Nevin Morrison, Steven Russell, and Clayton
November 8, 1999
For: Dr. Neil Little
Studies on the increase of skeletal muscle mass have become a
popular area in the field of kinesiology and sport sciences in
recent years. Science is continually trying to push the
human body to reach its maximum potential. Athletes and
coaches are continually searching for new ways in which they can
gain an edge over their competition. The effects in this
field of study go beyond the sport and science realms as society
pushes its cultural values of the skinny woman and the
strong man This field of study is also becoming popular for
the elderly as they attempt to maintain muscle mass while aging
in an attempt to prolong their healthy active life.
The scientific basis of increasing skeletal muscle mass
The following paper will provide an overview of the scientific
basis of increasing skeletal muscle mass. It will also,
include four major areas which relate to this increase in
skeletal muscle mass. These areas will be the training
principles of muscle gain, nutrition and its effects on muscle
gain, supplements and their ability to help increase muscle mass,
and hormone muscle enhancing drugs and how they help to increase
skeletal muscle growth.
The first area that will be addressed is the training principles
behind increasing skeletal muscle mass. This will include a
scientific overview of the physiology behind increasing muscle
mass. We will also explore the most popular theories behind
muscular growth. The energy systems that aid anaerobic muscular
contraction will also be looked at in this section. The
training curve will be thoroughly explained along with its
relation to a proper program for increasing skeletal muscle mass.
We will then explain different types of skeletal muscle
contractions and how they can be used as a stimulus for muscular
growth. In this same area we will explain the importance of
the intensity and type of physical stress required to increase
skeletal muscle mass. We will also highlight different
training techniques designed for optimal muscular growth, while
considering rest and recovery periods between workouts. The
effects of genetics and gender on muscular growth will conclude
the training principles section of our paper.
The next section will examine nutrition and health implications
involved with increasing muscle mass. It will include an
outline of the six essential nutrients necessary for proper body
function and the quantities of each which are necessary for
increasing skeletal muscle mass. This section will also
explore the principles of calorie intake versus expenditure and
their effects on increasing body mass or more specifically
skeletal muscle mass.
The third topic of our paper will explore the use of
creatine one of the most popular supplements on the market today
used to aid in the increase of skeletal muscle mass. Our group
will show to you through the physiology of increasing skeletal
muscle mass, how exactly this supplement may aid in the muscular
Finally the last section of our paper will look at the
popular use of hormone muscle enhancing drugs (more specifically
steroids) and their effects on muscular growth as discussed in
scientific literature such as The World Anabolic Review
1996(Grunding, 1995). Furthermore we will look at the
effects of anabolic/androgenic steroids and how they help to
increase muscle mass. This section will also address the
detrimental side effects and risks of using these drugs.
In order for muscular hypertrophy to occur certain physiological
principles have to be in place. The first concept that must
be understood is the principle of specificity. When
training to reach any type of outcome you must train specifically
to reach that outcome. (Adams, 1993). This principle can be
applied to any type of training including training to increase
skeletal muscle mass.
The second element that must be present in a training program is
the appropriate stimulus. The stimulus must be placed on
the muscle repeatedly over a minimum period of eight weeks in
order for noticeable muscular hypertrophy to occur (Adams).
In the first eight weeks strength gains will be due to an
increased efficiency in neuromuscular function. However
after this initial period further increases in strength will be
more the result of muscular hypertrophy. To maximize
muscular hypertrophy this stimulus should be from 60 to 90
percent of the individuals 1RM (the weight that an individual can
lift only one time), but more importantly the weight should be
such that muscular failure is reached somewhere between eight and
twelve repetitions. The recommended number of sets of
repetitions to be done varies from one to four sets per exercise.
It is also necessary to have forty five to ninety seconds rest
There are several types of muscle contractions that can provide
the appropriate stimulus which will stimulate muscle growth.
The first is an isometric contraction. This is a static
contraction of the muscle against an immovable force. The
next type is a concentric contraction. This type of
contraction is when the muscle shortens with contraction.
The third type is an eccentric contraction this type of
contraction is when the muscle is lengthens while still
contracting. The last type of contraction is an isokinetic
contraction; it is a maximal contraction of a muscle group
at a constant velocity through the entire range of motion of the
joint(Heyward, 1997). Isokinetic contractions
maintain the same velocity no matter the force that is applied to
The next training principle that I will discuss is the principle
of overload. In order for muscle to continue to
increase in size there must also be a continual increase in the
stimulus. This can be accomplished via lifting more
weight, lifting the same weight faster, or lifting it for a
longer period of time during a single work session(Heyward).
