hard while making little or no progress with their workouts.

Think I’m exaggerating?

If so, think again. Anabolic steroids speed up protein synthesis and tissue recuperation far beyond what’s achievable with one’s natural output of this hormone. Why would they not?

For example, let’s say a guy’s natural testosterone level averages around 600 ng./dl – give or take a few hundred. If that guy starts injecting high dosages of testosterone proprionate each week, he could easily end up with testosterone levels that are three or four times that amount. Given that testosterone is the most anabolic hormone in the body, you can envision the acceleration of recuperation and growth that would occur within his tissues. The difference is not even close; steroids provide a bodybuilder the leeway to be haphazard in training routine and still enjoy terrific muscle building progress.

Regardless of this stark contrast, the world is scattered with gyms that are replete with members performing workouts from which only a steroid user could make gains. They’re working hard in an attempt to “force” the muscles to adapt to more weight. They do forced reps and drop sets. They’ll sometimes back off on the number of sets performed because a bodybuilding guru advises they do so in a muscle building book. But they invariably give their muscle tissue the universally-prescribed (randomly-arrived-at) one week of rest before pounding it again. In short, they’re doing what can’t create muscle growth in an endogenously natural environment and then asking the resulting funny question: “What helps muscle growth.”

How about starting by NOT doing what will never work.

‘What Helps Muscle Growth?’ Hard work – Intelligently Applied

The obvious takeaway after contrasting the bodily environment of a steroid user versus a natural bodybuilder is that the training schedules of the two should not even closely resemble one another. When I say “training schedules”, I’m primarily referring to the ratio of restful recuperation days to workout days. Muscle tissue only grows between workouts; it actually gets torn down during workouts. If anabolic steroids greatly accelerate tissue repair and growth, then they reduce the number of needed rest days between workouts. Training without them, conversely, leaves muscles absent of such a growth rate and requiring a greater number of restful recuperation days. Barbell Curling

The million dollar question: “How many more rest days do muscles need when trained naturally compared to training with steroids?”

Since answering that question scientifically is nary a possibility without extensive research, let’s just use our best estimation with an unscientific method. We established earlier that a fairly modest steroid regimen could raise a guy’s total testosterone level four-fold above what’s natural. This, of course, might exponentially accelerate the rate of tissue repair and growth. Then again, it might only double that rate. It’s difficult to say and its precise determination might depend on a good many variables. So for the sake of simplicity, let’s just guess that it might raise the rate as many times as the testosterone level itself is raised – four times.

Now, consider that many of the bodybuilding split routines that have become commonplace were created during the heyday of steroid use in bodybuilding. This could easily explain the notion that muscles need no more than 72 hours to recuperate and become stronger before being worked again; if you work your chest on Monday, you should be able to work it again on Friday, right?

Well, not if you’re training naturally and your recuperation rate is four times slower than that of the steroid user. In that case, the same intense chest workout, I would contend, might take you four times the recuperation days from which to recover and build compensatory strength and size. This would result in the need for nearly two weeks (12 days) of rest after the working of each muscle in order for the tissue to recover and grow.

As supporting evidence, just think of all the times you’ve heard the following, either from other bodybuilders or yourself:

“I took a two week break from working out. I thought I’d lose size and strength but I actually came back feeling stronger than ever.”

Again, ‘What helps muscle growth?’ For starters, being intelligent in responding to what feedback is telling you, no matter how drastically that goes against the grain of conventional belief.

‘What Helps Muscle Growth?’ Hard Work – and the Counterintuitive

 Once you’ve started down the road to greater muscle size through extended recuperation, you’ll realize there’s an additional piece to the natural muscle building progress puzzle. That piece is counterintuitive and can best be explained with the following equation:

Bigger Muscles = Longer Recuperation requirements for Further Growth

The so-called experts have left you in the dark by telling you the opposite – that via some unexplainable phenomenon your body’s recuperating capacity will somehow become greater as you gain experience. But think about it: nobody ever tells you how or why this would happen. They apparently just assume it will by merely accepting what sounds intuitive. But here’s some usable, snippy advice in answer to the question “what helps muscle growth”:

Be smart, and sometimes… counterintuitive.

