Supplements - Part 1:
The Good, Useless and Dangerous
Paul Skinner, MS RD LD
Before I speak about the topic of supplements, I think I should explain what is recommended today in terms of macronutrient breakdown and summarize what has been stated thus far. In addition, I will explain Mike's rationale concerning his recommendations, and why he never wavered from them.
The following is a quote from National Academies Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board: "To meet the body's daily energy and nutritional needs while minimizing risk for chronic disease, adults should get 45 percent to 65 percent of their Calories from carbohydrates, 20 percent to 35 percent from fat and 10 percent to 35 percent from protein. Because carbohydrates, fat, and protein all serve as energy sources and can substitute for one another to some extent to meet caloric needs, the recommended ranges for consuming these nutrients should be useful for dietary planning. Infants and younger children need a slightly higher proportion of fat-25 percent to 40 percent of their caloric intake."
A quote by Joanne Lupton, Professor of Nutrition, Texas A&M University, College Station: "Studies show that when people eat very low levels of fat combined with very high levels of carbohydrates, high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol, decreases. Conversely, high-fat diets can lead to obesity and its complications if caloric intake is increased as well, which is often the case."
John Little told me that Mike was not in favor of anything, other than a balanced diet, that did not favor a super abundance of any one of the macronutrients. Mike stated, "The fact is that carbohydrates can be dangerous, but only when consumed in excess. The body has a certain capacity for dealing with excess beyond need, but this capacity is not infinite and can be overwhelmed." I definitely agree with Mike, and I have discussed this in regards to choosing high fiber-complex carbohydrates over processed carbohydrates and simple sugars, the latter group tends to be over-consumed and stifles the body's mechanisms to handle them.
In discussing protein, Mike stated: "The same is true, however, of proteins. Proof exists now, as a matter of fact, that excess protein may be the most harmful of all, having been implicated in intestinal cancer, kidney disorders, and a host of other degenerative diseases." As I stated in my protein article and according to Dr. Layman, an expert in that area, an extremely high protein diet is not recommended if you have pre-existing kidney problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Dr. Layman further added that the concern is not whether we are consuming too much protein, but rather the battle is over fat versus carbohydrate intake. Typically when people follow high protein diets, as purported in some of the popular diet books, they tend to take in very little dietary fiber and consume a great deal of saturated fat. Fiber is necessary for mobilizing food through the gastrointestinal tract. It is believed that the longer food remains in the gut, greater the risk of developing intestinal cancers.
Mike's specific view on fats: "Fats are divided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are found in animal products and can lead to heart problems when consumed to excess." A high saturated fat meal, particularly those of whole dairy products, has a great potential to bring on a heart attack due to constriction of the lining of the arteries around the heart. Two-thirds of the fat in whole dairy products is saturated versus one-fourth in lean poultry. Mike further adds, "Unsaturated fats are found mostly in plants and are now thought to be a contributing factor to heart disease as well. We would all do well, therefore, to limit our fat intake to the recommended 15% of our daily calorie budget." I think Mike was conservative on fat intake, along with other nutritionists, because some plant unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated fats) have the positive affect of lowering LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but also the unfortunate affect of lowering HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol) at the same time. It is my opinion that this is counterproductive and most of our fat intake should come from monounsaturated oils, such as, peanut and olive, and fish oils containing Omega-3 fatty acids (a positive polyunsaturated fat). Furthermore, individuals that consume greater percentages of fat increase their likelihood of intakes from more trans-fats and saturated fats.
The fact is that most macronutrients should come from carbohydrates, despite the ranges. I think that the recommended macronutrient ranges by the National Academies Institute of Medicine buttress Mike's. Any extreme positions put forth in diet books that eliminate a nutrient or tout an extreme intake of a particular one will only lead to (at most) short-term success. Of course, the honeymoon phase will eventually wear off, and faster than you can blink your eye, a new diet book will be in the stores and on countless websites by movie star "X" or Dr. "Y" with each making the talk show circuit and counting their money.
