Work Out Longer and Harder with Citrulline Malate

The principle of overload is the key to improvement in any physical exercise. In the world of weightlifting and resistance training, you have to put your muscles under more load in order for them to grow. This can be done by increasing intensity, duration or frequency. So, suppose you want to improve your bench press by adding a few extra repetitions to each set, that’s going to take some extra energy and, if it’s intense enough, it will probably leave you sore the next day. Understanding these challenges, you want to be sure everything you do is as efficient as possible. In recent years a supplement called citrulline malate has gained in popularity for people looking to do just that – making each workout as efficient as possible by maximizing work capacity in their muscles and reducing post workout soreness. Is citrulline malate  powder legit or is it too good to be true?

Without dragging on the suspense too long, yes, citrulline malate powder is legit and has many benefits. There have been a variety of studies done that measure the effectiveness of citrulline malate for different types of exercise, but the general theme is around reducing fatigue and maximizing energy output in anaerobic[1] and aerobic[2] exercise. For an athlete at any level, from competitive to weekend warrior, reducing fatigue is a massive benefit.

 Research

shutterstock_97008326

The most popular study performed recently focused on men taking a single dose citrulline malate prior to being tested on the flat barbell bench press. It was a placebo study done over two periods. In one of the two periods, some participants were given a dose of citrulline malate and some were not. Each participant performed repetitions to fatigue over 8 sets at 80% of their one-rep maximum. For the group that received the citrulline malate, their results when supplemented were significantly higher than the placebo beginning at only the third set and increased with each set, topping off with 52% more reps on the 8th set. They simply weren’t getting tired as quickly when they used citrulline malate. The researchers also measured the soreness at 24 hours and 48 hours after the tests. They found a 40% decrease in soreness with the citrulline malate[1]. To sum it up plainly, the study showed that supplementing with citrulline malate powder enabled the participants to lift more and not be affected by the soreness that usually accompanies an intense workout.

How Citrulline Malate Powder Works

It’s believed that citrulline malate works in two ways. First, by increasing the ATP energy in your muscles. This simply gives you more energy to lift, run or perform whatever it is that your muscles are doing. Second, citrulline malate is also believed to increase blood flow to muscles, so it can clean out metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid (what causes the ‘burn’ during resistance training) more quickly[3].

Citrulline Malate Dosage

In the referenced study above, the participants were given 8g of citrulline malate. There was a side-effect of stomach discomfort, however, so you may want to start a bit lower and work your way up.

 Sources

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20386132

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12145119

[3] http://www.8weeksout.com/2011/09/27/citrulline-malate-%E2%80%93-your-key-to-winning-in-the-last-round/

Creatine Ethyl Ester HCL (CEE Creatine)

article-new_ehow_images_a06_2o_fo_measure-arm-size-inches-800x800What is Creatine?

Aside from whey protein, creatine is one of the most popular and widely recommended supplements for beginners. The reasons are understandable, creatine is extremely effective, relatively inexpensive and safe. Creatine supplement has been used for decades in the health and fitness community for it’s ability to increase work capacity and improve body composition. More recently, creatine has been recommended to improve brain function. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to using regular creatine such as water weight gain (which can cause loss of muscle tone and bloating) and upset stomach. Creatine ethyl ester HCL, also known as CEE Creatine, is a new form of creatine that is rising in popularity as a more effective alternative to creatine monohydrate powder.

Creatine Ethyl Ester Benefits

Before we look at the benefits of creatine ethyl ester over creatine monohydrate, let’s look at the benefits of increasing intramuscular creatine levels. First, creatine enables your body to perform more high intensity work. Supplmenting with creatine helps regenerate ATP, energy used by the body to fuel fast-twitch muscle fibers. Having plenty of creatine in the muscle provides energy quickly, so there’s less fatigue and longer duration of optimal performance [1]. If you’re lifting weights, that means you can lift more weight for a longer period of time – resulting in faster muscle and strength gains. Of course, sprinters or other athletes can also benefit greatly from improved fast-twitch muscle performance. For more cosmetic purposes, a benefit of creatine is increased muscle volume. With creatine supplementation, water moves to the muscle fibers and increases the size. However, since creatine monohydrate isn’t broken down by the body very efficiently, the water volumization isn’t always limited to the muscles. This is also where creatine ehtyl ester is superior to creatine monohydrate.

