By Dwayne Jackson, Ph.D.
Being a bodybuilder or strength athlete today puts you at an extreme advantage over those who were on an equal quest for size in days gone by. Instead of relying on crude protein concoctions and severe overeating to gain mass, like they did in the old days, we now have a remarkable array of mass building compounds to choose from. As good as this is, however, it also creates more possibilities to go in the wrong direction. We need to be smart about our choices, not fall for the hype, and look for science-based ingredients from reputable companies to be sure you are getting only the best. Some compounds are pure garbage, some show potential but are unproven, some are fairly effective, and a handful are enormously effective mass-building powerhouses. This article separates the meat from the potatoes, by highlighting in great detail what most experts consider to be the top 5 science-based muscle-building compounds our industry has to offer. They appear in no particular order, but starting out with the most potent protein source out there seems like a good start.
The number one supplement to have in your arsenal is high quality whey protein. You may be saying, â€œwow tell me something I donâ€™t knowâ€, however, you would not believe the number of bodybuilding newbies who would rather buy some new and expensive â€œmiracle formula,â€ when whey protein has been proven time and time again as a no-fail anabolic support agent. The importance of high quality protein in bodybuilding cannot be overstated.
As we know, whey protein is available in a number of different forms (e.g., whey concentrate, isolate, hydrolysate, etc.). Thereâ€™s no sense going into each of these because my main focus is the extremely anabolic benefits of Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH). Whey protein hydrolysate is commonly processed from another very potent protein, whey protein isolate (WPI), whereby enzymatic degradation (hydrolysis) of the WPI is carried out to â€œpre-digestâ€ the protein so that it contains peptide fractions (short chains of amino acids). The result is a product that contains a large number of low molecular weight (MW) peptide fractions. High-quality products have been well hydrolyzed and have an average MW of around 500 Daltons. It should be noted that these di- and tri-peptides make for very rapid absorption and have scientifically proven to shunt more water into muscle cells (cell volumizing effect), speed recovery, support anabolism, and support immune function. Users of high quality hydrolyzed whey protein report almost immediate muscle hardness, a result of the powerful cell volumizing effect that is unique to this form of protein.
The di- and tri-peptides in WPH makes it more readily absorbed than free-form amino acids and non-hydrolyzed proteins. Whey is an ideal starter protein for hydrolysis because it is a concentrated source of essential amino acids. This results in a superior profile of di- and tri-peptides, producing the greatest hyperaminoacidaemia, which means a rapid increase in branched-chain amino acids into the blood, scientifically proven to augment protein synthesis and recovery. The remarkably greater rate of absorption of di- and tri-peptides compared to amino acid cocktails is a unique result of the body being a better transporter of small peptides than an amino acid carrier system, thus minimizing competition between substrates. It is well established that the ingestion of hydrolyzed whey protein immediately after exercise results in the highest levels of blood amino acids, which are associated with augmented nitrogen utilization and elevated anabolic state.
Additionally, when whey protein hydrolysate is ingested along with high-glycemic (i.e., fast) carbohydrates, the result is a synergistic increase in the rate of insulin release, again augmenting the anabolic cascade. A recent study investigated whether the hormonal response to feeding with protein solutions is influenced by the nature and degree of protein fractionation, and examined insulin and glucagon responses after intake of protein solutions containing the same amount of nitrogen in human subjects. They observed that peptide hydrolysates elicited a peak insulin response that was two and four times greater than that evoked by milk protein and glucose solutions respectively. Furthermore, the insulin response correlated to how fast the amino acids entered the blood, especially leucine, isoleucine, valine, phenylalanine and arginine. Thus, whey protein hydrolysate-based supplements with high amounts of these amino acids are superior anabolic activators.
It should be stressed that timing is key when using WPH supplements. Being the fastest absorbed protein product available, whey protein hydrolysate ingestion results in the most abundant increase in circulating amino acids over a two-hour window compared to â€œintact proteinsâ€. Thus, drink 25-30 grams of high-quality WPH as soon as you finish your workout, this will enable you to immediately take advantage of the post-exercise anabolic environment and truly maximize muscle growth.
The essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine share a unique branched chain structure, and thus, are transported and metabolized by common means. One of the key properties of BCAAs is their catabolism by skeletal muscle after bouts of heavy exercise. Based on this fact alone, it becomes apparent why BCAA supplementation is beneficial to bodybuilders.
In skeletal muscle, leucine is key in turning protein synthesis into overdrive through a number of different mechanisms. First, leucine is scientifically proven to increase highly anabolic insulin secretion. At the molecular level, recovery from resistance and endurance exercise primarily relies on supplemental dietary leucine in order to increase the (much needed) intracellular leucine concentration, which activates mTOR and the initiation factors eIF4E and eIF4G. Protein synthesis is dependent on the activation of these molecular factors.
Applied research supports supplementation of BCAAâ€™s. For example, during prolonged aerobic exercise, leucine is at the mercy of oxidation and there is solid evidence that leucine supplementation promotes anabolism in skeletal muscle long after exercise is completed. In a recent placebo controlled study it was found that six weeks of dietary leucine supplementation significantly improved endurance performance and upper body power in athletes.
Recently, there have been numerous reported benefits to BCAA supplementation in bodybuilders. For example, the effect of BCAA supplementation on muscle soreness and fatigue has been recently investigated, whereby, squatting exercise (7 sets of 20 reps) was used to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in males and females. On training day, the subjects ingested either a BCAA cocktail or a placebo approximately 15 min prior to exercise. The authors reported that 5 grams of BCAAs (Ile:Leu:Val = 1:2.3:1.2) significantly reduced the duration and severity of DOMS and fatigue in both males and females for days after exercise. Molecular level support comes from a recent study that illustrated BCAAs ability to activate the anabolic signaling pathways via mTOR and p70 S6 kinase in human muscle in the recovery period after exercise. So it is obvious that BCAAs are not only food for muscles, but also important â€œswitchesâ€ for turning on anabolism.
In a supporting applied study, investigators observed increases in physical performance in strength athletes due to decreases in muscle damage during training and increases in skeletal muscle protein synthesis. Thus, BCAAs appear to be integral in the modulation of peripheral fatigue. Some very intriguing research has recently illustrated a role for BCAAs in the regulation of central fatigue. Of particular interest, a significant decrease in the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) with leucine supplementation has been reported in strength and endurance athletes. Supporting evidence comes from a recent report that showed increases in the release of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), which plays a role in fatigue (5-HT affects mood, arousal, and sleepiness). During exercise BCAAs are metabolized (as discussed above) and plasma levels decrease. As exercise progresses, plasma free fatty acids become elevated which promotes increases in free tryptophan (they both competitively bind to plasma albumin). This throws off the free tryptophan to BCAA ratio and enables enhanced tryptophan uptake into the brain. 5-HT synthesis is very sensitive to changes in plasma tryptophan levels and the transport of tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier. It has been hypothesized that ingestion of BCAAs balance the increased levels of tryptophan, thus, decrease the transport across the blood-brain barrier, and subsequently decrease 5-HT synthesis leading to delayed fatigue. This general hypothesis is supported by a study where BCAA supplementation was given during 60 min of heavy cycling exercise. The plasma concentration ratio of free tryptophan to BCAAs increased by 45% during exercise and by 150% 5 min after exercise in the placebo trial but remained unchanged or even decreased when BCAAs were ingested. Subjects reported 7% lower ratings of perceived exertion and 15% lower ratings of mental fatigue at a given work rate, compared to placebo. From these data it should be clear that BCAA supplementation is well supported as a true muscle-builder with major benefits during and post-exercise.
You may think that the benefits of creatine supplementation were formed from a 20th century postulate. Amazingly, it has been a known and studied compound as far back as the 1830â€™s. By the early 1900â€™s, scientists began extracting creatine from meat and investigating its potential as a performance enhancing aid. The Soviets were investigating creatineâ€™s potential as early as the 1970s, but the real scientific explosion occurred in the 1990â€™s, when creatine monohydrate was introduced to the commercial markets in the US and Great Britain.