As you gain experience, strength, and muscular development, add MORE recuperation days to those original twelve we talked about above. When muscles have gotten bigger, there’s more tissue that’s been torn down during workouts that’s in need of repair. This means that at some point in time, the muscles will begin needing a greater number of rest days between workouts in order to gain further in size and strength. By adhering to this principle, you’ll avoid a common cause of progress plateaus of which almost nobody else is aware.

Then, you’ll be able to tell those people ‘what helps muscle growth.’


“Should I Take Steroids?” Not ‘til you’ve read this

Back when I was personally asking the question “should I take steroids”, there was plenty of dissuading info being published that would ultimately lead me to answer “no.” One such influence was a letter-to-the-editor of one of the major bodybuilding magazines. It was a long letter. It spoke of the writer’s own wrestling with the “should I take steroids” question; a personal inquiry that ultimately resulted in significant use of those drugs. The letter was written and published in the early 90s, making it of little surprise that the content of its story went down in the relatively heedless mid-80s. That heedlessness ultimately led to the letter writer’s contraction of HIV from a shared steroid needle, a tragic turn-of-event that sounds rather foreign in a contemporary context.

Anabolic steroidsWhat seemed to really punctuate the story for me, however, was the letter author’s parting words:

“The steroids weren’t worth it.”

Did the letter-writer say this out of bitterness for the bigger consequence to which his steroid use led? Or did he have a more all-encompassing, cryptic message for anyone asking the question “should I take steroids”; a message conveying that the physique gains from drugs are transitory against unforeseen pitfalls that are permanent?

“Should I Take Steroids”… or are they ‘psychologically addictive?’

When I was personally confronted with the “should I take steroids” question, I’d been speaking with a military buddy about it. This was roughly 25 years ago. Even so, I clearly recall him advising me that although these drugs aren’t physically addictive, it’s plausible that they’re psychologically so. This hardly sounded threatening to me at that tender age. After all, whether something psychologically “addicts me” should be completely within my control. I scoffed at the notion. If I ever “experimented” with them, I could surely turn away from them whenever I saw fit.

However, thinking back at some of the interviews of (and articles about) steroid users I’ve perused, one of the more salient features is the obnoxious tone of the psychological dependence on steroids that can so blatantly rear its head. That’s what stood out in such an interview of a steroid addict I saw years ago in one of the major offline bodybuilding magazines. It’s also what comes through in this article recently posted in Business Insider.

The Business Insider’ article begins by mentioning the rampant culture of steroid use by both males and females in South Florida. It goes on to introduce a New Jersey guy, opting for anonymity through the pseudo-name ‘Joey O’, who started the drugs when he’d youthfully left the Marine Corp and cycled them regularly ‘til the age of 42. Now facing depressed testosterone levels from years of heavy steroid use, ‘Joey O’ takes his weekly prescription of testosterone enanthate so that he can experience “normal” testosterone levels.  

That is the kind of predicament that’s rarely foreseen by young guys asking the question ‘should I take steroids.’ Whom among us, in our shortsighted youth, stop to think just twenty years ahead and become sufficiently repulsed by the idea of having to depend on an exogenous source of manly hormone to sidestep being “superman” in the moment? And by the time someone’s become as dependent on a substance for being macho as has ‘Joey O’, what’s the big deal in getting a shot of replacement testosterone every one or two weeks? After all, it’s a practice used by aging guys with low T-levels who’ve never even used steroids.

Personally, I’d rather have my ‘endogenous mojo’ intact. Sure, maybe the full benefit of that wouldn’t be realized unless Armageddon goes down and every guy on ‘exogenous T’ finds his pharmacist out of the office and wonders where the rest of us get the drive to simply get up in the morning. Still… there’s just something better about knowing you’ve got enough male hormone made by your own body to produce muscle and anything else. That’s something to at least contemplate if you’re asking the ‘should I take steroids’ question.

Back to the question: Are steroids psychologically addictive?

Maybe for some people they are and others they aren’t. But just read about juicer ‘Joey O’ and then try to convince yourself they can’t be.

