Tag Archives: supplements

Some Underutilized Supplements That Rock, Part 2

by George L. Redmon PhD ND.

For the great majority of us are satisfied with appearance as though it serves as reality and  more than often, these seemingly things influence more so than those that are. Niccolo Machiavelli, 1527

When you review the quote above by one of histories most influential management and political theorist they imply that in many cases individuals of a specific society or company become comfortable with the ways things are versus making changes that represent what they need to be. When you put these comments in the context of moving the body from its present state to that of an elite body builder, the message resonates loudly in reference to the unintended state of complacency some individual resistance training enthusiasts fall into.  For example, while whey protein, creatine,  and arginine may serve as solid foundations to any sound body building supplemental program,  what other products are needed to support recovery, growth hormone production, insulin modulation, reduction of pain and inflammation, generation of energy, reduction of body fat, protein synthesis, nitric oxide production, detoxification to the reduction of exercise induced cortisol levels?

Solving This Anabolic Puzzle Diversely  

When you review this short list of anabolic parameters and add in the complexity of managing and sustaining the physical and emotional stamina necessary to reach your goals, general appearances can begin to influence versus individual needs.  However, the reality versus the appearance of the best approach to take here is to take advantage of a complement of past, present and emerging products across various supplemental categories versus limiting your choices to products that appear to only fit the general body building mold. Forward thinking sports medicine researchers today have adopted this attitude as more products once considered to be strictly medicinal in nature have been found to offer an array of benefits to resistance training individuals. The goal of this report is to outline a few of these globally researched and unfortunately underutilized supplements that definitively do the job as advertised, despite appearing to be second best and or a non-categorized resistance training supplement. Incidentally, this list is extensive and can’t be covered in one article two or three for that matter. Correspondingly, this report is divided into two parts.

However, the goal here is to reinforce and establish the need to search and find the right combination of products that meet your individual needs.                      

Some Atypical and Typical Ergogenic Products 

Section: IV: Protein


For some time beef protein had all but disappeared from the body building landscape. It is however making a strong comeback. In fact, researchers at McMasters University in Canada recently reported that subjects eating a six ounce serving equaling 170g of 85% lean ground beef resulted in significant changes in the rate of protein synthesis (creation of new muscle) following exercise. Furthermore, beef contains varying amounts of amino acids that promote growth and a host of other nutrients. While there is concern about the fat content in beef, many sports nutritional researchers insist that beef 2 to 3 times a week to augment proteins like whey and casein would greatly benefit growth efforts.

Section V: Insulin Mimickers

As cited by the well-known sports medicine researcher Dr. Eric Serrano, despite being one of the body’s most anabolic hormones, insulin has a Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde side effect on the body. Despite its ability to quickly drive nutrients into muscle cells to promote growth, un-regulated insulin spikes can cause large deposits of body fat. For this reason, the usage of specific ergogenics that keep insulin stabilized are highly sought after. While there are many the 2 below are excellent.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA is known for its antioxidant capabilities and its ability to naturally stabilize blood glucose levels by mimicking (imitating) the physiological actions of insulin. For example, in a study appearing in Free Radical Biology and Medicine,  seventy-four patients were divided into four groups (placebo, and 600mg ALA once, twice, or three daily) for a 4-week trial to examine its effects on insulin sensitivity, using a measurement called the Metabolic Clearance of Glucose (MCR). ALA treatment led to significant improvement in MCR. Another trial found improvements in insulin resistance and fasting glucose after 300mg of oral ALA daily for eight weeks.

Suggested Dose: 600 mg/d

Vanadyl Sulfate

Vanadly Sulfate is derived from the trace mineral vanadium and plays a major role in regulating blood sugar by increasing the rate at which carbohydrate and protein enter muscle cells. This helps to swell muscle fibers, increasing both size and vascularity.  Vanadyl also diverts sugar away from storage in fat cells, supports protein synthesis, increases muscle pumps and hardness similarly to nitric oxide. As you know, when competing bodybuilders ensure that they have increased vascularity on the day of a contest, so that muscles look more prominent and visible. This look adds to the interest and to the uniqueness of that individual’s physique.
Suggested Dose: 60 mg before workouts.