Creatine is a non-essential substance that is produced by the body and taken in from dietary meat sources. It is synthesized from arginine, methionine, and glycine in two-steps and our predominant creatine pool is in skeletal muscle, where about 40% is free creatine and where phosphocreatine makes up the other fraction. The average 150 lb person has a pool of about 120-140g of creatine on board and loses about 2g of creatine through urination per day. There are reams of well-documented science to back up creatineâ€™s muscle building potential, which comes as no surprise because it has been one of the few true powerhouse mass builders used for years now. Here is a more scientific perspective of its actions. First, creatine monohydrate ingestion increases phosphocreatine stores in skeletal muscle, which provides support to rapidly phosphorylate ADP to ATP under repeated powerful and short (<10 sec) duration contractions. This results in better performance with shorter rest periods, an effect that is of primary benefit to bodybuilders and power athletes. Second, creatine monohydrate supplementation leads to increased phosphocreatine stores. The phosphorylation of ADP requires phosphocreatine and stimulates phosphofructokinase (rate limiting enzyme for glycolysis); this increases the rate of glycolysis and more ATP (i.e., energy) is produced. This effect is beneficial for athletic performances that last from 10 seconds to over 2 minutes. Creatine augments the ability for high-energy phosphate to diffuse between mitochondria and myosin heads, thus enhancing cross-bridge cycling and tension production. Creatine supplementation is associated with skeletal muscle hypertrophy and increased protein synthesis, based on its ability to create an osmotic gradient, whereby water is shunted into muscle cells (which is a signal for anabolism). At this point, you should be convinced that if you are not currently using creatine monohydrtate, then you should start. Creatine comes in many forms, but the tested and true â€œgold standardâ€ is high-quality premium grade micronized creatine monohydrate. Based on current data, the best way to supplement creatine monohydrate is by including a one-week loading phase at approximately 0.3g/kg (body weight) per day followed by maintenance at approximately 0.1g/kg (body weight) per day. During the loading phase, split the daily dose into approximately 5g servings to be ingested throughout the day, making certain that one dose is ingested 30 minutes before your workout and another 4-6 hours after post-workout. During the maintenance phase, ingest one serving prior to- and post-workout. As with all supplements make sure you use a high quality creatine monohydrate product (preferably German premium grade.) If you want to completely exploit the benefits of creatine supplementation, then look for products that contain maltodextrin, and arginine AKG to increase creatine transport into muscle cells.
Since the prohormone ban, supplement scientists have worked day and night to find compounds that naturally augment testosterone production. Natural testosterone boosters have been around for centuries, but their primary use was to increase libido and virility. One of the most effective herbal formulations comes from extracts of Bulgarian Tribulus terrestris (not to be confused with the crude non-standardized forms of this herb). The steroidal saponins derived from Tribulus terrestris L. (Zygophyllaceae) are considered to be the factor responsible for the biological activity of most value to bodybuilders. This activity depends on the concentration and the composition of active saponins. For our purposes, building mass etc, the most important saponin is called protodioscin.
Protodioscin, which is classified as a furostanol saponin, is the active ingredient extracted from Tribulus terrestris that is responsible for its testosterone boosting potential. Research has shown that administration of Tribulus terrestris to humans and animals improves libido and spermatogenesis. More importantly, protodioscin has been shown to augment the levels of testosterone, leutinizing hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone, dihydrotestosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate. Although research has been somewhat conflicting in the area of Tribulus and its hormone boosting potential, the main issue seems to be a discrepancy in the potencies of Tribulus across studies, and not its androgen boosting capability.
In other words, the studies that have shown the most impressive anabolic potential were the ones that used legitimate bio-active tribulus with high concentrations of protodioscin. The importance of the standardization of the tribulus simply can not be understated. A tribulus formula with less than 15% protodioscin and 40% total steroidal saponins, just does not have enough bioactive potency to deliver meaningful results. Recent studies really seem to underscore this fact. Recently, a double-blind trial was conducted on ProSourceâ€™s own AndroTest which is generally considered the most potent tribulus product on the market and the results were nothing short of remarkable. In this study, subjects using AndroTest experienced increases in total testosterone as high as 275% and increases in free testosterone as high as 218% over baseline. This means that some subjects experienced nearly a three fold increase in testosterone levels. To put this in perspective, increases of this magnitude exceed what is seen using straight premium testosterone at therapeutic dosages. Equally impressive is the fact that the increased testosterone levels after two weeks use were maintained at the subsequent measurement points of the study. This is especially important because it is sustained increases in testosterone that can lead to increased muscle gains.
Much like virtually all herbal supplements, the key to the effectiveness of tribulus clearly lies within the geographical region itâ€™s grown in and the standardization level it is processed to. Unfortunately the vast majority of tribulus products on the market are not standardized, are grown in the wrong regions, and yield negligible active steroidal saponins and thus have little to no effect. The cost of using highly standardized Bulgarian tribulus for manufacturers can be up to 10 times the cost of using the cheaper crude forms of the herb. However, the difference in the end result is truly night and day. A true highly active Bulgarian tribulus such as that used in AndroTest represents one of the most effective natural compounds available today for increasing test levels.
Beta-alanine is a non-proteinogenic amino acid, meaning that it is â€œnon-protein-buildingâ€. In meat eaters its presence is speculated to occur from the hydrolysis of di-peptides in the diet. It is also synthesized in the liver as the final metabolite of uracil and thymine degradation. Beta-alanine is one precursor (the other is histidine) to carnosine synthesis, and is said to be rate limiting. Thus, it has garnered much research interest based on its potential to elevate skeletal muscle carnosine levels. Elevating carnosine has been hypothesized as beneficial to performance based on: 1) animals who have a great capacity for prolonged high intensity exercise have high intramuscular carnosine levels; and 2) carnosine levels are relatively higher in fast-twitch versus slow twitch muscle fibers. These two factors bolster the role of carnosine in maintaining normal pH. In fact, the di-peptide carnosine has been unequivocally shown to buffer skeletal muscle pH.
Additional support for the importance of carnosine in fast twitch fibers comes from data showing that the carnosine content in vastus lateralis is elevated in resistance-trained bodybuilders. Dietary supplementation with beta-alanine for 2-4 weeks has been shown to increase vastus lateralis carnosine concentration by more than 60%. In a recent performance based study, male subjects underwent periodic cycling capacity (max) tests with either beta-alanine supplementation or a placebo. It was found that muscle carnosine increased 58.8% after 4 weeks and 80.1% after 10 weeks of supplementation. No increase was observed in the control group. Total work completed was 13% greater with 4 weeks beta-alanine ingestion and 16% greater after 10 weeks supplementation. There was no change in total work completed in the control group. The increase in total work done correlated with the increase in vastus lateralis carnosine levels. More support comes from a study illustrating that 4 weeks of beta-alanine supplementation improves power output at lactate threshold.
Recent evidence clearly shows that combining creatine and beta-alanine results in significant increases in strength and lean body mass and decreases in body fat percentage. We hope that this brief update on the current muscle-building supplements aids you in your choices. You should note that we have chosen supplements that stack very well together and provide synergistic benefits when taken simultaneously throughout the day. If you follow the very simple guidelines given herein you will definitely maximize your anabolic potential and get closer to your ultimate goal.
Bemben MG & Lamont HS (2005). Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: recent findings. Sports Med 35, 107-125.
Blomstrand E (2006). A role for branched-chain amino acids in reducing central fatigue. J Nutr 136, 544S-547S.
Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, & Kohnke R (2006). Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr 136, 269S-273S.
Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Ek S, Ekblom B, & Newsholme EA (1997). Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on perceived exertion during exercise. Acta Physiol Scand 159, 41-49.
Borsheim E, Tipton KD, Wolf SE, & Wolfe RR (2002). Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 283, E648-E657.
Crowe MJ, Weatherson JN, & Bowden BF (2006). Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 97, 664-672.
Curzon G, Friedel J, & Knott PJ (1973). The effect of fatty acids on the binding of tryptophan to plasma protein. Nature 242, 198-200.
Demant TW & Rhodes EC (1999). Effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance. Sports Med 28, 49-60.
Dincheva D, Jandab B, Evstatievac L, Oleszekb W, Aslanid MR & Kostova I. Distribution of steroidal saponins in Tribulus terrestris from different geographical regions. Phytochemistry. 2007 Aug 22; Epub ahead of print.
Gautsch TA, Anthony JC, Kimball SR, Paul GL, Layman DK, & Jefferson LS (1998). Availability of eIF4E regulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis during recovery from exercise. Am J Physiol 274, C406-C414.
Haussinger D, Roth E, Lang F, & Gerok W (1993). Cellular hydration state: an important determinant of protein catabolism in health and disease. Lancet 341, 1330-1332.
Harris RC, Tallon MJ, Dunnett M, Boobis L, Coakley J, Kim HJ, Fallowfield JL, Hill CA, Sale C, & Wise JA (2006). The absorption of orally supplied beta-alanine and its effect on muscle carnosine synthesis in human vastus lateralis. Amino Acids 30, 279-289.
Henderson SA, Black AL, & Brooks GA (1985). Leucine turnover and oxidation in trained rats during exercise. Am J Physiol 249, E137-E144.
Hill CA, Harris RC, Kim HJ, Harris BD, Sale C, Boobis LH, Kim CK, & Wise JA (2006). Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity. Amino Acids.
Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Kang J, Mangine G, Faigenbaum A, Stout J. Effect of creatine and B-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 16, pp. 430-446, 2006.
Layman DK (2002). Role of leucine in protein metabolism during exercise and recovery. Can J Appl Physiol 27, 646-663.
Mesa JL, Ruiz JR, Gonzalez-Gross MM, Gutierrez SA, & Castillo Garzon MJ (2002). Oral creatine supplementation and skeletal muscle metabolism in physical exercise. Sports Med 32, 903-944.