For the purpose of increasing muscle mass the individual must
increase the number of sets, increase the weight or increase the
number of repetitions. The key to this concept is
that the stimulus should always be such that muscular fatigue
still occurs between eight and twelve repetitions. In order
to apply this principle the individual should start by working
with a weight that he/she can only lift eight to ten times before
fatigue. Over time he/she will be able to increase the
number of repetitions he/she can do with this weight. When
the individual can do more than twelve repetitions he/she should
then increase the weight to a weight that the individual can only
do eight to ten repetitions with again.
The third guideline for training to increase skeletal muscle mass
is the principle of rest and recovery. In order
for skeletal muscle to grow, it must first be damaged. This
damage is provided by the stimulus. After the muscle is
damaged it needs approximately forty eight to seventy two hours
to heal and grow before it should receive another stimulus.
If a sufficient stimulus is received before the end of this
recovery time it is possible that the individual will over train.
If appropriate recovery time is given the muscle should return to
and actually surpass its original performance level. If
this pattern is continued over time, continual increases in
muscular hypertrophy should occur.
The next section will show why hypertrophy occurs at the
physiological level. Exercise-induced hypertrophy
occurs through hormonal mechanisms. Anabolic (protein
building) hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone and
insulin like growth hormone (IGH) increase in response to heavy
resistance exercise and interact to produce protein synthesis
(Heyward). The amount of these hormones released is
directly related to the size of the muscle groups that are
being used, exercise intensity (%1RM), and length of rest between
sets(Heyward). Higher levels of testosterone, growth
hormone and catecholamines are produced dependent on these
factors. During weight lifting, your muscles are
exercised at greater than normal workloads, producing microscopic
tears in the muscle cells and connective tissues. Your body
responds by producing new muscle proteins. This causes
muscle growth and increased strength.(Heyward, p. 139).
One would think that muscular hypertrophy may be due to an
increase in the number of fast twitch muscle fibers (the muscle
fibers generally used in anaerobic activities such as weight
lifting), but this is not the case. Muscle hypertrophy is
actually due to an increase in the size and diameter of these
muscle cells. This increase in diameter is due to
the enlargement of myofibrils via the production of actin
and myosin filaments. The greater diameter of the muscle
increases because of greater amounts of actin, myosin, and other
intercellular proteins in myofibrils. (Adams, 1993)
Actin and myosin are the active intercellular structures that
produce muscle contraction (Adams). By increasing the size
of the myofibrils the muscle gains more contractile power.
Other factors that may help produce the appearance of an increase
in skeletal muscle mass are increases in the size of connective
tissue, tendons and the number of capillararies in and around the
muscle. Increases in the size of the connective
tissues provide support for the enlarged skeletal muscle while an
increase in the number of capillaries help to provide an
increased blood supply to the muscles allowing them to more
quickly recover from exercise (Davis et al).
All though this paper deals primarily with increasing skeletal
muscle mass, it is also important to understand some of the other
physiological effects that work together with the increase in
skeletal muscle mass to produce increased performance.
First, along with an increase in muscle mass there is also an
increase in neuromuscular function. In the first few weeks
of training, most increases in performance are due to an increase
in neuromuscular function as your body adapts to new movements
and learns how to recruit the necessary muscle groups to perform
Other physiological changes that occur with weight training are
increases in supporting tissues. Connective tissues and
ligaments around the muscles increase in size and strength and
bone density also increases in strength in response to the stress
of weight training. These physiological effects are
important because if only the muscle itself was increased the
supporting tissues would be subject to injury because of the new
force that could be generated do to the hypertrophy.
Another adaptive response to strength training is an increase in
the efficiency of the energy systems within the body, which fuel
the skeletal muscle. The two main energy systems involved
in strength training for the purpose of increasing skeletal
muscle mass are the ATP-PC system and the lactic anaerobic energy
system. These systems are involved in fueling the fast twitch
muscle fibers which increase in diameter with strength training.
In the ATP-PC energy system, If exercise requiring large
amounts of instant energy lasting less than ten seconds are
repeated, with full recovery between repetitions, then the stores
of ATP and PC within muscle cell sarcoplasm are increased,
therefore enabling more energy to be available (Davis
et al. 1991). This will create a higher training
threshold for the individual which will enable them to maintain
the same intensity for longer periods of time (Davis et al., 1991).
The lactic anaerobic energy system can also be enhanced through
strength training. It is found that glycogen stores
in muscle are enhanced (possibly by virtue of an increase in size
and number of fast twitch muscle fibers/cells which
preferentially and more rapidly store glycogen) and are more
effectively utilized (through the increase in the amount of
glycogen converting enzymes found in muscle cells in mitochondria
---the cells themselves being increased in size and number.)(Davis
et al., 1991).
