The FAB FOUR
Our Panel of Experts Answer Your Questions
on a Variety of Topics
Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Training
been working out regularly and eating properly but I'm not getting
as much from my workouts as I'd like. Lately I've been under a lot
of stress and have a hard time getting to sleep at night. Sometimes
I only sleep 4-5 hours a night. How will this effect muscle growth
and fat loss?
lack of sleep is probably one of the worst things for a weight training
athlete in just about every respect. REM sleep is when your body
secretes its largest quantities of GH (growth hormone) for the entire
day. Scientists have known for a long time that this directly affects
fat loss. Most men will also note a substantial reduction of LH
(lutenizing hormone) and consequentially reduced T (testosterone)
levels. As if that were not already bad enough news, TSH (thyroid
stimulating hormone) levels drop off with a subsequent reduction
in T4 (thyroxine) and T4 to T3 (triiodothyronine) conversion. In
other words, your metabolism will suck! One other factor that should
be considered is sleep quality, not merely quantity. It is possible
to sleep 8-9 hours restlessly and still wake up feeling awful. Sleep
is much like training in this respect quality really counts! You
can spend 3 hours a day, 6 days a week in the gym wasting your time,
or you can do the right stuff for 45 minutes, 3 or 4 days a week
and get phenomenal results. Some people have been using various
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) precursors available on the market (furanone
di-hydro, tetramethylene glycol, and butylene glycol (1, 4 butanediol))
to induce deeper, more restful sleep. I have personally tried some
of these and they seem to work moderately well for me. Occasionally,
I've received feedback from people who wake up after 4-6 hours of
deep sleep though. This happens because GHB inhibits dopamine activity,
so after it wears off a fairly large surge of dopamine will become
active causing the user to wake up. I will also say that these products
have been getting quite a bad rap lately from the FDA because of
it's potential for abuse as a recreational "good time"
drug. I've been receiving a ton of questions about this subject
lately so I'll shed some light on it once and for all. These products
(Renewtrient, Regenerize, Nu Life, Somatopro, etc.) are essentially
all precursors (gamma butyrolactone) that the body uses to make
GHB. They agonize the benzodiazepine receptors and essentially function
as a mild Valium or Xanax. This is why you should never use this
type of product if you are taking prescription benzodiabpenes or
phenethiazines (such as thorazine and stellazine). Do not consume
alcohol with these products either. Ironically, GHB has been used
in Europe as a treatment for alcoholism. It's also a good idea to
supplement some potassium because of the possibility of minor potassium
depletion. That being said, I believe this type of supplement will
benefit most people who have trouble sleeping as well as increasing
quality REM sleep when used responsibly. If you choose to try any
of these products, it is always a good idea to start with a minimal
dose to assess tolerance and gradually increase the dose as needed.
Please note that these products are becoming illegal in many states
because of their potential for abuse. Sleep on ya' all!
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Fadda F, Colombo G, Mosca E and Gessa
GL. Suppression bygamma-hydroxybutyric acid of ethanol withdrawal
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787-9, 30 September 1989.
Kleimenova NN, Ostrovskaya RU and
Arefolov VA. Effect of sodium hydroxybutyrate on the ultra
structure of the cross-striated muscle tissue myocytes during
physical exercise. Byull Eksp Biol Med 88(9): 358-61, 1979.
Laborit H. Correlations between protein
and serotonin synthesis during various activities of the central
nervous system (slow and desynchronized sleep, learning and
memory, sexual activity, morphine tolerance, aggressiveness,
and pharmacological action of sodium gamma-hydroxybutyrate).
Research Communications in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology
3(1): January 1972.
Laborit H. Sodium 4-Hydroxybutyrate.
Int J Neuropharmacology [Great Britain]. 3: 433-52, 1964.
Ostrovskaya RU, Kleimenova NN, Kamisheva
V, Molodavkin GM, Yavorskii AN and Boikko SS. Effect of sodium
hydroxybutyrate on functional biochemical and morphological
indexes of physical working ability. Farmakol Regul Protsessov
Utomleniya [Moscow, USSR] 39-56: 112-17, 1982.
