Are You Fueling Your Body Properly During Workouts?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Guest Post by Ian Danney

If you would like to give Amino Matrix a try, go to optimumefx.com and use promo code strengthsensei15 to get 15% off.

 

Every time you begin to train you are presented with a unique opportunity. Under normal circumstances you have relatively little blood flow going to your muscles. Once you begin training, blood flow increases exponentially to the exact thing you’re trying to change, your muscles.

So why would you send the blood empty of vital nutrients? To do so would be to miss a huge window of opportunity to supply your muscles with what they need. You wouldn’t send a plane from LAX to Sydney without passengers, right? Ideally, we would take advantage of this unique opportunity to deliver exactly what our muscles need, when they’re most capable of absorbing them.

Now let’s examine in more detail what the ideal plane would look like if our goal is to give our bodies the optimal environment for growth. The dietary supplement industry has erroneously pushed leucine and the other BCAAs (isoleucine & Valine) as an effective method to promote protein synthesis. However, this approach is not based on science. Many amino acids have important metabolic signaling or triggering properties that make them important beyond their value as a building block of proteins. Leucine is one such amino acid. In addition to its role as a substrate, it can trigger the mechanisms involved in turning on the process of protein synthesis. For this reason, leucine is often thought of as a master signaling molecule and some have attributed drug-like effects to it.

You can think of this as the fuel in the plane. It’s the most important part and nothing happens without fuel. However, without an engine, you will quickly discover that placing fuel in the plane has little utility. All the other EAAs acting in concert is what gets the plane off the ground. Continually adding fuel to the plane without the other components of the plane (ie, engine, wings, etc…) does no one any good. This is analogous to flooding the body with leucine and or BCAAs. It is also interesting to note that Leucine does not exist anywhere in nature by itself.

As discussed above, we want to take full advantage of the hyperemia effect, or the increased blood flow. By delivering the right amount of EAAs at the time when we can take full advantage of them. In addition to that, we can get a 1+1=4 effect if we add other synergistic nutrients to maximize this effect. The importance of taking the EAAs during the workout can be explained by an example of a balance scale. The body is in a constant state of protein turnover and is therefore alternating between an anabolic and catabolic state. Think of this as two sides to the balance scale. The net breakdown of muscle protein during the workout will be lowered if EAAs are present. In part, this is because the increase in blood flow to the muscle during the exercise will deliver the ingested amino acids to the muscle. By increasing the blood concentrations of EAAs, the concentration gradients will drive EAAs into the muscle cells instead of out, which is the case without EAA supplementation. By consuming EAAs you tip the scale to the side of anabolism. But that’s not all. Resistance exercise itself is a trigger, or signal, to stimulate protein synthesis. Research has shown that there is a synergistic effect. In other words, the total effect of stimulating protein synthesis via EAAs and exercise is greater than the total of their individual contributions.

Now that we’ve built our plane, let’s talk about some of the key passengers we would want on the plane, the first being citrulline malate.

Citrulline Malate

Citrulline malate helps to increase blood flow, boost physical output, and reduce muscle soreness. As we perform intense exercise our ammonia levels increase. This increase in ammonia acts as a signal for muscle fatigue and decreases the muscles ability to create energy. The urea cycle is what our bodies use to eliminate this toxic ammonia and excrete it in our urine. This is one area where citrulline malate plays a vital role. In the urea cycle, excess nitrogen is converted to a series of products that combine with ornithine to make citrulline. This continuous process recycles ornithine and citrulline, however, ornithine is the limiting factor. But in practice, taking citrulline increases arginine levels which in turn increases ornithine far better than taking those amnions themselves. This is due to two main factors. First, citrulline’s far superior bioavailability. Secondly, unlike arginine citrulline is not cleared by the liver. It is transported to the kidneys where it is converted to arginine.

If that’s all citrulline did it would still be a worthwhile supplement. But it does even more. In a separate but related biological system, the Nitric Oxide Cycle, citrulline also gets converted into arginine to produce Nitric Oxide (NO) which relaxes blood vessels allowing for increased blood flow (think massive pump). Due to its much higher bioavailability that we previously mentioned, supplemental citrulline has a much greater impact on NO production than supplemental arginine itself. Furthermore, it sustains this increase for a much longer period of time.

What makes citrulline so incredibly effective is that it functions as both a sword and a shield! It acts as a shield to scavenge ammonia, shielding you from its fatigue-inducing effects by turning it into the much less toxic urea. It works as a sword to increase blood flow to muscles via its nitric oxide producing ability. Who doesn’t want to attack a workout with a weapon that is both a sword and a shield?