Section VI: Nitric Oxide Boosters


L- Citrulline is found abundantly in watermelon and is linked to arginine production, the precursor to nitric oxide. Ironically, citrulline elevates levels of arginine more effectively than supplemental arginine itself. In fact, a study appearing in Circulation AHA Scientific Sessions revealed that an oral dose of 3.8 grams of citrulline resulted in a 227% peak increase in arginine levels after 4 hours, compared with a 90% peak increase with the same dose of arginine. Researchers have discovered the reason for this anomaly occurs because citrulline bypasses metabolism in the liver and gastrointestinal tract and is formed in the urea cycle when the liver and kidneys get rid of ammonia and lactic acid,

finally being synthesized in the intestines , where it is converted into arginine. Furthermore, L-citrulline assists in constructing and increasing the supply of molecular elements the body needs to form proteins.

Suggested Dose: 6 grams/d before workouts.


Pycnogenolis an extract of French maritime pine tree bark that grows along the coast of southwest France. That special pine contains natural antioxidants called anthocyanins. Current data indicates that Pycnogenol is absorbed into the bloodstream in about 20 minutes and once absorbed, its maximum protective effects appear to lasts about 72 hours. Recently, scientist at the Hiroshima University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Japan reported that pycnogenol enhances nitric oxide (NO) production. Conversely, emerging research has demonstrated that the combination of Pycnogenol / Arginine heightens NO release at a greater rate. For example, once arginine is absorbed by the intestines, it travels into the bloodstream where it is converted into NO. However, this chemical reaction requires an enzyme known as nitric oxide synthase (NOS). Unfortunately, NOS limits the amount of arginine that can be converted into NO. However, the researchers above discovered that 180mg of pycnogenol for two weeks increased the activity and amount of NOS available to catalyze this conversion process by 42%.

Suggested Dose: 50-100mg/d

Section VII: Testosterone Production

 Zinc and Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA)

Zinc plays a key role in the production of natural testosterone by inhibiting it’s conversion into estrogen and in the process converts estrogen into testosterone. On the other hand studies indicate that magnesium increases free and total testosterone levels in both sedentary individuals and in athletes. Conversely, early studies by Dr. Lorrie Brilla, PhD, a sports performance researcher at Western Washington University reported that ZMA significantly increase free testosterone levels and muscle strength. In fact, 30mg of zinc and 450mg of magnesium per day elevated testosterone levels by 30%  with a 4% increase in IGF( insulin growth factor) levels, an anabolic hormone that decreases during aging, while those who took a placebo had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 22% decrease in IGF-1.

Dr. Brilla, reported that subjects in this study lasting 8 weeks study had 2.5 times greater muscle strength gains than a placebo group. Pre and post leg strength measurements were made. The strength of the ZMA group increased by 11.6% compared to only a 4.6% increase in the placebo group. As an added bonus here ZMA enhanced growth hormone production when taken before bedtime. More importantly, ZMA is not a pro-hormone or hormone precursor and will not suppress your own natural production of testosterone.

Suggested Dose: 30mg zinc/450mg magnesium/d.

Some Other Accessory Nutrients That Deliver

While this report can’t cover the large body of under-utilized supplements you have at your disposal, the list below represents a few other products that definitively deliver. This list isn’t all inclusive but includes: Carnitine{ fat-burning}, Chromium{insulin stabilization} , CLA (conjugated linoleic acid){fat-reduction},  Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA){stress reduction/testosterone production},  D-ribose{energy}, Enzymes{anti-inflammatory/nutrient metabolism}, Forskolin{thermogenic} , HMB (Beta-hydroxly-beta-methylbutyrate),{ lean muscle mass and strength gains},Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s){energy/fat burner}, NAC (N-acetyl –cysteine) {detoxification/muscle preservation}, Rhodiola Rosea {ATP regeneration/stress reduction/mental clarity} , Synephrine{ephedra alternative without the jitters } Taurine {building block of other amino acids}, Tribulus Terrestris{ testosterone production} , Tyrosine {mood elevation}and 7 Keto DHEA{cortisol and fat reduction}.

