Expert Advice: Muscle-Building Supplements

Our expert weighs in on how to get the most out of your supplements
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Q: I Just got my hands on some beta-alanine. I was wondering if the tingling sensations and the flushing of the skin were normal in all brands. It doesn’t hurt, but it does feel funny.

A: Yes, that is normal. It’s known as paresthesia and is caused by beta-alanine binding to nerve receptors, which causes the nerves that are below the skin to fire. This sensation is enhanced when taking beta-alanine along with caffeine, which is in many preworkout formulas. It does go away with continued use.

Q: What is the proper intake of proteins per meal? Is it true that the body can absorb 30 grams per meal? Is there such a thing as too much protein? I see some people eating 80 g of protein per meal.

A: You should shoot for about 30 to 40 g of protein per meal.

Q: I’ve heard a lot about carb cycling — what is it? Why should I do it? What is an example of carb-cycling for a 200-pound guy?

A: Carb cycling refers to alternating periods of low- and high-carb intake, maximizing both fat loss and muscle growth. For fat loss, your default diet would be somewhat under 1 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight. You would cycle in a high-carb day (greater than 2 g per pound) every five 
to seven days. Since carb-restricted diets can lower your metabolic rate by decreasing leptin levels, the high-carb day helps to reset your leptin levels and keep your metabolic rate up. To add size, your default diet would be 2 to 3 g per pound. You can go lower, either to about 1 g per pound on nontraining days, or you can have two low-carb days after every three or four high-carb days to minimize fat gain.

Q: I am a hardgainer and I feel bloated a lot of the time and don’t have much definition or muscle hardness. I believe I have gained water weight and not fat. Do you recommend using a diuretic? I heard that diuretics can result in loss of strength and muscle. Also, I slack off on breakfast and was wondering if taking a weight-gainer shake in the morning would help me.

A: A natural diuretic won’t fix the issue. Water weight tends to be a transient thing. If it’s chronic, make sure you are not consuming excessive amounts of sodium. Although we don’t typically recommend cutting back on sodium, you may be more sensitive to sodium than most. In that case, if you are getting in more than 4,000 milligrams per day, consider cutting back. High sodium culprits include deli meats and other cured meats, and canned and packaged foods. Certain medical conditions can also cause water retention. So if you think the water weight is a bit excessive, see your doctor.

I only recommend weight gainers for those who are really on the thin side and have difficulty adding weight. I would suggest a meal replacement shake for breakfast.

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