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  Tricks of the Trade  

Top tips for taking your supplement plan to the next level. By Rehan JalaliOne of the most frequently asked questions I get is 鈥渨hat are some secret ways to maximize the use of supplements?鈥 It seems everyone is looking for the secret that will take their supplement routine and physique to the next level. The good news is there are some solid, clinically proven ways to boost the way supplements work for you. These 鈥渢ricks鈥 can help you get the most out of your supplements and allow you to achieve the maximum results in your fitness program. Of course no supplement is a magic pill and to achieve complete fitness success, it takes a consistent combination of proper nutrition, training and supplements.

Creatine鈥擭ew ways to use a proven winner
Creatine is one of the most widely-used and effective supplements on the market today, proven in many clinical studies to enhance lean body mass, increase strength, enhance energy levels and increase muscle size.1 Some new research is showing us better ways to take creatine and get it into muscle tissues where it can do its magic. Research is also finding other non-sports related uses for creatine such as its direct antioxidant effects2 and role in some disease states. What鈥檚 more interesting is that high-sugar creatine concoctions are not absolutely necessary anymore to maximize creatine usage. Stimulating insulin release (by consuming high amounts of sugar) has been shown to enhance the transport and uptake of creatine into the muscle tissue but newer studies have shown that taking creatine with fewer carbs and adding protein can also enhance creatine uptake and retention in muscle tissue.

Other insulin mimickers and modifiers such as 4-hydroxyisoleucine and D-pinitol can help improve creatine transport and retention without excess sugars. A study appearing in the November 2001 Journal of Exercise Physiology Online3 actually validates the use of D-pinitol and creatine together to enhance creatine uptake into muscle tissue.

A sodium-dependent creatine transporter has also been identified in muscle cells. You see this transporter/receptor regulates creatine uptake into the muscle cell鈥攊t sort of acts as the gatekeeper. The problem is that it has a feedback/inhibition system like other receptors in the body. In other words, it can only allow for a certain amount of creatine to pass into the cell at one time. Newer research on the creatine transport system conducted by Walzel and associates at the Institute of Cell Biology in Switzerland4 actually leads scientists to theorize that taking a smaller dose of creatine more frequently throughout the day can allow for much better absorption and retention of creatine in muscle tissue by lowering down regulation of the creatine transporters.

This discovery would also lead scientists to believe that cycling creatine would be beneficial. For example, after taking it for 12 weeks straight, a user can take six weeks off, and then start again to maximize the creatine receptor and prevent the incidence of down-regulation. It is important to take at least six weeks off of creatine between cycles since creatine has a long half-life in the body and it usually takes that amount of time to get it completely out.

Creatine tips:
• Try taking 2 grams of creatine four to five times daily versus taking 5 to 10 grams at one time (make sure one of those doses is right after a workout).5

• Make sure you don鈥檛 have a sodium deficiency when using creatine as creatine uptake into muscle tissue may be regulated by a sodium-dependent transporter.

• If you want to avoid high sugar intake with creatine but still maximize uptake into muscle tissue, take around 250 to 500 milligrams of D-pinitol and around 200 to 400 milligrams of 4-hydroxyisoleucine with your creatine dose daily.

• You can also take gram doses of BCAAs (branch chain amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine) with your creatine as these amino acids seem to cause an insulin response (not to mention lower muscle breakdown).

• Drink at least one gallon of water daily to maximize the cell volumization effects of creatine.

• Take creatine on a cycle of 12 weeks on and then six weeks off. During this off phase, you can take higher doses of L-glutamine.

Glutamine鈥擜 fundamental supplement
Glutamine is a 鈥渃onditionally essential鈥 amino acid that is the most abundant amino acid found in human muscle and plasma. In fact, 60 percent of the free-floating amino acid pool in your skeletal muscle cells is made up of glutamine. Glutamine has also been shown to aid in recovery and recuperation, possibly cause extra growth hormone release with just a 2-gram oral dosage6, partially determine the rate of protein turnover in muscles7, and help increase muscle glycogen deposition through an unknown mechanism.8 It鈥檚 obvious this supplement can benefit hard-training athletes greatly.

While glutamine has its great benefits, a large majority of ingested free-form L-glutamine does not actually make it into the blood stream and get into muscle tissue. Anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of an oral glutamine load is used by the intestines, liver and the immune system. This is what many scientists refer to as the "glutamine paradox". Well, with the use of glutamine peptide, this problem may be solved.

This form of glutamine is peptide-bonded (a chain of amino acids) to allow for better transport into the blood stream and muscle tissue where it is needed. Glutamine peptide is also much more stable in solution, higher temperatures, and low PH than free-form glutamine (free-form L-glutamine tends to break down to ammonia and glutamic acid rather quickly in solution). The digestive tract has peptide transport systems that allow peptides to be better absorbed and utilized than free-form amino acids. Basically, the peptide-bonded glutamine enhances bioavailability of glutamine in the blood stream which may allow more glutamine to be available to the muscle tissue.

Glutamine loading is also a concept that may allow the user to maximize uptake of glutamine into muscle tissue and allow for saturation over time. Many of my clients have used it successfully and have reported amazing muscle pumps and much greater recovery from hard training.