Conclusions – Dr. Jeffery Bland, Ph.D. a well-known Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry states that amino acids are generally considered non-essential for most individuals. However on the basis of an individual’s unique genetic nature these non-essential compounds may become an essential auxiliary nutrient to meet the person’s individual pharmacological need. This nutritional concept of individualized need is now referred to as the justification theory. Conversely, how well you organize and utilize your supplement choices will have a great impact on your growth efforts. Diversity and sound research based on your individual need should be your guiding light.


Ansar, H., Mazloom Z. et.al.  Effect of alpha-lipoic acid on blood glucose, insulin resistance and glutathione peroxidase of type 2 diabetic patients. Saudi Medical Journal. 2011 Jun; 32(6):584-588.

Bland, J. Octacosanol, Carnitine and Other Accessory Nutrients. Keats Publishing: New Cannan CT. 1982.

Bloomer R.J., Smith W.A., et.al. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine increases plasma nitrate/nitrite in resistance-trained men. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007 Dec;4:22.

Brilla, L.R., Conte, V. Effects of zinc-magnesium (ZMA) supplementation on muscle attributes of football players. Medical and Science in Sports and Exercise. 1999 May; 31(5): 627-759.

Burke, E, Fahey, J., Phosphatidyserine (PS): Promise For Athletic Performance. New Cannan CT: Keats Publishing, 1998.

Cavagnini, F.,  Invvitt, C., et.al,. Effect of acute and repeated administration of gamma aminobutyric acid ( GABA) on growth hormone and prolactin secretion in man. Acta. Endocrinology( Copenh) .1980; 93(2): 149-154.

Carkoudian, N. Skin blood flow in adult human thermoregulation: how it works, when it does not and why. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2003 May; 78(5): 603-612.

Cohen, N, Halberstam, M. Oral vanadyl sulfate improves hepatic and peripheral insulin sensitivity in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 1995; 95: 2501-2509

Cynober L. Pharmacokinetics of arginine and related amino acids. Journal of Nutrition. 2007 Jun;137(6 Suppl 2):1646S-1649S.

Fahey, T.D., Pearl, M.S. The hormonal and perceptive effects of phosphatidylserine administration during two weeks of resistive exercise-induced overtraining. Biolology and Sport. 1998;15:135-144.

Goldwater, I, Gefel, D, et.al.  Insulin-like effects of vanadium: basic and clinical implications. Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. 2000;80: 21-25.

Hickner R,C, Tanner C, J. et al. L-citrulline reduces time to exhaustion and insulin response to a graded exercise test. Medical Science Sports and Exercise. 2006;38:660-666.

Jacob, S., Ruus P. et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 1999 Aug; 27(3-4):309-314.

Jay, A. Management and Machiavelli. Holt Reinehart and Winston: New York, 1967.

Kon, M., et.al. Effect of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation on exercise-induced muscular injury of rats. Exercise Immunology Review. 2007;13; 76-88.

George L. Redmon, Ph.D. – Dr. Redmon has been associated with the vitamin and health industry for over 25years, having served as The National Product and Education Director for one of the nation’s largest retailers of nutritional supplements. He has been widely published in many major bodybuilding, fitness and alternative medicine publications. He is the author of Natural Born Fat Burners, Energy for Life and is a member of The National Academy of Sports Medicine and The International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Creatine: The Truth behind the Chemical

The nutritional supplement industry is a multibillion-dollar industry full of products claiming enhanced performance, quick creatine-1weight loss, increased longevity, and better health. One of the ubiquitous supplements in the sports nutrition field is creatine. In the United States alone, creatine-containing dietary supplements make up a large portion of the estimated $2.7 billion in annual sales of sports nutrition supplements1. Despite its widespread use, creatine supplementation is still a controversy amongst athletes, researchers, and clinicians regarding its efficacy and safety.  In order for you to make a well informed stance on creatine supplementation I shall review the role of creatine in the body, the research surrounding its efficacy in performance enhancement, and the potential side effects of creatine supplementation. 

