Creatine for Muscle Building: Creatine Loading Phase
Creatine is possibly then most talked about substance in bodybuilding, and in fitness generally. But do most people really know what creatine is, what it does, and how we should be using it?
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally found within the cells of muscles and it plays a critical role in the production of the energy you need when undertaking intensive exercise such as weight lifting.
It’s no surprise then that creatine supplements are hugely popular in the bodybuilding community, with them being taken for all round benefits in the areas of strength enhancement, increased gains and overall performance improvements.
What Is A Creatine Loading Phase?
As the name suggests, this phase is literally about loading up on your muscle’s stores of creatine. Because creatine is stored in the muscles where it’s drawn upon during intense energy bursts, keeping your creatine levels topped up has clear benefits. So a creatine loading phase is simply a way of quickly increasing your stores of creatine so it’s there when and as you need it. You do this by consuming creatine in a large amount so the muscles are literally loaded with it ready for use.
Creatine is often the first supplement that athletes turn to. For many, it’s considered a staple supplement and one that is used even if no other products are. These supplements are particularly helpful for:
- People regularly lifting heavy weights or doing high intensity workouts
- Vegetarians or vegans, because creatine is naturally obtained from animal sourced foods
Do Creatine Supplements Have Any Side Effects?
Quality creatine products are considered safe when the directed dosage is followed. It’s important to keep in mind though that, like all supplements, there is no FDA regulation of the product claims and quality, so always pay close attention to the company who has made it, where it originates from, and what the full ingredients list contains. These simple steps will ensure you’re getting a high quality creatine supplement.
Muscle building makes use of specific energy pathways in the body which are different to those used for aerobic type exercise. For bodybuilding, creatine contributes to the production of ATP which is the main energy source we need. ATP reserves are depleted within less than ten seconds during bodybuilding, after which new ATP needs to be produced and when you’re working at high intensity, the body has a hard time keeping up with the amount of ATP you need.
By loading up on creatine, your muscles can increase storage of the compound that’s required for more ATP to be produced, so you can continue to workout at high intensity. A loading phase can run for about a week or less, with studies showing the muscle’s storage of creatine can be maximized during this time period. Different supplements may come with differing instructions on exactly how much to take.
It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of creatine you require for an adequate loading phase will depend on your current physique. Your current muscle mass will determine how much creatine that you can hold – those with more muscle can obviously store more creatine so will require a larger dose to maximize the storage amount.
What Happens After Your Creatine Loading Phase Ends?
At the end of a week (or so) loading phase of creatine, it’s recommended that you maintain your creatine levels by continuing to take creatine, but at lower levels than you were while loading. Generally an ideal creatine maintenance level is around three to five grams per day; but again, this also depends on your current muscle mass and the intensity of your workout program.
It’s important to maintain your stores of creatine, so never make the mistake of undertaking a week long loading phase and then stopping creatine intake completely.
Is Creatine Loading Absolutely Necessary?
Loading of creatine is a method of quickly maximizing your stores. Alternatively, ongoing and consistent moderate dosages of creatine daily can also bring your levels up at or near maximum; it just takes longer. For example, skipping the loading phase and simply consuming around three grams of creatine per day is likely to boost your muscles to saturation level within around a month – rather than within a week when loading.
Therefore: creatine loading is not vital for muscle building, but if you want to get off to a quick head start, or have a critical need to hit peak performance as soon as possible – it’s a safe and effective way to achieve that goal.
BCAAs: Do Branched-Chain Amino Acids Really Work?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Leucine, isoleucine and valine make up what we know as BCAAs. There are nine essential amino acids, and these are three of them. Essential amino acids can only be obtained from your diet; in other words, your body does not naturally make them as it does with non-essential of amino acids.
Foods that are high in protein are particularly important for consuming BCAAs, and these include meats, eggs and dairy products. All animal sourced food products contain BCAAs, so it’s not difficult to include them in a regular diet. Few plant based foods provide as much of a hit of BCAAs as animal based foods, with soybeans being one of the richest plant sources.
These three amino acids are known to have big benefits for your performance and muscle building – for example, they help stimulate the all important process of protein synthesis, which is the basis for muscular tissue growth. Let’s take a look at each individual amino acid that make up BCAAs:
Leucine – Thought to be the most powerful of the three BCAAs, and the primary one in the chain. Consuming too much leucine however can bring about more negative effects than positive ones. Leucine directly increases the production of protein and energy, therefore is vital to muscle growth.
