Orthopaedic Surgeon - Atlanta
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Who needs more muscle? Nearly everyone would benefit from an increase in muscle mass. It's not just because more muscle means more strength or better athletic performance — which it does. It's not even due to the realization that more muscle equates to a leaner, more desirable body contour — although, for some, this is their only motivation to exercise. The truth is that increased muscle mass can do all of this and much more.

Physical Performance
There are a number of herbs, vitamins and minerals formulated to enhance physical performance during periods of aerobic and anaerobic activity and to subsequently aid in the restorative process following exercise. For example, the ergogenic herb, Ciwujia, has many amazing properties that improve exercise performance. The root of this northeastern Chinese plant delays exhaustion and also decreases lactic acid buildup within the body. (Lactic acid is a byproduct of prolonged physical activity and is the cause for the aches, pains and cramps associated with muscle fatigue.) Ciwujia also causes a shift in energy usage within muscle cells so that more energy is created from fat than from carbohydrates. Studies have shown the resulting increased metabolism can reach levels as high as 22% [energy from fat stores] with lower intensity exercise, 30% in exercise of longer duration, and up to 43% in high-intensity activities.

There is also an extensive list of vitamins which benefit the body in many ways during exercise. The B vitamins maximize metabolism and promote energy production. Thiamine (vitamin B1) is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates to produce ATP (the body's source of energy), thereby providing more energy to muscle cells. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) enhances energy production through stimulation of the mitochondria within the muscle cells. Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) stimulates the enzyme Glycogen Phosphorylase which breaks down muscle glycogen into glucose and is later converted to ATP. Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12) is especially important in athletes because it promotes proper formation of red blood cells, which in turn transport oxygen to muscle for aerobic metabolism to occur. Without adequate amounts of these vitamins present in the body, energy production can be dramatically reduced.

Other vitamins are known for their protective effect on muscle cells and the body in general. Just as combustion or oxidation of any fuel can produce toxic byproducts, the increased amount of oxygen utilized during exercise and the resulting oxidative process produces harmful free radicals in the body. These molecules randomly cause injury to muscle cell walls and also oxidize fatty acids into another type of free radical, peroxylradicals. The result is an inflammatory reaction within the muscles that can cause discomfort for days following an intense workout. Antioxidant vitamins C and E help to neutralize free radicals, which can limit the resulting muscular pain that occurs during and after exercise. Aspartate salts of potassium and magnesium have been included to decrease the level of ammonia, another toxic metabolite produced with exercise that might otherwise contribute to muscle fatigue. Bromelain, glucosamine and Boswellian also aid in recovery through their ability to stabilize and enhance connective tissue.

Three important minerals are also known to specifically meet the needs of an active body. Each is essential for proper metabolic function and is required in higher concentrations in athletes due to excessive losses through perspiration. Magnesium, for instance, is a catalyst for hundreds of chemical reactions within the body. Aiding in the production of ATP from carbohydrates, it is also necessary for proper muscle contraction. Deficiency of this all-important mineral leads to muscle cramps and early fatigue — which obviously limit performance. Potassium, likewise, is essential for proper functioning of both the muscles and the nervous system. Chromium, a mineral in which 90% of the American population is deficient, has well-documented benefits upon carbohydrate metabolism. Because exercise causes increased excretion of chromium — placing athletes at even greater risk — an associated increase in lean muscle mass and subsequent decrease in body fat has been observed when sufficient amounts of this essential mineral are present within the body. Furthermore, insulin works more efficiently in the presence of chromium — which subsequently increases the delivery of glucose into the cells — by ultimately leading to increased energy production.

Muscle Mass
Creatine monohydrate provides creatine to muscle cells, allowing for its conversion to creatine phosphate. Once inside muscle cells, creatine acts at various levels to increase energy, delay fatigue and build muscle mass. It can increase ATP levels within the cells and has been shown to decrease lactic acid build-up in some studies. Other studies have shown an increase in both muscle strength and performance. In conjunction with creatine usage, short-term power output has been observed as increasing by 5 to 8%. This data is supported by similar results found in double-blind studies. Consequently, it should come as no surprise that increased power leads to exercise at higher levels — for longer periods — which results in greater muscle development and strength.

Other important compounds found include inosine and amino acids. Inosine increases hemoglobin's affinity for binding oxygen within red blood cells. As a result, these cells transport more oxygen from the lungs to the muscle. Branched chain amino acids (such as leucine, valine and isoleucine) — located in proteins throughout the body — are found in especially high concentration in the muscles. Without these essential amino acids in the diet or through supplementation, muscle proteins within the body would be broken down into individual amino acid constituents and utilized in other metabolic reactions. Therefore, these amino acids help to minimize the catabolic breakdown of muscle tissue. Alpha-ketoglutaric acid and L-glutamine also help to protect against muscle breakdown by assisting in muscle protein synthesis and by preserving glutamine within muscle cells.

Results of creatine supplementation can be quite dramatic. In a short period of time, one can see increased performance during short duration bursts of exercise, high-intensity exercise and even intermittent exercise.

This article was prepared by an independent author(s). It has been reproduced in its entirety or as a collection of information gathered from multiple resources and research data. WIN is not liable for any inaccuracies found in any third party written articles or research.