What is Creatine and What Does it Do?

Creatine is similar to protein in that it is a nitrogen-containing compound, but is not a true protein.  In the nutritional biochemistry world it is known as a “non-protein” nitrogen. It can be obtained in the food we eat (typically meat and fish) or formed endogenously (in the body) from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine3.

Creatine is a key player in the phosphagen energy system, the primary source of ATP (the main energy substrate in our body) during short-term, high intensity activities. Creatine exists as both free form creatine and phosphocreatine in the body.  Phosphocreatine (PC) functions as a “storehouse for high energy phosphate”2. PC functions to replenish ATP in muscles that are rapidly contracting by transfering a phosphate group to the ADP that was formed from the hydrolysis of ATP for energy in the contracting muscle. When our muscles run out of creatine, our short-term, high intensity energy system shuts down and our muscles are no longer able to produce force.

Courtesy of Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (citation 2)

Phosphocreatine and creatine do not remain in muscles for an extended period of time and are cyclized in a non-reversible reaction to form creatinine, which is then processed by the kidneys and expelled from the body in the urine2.

The use of creatine as an ergogenic aid is based upon the theory that one can increase the saturation of creatine in the muscle through supplmentation. Theoretically, increased creatine in the muscle will increase performance in short, high intensity exercise by increasing the capactiy of our phosphagen system.

What Does the Research Say?

Creatine is one of the most wide researched supplements. In fact, a google scholar search for the terms “creatine supplemenation” yielded 6,740 scholarly articles and a PubMed search yielded 562 articles. While a full analysis of these studies is beyond my capability the findings amongst the literature is relatively conclusion in regards to the efficacy of creatine as a ergogenic aid and its safety.

Supplementation and Muscle Creatine Levels

According to recent research, 10-40% increases in muscle creatine and PC stores have been observed with creatine supplmentation4,5. These results were observed after a specific “loading” protocol was observed. This protocol involves ingesting roughly .3 g/kg/day for between 5 and 7 days (roughly 20 grams a day in 5 gram increments) and 3-5 g/day following the first 5-7 day period5,6. While other protocols have been suggested that involve no loading phase and “cycling” on an off creatine supplemenation, they have not shown to be quite as effective in maintaining increased levels of muscle creatine levels7.

Supplementation and Performance           

Creatine supplementation appears to be the most effective legal nutritional supplement currently available in regards to improving anaerobic capacity and lean body mass (LBM).  The research surrounding the ergogenic effects of creatine supplementation is extensive with hundreds published studies looking exactly at those two outcomes. Approximately 70% of the research has reported a significant (P<.05 for the stats people out there) increase in exercise capacity, while none have reported an ergolytic effect8.

In both the short term and long-term, creatine supplementation appears to enhance the overall quality of training, leading to 5 to 15% greater gains in strength and performance8,9. In addition, Nearly all studies indicate that “proper” CM supplementation increases body mass by about 1 to 2 kg in the first week of loading. In the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on creatine the authors state, “The tremendous numbers of investigations conducted with positive results from CM supplementation lead us to conclude that it is the most effective nutritional supplement available today for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and building lean mass”8. I guess the case is closed on that front.

Is Creatine Safe?

 For years the media has portrayed creatine as a dangerous, not well understood supplement and those that were using it will “pay the piper” in the end. Unfortunately for the mass media, they arrived at their conclusions from a small sample size, namely the ever famous experiment of “n=1”.  The claims in the news are often that creatine can cause dehydration, injury, GI distress, and even kidney or liver damage. However, to date there have been no controlled trials that have shown creatine supplementation to cause dehydration, GI distress, injury, nor kidney or liver damage. The only clinically reported side effect of creatine supplementation is weight gain, which typically, is a goal of creatine users.

