Subject: Creatine questions
I’m confused about when to take creatine. Before, after, during a work out, or does it even matter? Also, does drinking coffee with creatine have an adverse effect on it.
For the most part, I don’t honestly see that taking creatine before or during your workout will have a major advantage. While this may raise blood creatine levels, I don’t know how much of an impact a single dose will have on muscular creatine levels but I doubt it would be much. That is, if you figure it takes 100 grams of creatine (20 grams for 5 days) to raise muscular creatine levels by 20%, the 5 grams you took before workout is going to have a negligible effect.
Now, as to post workout, I personally think this is the best time to take your maintenance dose (if you are taking one). At least one study (on cycling unfortunately) found that creatine uptake was higher after exercise. In fact, creatine uptake after exercise was just as high as creatine taken with carbs without exercise. This makes sense. It’s well known that exercise improves insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake following exercise. Since we also know that creatine uptake appears to be mediated by insulin, it seems plausible that creatine uptake would be improved by the same mechanism following exercise.
I can’t say for sure if this same phenomenon would occur following strength training but I don’t think it could hurt. As to the creatine and caffeine thing, I’m not sure if anybody ever solved that debate. One thing of note is that the amount of caffeine given (which affected creatine) was fairly high, far higher than you’d find it on cup of coffee. Also, the early studies on creatine gave it to subjects with tea, which contains some caffeine, suggesting that caffeine doesn’t have an effect. Or that it might be dose dependent.
Subject: More creatine questions
I would consider myself your regular hard-gainer. I’ve heard a lot about creatine and been doing some research on my own. But, it’s left me even more confused than before I started – at least with the proper administration of product. Incidentally I did read last month’s article on the subject. These questions are probably worn like heck, but I really need some ‘straight’ answers :
1) I plan on using creatine with a stack of 100mg androstenedione, 500mg tribulus, 100mg DHEA.-is it safe and beneficial?
I don’t see any reason why combining creatine with hormone precursors would be a problem. As to beneficial, well, if you’re below the age of 30, DHEA isn’t going to do much for you so it can be dropped.
2) I know that andro stacks should be cycled for about 6 weeks on and about 4 off – how do I cycle creatine?
I don’t honestly see a real need to cycle creatine. Of course, I also don’t see a need for a maintenance phase either. Once you’re creatine loaded, assuming that you are consuming red meat in your diet, you will stay loaded for at least a month, maybe longer. If you are desperately afraid of losing the creatine advantage (ha ha), you can take 5 grams a couple of times a week after training.
3) I heard about loading phases and maintenance phases – please tell me how I should plan my ‘dosage’ in the recommended cycle.
I’ve talked about loading phases in previous Q&A’s but will briefly repeat here. I see three different ways to load:
1. Fast loading: 20 grams/day for 5 days. This is the de facto way of loading creatine but it gives some people (me for example) stomach upset. I lost 4 lbs. the first time I used creatine because I couldn’t eat and sat on the toilet all day.
2. Medium loading: 10 grams/day for 10 days. This is what worked best for me, didn’t upset my stomach.
3. Slow loading:5 grams per day for a month or so. One study found that this loaded the muscle as well as fast loading.
As to maintenance, for reasons I mentioned above, I’m not convinced that the maintenance phase is necessary in the first place.
4) I also read about supplementing with protein in a question you answered? What exactly does this mean?
Most bodybuilders are obsessed with protein. And despite the fact that the average American already gets more protein than they need, bodybuilders tend to take additional protein in the form of isolated powders like milk protein, egg protein, or the current favorite whey protein. For the most part, there is little advantage to protein powders compared to real food except for convenience. And before I get some shit mail talking about whey having a higher biological value, etc, note that in a hypercaloric state (eating more calories than your maintenance), nitrogen retention goes up anyhow and I doubt BV matters a whole lot. A higher BV protein would probably be most useful in a dieting situation, where you need to get maximum nutrient quality with minimum caloric quantity.
5) What ‘really’ happens when I stop taking creatine?
You shrivel up and revert to previous pencil-neck status. No, just kidding, that’s what happens to me. With time, and no dietary creatine uptake, I imagine that you will eventually de-load (sic) creatine. Meaning that the water weight gain will be lost, as will the strength gains. But that’s it.
Subject: Amino acids
What is the correspondence between grams of pure amino acids (by enzymatically decomposed milk protein) and grams of food protein (e.g. fish protein)?
As far as I know, it’s 1:1. that is, assuming a similar amino acid profile (and it will be different for milk vs. fish protein), one protein is basically as good as any other. Or put differently, once amino acids hit the gut or the bloodstream, you can’t tell what the source is, and any amino acid is equivalent to any other amino acid.
I’ve heard that 1 gram of amino acid corresponds to 4 grams of food protein , because some food protein is lost (producing energy) during digestion.
I don’t see why this would necessarily be the case and I have a feeling this number came from an advertisement for amino acid capsules. It is true that some amino acids are oxidized (burned) for energy during digestion and/or converted to glucose. But this is going to be true whether the amino acids are coming from a whole protein or from an amino acid. Once again, when amino acids enter the stomach/intestines, they are all treated the same. And that I’m aware of, amino acids aren’t burned for energy during the digestion process (i.e. during breakdown of larger proteins to smaller protein chains in the stomach and intestines) but rather in the liver. By which point one amino acid is the same as any other amino acid.