Isoleucine – This amino acid is thought to heavily contribute to the use of glucose in the body as well as potentially being an anti-catabolic agent which means it helps reduce or prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue.
Valine – The third part of the BCAA is valine which is thought to be the least important and alone has minimal benefit, but is still a powerful and critical component of the three BCAAs.
The number of important body processes that BCAAs are involved in is extensive, and include:
- Promoting the vital process of protein synthesis; the underlying mechanism of muscle growth
- Helps the body metabolize glucose
- Known to play a part in the functioning of both the brain and immune system
- BCAAs reach the brain and there they are thought to contribute to energy production and other vital processes concerning neurotransmitters
Studies have shown that the effects of isoleucine or valine used separately did not have any positive effect on muscular growth. It is thought that leucine only supplements may have some small benefit as well as being lower cost than BCAA supplements. In other words, it’s only the combination of all three of these amino acids that is critical for the process of growing muscle tissue.
Supplementing with BCAAs
The recommendation for most people is that BCAA supplements are generally not necessary for those who ingest enough of these amino acids on a daily basis through the diet. This can be roughly measured by your protein intake: around 1 to 1.5g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day is considered sufficient to receive ample amounts of BCAAs for the average person.
During intense exercise however, serum levels of BCAAs naturally decline. This brings on production of serotonin and as a result: fatigue sets in. By taking a BCAA supplement, this process may be minimized or averted completely thanks to the BCAA supplement working to prevent a serum decline in branched-chain amino acids where you aren’t consuming enough of them in the diet.
What about for gaining muscles? Is there a significant benefit to using BCAA supplements? Studies have shown that when you’re on a suitable diet, supplementing with BCAAs is unlikely to have an effect on muscle gains. However, during times when you’re on a calorie controlled diet – such as when you’re trying to cut fat – is when the power of BCAA supplements can shine through.
Reducing your calorie intake to shed fat can have the inadvertent effect of having muscle lost as well; something that we try so hard to avoid have happen. BCAAs can help you to retain your existing muscle while you’re slimming down and where you’ve reduced the overall protein intake in your diet.
BCAAs For Vegetarians
People who don’t get a lot or any animal-sourced protein in their diet, such as vegans and vegetarians, can benefit greatly from BCAA supplementation to promote the process of muscle synthesis and to boost muscle growth. Many of the reputable BCAA supplement brands are made with vegan friendly ingredients that don’t come from an animal source; however those with strict requirements should carefully read the label or enquire with the company to confirm the origin of all ingredients.
In summary: if you’re not getting enough BCAAs in your daily diet, supplements can have great benefits. Otherwise, you are unlikely to need them.
Best Multivitamins for Bodybuilding
There are 13 essential vitamins that we need for proper functioning of the human body. Each vitamin has one or more critical functions in the body and when not enough of a certain vitamin isn’t obtained, we then get a vitamin deficiency; and the associated health problems.
Bodybuilders can benefit from having knowledge of what each vitamin contributes to performance and muscle gain, and what the optimal levels of vitamin intake are to reap the best results. The list of 13 essential vitamins are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folate (B9)
Some, like vitamin C, most of us are very familiar with and have a good idea of which foods to get them from. Other vitamins are not as well known to many people; particularly the B group of vitamins which are hugely important but often overlooked.
Four of these vitamins (A, D, E, and K) are fat soluble which means dietary fat helps them to absorb into the body. While the remaining nine are water soluble vitamins. These are required to either be used up in the body quickly, or they are excreted through urine. Water soluble vitamins need to be consumed everyday since you keep no stores of them in the body. One exception in this group is vitamin B12 which the liver can store a quantity of for a number of years.
But what about when it comes to bodybuilding?
We know we need all these vitamins for general health, but which ones should you put a greater focus on when it comes to gaining muscle and getting a lean physique?
Vitamin B1 – Known as thiamine, B1 is essential for making energy out of the carbohydrates you get from food. You can get B1 from wholewheat grains, fish, lentils, seeds and nuts and cereals that have been fortified with this vitamin.
Vitamin B5 – Commonly called pantothenic acid, B5 is found in a wide range of foods and plays a role in the processing of food to energy. So just like B1 and so many other vitamins, B5 is also critical to fueling your workouts.
Vitamin C – Possibly the most well known and widely understood vitamin, C has various roles which includes not only its ability as a powerful antioxidant to maintain the immune system, but also its role in the health of tendons and cartilage; areas that are critical to be in prime condition for anyone doing bodybuilding.