The importance of the increase in efficiency of these energy
systems and there effects on muscle hypertrophy are easily seen.
With increased muscular performance due to more efficient energy
systems, more stress can be placed on the muscle providing a
stronger stimulus for muscular growth.
Increased Efficiency = Increases Performance = Increased
Stimulus = Increased Hypertrophy
A persons natural genetic make-up also plays a major role
in their ability to increase skeletal muscle size. Every
person has his or her own genetically predetermined ratio of fast
and slow twitch fibers. The enzymatic characteristics
of muscle fibers govern several aspects of human muscle
performance, namely, contractile speed, strength, and fatigue
ability. An important muscle characteristic in this regard
is the relative proportions of constituent muscle fibers (fast vs.
slow) (Bouchard, 1992). The effects of this ratio on
ones ability to increase skeletal muscle size are obvious
as the muscle fibers which increase in diameter with strength
training are fast twitch muscle fibers. Therefore
individuals with a larger percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers
will be able to increase skeletal muscle size more effectively
than individuals with lower percentage of fast twitch muscle
Body type differences may also be a factor in increasing skeletal
muscle mass as certain body types are more structurally capable
of producing and supporting muscular hypertrophy.
Another genetically predetermined characteristic that effects ones
ability to increase skeletal muscle mass is gender. A
persons gender, male or female, also effects their ability
to increase skeletal muscle mass. Males produce
testosterone, which is a very important hormone in producing the
different sex characteristics. One of these characteristics
is an average increase in skeletal muscle mass. Males are
also more receptive to the stimulus of testosterone. This
makes it easier for males to increase skeletal muscle mass.
Although there are differences between the ability of males and
females in their ability to produce muscular hypertrophy, the
differences are not as great as once thought. (Heyward, 1997).
Age has very important effects on a persons ability to
increase skeletal muscle mass. The greatest increases in
skeletal muscle mass can be made typically between the ages of
twenty five and thirty five years of age. However, with proper
weight training programs the maintenance of muscle mass can be
possible until much later stages of life. It was once
thought that increases in muscle mass were impossible for elderly
individuals, but recent studies have shown that it is possible
for muscle to hypertrophy as one ages. As for children
increasing muscle mass, becomes a much more difficult feat
because of their high metabolisms. Furthermore because,
heavy weights are not recommended for children as damage can be
done to growth plates with improper lifting of heavy weights.
It is recommended that lower weights with higher repetitions be
used for children. The weight can be increased after
adolescence after the growth plates have closed.
In order to understand how muscle hypertrophies one must first
understand how it contracts. As discussed earlier the main
energy supplied to the muscle for contraction for weight lifting
purposes comes from the ATP-PC system and the Lactic Aerobic
Systems. These energy systems provide energy to the muscle
cells quickly but, only for short periods of time.
The first stage of muscle contraction begins when the nervous
impulse reaches the muscle cell. This initiates the release
of calcium ions from the T cells in the sarcoplasmic
reticulum. The calcium ions then stimulate the contraction
of muscle by exposing the active sites on the actin filaments. (Davis,
1991). After the breakdown of ATP into ADP the heads of the
myosin filaments become active. These active myosin heads
attach to the actin filaments, forming actin-myosin bonds or
cross bridges. The myosin heads pull the actin filaments
over them and continue to attach, pull and reattach. (Davis, 1991).
The whole effect is to pull the actin filaments past the
myosin filaments so that they form a bigger overlap (than in the
resting state) and therefore shorten the sacromere.(Davis,
1991). With many thousands of thin filaments pulling
past thick filaments in a single cell and many thousands of
muscle cells contracting,
skeletal muscle can quickly
respond to the demands of ballistic activity
strength of muscular contraction is proportional to the number of
cross-bridges in harness.(pg. 41). By
increasing the number of actin and myosin filaments through
weight training you can also increase the strength of the muscles
There are many different types of training methods that can be
used to maximize muscular hypertrophy. One of the first
principles called a split routine is used by
bodybuilders to work different muscle groups on different days (Allesen,
1996). For example bodybuilders would work lower body one
day and the upper body the next. By repeating cycle it
enables the athlete to work out everyday while still allowing the
body to recover. Another principle of increasing skeletal
muscle mass is to use exercise that require compound movements
and require many muscle groups to perform. This allows for
stress not only to be placed on prime moving muscle groups but
also on support muscles. The use of free weights are great
for these types of exercises. (Cormier, 1995). Another
important principle used by professional bodybuilders is to
concentrate on the areas of the physique which need the most
improvement. The weakest areas of your body will be able to
improve performance and hypertrophy easier than the areas that
are already strong. (Cormier, 1995).
