Getting to the next step may involve going back to basics with your supps

March 30, 2009


Creatine, glutamine, protein powders, fat burners and amino acids are the major supplements that help support muscle growth and repair, but they are only part of the story. To help you graduate from beginner to advanced-level bodybuilder, consider the six supplements discussed below.

All growing bodies need iron. Pregnant women, babies and mass-seeking bodybuilders need iron to grow. Iron is important for the production of red blood cells, which help deliver oxygen to muscles. A lack of iron can lead to fatigue, a drop-off in appetite and less than optimal muscle recovery.

Food sources: Red meat, tomatoes, beans, oatmeal and most veggies
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: Red meat daily, or an iron supplement yielding up to eight milligrams (mg) a day

Copper is not often recommended for bodybuilders, yet it ought to be. Besides helping to form red blood cells, copper supports the production of superoxide dismutase (SOD), the body's most potent internal scavenger of free radicals. Free radicals are the natural byproduct of heavy training. However, overtraining or poor nutrition can create a state where free radicals not only damage muscle cells but can impair the immune system, leading to poor muscle recovery.

Food sources: Shellfish, fish, organ meats and legumes
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: 2-3 mg daily

3 B12
Vitamin B12 helps cells divide, which is an essential part of the growth process. Strict diets that are low in calories-especially precontest diets that lack red meat-can result in low levels of B12, leading to fatigue. This in turn can contribute to a state of overtraining. When overtraining occurs, a hormonal imbalance sets in that not only prevents gains in mass, but it can also cause a disproportionate amount of muscle to be shed while dieting.

Food sources: Red meat
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: Up to 15 micrograms daily

Arginine increases the natural release of growth hormone (GH). GH supports the immune system and helps increase mass by boosting the uptake of amino acids into muscle. In addition, it helps burn bodyfat. Bodybuilders can benefit by taking 6-8 grams (g) of arginine before training and another 6-8 g before bed. These are the two occasions when GH levels rise, and supplementing with arginine can enhance this natural burst in GH. Mass seekers can add 2 g to the post-training meal because arginine can also boost insulin levels when combined with a postworkout meal of 50 g each of protein and carbs.

Food sources: Red meat, fish and fowl
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: 12-18 g a day, in addition to food sources from animal proteins

Potassium helps muscles contract and also plays a big role in helping the body convert carbohydrate intake into muscle glycogen, the reserve fuel tank within muscles and the liver that the body uses while you're training. In essence, a low potassium intake can short-circuit your ability to carb-load your muscles. Since potassium is stored within muscles, it's speculated that-like creatine and glutamine-it adds to the total amount of water that muscle can retain and store. More water in muscles facilitates an anabolic environment, causing greater muscle growth.

Food sources: Lean meat, yogurt, bananas and potatoes
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: 2-3 g daily split over five or six meals

Acetyl L-carnitine (not to be confused with the fat-burner carnitine) can contribute to stable and even higher testosterone levels in athletes who might be walking a tightrope in terms of overtraining. Too much training volume without adequate rest days can cause drops in testosterone levels. Studies also show that acetyl L-carnitine may help improve the uptake of glucose by muscles. This is important because improved glucose transport into muscles could translate into greater muscle mass and possibly less body fat.

Food sources: Meat, fish and fowl
Suggested dose for bodybuilders: 300-1,000 mg a day, especially when dieting, during which testosterone levels often fall