Vitamin B7 – Commonly called Biotin is critical in the area of red blood cell functioning – and red blood cells are what increases the amount of oxygen that your blood can hold and deliver to your muscles during workouts. Biotin is also important for helping enhance the body’s use of other nutrients; which is why you’ll often see it in supplements as a mechanism of helping absorb other ingredients. Biotin isn’t found in high amounts in any foods, but exists in small amounts in some food like legumes, almonds, tomatoes and liver. To specifically boost B7 or biotin, a multivitamin is often required.
Vitamin E – Another powerful antioxidant, Vitamin E is also critical to the process of blood flow and repairing tissue. These are areas of great importance to bodybuilders, particularly in the area of recovery – making vitamin E one of the most useful components of any multivitamin. Quality dietary sources of vitamin E include dark leafy greens, nuts, salmon, avocado and olives.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin has a role to play in energy production, so once again is critical for those doing intensive exercise. Lean white meats are rich in niacin. Vitamin B3 is also thought to be important in regulating cholesterol levels and is certain to contribute to healthy food digestion. Niacin has also shown benefits for joint mobility and in decreasing joint fatigue.
Folate – This is vitamin B9 and it’s critical for red blood cell production, DNA production and ultimately for the growth of tissues and cells. Leafy greens, citrus fruits, and cereals and other fortified foods provide dietary sources of folate. As it relates specifically to building muscle, folate is known to help generate nitric oxide from arginine and NO is critical to gaining muscle and improving strength.
Including all of these vitamins in your diet is of clear importance; boosting your intake of the most useful and critical vitamins as they relate to bodybuilding is possible through the use of supplements and multivitamin products.
Progressive Overload: What It Is and How To Do It?
Anyone can follow a weight lifting program and diet plan, but taking muscle growth to the next level requires going beyond the basics and taking a more detailed look at how you’re working out and what can be done to push out that little bit more each session and ultimately, boost both the speed and size of your results.
What is progressive overload?
During exercise or weight lifting, progressive overload is when you gradually increase the amount of stress placed on your body. When it comes to bodybuilding, this refers to progressively increasing the weight load that you are lifting with a particular muscle group (or groups). By placing a greater load on the muscle than it is used to, the muscle is forced adapt. Ultimately, that is how muscle gains are made.
Progressive overload is a technique you’re most likely already incorporating into your workouts without even paying much attention to it. Because it’s about ramping up the intensity or strength of your workout to achieve better results, it’s a simple idea at its core for anyone already doing regular weight training or other intensive exercise. You naturally want to lift more and heavier so you can move forward – and this is the underlying principal of progressive overload.
But progressive overload takes regular training further by taking those simple principals and doing them more specifically and in a much more carefully planned way, rather than haphazardly as you might do if you’re just randomly adding more weight or increasing reps without a solid plan.
Consistency and planning are keys to successfully implementing progressive overload. This involves keeping close track of your workouts including accurately recording your sets, reps and the weight you’re lifting. Sounds simple enough, right? If you’re doing things right, you’re likely already undertaking some sort of record keeping and planning at a basic level.
Why go to this effort instead of just “winging it” at each session? Because if you’re not keeping track over time of how many reps you’re doing, what weight you should be lifting and when and most importantly, aren’t sticking to a consistent program to increment these factors, then progressive overload won’t deliver the results its capable of giving you and you’ll be doomed to the mediocrity of the average lifter who can’t break through those barriers to the next level.
Put simply: the reason we keep going to the gym is to continually see improvements. Thatís your motivation. Progressive overload is a key way to virtually guarantee that you WILL see improvements and progress. We all know that doing the same workouts at the same intensity over and over again will get us nowhere after a short time and you’ll soon hit that dreaded plateau. Progressive overload helps you avoid the plateau completely so you can keep forging forward.
So how can you implement progressive overload into your training?
It’s simple: by focusing on the core areas of training, PO can be tackled from multiple angles so that you are consistently moving forward. This allows you to make changes to different aspects at different times, ensuring you don’t stagnate or worse: go backwards. Here are the areas you need to focus on to implement progressive overload:
Increase resistance: This is the obvious one, yet it’s so easy to stop tracking just how much weight you’re adding each week so being fully aware of how much resistance you’re adding – and documenting it – makes it possible to look back and very closely align your gains with the increased weight you’re lifting over time. As your body becomes stronger with each exercise, keep lifting heavier weights; that is progressive overload 101.
