The Great Muscle Gain Hoax-Part One
Part 1 Background- The problem with supplement testing .
“What supplements can I take to put on muscle?”
I often get asked this question and to be honest I place very little emphasis on supplements.
In many ways this is due to the fact that often people can consider that it’s the supplements that are “what’s working” so they place their attention on them to the detriment of their training and diet as a whole.
This is a mistake.
As I hope to show you in this series, how most of the hundreds of products available online and in health food stores have little evidence if any to suggest that they will help you grow new muscle tissue.
Firstly what exactly are we talking about?
At any time we can build up and break down our total muscle tissue. The protein we eat is made up of amino acids. If we eat/drink amino acids to a sufficient level and cause an appropriate level of training that both stimulates the nervous system and causes damage to the muscle tissue we can then store amino acids in the form of muscle protein (muscle). Muscle can then be broken back down into amino acids to be used as fuel.
The building up of muscle is called muscle protein synthesis and the breakdown is called muscle protein breakdown or MPS and MPB.
When you say you want to put on muscle you mean you want to increase MPS and minimise MPB leaving you with a net increase in total muscle.
We’ll go through the best supplements to help, but first;
Before I dive into the research on each of the supplements I want to say that in my personal view supplement testing is by its very nature is a little limited.
You can think of your body like a tool kit.
Imagine you and your friend Bob both have a similar tool kit, you have exactly the same tools but you are missing a spanner. Your pal Bob has a wonderful shiny spanner and when tasks that involve spanner usage come up he is well prepared whereas you can’t cope.
Let’s say that instead of being spannerless you just have very low levels of creatine. You are less able to complete tasks that creatine is involved in, like intermittent high intensity exercise for example.
If someone were to give you a spanner you would now be able to do stuff that requires a spanner whereas if someone gave Bob a spanner it would make very little difference to his capabilities because, remember, Bob has a wonderful shiny spanner.
In the same way if someone already has a good level of creatine and you supplement creatine it will have little impact. Give creatine to somebody who shows low levels of creatine and you’ll see their performance rocket!
So what point am I making?
I am currently writing a review on the best supplements to gain muscle mass. So where do you look for evidence? … Scientific literature. The gold standard in most circumstances is a randomised controlled trial.
In a randomised controlled trial often groups of subjects are randomly assigned to either take the supplement (sometimes in varying quantities or timings) or the placebo.
Often the evidence is formed from the average across the whole trial and any extraordinarily positive or negative results are discounted as outliers.
How does this fit in with Bob and his spanner?
Remember supplements are the to “fill in the gaps” in your diet so to speak. In many cases the starting concentration of the vitamin, mineral or substrate has a big impact on the effectiveness of supplementation. So, if you have a gap and you fill it you’ll of course see better results than somebody who wasn’t deficient.
What if the outliers who showed unusually positive results in the trial were deficient in the supplement being tested?
That’s why there are more and more studies that are looking at starting concentrations of what they are trying to supplement and in many cases (I won’t give away the findings ) you can see a far greater response and far greater net muscle gain.
Why not join us on Facebook and let us know what supplements are your go-to when you want to put on some muscle?
Back soon with a comprehensive guide to the best (and worst ) supplements on the market.
If you want to get fit and strong you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org