Takahara J, Yunoki S, Yakushiji W,
Yamauchi J, Yamane J and Ofuji T. Stimulatory effects of gamma-hydroxybutyric
acid on growth hormone and prolactin release in humans. J
Clin Endocrinal Metab 44: 1014, 1977.
Vickers MD. Gamma-hydroxybutyric
Acid. Int Anaesthesia Clinic 7: 75-89, 1969.
Thyroid testing and thyroid hormone
replacement in patients with sleep disordered breathing. Mickelson
SA, et al. Ear Nose Throat J. 1999 Oct;78(10):768-71, 774-5.
EEG and ocular correlates of circadian
melatonin phase and human performance decrements during sleep
loss. Cajochen C; Khalsa SB; Wyatt JK; Czeisler CA; Dijk DJ,
Am J Physiol 1999 Sep;277(3 Pt 2):R640-9
Adaptation to chronic stress in military
trainees. Adrenal androgens, testosterone, glucocorticoids,
IGF-1, and immune function. Bernton E; Hoover D; Galloway
R; Popp K, Ann N Y Acad Sci 1995 Dec 29;774:217-31
Circadian rhythm of hormones is extinguished
during prolonged physical stress, sleep and energy deficiency
in young men. Opstad K , Eur J Endocrinol. 1994 Jul;131(1):56-66.
Editor's Note: This particular response
was written before GBL products became scheduled drugs. However,
the information regarding sleep, of course, still applies. Many
users of the newer ZMA (zinc monomethionine and magnesium aspartate)
supplement by SNAC have been reporting an increased quality of sleep
and no one seems to be using it to get high so it should be around
The Genetic Variable
much of a factor are genetics in changing your body? I think God
played a cruel little joke and skipped over me when he was handing
out the gene for physique development.
A I don't
think anyone can deny that genetics are an important variable in
many respects to physical development. However, not all hope is
lost just because were not born a Greek demigod. No, lifting weights
will not help you become 6'4" if you are only 5'6". Nor
will it change your muscle insertions. Done properly though, it
will allow anyone to optimize their muscle to body fat ratios, increase
energy levels, improve functional abilities to perform everyday
tasks (suddenly raking the leaves doesn't have you in agony for
the next three days), significantly improve overall coordination/motor
skills, increase libido, increase bone density, positively alter
metabolism, increase insulin sensitivity, stimulate growth hormone,
etc. The list could go on forever. Lets not forget how much exercising
regularly can improve anybody's self image. It's pretty hard not
to feel good about yourself when you show your body a top notch
level of respect. It's really rather empowering. There are too many
things in this life that we do not have control over. When we have
control over our health and physical presence it truly gives us
a sense of power and control over every other aspect of our lives.
Too many people use poor genetics as an excuse to sell themselves
short of their true potential. In fact, most people have no idea
what they're capable of until they get the right information and
actually apply it. I've seen some top notch bodies that started
out as, if you'll pardon my expression, genetic sludge. Just goes
to show that we can all benefit from being our best. You don't have
to be the best, just be your best. Oh, God played a little wisecrack
on me too, he told me to get my workout programs from Men's Health.
I think I actually lost muscle my first few months of training.
Oh well, live and learn I guess.
Cyclodextrins... Efficient prohormone delivery?
friend is taking something called a cyclodextrin. He says it will
boost strength and recovery between workouts. What is your opinion
themselves are not directly active in any part of strength or muscle
development. They are merely sublingual delivery transports for
whatever molecule they may contain. In this case, a prohormone molecule.
The major problem with oral prohormones is that so much of the product
is rendered worthless by the time it makes the first pass through
the liver. The solution? Trap the molecule within a water soluble
molecule and Wallah! Now we can absorb the prohormone through the
mucus membranes beneath the tongue. Sounds great right? We've achieved
direct delivery to the bloodstream where the prohormones can do
their thing, and minimize prohormone casualty that would usually
occur while passing thoughout the GI tract. If only it were that
simple. The theory is great but the reality is that most prohormone
tabs dissolve very slowly and the user often times ends up swallowing
half of it anyway. Kind of defeats the purpose right? Does this
mean that cyclodextrin prohormones are no better than oral prohormones?