Mix up your routine: There’s only so much weight you can add, so you need to look outside the square to continually progress. Taking a close look at the design of your workout and adding, modifying and changing things up when it comes to numbers of reps and sets, how often you work out, the intensity of workouts and your strategy for grouping different exercises together is a powerful way to keep your body on its toes so you never become complacent and plateau.
Increasing reps is obvious, but increasing intensity of any exercise is easily overlooked – particularly when it comes to the intensity you place on the two main aspects of any exercise: the contraction of the muscle, and the lengthening of the muscle.
By slightly modifying the speed and length of the time you take to lower a bar, or complete a squat, extra load is placed on a particular muscle group and thus: your progressive overload journey continues.
And finally, your diet should not be forgotten. Ignoring this part of the equation will undo all the good work in the gym, resulting in a plateau and failure to build muscle. You should be consuming enough calories to fuel the muscles and gain a small amount of weight so that the body has the additional energy required while you’re progressively overloading.
Muscle Retention – How And Why?
Muscle retention is simply about retaining your existing muscle so you can continue to go forwards with your gains, and it depends on a whole lot of factors including your workouts, your rest, your nutrition, and your supplement use. Retaining your muscle gains while shedding unwanted fat is the centerpiece of any long term workout plan.
Reducing body fat with the goal of revealing deeper cuts and a more ripped physique without losing your muscle gains involves not only incorporating fat burning exercises into your training, but continuing with strength training so that your anabolic hormones remain at an ideal level and thus, your muscle retention is maximized.
Why Muscle Retention?
When you’re cutting or burning fat, your goal is to drop fat (weight) from certain parts of your body. Doing this at the same time as trying to build and retain muscle is one of the biggest challenges we face; after all, to lose fat you need to burn more calorie than you take in, while to gain muscle you need to be consuming more calories!
Striking a balance between cutting fat without losing muscle is what muscle retention is all about. You want to get lean, but you don’t want to lose those hard earned lean muscle gains.
How Do You Retain Muscle?
Take these strategies into consideration when planning your workouts, your nutrition and your recovery while you’re trying to lose fat and retain muscle mass.
Monitor Your Carbs Intake
This seems obvious, but when you’re cutting and/or just trying to retain muscle, carbs can make or break your results. It’s not just the what when it comes to carbohydrates either; the when is just as important. Eating carb rich foods when you don’t actually need them is going to result in stored fat and thus, poor muscle retention.
In short, only eat carbs when you know you’ll be using them for energy and burning them off. That generally means first thing in the morning, and before and following a workout. This strategy helps you use carbs to get you going at the day’s beginning, then gives you fuel for your workout and your post-workout recovery – without risking them being stored as fat. Carbs high in fiber are the best choice here.
As you can see, your diet plays a huge role in muscle retention. So don’t make the mistake of neglecting that aspect while giving all your attention to your workouts, otherwise muscle retention will become a real struggle.
Keep Weight Training
Just because you might be trying to eliminate those unwanted fat stores, it doesn’t mean going crazy with cardio everyday. Keeping up resistance training is just as important because its your weight training that is going to continue the processes in the body that result in holding on to your lean muscle; if the body has no reason to retain muscle, it will be burnt up.
Continuing regular weights training (three times per week at least) also retains your bone strength, not to mention that building muscle always helps you to shed that fat faster.
Supplements for Muscle Retention
Stopping the catabolism of muscle tissue can be significantly helped by taking high quality, relevant supplements. Catabolism is simply the breaking down of muscles, and is the opposite of muscle retention. So which supplements are going to be useful in promoting retention of muscle mass? Supplements that help to stimulate protein synthesis will want to be your main focus and these include amino acid based supplements.
Glutamine – This amino acid makes up well over half your skeletal muscle and it’s vital for the process of protein synthesis and the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH). Glutamine reduces after your workout so a quality glutamine supplement is near the top of the list for muscle retention.
Arginine – By contributing both to fat burning and to increasing your muscle capacity during workouts, arginine can work in conjunction with glutamine to use the fat as fuel that glutamine helps prevent your body storing. This helps prevent your muscle tissue being used as fuel; which is what you never want to happen when you’re trying to retain muscle. This is a good reason why you’ll usually see glutamine and arginine together in the same supplement.
There are many other supplements available that help contribute to muscle retention, but as long as you have your workout, nutrition and recovery plans down, a quality supplement or two can build upon encouraging protein synthesis, enhancing recovery and ultimately: helping you retain your hard earned muscle.