Tyrosine

When making the above case for the inclusion of all the EAAs we discussed the concept that all actions attributed to amino acids occur simultaneously. They do not occur in a vacuum. An ideal EAA formula needs an increase in Leucine for the appropriate signaling that we need.

However, we have to be extremely mindful of what is happening in the brain. To shed further light on this, remember that the brain is so important that we have an entire fortress around it called the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB). It serves to only allow specific molecules to enter. There is a dedicated gatekeeper if you will, on guard 24-7, at the gates of this fortress. He is entirely responsible for letting in or transporting what is called Large Neutral Amino Acids (LNAA). These include all the BCAAs, Phenylalanine, Tyrosine, and Tryptophan. This gatekeeper has to handle all of these by himself. So the amino acid in the greatest concentration will get across the BBB more.

Why is this so important? We discussed using a leucine-rich EAA mixture for the purpose of maximally stimulating protein synthesis, but in doing so we may have competitively reduced the gatekeeper’s ability to get tyrosine past this fortress and into the brain.

So what?

This is of critical importance because tyrosine is a precursor to a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine plays a critical role in motivation and neural drive. This problem has been long overlooked because of the classic but erroneous “sports performance” way of thinking that raising BCAA blood levels would lower tryptophan levels thereby decreasing serotonin re-uptake and decreasing fatigue. While it is true that serotonin levels in the brain parallel the tryptophan changes, it also changes tyrosine and subsequently catecholamine re-uptake.

The performance effect of lowering tryptophan is negligible. However, it is well known that increasing dopamine function in the brain improves sports performance and therefore this is a key area to be addressed when using amino acids during training. The full EAA blend is a huge step forward in solving this but it may not be enough. To this end we want to add a precise dose of L-Tyrosine to our intra-workout drink to ensure enough is available to cross the BBB and provide the substrate for dopamine production. Because this competitive inhibition only occurs for transport to the brain it has no effect on Leucine’s ability to trigger anabolic processes in the muscles. The end result is maximum muscle protein synthesis that also maintains optimum brain function and neural drive!

L-Aspartic Acid

Aspartic acid is a non-essential amino acid which also functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter and plays a vital role as a necessary component, and step, in the transport of high-energy NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) molecules from the cellular body and into the mitochondria. Research shows that supplementation with L-aspartic acid increases resistance to fatigue and allows you to sustain longer workouts at higher exercise loads. Another significant benefit of L-aspartic acid is via the role it plays in removing toxic ammonia by converting it to urea which is then excreted in urine. In fact, it complements citrulline in the same ammonia scavenging role.

L-Carnitine

Carnitine plays an important role in transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria. Fatty acids are the main fuel for the mitochondria to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate). If your body doesn’t have enough carnitine, then the production of ATP from fatty acids will not occur at its maximal capacity.

In this way, carnitine supplementation optimizes how your body uses fuel, allowing you to train for longer periods of time. Research has further demonstrated that muscle lactate is reduced when performing high-intensity exercises while supplementing with carnitine. This shows it has the ability to lower markers of metabolic stress and may contribute to less muscle soreness.

Betaine

Betaine anhydrous (also known as trimethylglycine) has been shown to be lipotropic by promoting the oxidization of lipids. Betaine is a methyl donor that helps in the production of several brain chemicals and hence improves mood, energy, well being, alertness, concentration, and visual clarity. A methyl donor is simply any substance that can transfer a methyl group [a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms (CH3)] to another substance.

Many important biochemical processes rely on methylation, including the metabolism of lipids and DNA. Betaine also has a crucial function as an osmolyte in the body. By balancing fluid levels both intra and extracellularly, it causes cells to swell by driving in water. This increases signaling for muscle growth.

Most importantly, researchers have found that betaine supplementation helped lifters complete more total reps in bench press workouts, produce more power on a cycle ergometer, and sprint for longer periods of time.

 

As you can see, taking the right doses of specific supplements at the right time can greatly impact your performance and muscle growth. Thats why Amino Matrix was created. To give you the highest performance possible during your workout. It takes into consideration all of the above mentioned research, and is built on science.

If you would like to give Amino Matrix a try, go to optimumefx.com and use promo code strengthsensei15 to get 15% off.

Thank you for your time, and keep training hard!

 

 

About Ian Danney

Ian Danney (born 30 December 1969) is a former Canadian bobsledder. He competed in the four man event at the 1998 Winter Olympics. After the Olympics Ian went on to become a Strength and Conditioning coach, since transitioning to coaching he has trained over 400 professional athletes. Ian currently owns “Performance Enhancement Professionals” (PEP), as well as “OptimumEFX” which are both located in his 18,000 sq ft facility in Scottsdale, AZ.