Subject: Amino acid metabolism during starvation
[This question is a bit out of the norm for this column. I received it from a dietetics student who was apparently in an argument with one of his professors about the Bodyopus diet. The teacher gave him these questions which the student forwarded to me. These questions are fairly technical and have little practical applications (hell, no practical application). But if you’ve ever wanted to know more about starvation (which is truly a fascinating topic, at least to a nerd like me) and some of the processes involved, read on. One thing to note is that the effects of a ketogenic diet are essentially identical to what is seen during total fasting. I imagine the teacher had the guy look into fasting since there’s lots more data around then there is on ketogenic diets – Lyle]
Lyle, I just had a few questions for you:
1)What changes in CHO and lipid metabolism occur at the beginning of a fast?
In very general terms, there is a decrease in glucose utilization and an increase in lipid metabolism. When food (more specifically carbohydrate) is removed from the diet, the rough time courses for change in CHO and lipid metabolism are:
10 hours after last carb meal: approx. 50% of energy comes from fat, 50% from CHO and protein
By the third day of a fast: essentially all the non-protein energy (~90% of total energy requirements) is coming from fat metabolism (both directly through FFA use and indirectly through ketone oxidation).
In long-term fasting (3 weeks) up to 93% of the total energy generated will come from lipid derived fuels (either FFA or ketones although FFA play the dominant role, ketones only being used by the brain by this time) with the remainder coming from protein.
2)Explain the ketosis and acidosis observed in starvation.
Not exactly sure what you want explained. As insulin drops, glucagon increases (as do other counterregulatory hormones like cortisol, the catecholamines and maybe GH), this causes two major things to happen:
a. increased FFA breakdown (also decreased synthesis) in fat cells, leading to higher blood levels of FFA. This is mediated primarily by the drop in insulin although the increase in the catechols also stimulate fat breakdown
b. activation of the carnitine palmityl transferase I system in the liver (this also occurs since the block by Malonyl-Coa is removed), increasing fat oxidation. This is thought to be mediated primarily through glucagon.
The side effect of the increased oxidation of FFA (coupled with an insufficiency of TCA cycle intermediates) is an overproduction of acetyl-CoA. this excess is condensed into ketones and released into the bloodstream. As ketones are released into the bloodstream, ketosis (defined clinically as ketone concentrations greater than 0.2 mmol/ml) will develop. As to acidosis, a slight metabolic acidosis develops, reducing normal blood pH from 7.4 to maybe 7.35 or so (if it even goes that low), but this is rapidly compensated for (except in runaway diabetic ketoacidosis). Although pH is compensated back to normal, there is a loss of base equivalents bicarbonate) and buffering capacity, which has implications for exercise.
3)Is the decreased plasma alanine concentration related to gluconeogenesis?
Not entirely sure what you’re asking here. In the initial stages of fasting, blood levels of alanine increase, and there is increased uptake by the liver and increased gluconeogenesis in the liver. As fasting continues, blood alanine levels ultimately decrease to baseline, as does hepatic uptake, decreasing net gluconeogenesis in the liver. however there is increasing renal gluconeogenesis as the fast continues, using primarily glutamine as a substrate.
What is the alanine-glucose cycle?
The glucose-alanine cycle refers to a cycle where alanine is synthesized de novo in musculature (from the donation of nitrogen from glutamate). It acts to carry nitrogen and carbon skeletons to the liver to produce glucose and urea. The basic reactions are as follows:
Glucose breakdown -> pyruvate + glutamate -> alanine and alpha-ketoglutarate
Alanine goes into the bloodstream and is eventually picked up by the liver. AKG is used for other processes in the muscle.
Alanine -> NH2 + pyruvate -> Urea + glucose
Glucose goes back into the bloodstream and back into the muscle, cycling back to pyruvate, interacting with glutamate, back to alanine, etc. Hence a cycle. Urea is disposed of.
4)What are the catabolic products of leucine, valine, and isoleucine?
Didn’t know these off the top of my head, had to look ’em up.
leucine -> to citrate via Acetyl-CoA
valine -> succinyl CoA
isoleucine -> succinyl CoA or citrate via Acetyl CoA
All three breakdown products are used to produce energy.
5)What might cause an increase in plasma branched-chain amino acids after 5 days of starvation?
Increased activity of BCKAD (branch chain keto acid dehydrodgenase for the non-biochemical types), caused by low levels of insulin. Cortisol also probably plays a role.
6) How do branched-chain amino acids stimulate the production of both alanine and glutamate in muscles? What is aspartate aminotransferase?
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) catalyzes the aminotransferase reaction, converting one amino acid to another (more correctly, moving an amino group for one amino acid to another). It is involved with three key amino acids: alanine, glutamine and aspartate. AST is involved in the production of alanine by transaminating pyruvate which converts glutamate to alpha-ketoglutarate as discussed above (it would be clearer if I could draw this). This process also produces ammonia (NH4) as not discussed above. It is thought that increased transamination of the BCAA’s is the stimulus for synthesis of glutamine and alanine, as described below.
