In 2012, the bodybuilding supplement industry brought in 32 billion dollars and by 2021 it is expected to bring in 60 billion dollars. It’s expected to go up so drastically because of the increase usage of supplements by young bodybuilders. According to leading industry expert since 2000, Brian Smith, he says “10 years ago it was just the muscle heads and weekend warriors using supplements now it’s the full spectrum of men and especially women” (Lariviere).
Creatine, whey protein, and BCAAs are some of the most popular supplements used by bodybuilders to gain mass, and there are a number of reasons why they do but there are also some repercussions to using said supplements. Some basic information about creatine would be about what it exactly does since most people do not know what creatine does. Creatine monohydrate is a supplement that when consumed increases the amount of water stored in the muscles and makes the muscles appear more voluminous. (Rouzier Pierre) Muscles contract using a compound called adenosine triphosphate or (ATP) and then it is broken down into adenosine diphosphate or (ADP). Creatine supplementation has repeatedly been shown to turn the adenosine diphosphate back into adenosine triphosphate for the muscle being used and thus it increases power output for the muscles. It also has been shown to help boost recovery in muscles that are used for intense type activity (Rouzier 1).
In a study done by Jo G. Claudino et al, they took 14 elite Brazilian soccer players and gave them creatine for a few weeks and then were tested in their lower limbs for a change in strength. The result was that their limbs grew stronger and the team concluded that burst strength was what creatine mostly worked for.
Sprints and sports like soccer are very compliant with a supplement like creatine. The subjects in the test reacted very well in their burst activity like sprinting and throwing the ball. It can be generally concluded that creatine would do the same for any type of sport or weightlifting as long as there is burst activity.A fairly controversial fact of creatine is that it contributes to hair loss and this comes from a study by a study by Van der Merwe et al. The basis of the study was to have the rugby players take creatine for a certain amount of time then test them for their serum T levels and dihydrotestosterone levels or (DHT).
In this study they took twenty male rugby players and did a loading phase of creatine on them (25g/ a day) over a 7 day period then drop them down to maintenance on the creatine (5g/ a day) for 14 days. After the first 7 days of the loading phase they tested the rugby players and their serum T levels did not change at all. When they tested DHT levels though they got a whopping 56% after just 7 days of creatine and it stayed 40% above baseline levels after they did the 14 day maintenance on the players. (Van der Merwe, 6) The reason why this is connected to hair loss is because dihydrotestosterone (DHT) has been found to essentially shrink hair follicles and cut off nourishment from the dermal papillae (The Private Clinic, 8) resulting in hair loss. So since creatine use and DHT increase has a direct relationship it can be concluded that creatine has a chance to cause hair loss.
It is recommended by experts to not take creatine if you have a family history of balding.Creatine is used to increase power output and make the muscles appear voluminous which is a reason why it is one of the most popular supplements used today, but it’s how it is taken that matters also. It is recommended athletes take 2-5g of creatine daily for the most benefits.
Short term side effects of creatine supplementation vary from person to person and in the grand scheme of things pretty minimal. These effects include indigestion or muscular cramps. Although on the long term side of things the effects can be a little bit more serious with the effects being kidney damage and other unknown side effects. (Rouzier, Pierre 1) It’s a relatively common idea that creatine should be used in cycles of a certain amount of weeks. A general number would be to take it for 2 months then cycle off for a couple months. The next supplement that has actually been around longer than any of these others is whey protein.
Whey protein is simply a supplement for the macronutrient protein. It is used to increase ones protein intake for that said day. Protein is important for muscle growth as it is the driving factor for muscle growth. Protein grows muscles by providing amino acids to the muscles. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscular growth, aiding in muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Lifting weights creates microscopic tears in the muscles in the body and this is when protein supplementation comes into play because those torn fibers are built back together stronger and bigger from muscle protein synthesis. Bodybuilders use whey protein to increase their protein consumption for muscle growth.The price of whey can be relatively high compared to other food sources.
Unlike the other two supplements on the list, whey protein is a supplement that gives you protein but protein can be found in whole food sources. Whey protein can be pretty expensive compared to whole foods such as chicken and beef and fish. Whey protein shakes are said to be used as a supplement and does not cover a whole meal as most containers have on the label. Whey protein does not have the same dietetic value as whole protein foods. Food experts recommend to eat more whole foods and only use protein shakes as a meal replacement only when convenient.
