Guide: Antioxidants / Leucine / Phosphatidylserine / Saint Johnswort

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Bodybuilders sometimes try so hard to find the most cutting-edge esoteric supplements that they forget that back to basics is the best way to go. Think about training. The basic exercises are the that pack on mass and make you strong. The same applies to supplementation. The base of your supplement regimen should include a multivitamin/multimineral and an antioxidant blend. These will not only make you healthier, but they will assist in taking care of nutritional deficits you might encounter in your busy lifestyle.

Studies have clearly shown that antioxidants can help prevent certain aspects of training-induced muscle damage. One study showed that daily high doses (about two grams) of vitamin C can promote a more favorable testosterone to cortisol ratio. Vitamin C not only promotes health, it can also decrease the chance of coronary artery disease and help prevent certain forms of cancer. Research shows that antioxidants are the way to go, not only for general health, but for bodybuilders looking to get bigger and stronger.

As far as how much and when to take your antioxidants, I advocate a consistent but flexible pattern of supplementation. I like to spread my supplements throughout the day. In addition, just as cycling training can be beneficial, cycling supplements can also be beneficial. If I have a particularly heavy training day. I might engage in nutrient loading, where I'll up my dose of vitamins C. E. A and beta carotene for two days, and then I might not take any the third day. When you take these supplements, they have a physiological effect, but you also get a strong mental effect: Because you're doing something positive for your body, you feel good about it. Supplements can have a strong mental impact, and that shouldn't be underestimated.


Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the favorite of supplements. Of the BCAAs, leucine is the most metabolically important. Leucine can be metabolized to keto-isocaproate (KIC) and HMB. Leucine can spare glutamine stores in muscle and thereby contribute indirectly to the anabolic and anticatabolic processes influenced by that critical amino acid. It can also serve as a source of energy during prolonged or high-intensity exercise and is thus important for keeping the muscles supplied with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine phosphate.

You can find leucine sold separately, but it's better utilized in the BCAAs. These work to help stabilize levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which rise during training and contribute to a sense of fatigue. By consuming adequate amounts of BCAAs - which are prevalent in most high- quality proteins, especially whey - you can more easily maintain optimal mental focus and intensity during your workouts. Three to four grams of BCAAs, preferably taken with a carb drink, should do the trick.

The best times to take these aminos are about an hour before training and immediately after training. BCAAs can make a potent anticatabolic contribution to your muscle-building efforts, but you don't want to overdo them because they're handled by the body differently than other amino acids. Excessive amounts can lead to insulin resistance and other adverse effects. You might begin by taking just a couple of grams a day - whether before or immediately after your workout (ideally in combination with glutamine) - and watch your strength, endurance and recovery move up a notch.


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is one of the most effective bodybuilding supplements available. It's a phospholipid, derived from soybeans, and research suggests that it lowers serum cortisol. If you take 600-800 milligrams an hour before training, your body produces significantly less cortisol. This suppression is a huge deal for bodybuilders, as cortisol inhibits the uptake of nutrients into muscle tissue. Suppressing its release can improve the uptake of key nutrients, aid in post exercise recovery, and maybe beneficial in the long term for gaining lean muscle tissue. You also want to suppress cortisol because it promotes the release of amino acids, such as glutamine, from muscle and increases muscle protein degradation. Cortisol also produces a spectrum of adverse effects on immune function.

PS can be effective for everyone from novice to pro bodybuilders, because training at any level encourages the release of cortisol. It's also effective for people with busy lives - from students to those who work 40 hours a week. Training, on top of a busy schedule, puts enormous stress on the body. With PS, people can incorporate training into their lives without feeling exhausted. The first time you train after having taken the supplement, you might not notice any effects, but following the workout you won't be as fatigued. Your recovery time and the way you feel after an intense workout such as for legs, will be greatly improved.

There's another benefit: If you typically need more sleep after a hard training session, you might notice that you don't need that extra sleep when you take PS.


Saint Johnswort (commonly known as St. John's wort) is thought to elevate certain chemicals in the brain that transmit messages between cells. One of these is GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), another is serotonin. Both of these are involved in our appetites, emotional and physical desires, sensations, moods and, well, just about everything. Saint Johnswort has been compared to a natural Prozac.

It certainly is an appetite suppressant and, a potent mood elevator. People use it all the time - when upset when trying to get in shape for a contest and also when when you're in a crappy mood. When you're dieting for a show, a natural appetite suppressant that doesn't leave you wired can make an amazing difference. We're always looking at ephedrine and other ways to accelerate metabolism and burn fat but one of the most important angles we overlook is the recuperative value of c-a-l-m-n-e-s-s when we're not training.

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