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November 14, 2013

How to Pump Up the Volume

Jason Ensign

I am often approached by individuals at the gym who are new to the sport of bodybuilding and they ask me what supplements they should take to see the greatest results. They name off every exotic potion and herb on the market that they've seen in the muscle magazines. Assuming any of these will magically transform them overnight, they make the same mistake I see so many other lifters make:

They forget to take care of the basics first!

I explain this concept to them by informing them that just as there is a food pyramid, there is also a supplement pyramid. Until you get the basics, or the ground floor of the pyramid down, the more exotic supplements are going to be of little use to you.

First and foremost is protein. A lifter wanting to make the best gains possible should try to consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This if far above what the USDA recommends, but remember, those allowances are for your 150lb sedentary male, not a weight lifter trying to put on lean muscle.

One to 1.5 grams per pound comes to 170-250 grams for a 170lb male. This may seem like a lot if all of your protein sources are whole foods, but with a couple meal replacement drinks (MRP's) that level can easily be consumed. Most of the MRP's on the market contain between 25-50 grams of protein per serving. By consuming just two, you've taken in almost half of your protein requirement for the day, not to mention all of the additional vitamins & minerals added to meal replacements.

The main complaint I hear about MRP's is the cost. At a cost of $28-$45 per box, they may seem costly at first, but with 20 packages per box, that's only $1.40-$2.50 per serving. This is much less than someone would spend on a small box of chicken nuggets and a coke and I don't think that the latter has anywhere near the protein or vitamins that an MRP does!

The second supplement I would recommend is a good vitamin pack. I prefer these to the one-a-day vitamins you see at any grocery store. The one-a-days are not absorbed by the body as well as vitamin packs. Individuals may look at the analysis of the packs and feel that the amounts are too high. Once again, remember that the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowances are for sedentary males. Consider this - when you train, you lose a lot of nutrients through sweating, not to mention the extra energy needed for protein utilization and repairing of muscle tissue. With all of this taken into consideration, the extra money spent on a good vitamin pack from a reputable company is money well spent.

The final supplement that I recommend does not have to be bought at a store at all. As a matter of fact, it's equally as important as protein and the cheapest ""supplement"" you can find - it's plain old water! With the body being 75% water - and yes, that's muscle too - it's not difficult to understand the importance of this nutrient. With just a 3% loss of water, strength is greatly reduced.

Waiting until you're thirsty isn't good enough - by then you're probably already dehydrated. With all of the toxins in the body from resistance training and with increased protein consumption, the average individual should drink between 3/4 to 1 gallon of water a day. Even more is required if you sweat a lot at work or when training. Remember, you can never drink too much water. Unlike protein, fats and carbohydrates, excess water will simply be excreted.

Now that you have an understanding of the basics of supplementation for bodybuilding, I hope you understand that just as the Great Pyramids in Egypt wouldn't be so great with a weak base, your supplement pyramid won't stand unless you first get the basics down. So get the first 3 covered, then if you wish, try some of the more advanced products such as creatine, andro and thermogenics.

When I began bodybuilding I spent what little money I had on supplements like bee pollen and inosine. The only thing these items affected was my wallet. Fortunately, in the last few years many supplements have surfaced backed by the scientific evidence that they work. Creatine, whey protein, and thermogenic supplements are just a few examples. If we all had a limitless supply of funds, we could try every new supplement that shows up on the market, however, I assume that this is not the case. Therefore, we must search for the products that give us the biggest gains for our dollar. There is a category of supplements that has received a lot of press recently, and I have used them personally as well: natural Human Growth Hormone elevating substances, or secretagoues.

Secretagogue translates to a substance that stimulates the release of secreting organs, in this case the pituitary gland. Between the ages of 18 and 35, the amount of Growth Hormone (hGH) naturally produced by the body declines dramatically. By introducing natural substances into the body that cause it to increase its own production of hGH, we can benefit from these higher levels withouth the added high price and hassle of synthetic, injectable hGH. Benefits range from increased muscle mass and decreased body fat, to increased energy and mental alertness. Restoring hGH levels to their former levels has also been shown to improve sleep, elevate mood and offer a better sense of well-being. Secretagogues accomplish this by supplying the body with a precise amount of amino acids and nutrients that will signal the pituitary gland to increase its production of hGH.

So now that you know what secretagogues do, you need to know how and when to take them. I supplemented with them during my last contest preparation and felt that it gave me a bit of an edge. Often, in competition, a little edge is what separates the first place winner from thos who get sent home. It aided me in battling the fatigue that is an inevitable side effect of strict pre-contest dieting. It also helped me ""lean up"" a little easier and maintain the muscle that I had acquired. For the best possible absorption, I took it on an empty stomach (3 hours after my last meal.) That ensured there was nothing to impede by body from utilizing the supplement effectively. Also, since hGH levels are highest during sleep, I felt that taking it right before going to bed would be the optimal time to enable maximum hGH release.

In a market flooded with numerous products that claim to offer remarkable benefits with little or no scientific backing, it is refreshing to find a category of products that actually succeeds in enhancing results. For athletes over 25 or those participating in high intensity training, I think that an hGH supplement is a worthy addition to your current supplement regimen. So try it, and see if you share my excitement.

Once again, thank you and good bodybuilding to all!

Written by Jason Ensign