What is metabolic conditioning?
Metabolic conditioning, also known for short as “met con”, is all about literally conditioning the metabolic system. The metabolism describes the way your body makes use of the food you eat for energy. The two main purposes or goals that people have when considering metabolic conditioning are:
- To improve athletic performance
- To achieve a desired physique
For most of us, both of these goals are highly desirable. But as with any form of training, the effectiveness of your met con work is going to depend on a small number of critical factors; and one of the big ones is how you balance your training and rest activity. And it’s here that really defining your goals more specifically will help you decide precisely how to shape your metabolic conditioning training.
Specifically: decide if improving your “short burst” fitness is the goal, or if you want to better your endurance exercise performance. Because metabolic conditioning is all about targeting the different pathways that the body makes use of as it delivers energy to the muscles, different systems result in different types of energy. Targeting one of the three systems during training therefore, allows you to improve that specific system and optimize it for ultimate performance.
The three main pathways for energy delivery are:
The phosphagen system can also be known as the “immediate system”, because it’s here that the most powerful and quickest delivery of energy occurs. Think of this system being used during very intense bursts of power like sprints or power lifting. Due to the intense energy exertion of the phosphagen system, despite its working time frame of just a few seconds, it can take up to five minutes to fully recover post exertion.
The glycolytic is in the middle and covers energy of intermediate intensity which can have a duration of several minutes but usually no more than four minutes maximum. Middle distance running and regular weight lifting make use of the glycolytic energy pathway, with a normal recovery time of between one and three minutes.
Lastly, the oxidative pathway (also sometimes called the aerobic system) is used for longer lasting, lower powered exercise which can last for up to several hours of moderately intense activity. It is very fast recovering, taking only seconds to recover thanks to its use of body fat as fuel.
Metabolic conditioning activities therefore target one of these energy pathways. Usually, more than one will be in use at any one time as the energy systems interact, rather than strictly working in isolation. Most of your met con workouts will have all three pathways working in some way, but a carefully planned routine will contain specific ratios of work to rest, and it’s in that planning that you can more precisely target one of the three pathways. For this reason, many people who are wishing to begin metabolic conditioning training do so through a gym program or personal trainer; although it is certainly possible to create your own met con circuits once you understand the principals.
Serious athletes in different spots will use met con to optimize their energy systems according to the needs of that sport; sprinters will focus on the phosphagen pathways, while those training for marathon will want to be optimizing the oxidative system to its maximum capacity. But even if you’re not a professional athlete, and are just wanting to use metabolic conditioning to improve overall fitness and physique, it has huge benefits here as well. In particular:
Increased burning of calories: once you’ve finished a carefully planned met con workout, the high intensity of the exercise results in your resting metabolism being considerably higher for several hours afterwards. In other words, your body continues to burn calories while you rest.
Improved movement: the average person gains the ability to move better thanks to the way different met con circuits target both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers; both essential to different movements during daily life.
But remember: metabolic conditioning training should be carefully planned in regards to your goals. Timing is crucial, particularly when it comes to work/rest ratios, and it’s that you will make or break the results you can achieve through the potentially very powerful process of metabolic conditioning.
Overtraining and Workout Fatigue Symptoms
Too much of a good thing can have negative consequences, and that certainly holds true when it comes to your training. Striking the right balance between the amount of training you need to make gains, and not pushing yourself into prolonged fatigue, can be a challenge.
This is especially so if you’re still in the early stages of working out a high quality training program; however, overtraining can afflict absolutely anyone and sometimes it can be the most experienced amongst us who start to feel invincible and immune to the effects of overtraining – but nothing could be further from the truth.
If you feel that you’ve trained so hard over time that you are becoming weaker rather than stronger, slower rather than faster, more tired instead of more energetic: you are probably overtraining!
So what are symptoms of overtraining and workout fatigue? Here are the most common tell-tale signs that you’ve pushed yourself too far. Picking up on these clues early allows you to stop, evaluate, and take action to avoid worsening the outcome. Ultimately this then helps you to get back on track into a training schedule that is beneficial, rather than damaging.
6 Symptoms of Workout Fatigue and Overtraining:
1. Sore Muscles
While we know it’s normal to have sore muscles in the days after working out hard, but when the pain doesn’t subside for many days afterwards it’s a sign that something isn’t going right with your recovery. Another sure fire sign of potential overtraining syndrome is that muscular soreness is affecting muscles that you haven’t even trained recently. When this happens, a break in training needs to be seriously considered.
