Monthly Archives: July 2016

What is The Supplements You Should Be Taking

Whey protein, creatine, beta-alanine, caffeine, fish oil, vitamin D. . .  these supplements are the poster boys for places like GNC and online supplement retailers.

They are well known, effective, and are beneficial for most hard-training, health-minded individuals.

While we all love these popular supplements, there are some less well-known supplements that appear to be just as effective as the big hitters above.

Interestingly, a lot of these newer supplements appear to modulate your neurotransmitters and can be considered “nootropics”.


Glycine is an underappreciated amino acid, perhaps because it is the smallest and not one of the sexy BCAA’s. However, it can serve as a neurotransmitter and supplemental glycine has been shown to be effective for improving sleep.

Glycine appears to be superior to nighttime carbohydrates, and even magnesium, for improving sleep quality. Did that blow your mind? It blew mine when I first read through the studies.

Most studies show that low doses of glycine appear to be the most beneficial. In humans who reported poor sleep, consuming 3 grams of glycine before bedtime improved their sleep, reduced daytime sleepiness, and improved performance of memory recognition tasks1.

Related: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Bodybuilding Supplements

In a double-blind cross-over study, 3 grams of glycine before bed improved fatigue and “peppiness” the morning following supplementation2. I know I would benefit from more morning “peppiness”.

Based on what we know at the current moment, it appears that 3 grams is the “magic dose” as a third study demonstrated that 3 grams of pre-bed glycine improved sleep and reduced fatigue and daytime sleepiness3.


L-tyrosine, another amino acid, can be categorized as a nootropic. L-tyrosine primarily has effects on stress, well-being, working memory, and even cognitive function. Much like glycine, many of the benefits of L-Tyrosine have been repeated across several studies and it appears to be a safe supplement.

L-tyrosine works primarily by being a precursor to several neurotransmitters: dopamine, noradrenaline, and adrenaline.  In a group of young men, 2 grams of tyrosine was able to reduce stress and fatigue and improved cognitive performance.4

This has been repeated under different forms of stress where tyrosine prevented decline in cognitive performance during periods of sleep-deprivation (i.e. shift work or long hours of being on call as a health care worker)5.

Tyrosine has also been tested in a couple of the most unique but bizarre supplement studies (science does some wacky, but really interesting stuff sometimes).

Supplementing with tyrosine has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood after exposure to intense, prolonged cold6.  In another cold-exposure study, tyrosine supplementation reverse the “brain fog” that is observed under extreme cold exposure7.

Currently, it looks like the most effective doses ranges from about 1 grams to 2 grams and about an hour before an event seems to maximize the effectiveness of it.


Ashwaganhda is commonly referred to as an “adaptogen”. It is a popular herb used in aryuvedic medicine and is typically used to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as alleviate insomnia. One of the lesser known features of ashwagandha is its effect on physical performance, specifically power output.

There are several studies to support the claims of ashwagandha as an anti-anxiety supplement and that it may be a helpful way to reduce stress during stress periods. In one study, ashwaganha was 77% more effective at reducing anxiety than a placebo8. In a group of people with moderate to severe anxiety, ashwagandha was 85% more effective than the placebo group9.

Based on the data we have right now it looks like ashwagandha is a pretty effective natural anti-anxiety supplement.

Now, these studies sort of knocked my socks off. I was not expecting these results. I guess the beauty of science is you learn things that often surprise you.

Supplementing with Ashwagandha has been shown in a couple different studies to improve velocity, power, VO2 max, and small increases in muscle size and strength10,11. I am guessing these effects are secondary to it reducing stress. Regardless of the exact mechanisms, it is really interesting!


When you look at the research, green tea is like the magical cure to everything. I am only half joking on that point. It displays a ton of really interesting properties and has motivated me to start drinking a little more of it.

When we really boil it down, the main effective ingredient in green tea appears to be a chemical we will refer to as EGCG.  Now let us begin the trek through what green tea has been shown to do.

Tips for Building muscle

Building muscle is generally the main motivation for getting into the gym in the first place.

Whether it’s to look better, develop more confidence, or to gain strength for preseason football training, the desired outcome is the same, more muscle and less fat.

Train for long enough and it becomes apparent that the key stimulus for unlocking serious muscle gains is to progressively increase the level of the intensity of your workouts.

All too frequently, guys will grab a training program, get into a pattern, and then flat line because their intensity doesn’t change.

There’s simply no substitute for increasing training intensity to spark continuous growth. Progressive resistance is the name of the game and without it you can forget about expanding those shirtsleeves.

While devoted trainees pound protein and carbs pre and post workout, a crucial step has unwittingly been missed. The intake of nutrients during training, intra-workout nutrition.

Fresh muscle gains have been the biggest casualty.

Smart trainees have finally caught on, but are they doing it right?