Creatine ethyl ester powder is a derivative of creatine[2]. It has been enhanced to improve absorption into the body, which is the main downfall of creatine monohydrate. Because of the poor absorption,  users of creatine monohydrate powder often have to use large amounts to get maximum effects. This becomes an issue immediately by causing disturbed digestion and other gastrointestinal problems. As you could imagine, it’s not fun working out when your stomach is upset. Creatine ethyl ester may also have better skeletel muscle uptake than creatiine monhydrate, so less is required to improve muscle function and there is less creatine in other parts of the body to cause some of the other side effects of creatine such as dehydration and bloating. In essence, you may be able to use less creatine ethyl ester to achieve even better results than you do with creatine monohydrate[2].

CEE Creatine Dosage and Timing

Creatine ethyl ester is best used as a pre-workout supplement. You want the levels of creatine in your muscles to be highest. You can also use it first thing in the morning and before bed for 24-hour recovery benefits. The dosage of creatine ethyl ester is significantly less than regular creatine. First, there’s no loading period required, so you can begin with the standard dose. The recommended daily dosage is only 3-6g, much less than 5-25g recommended for creatine monohydrate.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson181.htm

[2] http://www.realsolutionsmag.com/ezine/44/issue44b.asp

Phenibut for Anxiety and to Sleep Soundly

Anxiety and stress are facts of life.  Everyone encounters them, and everyone has to cope with them.  However, when anxiety becomes too much to bear, you might want to run to a psychologist and walk away with a prescription for an expensive and potentially dangerous anti-anxiety medication.  I am not saying to disregard the advice of a medical professional, but there are cheaper, effective alternatives available through the supplement market.  One of the most effective and most popular is Phenibut.

Phenibut is a derivative of the neurotransmitter GABA.  It was discovered in the USSR in the 1960s, and since then has been used as an anti-anxiety medication in the USSR, and sold as a supplement in the United States and Europe.  It is not officially recognized as a pharmaceutical in the USA and Europe, but it is in Russia.

What Does it Do?

When taken, Phenibut has been noted in numerous studies to have a sedative-like effect on humans.  It reduces stress, promotes general well-being, and promotes healthy sleep.  A short list of benefits follows:

–          Calmness

–          Reduction in Anxiety

–          Feelings of Euphoria

–          Alertness

–          Increase in Socializing

–          Increase in Libido

These effects are well-supported and you can expect them at the correct dosing.  Follow the label for dosing, and adjust as needed.

Concerns about Phenibut for Anxiety?

Be very careful taking Phenibut for anxiety. As mentioned before, it is sold as a pharmaceutical in Russia, and for good reason.  It can have adverse side-effects, and it is somewhat addicting if abused.  A quick ten-second Google search will yield stories of Phenibut withdrawal and bad experiences.  But there are an equal number of positive results.  The negative results seem to stem from over-doses of the supplement, or over-use.  Please, follow the label, and consult a physician if any adverse effects are encountered.

Phenibut is a powerful supplement.  It works, and shows great promise for eradicating anxiety and improving your overall quality of life.  You will feel alert, energized, social, and confident.  It is not a cure-all, but it is as close to one as exists.  Do yourself a favor and give it a try if you’ve struggled with anxiety in the past.  You may wind up sleeping well for the first time in a long time!

Why Beta Alanine is Underrated

rowing_machine

Recently I’ve been experimenting with my own pre-workout mixes because I wanted to give myself a break from DS Craze. While DS Craze pre workout supplement is great, and really gets me through my new 2-3 hour workouts, it’s loaded with stimulants and it’s generally a good idea to give oneself a break from stimulants here and there.

There are some ingredients that I’m not completely sold on, but try anyway, but the Beta Alanine supplement I got was amazing. There are a lot of people out there and videos on YouTube saying that beta alanine is worthless and overrated. A lot of people are referring to the face tingling they get that made Jack3d as popular as it was. Beta alanine isn’t beneficial for its stimulatory properties though.

So What is Beta Alanine?

When someone is in the gym and is using the row machine or stair stepper, they might feel their muscles burning. The burning sensation is from a buildup of lactic acid and limits our performance in the gym. Beta alanine supplement buffers the lactic acid buildup allowing for longer, more intense workouts.