Not necessarily. I've found that one way to get around this is to
grind the cyclodextrin tab into more of a powder. This will dissolve
much faster and probably achieve greater absorption. Yes, this is
indeed a royal pain in the ass but nobody ever said success comes
easy. Also note that the cyclodextrin/prohomone studies were conducted
using a hydroxypropyl-betacyclodextrin (hpbcd) complex as opposed
to a betacyclodextrin. This may have some impact on the results
the user will experience. In fairness, I will say I've had decent
"real world" feedback from athletes using the betacyclodextrins
too. Having said all of that, the next issue I'd like to blatantly
address is the fact that most prohormones suck anyway. Both diones
(androstenedione and norandrostenedione) have the ability to convert
directly to estrone (a weak estrogen) which may then be converted
to estradiol (a potent estrogen). The degree of conversion may vary
substantially in different individuals largely based on aromatase
enzyme availability. This may also be slightly controlled with an
anti-aromatase but who wants to deal with all of that? The good
news is that the diols (4- androstenediol and 19-norandrostenediol)
do not have the ability to convert directly to any of the various
estrogenic compounds. However, the testosterone formed as a result
of 4-AD conversion is still susceptible to aromatization . So what's
my best advice? If you're going to use prohormones, probably stick
with the 4-AD and 19-Nor-4-AD as it has the best risk to benefit
ratio. You may also wish to try some of the newer transdermal versions
of these currently distributed by Biotest and LPJ research. The
data makes sense that they would be more effective than an oral
and the feedback has been impressive so far. If you do decide to
disregard my opinion and use the outdated androstenedione then at
least use an estrogen antagonist such as diindolylmethane (currently
distributed by Substrate Solutions as Di Indolin) or else you won't
be bra shopping at Victoria's Secret just for your girlfriend or
Well It's a matter of fat..
trainer keeps telling me I need to increase my fat intake even though
I'm on a weight loss diet. It really doesn't make any sense to me
why I would want to eat more fat when I'm trying to lose fat. Is
there any truth to this advice?
A I assume
your trainer is referring to increasing your essential fats (at
least I hope). You see, saying "fat" is like saying "car",
it's kind of vague. Is it a mint Aston Martin or is it a 1973 rusty,
olive green Pacer? Two rather different forms of transportation,
yet they both are cars nonetheless. There is an abundance of peer
reviewed research out there supporting many of the benefits of using
healthy fats for weight loss, cholesterol control (improving VLDL,
LDL, and HDL ratios in patients), increasing insulin sensitivity,
increasing protein utilization, improving skin (as well as treating
disorders such as psoriasis) and hair, improving hormone production/function,
improved blood lipid profile, etc. Essential fatty acids (EFA's)
play some greater or lesser role in nearly every life function.
I am certainly not the first writer to talk about this. In fact,
this information is really nothing new at all. However, I talk to
people everyday who still have no clue when it comes to EFA's .
There are two basic categories of essential fat ; omega-3 (alpha-linolenic
acid) and omega 6's (linoleic acid). Our bodies cannot produce these,
therefore they must be obtained through dietary means. The best
sources of omega-3's are probably flaxseed oil and fish oil. Fish
oil has the added benefit of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic
acid (EPA) which has been shown to have a powerful impact on lowering
blood pressure, hormone production, weight loss and possibly even
cancer prevention. The best omega-6 source is probably primrose
oil. To maintain omega-3 and omega-6 balance the preferred ratios
are probably in the neighborhood of three grams of flax or fish
oil to each one gram of primrose oil.
Phosphatidyl Joint Aches!
want to know if you're aware of any studies regarding the effects
of phosphatidylserine on joint integrity. Ever since I've been taking
it my joints feel a little sore. What could be causing this?
is a catabolic hormone secreted by the body in response to stress.
The upside to cortisol is it has powerful anti-inflammatory effects
and frankly, some cortisol is necessary to live. The downside is
when it's produced in excess due to high levels of physical or emotional
stress it makes the body a very unfriendly environment for building
new muscle tissue. One viable solution for this problem is to supplement
phosphatidylserine (Cort Bloc by Muscle Link is one that I recommend).