Glutamate combines with this ammonia to produce glutamine which goes into the bloodstream to be picked up by a lot of different tissues. If glutamine is picked up by the liver or kidney, it is broken back down to glutamate and ammonia (via glutaminase). The glutamate can then be reused (i.e. in the glucose alanine-cycle). The ammonia is either absorbed or dumped out. So the glutamate-glutamine cycle exists primarily to transport ammonia (which is toxic in high concentrations) to tissues such as the liver or kidney where it can be removed.
Just some questions I had before starting one of these things. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.
So, did your teacher like your (my) answers?
Subject: Lipoic acid on CKD
I’ve noticed some people are using lipoic acid on their carbups on the CKD diet. What are the recommended doses?
Hard to give an exact recommendation but 1.2-2 grams per day total (taken in divided doses of course) seem to work well for people. Please note that is a lot of lipoic acid and it is not cheap stuff. So you may want to start with a lower dose (say 600 mg, taken as 200 mg thrice a day) and see what kind of effects you get, then see if a higher dose give any advantage in terms of the carb-up.
Subject: Insulin and strength training
My name is Shayne and I was recently diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic and have been on insulin now for almost four months. I have been training hard for nearly five years and over that time have made some fair progress as a drug-free weightlifter. I know that the big rage at the moment is Insulin and I can see why. In the last two months my strength and size has gone through the roof. My arms have gone from 17 inches to 19.5 inches and I have put on nearly 15 kilos. But that’s where the problem starts. I used to weigh 110 kilo at 18%bodyfat and now I top the scales at 125 kilos and 28%bodyfat. I look like a Sumo Wrestler.
Insulin is most definitely a double-edged sword in terms of it’s effects on the body. Although it is one of the most anabolic/anti-catabolic hormones in the body, it’s effects are not specific to muscle. So although it can increase muscle gain, it also pushes lots of fat into fat cells (and blocks fat breakdown). The reason that pro-bodybuilders are able to use insulin without getting fat is because they use other drugs (such as GH, thyroid, clenbuterol) which are lipolytic and burn off the fat. The fact that you’ve put on so much fat though suggests to me that your insulin dose might be too high. But note that this is absolutely NOT my area of expertise so please don’t go adjusting your insulin dose downward because of something I said. But you may want to talk with your health care provider about changing your insulin regimen to avoid the excessive fat gain.
Also lately after I train I feel very exhausted and sometimes I get a little sick. Could you please help me out with any training tips for diabetics (nutrition mainly), as I feel like I’m on my own and there’s no one to turn to. I don’t think that there has been any real research into the effects of exogenous insulin use on diabetic athletes. At least according to my doctor there isn’t much information out there. So anything would be a great help.
By definition, diabetes is a disease where there are problems maintaining blood glucose (because of defects in insulin production and/or insulin sensitivity at the tissue level). Low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) has a tendency to cause nausea, even in non-diabetic individuals. So my guess is that your blood glucose is dropping by the end of your training, which is causing the nausea and fatigue. You may also be developing ketosis during exercise, which can throw off acid-base balance and buffering capacity, which might also cause nausea.
The difficulty is that weight training (and all forms of exercise actually) are known to affect insulin sensitivity, meaning that the insulin which is in your system is working better. There is also increased removal of blood glucose from the bloodstream (this removal is insulin independent). This obviously has the potential to affect blood glucose control. What you may want to consider is taking your glucometer to the gym with you and monitor blood glucose during some set interval (say every 15′) during your workout. You’ll probably find that blood glucose starts to crash out at some point and that this crash correlates with your fatigue and nausea. If nothing else, using your glucometer at the gym will freak everybody out, it sure did when I took mine a few years back to do a little experiment.
According to one of my textbooks, a blood glucose of 100 mg/dl in a diabetic individual would indicate the onset of hypoglycemia and that carbs should be consumed. In fact, it might not be a bad idea to sip on a carb drink during your training, just to ensure that your blood glucose doesn’t crash out. You will probably have to experiment with different amounts and timing of carbs but 30-60 total grams of carbohydrate over an hour span is probably a good place to start. In addition, the same textbook recommends a carb containing meal within 3 hours of exercise. If you balance the meal with some protein and fat, you should get a more consistent release of glucose into the bloodstream during your exercise.
P.S. Do you know of any restrictions that are imposed on diabetic athletes as I have been thinking about competing but I am concerned that insulin might be banned in some sports as it is definitely an advantage to the strength athlete.
As far as I know, exceptions are made for individuals who must take a banned substance for medical conditions. That is, it would be silly for any organization to ban a diabetic from competing because that person is using insulin (since it’s required by their medical condition). But it would be different if someone who wasn’t a diabetic was using insulin. If you want some more information, you might check out the following two sites:
Which honestly had very little information about exercise, and:
Which is the home page for the International Diabetics Athlete Association (IDAA). It also has information on diabetes and exercise although the focus seemed to be more on endurance training (of course).