In addition the use of weight lifting aids such as straps, chalk
and gloves can also be effective increasing the stimulus placed
on muscle. These aids help take the stresses off of weaker
muscle groups such as the forearms which allow one to put more
stress on stronger muscle groups such as the bicep muscles, for
Other techniques that may be used to increase the stress placed
on muscles is exercises which require spotters. The spotter
functions to aid the bodybuilder at the weakest points of the
exercise allowing him/her to lift more weight to achieve muscular
fatigue. These type of repetitions are called forced reps(Allesen,
1996). There are available some isokinetic machines which have a
similar effect as the spotter technique (Allesen, p. 11).
Another technique used to increase blood flow to the muscle
groups is called burns. Burns consist of very
rapid half-contractions to the point of muscular fatigue (Allesen,
p. 131). These contractions by increasing the blood flow to
the muscles are thought to bring important nutrients to the
muscle. Research supporting the effectiveness of this
method is limited. Burns are usually used near the end of
the work out.
Nutrition is an essential aspect of increasing muscle mass that
is frequently overlooked by resistance trainers. Many people
follow a disciplined training schedule, using all the right steps
toward making size gains, and receive limited results. Nutrition
is often the roadblock that prevents them from making these
substantial size gains. There are aspects of nutrition that must
be followed, such as quantity, quality, and balance within the
diet, if gains are to be made in size. Sacrificing one or more of
these components in order to fulfill one of the other components
often occurs, and inhibits muscular growth more than it
The Six Essential Nutrients
The six essential nutrients all play an important role in the
diet of an individual attempting to increase skeletal muscle mass.
These six essential nutrients are vitamins, minerals, water,
protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
Vitamins are organic compounds that act as catalysts in the
transformation of other organic compounds into energy (Adams,
1991). They aid resistance trainers by helping supply energy to
the body during workouts, therefore allowing maximum muscle
exertion. Many believe that an increase in physical activity
increases the proportion of vitamins needed in the diet, however
increased physical activity only increases the need for vitamins
in direct proportion with the rest of the needs of the diet.
Excess intake of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can be
toxic as they are stored in body tissues and primarily the liver
(Adams, 1991). However, excess intake of water-soluble vitamins (B
complex and C) has not been proven to be harmful to our health as
the kidney excretes them from the body.
Minerals are inorganic elements that are vital to life through
their roles in bone formation, heart, muscle, and nerve function,
and regulation of cellular metabolism. Adequate intake of
minerals can be achieved through a balanced diet, and there is
currently no evidence of performance enhancement through mineral
supplementation of already well- nourished individuals. Without
proper mineral balance however, muscular performance will suffer,
detracting from potential mass gains.
Ingestion of water before and during exercise can significantly
increase performance time before exhaustion sets in (Adams, 1991).
Glycogen is a fuel that the body uses to produce energy in the
absence of carbohydrates, and is essential to energy metabolism.
Intense exercise can deplete glycogen stores within a short
period of time, and ingestion of water helps to impede the
depletion of glycogen stores. REFERENCE? Water also plays
an important role in regulating our body temperature during
exercise. Consuming water before, during, and also after a
workout helps to prevent dehydration. For this reason, two cups
of water should be consumed for every pound sweated off during a
workout. Water also increases sweating during exercise, and helps
the body adjust core temperature. The goal of a resistance
trainer should be to consume three to six ounces of water for
every twenty minutes spent working out.
Carbohydrates provide us with a readily available source of
energy for intense activities, and should comprise sixty to
seventy percent of a resistance trainers diet. Adenosine
triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate (PC) reserves are the
bodys first resource for energy, but will burn off within
fifteen seconds. After this, the majority of energy liberated
during muscle work is derived from carbohydrates and fats (Brouns,
1993). At higher intensity, the body will use more and more
carbohydrates, making them the most important fuel in resistance
training exercises. They also play an essential role in protein
sparing, which we will look at in our section on nutrition
and over training.