During my "sticking point" teen period, around 16, I bought some crash weight gain formula powder thinking that if I gulped this stuff down by the quart daily, it would feed my muscles and I would grow. I reasoned that I probably was not getting enough Calories from my two daily school lunches or the 5 piece KFC (extra crispy) meals, so I added the crash weight gain to the mix. I did gain about fifteen pounds but most of it was fat. My father approached me, making no bones about it, and boldly told me that I was developing love handles. I wasn't traumatized by the comment, ready to go on Donahue or Sally Jesse Raphael, but I realized Dad was right. Fortunately, Mike Mentzer's name splashed on the scene in time to correct my thinking about proper workouts and the unnecessary endeavor of consuming more Calories than my body required.
My reason for dropping out of bodybuilding competition approximately 21 years ago was because of steroids. I would not take them, but not for reasons of moral superiority, I simply knew the physical results, and I did not want to risk cancer or kidney failure. It is one thing to take a protein powder and another to take amphetamines, steroids, and other so called ergogenic drugs that bodybuilders were taking at the time and still today.
Now, I must say that I bring up the topic of supplements with some trepidation. Many bodybuilders believe them to be some form of super nutrition, similar to putting a potent fertilizer in their bodies. Upon consumption, they believe their muscles will sprout and definition will show through a thin tight skin as long they show up in the gym and go through the motions of lifting weights.
As Mike stated, "trainees along the entire spectrum of experience simply do not understand the principles of exercise science and out of frustration are seduced by ads that promise 30 pounds of muscle in 30 days or other supercilious claims of that nature." Simply put, they neither understand how to train nor how to eat properly in the first place, so supplementation (a word that becomes an oxymoron at this point) turns into a primary eating lifestyle.
I will admit, so as to not be called a hypocrite, I have used creatine in the past and found it to be somewhat useful, but not on the level of steroids or some super growth hormone. Creatine is not a panacea in my opinion, it allows you to get a few extra reps and train harder. I will have a whey protein shake, because it also has value in regards to health and as an ergogenic aid in bodybuilding. Lastly, I take a multivitamin-mineral daily (without iron) and vitamin's C & E as a prophylactic approach against heart disease and cancer.
Because there have been many questions about nutrition and supplements, I set out to interview an expert in that area. Her name is Dr. Judith M. Lukaszuk. She graduated with her PhD. from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Her dissertation topic was Ergogenic effect of creatine monohydrate and a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet on anaerobic exercise performance. She is a registered dietitian, Assistant Professor in Nutrition, and Didactic Program Director at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.
I arrived at her office on a Friday afternoon 40 minutes late. I was going through some mental gymnastics in order to rehearse the questions I was going to ask her, therefore missing the exit to the university. After this realization, I pulled my car off the highway into one of those gravel divides in the meridian that say "for authorized vehicles only." Because I had an employee parking sticker for my day job at the hospital, I rationalized my car to be an authorized vehicle and high tailed it back in the other direction. The highway patrol would have understood.
Arriving at the Northern Illinois University, I quickly parked and ran with my briefcase like a bull let loose in Spain toward Dr. Lukaszuk's office. Upon knocking on her office door, she invited me in and easily forgave my tardiness stating she was writing letters of recommendation for students.
I seated myself pulling out my tape player and list of questions, and then I began telling her about the Mike Mentzer website and his methodology. She peered at me curiously when I said "one-set." Her reply was "You mean one-set to maintain your existing mass?" I responded quickly with "No, one-set for increased strength and muscle hypertrophy." She gave a look that I perceived as "could this be true?" She asked me how to get to Mike's website. After giving her the web address, she pulled up the site on her computer and saw Mike's double bicep shot. She turned to me and said jokingly "Ah, that must be you!" She then saw my articles and responded favorably by saying, "Cool!" Some professors are very pedantic, and you need to have a lexicon by your side to understand what they are saying, however, Dr. Lukaszuk was able to make the complex simple when explaining supplements and how they worked in the human body.
I was curious to know about her background in sports nutrition, she responded, "I've always been interested in sports nutrition and that is probably what served as the impetus for me wanting to continue. I have my Master's in Nutrition, and then I went and got my PhD in Exercise Physiology. So, I was actually the first registered dietitian to do that at the University of Pittsburgh. Even while I was working on my PhD, Freddie Fu, the Orthopedic Surgeon for the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Pitt Panthers, hired me to give out sports nutrition information to the athletes."
She further added, "I did a lot of one-on-one nutrition counseling with athletes that were training for the Olympics, marathon running, sprinting and gave them information on various ergogenics, should they take supplements, what kind of foods they should be consuming."