Subject: CKD for fat people
I have learned a great deal about the physiology of nutrition from your columns. The rationale behind cyclic ketogenic diet makes a lot of sense to me. However, it seems like this program is targeted for the lean to get leaner. I am about 30% bodyfat and I need to drop 30 pounds of fat. Would the cyclic ketogenic diet work for someone like me? I a 33 year-old woman 5’9 170lbs. I’ve been weightraining consistently for 10 years 3-5 times a week. I have tried aerobic training (mostly running) at first long distances at low heart rates(40-50 miles a week) and more recently shorter distances at 60-70% maximal heart rate (MHR) to lose weight without success. I have tried high- carbohydrate, low fat diets. I have tried calorie restriction. I have tried Atkins and I lost weight for awhile except I didn’t have any energy during work-outs and I just couldn’t give up bagels and pancakes for the rest of my life. So have people with a lot of body fat to lose had any success on the cyclic ketogenic diet?
There’s really no physiological reason why a CKD wouldn’t work for someone carrying a lot of bodyfat vs. less bodyfat. I know Duchaine makes a big deal about how you have to be fairly lean before you can use Bodyopus, but his statement was misconstrued. He is of the mind that such extreme diets as the CKD just aren’t necessary until individuals are leaner, and that people should pick easier diets until they need the more extreme ones.
The physiological reality of dieting is this: individuals who are carrying more bodyfat tend to lose less muscle when they diet than leaner individuals. So when lean individuals try to diet, they tend to lose a lot of muscle, in which case they need a diet which will spare as much protein as possible. CKD is one of those diets. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t be an effective diet for someone carrying greater bodyfat. Considering that individuals with more bodyfat tend to be somewhat insulin resistant, lowering carbs makes a lot of sense for fat loss, as this will lower insulin levels. Of course, many do just fine lowering carbs to Zone/Isocaloric levels (30-40% of total calories) but this isn’t universal. Some can handle higher carb intake, some require lower. Your mileage may vary.
The key aspect of making a CKD work has more to do with training level than anything else like bodyfat levels. That is, a CKD is not an appropriate diet for someone who is just starting an exercise program. This is because they won’t be able to do the kind of volume and intensity to fully deplete muscle glycogen in a 1 week span, making a strict CKD unworkable (though there are other options). But since you’re an advanced lifter, and can put in the requisite time and effort into your training, a CKD is an option, and will sustain performance better than the Atkins diet.
The only thing you specifically need to be aware of us fat spillover during the carb-up. That is, there is significant data to show that individuals carrying a lot of bodyfat are insulin resistant (although no one is sure if the insulin resistance is a cause or an effect of the excess bodyfat) which may mean problems with the carb-up. You may want to start with a 24 hour carb-up and adjust from there. If there is no fat spillover, you can play with longer carb-ups (though 30 hours seems to give optimal fat loss for most). If you get fat spillover with even 24 hours (which will depend on carb intake and carb quality), you may need to cut it back further.
Subject: Ketogenic diet side effects
I just saw your sites about ketogenic diets. I was diagnosed diabetic two years ago. Have had great success by lowering the carbs I’ve been eating–over the last two months I have achieved normal blood sugars, and have stopped taking the oral antidiabetic medication. This is going good as long as I keep carbs down–somewhere between 20-40g./day. I just finished reading the Dr. Atkins’ book, and have read a number of others about the idea of better blood sugar control, getting out of the constant insulin situation, and into burning fat stores. I’ve lost about 15 pounds, cholesterol went from 220 to 156; triglycerides from 121 to 81, in the last couple months, going low carb. I feel I’ve gotten a much better understanding of the diabetic situation. My question is, are there some things I need to be wary of on a low-carb diet–gall bladder problems, whatever?
There are a few side effects of ketogenic diets to be aware of but overall the effects are minor. Probably the biggest potential problems is the increase in uric acid which occurs almost universally in individuals on ketogenic diet. Uric acid can form urate crystals in joints and cause gout in some individuals. However the incidence of gout on individuals doing ketogenic diets is low, maybe 1% of subjects, and it only occurs in those individuals who are genetically predisposed. Also, while uric acid may double or triple within the first week or two of a ketogenic diet, it generally returns to normal within 4 weeks. Additionally, even small amounts of carbs (5% of total calories) will prevent the buildup of uric acid from occurring.
In the epileptic children (who are kept in deep ketosis for periods up to 3 years), there is a slight (~5%) incidence of small kidney stones. However it should be noted that the children are also kept dehydrated. With adequate water intake, this risk should be very small. Individuals with pre-existing kidney problems (esp. problems with stones) probably shouldn’t do a ketogenic diet. the high protein intake coupled with dehydration wouldn’t be a good thing. On that topic, anyone who must keep protein intake low (such as kidney failure or phenylketonuria) won’t be able to do a ketogenic (or any high protein) diet.
Other possible side effects are constipation (easily dealt with by consuming a sugar-free fiber supplement), loss of appetite (not necessarily a bad thing while dieting), and vitamin/mineral deficiencies (although this will be true to some degree of all calorie restricted diets). A bigger concern than vitamin deficiencies per se is the electrolyte excretion (sodium, potassium, magnesium) which occurs on lowcarb diets. This has the potential to cause problems in the long run. In fact a number of deaths in the 80’s were linked to a liquid, ketogenic diet and the total lack of mineral intake (i.e. there was none at all). However this diet (called “The Last Chance Diet”) was different from the Atkins (or other ketogenic) diets in that it was based around a liquid formula of collagen protein which contained no minerals. Since whole food is being consumed on the Atkins diet, there will be some mineral intake. However some studies have shown that additional minerals are needed. A calcium supplement may also be needed depending on dairy intake.
