The Power of Beta Alanine Supplements

If you’ve worked out for any amount time, especially if you are someone who is first starting off, it’s fair to assume you’ve hit a wall at some point in your routine where you couldn’t continue.

 

We’ve all been there.

 

And if any of those workouts have been particularly intense, that wall is usually dropped on you and lit on fire…so to speak.

 

beta alanine preworkout supplementYour muscles are screaming in agony, you can’t quite catch your breath, and your legs are nailing their impression of a newborn deer.

 

This is all actually fantastic most of the time, because if you begin hurting in places you didn’t know existed (barring an injury, of course), it means you are strengthening your body and pushing it to new limits, little by little. This is how fitness works for the most part.

 

For obvious reasons, most people don’t want to actually feel their muscles burning while they’re lifting. The buildup of lactic acid does nothing for them aside from act as a reminder of how much easier it is to be at home on the couch.

 

Those people wouldn’t be better off on the couch, but they would do great with adding a supplement to their routine that can fight muscle fatigue and offers a laundry list of benefits. A supplement that can offer you all of the gain of an intense workout without having to suffer through the pain, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Beta Alanine Benefits before a Workout

Beta-alanine is an amino acid that is the modified version of alanine. While dosage timing isn’t too important with beta-alanine, it’s often an ingredient in preworkout supplements.

 

In a study of 360 participants, beta-alanine improved muscular endurance [1]. Even if you do happen to enjoy the burn of a high-rep set or HIIT, beta-alanine has something to offer you as well, like allowing you to exercise even harder than you already do. One study looked at two groups of athletes, all previously trained. After 8 weeks of HIIT, sprints, and resistance training, both groups supplementing with beta-alanine had added muscle mass and lost fat while improving their performance outputs [2].

 

If endurance exercise is your thing, one study showed this amino acid improved anaerobic capacity in elite swimmers when taken at doses of 4.8 g/day [3]. Other studies on athletes resulted in increased exercise capacity and decreased time to fatigue [4,5].

 

So it increases strength, work output, anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, and lean mass, but that’s not quite all.

Beta Alanine and Creatine

Another benefit is beta-alanine’s ability to improve the effectiveness of creatine. You may even be taking this preworkout supplement already.

 

During a 10-week lifting program, strength, power, body composition, and endocrine changes were examined in collegiate football athletes. Some subjects received a placebo, some creatine, and others a combination of creatine and beta-alanine. The group supplementing with both beta-alanine and creatine had great changes in lean body mass, body fat percent, and strength, without causing any hormonal changes [6].

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22270875
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21659893
  3. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/4/10/1441
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21407127
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19083385
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17136944/

Curcumin and Muscle Recovery

curcumin-supplementCurcumin, the yellow pigment associated with curry spice (Turmeric), is gaining increasing popularity among athletes and those who engage in intense workouts because of its incredible ability to enhance muscle recovery.

 

While curcumin provides a number of health benefits resulting from its anti-microbial and antioxidant properties, the anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects of this polyphenol make it an ideal addition to any athlete’s supplement diet.

Curcumin as an Anti-Inflammatory
Supplement

One review notes that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular component of traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest holistic healing systems developed thousands of years ago in India. [1] Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties come from its ability to “down-regulate the activity of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) enzymes; inhibits the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin (IL) -1, -2, -6, -8, and -12, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP), and migration inhibitory protein; and down-regulates mitogen-activated and Janus kinases.” [1] In simpler terms, it blocks the production of enzymes that cause inflammation and stimulates those that block it.

Curcumin and Joint Health

Animal studies show that curcumin is capable of reducing inflammation in mice with edema, rheumatoid arthritis, and those that experienced muscosal injury from experimentally-induced colitis. [1] The success of these studies prompted scientists to explore the anti-inflammatory impacts of curcumin on humans with similar conditions. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis took 1200 mg of curcumin daily and experienced reductions in joint swelling and morning stiffness as well as improvements in walking time. [1]

Curcumin and Muscle Recovery

Curcumin reduces problems associated with chronic conditions characterized by inflammation. This has made curcumin an obvious choice for those who require recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. An investigation in the American Journal of Physiology in 2007 notes that muscle-damaging exercise can cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines in the working muscle, something that curcumin inhibits. [2]

 

The investigation studied the effect that curcumin had on mice subjected to both treadmill and wheel running.  It found that curcumin speeds recovery of exercise-induced muscle damage resulting from those exercises. [2] The study concluded that all-natural curcumin would be a better alternative to anti-inflammatory NSAIDs such as ibuprofen which can degrade the lining of the stomach. [2]

Curcumin and Piperine

It’s worth noting that if you enjoy Indian food and eat it often, you are already treating your body to curcumin’s many digestive health benefits. Unfortunately, curcumin’s poor oral bioavailability allows for limited absorption. This means much of what you consume does not get absorbed into the blood. This inhibits curcumin’s many systematic benefits including the anti-inflammatory ones.

 

Thankfully, you can attenuate this issue with the aid of black pepper extract, piperine, or complex versions of Curcumin. These supplements enhance curcumin’s bioavailability so that individuals taking one of these combinations see a positive impact from curcumin on their systematic health. This is particularly true for athletes who suffer from muscle fatigue.