Fats also provide us with energy, and are recommended to
comprise twenty to thirty percent of resistance trainers
diets. As mentioned earlier, fat is the second main energy source
for the exercising individual. Fat serves as a back up to
carbohydrates, and becomes the major energy source after
carbohydrate stores are used up. However, some amounts of
carbohydrates will still be needed to aid in the citric acid
cycle. This need will constitute the body to produce glucose from
other substrates, in order to provide the needed carbohydrates (Brouns,
Protein is known as the building block of muscle, forming the
basis for growth and development of organs and tissues. Unlike
carbohydrates and fats, the body has no reserve or storage of
protein in it. A common misconception of coaches and athletes is
that protein is an energy source for muscles. Protein is a source
of amino acids needed to build or repair muscle, but muscles do
not use protein for fuel. Any protein that is consumed cannot be
stored as protein and will be broken down so that the nitrogen in
it will be excreted in urine and the rest will either be
immediately used for exercise or stored as glycogen or fat. Our
body undoubtedly needs protein in order to increase levels of
skeletal muscle, but just how much we need is not agreed upon. A
general recommendation for protein intake is ten to fifteen
percent of an individuals diet, resulting in fifty to one
hundred and ten grams of protein being consumed daily. Brouns (1993)
suggests that increased caloric intake for physically active
people is alone enough to meet protein requirements if ten to
fifteen percent of the diet is still comprised of protein.
Nutrition and Overtraining
Overtraining is commonly cited as one of the major roadblocks in
making significant increases in skeletal muscle mass. Some of the
major indicators of over training are sudden weight loss, an
increase of five or more beats per minute in resting heart rate,
loss of appetite, and performance plateaus. Such factors as not
enough rest time in between workouts, long-term high intensity
training, and inconsistent sleeping patterns have all been
frequently named as facilitators of over training. However,
Phillips (1997) contends that most over trained states stem from
inadequate diet, not from too much exercise. He makesthe
comparison that if a long distance runner was to train every day
without eating a sufficient diet, they would obviously not have
the energy to perform at their top level. The same applies to
weight trainers, as without adequate nutritional support for an
individuals muscles, the chances of muscular growth are
One dietary factor, which causes weight trainers to be more
susceptible to over training, is insufficient protein intake.
Protein is the most important nutrient for bodybuilders, as it
allows us to retain muscle and provides amino acids to the amino
acid pool within our body (Phillips, 1997). If protein intake is
insufficient, recuperation will be affected. This causes people
to believe that their weight training habits, not their diet is
the cause of over training.
A little known fact about water is that the less you drink, the
more likely you are to become over trained. As you sweat during
workouts, you dehydrate and lose substantial amounts of body
water. Muscle is comprised of seventy percent water, and a higher
protein intake requires more water (Phillips, 1997). Water is
also an essential transport mechanism for many nutrients such as
vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. It plays an important role
in cellular activity, meaning that if your water intake is too
low, transportation will decrease and toxins such as ammonia,
uric acid, and urea will begin to accumulate in your body. As
this junk accumulates, the body is not capable of
pushing water into the muscle because too much is pulled out to
handle the demands and stresses being placed on it (Phillips,
As mentioned earlier, carbohydrates provide us with a protein
sparing effect. Protein plays a vital role in the
maintenance, repair, and growth of body tissues, and it is
important that we have adequate levels at all times. When
carbohydrate reserves are reduced, the body will convert protein
into glucose for energy in a process called glyconeogenesis,
thus reducing protein levels and depleting muscle from the body.
Caloric Intake. Vs. Expenditure
In order to give our body the opportunity to increase muscle
mass, we must have a higher caloric intake than what we expend in
a day. This can be achieved through calorie counting and energy
expenditure awareness. Knowing how many calories we expend in an
average day can help us to determine how many calories we require
exceeding our expenditure, and taking a positive step toward
gaining muscle. This can be obtained through adding our basal
metabolism (minimum number of calories burned in a twenty four
hour period) and our physical activity expenditures for each day.
Peterson (1996) suggests that caloric intake should exceed our
caloric expenditures by 500 to 1000 kcal per day, equating into a
diet of 3500 to 5000 kcals per day. However, consuming this large
amount of calories is much more difficult than it sounds. A
steady diet must be followed, aided by the use of calorie
counting. Calorie counting is simply keeping track of all the
calories that we ingest in a day. This can be accomplished
through reading the labels of the products we consume, as the
majority of product labels now tell us the basic nutritional
facts of the product. Experts have advised eating smaller, more
frequent meals comprised of caloric dense foods throughout the
day. The body works continuously throughout the day, and should
be fueled as the need arises. Protein must be present forincrease
lean muscle mass, and in order to avoid protein usage for energy,
sufficient carbohydrates and fat must be present at all times.
These nutrients can be used more efficiently if a moderate amount
is ingested on a frequent basis, versus a few large meals per day
(Peterson, 1996). It is recommended that weight lifters consume 3-5
meals per day complimented by 3-4 healthy snacks in between meals.
Meal replacement shakes or bars can be an excellent way to aid in
calorie consumption. Often a feeling of pain or illness can
accompany high calorie consumption, and these supplements are
highly concentrated (40 calories/oz.) to make the calorie
consumption less painful.