Another potential effect is a decrement in immune system function. Anecdotally some individual find that they are more prone to getting sick, while other find that stuff like allergies go away. There isn’t much research on this aspect of ketogenic diets.
Finally (and I kid you not), one study of a very low calorie ketogenic diet (called a protein sparing modified fast) has noted transient hair loss (called ‘telogen effluvium’ for some weird reason) but this was probably related to the rapid weight loss, more than ketosis per se. Anecdotally, some individuals have noted changes in the texture of their finger nails though.
Things I should be doing or not doing besides keeping carbs low (the carbs I get are from fresh raw vegetable salads, cooked green beans, etc). I take vitamin supplements plus CoQ10, antioxidants, minerals, lecithin, fish and borage oils. I hope to lose another 10 pounds, then gradually increase the carbs (though will still be relatively low) to the point where I can maintain my ideal weight and keep the blood sugars in line as well. Any advice along this line will be very appreciated. I’m 46, have had lower back problems, try to at least walk a bit each day and hope to get to where I can up the exercise.
It honestly sounds like you are doing it all pretty much right. You’re getting sufficient vitamins and minerals, good essential fatty acids, and getting some vegetable (and fiber intake). And of course the exercise helps. I can’t really give you any other advice other than to keep it up, it sounds like you are doing great.
Lyle, regarding the recomposition/carb loading, Duchaine suggests to use liquid glucose polymers immediately following the carb depletion workout. He also stresses that one should avoid fructose. I am having no luck finding products that have glucose polymers without any fructose. Most of the popular carbohydrate based products have at least some fructose. Do you think it is vital to avoid fructose, and if so, what is a source of glucose polymers without fructose. Thanks!
The only carb powder I’m aware of that doesn’t have any fructose is CarboPlex, which is made by Unipro (this only applies to the natural flavor, not the Orange which has some fructose in it). All the others contain fructose (generally not much, maybe 10% of total carb calories) to help refill liver glycogen.
While it’s ideal to avoid fructose, I don’t think it’s quite as critical as Duchaine makes it out to be. His rationale, and it is a good one, is that refilling liver glycogen will slow the descent into ketosis. This is true. But even a fully filled liver only takes about 12-16 hours to empty, allowing ketone body formation to occur. As long as you follow the recommendations I made in my article (training and the CKD), stopping your carb-up about 6pm, doing some cardio the first morning of your lowcarb week, you should be in ketosis quickly anyway.
Also, speaking from a more theoretical standpoint, consider this: the liver is in essence the ‘switch’ for the body to shift from anabolism (tissue building) to catabolism (tissue breakdown). When liver glycogen is full, your body is anabolic ; when empty, it’s catabolic. In theory, to get the most anabolic effects during the carb-up, you’d want liver glycogen refilled to shift the body towards anabolism and away from catabolism. Just yet another of a million issues to consider.
Subject: Training frequency on Body Opus
I have been doing the Ketosis Diet with information I obtained from the internet with tremendous success. I have recently purchased the Body Opus book and it goes on to say about the 3 day weightlifting program. I work out at least 5 days a week, I guess my question is how much damage am I doing to my body by working out in the Ketosis state with no carbs in my body, I take some ripped fuel before my workouts so they aren’t suffering that much I have no where near the strength I had before but I am enjoying getting ripped. I saw where you wrote about weightlifting using carbs and not ketones or fat, so am I using muscle for energy or what. Thanks for your time I hope to hear from you soon!
Weight training can only use glucose and glycogen for fuel, not ketones or free fatty acids. now, after a carb-load, your muscles are full of glycogen, the amount being determined by how long you carb-loaded and how many carbs you ate. As you train, you gradually deplete this muscle glycogen. When muscle glycogen becomes very depleted, your performance tends to drop (i.e. you are weaker) and more protein tends to be used for energy (esp. during aerobic exercise). Now, if you’re only training each bodypart once per week (what I would assume if you’re lifting 5 days per week), glycogen depletion may not be a huge issue anyway.
The reason that Bodyopus suggests the three day per week schedule has to do with some biochemical facts that I discussed in my first article for this site about training on the CKD. But I’ll recap here since I get paid by the word (ha ha ha).
After a carb-load is when you will be strongest. But as blood glucose gets a little lower, you will tend to not be as strong. This is probably why your performance is dropping later in the week. So training your entire body on Mon and Tue helps to ensure that you are strongest in the weight room. But the more important issue is the Friday workout, where you are to work your entire body all at once. The reason has to do with insulin sensitivity and glycogen synthesis. When you train a muscle, it’s insulin sensitivity goes up as does the activity of the enzymes which work to synthesize incoming carbs to glycogen (glycogen synthase and glycogen phosphorlyase). But this effect only lasts for a few hours, and then starts to drop. The only way to get optimal glycogen resynthesis during the carb-up is to work your entire body before you start pigging out on carbs.
Beyond that, despite what is written in bodybuilding comic books, I really don’t think dieting is the time to *increase* your training volume and frequency. On lowered calories, it’s much easier to overtrain and overtraining is a great way to lose muscle. By training 5 days per week, you may be negatively affecting hormone levels (especially testosterone and cortisol, which tend to go down and up with overtraining respectively), which can cause muscle loss.
