for Optimal Gains
You know I'm not a big advocate
of putting "supplements first." I shy away
not because supplementation is wrong, but since so much of
the supplement business is founded in misinformation.
I've done enough to dispel many of the myths related to "supplements
as miracle solutions" for you to recognize that I'm not
in the business of supplement promotion. Still, for
my personal clients I have at times recommended supplementation
as the "addition to" their supportive programs.
Since so many questions from members, radio show listeners,
and those who attend my seminars relate to supplements, I
wanted to give you a bit of direction in the area of what
I'll call "Foundational Supplementation."
This has nothing to do with getting "magical" results,
but rather to ptimize the program you're on presently.
I remember being 17 years old,
first finding my thirst for physical improvement, and reading
the ads in the magazines, looking for anything that would
help me speed the process to my fitness goals. That
was 1977. While the ads in those days were slightly
over-hyped, they were minor league compared to the major league
insanity stuck in our faces through print and television today.
Back in the 70's, most of the ads
in the fitness magazines were for protein powders, brewers
yeast, desiccated liver, weight gain formulas (for bodybuilders),
vitamins, and minerals. Sure there were some scattered
ads for amino acids and one or two ads for glandular products,
but those were ignored by most readers. We came to understand
the value of protein, of vitamins, and of minerals.
Today, if you walk into a health
food store that has any sort of a sports nutrition presence,
you'll find that the big containers are moving in and those
little vitamin pills are getting lost in the mad rush for
the supplement that “works.” MEGA-this and MUSCLE-that come
in massive containers promising to do everything from packing
on muscle to restoring youthful sex drive. The ever-increasing
quest for muscle has been infiltrated by Creatine Formulations,
Ion Exchange Protein Powders, and bigger and bigger packages
of highly caloric concoctions. The question grows ever
louder with greater and greater abundance . . . “which of
The fact is, nothing works, and
they all work! Confused already? I’ll clarify
my seemingly contradictory statement in a moment. I
would like to first make certain that you understand that
despite the appearance of bigger and bigger packages with
bigger and bigger promises, those little vitamins and minerals,
in combination, are the tiny but vital little workers that
allow you to excel, progress, and grow! Back when “supplementation”
meant swallowing some vitamin C, desiccated liver, and B-complex
caps, the supplement offerings were far narrower. As
a result, confusion was far less evident. Although science
has brought us fantastic insight into better nutrition, we
must be careful not to forget the value of those vitamins
and mineral formulas that once acted as the mainstay of supplementation.
Their value has not been lessened, but rather overshadowed
by the promise of greater gains with less effort.
My Quick Reminder
Before I go on, I want to remind you that supplement refers
to "the extra." I will discuss the value of
micronutrients in this issue, but they should never be thought
of as crutches that allow you to bypass the need for optimal
nutrition and exercise. I'll probably say that again
several times throughout this article.
The Body Transformation Puzzle
If you consider "body transformation" a puzzle,
the micronutrients are simply a piece. Without that
piece, the puzzle is never complete, however, the piece alone
in no way represents the entire puzzle. Get it?
OK, then I'll go on.
Nothing Works and They All Work!
Getting back to my “nothing works and they all work” comment,
let’s begin by understanding the first half. “Nothing works.”
Far too many are waiting for the new supplement to come along,
the one that will save them from having to train intensely
and eat correctly. That supplement does not exist, and
in my opinion, will probably not arrive, at least not in my
lifetime. As long as consumers seek out the miracle,
they’ll continue to waste money on supplements that thrive
on empty promises and unfulfilled hope. Nothing works
in and of itself.
With that said, let’s examine part
two of my comment. “They all work!” Nutrients
are synergistic. They act together in magnificent harmony
to allow you to call upon energy, to grow muscle, to fight
disease, and to continually create new healthy cells.