Usually 200g-300g on weight training days seems to get the job done.
Unfortunately, there are always some people out there with the "if
some is good.more is better" school of thought. These people
start mega-dosing the stuff and before long cortisol can no longer
exert it's positive anti-inflammatory effects. As with most supplements,
take a minimalist approach with phosphatidylserine. Start with maybe
100g-150g on workout days and go from there. If your joint soreness
is training induced you may want to lighten up the poundage for
a few weeks and try using a glucosamine HCl product so your joints
don't sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies every time you hit the
The Skinny on Artificial Sweeteners
Q I've noticed
that a lot of protein powders use aspartame as a sweetener. Can't
this stuff cause cancer? Why not use a natural sweetener?
A I really
think this whole aspartame debate has been blown way out of proportion.
That 's just my opinion. A study published last year in the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave obscene doses of aspartame to
48 healthy volunteers and found no adverse effects whatsoever. The
study concluded that aspartame is safe for use by the general public.
There seems to be some contention that the FDA has too much financial
interest in aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) to take it off the market.
It also seems as though the small number of internet aspartame "hate
groups" are somehow sponsored by companies that produce stevia,
another sweetener that is in direct financial competition with the
company that produces aspartame (Searle). I don't have proof to
support this statement but it seems fairly obvious to me, and we
all know how money can make people act funny (especially large amounts
of money). Sucralose is the newest sweetener to hit the market.
It is distributed by McNeil specialty products, a subsidiary of
Johnson and Johnson. It's 600 times sweeter than sugar. It's actually
a derivative of sucrose (table sugar) and seems to be pretty safe
stuff. I suppose given a choice in the matter, I'd rather see proteins
with sucralose instead of aspartame, but it looks like that could
be a while. Right now it is somewhat short in supply and the soda
industry is huge in demand. I've consumed aspartame in moderate
quantities for years now, and I can honestly say I haven't grown
six fingers or two heads or three legs.well maybe the third leg
thing is debatable.
Glucosamine and Insulin Sensitivity
I read someplace that although Glucosamine & Chondroitin are
great for the joints (I use the stuff myself and can vouch for it),
they inhibit the production of muscle glycogen. Do you know if that's
true? If it is true then what's the best way to increase the stores
of glycogen for weight training?
what you read is true. Glucosamine and chondroitin can indeed impact
glycogen synthase (the enzyme responsible for glycogen formation
in the body). I believe this effect is somewhat dose related though.
I also believe that the individual's initial level of insulin sensitivity
will also play a role in determining to what extent the glucosamine/chondroitin
will down regulate glucose metabolism. One possible solution to
minimize the effects of this down regulation would be to supplement
500mg-600mg of alpha lipoic acid each day in 2 or 3 divided doses.
ALA has proven to be effective in upregulating the insulin receptor
as well as being a potent antioxidant. I have not seen any studies
regarding ALA and glucosamine specifically but I have to speculate
that it would be effective. All in all, I think glucosamine/chondroitin
supplements have worked wonders on maintaining healthy joint function
(especially in weight training athletes) and would still recommend
its use. Here are a couple of studies regarding the effects of glucosamine
on insulin resistance:
Try this and let me know how it works for
Getting the "swing" of things
Hi, I am a avid softball player and I have been training with free
weights at lifetime fitness in Eagan since February of last year.
My goal is to hit the ball out of a baseball field, not trying brag
but I am pretty close now. My question is, do you know of any proven
methods (besides pure mechanics of your swing) to get more power
and arm strength? I also have a question regarding creatine. I have
been taking it for as long as I have been working out. Is it okay
to just take it when you lift and not on the days that you don't
are joining the ranks of baseball players that are discovering the
miracles of weight training to enhance athletic performance. There
are a few specific movements that should help increase the power
of your swing. External rotator cuff movements in particular seem
to help the most snce the strength of these muscles (teres minor
and infraspinatus) are often times out of balance with the internal
rotators of the humerus, i.e., the pectorals. The easiest way to
improve this is to spend a few minutes, twice a week, doing a couple
of basic isolation movements for these muscles. The first movement
is to externally rotate the arm using a cable or a dumbbell (I prefer
cables) with the elbow placed in a fixed position slightly above
the hip and the elbow bent at a ninety degree angle. Start out with
a very light weight (3-5 lbs) and perform 2 sets of 10-12 reps for
each side. The second movement is simply a variation of exercise
#1. Instead of placing the elbow at the side, stand next to an adjustable
bench. Adjust the bench so that the back of the bench is at shoulder
level while standing in an upright position. Using the top of the
bench as a fulcrum, bend the elbow at ninety degrees once again.