Subject: Metabolic shift
I have heard Mauro DiPasquale talk about a metabolic shift when restricting carbs. He says that during this period there can be feelings of sickness or slight disorientation. He says this will disappear within a couple of weeks. I tried the low carb diet four years ago and experienced a lot of disorientation. I was doing more of a high protein low fat low carb diet with a rotation of three on and then one day of carbing up.
There was your problem: low fat. You can’t do a lowcarb diet and do low fat, not unless you really like being miserable as hell. A guy I know tried the Anabolic diet a couple of years ago, but did all protein, low fat, low carb. And he felt like warmed over shit, had tunnel vision by the third day and had to stop. Then he met me. I got him to try the diet again but with adequate dietary fat, and it worked fine for him.
The reason is basically this: to get into ketosis, the main thing you have to restrict is carbs. But too much protein can also prevent ketosis from developing (because a portion of protein is converted to glucose). By definition, a high protein, low fat, low carb diet is going to have to be mostly protein. And that means you were eating a LOT of protein to get sufficient calories. So you probably never got into ketosis, which is part of making the metabolic shift that DiPasquale was talking about (it’s a shift from a glucose based metabolism to a fat based metabolism). Also, the adaptations to ketosis are just starting about the third day, so a 3 on/1off cycle may not be ideal, at least not initially.
When I went back to normal eating I never lost the feeling of being slightly disorientated, I also crave sweets and starchy carbs constantly.
So do I. but after about 3 weeks of a ketogenic diet, they go away. Anyway, if you are doing the CKD, you get to eat all the sweets and starches you want for a day, so the cravings aren’t as big of an issue.
Subject: No gains?
You have no clue how much you helped me since I discovered Mesomorphosis site, thanks a lot. Well, my problem is that I tried everything and I still don’t get any good results in my body. I eat everyday a 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat diet (no cheating) , training really hard 5 days a week. And I’m really getting tired of that, I’m also using creatine, Myoplex shakes (EAS),HMB, whey, egg albumin. Everything seems so perfect, but there’s no changes happening. What’s wrong? I’m 150 lbs. only 11% bodyfat. What should I do? I know you probably get this kind of questions all the time, but please help me! Thanks a lot
Ah, finally, an easy one. There are two primary things to consider:
1. Not enough calories. All the supplements and wonder protein in the world can’t make up for inadequate caloric intake. At 150 lbs., your estimated maintenance caloric intake is roughly 2250 calories/day. To gain, you will need more than that. Try adding at least 250-500 calories/day to your diet (2550-2750) and see what happens. If you’re still not gaining, add more calories. You may need upwards of 3000 calories/day to really start growing.
2. Overtraining. Training 5 days a week is probably too much for a natural bodybuilder. Yes, I know some will disagree and I know that some can get away with it. All I can say is yippee for them, but it’s not gonna work for the majority of people. I personally grow best on 2-3 days of training per week, never more than an hour at a time (and I’ve put on about 40 lbs. of lean body mass over a 2.5 year span).
Unfortunately, the act of getting bigger has become incredibly confused over the years but there’s no magical trick. The rules are:
a. Keep it simple: you don’t need 8 exercises per bodypart to grow. With the exception of back, you shouldn’t need more than 2 to get it done. If you can squat and still have enough left for ‘just a few sets of leg extensions’, then you need to squat harder.
b. Keep it progressive: this is probably the single rule (except for calorie intake) I see being broken the most. If you’re lifting the same weights now that you were lifting 2 years ago, you’re going to be as big now as you were 2 years ago. Add a little weight to the bar over time, and size is sure to come.
c. Focus on the basics: this can’t be said to much, especially for smaller guys. I don’t know anybody who has gotten big on leg extensions and cable crossovers yet that’s what I see the majority of trainees focusing on. I know lots of guys who have gotten big with heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench presses (and sometimes nothing but these exercises). Unfortunately, the routines printed in most of the muscle comic books by pro bodybuilders do not accurately reflect how they got to their current size. I bet if you looked into the training history of any large bodybuilder, you would find several years of focus on just the big movements. Nobody needs isolation type stuff until they’ve got some mass to refine. Put differently, don’t worry about your ‘inner pecs’ (ha ha) until you have some pecs to begin with.
So for the next few months, try this. Pick a reasonable 3 day per week program. I would suggest one of two options.
Option a: each bodypart three times every 2 weeks. This is one of my favorite splits.
Monday: upper body
Wednesday: lower body
Fri: upper body
Mon: lower body
Wed: upper body
Fri: lower body
Option b: each bodypart once a week. With this routine, don’t let the decreased number of bodyparts per workout cause you to do more sets for each.
Pick one, maximum two exercises per bodypart. One of them MUST be a compound exercise. This means squats for legs, bench or inclines for chest, t-bar or cable row or deadlifts for back. If you want to add a ‘foo-foo’ isolation exercise, do so but only do a set or two. Do a maximum of 4-6 sets per bodypart. While you don’t have to take every one to absolute failure, you should be working within a rep or two of failure.
When you can get your target reps in an exercise in perfect form, add 5 lbs. to the bar at your next workout. So if you’re squatting for 3 sets of 8 and get 185 for 3 perfect sets of 8, go to 190 at the next workout. When you can get 3 sets of 8 at 190, go to 195. By the time you get to 275X8, your legs will be a lot bigger than they are now. But don’t rush the poundage progression, only raise the weight when you can get the target reps in PERFECT form.
