You take a walk around the local gym and see these muscular men and women lifting extraordinarily heavy weights. Bodybuilding is an art and a sport, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. We wanted you to know every detail, so we traversed medical websites, dug deep to find expert opinions and even utilized university papers to make sure all of the facts you need are there.
What is Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding is the “use of progressive resistance exercise to control and develop one’s musculature,” according to Wikipedia. That means the athlete lifts heavy weights, progressing higher over time, in an effort to grow muscles beyond the normal size. Both men and women can bodybuild, though some would say men have it easier because of the higher levels of testosterone in the body. This hormone is crucial to building muscle.
Supplementation, Medication and Bodybuilding
Some bodybuilders choose to go the natural route, taking no supplements or medications to encourage muscle growth. Others choose to use natural or medicinal means to give the body a little, or a big, boost. You can find safe, effective and legal options, but there are also illegal options that may cause more harm than good.
Natural Solutions for Bodybuilding
The most common supplements used for bodybuilding are creatine, protein, glutamine, weight gainers and hormone boosters. These work synergistically to promote muscle growth, recovery and a high enough calorie intake to keep the body in the positive so you don’t lose weight.
Creatine is nothing more than a chemical that is found in foods like meats and fish. You can also take it as a supplement, which is what most bodybuilders choose to do. According to a detailed review of multiple clinical studies published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is scientifically proven to “[amplify] the effects of resistance training for enhancing strength and hypertrophy.”
Are There Any Side Effects from Creatine?
Though it is clinically proven, bodybuilders must take into consideration the potential side effects associated with creatine. You may want to look out for:
• Water retention in muscles.
• Weight gain.
• Increased risk of heart-related problems when taken in conjunction with caffeine and ephedra.
How Much Creatine Do You Take?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you start out loading creatine by taking 5g, four times a day (for a total of 20g). Keep this up for 3 to 5 days. Then, use 2g daily for maintenance.
Protein Powders and Supplements
Protein is at the heart of muscle growth and while you do consume it every day in your normal diet that may not be enough to promote the muscle growth bodybuilders are looking for. You typically take protein with carbohydrates as they work as a transport system to deliver the protein to the muscle.
In addition to promoting muscle growth and recovery, there are some other benefits to take into consideration. According to the journal Sports Medicine, “there is evidence that a relatively high protein intake (approximately 30% of energy intake) will reduce lean mass loss relative to a lower protein intake (approximately 15% of energy intake) during energy restriction. The higher protein intake will also provide a relatively large thermic effect that may aid in reducing body fat.”
Are There Any Side Effects Associated with Protein?
There are multiple kinds of protein supplements, including rice, pea, egg and whey. There are no serious side effects to consider when taking normal amounts of protein, but in high doses it can cause increased bowel movements, cramping, reduced appetite and headache.
How Much Protein to Consume?
According to the Institute of Medicine, the high recommended intake of protein is about 35% of your total calories. For a 3,000 calorie diet that is about 263g. However, the journal Sports Medicine claims only 30% is needed and that equates to about 225g per 3,000 calories.
Glutamine works as a building block for protein, also known as an amino acid. There’s a long list of reasons people supplement with glutamine, including ADHD, stomach problems, depression and to enhance exercise performance.
Do I Have to Worry About Side Effects With Glutamine?
According to Dartmouth University, some side effects you may need to consider before taking glutamine include, “nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, gas, dry mouth, runny nose, swelling in your hands or feet, muscle or joint pain, back pain, headache, dizziness, tired feeling, mild skin rash or itching or increased sweating.”
How Much Glutamine Is Enough?
Bodybuilding.com suggests taking “10 to 15 grams of L-Glutamine a day – supplementing it 2 to 3 times daily, with each serving at around 5 grams.” According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, “Acute intakes of glutamine of approximately 20-30 g seem to be without ill effect in healthy adult humans.” So the answer is anywhere from 10g to 30g a day.
A weight gainer is a type of protein or carbohydrate shake that contains thousands of calories. The idea is that you cannot eat enough food to intake the calories needed for bodybuilding.
Are There Any Side Effects With Taking a Weight Gainer?
While there are no side effects associated with weight gainers, there are concerns with being overweight. The measure of being overweight or obese is the BMI scale. Unfortunately, BMI scales do not take into consideration the weight of muscles in bodybuilders. It is always better to measure total body fat as a means of determining whether or not you are overweight or obese.
How Many Calories are Enough?
There’s no set amount of calories to intake when mass-building, but it is suggested to multiply your body weight by 17 to estimate. If the bodybuilder weighs 150 pounds, that means an intake of 2,550 should be enough to gain weight. This is misconceiving because if you workout daily you could burn more than that meaning you would actually lose weight.
Another rule of thumb suggests adding a generic 1,000 calories to your normal diet. That is also confusing as if you are just starting out in bodybuilding, the exercise alone will burn more calories than the body is used to and that could mean you still aren’t getting enough to gain weight.
Ultimately, the answer is simple. Experiment with total calorie intake until you achieve weight gain. Start out slowly and work up so as not to gain too much fat at one time.
The focus of hormone boosters is to promote testosterone production. There are two types of hormone boosters – natural and medicinal. Some natural options are clinically proven and all medications have scientific backing.
Natural Hormone Boosters
There are some natural means of promoting testosterone production, including improved sleep patterns, exercise and stress control. There are also some supplements that can help support healthy testosterone production. These include DHEA, tribulus terrestris and eurycoma longifolia.
Eurycoma Longifolia – According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, “laboratory evidence shows that eurycoma peptides stimulate release of free testosterone from its binding proteins and improve overall hormone profiles.”
DHEA – DHEA is naturally produced by the body. “In both men and women, the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone depend on DHEA,” according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Supplementing may help support testosterone production, but it will not increase the level of testosterone in the body.
Tribulus Terrestris – According to the International Sports Science Association, “taking Tribulus terrestris supplements may maximize natural production of testosterone, which is thought to be the primary reason this plant increases libido and sexual performance in both males and females.”
Medicinal Hormone Boosters
The most common medicinal hormone booster is testosterone. You must visit a physician for a prescription and blood tests will be completed to ensure levels are not too high.
Anabolic steroids can also be used to boost testosterone levels. These are illegal for use without a prescription, but that doesn’t stop some bodybuilders.
Will Hormone Boosters Cause Negative Side Effects?
There is a long list of potential side effects associated with hormone boosters, both natural and medicinal.
Natural – You may have to deal with oily skin, acne, aggressiveness, headaches and depression.
Medicinal – The risk of side effects with medical testosterone boosters are even greater than those associated with natural hormone boosters. Watch out for breast enlargement, low sperm count, deeper voice, high blood pressure, rage, violence and aggression.
What’s the Final Take on Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding is the art of increasing muscle size beyond that of natural size. It is important to take into consideration that not all natural hormone boosters are created equal as some do not contain clinically proven ingredients. Medicinal options, on the other hand, are associated with muscle growth, but the risk of side effects is something that cannot be overlooked. You also have to weigh the benefits with the risk associated with protein, creatine, weight gainers and other supplements.