2. Performance Decline
You know what you’re capable of, so if you’ve started to feel that you’re struggling to keep up with your regular routine and to reach your goals, or notice that you’re having too many off days where things aren’t going right in the gym, it’s time to stand up and take notice.
3. Increased Resting Heart Rate
Whether you regularly keep track of your resting heart rate or not, you’re likely to have a good idea of what feels normal. When you’ve overtrained and your body is fatigued due to lack of proper recovery, your resting heart rate can be elevated compared to its normal resting level. This is a sure fire sign that your body is stressed and in fact, when the body is trying to fight off an illness the heart rate can also increase similarly – in other words, your body knows something is wrong and the heart is trying to compensate. Take this as a sign that you need to slow down.
4. Difficulty Sleeping
You might think that being completely exhausted would make it easier to get quality sleep, but insomnia is another sign of overtraining and excessive fatigue. Feeling tired is one thing, but if you’re struggling to fall asleep then it could be because of your hormones and nervous system, as well as that increased heart rate, playing havoc with your resting patterns. and ability to relax to the point where you can fall asleep.
5. Lack of Motivation
Changes to your psychology, mental energy and overall mood and motivation are another critical sign of overtraining and workout fatigue. Have you felt yourself having a shorter fuse? Feeling your self esteem drop? Lacking motivation to participate in your regular social life, or even your job? Depression setting in? These are all signs of mental exhaustion, which goes along with the hormonal changes that are occurring as a result of overtraining. Again, resting up and re-evaluating your training and diet is required to halt and reverse these life-altering issues.
You might notice yourself being more susceptible to catching the common cold or other infections. Because your body is fatigued from overtraining and lack of rest, your immune system is compromised. A downward spiral can begin when you become ill and have an increasingly difficult time in fighting it off. Nipping any infections in the bud early on is vital, so you can then focus on recovery and boosting your immune system back to where it naturally should be.
Identifying the difference between that normal tired feeling after a workout, and suffering from overtraining is possible by considering the above symptoms and the period of time they affect you for. Avoid these serious problems by knowing your body’s requirements for adequate recovery, and allowing that recovery to take its course – otherwise the cycle of overtraining syndrome will continue and can have some drastic long term consequences.
What is Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)?
Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) exists in all living tissue and is critical in the process of energy provision that ultimately helps your muscles to contract. Every time your muscles contract or exert some force, ATP is involved. As ATP is used up, it breaks down into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and your stores of ATP become depleted. If ATP isn’t therefore replenished, your ability to contract and exert your muscles reduces.
We can think of ATP as our body’s method of storing and using energy. Without the production and use of ATP, your body would have no energy and could build no muscle. That’s how central this molecule is to everything. When it comes to cutting for bodybuilding, ATP is particularly important for increased power and reduced fatigue.
One study showed that supplementing with ATP for 15 days resulted in a tendency to “reduce muscle fatigue and improved a participant’s ability to maintain a higher force output at the end of an exhaustive exercise bout.” *https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3483284/
Is ATP Produced Naturally In The Body?
Yes, your body produces some ATP which it uses to fuel your ordinary everyday movements and physical activity. People who don’t often exert themselves physically are unlikely to have to worry about their ATP levels. But when you undertake high intensity exercise, more ATP is used up and it’s then that you might start running low on ATP which can negatively impact your performance and your results.
This is where ATP supplementation can come into play. But you need to think carefully about whether an ATP supplement would be of benefit to you, or if you even need it at all. Any supplements you are already taking are already potentially having an effect on ATP, which is another point that must be considered.
What are the benefits of ATP supplements?
You’ve no doubt come across supplements containing adenosine triphosphate. These supplements can make use of ATP in multiple ways and by targeting different processes that relate to this compound. These include the production of ATP, and its synthesis and storage in the body for use as energy.
Studies on ATP supplementation in people have shown mixed results. Surprisingly, the amount of ATP present may not even increase after taking a supplement, but it can have flow on benefits like enhancing blood flow to muscle tissue (important for muscle performance and growth), improve overall workout performance, and even helping to speed up your recovery.
As we get older, natural ATP levels can start to decline. They can also be reduced when the body is under stress. The result of a declining natural presence of ATP in the body can include reduced muscle function and even impairment in proper functioning of the organs. ATP is often given to medical patients in various situations, owing to its critical importance on the function of the human body.
