Admit it. You’d like to be built just a little more like the Rock or Jennifer Aniston, especially if it wouldn’t take much work.
Hate to disappoint you, but it’s not going to be that easy. But every little bit helps. And exercise is going to have to be a part of it. You can’t hook up some cheesy As-Seen-On-TV electronic gadgets to your abs while watching the Walking Dead and expect to make it to the cast of Magic Mike IV. And there certainly isn’t any fat burning supplement you can buy at GNC that’s going to work magic either.
Dietary choices and exercise have to be a part of the equation. Both resistance and aerobic (although I have pointed out in prior articles that resistance training IS aerobic training).
If you browse the shelves of your local healthfood store (or worse, a national chain supplement store) you’ll see all kinds of products geared towards weight lifting and bodybuilding. Quite frankly, most of these are junk products promoted through a mutation of the medical research.
Take the “NO-______” products (fill in the blank…explode, explosion, burst, etc…) that are loaded with the amino acid arginine. Yes, arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide that helps to open up blood vessels. This led to the mistaken idea that putting arginine into an awful tasting drink mix will open up blood flow to the muscles and allow a stronger set when lifting. And these products aren’t cheap.
Of course, for many Americans, the most important thing is to actually HAVE a workout. But once you’re past that hurdle, there really are some solid approaches that can help you improve the outcomes from your workouts. Probably one of the more tried and true is the use of creatine. Creatine is used by the muscles to make a short-term energy source called phosphocreatine. More phosphocreatine leads to a better short term energy boost, allowing for that extra rep or even an extra set.
Another popular approach is the use of protein supplements. The list of available products is quite long and varied and can be purchased anywhere from the aforementioned health food store to Walmart and Costco. Unfotunately, many of these products are junk and loaded with artificial sweeteners and should be avoided by anyone serious about getting in shape. In reality, you can likely get just as good of a boost of amino acids from eating a chicken breast or bison burger.
And maybe an even more important question should be the “when” of taking protein powders. Since most of our muscle recovery and healing occurs while we are sleeping, it does seem like this might be a good time to make sure our bodies have a decent supply of amino acids to work with. Despite this, most gym-goers seem to indulge in protein shake homage either in the morning or immediately after a workout.
If this fits you, it’s possible that this particular study may change your mind. In it, researchers took 44 young men (21-23 years old) in a progressive, 12-week resistance exercise training program and split them into two groups. One group took a protein supplement with 27.5 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrate, and 0.1 g of fat every night before going to bed. The other group received a non-calorie placebo drink.
Outcomes were assessed using a whole-body (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), limb (computed tomography scan), and muscle fiber (muscle biopsy specimen) level before and after exercise training. Strength was assessed using a 1-repetition maximum strength testing. Here’s what they found:
- Muscle strength increased 26% more in the protein-supplemented group (74.5 pounds versus 59.0 pounds).
- The size of the quadriceps muscle (cross-sectional area) increased 75% more in the protein group (8.4 cm2 vs. 4.8 cm2).
- There was a 129% greater increase in type II (fast-twitch) muscle fiber size in the protein group (2319 μm2 versus 1017 μm2).
I don’t know about you, but getting a pretty significant boost in outcomes from the SAME workout sure sounds like a good thing to me. But remember, this group was involved in a 3 month progressive exercise routine to go along with the protein supplement. That being said, here are some decent options for protein powders that you can find on Amazon (I’m somewhat partial to plant-based proteins):
- Orgain organic plant based protein powder
- Garden of Life RAW organic protein (this brand had some problems with heavy metals last year, but this seems to have been resolved)
- Vega sport performance
- Or, if you happened to read my prior article on the powerful effects of glutamine on your gut bacteria, you may be able to kill two birds with one stone by trying a glutamine powder.
Let me know if this works for you…