Christine Envall Female Bodybuilder Australia


Every year the supplement market seems to get more confusing.  We are bombarded with dozens of new products, each sounding more amazing than the last.  The number of brands on the market is ever increasing to the point where it is too confusing for the average trainer to discern what is worth buying and what is best left on the shelf. 

We rely a lot on our friends and training partners to let us know what they have tried but in many cases supplements will get a bad rap simply because people are expecting miracles from them.  I've been in Health Shops and people have told me that brand X protein powder didn't work for them'.  What on earth do they mean?  What were they expecting the product to do?  It is a protein supplement, not muscle in a tub!   The point I'm trying to make is that regardless of how good the supplement, it will not make up for a lack of correct training and nutrition.


Let's talk about growing some muscle here.  I know most people want to 'gain lean muscle and get lean', but sometimes this needs to be a two-stage approach.  Trying to do it simultaneously is inefficient for muscle growth.  The body is more efficient at doing one thing at a time. You must fuel your body with enough quality food for it to grow. Food can and will cause an anabolic response!  Focus on growing some muscle first so that you have something to show off when you do diet down a little later on.   

Eating should be routine, just like training.  You know if you skip training you won't grow.  The same applies to too many missed meals.  If you want to grow you need to eat consistently, frequently and the right amount for your body.  Without enough calories in your diet, no supplement will make up for it.  I don't know how many times people have told me Weight Gain Powders don't work.  How so?  You do realize they must be eaten 'as well as' your regular diet if you are to gain weight?  Simply substituting them for a meal isn't going to cause weight gain!

In order to keep a constant flow of amino acids within the body you should try to eat every 3 hours.  Aim for about 40g of protein at each meal.  Depending on your daily commitments (work, study, etc) it can take some planning to ensure you do eat this frequently.  Don�t leave it up to chance that you will be able to scrounge up some protein when you need it.  Take it with you!

I find the new Vital Strength Toneplex 'shake and go' drinks and excellent transportable source of protein.  Toneplex is a pre-weighed 45g serve of protein and all you have to do is add water to the bottle and shake.  I always keep one in my bag in case I am stuck away from home with no protein.   It is safer than carting un-refrigerated cooked chicken around, especially in summer!

What you eat directly after training will also affect your ability to grow.  Dietary protein, when eaten with carbohydrate, enhances glycogen storage.

The insulin elevating effect of consuming these nutrients together does more than just replace depleted glycogen.  The high insulin level may promote both anabolic and anti-catabolic activity in muscle by stimulating protein synthesis and enhancing nitrogen retention. Over time this can lean to a build up of lean muscle tissue; muscle growth.  

General consensus seems to be that getting your post-workout protein from whey protein is beneficial as it is extremely high in Branch Chain Amino Acids and gets into your system quickly.  As far as the carbohydrate source, glucose/glucose polymers (preferably high GI choices) are best for replacing muscle glycogen and fructose for replacing liver glycogen.  Most of the protein -carb drinks on the market are made up of protein and glucose polymers.  Try mixing them with fruit juice if they don't contain any fructose.

 A final point in this section is ARE YOU DRINKING ENOUGH?  Dehydrated muscle cells cannot perform properly, so you will lose strength and your work-out intensity will suffer.  Water also helps make your muscles look full. 


Now you are sure you've got your training and eating under control and you decide it is time to try out some of the products on the supplement market.  You don't have unlimited funds so you have to decide what to invest your money in.


Unless you feel like cooking chicken or steak six or so times a day it goes without saying that you will probably want some type of protein powder.  Besides, with the price of meat these days, protein powder can work out to be a more economic option!

I still believe in using a blend of different protein powders so as to take advantage of the different properties each offers, ie high BCAA content of WPI, high levels of glutamine and arginine and isoflavones in soy isolate, excellent overall amino acid profile of egg white.  Presently the best value, best tasting protein blend I have found is the Vital Strength Total Protein. 


If you can afford nothing else, invest in some Branch Chain Amino Acids.

Several studies have shown that BCAAs have the ability to reduce protein breakdown.  Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) may increase anabolic hormone levels and slow the breakdown of protein making them one of the most beneficial supplements a bodybuilder can take.   

In addition, supplementation with BCAAs has been shown to suppress the use of amino acids for energy making them available for muscle repair and growth.

Without a good BCAA supplement I notice I take a lot longer to recover from a workout.  My muscles remain sore for longer and I find it hard to back up for my next workout.  Studies have shown that in addition to the BCAAs obtained from dietary sources, an extra 10g of BCAA's each day is beneficial.   I find this amount works well for me.


The amino acid glutamine has received a lot of attention recently, with good reason.  During intense training, muscle Glutamine levels drop sharply which decreases strength, reduces stamina and hinders recovery.  Research has shown that without supplementation it can take up to six days for Glutamine levels to return to normal after an intense workout. Without adequate levels of Glutamine, it is impossible for protein synthesis to occur, so you can see how important this little supplement is.

Glutamine also helps with cell volumization, leading to better pumps and the appearance of increased size (look bigger while you get bigger!).  It also helps with the secretion of Human Growth Hormone in the body.

To help replenish Glutamine lost during training, 2-5g is the minimum amount required, but many people believe 10 -20g is more beneficial. 

I have just started taking the Vital Strength L-glutamine Recovery product and find that 5g (delivering 3g of l -glutamine) prior to training and 10g (delivering 6g of l -glutamine) after training has improved my recovery.  This product also contains BCAAs, taurine (to aid amino acid metabolism) and colostrum (another good exercise recovery/repair and growth factor).  I find the flavour not too bad compared to some of the glutamine products I have taken in the past.


There are many other great supplements out on the market and I will talk about these in the future.  The idea of this article was to give you a starting point.  There is no point in going out and buying a sophisticated muscle growth formulation if you are not eating right and looking after your basic recovery needs after training.


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