To ensure that weight gain is lean body mass and not extra fat,
Peterson (1996) suggests that the rate of gain should be no more
than 2 pounds (.90 KG) per week. If an individual is having
troubles gaining weight, their caloric intake should be increased
by 500kcals/day, until weight gain is achieved. Weekly visits to
a dietician will be advantageous so that the diet can be
monitored and adjusted as necessary. Also, skin fold measurements
should be performed on a monthly basis in order to assure of the
desired lean muscle mass increase, versus an increase in body fat.
Lifestyle is also an important issue in promoting the growth of
lean muscle mass. Consistency is perhaps the major obstacle to
increasing lean muscle mass, as workout programs and diets are
often erratic. One option to increase consistency of workouts is
having a committed workout partner. Having someone rely on them
to show up will encourage the regularity of an individuals
workouts, therefore increasing the opportunity for growth. As
mentioned earlier, diet is also a difficult aspect to
consistently maintain. The constant effort of eating on schedule
and being aware of what you eat can be exhausting, and methods
may be necessary to aid an individual in maintaining a high
calorie diet. These can be methods such as planning what an
individual will consume each day and writing it down on paper, or
carrying an alarm set for every couple of hours reminding them its
time to eat. Basically, whatever works for an individual to
maintain the necessary diet should be utilized.
Sleep is an essential contributor to muscular development, and is
often overlooked or abused by a weight trainers lifestyle.
It is recommended that nine to ten hours of sleep are obtained
each night in order to allow for muscular regeneration and repair.
Tips for Improving Nutrition
There are many aspects needed if an individuals diet is
going to promote the growth and development of lean muscle mass.
The absence of one or more of these aspects can significantly
decrease a resistance trainers chances of making positive
gains in skeletal muscle mass. Outlined here are some tips
forsound nutritional habits:
- Eat more frequent, smaller meals in order to increase caloric
-Avoid caffeine products, as they dehydrate the body
-Meal replacement shakes serve as quick, effective snacks if time
-Ensure that you are consuming caloric dense foods
-Read labels of products before you buy them, to ensure they
contain the desired amounts of various nutrients
-Employ calorie counting throughout the day, to ensure you are
consuming enough calories
-Avoid consuming large quantities of alcohol, as this dehydrates
Society has undoubtedly instilled in athletes the mentality that
success means being the best. In order to achieve this high level
of success, many athletes looking for the competitive edge have
turned to dietary supplements. Dietary supplement is a
catch all term that indicates substances that the FDA does not
consider drugs and that also do not fall into the categories of
normal foods or food additives (Baeckle, 1994). There are
thousands of different supplements on the market today, but for
the purpose of gaining muscle mass and this paper, we are going
to look specifically at creatine and amino acids.
Creatine monohydrate is a compound thats naturally made in
our bodies to supply energy to our muscles. Chemically, it is
called methylguandio-acetic acid (Phillips, 1997 pg.
49). Creatine is formed from the amino acids arginine,
methionine, and glycine. It is manufactured in the liver and may
also be produced in the pancreas and kidneys. Creatine is
transported in the blood and taken up by muscle cells, where it
is converted to creatine phosphate (CP). This CP is best known as
small reserves of readily available and rapidly released energy-
the alactic anaerobic system. Typically, the average person
metabolizes about two grams of creatine per day, and the body
normally synthesizes that same amount. Thus there is generally a
creatine balance in the body. The purpose of taking
creatine is that it helps build lean body mass, which
allows greater force to be used when weightlifting; provides
energy so duration of exercise or workcan be lengthened; and it
helps speed recovery so exercise frequency can be increased
(Philips, 1997). A study done by Brannon et al., showed that
creatine supplementation provided an ergogenic aid to high
intensity exercise, especially that of a repetitive nature. Also
creatine supplementation enhances muscular performance during
repeated sets of bench press and jump squat exercises (Volek et
al. 1997). All of the effects of using creatine would definitely
help someone gain more muscular mass compared to someone who is
not using it.
In most cases, almost everyone connects the word steroids
with anabolic steroids, which to the layman is better known under
the name of anabolics. It is often forgotten,
however, that the name steroids is only the generic
term for various steroid hormones. Their representatives are the
suprarenal cortical hormones (gluco- and mineralcorticoids), the
female sex hormones (estrogen and gestagen), as well as the male
sex hormones (androgens) (Grunding and Bachmann). For the purpose
of increasing skeletal muscle mass, we are going to look at the
last version of the hormones of which testosterone is the most
Hanrahan states that testosterone is the basis of almost all
anabolic/androgenic steroids known to man and is the most
important representative of the male sex hormones, also called
androgens. The body uses cholesterol as a basis for the
development of this hormone group (Cohen, Hartford and Rogers,
1994. Pg.371). The Leydigs cells in the male gonads (testes)
produce the androgens. The final product is testosterone, which
fulfills three functions in the human body. 1) Testosterone
promotes the development of secondary male sex characteristics (increased
growth of body hair, beard growth, deepening of voice, increased
production of sebaceous glands, development of the penis,
aggressiveness, sexual libido, etc.) and the maturation of sperm.