Beta alanine is perfect for me because I like to train in the higher repetition range (8-15 repetitions per set in the weight room) and at the higher sets, the muscle burn is generally a limiting factor. I’ve also recently discovered the advantages to using beta alanine in cardio training, such as light jogging or even high-intensity interval training (basically sprinting with short rest periods of walking).

Unfortunately, beta alanine isn’t very beneficial for people who train for strength or in short intervals with long periods of rest in between. I believe it’s most beneficial if you’ve been doing something strenuous for at least 60 seconds (like jogging, but not pushing out a one-rep max).

It comes as a powder, and can be mixed into drinks. It dissolves in water, but the taste by itself isn’t great, so I would suggest adding some sort of flavor in. Also, if you take too much, then you’ll notice those face tingles, but they’re essentially harmless and nothing to worry about.

Vivazen High: Painkilling Qualities/History of Vivazen

A History of Vivazen

Before there was modern medicine, the human race turned to nature to find remedies for various ailments. The leaves of plants, roots, crops, and even fruits and vegetables have served man in order to survive. Even though we now have pharmaceuticals for major maladies, minor aches and pains can often be relieved with natural substances, such as those found in Vivazen.

The Natural Qualities of Vivazen

Vivazen Quick Facts

  • White Lotus: Sedation
  • White willow bark: Pain relief
  • Kratom: Stress and pain relief
  • Skullcap: Anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, analgesic
  • Boswellia: Relieves joint pain
  • Wild Dagga: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Vivazen is a natural painkiller. While many natural remedies come in capsule or powder form (more info below), Vivazen is a drink. Here are the active ingredients used to provide pain relief:

  1. White Lotus: This supplement is often used in teas and provides mildly sedation. This promotes a sense of calm and relaxation.
  2. White Willow Bark: This use of this plant dates as far back as the days of ancient Egypt. White willow bark is the original aspirin and was often used for pain relief in the 1800s
  3. Kratom: This plant is also often used in teas, and provides a euphoric effect as well as relieves stress and pain.
  4. Skullcap: Skullcap is the most modern ingredient in this supplement. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help with stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness.
  5.  Boswellia powder: This is an Ayurvedic supplement for relieving joint pain.
  6. Wild Dagga: This south African plant has anti-inflammatory properties and analgesic effects as well. It can also induce calm and relaxation.

So where’s the catch when it comes to Vivazen? The price. Two servings of  Vivazen will set you back $13.98, or $6.99 per serving. Prices improve somwhat if you buy in bulk, but even buying a 24 pack costs $125.98. That is still $5.25 per serving. So what is the budget savvy supplement fan to do? Make there own.

Natural Pain Relief Stack

Relax Stack Quick Facts

  • Rhodiola Rosea: Relieves stress and anxiety
  • Ashwagandha Powder: Anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and relieves joint pain
  • GABA: Relaxation and pain relief
  • Melatonin: Sedation and pain relief

So what are the main benefits of Vivazen? Sedation, pain relief (analgesics), stress relief, anxiety relief, joint pain relief, improved sleep, and anti-inflammatory properties. Luckily, this can all be achieved for much less.

  1. Rhodiola rosea powder: This is an herb and traditional chinese rememdy for stress and anxiety [1]
  2. Ashwagandha: This ayurvedic herb is used as an anti-inflamatory, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), and for joint pain [2, 3]
  3. GABA: GABA is an amino acid that provides relaxation and analgesic effects (pain relief) [4]
  4. Melatonin: Melatonin occurs naturally in the body, but it can be taken in supplement form for sedation, improved sleep quality, and pain relief [5].

And there you have it. This group of natural supplements has all the benefits of Vivazen.

Relax Stack and Physical Fitness

Relax Stack and Exercise

  • Reduces stress on muscles and joints to avoid injury
  • Promotes better sleep to allow your muscles to repair after exercise
  • Adequate sleep directly correlates to better energy levels
  • Relieves stressand anxiety to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone
  • Individuals who do not get enough sleep experience a drop in Human Growth Hormone, which is needed to repair muscle

So how does this benefit you? When it comes to fitness, your body takes on a certain amount of stress. You are bound to experience muscle pains and possibly joint pain as well. Sleep is also crucial to helping your body repair after intensive training. Having a stack that can help relieve stress both mentally and physically as well as relieve pain is immensely helpful for physically active individuals.

Sleep Supplements

So why the focus on sleep as well?