Norton LE & Layman DK (2006). Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr 136, 533S-537S.
Shimomura Y, Yamamoto Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Murakami T, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, & Mawatari K (2006). Nutraceutical effects of branched-chain amino acids on skeletal muscle. J Nutr 136, 529S-532S.
Tallon MJ, Harris RC, Boobis LH, Fallowfield JL, & Wise JA (2005). The carnosine content of vastus lateralis is elevated in resistance-trained bodybuilders. J Strength Cond Res 19, 725-729.
Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, Doyle D, Jr., & Wolfe RR (1999). Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol 276, E628-E634.
Zoeller RF, Stout JR, Oâ€™kroy JA, Torok DJ, & Mielke M (2006). Effects of 28 days of beta-alanine and creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic power, ventilatory and lactate thresholds, and time to exhaustion. Amino Acids.
Get the inside scoop on these major contributors to the industry, plus an honorable mention for a few others.
For every reputable sports supplement on the market, there are many more that are pure junk. Unfortunately, far too many companies have placed greed and profit over quality and performance. This article is designed to reveal what we consider to be some of the best companies in the industry. This list of the Top 10 is in no particular order and also includes an honorable mention section for further reference. Your favorite brand may or may not be included here. And of course, these results can be debated. But one thing is for certain, each of these companies, at one time or another, have made significant contributions to the extraordinary world of bodybuilding, either in one or two specific categories or in the industry as a whole. And for that, every athlete and supplement user can be thankful!
MAXIMUM HUMAN PERFORMANCE (MHP) (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1997
MHP was born of a fortuitous friendship between Gerard Dente “world-class competitive bodybuilder” and Vincent Giampapa, MD, a renowned expert on hormone supplementation for athletic performance and founder of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).
The company’s first product was Secretagogue-One, a clinically proven formula that continues to be one of the top HGH-boosters in the nation. The success of Secretagogue-One was followed by further innovations and accomplishments that cover a full array of sports nutrition categories.
MHP now celebrates its 10-year anniversary and rise to the top as “The Breakthrough Brand of the Year” in this year’s 2008 Buyer’s Guide.
Giampa’s staff of top-flight sports science researchers and physicians, working closely with Dente, has made MHP one of the most dynamic forces in the sports nutrition industry. As President, Dente directs MHP’s entire operation toward technologic superiority, quality, service and value. Dente was featured on the cover of ProSourceâ€™s 1999 Performance Nutrition Buyers Guide, and MHP now celebrates its 10-year anniversary and rise to the top as “The Breakthrough Brand of the Year” in this year’s 2008 Buyers Guide.
Dente’s personal passion for bodybuilding and nutrition has driven the company to the heights it now commands. He is continually seeking new ways to enhance muscle development and athletic performance. Even though he no longer competes, Dente is still a bodybuilder at heart, and having just turned 40, he depends more than ever on high-tech supplementation to keep in shape. His product ideas are often triggered by a desire to maximize his own performance and physique.
Apart from his duties as President, Dente is an accomplished author, writing authoritative articles in numerous fitness magazines. He recently completed his magnum opus titled Macrobolic Nutrition, which is a distillation of Dente’s life experience and knowledge in sport and nutrition supplementation. MHP has sponsored numerous physique and power sport champions, such as Victor Martinez, Joe Mazza, Brian Siders, Ryan Kennelly, Rob Luyando, and Phil Pfister (now World’s Strongest Man). Notably, in most instances these stars were taken-on before they had reached their zenith. MHP literally helps guide them to the top. As Dente remarks, “we take great pride in helping build our champions, not buying them.”
MHP is best-known for its outstanding contributions to two product categories: nitric oxide (NO) boosters, and testosterone boosters.
In 1999, the company introduced TRAC: the very first product to reliably increase peripheral NO levels for circulatory and anabolic enhancement. The product was far ahead of its time, employing a patented time-release delivery technology. TRAC literally led the entire field into the (now-huge) NO category.
This success was followed by the release, in 2001, of T-BOMB, the first of its kind in this important subcategory.
As if that were not enough, MHP bested itself in 2004 with the release of T-BOMB II , a 5-stage testosterone optimizer and complete male hormone metabolic enhancer. T-BOMB II includes an incredible array of natural and powerful compounds that optimize the body’s entire sex steroid balance.
|See MHP products|
Unsatisfied with its own accomplishment in the NO category, MHP went on in 2005 to develop TRAC Extreme-NO, a product that experts have acclaimed as achieving “mastery of the nitric oxide pathway”. TRAC Extreme-NO contains the exclusive nitric oxide synthetic catalyst Biofolin, for an NO boost unseen with any competing product.
Last year, MHP introduced two new muscle-building breakthroughs: SARM-X and Cyclin-GF. SARM-X is the first of a new class of designer androgenic/anabolic steroid-memetic compounds called Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs), which are engineered to exert powerful anabolic effects without being diverted to androgen receptor-bearing tissues elsewhere.
Cyclin-GF is the first to target Muscle Precursor Cells (MPCs) in muscle tissue, which is premised on the theory of activating them to initiate new muscle growth cycles and achieve muscle fiber maturity.
The company recently released a stunning new addition to the post workout category, called Dark Matter, a creatine-based formula that employs a new Nano-Physics absorption technology called Precision Nutrient Infusion for powerful anabolic synergy. This elite mass builder combines a carbohydrate matrix of waxy maize, glucose polymers and dextrose to spike up insulin, along with multi-phase creatine and a protein synthesizer matrix of key amino acids for faster and greater anabolic effectiveness.
All the way around from the TRACs, to the T-BOMBs, to SARM-X and Dark Matter, and beyondâ€”MHP stands as one of the few companies on the forefront of real innovation. Clearly, MHP’s advanced new product entries have earned them “The Breakthrough Brand of the Year.”
UNIVERSAL NUTRITION (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1982
One of the “grandfathers” of the sports nutrition industry, Universal Nutrition has been at it for over a quarter century, bringing quality formulations and solid value to a growing crowd of loyal consumers. With over 200 products, Universal also boasts one of the most complete lines in the field, with something for virtually every specialized need.
Over the years, this company has developed an integrated operation, featuring R&D, manufacturing, quality control lab, and virtually everything else in-house, under one (150,000 square-foot) roof. And everything Universal produces is backed by a 100% money-back guarantee.
Universal’s core is its very popular “Animal” line. The bold black and white imagery of “Animal” stood in stark contrast to the technicolor glitz and hype of the competition. These are products with a primal attitude, and they are supported with the extensive training and nutrition information resource Animalpak.com.
The Animal line includes:
- ANIMAL TEST: billed as “the ultimate hypertrophic test pack”, combining a patented arachidonic acid with natural testosterone boosters and anti-estrogen compounds.
- ANIMAL PUMP: a preworkout creatine/nitric-oxide matrix, containing creatine, volumizers and NO-enhancers, all shoe-horned into a convenient dose pack.
- ANIMAL FLEX: a joint support formula for hardcore lifters, providing an array of joint lubricators and chondro-protective compounds.
- ANIMAL PAK: THE definitive, comprehensive multivitamin/mineral pack used by bodybuilders and powerlifters for more than two decades.
Special mention goes to the latter: Animal Paks. This category may seem boring, but it is really one of the most important single things you can take. It builds a “base of operation” for other supplements, and your whole training program. Each Pak contains the full spectrum of basic vitamins, minerals, lipotropics, digestive enzymes, and performance enhancers, further enhanced with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, PAK, IGF colostrum, nucleotides, L-arginine, Protogen A, eleuthero, and moreâ€”55 elements in total in 11 pills per pack.
Universal’s core is its very popular “Animal” line
|See Universal Nutrition products|
Yes, it takes that many. You can only squeeze so much into a single tablet. The company describes it bluntly, in Animal fashion: “It’s a multivitamin. Itâ€™s an amino supplement. It â€™s an EFA supplement. Itâ€™s a digestive aid. Itâ€™s a performance enhancer. Itâ€™s a boatload of things all wrapped up into one pack.”
Universal also offers more-exotic products, such as Torrentâ€”a postworkout formula with multiple creatines, cell volumizers, whey protein hydrolysate, and an anti-catabolic leucine complex. Also Stormâ€”the cell-volumizer and mass-builder.
CYTOSPORT (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1999
CytoSport is a family-owned business especially devoted to the needs of endurance athletes. President/CEO Greg Pickett, himself an athlete, is a 30-year veteran in the industry, with a background as a professional race car driver.
CytoSportâ€™s consulting scientist is Dr George Brooks, a world-class exercise physiologist and sports nutrition expert at UC Berkeley. Dr Brooks was responsible for developing the breakthrough compound polylactate (more on that below), and provides input on CytoSport formulations. Since its founding in 1999, Pickett and staff have guided CytoSport to become one of the top performance nutrition manufacturers in America.
