Ginseng & Astragalus + Creatine Improves Fat Loss & Strength
Creatine is perhaps one of the most well known of bodybuilding supplements. It is used in the muscles during regeneration of ATP, the ‘power’ molecule that is responsible for delivering energy to your muscles when they need to contract. When ATP is depleted within a muscle cell, it can no longer contract. What Creatine does is enhance the capacity of your cells to regenerate ATP, and hence maintain your power output. The benefits of this for bodybuilding has been well documented. However, less commonly used are herbal supplements such as ginseng and astragalus. These plant extracts both have benefits that may allow bodybuilders to train harder and longer without fatiguing, which in combination with Creatine may amplify the effects of both.
In a recent study, the effects of this was looked at during a 12 week strength training program. The participants were broken up into 3 groups – creatine only, creatine plus botanical extract, and a placebo to measure the results against. After the program, body composition, strength, mood and blood analysis was performed.
Those taking the creatine or creatine plus botanical extract both increased strength and lean mass to a higher level than those taking nothing, as expected. However, it was also found that those taking the creatine plus botanical extract lost significantly more body fat than those just taking creatine, as well as gaining more bench press strength than those just taking creatine. In addition to this, they had improved blood lipids and self reported feeling of health and vitality.
What this means is that taking ginseng or astragalus with your creatine supplement may have additive effects in terms of your strength and lean mass gains, and may also help with fat loss. As well as this they will make you feel better and have an improved mood, furthering your ability to train.
Resveratrol in Wine & Weight Loss
Resveratrol as a compound has had increasing interest in the last couple of years thanks to research showing it as a powerful antioxidant, but also as a ingredient which can be cardioprotective and support fat loss and exercise performance. With regards to resveratrol and fat loss, while a few studies were able to show its positive affects on body composition; they were not able to elucidate the mechanisms on how it did so. Recently however, a new animal based study on resveratrol demonstrated its ability to increase thermogenesis, or the rate at which the body produces heat, an important factor in general metabolism of fat and weight loss.
Rats which were supplemented with the compound for 6 weeks were shown to have upscaled the expression of several genes related to fat loss, meaning that their effects are amplified. Both skeletal muscles and the good brown fat would be affected, increasing the rate at which white fat, the fat found under the skin and around the abdomen, would be burnt.
If you're having a hard time with weight and fat loss despite changes in your diet and physical activity, resveratrol supplementation may be able to assist. Resveratrol can be bought as a stand alone supplement in capsule form, but can also be found in your after dinner glass of red at relatively high doses - but make sure you drink responsibly!
Citrulline Preserves Muscle Mass During Diets & Cutting Phases
Lower calorie diets will reduce body weight and fat mass, but can also lead to a loss of lean muscle mass. Bodybuilders try to avoid this as much as possible, and a new study has found a dietary supplement that could be of great benefit. Citrulline is a non essential amino acid, meaning it is made by the body without requiring any intake with food. But helping this process along by supplementing it into your diet may have bonus effects on muscle growth and maintenance.
In a group of rats fed a calorie restricted diet, those supplemented with levels as low as 0.2mg/kg or as high as 1g/kg a day demonstrated significantly increased muscle strength, protein synthesis and maximum force compared to those not supplemented. It appears to attenuate the effects of calorie restriction on muscle breakdown.
If you're planning to diet or cut down on your body fat levels in time for summer, it might be worthwhile supplementing with some citrulline to ensure you don't lose the hard earned strength and muscle mass you developed previously. Doses will vary, but try to aim for at least 3,000mg (3g) per day in three divided doses but you can easily consume 6,000-8,000mg to support exercise performance as well.Alberdi G et al. ‘Thermogenesis is involved in the body-fat lowering effects of resveratrol in rats’ Food Chem (2013)
Rogers ME et al. ‘Effects of creatine, ginseng, and astragalus supplementation on strength, body composition, mood and blood lipids during strength-training in older adults’ J Sports Sci Med (2013)
Ventura G et al. ‘Effect of citrulline on muscle functions during moderate dietary restriction in healthy adult rats’ Amino Acids (2013)