Sources

  1. http://www.ibcleende.com/Curcumin.PDF
  2. http://www.mccordresearch.com/sites/default/files/research/Curcumin-Inflammation.pdf
bicyclist

Ashwagandha for Cardiorespiratory Endurance

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an herbal supplement that has been used for centuries for its mood-boosting capabilities. Ashwagandha gained its popularity as a stress reducing adaptogen, but researchers are discovering many other benefits of ashwagandha supplementation. This is now a popular extract in the fitness community because of its ability to boost cardio endurance, reduce soreness, and increase strength.

How Ashwagandha Improves Cardiorespiratory Health

Ashwagandha supplementation increases VO2 max which is the amount of oxygen an athlete can consume. With VO2 max increased, athletes are able to participate longer in cardiovascular exercise. This is a huge benefit for runners, swimmers, cyclists, and other endurance athletes. Weightlifters also benefit from VO2 max because it increases the number and size of the cell’s mitochondria. This cell center is responsible for nutrient absorption, nutrient delivery, and cellular energy. This increase in mitochondrial performance allows for increased strength and muscle size.

Have you noticed a new ingredient called KSM-66 being added to exercise enhancing products? KSM-66 is a highly concentrated form of ashwagandha added for its performance enhancing properties. This extract can be stacked with several other supplements to further increase its benefits which is why it is becoming a go-to addition to popular workout supplements from companies like GNC and Cellucor.

Additional Athletic Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha increases motivation, reduces stress, and promotes a positive sense of well-being. Everyone can use a boost in motivation when it comes to getting up and going to the gym after a long day at work. This extract also acts as an anti-inflammatory so soreness felt after intense exercise will be reduced and it will take longer to become fatigued.

How to Take Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha can be taken pre workout to gain an edge over the competition or taken daily for a mood boost. The recommended dosage is 500mg and can be taken up to three times daily. If taken correctly, ashwagandha causes little to no negative side effects.

Try It

If you are looking for an extra push to get through high-intensity exercise, consider adding some ashwagandha into your pre workout mix for a performance and motivation boost. Ashwagandha is pretty easy to find and is fairly cheap. You can find it in bulk powder, capsules, and in premixed workout supplements.

Top Supplements for Gaining Muscle

supplements for gainsAdding supplements to your diet and exercise routine may give you the extra edge you need. Certain supplements improve your workout intensity, boost your strength, and even help to pack on muscle. Your body requires proper hormonal balance and certain nutrients to build a strong foundation. Many new bodybuilders make the mistake of jumping on the steroid wagon without researching all the negative side effects.

 

Natural supplements are the way to go if you are looking to gain muscle, feel better, and not suffer the negative consequences of steroid use. So Drop the Dbol and take a look at these top supplements to start growing.

Agmatine

Getting the most out of your workout is crucial when It comes to muscle gain. Adding a vasodilator like agmatine increases nitric oxide levels to allow more nutrient delivery to the muscles. If you are striving for that extra pump, agmatine should be your pre workout addition of choice. Agmatine is more potent and faster acting than other vasodilators like arginine and citrulline. You can use agmatine with other pre workout enhancers like caffeine.

Phosphatidic Acid

Phosphatidic acid is a great supplement that does not get enough attention. If you’re after muscle gains, focus on products that are proven to activate mTOR signaling. So what exactly is mTOR? The mTOR pathway is crucial for the delivery of amino acids and growth factors. When mTOR activation is taking place, the body will remain in an anabolic state allowing for muscles to grow even after exercise.

 

Phosphatidic acid also protects muscle cells from the damage that occurs from overtraining. When muscle cells are damaged workouts become less efficient, your muscles lose the inability to grow, and you will feel too sore to get to the gym the next day. At that point, you are killing yourself for nothing.

Mucuna Pruriens

Is it possible to increase growth hormone (GH) naturally without pumping your body full of foreign chemicals? Yes, mucuna pruriens has the ability to do so due to its high availability of L-Dopa. Think back to when you were growing up. As a child you probably had plenty of energy to kill, you could eat whatever you wanted and burn it off, you slept like a rock, and you woke up in the morning energized without the help of coffee. All of this is experienced due to the presence of growth hormone. As we age GH levels begin to decline so supplementation is key to keeping these levels in check.

 

Growth hormone is in charge of…growth. No, it isn’t going to make you any taller; unfortunately, that ship has sailed. It is going to improve your strength, improve recovery time, increase the size and density of your muscles, and improve your overall energy levels. This happens to be one of my favorite supplements of all time. Sometimes I take it before going to sleep (since GH levels are highest when sleeping) and I wake up in the morning ready to take on the world.

Tongkat Ali

Tongkat ali, also known as longjack, is a natural testosterone booster. Testosterone boosters are popular in the bodybuilding community because they increase growth potential and performance. Testosterone boosters also play a role in breaking down fat mass. Tongkat ali decreases the amount of cortisol production during exercise as well. Excess cortisol leads to early fatigue which will put a damper on your gym plans. As an added bonus, tongkat ali also improves performance in the bedroom.

Creatine

Creatine still remains at the top of the list for muscle building supplements. It has been used by top bodybuilders since the beginning of bodybuilding. This is because it works! Using creatine can increase strength, muscle size, and endurance. Creatine supplements also decrease the time it takes for muscles to recover from intense training.

 

There are a lot of arguments about the safety of creatine because it causes the body to retain water. Most people are not aware that cells dehydrate during exercise. Having this excess water allows muscle cells to remain hydrated so they can work longer and more efficiently.