For those who have been neglecting intra-workout nutrition entirely, pay very close attention, this article will unlock the gains you’ve been missing.


The idea of nutrient consumption during workouts has been tossed around gyms for the past decade or so. That being said, many bodybuilders have forgone this crucial strategy. Why?

Many intra-workout misconceptions exist. The mechanical digestion of nutrients diverts blood from muscles and is energy-robbing.

Related: 4 Post-Workout Nutrition Myths (That Are Actually Relevant)

Certain compounds, notably caffeine, can dehydrate muscles and deplete training energy. The excessive intake of stimulants may over-stimulate the central nervous system and cause muscle fatigue.The intake of certain nutrients during training is time consuming and inconvenient.

While the above are true, they are also not the most effective intra-workout strategies. Unfortunately, the association they have with intra-workout nutrition prevents many from taking advantage of one of the most powerful growth determinants.


Much of today’s muscle-building progress can be attributed to nutrition. In the not too distant past, workout nutrition was rather primitive. A meal one hour before training and a protein shake post-workout was about it. In recent years, supplement savvy lifters have taken a more scientific approach to “peri-workout” nutrition (the time before, during, and after your workout).

However, what is arguably the most important of the three nutritional windows, intraworkout nutrition, is still frequently neglected.

Engineering the perfect training experience and setting the stage for maximum muscle growth is all about timing and attention to detail.4 It’s not always what you consume but when you consume it that can make a significant difference to how the body responds to a given training stimulus.

Crudely ingesting a bunch of simple carbs (some even recommend straight table sugar or fruit) and a protein shake will not cut it. What is required is an array of specifically-engineered ingredients.

Take High Molecular Weight Carbs

images-19There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who want to be jacked and those I don’t associate myself with.

OK, maybe that is taking it to the extreme, but if you are reading Muscle & Strength I would bet my life savings (which I admit is meager) that you are the kind of person who wants to be jacked.

One of the things we know from decades of research is that your training volume is one of the biggest dictators of muscle hypertrophy (aka jackedness).

So if you want to get bigger and stronger then increasing your work capacity is essential.

Supplementing with carbohydrates before (or during) training is well known to improve work capacity and endurance. Additionally, post workout recovery is important for engaging in repeated bouts of exercise.

One of the rate limiting features of maintaining performance during long events (i.e. triathlons and ironman) is the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients at a high enough rate without cramping.

The mechanical composition of the meal (i.e. solid vs liquid) along with the chemical/physical properties (chemical structure and osmolality) greatly influence the gastric absorbance of nutrients taken in before, during, and after training.

When high molecular weight glucose polymers (vitargo and cyclic dextrins) are mixed in a water solution they provide a low osmolality liquid beverage. It is believed that consuming liquids with low osmolality will increase absorption, thereby providing more carbohydrates and improved performance.


Studies comparing a high molecular weight glucose polymer (Vitargo) vs short chain glucose oligomers showed that Vitargo did indeed have better gastric empty than the glucose oligomers1.

Now I know what you are thinking, better gastric emptying? Who gives a rip? Well besides it reducing the “gut bomb” feeling of drinking a huge shake before or during training, the increased gastric emptying means more nutrients available to use for energy during training.

Every once in a while theory actually translates into practice. High molecular weight carbs are a perfect example of that. Not only does Vitargo empty the gut faster, it also has been shown to improve glycogen resynthesis rates after a glycogen depleting protocol in well-trained men2.

Ok, improving glycogen synthesis is cool, but will these fancy carbs improve my performance?  Based on recent research it looks like they are superior to other glucose sources.

In a well-controlled study, Vitargo supplementation showed improved recovery and performance on repeated bouts of intense cycling3. In the study, the Vitargo group saw a 9% greater work capacity than the standard glucose group and an almost 20% increase over the placebo group!

Now I don’t know about you, but I sure would like to be able to recover faster.

Vitargo isn’t the only high molecular weight carbohydrate on the market. High branched cyclic dextrins (HBCD) are a close cousin to vitargo and report similar results. For example, HBCD has been shown to have faster gastric emptying and fewer GI issues when consumed during repeated exercise bouts than traditional sports drink4.

Additionally, it has been shown ingesting HBCD increases tie to fatigue and result in higher blood glucose levels during intense training than traditional glucose5.


Why spend fat stacks on high molecular weight carbs? I mean a banana or a sport drink should do the same right?

Not quite. In fact it turns out that when you take in something like a banana or a Powerade the fructose content of those carb sources is kind of useless in regard to providing energy for your muscle tissue while training.

A recent study by a friend of mine, Jorn Trommelen, showed that when you consume fructose in a peri-workout drink most of the fructose just gets burned by the liver and turns into lactate6.

This means less of it can go toward your training. From a performance standpoint, I would argue you are better off going with something lower in fructose or sucrose and higher in something that is just glucose.