Putting water in a category by itself as the most life-sustaining
nutrient, we can categorize the remaining nutrients as “micro”
Separating the "Micro"
From the "Macro"
The macronutrients are those which contain calories, namely,
proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These supply fuel
for energy and material for growth. Take all the pyruvate
and creatine in the world,
but if you’re not adequately fueled or supplied with the macronutrients,
muscle growth and energy are not going to magically arrive.
Forgive me for stating the obvious,
as we all know the value of the macronutrients. I thought
it deserves a quick and simple review as we move into a glance
at the synergistic balance of all of the nutrients.
It’s the other area, the “micro” nutrition area in which many
Vitamins and minerals are essential,
and while neither can actually provide energy or muscle growing
material, they act upon the caloric nutrients to set the wheels
in motion. That doesn’t mean any single mineral can
work magically, or that any single vitamin can improve results.
Remember, they are synergistic. The true “magic” lies
in that synergy. Put the micronutrients together in
the right combinations, eat right, train intensely, and watch
your gains soar!
Hold on. I made a comment
that might have perked your ears. "Vitamins can
not provide energy!?!??" Don't people take vitamins
for energy? Sure they do. Because vitamin manufacturers
or sellers lead them to believe that just because vitamins
play a role in the energy process, they will magically produce
energy. The fact is, energy can be re-stated as the
body's efficiency at producing heat for movement, and the
only nutrients that are capable of providing fuel for heat
generation are those that are caloric. The MACRO nutrients.
Sure, without adequate supplies of specific vitamins and minerals
energy may be compromised, but that doesn't equate to vitamins
= energy. It's a myth!
I'm going to enlighten you as to
the interactive value of some specific micronutrients and
then, after all is said and done, I'll discourage you from
attempting to amass a collection of bottles that proves ideal
for you. You'll come to understand why as we go.
Let's start with the top selling micronutrient in this country.
Calcium to Build Bones?
Without science to assist them, many attempt to supplement
for synergistic benefit, but fall short in their attempts.
As an example, all over the nation, women over the age of
45 scramble to buy calcium supplements believing that more
calcium equals more bone. Eating more calcium to build
bone is an exercise in futility unless other micronutrients
are available such as zinc and magnesium. In seminars
I've used this analogy:
"Eating calcium to build
bones would be like eating brains to get smarter."
Just because it's a component of
bone doesn't mean it just enters your bloodstream and WHAM!
BONES GROW! It must interact with other micro and macronutrients
in the bone growing process.
The synergistic relationship between
the nutrients becomes even more important when looking at
calcium’s vital role to bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness
buffs. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human
body. Although it did gain a reputation as a vital component
of bones and teeth, calcium is also vital in aerobic energy
release, in nerve impulse transmission, and in the contraction
of skeletal muscle. Dietary, emotional, and physical
stresses often cause the body to excrete calcium in greater
amounts; thus dietary need is enhanced among those who regularly
challenge their bodies. Remember, though, calcium alone,
without its synergistic aids, is only a smaller yet piece
of the proverbial puzzle.
Magnesium - too often neglected
I mentioned calcium as being the “bone” mineral, yet more
than half of the body’s magnesium is contained in bone.
Magnesium is also involved in energy production and in transmission
of the signals that control and dictate muscular contraction.
In fact, even if you eat the highest grade proteins and carbs,
without magnesium’s role those carbs can not efficiently be
released to be burned as fuel, nor can amino acids be efficiently
assembled for protein synthesis. With calcium and magnesium
as two illustrations of the vital role the micronutrients
play, it should be quite obvious that anyone concerned with
health, fitness, and muscle development need have concern
for these often neglected or misunderstood nutrients.
So, Do You "Need"
The answer to this question is easy. No. You don't
"need" to supplement. When it comes to micronutrients,
if you are eating as I recommend, in a supportive manner with
inclusion of a wide variety of lean proteins, starchy carbs,
and fibrous carbs, think of supplementation as "insurance"
to make certain you have adequate supply.