CytoSportâ€™s most popular formulation, with many devoted users, is Muscle Milkâ€”a ready-to-drink with an unusual nutritional profile
CytoSportâ€™s most popular formulation, with many devoted users, is Muscle Milkâ€”a ready-to-drink with an unusual nutritional profile, patterned after human motherâ€™s milk, which is natureâ€™s ultimate anabolic food. The formula is built around EvoPro, CytoSport’s proprietary protein-amino blend that mimics the complex of alpha and beta micellar caseins, alpha-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, peptides and amino acids in human milk. Combined with EvoPro is emulsified MCT oil: a special “fatless fat” that does not get stored as body-fat, but instead gets burned for muscle energy while promoting positive nitrogen balance.
Another unique ingredient that shows up exclusively in CytoSport products is called polylactate: a patented compound that lowers blood lactate during exercise, and reduces muscle cramping, burning and soreness both during and after intense workouts. The benefits were demonstrated in a double-blind trial of male cyclists; this stuff really works! Look for it in CytoSport products such as Muscle Energy and Cytomax Recovery. Another favorite by CytoSport is called CytoGainer: a calorie-dense formula with complex carbs, glutamine, branched-chain aminos and partially pre-digested whey proteins. This is a solid “fast protein” source for immediately pre-workout, during-workout or after-workout feeding.
Watch CytoSport for novel formulations that might be your personal ticket to substantial muscle gains and improved workout performance.
GASPARI NUTRITION (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1997
|See Gaspari Nutrition products|
Rich Gaspari, the company’s founder and namesake, came to the sports nutrition industry with unique credentials. As a former Mr Universe, Arnold Classic winner, and 3-time runner-up in the Mr. Olympia, few individuals have had more insight on what it takes to win than Rich. After retiring from professional bodybuilding in 1996, he had the itch to build on his passion for the sport, and to pass along his knowledge of training and sports nutrition. The result was Gaspari Nutrition: a company devoted exclusively to personal performance.
As a former Mr Universe, Arnold Classic winner, and 3-time runner-up in the Mr. Olympia, few individuals have had more insight on what it takes to win than Rich.
The company’s most popular product is the pre-workout powerhouse SuperPump 250. It is more than just an NO-releaser. It appears to boost endurance and mental focus, while promoting muscle growth. Billed as “Way Beyond Nitric Oxide”, SuperPump 250 has the makings of a very fine contribution to the pre-workout/NO category.
Since its release, sales of SuperPump 250 and customer loyalty have multiplied. Users notice not only a physical effect in terms of muscle pump and growth, but a mental effect that translates into longer, harder workouts. Gaspari claims that SuperPump 250 is “the first supplement ever to cause people to end their workouts as a conscious, intellectual decision, and not as a result of physical exhaustion”. This statement may seem a bit glowing but Super Pump’s quality and effectiveness has earned it a coveted second place in the Pre-Workout category in this ProSource Buyer’s Guide, so it certainly offers real value for the bodybuilder.
Other products currently being offered by Gaspari include Intra-Pro, a whey concentrate and isolate blend, Size On, a creatine-based intra- and post-workout formula and the thermogenic called CytoLean. Look for Gaspari to out-do itself once again with an all-new product soon to be released “PlasmaJet” which is destined, they say, to “totally redefine the entire nitric oxide segment”.
NUTREX RESEARCH (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 2002
Nutrex Research was founded by Jens Ingenohl and Jeff McCarrell; a dynamic team with decades of experience in sports nutrition and bodybuilding. Hailing from Germany, Jens is a prolific author with great depth of knowledge about performance enhancing substances. He is best known for publishing, in 1996, the World Anabolic Review, a journal of advanced sports enhancement strategies, authored under the pen name of Manfred Bachmann. Jens still owns a successful sports nutrition company (BMS) and runs a nutrition and training magazine in Germany. Jeff McCarrell has been involved in the sports nutrition industry for 20 years, working with such notables as EAS and MET-Rx. With broad experience in sales, marketing, and product development, as well as being a successful competitive bodybuilder himself, Jeff has been a powerful force in building and assuring Nutrex’ success.
Nutrex has committed itself to the needs of hardcore bodybuilders, and expresses this commitment by sponsoring several top IFBB pros: Markus Ruhl, Mark Dugdale, Troy Alves, Armin Scholz and Dennis Wolf.
Of this company’s most notable products is their popular fat burner called Lipo-6. It is a solid caffeine and synephrine stack, teamed with yohimbine and guggulsterones for metabolic stimulation and fat mobilization. The new Lipo-6X builds on that success by adding thyroid-stimulating trace amines, and the body repartitioning CLA, to the formulation.
Best of all, Nutrex has developed a unique liquid multi-phase capsule formulation system; the first in the industry. Acting like two capsules in one, multi-phase capsules deliver a fast-acting liquid outer capsule and a sustained-release inner capsule. Several Nutrex products, including Lipo-6X, Ignite and Anabol-5, are now available as multi-phase capsules.
|See Nutrex Research products|
Vitargo CGL is Nutrex’s contribution in the creatine category. It features a uniquely high-glycemic carbohydrate, in combination with creatine, for superior uptake and muscle hydration. They also produce a quality testosterone-booster “Vitrix” which packs a load of tribulus and other ingredients into a liquid capsule.
Nutrex’s most recent release is Mass XXplosion, which the company claims will allow athletes to actually build muscle while they train by providing critical anabolic agents during the period when blood flow is maxxed-out. An interesting strategy.
PROSOURCE (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1996
When ProSource Performance Products, Inc. first opened its doors in 1996, it was a far simpler entity than it is today. Back then, ProSource was primarily a small supplement distributor, which specialized in a select line of genuine premium-quality supplements, most notably its ultra-pure German creatine monohydrate, which is still one of the leaders in the category today. The ProSource marketing strategy was simpleâ€”offer only the absolute best quality supplements and eliminate the middle-men to keep the price as low as possible. As a result, consumers were able to buy truly superior-quality supplements for prices comparable to, and in some cases, even lower than the cost of the inferior-grade products sold in retail stores. Word of this tremendous value spread like wildfire throughout the bodybuilding community, and as a result, ProSource quickly emerged as the leading company for true premium-grade supplements.
ProSource’s pricing and quality strategies had a tremendous impact. But aggressive cost-cutting and enhanced quality werenâ€™t the only innovations they introduced to the industry. Unlike its competitors, ProSource diligently investigated and analyzed every product it sold under the ProSource brand. This was unheard of in a marketplace where companies were accustomed to selling anything they could get their hands on regardless of whether a product had merit or not.
“Right from the very beginning,” ProSource Chief Scientific Advisor Jeff Volek, PhD. said, “there were highly hyped products out there that ProSource simply refused to carry. These were supplements that didn’t do what their manufacturers claimed they did, but yet, were in high demand because of marketing hype. Needless to say, this adherence to high standards of quality control ruffled some feathers. They made a few manufacturers unhappy by exposing some of the hype,” continued Volek. “But they had a commitment to their customers, which was apparently unwavering. ProSource has demonstrated that they are simply not willing to sell a product unless there is evidence of a legitimate performance benefit.”
This meticulous attention to detail carried over to ProSourceâ€™s landmark annual Buyer’s Guides and Performance Nutrition Catalogs. Rather than a shotgun approach to merchandising, ProSource has always been extremely selective with the product lines and brands it carries.
“In preparation for each issue of our annual Buyer’s Guide, we analyze thousands of products, review volumes of scientific studies and technical data, and in many cases, even “field test” the products with members of our product testing team”, said Jeff Orr, Senior Product Tester at ProSource. “This information is instrumental in creating the informative product reviews that competitive bodybuilders have come to rely on for optimally effective supplement strategies”, said Jeff.
The ProSource Buyer’s Guides also became famous for their insightful articles, invaluable advice on training and supplementation, Q&A features, and other cutting-edge research content. Those catalogs have since been augmented and reinforced with Prosource.net, the industry’s most informative and user-friendly shopping and information website, and one of the top online bodybuilding destinations.
“One of the things that makes this site unique,” said Bill Kispert, ProSource Senior Editor “is that the editorial content is researched and authored by highly credentialed experts in the field. The bodybuilding world is unfortunately loaded with much misinformation due to low editorial quality control standards of many internet sites, which utilize writers who have no legitimate qualifications. In contrast, our credential requirement for writers is extremely stringent. We typically seek out the preeminent authority in a given field to author each particular article. Our objective has always been to provide reliable authoritative information on the supplements we sell. In many cases, this leads us to university researchers with volumes of published scientific work on the particular subject they are writing about.”
Inevitably, these high standards and uncompromising attention to detail yielded dramatic growth for the highly acclaimed ProSource brand. ProSource continues to purchase large volumes of the very highest-grade premium-quality raw materials on the market; compounds like genuine CreaPure® German creatine monohydrate and Glanbia’s super potent CFM processed growth-factor-rich whey protein isolate, which enables them to stay ahead of the competition in both quality and price. In 1999, their first flagship protein, NytroWhey appeared, and the ProSource brand instantaneously became known for delivering an unprecedented level of quality.