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your energy levels decrease, the levels of your stress hormones increase, human growth hormone (HGH) production decreases, and you increase the severity and likelihood of age-related disorders [6]. High levels of stress hormones have been linked to weight gain [7]; add that to reduced energy and you have a serious issue on your hands. Plus, the reduced HGH is a major issue as it is needed to repair muscle tissue. [8, 9]

Sources

  1. http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2007/dec2007_report_nutraceutical_01.htm
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1211/146080800128735863/abstract
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16713367
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17175808
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23195393
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10543671
  7. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/can-stress-cause-weight-gain
  8. http://hr.unm.edu/articles.php?article=sleep-and-recovery-from-exercise
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2657963

L-Arginine Supplement

winter-running

Similar to L-Citrulline, L-Arginine is an essential amino acid which people take mostly as a vasodilator (increasing the size of blood vessels for that “pump” that those desire in the gym). I’ve put Arginine in my pre-workout mixes before and I noticed increased vascularity and felt like I was not getting fatigued as easily. It wasn’t a magical compound that will make me the next Michael Phelps, but it did make a noticeable difference, especially near the end of my workout.

Citrulline Malate VS L-Arginine

It should be known, however, that L-Arginine supplement on its own has pretty poor bioavailability as most of it is metabolized in the liver. What does happen to make it to the muscles and tissue is very beneficial. Actually, it’s interesting because L-Citrulline is shown to convert to L-Arginine in the kidneys, so if you are looking for the benefits of L-Arginine, take Citrulline malate powder instead – you’ll get all the benefits of L-Arginine, but will also get ‘more’ Arginine benefit (since it won’t be broken down early on in digestion).

L-Arginine supplements are mostly for those wanting to do more cardio or lift longer in the gym. I also take Arginine (actually Citrulline) when I’m sick because apparently the body needs more of the amino acid when It’s sick/diseased. It’s also supposedly beneficial in diabetics. Because Arginine is such an effective vasodilator, it is often a good solution for those who have poor bodily circulation (cold hands and feet, for example). Of course, it would be even more beneficial to just exercise (as exercise on its own acts as a superior vasodilator) but for those days when you just don’t feel like getting up, Arginine is a healthy alternative. Apparently people even take Arginine during cold winter months just to bear the cold weather a little better.

The next time I need to scrape ice off my windshield or my fingers are just too cold to play the piano, I’ll take some L-Arginine supplement and let my blood flow like a big, warm river – but for now, I’ll save it for the gym.

Icariin Extract: Horny Goat Weed

Horny Goat Weed

I’ve been involved in the fitness community for some time now, and I often hear of people taking a supplement called Horny Goat Weed (also known as icariin). At first I just shrugged this off as some weird-sounding trying-to-hard-to-sound-cool product put on the market which promises to build lean muscle and burn lots of fat (hah! If only it were that easy). Then I found out that it has been used for years in traditional Chinese medicine, and has been shown in clinical studies to boost testosterone.

It’s hard to take supplements that claim to boost testosterone seriously because even the best non-prescription testosterone booster will not do much in terms of muscle gains. If you want testosterone boosters to actually make you bigger/leaner/meaner, you’ll need to see your doctor and get a prescription for testosterone. While boosters such as DAA (D Aspartic Acid) have been shown to increase testosterone and weight in humans, its negligible compared to what people expect to see.

Horny Goat Weed as an Aphrodisiac

However, there are some non-negligible benefits to Icariin supplements as well. It’s clinically shown to increase bone mineral density, and is also known to be a PDE5 inhibitor (the same mechanism of Viagra). Basically, the nickname Horny Goat Weed is appropriate in that it acts as a good aphrodisiac. So perhaps, if you’re not looking for a boost in the gym, but are looking for a boost in the bedroom, Icariin is for you.

Why I Use Craze Pre Workout Supplement

close-up-of-a-young-man-working-out-with-a-dumbbell

I’m typically a fan of saving money and creating my own pre-workout mixes, but lately DS Craze has been an exception. Because of my busy schedule, I typically keep a container of Craze in my back seat and on my way home from work I mix a scoop in my water bottle and chug away. By the time I get home and change for the gym, I can feel the energy coursing through my veins and I’m ready to get stronger.