 

There are several types of creatine available and whichever you choose depends on your goals. The most popular type of creatine is creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate retains its popularity because it is effective and easy on the wallet. Creatine monohydrate supplements increase muscle size and density quickly. For best results creatine monohydrate generally requires a loading phase of 20g for seven days followed by 5g daily.

 

Creatine HCL is another popular form of creatine. It offers the same benefits of creatine monohydrate but does not require a loading phase. Some people who use creatine monohydrate experience muscle cramps and diarrhea so they choose to use this form instead. I lean towards this form of creatine because I tend to not drink as much water as I should, and creatine monohydrate requires much more water intake. Powder City is a great place to purchase both types creatine. Their quality is top notch and their prices are super affordable.

D-Aspartic Acid

D-Aspartic acid (DAA) is another supplement that increases testosterone levels. I can’t stress enough about the importance of proper testosterone levels when it comes to muscle growth, body composition, and energy levels. This supplement is unique because the spike in testosterone synthesis remains for a long period of time even after discontinuing the use of the supplement.

Beta Ecdysterone

Beta Ecdysterone is a one of a kind ergogenic supplement (ergogenic is just a fancy word for performance enhancing). This supplement increases muscle mass, decreases fat mass, and improves strength without touching sex hormones; however, it functions similarly to testosterone in the body. This is why Beta Ecdysterone is different from other muscle builders. This supplement boosts the effects of DAA and tongkat ali making them even more productive.

Review

Sometimes when it is time for a bulking phase we go a little overboard on the diet causing unwanted body fat. Utilizing natural supplements will allow you to experience gains without packing on fat pounds. If you want to experience improved workouts, lean muscle gains, and increased energy with minimal side effects, consider adding some of the above supplements to your routine.

 

Long Jack Extract Review: Can You Really Increases Testosterone Naturally?

Usually when the public thinks about Testosterone, we automatically think about male sex appetite. It’s much more than just that.

What is Testosterone?

Before I tell you about the benefits of testosterone, it will be good to give you an overview as to what it actually is and does. Testosterone is a hormone created by both men and women. The male testes naturally make the hormone, whereas it is converted to estrogen by the ovaries in women[3]. This important hormone is mainly responsible for sexual appetite in both genders. In men, it is also accountable for muscle, bone and hair growth. This hormone is what allows your muscles to grow and maintain strength coupled with the right workout routines.

Testosterone Gone Haywire

Normal Testosterone production for males is between 300 to 1,200 mg/dL[1]. When natural Testosterone production dips below the normal level, these are the effects on the body:

Depression
Fatigue
Dementia
Osteoporosis
Low Libido
Heart disease
Stroke
Prostate Cancer
Abdominal Obesity
Type 2 Diabetes

These conditions can make you lose focus in the gym, which slows down progress and gains. The media portrays low testosterone (Low T) to only affect older men, but men as young as 23 years old can have this hormone deficiency. Women with Low T can also have similar symptoms[2].

Higher than normal level of testosterone is also a negative. People with high testosterone can have psychological issues. Some possible physical effects are baldness and acne[5]. Proper supplementation of supplements will help reach the right testosterone level.

Longjack Extract (Tongkat Ali) Benefits

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, there is a natural supplement called tongkat ali extract I would like to introduce you to (it also goes by the name Longjack). Tongkat ali derives from the Eurycoma Longifolia Jack herb of South-Asia origin and has been tested to be a pro-fertility agent and aphrodisiac enhancer. It may also be an anti-estrogen and pro-erectile agent. A study where rats were injected with this supplement, showed an increase in sexuality of these mammals. Rats that were sluggish became energetic. Anxiety filled subjects were more relaxed. In a different study using a set of men taking a Longjack supplement dosage showed the group experiencing an increase in lean body mass and decrease in fat mass in a 5 week period[4].

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Longjack supplement can help increase your testosterone and have you back to gaining muscle mass and improving your workouts. It will also recover your sexual life as a bonus. You can read long jack reviews and learn more about the benefits of tongkat ali from Powder City.

Sources:

  • http://bodybuilding.about.com/od/supplementationbasics/a/Testosterone_Levels.htm
  • http://www.bumc.bu.edu/sexualmedicine/publications/testosterone-insufficiency-in-women-fact-or-fiction/http://www.livestrong.com/article/243029-what-gland-produces-testosterone-in-women/
  • http://examine.com/supplements/Eurycoma+Longifolia+Jack/#summary1
  • http://www.mens-hormonal-health.com/high-testosterone-levels.htmlLongjack Supplement Review | Pre-Workout BuzzLong Jack Review: Explore the numerous benefits of long jack including increased sex drive, testosterone, and muscle mass.
testosterone

What Your Workout Supplements Say About You

You might be the normal person who just takes supplements to give your body an edge or make the most of your workout. You might also be one of the whack-jobs that will take any supplement they can get their hands on no matter how insane it sounds. “Dehydrated deer penis? I’m in!” Either way, the supplements you take say a lot about you as a person. Here are some examples of the claims that people who take the following supplements believe, and the truth about them.

Testosterone Boosters

testosteroneThe Claim: Right now, you are weak. You are small. You are a tiny, pathetic wimp. Here, let me open that jar of sissy sauce for you. You make me sick. If you took Tribulus or ZMA powder or drank a D-Aspartic Acid Slurpee before every workout, you would be pumped to the max!

