The Great Muscle Mass Hoax
According to most health stores there are literally hundreds of products that will help you put on muscle mass. According to the scientific literature on the subject it’s a different matter
I think there is definitely two and maybe four supplements that will help you gain muscle mass along with a well designed training program and of course a good diet. Let’s take a look, here is your reference guide to steer you in the right direction.
DAA Or D- Aspartic Acid, pretty much the new kid on the block. A recent study shows DAA causes a rise of 44% in testosterone levels.
When supplement manufacturers waxed lyrical about this point there was soon a buzz created around the product. To put 44% in perspective though, the same study found that the time of day that testosterone levels were taken showed exactly the same percentage variation.
Resistance exercise showed 100%increase in testosterone and watching erotic videos showed a 6% rise
Injecting testosterone showed a 409% increase in Testosterone which is a good marker for how relevant a 44% increase is.
Glutamine- Often glutamine is described as a supplement that can increase muscle protein synthesis. There is some evidence that it can increase net muscle mass but only in those that have suffered trauma (ie damage to muscle tissue like a knife wounds etc) and disease.
Horny Goat Weed– This is a herb called epimedium which is considered an aphrodisiac. It was first observed (not in a trial) that goats were more horny after eating the herb and somebody somewhere came up with the not-so-logical conclusion that it increases testosterone. There is no evidence that this is the case but should you want to try out its aphrodisiac powers be my guest! After all it’s valentines day.
ZMA- There is only one positive study showing an increase in muscle mass through ZMA supplementation and many hundred negative ones. The only positive study is out of Victor Conte’s lab who was working with Dwayne Chambers when banned. I’ll let you make your own mind up about it’s reliability.
Fenugreek- Again one positive study shows this increases testosterone but there are also many negative ones. Similar to DAA the percentage increase is insignificant and I wouldn’t rely on it to stimulate muscle growth.
19-norandrosterone- This is on the banned list for athletes. I imagine that is because it’s a metabolite of the steroid nandrolone (the popular drug of choice for sprinters and those of you old enough may remember it earned Linford Christie, one of my childhood hero’s a 2 year ban) Maybe the cross country runners and steeplechase athletes know something we don’t about the effects of norandrosterone though because there is a trend of them getting banned for it.
Tribulus Terrestis- A herb associated again with male virility and again the link has been made that this is due to a rise in testosterone. Despite lots of research there has been no positive results in studies.
HMB- It seems HMB is possibly useful to aid recovery in the early stages of a training program or in a high volume phase. It doesn’t seem to increase muscle protein synthesis but does reduce muscle protein breakdown so in short it can still help you increase your total muscle mass.
Leucine- There are 21 amino acids (you can think of amino acids as the building blocks of protein ad muscle is protein) 11 are so called non essential or conditionally essential because our body can synthesise them. There are nine amino acids that are called essential because it is essential that you get these from the diet. Three of the nine are called branch chain amino acids so called due to their molecular structure. Branch chain amino acids or BCAA activate the protein mTor which then stimulates the build of new muscle tissue. So you could say that leucine can help the acute anabolic response post exercise but there is no evidence it is superior to a complete protein like whey protein.
BCAA- The same as luecine but the other two amino acids have less effect on mTor.
Colostrum- May have some benefit in increasing lean mass. It was thought that this could be down to increasing Insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) Graeme Close’ groups study showed it did nothing to IGF-1 but on Dexa scan results the athletes on Graeme’s study showed approximately 1kg added lean mass and a decrease in body fat. There’s more research needed but likely this is due to improved gut function.
Whey Protein- Probably the most evidenced supplement for building muscle. There is very robust evidence suggesting whey protein increases muscle protein synthesis and even increases it above the use of other complete proteins.
Vitamin D- It’s worth mentioning that although at a very early stage there is some evidence that vitamin D supplementation can lead to an increase in muscle mass. So far we only have evidence in rat studies and the mechanism isn’t clear. Vitamin D supplementation in those deficient leads to a raft in health benefits including better sleep and improved immunity so maybe there are some clues there.
Creatine- Your starting concentration appears to be important in the magnitude of the response. One study showed a decrease in urine volume within 3-4 days before urine volume returned to normal. So it appears that in the first few days muscle absorbs more water. There are also studies that show an increase in strength through using creatine which would indicate that both the semi fluid substance within the muscle as well as the contractile tissue are increased.Make no mistake creatine has robust evidence to say that it will help you increase muscle mass.
Casein protein- Separating the Curds and whey from milk. Whey protein is the water soluble part of milk the “whey” and casein is the “curds”. If you want to increase muscle mass a late night feeding of casein has shown a positive effect. There is no evidence however to suggest the same feeding coming from whey or whole food wouldn’t have a similar effect though so you might want to consider this before buying loads of different varieties of protein.
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