‘Should I Take Steroids’… or does Every Shortcut Have a Price?

Steroids are powerful drugs. As with most drugs, I’m sure they can be dangerously abused or utilized in a relatively safe and wise manner. That’s why I’ve conjoined this section of the ‘should I take steroids’ question with the counter question ‘does every shortcut have a price’ rather than “are steroids dangerous.” I’m sure they can be life-threateningly dangerous. They can also likely be administered in a way that makes steroid side-effects no more than a mild nuisance. Potential negative side effects

But most (if not all) drug use comes with the price-tag of side effects. These usually vary in number and severity, depending on the specific drug taken, dosage it’s taken in, and duration of time that it’s used. Obviously, side effects can also be divided into two types: ‘acute’ and ‘chronic.’ And just because a particular drug doesn’t produce an acute (short term) negative side effect in an individual doesn’t mean it won’t cause chronic (long term) negative effects. Conversely, acute negative side-effects don’t automatically equate to the chronic type. 

With these points in mind, it’s interesting that the steroid article cites ‘renal failure’ and ‘liver failure’ in the same sentence, possibly as a mix-up in definition. ‘Joey O’ acknowledges that using the drug ‘Anadrol’ can be like a “bullet right to the liver.” It’s then mentioned by the article’s author:

“The liver is hit so hard by Anadrol that renal failure is more likely than not.”

‘Renal failure’ is failure of the kidneys. It’s possible the author was referring to reduced liver function eventually leading to kidney failure. Or he might have simply been confusing renal failure as a word connoting liver failure. I’m not sure. But it’s probably worth mentioning that there have been cases of kidney failure believed caused by the long-term use of steroids. The liver, however, is more directly stressed by these drugs as it is the filter through which the body’s toxins must be removed. It’s also more resilient than the kidneys in its ability to heal from damage over time. But the kidneys can be indirectly stressed by steroids as these drugs frequently cause high blood pressure which can cause long-term damage to this extremely vital organ. Overall, the chance you’re willing to take with the health of these two vital organs is something to consider when asking “should I take steroids.” 

Something else to contemplate when asking the ‘should I take steroids’ question are the inevitable withdrawal symptoms you’d likely face when coming off the drugs. These are listed in the ‘Business Insider’ article as follows: mood swings, insomnia, restlessness, reduced libido, decreased appetite, and depression. Not a pretty list. ‘Joey O’ is mentioned as finally getting past this phase by being prescribed “raw testosterone” (testosterone enanthate). But this seems a pretty sad state of affairs: Going back on a testosterone drug that will only assure the further dormancy of one’s own testosterone production. The problems are caused in the first place by a shutdown of endogenous testosterone. Seems the ‘testosterone dealers’ win in the end with a sort of locked in dependency group.

Yet another possible price to pay for even just the possession of anabolic steroids is the legal one. In the article about ‘Joey O’, it’s mentioned that what finally got him off the drugs was the legal ramifications: Simple possession of the drugs in Florida is a felony with a five-year prison penalty attached. This makes sense given that in the United States, each state has its own laws on the books regarding steroids. In addition, there are laws at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act of 1990 and reinforced under the Controlled Substances Act of 2004. These U.S. federal laws make steroids a ‘Schedule III Controlled Substance’, meaning anabolic/androgenic steroids are legal to possess and use only with a prescription.

‘Should I Take Steroids’… or would it just make me a desperate Drug Dependent?

Do you want the often fleeting condition of simply being a “person with big muscles?” Or do you want to be a knowledgeable, healthy, lifetime bodybuilder who has the fortitude and know-how to add natural strength and size to your body or that of anyone you train? Wouldn’t you rather have the kind of strength and muscle size that lasts and can be built upon for a lifetime?

These might be the transcendent questions to ask in accompaniment with “should I take steroids.” When I reflect on my ultimate decision to steer clear of those drugs and be a lifetime natural bodybuilder, I’m reminded of the many drug using guys I’ve seen in the gym who’ve just fallen by the wayside. Either this or their inevitable withdrawal of the drugs has produced a rebound effect resulting in muscular development that doesn’t match mine in our middle-aged years.