The Truth: No longer do you have to worry about all that stuff in your house that was unbroken, because now it’s a smashed heap thanks to your uncontrollable rage. Your hormones are all out of whack and your reproductive organs now look like something from a circus sideshow.

Warning: Testosterone may or may not cause head to spontaneously combust. Refer to photo on the left as evidence. 

Iron

The Claim: Dude, Iron is metal that your body needs to crank up your muscle mass. Do you want to be the bionic man or not? The reason you are so pale and flimsy is because you aren’t chewing on enough nails. Get this into your body and you’ll be able to catch a bullet. You’ll be Tony Stark, only way hotter and more yoked out.

The Truth: Unless you are a hard-core, dancing in the moonlight, praise-the-earth mother vegan, then you are getting enough iron from eating meat. Cramming more into your system will probably give you heart disease, which is great for your workouts if you like throwing clots, getting mouth to mouth from some sweaty beast at the gym, or the pick-me-up you’ll get when the EMT’s hit you with the defibrillators.

Creatine

creatine water weightThe Claim: You’re going to get massive! Huge! You’ll be ripped as hell and able to toss a Volkswagen 20 yards. You won’t fit through doors and will have to bust through walls like the Kool-Aid man. Oh Yeah! One day they will try to build a statue to honor your body but will run out of gold because you are too swole.

The Truth: You’ll gain weight all right, but most of it will settle right on your gut, your thighs, your glutes, and everywhere else. You’ll be able to start keeping spare change in your extra chins and injure innocent bystanders with the fat flap under your arm. You won’t bust through a wall, they will have to cut it open for the crane to pull you out of your house.

Glucosamine

The Claim: Your joints will be so damn healthy, they will last long after you are dead. You will have to sign a special form that allows them to harvest your joints to give them to sprinters in Kenya with bad knees. You’ll never again feel the pain of a hard workout and you’ll still be able to run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds when you’re 120.

The Truth: Glucosamine only works on arthritis, not joint pain from exercise. You know what works better? Don’t over train your joints. A picture of you dead lifting a Shetland pony might go viral on Instagram, but no matter how much glucosamine you’ve taken in, your knees are still going to ache.

Bitter Orange

The Claim: You will have to sign up for a 24 hour gym because you will have so much energy that you’ll have to burn it off lifting and sculpting your body to perfection. They’ll start charging you when you wear out all the equipment. When working out 7 days a week isn’t enough for you you’ll petition congress to add Pumpday onto the calendar.

The Truth: The only thing Bitter Orange is really good for is fighting fungal infections. It will help with jock itch and athlete’s foot, but there is no reason to eat it.

Glutamine

The Claim: You’ll be able to recover from a workout so fast that you will actually go back in time to before the workout and be ready to do it all over again! You’ll wake up with muscles in places you didn’t even work. Who are these pansies that have to work different muscle groups on different days? Pop some glutamine and do some squats.

The Truth: It will make your liver and intestines huge. Those organs love Glutamine and suck it up every chance they get. You’ll finally make all your modelling dreams come true when they put you on the cover of both Bloated Liver Monthly and Intestine Fancy.

supplements for women

Pre Workout Supplements for Women

Equality is a beautiful thing, but not when it comes to pre-workout supplements. When it comes to working out, men and women are very different and their bodies have very different needs. Women don’t usually want something that is going to increase their hair growth, drop their voice, or shrink their bust, which are precisely what some supplements will do. For women there are a range of better pre-workout supplement options that are ideal.

1. Whey Protein

Whey protein is important for everyone, but it is especially useful for a woman’s body pre-workout. It will help increase blood flow and supply unbonded proteins that can be used to build lean muscle.

For a woman’s body, whey protein often takes the place of mass-building supplements like creatine. Creatine can cause severe water-retention as well as bloating, which no woman enjoys, while whey protein just improves energy levels for longer workouts rather than strenuous ones that add bulk.

2. EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) and Caffeine

These two items should be used in conjunction for those that are looking to burn fat. EGCG comes from green tea extract and is one of the best things a woman can put into her body. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that it helps with fat oxidization so as you move you are shedding more weight.

EGCG to Combat the Jitters

The reason to combine EGCG with caffeine is to reduce the amount of caffeine you put in your body without sacrificing energy. When you combine approximately 300mg of EGCG with 200mg of caffeine you get a fat-burning energy boost that doesn’t have the same crash as taking caffeine alone. It also removes the caffeine jitters, so you won’t suddenly find your hands shaking halfway through a set.

3. Beta-Alanine

As you exercise your body produces hydrogen ions which raise the acidity in your muscles. The more acidic they become, the more tired and sore they are later. Taking Beta-Alanine can fight off these hydrogen ions.

The way Beta-Alanine works is through helping the body create more carnosine in your blood stream. Carnosine helps clean out hydrogen ions so by making more of it, your muscles won’t tire as quickly and won’t be nearly as sore down the line. This means longer workouts with higher intensity and less recovery time. Check out the video below for more information.

4. Calcium

Women suffer greatly from exercise-induced calcium loss. The harder you train, the worse this can become, which means taking a calcium supplement is of dire importance both in the short and long terms.