These aspects are also called the androgenic functions of
testosterone. Men distinguish themselves from women by the amount
of testosterone produced daily. Men produce between 4 and 10 mg
of testosterone daily while women produce only 0.15 0.4 mg/day.
2) Testosterone also helps in the promotion of the protein
biosynthesis: Responsible for this process are the highly
anabolic characteristics of testosterone. Accelerated muscle
buildup, increased formation of red blood cells, faster
regeneration, and a shorter recovery time after injuries or
illness are achieved. The entire metabolism is stimulated, and
the burning of body fat is activated. 3) Lastly, testosterone
also inhibits the gonadal regulating cycle: This includes the
hypothalamohypophysial testicular axis, which regulates the
amount of testosterone produced in the body (Grunding and
Bachmann, 1996. Pg.12). If the testosterone concentrations in the
blood are high, the testes will signal the hypothalamus to
release less LHRH (leutenizing hormone releasing hormone). Thus
the hypophysis releases less gonadotropin LH (leutenizing hormone)
and FSH (folic stimulating hormone). Consequently, the Leydigs
cells in the testes reduce the production of testosterone.
Anabolic/androgenic steroids are synthetically manufactured
compounds which are similar to the natural male androgen,
testosterone. They are therefore defined as synthetic derivatives
of testosterone. Bridge states that the main reason for their
original development was the intention to produce a product which
would include the highly anabolic effect of testosterone while,
at the same time, exclude the negative aspects of the pronounced
androgenic components. Great efforts were made to develop a pure
anabolic steroid without androgenic side effects, but complete
separation of anabolic and androgenic effect has not been
achieved. To attempt this goal, various changes to the steroid
molecule were made. The newly developed steroids distinguished
themselves through both a decreased effect with a weaker anabolic
and androgenic effect or with an increased effectiveness, after
both the anabolic and androgenic components had been increased.
Structural changes in some steroids resulted in an even higher
androgyny but reduced the anabolic activity. A so-called anabolic
steroid, therefore, also has a certain androgenic effect and,
correspondingly, an androgenic steroid also has anabolic
characteristics. One would therefore assume that for fast buildup
of strength and muscle mass a predominately anabolic steroid with
only minimal androgyny should be selected. Unfortunately not,
because the name anabolic steroid does not tell us
about the strength of the anabolic effect. Instead it only
indicates that the anabolic/androgenic relationship in the
original steroid testosterone was shifted. In order to determine
this relationship and thus be able to classify a steroid as an
anabolic or an androgenic, testosterone serves as a parameter.
Steroids which are less androgenic are called anabolic steroids,
while steroids which are equally or even more androgenic, are
called androgenic steroids. An athlete wishing to gain the most
muscle mass has a problem, since the androgenic steroids are not
only more effective but unfortunately also more harmful. From
this we can derive a certain rule: the more effective a steroid,
the more androgenic its substance and the more harmful it is for
the body. The first anabolic/androgenic steroids were officially
available during the 1950s (Hanrahan, 1994. Pg. 16). Only a
decade later, most of todays available compounds were
already on the market. In the meantime, only a few new steroid
compounds have been developed. Many steroids have been removed
from the market; some were reintroduced in other countries under
a generic name. Nevertheless steroids are still the most
effective method of improving muscular mass and strength (Lenehan,
Bellis, and McVeigh, 1996. Pg. 65).
The physiology of anabolic/androgenic steroids is a very complex
subject. It is almost impossible to give exact configurations of
all biochemical processes that take place in the body during the
intake of steroids. Steroids are either injected intramuscularly
or taken orally. When injected, the substance directly enters the
bloodstream while tablets, taken orally, reach the liver through
the gastrointestinal tract. Here the substance is either
completely or partially destroyed or sent into the bloodstream in
its original form. The administered steroid is now present in the
blood in the form of numerous steroid molecules that, through
blood circulation, move around the entire body. Each steroid
molecule contains a certain message or information that it tries
to transmit to specific body cells. The cells designated for this
purpose possess various receptor types on their membranes. One of
these is the steroid receptor that, for example, is present in
large amounts at the muscle cell. The form and size of these
steroid receptors match those of the steroid molecules. Receptor
and molecule show a high affinity, comparable to a key that fits
the right lock. The steroid receptor absorbs the matching
molecules while rejecting thousands of other molecules, which do
not fit in size and shape. Only when the steroid receptor and the
steroid molecule have formed a complex can the molecule transmit
its message to the muscle cell. In the bloodstream usually close
to 98% of the steroid molecules in the blood are bonded with
binding proteins, while only 2% of the steroid molecules are
present in a free unbonded state (Keith, et al.1996. pg. 250).