In reading the article in Business Insider, it’s clear that ‘Joey O’ doesn’t even have the fortitude to get to the gym without resorting to further drug intake. That’s where many long-term steroid users find themselves. It’s not only due to depressed endogenous hormone production from the drugs – it’s because they don’t have a clue how to build muscle without drugs.

The subconscious realization of this might be what’s implicitly surfacing when someone occasionally confesses in hindsight:

“The steroids weren’t worth it.”


“Does Nugenix Work”; does it boost testosterone

The latest “testosterone booster” to be touted in ads all over the Internet is called Nugenix. It’s manufactured for and marketed by GNC. The product’s marketers make the usual claims that are associated with all other ‘natural’ testosterone boosters, i.e.: Improved libido, more muscle mass, higher energy, better well-being… etc.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But ‘does Nugenix work’; does it increase testosterone?

Nugenix-testosterone boosterWhile many of us in the muscle building world are familiar with the product’s ingredients and amplified claims that accompany them, those individuals in the market that this product’s advertising is targeting might not be quite as aware of the hype. Many are middle-aged to older men. They simply want to spike what they perceive as flagging energy and libido. A pill containing natural ingredients is the best way to do it. The appeal is simple: take the tablets, feel the energy and increased libido, watch the body fat go down, watch the muscles expand…  ‘Nirvana’; “who needs to work at this?”

That is… if Nugenix works. But does Nugenix work?

Let’s take an objective look at the ingredients to analyze that.

‘Does Nugenix Work?’ A look at the ingredients

Those asking the “does Nugenix work” question should first know what’s in the product and whether any of those individual ingredients have been shown to boost testosterone. The so-called main ingredient in Nugenix is listed as ‘Testofen™’, a proprietary extract from the Fenugreek plant. Along with this is the plant extract Tribulus Terrestris, an ingredient that’s long been hyped as a T-booster. The other ingredients listed are citrulline malate (an amino acid) along with 50 mg. of zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.

Obviously, the citrulline, zinc, and B-vitamin ingredients were merely included as support additives. They can be acquired in adequate amounts from either a well-balanced diet or a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. Therefore, the claim of Nugenix being capable of raising natural testosterone is primarily based on the alleged power of ‘Testofen™’ and ‘Tribulus’ to spur more testosterone production.

I’ve already written my opinion of Tribulus right here, if you care to read it. If not, you can go with this summarization: both the objective and anecdotal evidence for that herb being effective at boosting testosterone in humans are not good.

This should raise good questions in the mind of any thinking person: If Testofen™ raises testosterone, why would Tribulus Terrestris need to be combined with it? Conversely, if Tribulus Terrestris ever had been effective, why would marketers need to jump on a newer claim of the same effects being derivable from the Fenugreek in Testofen™? This second question should be especially salient given that Tribulus Terrestris has been around as a supplement for a long time.

I often wonder stuff like that. The assumption we’re obviously supposed to buy into is that both these extracts have always done what’s claimed about them and that combining them makes them… well, reeeeally effective.

‘Does Nugenix Work’ translates to “Does Fenugreek Work”

With its supportive ingredients being unlikely to boost testosterone and the probable ineffectuality of Tribulus, Nugenix would need to rely on the Fenugreek extract to be effective. Thus, the question “does Nugenix work” is more a question of ‘does Fenugreek increase testosterone.’

There’s only one published study I’m aware of that claims a positive answer to that question. In fact, the study claims a finding of near doubling of ‘free testosterone’ – the bodily form of the hormone that will actually help build muscle, burn fat, and boost libido.  Only drawback – the study was not done independently; it was funded and performed by the company that trademarked and markets Testofen™. That makes objectivity a near impossibility.

BTW… ‘Free testosterone’ runs at about 2-3% of ‘total testosterone.’ So if you’ve got a test result for your ‘total T-levels’ being at, say… 500 ng./dL. , then your free testosterone would be (at best) around 15 ng./dL.