Depending on your caloric intake (see above), make a concerted effort to increase food intake every day during this time period. If you must use supplements and MRP’s for convenience (and let me note that the only supplements I use are an inexpensive protein powder, vitamin C, a multi-vitamin, and a carbohydrate drink. I haven’t had an MRP in a couple of years, preferring to mix up my own shakes with real food), that’s fine, but food works just as well. Also, I know of only one person who has gotten anything out of HMB, so you might as well save some money by ditching it, and spend that money on food.
While you may put on some bodyfat during this time period (a necessary evil when gaining mass), I will be very surprised if you don’t gain some muscle mass as well. And then you’ll know the secret.
Oh, yeah, one last rule for gaining mass: ignore the peanut gallery. People at your gym will probably tell you that nobody can grow on only 3 days per week or as few as 4-6 sets as they continue with their 18th set for chest. Ask yourself when was the last time they got any bigger and continue on your merry way. Put differently: screw ’em.
Subject: Can AndrosteDERM By MedLean Really Work???
Does this new product, AndrosteDERM, by MedLean, really work? I don’t have much money to spend on supplements so I would like an expert opinion as to whether you think it’s worth the money.
You may be giving me too much credit as to expert opinion. The prehormones really aren’t my area of expertise but I’ll do what I can. I’ve been discussing these products with Will Brink and Bill Roberts, both of whom are far more qualified to answer questions about this stuff, but here are my thoughts, such as they are.
Let’s take on faith that the carrier being used does actually move the andro product through the skin into the bloodstream. According to a biochem nerd friend, the molecular weight of the andro’s is similar to that of testosterone. Since we know that test. can be carried into the skin dermally (although scrotal application is most efficient due to thinner skin), it’s probably safe to assume that dermal andro will make it too.
Now, there are basically two claims being made for this product.
1. That steady state levels of testosterone will be achieve within 3 days.
2. That putting the andro in through the skin will avoid the production of ‘bad metabolites’ (such as estrogen and DHT) in the liver.
With regard to #1: I don’t see why it would take 3 days to reach steady state levels, not if the carrier is as time delayed as it’s being given credit for and not unless there are adaptations occurring in either uptake or excretion. But I’ll assume that the guy behind AndrosteDERM is not BS’ing about this, although I’d like to see some data.
#2 is where I have some problems. Most of the production of estrogen in the male body occurs in adipose tissue. Most of the production of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) occurs in the prostate, hair follicles and even in the skin. So whether you get the andro into the bloodstream orally or dermally, I don’t see why there will be any difference in the production of estrogen and DHT.
Now Dr. Cohen has also claimed that avoiding first pass through the liver will avoid the conversion of andro/norandro to inactive metabolites. I honestly don’t have enough biochem background to know if this is true.
Ultimately, I guess I’m left with a few questions about this product.
1. How much of the androstene is really getting into the bloodstream for a dermal vs. an oral application?
2. Is there a difference in the production of estrogen and DHT for dermal vs. oral application? I would tend to doubt it.
3. If there is truly an increased steady state level of testosterone (as is being claimed), will this feedback negatively on the normal hormonal axis causing the shutdown of normal testosterone production? As with anabolic steroids, this probably depends on the duration and concentration of use.
4. Where is all this clinical data that is being claimed to exist? And this means plasma (blood) levels too, not just saliva. I have a feeling that, like many supplements, it is coming straight out of Dr. Cohen’s lab. While that doesn’t mean that it’s invalid, let’s just say that I’m skeptical of claims like this without independent verification.
5. Does the (alleged) increase in testosterone with AndrosteDERM vs. another andro product justify the higher cost? That is, if I’m gonna pay 2-3 times more for a certain version of some product (i.e. effervescent vs. regular old creatine), it better be 2-3 times as potent.
6. And finally, and this applies to all the andro/norandro products, where’s the data showing that you’ll grow muscle any faster with vs. without them. That is, within certain physiological ranges of testosterone, you don’t get significantly more muscle gain. Sure, if you take someone who’s got super low levels of testosterone and raise them to normal levels, you get an improvement, and if you take someone with normal levels of testosterone and take them to supranormal levels (as with high dose anabolic steroids), you get an improvement, but there’s a middle range where the effects aren’t huge.
So I would guess that my overall comments would be: save your money until somebody ponys up some good independent data.
Subject: Male Fuel & Yohimbe
I am a newcomer to weight training and this web site and am learning so much useful information. Thank you so much for your well-put, easy to understand advice. I have been on a low-carb diet for 6 months and have lost 35 lbs. so far; I have been walking and doing a little weight training and am gradually getting into this muscle thing. I have begun using protein supplement drinks with good success and the girl at GNC is encouraging me to try yohimbe for my lower body fat stores. She is recommending a straight yohimbe supplement along with the Twinlab’s Male Fuel which also contains yohimbe along with the other stuff. She says it really helped her lose that stubborn “butt fat” quickly. I have read your recommendations for yohimbe and am agreeable to trying it, but the bottle of Male Fuel says “NOT FOR FEMALES”. I’m not sure why and was wondering if you know why it would not be advisable for a woman to take. I’m on the pill and wondered if it could possibly mess around with your hormones or something. Will I grow a beard? I’d really appreciate any thoughts you could share about this Male Fuel thing before I try it out! Thanks very much!