So there are some clear benefits to taking ATP in supplement form for a whole range of reasons. But it’s the use of ATP supplements for muscle building purposes that’s probably of most interest to you. Various ATP products come with their own set of promises; it’s important to research a supplement in detail before committing to it though. As with any muscle building supplement, quality between similar looking products can differ markedly.
Some of the benefits that most ATP supplements will claim to be able to deliver include:
- Increased energy levels
- Better mental focus
- Enhanced blood flow
- Boosted muscle growth
- More strength and power
- Improved endurance
- Faster recovery
- Decreased fatigue
Most ATP supplements are advised to be taken approximately 30 to 60 minutes before a workout, but also used on non-workout days to maintain your energy production.
There are numerous other ways of boosting ATP levels, depending upon what your goals are. Creatine for example, an important amino acid, can be converted into ATP during exercise. As most bodybuilders make use of creatine supplements, this is a way that you may already be boosting ATP without realizing it.
The coenzyme CoQ10 is also involved in ATP production. You might see this ingredients in ATP supplements for this reason. Additionally, B-complex vitamins play a vital role in energy production. Vitamin B1 in particular is required for ATP production, and so B vitamins are also often present in ATP supplements.
The interactions and flow on effects from various other types of supplements and their impacts on ATP indicates that it’s vital to be aware of the full effects of any supplements you’re already taking before considering a more specific ATP enhancement product.
Overtraining Syndrome: Signs, Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Overtraining syndrome is real, and it can be very serious. This syndrome is taken so seriously by experts that it’s been studied and written about in numerous scientific journals over the years. So if you think you might be suffering from overdoing your training, you’re probably not imagining it.
At the most basic level, overtraining syndrome (OTS) can happen when your body isn’t able to adequately recover after intense exercise. But it’s more complex than it seems, and a wide number of factors can bring about OTS in individuals, including factors that don’t even relate to training.
Ongoing OTS can not only decrease your fitness level and your progress, but can also result in injury. Avoiding OTS from occurring is clearly the most ideal strategy. But it’s also important to know what to do if you might have overtrained.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Overtraining Syndrome?
As you would expect, the symptoms of OTS can be wide ranging but generally revolve around fatigue and decreased physical ability. Some of the main signs that you might notice if you’re starting to suffer with overtraining syndrome include:
Excessive fatigue: Feeling heavy and drained when you know you should have recovered is a clear sign of OTS. If your body isn’t recovering adequately then your body is going to start draining your stored energy sources of fat, proteins and carbs. And this is when your gains can start to go backwards. This happens when you either overtrain, underfuel; or both.
Poor mental health: Agitation, moodiness, decreased concentration – these are some of the potential psychological effects of overtraining syndrome. This is not only due to your body being tired, but also because of the negative toll being taken on your stress hormones such as epinephrine and cortisol.
Declining sleep quality: it’s a double edged sword that poor sleep can contribute to OTS, while the condition can then go on to cause further sleeping difficulties. When you can’t rest and allow your body to repair, this enhances your fatigue considerably and leaves you open to a decline in immunity and general health.
Appetite loss: If you can’t fuel yourself properly with food, your physical decline can be swift. The more you train, the more your appetite increases normally. But with OTS the opposite can occur.
Common Causes of Overtraining Syndrome
OTS is a result of a poor balance between:
When these three vital factors become imbalanced, you are at risk of suffering with overtraining syndrome. In particular, some of the more specific reasons that you increase your chances of experiencing OTS include:
Training hard on recovery days – Recovery days are just that; days that your body needs to recover following intensive workouts. Although mild exercise on recovery days is unlikely to cause problems, overtraining on these days puts you at high risk of OTS.
Training monotony – This concept involves looking at how similar your workouts out are to each other, and how many hard days of training you do which are interspersed with easier training days. Too many consecutive hard days without sufficient easier training days is known to be a cause of OTS.
Other Causes of OTS: Other factors not directly related to your training that can also lead to this syndrome involve the capacity you have to cope with stress, the adequacy of your diet, and even your genetics. Lack of quality sleep and recurring or previous illness can also play a role in whether you might be at greater risk of OTS.
Emotional stress related to interpersonal relationships and work are also known to contribute to OTS risk when the core causes of training and rest imbalance are present. Additional stressors, whether emotional or physical, can impair your rest and recovery.
How Can You Treat Overtraining Syndrome?