It so happens that the guys used in this study reportedly started with an average free testosterone level of 17.76. This was among 55 healthy male volunteer subjects ranging in age from 18-35. The said purpose of the eight-week study was to discover whether Testofen™ (fenugreek extract) safely increases free testosterone and/or decreases body fat. Of the subjects who completed the study, 29 received two doses of Testofen™ per day at 300 mg. per dose. The other 26 participants received a placebo.

What were the results? Huge Triceps

According to Gencor Pacific (the company behind the study – and product), not only did free T-levels almost double (98.81% increase), but body fat was also significantly reduced in the test group. This was purportedly indicated by a decrease in skinfold caliper measurement within these subjects without an accompanying drop in body weight.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you’d like to read the company’s PDF on the study, you can see it right here.

A 2009 study, however, showed a different result. This one, another double-blind test, was published here in the International Journal of Exercise Science and involved 45 male subjects, half of whom took 500 mg. of Fenugreek extract per day while the other half took a placebo for the eight week experiment. The subjects were all weight trained individuals and underwent a resistance training protocol during the study. This one showed no increase in testosterone (or any other tested hormone) and, in fact, only showed a slight decrease in DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the group taking the fenugreek extract.

‘Does Nugenix Work’… and if so, how would it “work?”

If a product can naturally stimulate more testosterone production, there are a couple of ways by which it could work. That’s because male testosterone production happens through a loop feedback axis. When the hypothalamus in the brain detects blood testosterone levels as being too low, it sends a signal to the testes via lutienizing hormone (LH). It conversely reduces its output of LH when it gets readings that T-levels are adequate. If a substance could stimulate LH output, it could result in more testosterone. If a substance acts similarly to LH itself, thus directly stimulating the leydig cells in the testes, it could result in higher T-levels as well.

There’s an additional, indirect way that a substance could naturally raise testosterone levels. This would be by suppressing the antagonists of testosterone. There are two major ones to be aware of: estrogen and SHGB (Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin).  

Estrogen is created in the male body (in a form called ‘estradiol’) by way of an enzyme called aromatase. The aromatase converts some of the testosterone molecules into estradiol molecules. This is natural and normal as we guys designed to have some estrogen. When too much conversion takes place, however, estrogen can get too high and begin to fill the cell receptor sites where testosterone would otherwise reside. This can adversely affect testosterone levels because the estrogen filling these receptor sites often sends a ‘false signal’ to the hypothalamus – effectively convincing it that the sites possess testosterone and that T-levels are, therefore, adequate.

Bottom line: high estrogen equals lower testosterone. Thus, if a product can reduce estrogen directly, or it reduces aromatase, it could raise testosterone.


Testosterone

Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin (SHBG), on the other hand, is what directly controls how much ‘free testosterone’ is available. It is a glycoprotein that’s produced primarily in the liver and has 98% of ‘total testosterone’ “bound up” at any given time. Therefore, ‘free testosterone’ – which is the biologically active form that affects muscle, libido, body composition, energy levels, etc. – can be increased either directly or indirectly: It can be directly increased by reducing the amount of SHBG or it can be indirectly increased by raising the production of ‘total testosterone.’

BTW… higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase SHBG levels – another means by which excessive estrogen can lower testosterone.

Given those explanations, there are only a few ways in which Nugenix could work if the “does Nugenix work” question could be answered in the positive:

  • Directly stimulating the leydig cells to produce more testosterone
  • Stimulating more LH release which, in turn, stimulates the leydig cells
  • Reducing levels of estradiol in the body
  • Reducing SHBG levels in the body

Any one of these routes could lead to higher ‘free testosterone.’ If researchers had discovered their proprietary product could effectively double this small percentage of the hormone, you’d think they’d explain the means by which it occurred.

‘Does Nugenix Work’: Conclusion

Personally, if I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put a wager on Nugenix “working” to increase testosterone. And as recommendations go, I’d tell a guy wanting to raise his T-levels to shift his focus toward high workout intensity, reduced body fat, and better eating habits with an emphasis on more cruciferous vegetables.

However, I realize I’m a bit jaded in my long-ago experience in the dietary supplement-taking department.  Consequently, I’m open to any comments of anecdotal experience in using Nugenix; let us know what you think if you’ve used this product.

Your comments are appreciated.