NET GAINS: CREATINE, FASTING AND ARGININE

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Q: I mix my creatine and protein-powder shakes before I go to the gym, but one of the gym gurus told me that creatine breaks down as a liquid. Is this true?

A: Your guru is correct in the long term, but recent research shows that creatine breaks down slowly in liquid. Most products maintain up to 95% of their creatine for up to eight hours after being mixed with water. Most also retain up to 80% of their creatine after one full day, and effervescent products may last even longer.

To get the most from your creatine, blend it just before taking it. But, for the sake of convenience, and if you don't mind a small amount of waste, you can mix your creatine/protein combo before you head to the gym.

Here are easy options to get the most from your creatine supplement.

1: Put your protein powder, glutamine and creatine into a shaker, but don't add water until you're ready to consume your drink. If you drink a pre- and a postworkout shake, then use two shakers, adding water just before you drink each.

2: Mix your protein with water before going to the gym, but don't add your creatine until right before consuming. Carry your creatine in a separate bottle in your gym bag, so you always have it with you.

Q: I hear fasting is a great way to remove toxins from the body and get lean. How often should I do this?

A: Fasting is a tried-and-true technique for purifying the body. It's used by many cultures, but not by most bodybuilders. Why? Because when you fast, your body lives off your muscle mass. Your body preferentially turns to muscle mass (over bodyfat) as a source of energy, tearing it down. You might be purified, but you'll most likely drop muscle mass even if you fast for only a day. This explains why bodybuilders eat so many meals a day. Building muscle mass is not only about providing your body with adequate calories, it's also about providing them to your body frequently so you have a steady source of nutrients.

If you want to detoxify your body, try these other techniques.

  • Drink plenty of water. Try doubling your water consumption for a day or two.
  • Reduce salt intake at the same time so your body flushes fluids from your system.
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and unnecessary medications.
  • Emphasize "clean" foods, such as simply prepared meats and vegetables. Eat these frequently (taking in about six meals a day).
  • Supplement with 100 milligrams (mg) of calcium, 15-30 mg of zinc, 250-450 mg of magnesium and 200 mg of selenium to help you clean up free radicals and rid yourself of toxins.
  • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. This provides a range of phytochemicals that help you detox, plus the variety prevents you from getting too much of any one pesticide.

    Follow these tips and you'll maintain your muscle mass while helping to detoxify your body.

    Q: I've read in FLEX that bodybuilders should take 10 grams (g) of arginine a day. Is this the same thing that is in nitric oxide (NO) products? How can I get that amount without going broke?

    A: Yes, arginine is the key ingredient in NO products, but you can also find it sold as an isolated amino acid. As for dosage, FLEX recommends taking 4-10 g per day. Taking a dose in a lower range will be much more affordable, and it will still go a long way toward improving your bodybuilding results. For a lower dose, take 2-5 g of L-arginine or arginine alpha-ketoglutarate twice a day on an empty stomach, and one of those about an hour before your workout.

    Q: I have digestive problems with some protein products. What do you suggest?

    A: This is a highly individual problem. Some people just don't tolerate certain products very well. Our best advice is to try other products. If you have trouble with powders, try ready-made shakes. If you have trouble with these, try powders. If milky products are difficult, then try the more watery ones, and vice versa.

    We find that this problem can be diminished if you take your protein product with whole foods. Try that if you simply want to bump up your protein consumption. Unfortunately, most bodybuilders want a protein product they can take on a more or less empty stomach. You might need to mix a whole food such as cottage cheese or chicken breast with a protein product for better results.

    Finally, an enzyme supplement might ease your digestive problems. Try bromelain (500 milligrams before you eat), papain (375-750 milligrams before you eat), pancreatin (two to four grams before you eat) or a combination enzyme supplement.

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