By taking it immediately before a workout your body has more calcium to help rebuild your bones as some is being used to keep your body in action. This will improve your overall bone density so that even over time you won’t suffer nearly as much calcium loss.

The true benefits of this will come up much later in life when the dreaded menopause beast looms large on the horizon and your risk of osteoporosis increases.

5. Iron

iron supplementsThe University of Texas did a study of some of the most impressive female athletes in the world. What they discovered that was even though these women were otherwise in peak physical condition, they were iron deficient.

Iron is imperative in moving oxygen to the muscles and to the brain. Anyone that doesn’t have sufficient iron will suffer from lethargy, moodiness, increased injuries, lower cognitive function, and loss of interest in exercise. These become especially pronounced in women who typically consume less meat and therefore less iron than men.

A study done by the U.S. Army found that female recruits who took iron supplements not only performed better athletically, they also had more energy and improved test scores showing it makes you stronger and smarter. You can’t lose.

What to Avoid

The biggest thing to avoid for most women is creatine. The reason for this is creatine builds muscle by working with testosterone. Since women don’t produce as much testosterone as men, they don’t get nearly as many benefits from creatine. Oh, but they do get almost all of the side effects, so there’s that bonus.

Women should also avoid D-Aspartic Acid, Tribulus Terristris, and anything else that claims it will help increase your testosterone levels. Even if your intent is to gain muscle mass, the effects on mood and hormonal composition can be dangerous.

Word to the Wise

Before you take any supplement or pre-workout protein drink, check the label. Even if they claim to be “correctly balanced for a woman” the company has often just slapped a pink label on a supplement meant for a man.

preworkout safety

Workout Supplement Cautions

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

DHEA is a common supplement used by bodybuilders because of its effect on testosterone and strength. DHEA levels drop beginning at the age of 30, causing decreased muscle mass and libido.

DHEA seems to be a great addition to a workout stack, but there are several reported side effects. Due to the fluctuation of testosterone levels, DHEA can cause psychological disturbances including anger and insomnia. Supplementing with DHEA can also cause gender-specific alterations such as shrinking of testes or unwanted hair growth.

DHEA is likely safe when taken as directed; however, it is important to contact a physician prior to use.

Vitamins C and E

VitaminC[1]These vitamins are found in most workout supplements acting as natural antioxidants. Both vitamins C and E offer many benefits including weight management support, healthy skin, and improved immune function.

It is safe to use vitamins C and E; however, it is much more beneficial to consume these vitamins through whole foods rather than supplements. Overdoing these supplements can result in fewer mitochondria meaning less energy and growth.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is a common ingredient in testosterone boosters and pre workout supplements. Tribulus claims state that the supplement increases testosterone levels, thus improving strength, muscle mass, and sex drive.

There have been no dangerous side effects reported from Tribulus supplementation, so it appears safe to consume. The problem with Tribulus is that there are very little studies to back up the claims stating this supplement supports testosterone or performance enhancement.

Yohimbe

Yohimbine is a popular supplement taken to increase energy and fat loss, which is why yohimbine is a common ingredient in weight loss and pre workout supplements.

This supplement needs to be treated just like other stimulants. Too many stimulating supplements can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, and insomnia. When using supplements in this category, it is always wise to start at the lowest dose possible to assess tolerance.

Effective and Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

Whey Protein Make sure you have some whey protein and some Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) like isoleucine, leucine, and valine. The whey is the same protein you needed when you were a child to help you grow big and strong while the BCAA’s help your body use the protein more effectively and reduce delayed muscle soreness.

While some workout supplements have approximately 900,000 ingredients, taking the time to make sure you know what each one is and what it does can not only give you a better workout, it can save your life. Also remember that any of the beneficial ingredients – such as caffeine – can be harmful if taken in improper amounts.

The Bottom Line

Taking supplements daily is an excellent way to feel better and work harder; however, some dietary supplements do have side effects. It is always recommended to speak with a doctor before taking any dietary supplement.

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power Rack

Build a Cheap Home Gym

The key to saving money on gym equipment is to be patient while checking different marketplaces: Amazon, Craiglist, and deal sites like slickdeals.com. Also check with local gyms if you want sturdy equipment at a lower price. All prices I mention are with shipping included and most prices are from when I purchased them around March-April of 2013. Prices will change, but the tactics used to find the lowest prices won’t.

Complete transcript available below.

Cheap Gym Equipment

These are the bare necessities for a free weight home gym.

Valor Athletics BD-7 Power RackValor BD-7 Power Rack

I got this for $497, but it’s currently $595 on Amazon. Use a historic price checking tool like keepa.com to ensure you’re not paying a record high price for your equipment.

Ceiling height can be an issue for power racks. The BD-7, with the rubber end caps removed, is 6’10”. My ceiling is 7’1″ however there’s an additional 9.5 inches between the slats in my ceiling, which is why I removed the drywall for the pullup bar.

Putting together the power rack is a chore, but this is a given based on the number of parts. I had a warped plastic spacer for the cable slide, but Valor shipped a replacement immediately. Jim Vanderbleek, the owner, answered my email and was very helpful.

Ironmaster Super Bench ($318)

Over $300 for a bench seems like a lot, but I wanted a sturdy bench where I don’t have to worry about the weight breaking the bench because I went with a cheap Marcy or Innova.

This Ironmaster Super Bench is rated at 1000 pounds. Most older used benches from a gym should work as well, but I went this one since it’s versatile and I don’t have enough room for two benches.