Craze Pre Workout Benefits and Review

I should mention as part of this Craze pre workout review, it is also wonderful because of its appetite-suppressing effects. Many users report that Craze causes a loss in appetite and therefore a loss in weight. Though not marketed as a diet supplement, there are various theories as to why Craze has this particular characteristic. It could be the Citramine which has the same active ingredient as synephrine (which acts as an appetite suppressant) or it could be the Dendrobium (on the ingredient list on the label of Craze, apparently a plant). The last potential theory is that it contains PEA (Phenylethylamine) which for some suppresses appetite. This is great for people like me who weight train fasted and are trying to lose a couple extra pounds of fat. By the time I finish work, I’m hungry enough to eat a large pizza, but the Craze fends off this hunger feeling until after I finish lifting. Also, because I take it fasted, the stimulant effects affect me to a much higher extreme than if I was taking it on a full stomach.

One thing I should mention is that while Craze pre workout supplement is a good way to feel ready to hit the gym, a lot of people feel it is lacking compared to a lot of products available on the market. One large ingredient that is missing from the new blend of Craze is DMAA. It’s like caffeine but stronger yet shorter-lasting – similar to the saying “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. If you add 25-50mg of DMAA to your Craze, you’ll feel like you can lift every weight in the gym, and then some. I think the reason DS did not include DMAA in Craze is because without the DMAA, there is hardly a crash. I personally hardly feel a crash and can take my Craze in the morning (if I’m lifting in the morning) and the rest of the day will be virtually unaffected after the effects wear off. If I were to add DMAA for a morning workout, I would surely crash by lunchtime and feel the need to take a nap.

Why Amino Acids are Good for You: Part 3: Amino Acid Imbalances

healthy-34

I have recently been interested in learning more about supplementing with amino acids and have found that amino acids have large amounts of benefits, but there is one potential side-effect known as an amino acid imbalance, meaning that by supplementing with additional amino acids, some essential amino acids that come from a healthy diet might pass through the body without being absorbed properly.

A paper written specifically on amino acid imbalance brings up a troubling observation: “There have been relatively few studies of a quantitative nature on the effects of amino acid imbalances. In fact, much of our information about such imbalances has been obtained from studies designed for other purposes” (1). It also appears that most of these studies are from the 1950’s, but are still likely valid.

Amino Acid Imbalance

I asked one of my friends about amino acid imbalances and he told me that, as far as he’s aware, an amino imbalance is equivalent to an amino acid deficiency. He said as long as we get the essential amino acids through diet/supplementation then the body will remain healthy. If there is an imbalance, like excess amino acids, the body will basically just pee them out (similar to vitamins). I suppose this raises an issue with kidney function (vitamin toxicity), but I’m assuming the amount of amino acids we consume is negligible.  Don’t worry, your amino acids won’t kill you.

Sources:

  1. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/68/3/405.full.pdf

Why Amino Acid Supplementation is Good for You: Part 2: L-Tyrosine

healthy-person-300x191

In an earlier discussion, I was talking about why Amino Acids are generally awesome (BCAAs specifically), but I wanted to read more about tyrosine supplements specifically. I’ve personally supplemented plenty of L-tyrosine in the past for my CILTEP stack (chemically induced long-term potentiation) as my precursor to dopamine.

The first step towards learning about tyrosine supplement is learning what it is, and what it’s for. L-tyrosine is actually a precursor of Adrenaline. Put simply, Phenylalanine turns into Tyrosine which turns into L-DOPA which turns into dopamine, and finally the dopamine turns into adrenaline. Secondly, l-tyrosine promotes an amine group called Catechol, which is shown to be anti-oxidant and neuro-protective in the brain. So far, as far as I’m aware, there’s nothing intrinsically negative to be said about l-tyrosine.

According to examine.com, there’s a genetic disease known as Phenylketonuria in which “body fails to properly metabolize the amino acid ‘phenylalanine’, and said amino acid can build up to toxic levels”. Remember how earlier I mentioned that phenylalanine converts into tyrosine in the body? Well it’s possible that the genetic disease, Phenylketonuria, could exist via tyrosine deficiency, and supplementing might be the solution (1).

I wanted to learn more specifically about the general problems with amino acids, so I continued reading. After a while of searching, I found something known as “amino acid imbalances”. This is the claim that by supplementing the body with amino acids, the body might not absorb the normal amount of food-derived amino acids in a regular, healthy diet. This sounds bad in theory, but it’s something I need to investigate further.

Sources:

  1. L-Tyrosine. Kurtis, Frank. 2012.
  2. http://examine.com/supplements/L-Tyrosine/