There are three different types of whey protein available: isolate, concentrate, hydrolysate. Whey isolate is a very strict form of whey protein in which it is comprised of 90% pure proteins. This type of whey is used for diets that need less lactose and carbs and fats in their protein and need faster digesting protein. Whey concentrate is usually the cheapest protein but it is the least filtered protein meaning it has around 80% pure protein with the rest being carbs, lactose, and fats. Hydrolysate protein is a protein that goes past isolate. It has enzymes and heat reacted to it so it becomes even more pure than isolate.
This protein is pre-digested so it absorbs the fastest in the body compared to the other two. For the average bodybuilder, protein type does not matter as long as said bodybuilder receives enough protein to repair the torn down muscles. In order for a bodybuilder to receive enough protein it is recommended to consume 0.8g/Lb/day to 1.0g/Lb/day. This will ensure the muscles will be properly fed with protein and will stimulate muscle protein synthesis.In a study done by Antonio J.
et al. they studied the effects of a very high protein diet. It is said that active individuals need 1.4g/Ib/day of protein to 2.0g/Ib/day to properly repair muscles. So they had subjects consume 4.4g/Ib/day and they tested body composition to see how it changed over 8 weeks. They concluded that the subjects that were consuming 4.
4g/Ib/day and maintained the same physical exercise routine did not see an increase in body composition in the 8 weeks they were studied.(Antonio J. 9) So the effect of this study goes to show that more protein will not boost the speed of which your muscles repair and grow. In fact a study by William Martin in 2002 recorded that as protein intake went up, hydration levels went down. This meaning that higher protein diets require more hydration even in the untrained individual. The study had subjects consuming up to 30% of their calories from protein and many popular high protein diets have around that range of macronutrient disparity. So they concluded the study with the fact that people consuming high protein diets need to ingest more water but also people in general need to drink more water because 3 out of every 4 Americans are chronically dehydrated and that impairs cardiovascular performance drastically along with other negative side effects (William Martin 2002, 10).
BCAA’s or branch chain amino acids are amino acids in which the body is not able to get through any other means. Often times they are called “Essential BCAA’s” because the human body is unable to make these amino acids by it self and it’s essential we get them in the day to day life. The main amino acids of BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids oxidize in the muscles and enhance muscle protein synthesis by up to 22% (Joe Weider Muscle and Fitness, 3) The amino acids in BCAAs help to stop muscles from catabolizing. Catabolism means the destruction of muscle, but as Yoshiharu Shimomura et al (4) have concluded that BCAA supplementation is linked to a decrease in exercise induced muscle damage and promotes muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs are not always as important as the other two supplements on this list but they have their placing because of the fact that they protect muscles from catabolism and enhance muscle protein synthesis.BCAAs are usually a fruity flavored supplement and can have a very pleasing sweet taste so it is sometimes very easy to mix your creatine with BCAAs to get them both in your body at the same time.
A lot of supplement companies actually sell their BCAAs and creatine as the same multi drink used for pre or post workout nutrition. BCAAs can be used when you first wake up to get your muscles ready and oxidized for the day. They can be drank pre workout to maintain your muscles and not send them into catabolization.
BCAAs can also be used before bed as well to maintain your muscles as you sleep you will not be receiving any food for a while so it can preserve your muscles with a slow steady supply of essential amino acids. You can also use them for post workout, but BCAAs are to not be relied solely on for post workout nutrition. BCAAs have protein amino acids but often have 0 calories in them. This works because the amino acids within the BCAAs are chemicals that can be oxidized and not large protein macro nutrients that you would find in meats and milk for example.
So it is a common misconception for athletes to drink amino acids after working out and be done but really the body needs calorically dense large protein macro nutrients after working out. As a study posted in Joe Weider Muscle and Fitness (3) when a protein supplement with the same BCAA content was ingested after workout, the muscle protein synthesis doubled to nearly 44%. Essentially just drinking a protein shake and having BCAAs as post workout can optimally raise the body composition in bodybuilders.Experts all over the field of supplements and nutrition science almost collectively agree that supplements are on the top of the muscle building hierarchy. This means that you do not have to consume supplements to build the most amount of muscle possible. Other factors that outweigh every supplement on the market would be: sleep, stress, activity levels, diet and workout routine. Supplements are there because they supplement the body with nutrients to supplement growth.