I had to go to my yohimbe expert friend to answer this one (and she’ll will have an article on this site about alpha receptors and yohimbe by the time you see this answer). Yohimbe has the potential to negatively affect fetal development in pregnant women because it can cross the placenta and could have negative effects on a fetus. Additionally, chronically high level of the catecholamines (which yohimbe causes) could also have negative effects on fetal development. This is most likely the reason why women are told not to take it, in case they are pregnant and not aware of it.
Since you’re on the pill, pregnancy should be a non-issue. But beyond that there are no negative effects that she (or I) are aware of (unless you count an increase in sex drive, which some people get). Yohimbe does not affect hormones (although some still claim it raises testosterone, it does not) and it won’t make you grow a beard.
Also, I see no reason for you to take Male Fuel, straight yohimbe will be fine. Male Fuel contains a lot of other substances (most of which raise Nitric Oxide) which may help a guy, umm, get it up (I was reading an interesting article on the wall of a bathroom the other day talking about three Americans who won the Nobel Prize for their work on Nitric Oxide. It commented that Viagra works by affecting an enzyme that works on Nitric oxide). But yohimbe is the only substance which will affect stubborn body fat. So for you to use Male Fuel will just be a waste of money because you’re paying for other stuff you don’t need.
Subject: Tom Purvis and Resistance University
First, thanks for all the work you do in writing solid information to help inform people. I have enjoyed reading your articles for awhile.
What do you think of Tom Purvis and the Resistance University philosophy? He licenses his information to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and has his business “.”
I am passingly familiar with some of Tom Purvis’s work and, as a whole, have been impressed. He definitely seems to know his stuff when it comes to resistance training which can’t be said about all physical therapists. This isn’t meant as a slam on PT’s, they only know what they have been taught, and resistance training theory isn’t a big part of most PT’s curriculums.
As well, although I don’t know a ton about the NASM, from what little I have heard, it sounds like one of the top trainer certifications, and one of the few to require hands on demonstration of knowledge, at least it used to be when a colleague of mine took the course many years ago. I would have liked to have taken to certification but it’s only available in Chicago (I think) and maybe California and I couldn’t justify the cost.
That is, most certifications test you based on a written, multiple choice test (some have a short video on exercise technique) but all the written tests in the world do not a qualified trainer make, especially when it comes to proper weight training technique. I see basic biomechanical mistakes being made by trainers and aerobics instructors in every gym I’ve ever been in (i.e. moving a weight across, instead of against gravity such as the standing horizontal ‘chest fly’ that is still taught in aerobics classes).
I wasn’t even aware of the Resistance University but checked out the link you sent me and it looks impressive and very, very thorough (although expensive but you always get what you pay for). From what little I read there, I basically agree with everything Purvis said. An anatomy course would be most enlightening for a trainer, although I’m not sure that kind of detail is truly necessary (and, trust me, you get tired of the stink after a while. Formaldehyde is nasty stuff and it takes a good 3 days until the smell is gone). But classes on the fundamental of biomechanics would never hurt a trainer. And hands on training in proper resistance training technique is an excellent idea, since it’s something that can’t easily be taught through a book or even a video.
Subject: Body Fat analysis
Hi, I am on a mission of gaining about 20 pounds of muscle and in the process reduce my body fat to about 6%-8%. I want to know what is better at measuring body fat? Should I use calipers or those body fat scales?
Calipers are the better choice for a few reasons. First and foremost, the bodyfat scales use a method called a Bioelectrical Impedance Assay (BIA), which are drastically affected by hydration state. Unless you’re meticulous about your water intake and fluid levels, it won’t give you accurate measurements. You can get hugely different result just by changing your hydration level.
Additionally, all the bodyfat estimation equations have problems. In fact, I rarely use them anymore. A more accurate measure is to just look at the actual skinfold numbers, and ignore the equations. If the total skinfold numbers are going up, you’re getting fatter, if they are going down, you’re getting leaner. Thus, during a mass phase, the goal is to show a minimal increase in skinfold measurements, which would indicate that minimal fat is being gained.
One final thing, with the exception of certain partitioning drugs, it is essentially impossible to gain muscle and lose bodyfat at the same time. Trying to do so tends to cause people to spin their wheels and get nowhere. I’ve discussed the reasons for this in previous Q&A’s but it’s basically hormonal. The optimal hormonal milieu for fat loss is contrary to muscle gain, and the optimal hormonal milieu for muscle gain is contrary to fat loss. So you’re much better off alternating periods of cutting and mass gaining until you reach you goal. So depending on your starting point, you may want to diet down for 3-4 weeks, then go on a mass phase and try to put on muscle mass with minimal fat gains, then diet again, etc, etc. Over time, you should reach your goal of 20 lbs. increased muscle mass while maintaining bodyfat levels at a low level. I’ve done this type of schedule over the last 2.5 years and gone from 145 and 8% bodyfat (runt) to 195 and 11% bodyfat (larger runt) which is a gain in LBM of almost 40 lbs. (including some creatine induced water).