“I’ve personally used NytroWhey long before I began working with ProSource,” said ProSource Research & Development advisor Dwayne Jackson, PhD. “As a bodybuilder and researcher, I could immediately notice the difference in quality compared to standard grade proteins. There was no bloating, the taste was excellent, it mixed easily, and most importantly, I experienced noticeably improved recovery and growth with NytroWhey. This impeccable quality is one of the things that attracted me to the company. To this day, I have yet to find another protein that even compares to the quality of the NytroWhey line”, said Dwayne. “It’s a 100% pure, growth factor-rich whey isolate of the highest quality at a cost comparable to what most customers were accustomed to paying for the crudest whey concentrates. Its not surprising that I see high-level bodybuilders who are under contract with competitive sports supplement companies using NytroWhey.”
More landmark products followed, including vital additions to the NytroWhey line, such as new NytroWhey Ultra, or the super potent, clinically-tested testosterone booster AndroTest, the ultra comprehensive super-multi MegaMax, the immensely popular maximum strength joint support formula Joint Command, the fast-acting high-powered creatine formula SynthaTrex Xtreme and many more.
The ProSource R&D team was also involved in the development of a quadruple-layer protein bar that completely revolutionized the category.
Offering the highest quality products, based on real science, with the lowest prices nationwide has helped ProSource establish the most loyal customer base in the supplement industry.
“Until Supreme Protein came along,” Jackson said, “manufacturers were content to fill their bars with crude low-quality proteins such as useless gelatin. ProSource simply applied the same high standards to the Supreme Protein bars that they have applied to the other top-selling ProSource products, like NytroWhey. The quality is impeccable and consumers apparently have been quick to recognize that.”
|See ProSource products|
Working with a leading team of food technologists, these visionary researchers set out to create a truly nutritious muscle-building protein snack. Powered by premium whey protein isolate, Supreme Protein has literally taken the bar category by storm. In fact, Supreme Protein has proven to be such a high performance taste treat that it has quickly become a top-seller in stores across the country.
ProSource’s unique dual capacity as both a supplement innovator and multi-line retail giant has placed it in a prime position to offer unprecedented values to its legions of satisfied customers.
“We treat our customers like they’re family,” said Operations Manager John Gordon. “We are athletes and supplement users ourselves, and in this sport, it’s kind of like a brotherhood. As an avid power-lifter myself, I know that when I need a supplement, I don’t want to wait. That’s why we stock in our own warehouses every item we distribute so that we can get it out to our customers the fastest way possible. Nothing is more satisfying to me than building long-term relationships with our customers and I have found the best way to do that is provide excellent products, great prices, and fast service”, said John.
“When we introduce a ProSource brand product, you can be sure it is of the absolute highest quality on the market”, added Jim Casagrand, Quality Control Manager at ProSource. “We tell you what’s in it, what benefits it provides, and we present the scientific data associated with its effectiveness. Many of our competitors’ approaches to selling supplements rely on over the top claims and advertising hype, which can be entertaining at times, but they’re not useful tools for judging the real worth of products. At ProSource, we place a heavy emphasis on hard science and that is what truly sets us apart.”
Offering the highest quality products, based on real science, with the lowest prices nationwide has helped ProSource establish the most loyal customer base in the supplement industry. “They deeply respect their customer’s bodybuilding and fitness goals”, said Chief Scientific Advisor Jeff Volek, PhD. “That comes through in everything they do, and that’s why more and more bodybuilders and athletes are turning to ProSource for their supplement needs.”
MUSCLETECH (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1995
Managed by a privately held company, MuscleTech’s dynamic R&D machine is headed by Marvin Heuer, MD, the firm’s Chief Science Officer. With over three decades of medical experience, both in patient care and clinical research, Heuer has authored over 40 scientific papers and other publications. He is an expert on general fitness, heart and muscle physiology, and the science of muscle growth and performance. His background includes positions of responsibility at world-class premium companies like Ayerst Labs and SmithKline Beecham. Heuer’s stellar credentials reflect MuscleTech’s commitment to research, scientific validation, innovation and quality.
MuscleTech has funded over 100 clinical research studies to date, including trials at Baylor University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Laval, St. Francis Xavier University, McMaster University, and the University of Toronto. These studies have been published in 66 abstracts and more than 25 full papers in scientific journals such as the International Journal of Sports
Nutrition, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, and the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. Theyâ€™ve also been the basis of Iovateâ€™s large intellectual property portfolio, including over 30 patents and 83 patents pending.
Few companies can claim this level of devotion to the sport, and willingness to put serious resources into research on the science of sport supplementation.
All this effort has resulted in relationships with some of the worldâ€™s top applied physiology and sports science research specialists. Not only does MuscleTech develop relationships with top scientists, it also gives student awards to young scientists, recognizing excellence in student research. MuscleTech also sponsors scientific symposia such as “Dietary regulation of skeletal muscle metabolism at rest and during exercise” (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology 2003). Few companies can claim this level of devotion to the sport, and willingness to put serious resources into research on the science of sport supplementation.
Several products are worthy of special note. Under the direction of Dr Heuer, MuscleTech researchers have devised a comprehensive pre-workout formula: naNO Vapor. Containing six (no less!) proprietary ingredient blends, each targeting a relevant physiological system or functional goal, naNO Vapor has lifted the bar in the pre-workout categoryâ€”possibly farther than anyone else can clear. In brief, the complexes in this formula are:
- NeuroAMP: Amps-up concentration and mental focus with tyrosines, acetylcholine-boosters, and lipo-thiamine, for more intense workouts.
- Infernogen: Turns up the heat with thermogenic compounds and alpha-receptor (fat-release) stimulators.
- Vasoprime: A vasodilating NO amplification matrix proported to deliver more anabolic nutrients to working muscles.
- Anaphex: An anabolic/anti-catabolic signaling complex designed to promote protein synthesis and damp the catabolic bad-guys.
- Intravol: A creatine derivative-based muscle cell volumizing, cell-swelling and hydrating complex.
- Myo-GF: An endocrine stimulant designed to promote optimal testosterone delivery and post-workout growth hormone release.
|See Muscletech products|
Thatâ€™s it in a nutshell. The full story on all the ingredients in these complexes would take pages. Suffice it to say that MuscleTech has outdone itself on this one, packing more high-tech, engineered pro-growth compounds into one product than ever before.
Adding to naNO Vaporâ€™s efficiency is that some of the ingredients have been provided as nanoparticlesâ€”ultra-tiny particles up to 7400% smaller than the particulates of the native raw materials. This advanced technology is intended to enhance absorption and the ability of the total product to achieve effects on muscle size and strength.
Another MuscleTech research accomplishment is Cell-Tech Hardcoreâ€”a top-selling creatine-based muscle builder, and for good reason. Multiple clinical trials have demonstrated Cell-Tech Hardcoreâ€™s potency for increasing mass, strength, and cell volume. Cell-Tech Hardcore employs four proprietary complexes that promote creatine uptake and delivery to muscle cells: Crea-Edge, Osmodrol, Insulodrive, and Lipoic-Tech.
Cell-Tech Hardcore also employs the patented Nanomolecular Hyperdispersion Technology delivery system which, like with naNO Vapor, harnesses the power of nanoparticulation. Other popular products by Muscle-Tech include CREAKIC, LEUKIC, Anator-p70, Mass-Tech, Nitro-Tech Hardcore, Hydroxycut Hardcore, and many more. These formulations and the science behind them help explain why Muscle-Tech holds court as one of the top purveyors of quality supplements in the bodybuilding industry.
OPTIMUM NUTRITION (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 1983
Focusing on value and diversity of offerings, Optimum (with its companion brand American Body Building) offers a comprehensive line of products across multiple categoriesâ€”protein powders, nutritional bars and bites, ready-to-drink sports beverages, vitamins and minerals, and more.
Founded by Mike and Tony Costello, Optimum Nutrition focuses on affordability of the most-essential sports nutrition products, such as whey protein. 100% Whey Protein is Optimumâ€™s #1 econo-whey product, and one of the categoryâ€™s single best sellers.
Their commitment to value is evident throughout Optimumâ€™s product development process. Raw material vendors are carefully vetted, and Certificates of Analysis are required. To eliminate the possibility of chemical or microbiological contamination, Optimum has established a unique Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program. Quality assurance professionals make routine checks on all storage, blending and production areas, and conduct final inspections daily.
100% Whey Protein is Optimumâ€™s #1 econo-whey product
|See Optimum products|
Again, because of the large volume this company deals in, all this elaborate control work becomes cheap on a per-unit basis. That means that the customer gets the products without paying big bucks for them. Optimum is known for highly-competitive pricing of all its products. Their 100% Whey Gold Standard protein is another popular econo-whey featuring a blend of whey isolate, ion exchange isolate, whey concentrates and whey peptides.
