Monthly Archives: July 2016
Until you have achieved “the pump” you haven’t fully lived.
If you have never walked out of the gym with your biceps feeling like they are going to explode, your whole life has been a lie.
I’m only half kidding here. Well, actually I am not kidding at all; the pump is the best.
In fact, there is a whole class of supplements that were originally designed to help you achieve the pump, known today as nitric oxide boosters.
More recently, nitric oxide boosters have been utilized in wider applications as they are meant to increase blood flow.
Increased blood flow can improve nutrient delivery to muscle tissue, allowing you to train longer, harder, recover better, and makes achieving the elusive pump easier.
While most nitric oxide boosting supplements contain a plethora of ingredients, there are really only a few things you need to know about to really understand NO boosters.
What IS NITRIC OXIDE?
So before we go any further we should probably fill you in on what the heck nitric oxide is and why the heck you would want to boost it.
Nitric oxide causes vasodilation. This effectively increases blood flow which can increase nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles. Essentially, vasodilation gives your muscles more go juice.
Related: Are BCAAs an Essential Part of Your Supplementation Plan?
The Quick and Dirty: Arginine is an amino acid that is turned into nitric oxide in the body. In theory arginine should improve blood flow and thus improve performance and enhance your training.
Currently, the results are mixed and we don’t have a slam dunk case for it. This supplement may be a case of “responders vs non-responders” and some self-experimentation may prove that it is an effective supplement for you.
The Deeper Dive: The real science from studies done on L-arginine studies indicate that it does get taken up into the body and that nitric oxide boosting supplements with L-arginine do effectively increase arginine levels.
However, the increase of arginine levels in the blood doesn’t always translate into efficacy for blood flow or improvement in work capacity. One study has shown that arginine supplementation increases levels of arginine in the blood but does not increase levels of nitric oxide or muscular blood flow, nor does it enhance muscle protein synthesis.1
Yet, another shows that it increases blood volume but not strength performance.2
Even longer term supplementation of arginine appears to be largely ineffective. 7 days of supplementing with 12d/day of an arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate supplement showed that it did indeed increase plasma levels of L-arginine but had zero effect on hemodynamics or blood flow.3 More studies have shown no meaningful or significant increase in training capacity.
Currently, the evidence suggests that L-arginine may increase circulatory blood flow, but does not consistently or meaningfully increase training performance. No it isn’t all doom and gloom as when you look deeper into the research it appears that there are definitely “responders” and “non-responders” (I looked at a lot of papers and made assumptions based on means and standard deviations).
Perhaps it is time to enter a brand new era of NO boosting and find something that is more effective.
The Quick and Dirty: L-arginine is only one way to increase nitric oxide in your blood and increase blood and oxygen deliver. There appears to be a different molecule that is more effective than L-arginine at boosting NO and at improving training.
Recent evidence has shown that inorganic nitrate (NO3-) from dietary sources can also increase NO production.4 Most supplemental nitrate comes from beet root juice or nitrate salts.
Of all the topics that spur epic online debates, post workout protein consumption might take the cake.
Carbohydrates and ketogenic diets are a close second but nothing enrages people like the “one scoop versus two scoop” argument.
OLD SCHOOL BELIEF
For a long time there was this idea that 30 grams was the perfect amount to consume after a workout because anything over that was wasted. But a few years ago some nerd in a lab coat told us 25 was the maximum effective amount (I can say this because I am a nerd with a lab coat. Seriously, I am wearing mine right now).
It was also believed that around 20 grams of whey was the amount needed to really get a “boost” in muscle protein synthesis post workout by protein ingestion. This is likely why you see most protein supplements that have servings in the 20-30 gram range with between 24-27 grams being the most popular.
The great part about science is that it learns and grows, always updating its “beliefs” about the world based upon new evidence. Fortunately for us, there has been a lot of research done on what is the optimal amount post-workout protein for muscle growth and recovery and we now have a much better answer!
A DAWNING OF A NEW ERA?
One of the most beautiful things about science is you can use experiments to answer hard questions; including what is the best amount of protein to consume after you get done slinging iron and getting your pump on.
Recently, a study from Dr. Tipton’s lab has brought forth new evidence to show that “two scooping it” may be more effective than “1 scooping it”.1 Before we get into the data I have to tell you that this pleases me because 2 scooping it makes shakes taste substantially better.
Ok, sorry for the digression, back to the science. Recently, a group of researchers (fellow white lab coat wearers) had a group of resistance trained individuals engage in a full body training protocol and then slam back one scoop (20 grams of whey protein) or 2 scoops (40 grams of whey protein).
When you break down the study in full it looks like there was a slightly higher level of muscle protein synthesis.
Related: 4 Post-Workout Nutrition Myths (That Are Actually Relevant)
The differences weren’t gigantic by any means and we don’t know whether or not this leads to bigger biceps 12-16 weeks down the line, but we can definitely say that it looks like from a “molecular biology” standpoint that 40 grams of protein results in higher protein creation immediately following a workout than 20 grams, so our old myth of 30 can die a nice, quiet, pseudoscientific death.
Now this study has caused a lot of “stirring” amongst the fitness media mob, but we really need to consider it in the context of decades worth of research and other data. Without getting too lost in the details we can look at the research as a whole and draw a few conclusions.
Many of the studies showing that 20 or 30 grams appears to be the “upper” limit were often done in non-trained individuals or in “split” training style exercises. Generally speaking, these studies, due to their design, recruited less overall muscle mass and engaged in less overall volume than the recent study showing that the 40 grams appears to have a slight advantage.
Now we also have to look at the marginal increase that the 40 grams gave us over the 20 grams. It may be that the slight advantage results in meaningful long-term gains, or it might be that it doesn’t.
For now, the jury is still out but I think we can safely conclude from the past studies, and the most recent one, that the data suggests that the more muscle mass we recruit and the more volume of training we engage in, the more protein we can successfully utilize toward growing new muscle. Think of it like this figure.