I opened the interview by asking, "Let's talk about something that most people consume daily in various forms, athlete or non-athlete, and that is caffeine. Is there an optimal quantity of caffeine that acts as an ergogenic aide for strength athletes and at what intake does caffeine become detrimental or counterproductive?" In briefly analyzing the question she stated, "I don't know if the studies have been done on strength athletes in particular, they have been done on cycling performance. Essentially what they have found is the dose that seems to be the most beneficial in enhancing exercise performance would be 3 milligrams per kilogram of body mass. This equates to 1 1/2 to 3 cups of coffee per day. If they get 6 milligrams per kilogram of body mass, there is no additional benefit on exercise performance, but when they go to 9 milligrams per kilogram of body mass, then you do see detrimental affects. They are jittery, shaky; they are not at their optimal level to perform well in exercise. Even though that was done on cycling performance, it certainly seems like it would be relevant to somebody lifting weights as well."
Protein is the most common supplement talked about and used by bodybuilders and weight lifters. I asked Dr. Lukaszuk what she knew about protein supplements, "Are most of them effective in promoting muscle hypertrophy, do they work at all, or are there specific proteins or specific amino acids that promote muscle synthesis?"
I could tell that I had hit her with a barrage of questions, and she carefully weighed each one before answering and said, "There are different requirements of protein for the average person (0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight) vs. the strength training individual requirement (1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight); however, probably the most important thing is that you take in enough Calories to spare using protein as an energy source. There are some supplements that have shown not only to promote immune enhancing effects, and with that I am talking about whey protein, because it has a special blend of essential amino acids that seems to increase muscle hypertrophy. Beta-hydroxy-methylbutyrate (HMB, 3 grams per day) has been shown beneficial in increasing muscle hypertrophy as well. Actually, a study showed that creatine in combination with HMB seemed to have a synergistic effect. Therefore, they had a greater strength increase than those getting creatine alone. There does seem to be a benefit to protein, but all the new studies coming out say that if you take in 6-7 grams of essential amino acids following a workout, those amino acids will be utilized to replenish the muscles and cause new growth. So were talking about a ¾ cup of chocolate milk or whatever your flavor preference."
She mentioned something I see typically touted in the muscle magazines, but its benefits are not clearly explained and that is HMB? I admitted, "I am not really familiar with this product or its properties." Dr. Lukaszuk articulated further, "It is a precursor to Leucine, an essential amino acid, they are not really sure how it works, but they know it works based on studies they have done. It is a very expensive product, and it is about a $100 for a two-three week supply. There are no detrimental affects from HMB as long as you have normal liver and kidney function."
Next, we discussed one of the most popular supplements used by strength training athletes and athletes across the spectrum and that was creatine. My next litany of questions elicited definitive answers as I stated intently, "Creatine monohydrate is probably one of the most popular supplements among bodybuilders. Does it promote muscle size and strength, or I should say what does it really do, and what are its adverse affects that you are aware of, both long and short-term?" I could tell that Dr. Lukaszuk's response was a confident one, due to the fact that she did her dissertation on creatine research, as she replied, "In actuality, what creatine does is it helps re-synthesize ATP, because it helps regenerate phosphocreatine, so this is the first energy cycle used by muscles to contract. Because ATP stores are in the muscles for 3-5 seconds, you need another immediate energy source that would be phosphocreatine - a component of creatine. Essentially that mechanism becomes depleted in 30 seconds also. It would be hard for me to believe that creatine would be beneficial in muscle strength and conditioning exercises. It seems to benefit 30 second or less all out exercise bouts (any type of sprint). There have been a number of studies, one on pediatric children that I have seen, and a number of studies done greater than eighteen years of age. They range anywhere from one year of creatine supplementation up to two years, and this was a continuous dosing of creatine. There does not seem to be any detrimental effects on liver or renal function, but that would be at the recommended dose of 2 grams a day."
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Article Copyright © 2004 by Paul Skinner. All rights reserved. Mike Mentzer quotations used with permission from Joanne Sharkey, President of Mentzer-Sharkey Enterprises, Inc. © 2002-2004. This article is written exclusively for www.Mikementzer.com and Joanne Sharkey. It cannot be used as a download for another website or any form of publication in part or in whole, unless written permission is granted by the above copyright owners.