Of course, Optimum carries numerous other formulations, such as Instant BCAA powder, Opti-Men and Opti-Women gender specific daily multiples, Vassive CE creatine ester complex, and Vassive NO nitric oxide blend, but it is the econo-whey category where they have earned their stripes.
BIO-ENGINEERED SUPPLEMENTS & NUTRITION (BSN) (more information)
ESTABLISHED IN: 2001
Founded by Chris Ferguson and Scott Jamesâ€”now President/CEO, and VP, respectively, BSN has been an impressive success-story since coming out of nowhere, in 2001. Some of the buzz is due to BSNâ€™s associations with numerous top athletes, but the other part of the growth derives from BSNâ€™s products including such well-known names as Nitrix, Cellmass and Syntha-6.
Most notable are the companyâ€™s contributions in the nitric oxide category, including NO-Xplode and Nitrix NO-Xplode. NO-Xplode contains an array of performance-boosters, cell-volumizers, insulin sensitivity-enhancers, and more, all wrapped up in a unique delivery system.
Most notable are the companyâ€™s contributions in the nitric oxide category
Nitrix is a more “pure” NO-boosting product, featuring arginine AKG, combined with NO-enhancing cofactors like nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), L-citrulline, and a blend of essential phosphates that act to promote cellular nutrient uptake. Nitrix markedly enhances the workout pump, muscle fullness, vascularity, strength, and recuperation. BSN claims to have developed a precise “bonded ratio” of L-Arginine to AKG, which promotes NO synthesis better than competing products.
Similar to Nitrix is Endorush, a pre-workout energy/NO drink featuring arginine AKG and L-citrulline along with various nutrients, stimulants, taurine and glucuronolactone.
BIOQUEST (more information)
BioQuest is a three-year old company that has already made a major impact on the industry, especially in the key areas of weight loss and mass building. Tetrazene Extreme, for example, is an extremely effective weight loss, appetite suppressant technology that also delivers remarkable energy support. Clearly, their flagship product has got to be MyoZene, which is a great, fast-acting post-workout anabolic breakthrough, powered by ultra-hydrolyzed whey protein. MyoZene is considered without question the most innovative and powerful mass-building product of its kind in the industry. MyoZene and the new low-carb MyoZene UltraPro have been wildly successful additions to their growing line. Also, BioQuestâ€™s new Fusion Force is a top-quality, maximum potency pre-workout formulation of key anabolics and energy boosters that produce massively productive workouts. More great things are on the horizon so be sure to check them out.
LABRADA (more information)
Founded by IFBB Hall-of-Famer Lee Labrada, this company sports a full line of weight-loss and energy products, protein shakes, bars, and more. Their hallmark innovation, has been the meal replacement category, where theyâ€™ve dominated with such products as Lean Body and the delicious Lean Body Breakfast, a recent culinary taste award winner.
ErgoPharm (more information)
ErgoPharmâ€™s biggest claim to fame, is their unique 6-OXO (androst-4-ene-3,6,
17-trione): a patent-pending compound that helps inhibit aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. A recent human clinical trial showed that 6-OXO increased levels of free testosterone while reducing circulating estradiol. This is a burgeoning field of study with other technologies coming to the fore, but 6-OXO has more than earned its place in this category.
EAS burst onto the scene many years ago with creatineâ€”the great breakthrough sports nutrition product of the 20th century. Phosphagen HP not only provided this new and powerful compound but it also contained carbs, phosphates, magnesium and taurine. This landmark formula has recently been updated as Phosphagen Elite, a highly rated and super potent creatine formula that has garnered respect across the board. In recent years, the MyoPlex line of MRPâ€™s has become the flagship of EAS.
NOW Foods (more information)
NOW Foods has been offering their respected brand of dietary supplements for over 40 years. Value is the watchword here, with a products like creatine, proteins, branched-chain aminos, glutamine, and lecithin. They even carry personal care items, natural foods, green foods, vitamins, minerals and more. NOW Foods mantra is quality and selection at affordable pricing and this remarkable company delivers on all counts.
ProLab (more information)
Prolab Nutrition has been around since 1989 and provides a decent array of products. They entered the protein category fairly early on with Pure Whey and it remains their flagship formula. Pure Whey contains a blend of whey concentrates, isolates and glutamine peptides. Theyâ€™re also known for their delicious MRP Lean Mass Complex, and their popular weight gain formula N-Large.
AST Sports Science is another company that offers solid values in creatine products, protein powders, test boosters and MRPâ€™s. Theyâ€™ve got a few specialty products of note, such as GABA, a neuro-transmitter amino acid, micronized glutamine, micronized creatine, NAC 500, their popular mass-building MRP called Ny-Tro Pro-40, and their new weight gainer, Muscle XGF. They also have several thermogenics in the brand line so they offer a little something for every bodybuilderâ€™s needs.
NEXT Proteins (more information)
NEXT Proteins earns perennial kudos for its Designer Whey proteinâ€”a quality product at good value. Designer Whey has even won several national taste awards. Their other flagship product is, of course, the Detour protein bar and the variations of such, being one of the first bars to introduce multi-layer technology and enhanced flavor to this tasty category.
Supreme Protein Inc (more information)
The stunning success of this newer company is attributable to the sheer superiority of its product quality. Although now its own company, Supreme Protein’s formulation was originally created with the assistance of the elite ProSource R&D team so that it could tap into their vast knowledge and expertise in the science of protein supplementation. “Clearly, in terms of protein alone, Supreme Protein is the most cutting-edge entry this category has ever seen”, said sports nutrition researcher Doug Kalman, PhD, RD. “In fact, finding a protein bar that is even remotely comparable in quality to this one seems like an impossible task.” Interestingly, the companyâ€™s only brand is this amazingly delicious premium protein bar. This success story is a testament to the adage of “do one thing and do it well”. The fact is nobody does it better in the protein bar category than Supreme Protein. From the superior quality growth-factor-rich whey isolate to the healthy flax seed oil to the amazing gourmet chocolate, every detail of this nutritional masterpiece demonstrates the companyâ€™s quest for absolute perfection. The efforts have apparently paid off as Supreme Protein has become the highest rated bar ever (by a significant margin) in this vast product category. We are told that a number of other exciting innovations for the bar category are on the horizon for Supreme Protein Inc for ‘08.
By Bob LeFavi, PhD, CSCS
Because youâ€™ve picked up this yearâ€™s Buyerâ€™s Guide, I already know two things about you. First, youâ€™re not some pencil-neck who goes to the gym decked out in spandex, wearing a watch that takes your heart rate as you “glisten” with moisture on a hamster wheel, all the while pretending not to be watching Oprah. No, you train with weights; you work your butt off for muscle mass and strength, and you know that pain often comes with the territory.
Second, I also know youâ€™ve been hearing a lot about the best supplements for packing on size, and I know you might be confused. Itâ€™s difficult to make your way through all the hype to find those supplements that really help bring about growth. Iâ€™m with you on that; I want the best bang for my buck, too.
And the fact is, itâ€™s good you picked up this yearâ€™s Buyerâ€™s Guide because you should be studying this stuff. The best bodybuilders I know make a habit of putting a lot of effort into finding the “howâ€™s” and “whyâ€™s” of nutrition and supplementation. I mean, letâ€™s face it: How much time and energy do you spend working out? Tons, I know. And how much time and effort do you spend studying about nutrition and supplementation, or even preparing your foods and supplements? Probably not nearly as much.
And thatâ€™s a mistake. If you do your job in the gym youâ€™ve got to go home and do your job in the kitchen; prepare your dietary strategy with as much effort as you prepare your training strategy. As a professor of sports nutrition I can tell you that the single biggest problem I see with bodybuilders is their lack of supplementation knowledge, and the supplement they mess up with more than any other is protein, which is the single most important muscle-building ingredient you can take. Read on for a fair analysis of the state-of-the-knowledge on protein supplementation.
Calories and Grams
Okay, hereâ€™s a brief review just to make sure weâ€™re all on the same page: Your body requires about 2,600 excess calories to make a pound of muscle. Those extra calories have to come from somewhere, right? Right. And I am sure you know that protein, which is necessary for muscle-cell growth, has got to be primary in that formula. Thatâ€™s true as well. In fact, as a bodybuilder you likely are well aware of the research showing protein requirements for intensely training lifters to be in the neighborhood of 2.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight (nearly 1 gram per pound) in order to maintain positive nitrogen balance and faciliate growth.
I would guess that you also know about other facets of sports nutrition as well. For instance, you are probably familiar with the difference between monosaccharides and polysaccharides; to put it simply, simple sugars versus complex carbohydrates. All have 4 calories per gram, but with markedly different effects on the body. The same thing goes for another food substrate â€“ fats. For example, saturated fat and fish oil are both 9 calories per gram, but each has different effects in terms of the way your body handles them.
The point is this: All calories, even from the same food substrate, are not created equally. Where they come from makes all the difference in the world.