They are not nearly as important as diet and workout routine. The most important factor for muscle growth is resistance training. Getting out and actually moving the weights to stimulate the muscles is quite frankly the most important thing.
As Speros Karas, orthopedic doctor (11) says “my number one tip for guys trying to gain muscle is to commit to strength training.” The next extremely important factor of muscle growth is diet. Diet is arguably the number one important factor for muscle growth but for new bodybuilders, actually working out and stimulating muscles is just little bit more important. After a person becomes an intermediate bodybuilder and no longer in the beginning months of resistance training, then diet becomes number one.
None of it matters though because diet and resistance training go hand in hand when it comes to muscle building. Then as you go up the hierarchy there is: sleep, stress, and activity levels. If a person works a very stressful job and they are constantly stressed about work or financial stressors then it’s going to be hard to build new muscle gains. The stress hormone cortisol transmits when under stress and the hormone is a catabolic hormone and does destruction yo your muscles. Stress can induce earlier decline in muscle strength which will eventually lead to fall and fracture (Poornima K. N.
et al, 12)Sleep is another important factor for muscle growth as it is the time for the muscles to rebuild. Growth hormone is secreted during sleep and is a massive driving force as to how the muscles repair. Growth hormone is secreted only a few hours after the initial onset of sleep and during the first wave of slow wave sleep (Van Cauter et al, 13) 70% of growth hormone or (GH) pulses during sleep are emitted during SWS or slow wave sleep. This is important because many people are not getting enough sleep every night and there are numerous known negatives to not getting enough sleep. On top of feeling groggy, irritated and tired, growth hormone is not secreted as much if enough sleep isn’t had so the muscles do not grow to their full potential.
Getting optimal sleep is a must do for bodybuilders. Lastly activity levels are relatively important as well. Living a sedentary life and working a desk job which make working out much harder compared to active jobs and lifestyles. These three supplements: creatine, whey protein and BCAAs all have quite the differences with each other. All three when added to a healthy diet, active lifestyle, and rigorous resistance training can change the body composition of a bodybuilder and can create a foundation for muscle growth. The similarities of these supplements are not much but they all are used as adding factors to one’s lifestyle and are to not be relied on all by themselves as they are supplementations to a diet. Some sports drink companies sell the drinks with all three of these supplements in one.
In fact it’s not uncommon for vendors to sell creatine mixed with whey protein into a very fine powder. It is mixed together like that simply for practicality. It is much easier to drink a scoop of protein and get the daily dose creatine in at the same time instead of drinking them at separate times throughout the day and then forgetting to take one of them. Even BCAAs are sometimes mixed in with whey protein for easier consumption. All of these supplements help to gain mass and muscle either it be through increasing muscular protein synthesis with branch chain amino acids or protein in the whey from increasing MPS as well. Also creatine with its filling the muscles with water properties adds mass to the muscles because the muscle cells get saturated with water. Also it improves power output which will collectively result in muscle growth later on down the road.
The importance of these supplements are shown to only be a small part of the full picture of bodybuilding. These supplements should be used when necessary and only be used if you are healthy to do so. As stated above, creatine and whey protein can both cause kidney damage of used too much or too long so sticking to whole foods and cycling on and off of creatine is the safest way to use it. It is always best to get a checkup with the doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to start resistance training, let alone use supplements.
Creatine, whey protein, and BCAAs are each their own supplement but can also be combined into one thing since they do not have colluding effects. Creatine is used to get stronger, in cycles of use. The increase of ADP to ATP for power output is what helps get a bodybuilder stronger in a short time. Whey protein and BCAAs both increase muscle protein synthesis which drives the muscle building process in the body. An added benefit of whey protein is that it keeps you full as well which is good for fat loss. Amino acids in BCAAs help prevent catabolism of the muscles overnight and during training. It essentially feeds the muscles a constant supply of amino acids and keeps them from burning themselves for energy.
The practicality of these supplements is fair. If one has enough money to buy supplements monthly then they only getting a tiny edge on others who just eat whole foods and consume enough protein. It is not a big deal if a person does not use these supplements for it will not make or break a physique. The best way to build muscle is to train right, eat healthy and wholesome, get enough sleep, live stress free, and overall stay dedicated to the process. Supplements are useful, but as the name implies, it is just a supplement to aid you in your health goals.