The notion that long-term effects of creatine are still unknown and the supplement is not understood simply shows a lack of knowledge and doing some reading. It could be argued that “supplemental” creatine has been around since man began eating meat, which according to recent research was more than a million years ago11.  Research on creatine actually began more than 40 years ago when it was experimentally used to treat heart disorders and improve heart function during heart attacks12.

To wrap up this question I will simply say that the research has shown that creatine appears to be safe when it is used in healthy populations and taken within recommended guidelines. However, like anything else in life, it may be harmful if taken in excess.  In addition further research in this area would be beneficial to determine if it is safe in non-healthy populations.

1.     What is the role of creatine in the body?

Creatine acts to improve our anaerobic work capacity by rephosphorylating ADP to ATP during short-term, high intensity exercise.

2.     Is creatine effective in enhancing performance?

To date, creatine is the most effective legal supplement available for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and building lean mass.

3.   Is creatine supplementation safe?

No controlled trials that have shown creatine supplementation to cause deleterious side effects, with the only clinical side effect recorded being weight gain.

Is Creatine Ethical?

The last point of contention surrounding creatine supplementation is whether it is ethical or not. As my minor in my Ph.D. program is “sport ethics” and my major professor, Dr. Sharon Stoll, is one of the most renowned sport ethicists in the country I do have some thoughts on the ethics of creatine use, but that is a whole separate story, and perhaps I can convince her to write a paper on it with me.

Unless you are an athlete under the jurisdiction of a specific governing body, i.e USADA, WADA, or the NCAA, whether or not you decide to take creatine is a choice for you to make. I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer here as each person has their own views and perspectives on things, something I value quite highly about humanity. However, hopefully after reading this you have a better idea behind the big questions regarding creatine supplementation and can make a fully informed, educated, and well thought out decision.


  1. NBJ (2009) Sports nutrition & weight loss report. Nutrition Business Journal, vol XIV, September edn., Boulder.
  2. Gropper, S. S., Smith, J. L., & Groff, J. L. (2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
  3. Williams MH & Branch JD. Creatine supplemenation and exercise performance: an update. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998, 17, 216-213.
  4. Greenhaff PL: Muscle creatine loading in humans: Procedures and functional metabolic effects. 6th International Conference on Guanidino Compounds in Biology and Medicine. Cincinatti, OH. 2001
  5. Kreider RB, Leutholtz BC & Greenwood M. Creatine. Nutritional Ergogenic Aids. CRC Press LLC: Boca Raton, FL, 2004,  p 81-104
  6. Stout J, Eckerson J, Ebersole K, et al. Effect of creatine loading on neuromuscular fatigue threshold. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2000;88(1):109–112.
  7. Candow DG, Chilbeck PD, Chad KE et al., Effect of ceasing creatine supplementation while maintaining resistance training in older men. J Aging Phys Act, 2004, 12, 219-231.
  8. Buford T, Kreider R, Stout J, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007;4(1):6.
  9. Kreider RB, Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem 2003. 244, 298-307.
  10. Kreider, RB, Creatine in sports. Antonio, J., Kalman, D., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Willoughby, D. S., & Haff, G. G. (2008). Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Humana Press.
  11. Domínguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR, Diez-Martín F et al., Earliest Porotic Hyperostosis on a 1.5-Million-Year-Old Hominin, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7.
  12. Neely, Rovetto M, Whitmer J, Morgan H. Effects of ischemia on function and metabolism of the isolated working rat heart. American Journal of Physiology. 1973;225(3):651–658.


Brad Dieter, MS, CISSN, CSCS is a Doctoral Student at the University of Idaho, Movement Sciences; BradD@uidaho.edu