Protein is no different. Sure, you say, you know all about complete and incomplete proteins and you try to choose complete proteins as much as possible. Good. But if you really want to maximize muscle gains you have got to catch up to where the science is. And science has taken us two steps further.
Step I: Protein Source
Without a doubt, the first major question you have to ask yourself is this: Where am I getting my protein from? This question goes well beyond the general issue of complete versus incomplete protein and delves into the structure of the protein itself. Protein, especially in the form of powdered supplements, can come from a variety of sources: egg (albumin), soy, milk (casein), and whey.
Chances are, you have tried most if not all of these supplements and have your own preferences (egg may have caused you gastrointestinal problems; casein may have been accompanied by too much sugar, etc.). However, from a scientific standpoint, this is what you should know: Regardless of the methods that are used to evaluate protein quality (Protein Efficiency Ratio, Net Protein Utilization, and Biological Value) whey protein is always rated at the top of the scale.
You may know that whey protein is a high quality protein powder from cowâ€™s milk. You may also know that milk has two proteins â€“ casein (approximately 80%) and whey (approximately 20%). What you may not know is that whey proteins naturally contain high amounts of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAâ€™s) and glutamic acid, which enhance muscle recovery and nitrogen balance, respectively. BCAAâ€™s comprise about one-third of the muscle tissue and up to 10% of the fuel required in muscle activity, which can lead to more intense and longer training sessions, and thus better gains. Because whey is more soluble than other protein sources it is a very fast-acting protein. For instance, if you consume a 25-gram serving of whey on an empty stomach, levels of blood amino acids peak roughly 60 minutes after ingestion and return to pre-meal levels within four hours. Due to this high rate of absorption, especially if taken during a period (post-exercise) where the body is working to repair muscle damage, whey is considered a very anabolic protein. In fact, simply consuming whey protein stimulates an increase in your bodyâ€™s protein synthesis (muscle-building capabilities) by nearly 70%. And not only that, unlike casein, whey ingestion does not bring about protein breakdown within the muscle.
Forget about the fact that studies show that whey is more effective than red meat in limiting body weight gain and guarding against increasing insulin sensitivity. Forget about the fact that whey proteins have been shown to reduce blood pressure. And forget about the fact that studies have found whey to be protective against the development of cancerous tumors in animals (probably due to its immune-promoting properties) and the bad cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein (probably due to the lactoferrin content in whey). Forget all that. While those are all great benefits, chances are that the bottom line for you is this: Whey is the most absorbable, fastest-acting, and anabolic of all proteins we have studied to date. Thatâ€™s why whey protein is a common ingredient in infant formula, in protein supplements for medical use, and, of course, for bodybuilding products.
Step II: Protein Production Process
Okay, so we are beyond general protein “completeness” and identifying the most anabolic of protein sources. Good, because science has brought us further. Hey, that you are eating high-quality protein (whey) is a given. We are now in a new stage of sports nutrition where the focus is not so much on the quality of the raw protein substance, but on the production process. Here is where protein quality can get turned up a notch â€“ or not.
Filtering Out the Proteins
So, this is what you need to know: Whey protein is a co-product of the cheese making process. After fresh milk is approved for quality and is pasteurized, the casein (“curd”) and a portion of the milk-fat are separated out to make cheese. Whatâ€™s left from this process is a liquified whey that then must go through a process to separate out the whey protein from the milk sugar (lactose) and other non-protein materials. This filtration process attempts to “isolate” the whey proteins. Without question, the most effective means of filtering is micro/ultra filtration (the micro filters are even smaller than the ultra filters and renders an even more pure protein product). The producer uses a series of filters made from polymers to separate out the whey protein from the liquid milk. This process yields a good result for you, the bodybuilder, because you end up with isolated whey that is fairly inexpensive (especially relative to the tremendous benefits it offers).
Now keep in mind that at this point you can find both whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. You always want to look for whey isolate; try to avoid whey concentrate. In the isolation process, whey can be isolated to various degrees. Whey isolate contains 90% or more protein. However, a whey concentrate powder contains less than 90% and often much less, even as little as 25% protein! (The rest is non-protein material, such as fat, ash, impurities and broken down carbohydrates.) Thatâ€™s right: You can take in 100 grams of whey concentrate and only get 30 grams of protein. Not only that, but ingestion of whey concentrate also seems to bring about gastrointestinal distress in some people. Bottom line: Always choose whey isolate when you can. Hydrolyzing the Proteins
When preparing whey proteins, concentrate or isolate, some manufacturers will use a technique known as “hydrolyzation”. Hereâ€™s what that means: The whey proteins are “pre-digested” through the action of enzymes that are added to the whey solution in order to convert the proteins into more highly-digestable peptides. Therefore, it is a good idea to include a hydrolyzed form of whey isolate for even greater effectiveness. Even more pertinent to a bodybuilder, a hydrolyzed whey isolate is a great way to get the maximum amount of amino acids into the bloodstream immediately after a workout. This way you have 1) the most anabolic protein, 2) with the highest percentage of protein molecules (isolate), and 3) pre-digested for quick absorption. Thatâ€™s the best way to put you in an anabolic state when your body needs it the most.
Ion Exchange Versus Cross-Flow Micro/Ultra Technology
Now at this point your eyes may be starting to glaze over, but there is one more important issue that you should know. There are two advanced means by which manufacturers separate the protein from the liquid. Yes, you already know about micro/ultra filtration, but there is more.
The “ion exchange” process uses chemical solvents and electron charges in an ion exchange tower to separate the whey protein from the liquid. The good news is that ion exchange does yield a very high percentage of whey protein. The bad news is that it seems to negatively affect biological value in the process. For instance, glycomacropeptide â€“ an important health-promoting protein molecule â€“ is often depleted from the solution in ion exchange.
Fortunately, technology has brought about a more advanced filtration system known as the “cross-flow micro/ultra” (CFM) technique. CFM uses a process that comes very close to the high percentage of protein from the ion exchange process, but does so without losing the important health-promoting whey components lost in ion exchange. Perhaps some of this benefit comes from the fact that the CFM technique does not use destructive chemicals to separate the whey protein from ash, lactose, and fat. Also helping preserve the biological value of the whey protein is CFMâ€™s use of low termperatures in its filtration. This ensures that the isolation of the whey proteins is done at a pH that is natural for the whey proteins. Therefore, vital molecules like glycomacropeptides and other potential growth factors are not discarded or destroyed. Moreover, CFM uses ceramic filters, which are indestructible. The end result is that the CFM process results in a higher protein subfraction content.
What you will find if you study the protein production process is that CFM maintains a significantly more complete protein profile â€“ one of optimal balance, as found naturally in whey, even more than with ion exchange. With CFM, there are virtually no denatured proteins and important protein fractions (peptides) are kept intact. That gives you a protein you are ready to digest, absorb and use to create more muscle tissue.
The Final Word
When all is said and done, you want the highest quality protein you can get â€” the biggest bang for your buck â€” to ensure maximum muscle growth. So, hereâ€™s the final word:
- For packing on mass, youâ€™ve got to do your job outside the gym just like you do your job in the gym. Put time and effort into finding the supplements that have maximal anabolic potential.
- There is a tremendous difference between proteins when it comes to quality, digestability, absorbability, and effects on muscle tissue.
- Science suggests that whey protein is the most anabolic of the protein sources available (and also has the least digestion problems).
- Whey protein isolate has a higher percentage of protein than whey protein concentrate or ion exchange.
- Hydrolyzed whey protein isolate can provide you with a pre-digested form of protein, which is advantageous for greater absorption, digestion and effectiveness.
- Cross-Flow Micro/Ultra (CFM) filtration brings about the most denatured and growth-factor-rich protein available, while at the same time, maintaining a high protein content.
So, when you put all the new science and technology together, it tells you one thing clearly: Look for a top-quality cross-flow/micro-filtration whey protein isolate to get the best results from your supplementation regimen. You can even take it a step further by seeking out a hydrolyzed form of whey isolate for even greater absorption particularly for post workout. There is no question that either of these forms are the premier muscle-building proteins available on the market today. For now, this is the “whey” for future muscle mass gains.
Table 1: Whey Protein Ingredient Compositions Typical in the Marketplace
|Whey Components||Whey Powder||Whey Protein Concentrate||Whey Protein Isolate|
|Protein||11% to 14.5%||25% to 89%||90% +|
|Lactose||63% to 75%||10% to 55%||0.5%|
|Milk Fat||1% to 1.5%||2% to 10%||0.5%|
Whey isolate contains 90% or more protein. However, a whey concentrate powder contains less than 90% and more often contains much less, even as little as 25% protein!
- Furst, P., Stehle, P. and Rennie, M.J. (1992). “Glutamine and nitrogen balance”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. vol. 56, pp. 959-960.