Can you get the minerals I discussed
already from food? Of course! Dairy products are
loaded with calcium as are many dark green vegetables and
citrus fruits. Magnesium can be obtained from nuts,
whole grains, and fish. It’s just that exerciser’s needs
are enhanced and many of you find that life gets in the way
of optimal nutrition. That's why an insurance policy
in the form of supplementation wouldn't hurt. I just
want to make sure you do it sensibly, economically, and without
risk. The simplest way to take advantage of product
availability today to "insure" you do not fall short
is to make a "multi" nutrient formulation a simple
part of your regimen.
The concept of the multi-vitamin,
multi-mineral capsule is and has always been a good one, in
that formulators can refer to nutritional science to combine
micronutrients in combinations that have proven healthful
and supportive. If we were all created identically,
if we all maintained the same lifestyles, and we all shared
a common physical goal, we’d probably be served well by standardized
high quality formulas based upon the “multi” ideal.
Men would take GNC's men's formula, women would take the women's
formula, and all our work would be done. It’s just not
that simple. In the arena of sports, physical activity,
and performance, it’s obvious our nutritional needs are increased
as well as specialized.
Product formulators have managed
to better meet the athlete’s performance and lifestyle-specific
demands by leaping a step beyond the “multi” concept and creating
the “Mega-Pack.” After all, you can only get a finite
amount of any material in any single pill or capsule.
There are also challenges in blending some of the vital micronutrients
together. The true ideal for supplemental micronutrition
is a “package” of “multi-nutrient combinations,” a package
that removes all of the guesswork and allows us to simply
prepare for optimal performance with an uncomplicated supplement
to our meals. It's unfortunate, but many highly marketed
product lines put out inferior products in a mega-pack package,
creating a disparity among products that might visible appear
If you want to make life really
simple, you can pick up Twinlab's Multi-Mineral caps and their
Daily One vitamins and take a couple of capsules of each with
two of your supportive meals. While this is not as specialized
as varied-focus "mega packs" might be, it does provide
insurance that your vitamin and mineral needs are being met.
From a marketing standpoint, the
Mega Packs and the vitamin and mineral formulas are not as
sexy as "fat burners," or "slim down bars."
As a result they rarely get prime shelf space or much attention
at all. By now you should understand that despite limited
visibility, they can strengthen the foundation on which your
future physical development rests. The difference in
the marketing thrust of trendy products vs. legitimate micronutrient
formulas is, many, or I'll even say most of the fat burners
and slim down bars are sold with fraudulent or deceptive claims
and rarely will anyone find them working at the level of expectation.
Vitamins and minerals "work" only as part of the
entire process of metabolism, yet understanding that empowers
you to stop being fooled by new trendy products. Don't
look for a miracle. Look for all of the nutrients you
ingest to optimally combine to make you look and feel better
I'll summarize minerals, vitamins,
and other nutrients in sections, each with it's own conclusion,
and then I'll review key points to make certain that if you
supplement your meals with a handful of pills and capsules,
you can feel comfortable in your micronutrient supplement
investments. I've already covered calcium and magnesium,
so let me go onto mineral #3.
Mineral #3 - Potassium
I've seen people who get occasional cramps being told to take
a potassium supplement. The fact is, they'd probably
do better adding a just ripened banana to their daily intake.
Potassium has received attention for its role in maintaining
electrolyte balance in cells. It also assists in metabolic
conversion of dietary nutrients and has a regulatory role
in hydration. Potassium is instrumental in the
conversion and transport of glucose into glycogen stores,
thus without sufficient potassium; energy will suffer regardless
of your macro intake. Again, however, supplemental potassium
without its synergistic partners may prove close to worthless.
Calcium, magnesium, and potassium
are probably the most commonly known minerals, but a great
many combine to stimulate the "whole-body" effect
I've been describing. The minerals, iodine, selenium,
copper, and chromium all play synergistic roles ranging from
copper’s role in maintaining integrity of connective tissue
to chromium’s role in carbohydrate metabolism. If you're
not educated at an advanced level in nutrition, a multi mineral
formula or pack can give you the mineral insurance you need.
Conclusion:Eat supportively and, simply as "insurance," supplement
with a multi-mineral formulation by a reputable manufacturer.