You can use it as a decline and incline, and there’s an optional attachment to hold your legs for lots of exercises like decline crunches, decline bench or skull crushers. This attachment was $72.

Gym size and floor padding

I’m working with about 170 sqare feet (13×13). You can probably get away with 11×11 or even less if you find efficient dumbbell racks.

Harbor freight slickdeal gym floor matsSquare pads – I have the bare minimum so as to not chip the floor if I drop weights. These half inch thick pads are 4 for $10 at harbor freight. Each one is 4 sq feet, so I needed about 10 packs ($100) to cover this floor. These or folded cardboard make variable lifts for the bench if you need to adjust its height for the spotting bars.

I say these are the bare minimum because they start to show wear and dents immediately. Also, they’ll separate in high traffic areas, such as in front of the power rack where you’ll have your bench.

If you need something thicker that won’t separate, Tractor Supply Company has 3/4 inch thick 6’x4′ pads for $43 each. These are about triple the cost per square foot, but seem to be worth it based on the reviews. I might just buy one for this high traffic area and use the cheaper squares for the rest of the gym.

200 lbs adjustable dumbbell kit $260

A lot of the cost was from shipping. If you find something like this locally, you can pay closer to $0.50/lb. However, I was impatient and my gym membership was about to expire.

You’ll notice that the bars are really long, but you’ll need this length when you get above 95lbs per dumbbell. If you wanted, you could get a second pair of spin-lock dumbbell bars that are either shorter or take some length off with a heavy duty reciprocating saw. Just DO NOT get the spin-lock bars from Wal-Mart (the Gold’s Gym brand). In fact, don’t get any gym equipment from Wal-Mart. It’s overpriced and low-quality.

olympic weight set with bar255 lb Olympic Weight Set with Olympic bar

Purchased as a special at Dick’s sporting goods for under $300, spring click collars for $10 from Amazon

If you’re power lifting and 255 lbs + an Olympic bar isn’t enough weight, then get another 2x 45lb Olympic plates. I paid too much for mine at $106 for 90 lbs. Buy these locally if you can since shipping inflates the price.

Calf block ($53). You can make your own for a fraction of the price if you have the time. Video tutorial here.

Dumbbells (~$610 assuming $0.50/lb used)

If adjustable dumbbells are too much of a pain, then you should start building your dumbbell collection. As with any weights, don’t buy these new, and buy locally unless you find a good deal on slickdeals.com or another deal site. For example, I found some company online that was selling the last of their dumbbell stock at a loss for a few of these.

Just buy what you need. If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75lbs then buy up to 65lbs and use the adjustable dumbbells for 75s. With heavier weight starting around 50 or 60lbs, you may only need dumbbell sets for every 10 lb increment instead of every 5 lbs.

You’ll find most of your dumbbell and dumbbell rack deals on craigslist. I purchased my racks for $90 total. The larger rack isn’t efficient space-wise; you won’t need as much room with a two or three tier rack.

Personally, I prefer heavier weights on the top rack, so the inefficiency doesn’t bother me. I used to hate picking up heavier dumbbells off the lowest rack at the local gym as it can lead to back injuries.

Total Cost

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.

Video Transcript

Having a home gym has a lot of advantages such as not having to drive to the gym, not having to wait for equipment on a busy day, and being able to listen to your music without headphones. But many of you might find it either space or cost prohibitive to have your own home gym. For space you really don’t need that much. The minimum is around 100 square feet for the equipment I’m going to be going over. As for my gym at home, I have 13 by 13 foot size, and that’s more than enough.

Now as far as cost, depending on the equipment you need, it’s anywhere from around $1200 to $2500. $1200 is the bare minimum, and the biggest difference for the fluctuation in range is whether or not you want to have sets of dumbbells or if you’re just buying one set of adjustable dumbbells.

Now the key to saving on gym equipment is to be patient, or checking Amazon, Craigslist, and deal sites like slickdeals.com. You’re also going to want to check the local gyms around you just to see, they’re going to have a lot of used equipment that’s in pretty good shape, even though it’s old. It’s going to be a lot better to get that than to get some chintzy new equipment that isn’t going to last you as long.

When I purchased my gym equipment it was around March or April of 2013. Prices are always going to change but the tactics you use to find those prices will not.

Now for any home gym you’re going to need a power rack. This is the Valor Athletics BD Seven power rack. I got this for around $500 on Amazon. Right now it’s between $500 and $600 on Amazon. But you’re going to want to use a historic price checking site such as keepa.com to check price history on Amazon items. You don’t want to pay a record high price for your item. So if this is on a record high currently, just wait a few months or few weeks if you have the patience.

Ceiling height can be an issue for any power rack. The Valor BD Seven with the rubber end caps removed it’s about six feet 10 inches. My ceiling is just over seven feet one inch. Now I took away some drywall and there’s an additional nine and half inches in between the wooden slats. This is so you can do pull ups and chin ups. So definitely measure your ceiling height before purchasing this if you’re in a basement or if you’re putting this on the first floor.

Putting together this power rack is a chore. But given the parts and the complexity, especially the pulley system in the back, I don’t see how it could be any easier. Just make sure you have the right tools for it. I did have a warped piece of plastic in the back for the pulley system, but Jim Vanderbleek, the owner of the Valor Athletics, answered my email and shipped out a replacement part immediately, so customer service is great for this.