Rotate the arm such that the initiation of the movement begins with
the forearm parallel to the ground and finishes with the forearm
perpendicular to the ground. Perform 2 sets of 8-10 reps using 3-0-1
tempo (3 second eccentric-no pause at the bottom-1 second concentric).
A little bit of rotator work really goes a long way to increase
swing power and perhaps more importantly, shoulder longevity. Remember
to only perform this as a warmup on heavy lifting days that will
involve the shoulders because overtraining before a workout would
actually be counterproductive and decrease the stability of the
shoulder capsule during the workout. As far as creatine, I believe
it is beneficial to take a week off every 4-6 weeks. Many lifters
have been experiencing good results using liquid creatine pre and
post workout on training days only. It seems that the liquid is
effective even at lower dosages. Another supplement I've been impressed
with lately is ribose. This is another substrate the body can use
to manufacture ATP. Replenishing ATP stores more quickly will ultimately
lead to increased strength levels and faster recovery between workouts.
Biotest makes a quality liquid ribose/creatine combination called
Ribose-C and EAS makes an effervescent version called Riboforce
HP. Try this out and the only thing you'll be saying is, "going,
Every time I train my biceps, my forearms end up wearing out before
my biceps do. This makes it difficult to push my biceps to failure.
biceps primary function is elbow flexion, though it is also responsible
for supinating (turning the palm inward) the wrist. The two most
powerful wrist flexors are the Flexor Carpi Radialis and the Flexor
Carpi Ulnaris. Both of these anterior forearm muscles will easily
become involved in bicep movements if the wrist does not remain
neutral throughout the motion. A simple method of increasing bicep
involvement and minimizing forearm involvement during curls is to
slightly move the wrist back throughout the top third of the motion
so that the palms will essentially face upward at the top. This
will disengage the majority of forearm flexion and increase fiber
recruitment in the biceps. Initially this may warrant a slight reduction
in training poundages (10-15%), but they will return to normal and
then some in no time. Not to mention, the increased bicep growth
that will come as a result of this curling technique!
How to have great sex while simultaneously building
was reading Men's Health, and they have promised me better abs and
better sex in each of the past 27 issues. I have yet to see any
discernible results and I'm becoming very discouraged. Do you know
of any exercises that would target both of these functions simultaneously?
-Anonymous (understandably so)
it's a matter of fact I do! This exercise may be new to many of
you. It was developed by Russian exercise physiologist Ivana Humpalot
(no relation to the Ivana in "Austin Powers II"). It primarily
involves the spinal flexors (rectus abdominus) in combination with
the hip extensors (hamstrings and glutes). You will begin by lying
prone with your "training partner" mounted above you.
The added resistance of your partner being on top of you will increase
gluteal muscle fiber recruitment substantially over performing this
movement missionary style. The concentric portion of the movement
should be performed slightly faster than eccentric portion. Using
a rep tempo of 3-1-2 usually works best. That's a 3 second negative,
1 second pause, and 2 seconds on the positive portion of the movement.
Now here's the tricky part of the exercise at the top of each repetition,
while keeping your hip extensors in the flexed position for a momentary
pause, perform an intense abdominal crunch using a 2-0-2 tempo.
If you do this exercise properly, you should look like a goofy white
guy trying to do the worm, as seen in "Breakin' II: The Electric
Boogaloo" or perhaps "Beat Street". This exercise
is intended to stimulate maximal hypertrophy of the abdominals,
glutes, and other unmentionable muscles. Charles Poliquin suggests
that this movement also works best using high reps and maximal time
under tension. Don't be one of those 3-reps-to-failure guys or your
training partner may seek somebody else to workout with.