Glutamine tips:
• Use a glutamine peptide supplement especially right after a hard exercise session since glutamine stores in muscle can be depleted up to 40 percent after exhaustive exercise.

• Load by taking 35 grams of glutamine daily* (5 grams one hour before training, 15 grams right after training, and then 15 grams before bedtime) for seven days. Then cut back to 15 grams daily (10 grams after a workout and 5 grams before bedtime).

• Try not to consume too much sodium with your glutamine as sodium entering the muscle cell actually causes glutamine to be released into the blood stream (out of the muscle cell).

*These are recommended doses for a 200-pound man, so you鈥檒l need to adjust according to body weight. For active exercisers, try .175 grams of glutamine per pound of bodyweight (200 lbs X .175 grams = 35 grams). One heaping teaspoon of glutamine contains about 5 grams and one full tablespoon contains about 15 grams. Some glutamine products have scoops which average out to about 5 grams. Look for this information on the product label.

The science behind pre-workout supplements
Stimulating the nervous system and enhancing neurotransmitter output can boost mental focus and clarity. After all, so much of building a great body is mental. Neurotransmitter fatigue or even burnout can lead to 鈥渂onking鈥 during the workout. By boosting neurological function, you may actually enhance muscle contraction and boost strength during a workout.

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Besides its obvious benefits to bone health, calcium has various other functions such as blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, enzyme regulation and membrane permeability.9 Calcium binds to certain proteins such as troponin C which permits an interaction between actin and myosin (muscle proteins), resulting in muscle contraction. One study actually showed that using calcium supplements (500 to 2,000 milligrams daily) actually increased lean body mass and bone mineral density in male athletes.10

L-tyrosine is an amino acid that acts as a direct precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. This amino acid has been called the 鈥渇ocus鈥 supplement because it seems to enhance mental focus and mental clarity. This is especially useful before a workout. It seems to delay mental fatigue11 and may boost exercise performance.

Gingko biloba is an herb that has been shown to enhance neurological function by increasing blood flow to the brain hence greater oxygenation. A specific extract of gingko (EGB 761) seems to be the most effective form.

Alpha-GPC (L-alpha-glycerylphosphorylcholine), is an acetylcholine precursor derived from soy. Since Alpha-GPC can boost endogenous levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, it can also help enhance mental focus and mental clarity.

Green tea not only contains caffeine (which is a potent exercise booster) but also polyphenols that can boost immune function and lower damaging free radicals (especially when these are generated during a hard workout).

Pre-workout supplement cocktail
One hour before training (preferably on an empty stomach), take 120 milligrams of gingko biloba (EGB 761 extract), 1 to 2 grams of L-tyrosine, 600 milligrams of calcium (in the better absorbed citrate form), 300 milligrams of Alpha-GPC, and 1 cup of 100 percent natural green tea (the liquid is quickly absorbed). This stack is the secret weapon of many athletes I work with, and it can really help you boost exercise performance (especially weight training).

Other supplement tricks
• The last four to six weeks of a hard diet, take 25 milligrams of guggulsterones three to four times daily to help normalize thyroid hormone levels and allow you to continue losing fat. This especially helps get past that sticking point in a diet where it is hard to lose any more weight.

• If you use yohimbe for fat loss or, then consume it with some fat like natural peanut butter as this increases absorption due to its fat-soluble nature.

• Since HMB has a short half-life in he body, it is best to take a smaller dose five to six times daily. One 500 milligram to 1 gram dose with each meal.

Please keep in mind that the dosages mentioned above have to be altered based on body weight. Try some of these 鈥渟ecret鈥 supplement tricks and you鈥檒l be sure to see results in your exercise program.

Rehan Jalali is president of the Supplement Research Foundation (www.tsrf.com). He is a nationally recognized biochemist and sports nutritionist who has published over 250 articles on nutrition and supplementation. He has been studying the science, efficacy, and safety of sports supplements for over 10 years. He can be reached via the internet at Rehan@tsrf.com.


1R.B. Kreider, et al., 鈥淓ffects of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition, Strength and Sprint Performance,鈥 Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. (1998) 30 : 73-82.
2Lawler JM, Barnes WS, Wu G, et al., "Direct antioxidant properties of creatine.," Biochem Biophys Res Commun. (2002) Jan 290.1 : 47-52.
3M. Greenwood, Kreider RB, Rasmussen C, et al., 鈥淒-Pinitol Augments Whole Body Creatine Retention in Man,鈥 J. Exerc. Physiol. Online (2001) 4.4.
4Walzel B, Speer O, Zanolla E, et al., 鈥淣ovel mitochondrial creatine transport activity. Implications for intracellular creatine compartments and bioenergetics,鈥 J Biol Chem (2002) 277.40 :37503-37511.
5Terjung RL, Clarkson P, Eichner ER, et al., 鈥滱merican College of Sports Medicine roundtable, The Physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation,鈥 Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2000) 32.3 : 706-717.
6Welbourne, TC.,鈥滻ncreased plasma bicarbonate and growth hormone after an oral glutamine load,鈥 Am J Clin Nutr 61.5 (1995) : 1058-1061.
7Griffiths, et al., 鈥淕lutamine: establishing clinical indications,鈥 Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care (1999) 2.2 : 177-8.

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