The formed steroid receptor complex now travels to the cell
nucleus where it bonds to certain sequences on the nucleic acid
sections of DNA (desoxy ribonuclein acid). Now a transcription
takes place, where a template of the DNA is made. The resulting
MRNA (messenger ribonuclein acid) leaves the cell nucleus and
bonds with the RNA in the cytoplasm where, through translation,
an increased protein synthesis takes place. When combined with an
intense weightlifting workout, an increase in the diameter of the
muscle cell occurs (muscular hypertrophy). After the steroid
complex has done its job in the cell nucleus, the steroid
molecule returns to the blood stream and can either be reused
briefly for the some purpose of changed into a weaker,
ineffective molecule, which is then excreted through the urine.
Not all-steroid molecules end up doing their job. Some are
metabolized and eliminated by the body, while others can be
converted into the female sex hormone estrogen.
Although the increased protein synthesis is considered to be the
most important effect of steroids on the muscle cell, the steroid
molecules also forward other information important to the
bodybuilder. There is increased evidence that steroids have a
high anticatabolic effect. Thus, the rate at which protein in the
muscle cell is broken down is reduce (Grunding and Bachmann, 1996).
The steroid molecule also occupies the cortisone receptors on the
membrane of the muscle cell and blocks them. Therefore, the
cortisone produced by the body, a highly catabolic (reducing)
hormone, cannot become effective and the muscle cell does not
release protein (Grunding and Bachmann, 1996. Pg. 16). Another
advantage of steroids is that they increase the phosphocreatine
synthesis (CP) in the muscle cell. As stated earlier in the
paper, CP is of crucial importance during the restoration of ATP
(adenosine triphosphate). The more ATP available to the muscle
means the muscle has the ability to become stronger. Another
factor, which benefits the athlete, is that steroids store more
carbohydrates in the muscle cell in the form of glycogen. This
process, together with a higher liquid retention, which takes
place simultaneously, results in a higher muscle volume, improved
endurance, and more strength (Phillips, 1997). Steroids
also reduce the release of endogenous insulin since the steroid
allows the muscle cell to absorb nutrients (carbohydrates in the
form of glucose and protein in the form of amino acids) by
depending less on the insulin. This helps the athlete in lowering
the body fat and hardening the muscles since insulin helps in
stimulating the growth of fat cells. The last benefit that
steroids have on gaining muscle mass is the pump effect that
occurs from working out. The reason for this is that steroids
increase the blood volume and amount of red blood cells in the
body. The muscle has a larger appearance and becomes more
vascular. In addition to these advantages, the increased blood
flow allows for a greater transport of nutrients to the muscle
cells (Grunding and Bachmann, 1996).
In general, steroids are frowned upon by society because of
ethical and moral doubts, and because of the potential negative
side effects that occur from using them. Brower, Blow and Hill
stated that the potential effects upon the liver are most
apparent in steroid users. These can manifest themselves in
various dysfunctions of the liver such as cholastasis (bile
obstruction in the liver), a peliosis hepatis (blood-filled
cavities in the liver tissue, cysts), or liver cancer. Other side
effects of taking steroids are the inhibition of the gonad cycle,
water and salt retention, feminization (gynocomastia, A.K.A.bitch
tits), changes in skin, psychological changes, gastrointestinal
symptoms, baldness, cardiovascular defects, virilization, growth
deficit, prostate hypertrophy, high blood pressure, cardiac
hypertrophy, and kidney damage (Evans, 1997. Pg. 350).
Steroids are not a wonder drug since their effectiveness depends
on external factors such as workout, nutrition, attitude, and the
genetic predisposition of the individual. This last point, in
particular, will determine how the individual responds to the
intake of anabolic/androgenic steroids and how he/she copes with
their side effects. The fact that it is illegal in America to use
steroids other than for medicinal reasons has not stop
bodybuilders from using and abusing the drugs. For an individual
wishing to gain outrageous amounts of muscle mass over the
shortest period of time there is no denying the fact that
steroids are the most effective compounds for this purpose,
regardless of their side effects.
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The Scientific Basis of Increasing Skeletal Muscle Mass
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