You’re also going to need an Olympic weight set. It’s pretty much a necessity, along with an Olympic bar. I purchased these at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They were on sale for under $300 for 255 pounds, and then you can just get some clips at Amazon for around $10. If you need more than 255 pounds just get two additional 45 pound weights locally, either on Craigslist or at a local gym. It really doesn’t matter if they’re rusty, they’re just weights.

Also you’re going to need a calf block. This is a necessity for all your calf exercises since you’re not going to have any dedicated calf machines. You can do a variety of different exercises, but each one uses this. It’s about $50 on Amazon.

Next you’re going to want a bench. I have the Ironmaster Super Bench. It was around $320 on Amazon. I know over $300 is a lot just for a bench but it’s really versatile and you can do incline, decline, of course flat, but you really want to make sure you get a sturdy bench because this is rated 1000 pounds. You don’t want to get a bench that’s rated much lower than that.

You don’t want to get a cheap Marcy or a Nova bench. You can also see if your local gym has a bench as well. You might not be able to get one that does incline and decline. But that’s what I like about this one because if you have two benches, especially in a space as small as 13 by 13 or any smaller, you’re going to start to get a little crowded.

With the seat attachment you can do an incline. Then you can also get an additional decline attachment. This is around $70. Again, it’s all together around $400 for a bench but it’s definitely worth it. You might be able to find it cheaper but just put this on the end and then that’s your decline as well.

Now you’re also going to want some dumbbells. If you’re going to go the cheaper route just get a pair of adjustable dumbbells. These were on Amazon for around 260. A lot of the cost was from shipping so if you can find some adjustable dumbbells on Craigslist it’ll save a lot of money that way. Now the ones I got on Amazon, I’ll provide the links.

They’re pretty wide. So if these are a little too wide for you, you could also get a saw and saw some of it off. You just have one lighter weight set and then a heavier weight set. Whatever you do just don’t get adjustable dumbbell sets at Wal-Mart because they’re cheap pieces of crap. A piece just broke off, I hope you can see, but I mean you get what you’re paying for at Wal-Mart. Just don’t get any gym equipment period at Wal-Mart. Word of advice. You’re going to pay a lot more for a lot lower quality.

Now you’re going to want some padding so you don’t chip your gym floor. What I have right now is the bare minimum to protect your floor. It’s just about a quarter inch to half inch of these anti-fatigue mats you can get at a lot of hardware places. I got mine at Harbor Freight. These are four square feet each and they come at four to a pack at $10 a pack. So it’s a cost effective way to cover your gym floor. I needed about $100 worth of pads to cover this floor. But they start to show wear right away.

As you can see there a bunch of divots which it’s not a problem. But what is a problem is when they start to separate in the high traffic areas, like right in front of the power rack. You’re going to get some separation, even though you can easily puzzle piece them back together they always become separate again because you get the shift in the padding overtime. To really get it back correctly you’d have to lift the power rack and all the weights just to get it back together and it’s really not worth it.

Instead of these I recommend Tractor Supply Co. They have these large one to two inch rubber mats they use for horses, but they’re about 20 square feet each. It’s going to be more expensive but it’s worth in the long run because they’re not going to shift around like these do.

Now as for protection for your floor, the bare minimum is going to prevent dents, but there, even 10 pounds at a couple of inches, I mean you can see a dent, but it’s good for a start. But after experiencing this I’d recommend just going with the rubber mats from Tractor Supply right away.

Now if you find adjustable dumbbells too much of a pain and you’re willing to spend the extra money you can get a whole dumbbell set for around $600 assuming they’re used and at around 50 cents a pound. You can get great deals if you just search locally for these dumbbells at local gyms and especially on Craigslist. If you build them up overtime instead of trying to buy a whole set at once, you’ll probably get a better deal. Once you find a set and you’re able to talk someone down, negotiate for the whole set. Just buy what you need.

If the heaviest dumbbells you use are 75 pounds then buy 65 pounds and then use the adjustable dumbbells for the 75 because you’re probably not going to use your heaviest set as much as you are the others. Also for the heavier weights, space them in 10 pound increments instead of five pound increments like you do with the lower weights. I started at 10 pounds then go in five pound increments up to 60. And then from 60 on I’d just go in 10 pound increments. Then I use my adjustable dumbbells for the heaviest set and I also use it to fill in between. I don’t have a 65 pound set so I just use those when I need them.

Also for the racks you’re also going to want to get these used. My spacing isn’t very efficient with these. I have just one rack at the top here. The bottom isn’t being used. I actually prefer having the weights at the top rack. That way you’re not bending over and having to pick up the heavy weight and possibly hurt your back. Now with the lower weights I use the four-tier set. If you had a two or three-tier set here I mean you can make do with half the space for the dumbbells.

Now these pieces of equipment aren’t exactly necessary but they do help flesh out the variety of lifts you can do. You can get a preacher bench. This is a pretty cheap one. It was about $100 new on Amazon. I mean it’s really light, which is actually an asset because then you can pick it up and move it around. You can use it for a variety of purposes once you attach a T-bar row attachment here. That really helps out, the amount of back exercises you can do. This is all you really need for your preacher bench.