- Keast, D., Artesian, D., Harper, W., R.W., and Martin, A.R. (1995) “Depression of plasma glutamine concentrations after exercise stress and possible influences on the immune system”. Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 162, pp. 15-18.
- Lemon PWR. (1998). Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 8, 426 â€“ 447.
- Manore M et al. (2000). Nutrition and athletic performance, Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100:1543 â€“ 1556.
- Blomstrand, E. and Newsholme, E.A. (1992). “Effect of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on the exercise-induced change in aromatic amino acid concentration in human muscle.” Acta Physiol. Scand., 146:293-298
- Lemon, W.R. et al. (1996). “Is increased dietary protein necessary or beneficial for individuals with a physically active lifestyle?” Nutrition Reviews Supplement, 54:S169-175.
- Lemon, W.R. (1998). “Effects of exercise on dietary protein requirements.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 8(4): 426-447.
- Dangin, M., Boirie, Y., Guillet, C., and Beaufrere, B. (2002). “Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects.” Journal of Nutrition, October, 132:3228S-3233S.y of Sciences, 94:14930-14935.
- Shah N.P. (2000). “Effects of milk-derived bioactives: an overview.” British Journal of Nutrition, November, Supplement, 84(1):S3-S10.
- Hoerr R.A., Bostwick E.F. (2000). “Bioactive proteins and probiotic bacteria: modulators of nutritional health.” Nutrition, July-August, 16(7-8): 711-713.
- Kreider, R., Miriel, V., and Bertun, E. (1993). “Amino acid supplementation and exercise performance.” Sports Medicine, 16:190-209.
- Layman, D. et al. (2003). “Increased Dietary Protein Modifies Glucose and Insulin Homeostasis in Adult Women during Weight Loss.” Journal of Nutrition, 133: 405-410.
- Kennedy, R.S., Bounous, G., Konok, G.P., Baruchel, S., Lee, T.D.G. (1995). “The use of a whey protein concentrate in the treatment of patients with metastatic carcinoma: A phase I-II Clinical Study.” Anticancer Research, 15:2643-2650.
- Counous G. (2000). Whey protein concentrate (WPC) and glutathione modulation in cancer treatment. Anticancer Res, 20(6C):4785 â€“ 4792.
- Blomstrand E, Ek S, Newsholme EA. (1996). Influence of ingesting a solution of branched-chain amino acids on plasma and muscle concentrations of amino acids during prolonged submaximal exercise. Nutrition, 12:485 â€“ 490.
- MacLean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B. (1994). Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. Am J Physiol, 267:E1010 â€“ 1022.
- Ha E, Zemel MB. (2003). Functional properties of whey, whey components, and essential amino acids; mechanisms underlying health benefits for active people (review). J Nutr Biochem, 14(5):251 â€“ 258.
- Wolfe RR. (2000). Protein supplements and exercise. Am J Clin Nutr, 72(2Suppl):551S â€“ 557S.
- Williams MH. (1999). Facts and fallacies of purported ergogenic amino acid supplements. Clin Sports Med, 18(3):633 â€“ 649.
- Agin D, Gallagher D, Wang J, Heymsfield SB, Pierson RN Jr, Kotler DP. (2001). Effects of whey protein and resistance exercise on body cell mass, muscle strength, and quality of life in women with HIV. AIDS, 15(18):2431 â€“ 2440.
- Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T. (2001). The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 11(3):349 â€“ 364.
- Markus CR, Olivier B, Panhuysen GE, Van Der Gugten J, Alles MS, Tuiten A, Westenberg HG, Fekkes D, Koppeschaar HF, de Haan EE. (2000). The bovine protein alpha-lactalbumin increases the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the other large neutral amino acids, and in vulnerable subjects raises brain serotonin activity, reduces cortisol concentration, and improves mood under stress. Am J Clin Nutr, 71(6):1536 â€“
By Jeff Volek, PhD
If your clothes are fitting tighter and the numbers on the scale are escalating this time of year, youâ€™re not alone. Research indicates that most peoplesâ€™ body weight and body fat is higher during the winter months due to increased caloric intake and decreased physical activity. All those Holiday parties and skipped workouts do take their toll. What can you do about it? What better way to usher in the New Year than to clean up your diet? Here are five healthy diet tips to jump start your diet and make 2008 your leanest year yet.
1. Control the Carbs.
A preponderance of studies have shed light on the key role of dietary carbohydrates in controlling body weight and body fat for many people. Why carbohydrates and not fat? Because emerging research has shown that carbohydrates have a dominant effect over fat. The key is insulin, a potent hormone that increases after carbohydrate meals, blocking fat breakdown and promoting fat storage. So put another way, dietary carbohydrates tell your body what to do with dietary fat and insulin is the signal. When carbohydrates are low in the diet, insulin is low and the body burns predominantly fat from both the diet and from body stores for energy. When carbohydrates are high, insulin levels are increased and the body predominately burns carbohydrates. In the last few years, more than a couple dozen studies have shown that when people are instructed to reduce carbohydrate they lose more weight and more body fat than individuals who focus on restricting dietary fat. So Tip #1 is donâ€™t overeat carbohydrates and make attempts to minimize foods that cause an insulin spike like processed cereals, pastas, breads, any type of sugar, and high carbohydrate desserts.
2. Add a Thermogenic to Your Diet Plan.
With more than two-thirds of adults classified as overweight in the U.S., it is not surprising there is a huge market for weight loss products, often referred to as thermogenics. Because a decrease in thermogenesis has been shown to contribute to obesity, these products potentially play an important role in fighting obesity and shedding body fat. The next generation thermogenics with the most promise are formula based products that contain multiple ingredients targeting various metabolic pathways involved in weight control. Combining the right ingredients results in more profound and consistent results than single compound products. Some of the best products are using high quality ingredients such as green tea or green coffee extract, caffeine, caralluma fimbriata, glucomannan, razberi-k, Mucuna pruriens, CLA, chromium, oolong tea extract, and vinpocetine. Thermogenics should not replace sound diet and exercise habits, but a good formula-based supplement can help jump start a sluggish metabolism so consider this another weapon in your attack on body fat. My personal choice â€“ any of the Tetrazene products from BioQuest.
3. Drink Plenty of Water.
On a weight basis, our bodies are about 65% water and our muscles are closer to 80%. Adequate water intake is an absolutely critical aspect to a healthy weight loss program. When cells are dehydrated, it can compromise biochemical reactions necessary for healthy functioning. For starters, in a recent study in our laboratory we had subjects decrease fluid intake and exercise until they lost 2.5% of their body weight. This mild level of dehydration was enough to significantly impair resistance exercise performance. There is also evidence that drinking water helps burn calories. In one study, metabolic rate increased transiently by 30% after drinking 500 mL of water in men, and the increased calories burned came from fat. The other benefit of drinking water is that it temporarily fills the stomach and this can help curb hunger so you eat less. How do you know if you are drinking enough water? The color of your urine is the best gauge. If your urine is dark, you need to drink more. If your urine is clear, you are on the right track.
4. Consider a Meal Replacement.
The use of meal replacements to assist in weight management has been examined in several studies. Meal replacements can include shakes, powders, or bars that replace a normal meal. They are easy to use, require little if any preparation, and most importantly they provide structure to the daily eating plan. It is estimated that as many as 15% of adults are using meal replacements as a strategy for losing weight. In the longest study to date â€“ 5 years, overweight subjects who consumed a meal replacement shake lost weight (about 10 pounds) compared to a group of control subjects who gained about 15 pounds over the same period. Other controlled studies of shorter duration have also shown that meal replacements are an effective strategy for weight loss. The value of meal replacements is that it changes behavior, and for some people the structure of having a prepared meal provides the needed motivation to reduce calories and enhance weight loss. The nutrient composition of a meal replacement is another important consideration. You should look for meal replacements with a high quality protein source such as whey protein, and it should contain a good source of other important vitamins and minerals to ensure you meet all your daily requirements. An effective meal replacement also has to taste good; otherwise you will never stick with it. A great meal replacement product that combines superior nutritional value and exceptional taste is the Supreme Protein Bar. You wonâ€™t believe the taste and how easy it can be to lose weight in 2008.
5. Get a Little Protein at Each Meal.
Skipping meals is a common tool for dieters to reduce calories, but it can backfire. The problem is when you go a long time without eating, glucose levels in the blood will fall and eventually trigger a cascade of powerful chemical reactions that stimulate appetite. The strong drive to eat that ensues is so intense it will often lead to a binge. A better approach is to keep on a more routine feeding schedule that includes a little protein throughout the day. This is also the ideal approach for stimulating muscle growth. A recent study showed that protein supplementation between meals maximized muscle anabolism compared to 3 square meals alone as shown by a significantly greater nitrogen balance over a 16 hour testing period. Protein is also more thermogenic than carbohydrate and fat. Research shows that as much as 25% of the energy in protein is burned to digest and assimilate the protein. To boost your metabolism while feeding muscles what they need, consider adding a protein shake between meals to optimize nitrogen balance and muscle growth.