Top 7 Anabolic Supplements
updated September 5, 2018
To get big, you have got to get anabolic. That’s the state when your body is primed for growth and repair at the cellular level. To get and keep your body in a state of anabolism, you need to put the right compounds into your body. In this article, we zoom in on the 7 key anabolic supplements.
Whey is one of the two major proteins found in cow’s milk, the other being casein. About 20 per cent of milk protein is whey. Whey is considered superior to most other protein sources because of its digestibility, bio-availability (the ease with which the body uses it), and high concentrations of such proven muscle-builders as branch-chain amino acids and glutamine. From a practical point of view, it mixes more easily than others, and doesn’t seem to cause the bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort that other protein sources are known for.
Whey protein comes in three forms:
- Ion-exchange isolate
- Cross-flow micro-filtrated isolate
These terms refer to different methods of processing fat and lactose content, amino acid profiles, and ability to preserve glutamine residues. Compared to milk protein, which is a combination of whey and casein, pure whey casein is more rapidly absorbed by the body. Whey is high in the BCAA leucine, which makes it especially good before and after your workout.
Whey protein does more than build muscle. It also helps to regulate the storage of carbs and fats. In this way it acts to assist in the loss of body fat. The amino acids from whey are converted into blood sugar in the liver, acting as an appetite suppressant.
Taking whey protein in shake form within twenty minutes of working out is the most effective way to fast track amino acids to your muscle tissue. This will provide the building material that the cells need to repair and regrow.
Branch Chain Amino Acids
Amino acids are the the building blocks of protein and muscle tissue. Consuming amino acids instead of protein seems to make sense because they are already in digested form. As a result, they place less stress on your liver and kidneys. Amino acids are directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
The most anabolic of the amino acids are the branch chain amino acids.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) - The BCAAs are the three amino acids leucine, valine and iso-leucine. They are named because of their molecular structure, which has side groups or ‘branches’ attached. BCAAs are among the fastest absorbed amino acids. Upwards of 70 per cent of the amino acids processed by the liver and released into the bloodstream are believed to be BCAAs.
After muscle cells take in BCAAs, the body creates an increase in the absorption of other amino acids to keep things in balance. As leucine stimulates insulin release, the end result is an increase in amino acid transport and muscle tissue synthesis. It’s because of this that they are considered to be anabolic compounds.
The average dose for BCAAs suggested is 1 to 4 grams taken 60-90 minutes before your workout.
Of all the amino acids that can be taken separately, none comes close to generating anabolic potential as much as glutamine. Glutamine is classified as a semi-essential amino acid. Under normal circumstances the body can synthesize glutamine from other amino acids to meet physiological demands but under some conditions the body cannot do so.
Recently, glutamine has come to be regarded as one of the most important of the amino acids when the body is subjected to such stress and trauma as cancer, burns and intense exercise - such as when you hit the weights. Under these conditions, glutamine becomes an essential amino acid, and it is therefore very important to consume sufficient amounts to meet the increased physiological demands created by these situations.
Glutamine is primarily synthesized and stored in your muscles. A closely related amino acid, glutamate is converted to glutamine in a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme glutamine synthase. Glutamine keeps the body in positive nitrogen balance.
Positive nitrogen balance means the amount of nitrogen being taken in from amino acids should be greater than the amount of nitrogen being excreted. This is the state necessary for amino acids and protein to be converted into more muscle tissue. Conversely, negative nitrogen balance indicates that more nitrogen is being excreted than taken in. In such states, the body will not only have difficulty building new muscle tissue, it may start burning existing muscle tissue. Glutamine supplementation guarantees that you will be in a positive state of nitrogen balance.
The normal dosage of glutamine taken by bodybuilders and others athletes is 5 to 10 grams per day.
Creatine is the mother of all anabolic supplements. No nutritional supplement has more research standing behind it, and the studies consistently show that creatine enhances physical exercise, particularly high intensity, short-burst activities such as strength training.
ATP is the fuel used for muscle contraction. The initial and most effective method of synthesizing ATP is creatine kinase, which uses a non-oxygen dependent process that is responsible for all maximal muscle contractions. Creatine kinase rapidly converts the initial stores of ATP to energy, and is responsible for high intensity, short intensity activity such as lifting weights.
Creatine is initially stored in the muscle as creatine phosphate. As creatine phosphate, it can donate its phosphate group to ADP, thus converting it back into ATP, which is then available as fuel source. This process is continuously occurring, with ADP converting to ATP, and ATP breaking down into ADP + a single phosphate group.
In the short term, anaerobic exercise is enhanced with creatine supplementation,which in turn provides the increased supply of creatine phosphate molecules needed to convert ADP back into ATP.
In addition to its indirect influence on muscle growth, creatine appears to act more directly, perhaps through cell volumization. Water has the same effect, and you want to drink plenty of it when taking creatine. The combined effect will further enhance protein metabolism and muscle building.
The bottom line on creatine is that it will allow you to pump out those last few reps that make the difference when it comes to packing mass onto your frame.
The recommended dose of creatine is 5 grams daily, or a loading phase using 5 grams, 4 times a day for 5 to 7 days, followed by 5 grams daily. To further creatine’s uptake into muscle cells, take it on an empty stomach with liquid carbs a half hour before a meal. You can also add it to your post exercise recovery shake, when your muscles are eager to absorb just about everything.
Meal Replacement Powders (MRPs)
Meal Replacement Powders can be more effective than straight protein shakes for putting you in an anabolic state. One advantage is that they contain carbs, which produce an anabolic insulin response. These carbs also give you more calories than protein shake would contain. A single serving typically provides 400 to 550 calories, with some going as high as 600. That is exactly the sort of energy influx you need if you are intent on adding muscle bulk to your body.
Be sure to avoid MRPs that are loaded with sugars. If you need to sweeten your MRP, try adding fruit or honey. Also, be wary of MRPs that throw so much extra stuff into the mix that they verge on becoming weight gainers. In doing so, these products are typically trying to carve out a unique niche, allowing the manufacturer to say, “Look - I’ve got something special here”. Many of them have added creatine, for example.
My recommendation is not to buy an MRP with everything already mixed into it because it robs you of the ability to individualize it. You may have this 5-pound bucket of something with creatine, and, if you decide you don’t want creatine you’re stuck. Aim for a basic mix of protein and carbs instead.
Nitric Oxide has become extremely popular in bodybuilding circles. Nitric oxide is a free-form gas produced by the body to help cells communicate with each other. At the molecular level, it’s composed of the amino acid arginine, chemically connected to the compound alpha-ketoglutarate (itself synthesized from the amino acids ornithine and glutamine). Nitric oxide is produced within the flat endothelial cells that line the inside of blood vessels. When endothelial re stimulated - for example, during muscle contraction - nitric oxide is synthesized and released.
Once released, nitric oxide diffuses across the endothelial cell membrane into the adjacent smooth muscle tissue of the blood vessels, causing them to relax and widen in a process called vasodilation.
For bodybuilders, nitric oxide does two things:
- Boosts recovery
- Reduces joint and muscle pain
Nitric oxide increases blood flow to deliver more nutrients to your muscle cells. This makes them more anabolic, speeding up the repair and rebuild process. The anti inflammation properties of nitric oxide are also beneficial, as weight training is hard on the joints and muscles.
Supplementing with B12 will help ward off fatigue and exhaustion. In addition, it keeps your nerves and red blood cells working optimally, helps maintain a healthy digestive system and promotes healthy skin, hair and nails. To top it off, Vitamin B12 helps battle breast, colon and lung cancer. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day.