This adjusts and then both of the racks here adjust. Then you’re also going to want to get an EZ curlbar. There’s a bunch of other small items you’ll get which will just make things easier. The Valor power rack comes with a cable system so you’re going to want a variety of attachments such as the rope attachment. This is the triangle attachment. It’s a variety of gears. Valor comes with a chain so you can adjust the length of the attachments. This is for squats. That’s about it.

You might want a plate tree. It’s really up to you. The Valor comes with four plate racks so you might not, but if you have the space definitely get a plate rack.

As I mentioned earlier you’ll want to use a site like keepa.com to track your historic Amazon pricing. You want to purchase something when it’s in one of its price valleys. You can do this by setting up alerts with your email address so then it will email you once the price dips below the norm. For your local purchases such as barbells and dumbbells use CraigsList. Then for your equipment purchases set up some deal alerts on slickdeals.com.

Now let’s go over the bare minimums equipment needed for your home gym. First you want a power rack. That’s between $500 and $600. Your super bench, $400 with the attachment. Your Olympic weight set between $200 and $300. Your calf block depending on if you make it yourself or you purchase a metal version between $20 and $70 and your barbell clips. Your adjustable dumbbells. Get these regardless if you purchase the non-adjustable dumbbells or not. You’ll need these to fill in the gaps. These are between $120 and $240 depending on if you buy them locally or online.

So your total cost of the bare minimum home gym is between $1240 and $1610 whether or not you purchase them locally, used, or online. The break even for a $30 month gym is between three and half and four and a half years.

If you want to protect your floor get some mats. I highly recommend the Tractor Supply Co mats, a lot more expensive. But if you’re fine with piecing together puzzle board and putting them back together every now and then the Harbor Freight version is so much cheaper.

Your non-adjustable dumbbells set is going to be around $600, this assuming 50 cents per pound, used, getting them locally. For this set this is between this is from 10 pounds up to 85 pounds in five pound increments, except between 65 and 85 pounds, those are in 10 pound increments. Then if you need something in between those, just use your adjustable dumbbell set. You can get used racks for around $100.

T-bar bracket $40 online. Handles and barbell pads between $50 and $100, depending if you get those locally or not. Preacher bench around $100. You can probably get a used preacher bench locally for around the same price, but I like the online version just because I think the light weight is an asset in the home gym because it’s easier to move around. Your EZ curl bar is between $30 and $80, and your Plate tree between $30 and $45.

Total cost of the complete home gym is anywhere between about $2300 to $2900 and your break even for this is between 6.3 and eight years. Now it seems like it’s a long time to get your return on your investment, but this doesn’t factor in hard-to-cost benefits like gas and your time saved from not driving to the gym daily. Depending on how you value your time and how far the gym is this is going to vary a lot person to person. That should be it and good luck with your deal hunting.

front squat

Correct Squat Stance: How Wide, and How Low?

squat form

Here is an example of a shoulder-width stance.

Squats are a great exercise to strengthen the lower body and are fairly easy to incorporate into a workout.  However, as with most athletic and weight-lifting activities, form is incredibly important in completing the exercise correctly.  Improper form can result in injury or a lack of effectiveness, and no one wants to get hurt or waste his or her time working out incorrectly.

Squats can be particularly difficult to figure out the correct form because there is some debate over how to position the body.  Some people believe that a wider stance is more effective, while others think that the feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Aside from that, many disagree on how deep squats should go—is parallel good enough, or should a squatter try to get the deepest squat possible?  All of these conflicting opinions can be confusing, but squats are actually fairly easy to sort out.

Figuring out Squat Stance

wide stance squat

Here is an example of a wide-stance squat.

Positioning the legs in the first step in a successful squat.  First of all, stance depends on the physical composition of the person exercising.  Some people may be more comfortable with a wider stance, and women in particular may choose a wide stance or point their feet out more because their hips are turned out further.  Having a wide stance does not necessarily mean that the squat is being done incorrectly.

The most important part is choosing a stance that allows for proper form.  Keeping the feet closer to shoulder distance apart will work the legs and quads more, while a wider stance is better for working out the glutes.  Either of these choices is fine, depending on which area of the body you want to work harder.  The most important aspects are keeping the torso in the correct position, keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, tracking your knees and feet in the same direction, and making sure your knees do not extend past your toes.

How Low Should You Go?

While it is a popular opinion that “real” squats require lowering the body to the ground, this is not necessary for an effective squat.  The key with squats is to go below parallel—to have the line of the hips go beneath the line of the knees (unless you have a medical condition that prevents this).  Deeper squats are not necessarily more successful, and in some cases may be a detriment [1]. Once again, the key is keeping correct form.

Sacrificing form for a deeper squat means that the exercise is not as effective as it would be with a shallower squat and perfect form.  Letting the knees splay out or cave in, putting too much pressure on the toes, or bending the lower back can all result in injury.  It’s best to stay comfortable with your stance and depth, rather than trying for a wider or deeper squat and risking injury.

Getting the Most Out of Your Squats

When you have the correct form down, squats should be an effective way to build lower body strength and muscle.  Once comfortable with squats, you may want to look into supplementing with branched-chain amino acids to improve performance and muscle gains [2].  These supplements can give your workout an extra kick, and help you see better results faster.

You may also find yourself struggling with muscle soreness after an intense lower-body workout. Try taking a citrulline malate supplement to reduce muscle soreness or protein powder to support your muscles with proper nutrition.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16194981
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20601741