When it comes to OTS, prevention is always going to be favorable to treatment. Avoiding overtraining syndrome from happening at all should be the goal, and there are a number of recognized ways you can avoid the effects of OTS if you are seeing early signs.
If you’re already suffering from overtraining syndrome though, you’ll need to get serious about recovering. This process will depend on the severity of your OTS, the causes, and your doctor’s advice. Some professionals recommend a three month stress management and rest program to fully recover from OTS (https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/bjsports/24/4/231.full.pdf).
Prevention of OTS involves focusing on two areas:
- Avoiding training excessively without sufficient rest and recovery in between.
- Never under-fueling your workouts and your daily energy requirements. In other words: eating both the quality and quantity of calories and nutrients you need.
Avoiding OTS completely is the key goal – and this can be done by striking a healthy balance between the timing and intensity of your workouts, your rest and recovery time, and your nutrition.
Unwritten Gym Rules Everyone Should Know
Most gyms have a brief set of rules that they expect members to follow – you have probably briefly glanced at them the first time you signed up. Most of the time these rules focus on the safety of gym users and proper use of equipment.
But what about those unwritten rules that are rarely spoken of, yet expected to be followed by all; whether it’s your first day at a new gym or fitness club, or if you’ve been going there for decades? Breaking these rules might not necessarily get you kicked out of a gym (although that’s not guaranteed either), but it can very well have you quickly become the most unpopular guy in the gym.
You can be sure that these 8 unwritten and rarely spoken of gym rules are known by everyone else training around you; so don’t be caught out by not following them.
1. Don’t Leave Your Sweat Behind
Who likes wiping off someone else’s sweat from the bench? Not only is it gross, it’s also incredibly disrespectful to leave your bench or any part of the equipment you’ve been using covered in your sweat. That’s what towels are for; taking literally ten seconds to wipe down where you’ve been sitting, leaning and touching on any equipment will mean the difference in keeping your respect or becoming the gym pariah. And besides that: it’s just the right thing to do.
2. Don’t Work Out In Front Of The Weights Rack
A common newbie mistake is to stand in front of the dumbbell rack to work out; blocking anyone else from grabbing the dumbbells or weights they need. Just don’t do it.
3. Don’t Be An Equipment Hog
Unless the gym is empty, you’ll need to plan your circuits not only around what you want to do and when, but with consideration for what other gym users are doing as well. Smaller gyms often have only one piece of some types of equipment and you can bet you’re not the only one lining up to use it. That means being efficient with your workout when using sought after equipment – don’t sit there scrolling facebook while others are waiting their turn.
4. Put Things Back In Their Place
No this isn’t your mother speaking, but it is basic gym etiquette. It’s very simple: once you’re done with something, put it back where it came from. The gym owners have gone to great lengths to organize equipment into a logical and practical presentation, so don’t mess it up for them any everyone else. Regulars also know exactly where they’ll find what they’re looking for, and if you’re responsible for messing that up they’ll soon let you know one way or another.
5. Watch The Mirror View
Do you like looking in the mirror? Most of the people around you likely do as well. While it’s not always possible to be out of everyone’s path of the mirrors when the gym’s busy, blatantly standing in front of someone else is a no-go. This common courtesy takes mere seconds, and also ensures that the regulars will extend the same courtesy to you.
6. Equipment Reserved: Take a Cue
See a towel, or some keys, or a bag sitting on a piece of equipment? Unless someone has left it there by accident, there’s a 99.99% chance that equipment is in use, or about to be used by someone who is nearby (think: bathroom break, or gone to grab some water). That means you don’t remove the items and start using the equipment – unless you’re really keen to become “that guy”; or worse – face a potential confrontation with someone and making a scene. Taking over equipment that’s clearly occupied, even if the person isn’t there at that moment, is a good way to get yourself to the top of the most unpopular guys in the gym list.
7. Headphones Mean No Chatting
If someone is wearing headphones or earphones while working out, there’s a good chance they’re not up for chit chat. Instead, they’re fully focused on being in their own world. So unless there’s a fire in the building, don’t interrupt someone who is working out with headphones on. By wearing headphones they’re sending a clear signal to everyone else: “I don’t want to talk right now”.
8. Don’t Be A Perve
Women use the gym too – and they have a right to go about their business without your wandering eyes following them around. Plus, it’s just plain creepy AND it’ll soon have the gym management putting their eye on you. After all, it’s bad business for them if females don’t feel comfortable in the gym.
Following written and unwritten gym rules is simple common sense: treat other gym users and the equipment with respect and you will have no issues.