Let's Move on to Vitamins
Where minerals are instrumental in building the framework
of the body, vitamins are vital in carrying out metabolic
activities. For optimal energy production, muscle contraction,
metabolism, and health, you'll also need a full array of the
B-vitamins, micronutrients that assist in glycogen release,
energy production, fat metabolism, formation of cells and
genetic material, and protection in resisting many of the
negative effects of both physical and emotional stresses.
For those who want to get a bit more specialized than taking
a single vitamin formula, consider Twinlab's B-Complex Stresstabs.
If you wind up taking more than you are going to use, there
really isn't very much danger. Too much niacin might
leave you flushed and itchy, but that passes and that's the
worst of what you might experience.
The fat-soluble vitamins, A, D,
E, and K, in combination, have antioxidant properties, aid
in calcium absorption, and play a role in blood clotting.
It’s important to note, however, that unlike the B-vitamins,
vitamins A, D, E, and K, while vital to sustain metabolic
function, can be toxic in excessive dosages. Remember,
more isn't always better! An antioxidant formula with
10,000 iu of vitamin A and 400 iu of vitamin E should be sufficient
for anyone maintaining a supportive nutrition program.
Either use a single multi-vitamin formula or an antioxidant
formulation plus a B-complex product.
Since we've come this far, let's
touch on amino acids
While other supplements can offer “extras,” or “enhanced gains,”
without an adequate supply of the micronutrients being discussed,
your ability to make any gains at all may plummet drastically!
For those who make muscle growth a concern, there are other
nutrients that assist in enhancing the anabolic drive, the
muscle building machine.
The most anabolic substance released
by the human body is Human Growth Hormone which is produced
by the pituitary gland. Specific combinations of L-Arginine
and L-Ornithine have been evidenced in research to stimulate
greater GH activity keeping the anabolic drive at peak levels.
Don't misunderstand. Don't let sellers of oral GH products
misquote research done with injectable GH to lead you to believe
that an oral product will have the same value. To date,
based on the evidence I've seen, it won't. It's just,
that if L-Arginine and L-Ornithine levels are compromised,
so too will be your endogenous GH production.
Many of the ads now offer single
amino acids as having great value in building muscle.
Sure, you can buy single amino acids and attempt to literally
build your own proteins, however, the digestive tract will
often not recognize single free form aminos as amino acids
are transported in di and tri-peptide chains. In addition,
while all of the essential aminos are required for anabolism,
the ratios and amounts are so varied you’d have to be a biochemist
to determine the necessary specific nutrient ratios from any
combination of single amino capsules. Amino acids you
probably know as the building blocks of protein. Stick
to complete proteins and don't worry about supplementing with
independent amino acids.
There is one exception. L-Glutamine
is the most abundant amino acid in muscle. I mentioned
it last month for its value in dealing with stress.
Since it is so involved in gastrointestinal function, immune
function, and protein synthesis, 1-2 grams per day can offer
some level of muscle protection.
Conclusion: Eat supportively
with complete proteins and don't worry about amino acid supplementation
(with the possible exception of L-Glutamine).
I'll conclude this month by offering
you a few scenarios that I might personally encourage my active
clients to adapt:
If you want simplicity and consider
yourself only moderately active, you can cover a great many
of the bases with Twinlab multi-mineral caps and Daily One
caps. A couple of each with two meals should be sufficient.
If you eat very supportively,
are active both in daily life and in exercise, and want to
"cover yourself" to ensure adequate micronutrient
400 iu vitamin E
1000 mg vitamin C
(or an antioxidant formula with those amounts and other
Multi Mineral caps
Remember, these are not needs,
but options. Don't get caught up in all the product
hype. Recognize that your future results will be greatly
dependent upon the foundation you build for yourself today.
In future issues I'll cover supplementation that can lead
to exceptional performance.
Be certain, whether you choose
to modify your supplementation program or not, to maximize
the benefits of living your life with an attachment to the
Synergy I speak about so often.
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