Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review: Pro Oats - High Protein Oatmeal

There's a very interesting new high protein oatmeal supplement on the market called Pro Oats that I was recently invited to try and give my review on.

Pro Oats are high grain rolled instant oats packaged in a multiple serving pack.  The manufacturers have added high grade whey protein isolate (WPI) to the oatmeal to give it added protein which gives it a total of 12g of protein per serving.  For comparison, looking at plain Quaker Instant Oats (I'll be using this comparison for the rest of the review),  has around 4g of protein per serving.  They've also added dried fruit for several varieties of flavors, including apple pie, peach, cherry and blueberry.  I tried the blueberry flavor.

The taste is on par with your average unflavored oatmeal, with the exception of the fruit which has added sugar to bring out the flavor.  You can also distinctly taste the WPI texture in the oats, but it's not unpleasant.  Although the blueberries are sweetened with sugar, I found the regular taste of the oats to be somewhat bland and added some Splenda to the rest of the oats compensate.  The carbohydrate (37g) and sugars (9g) are a bit higher than what I would like to see in a high protein oatmeal if the market is for bodybuilders/weight lifters or general fitness related people -- although the added carbs could be advantageous for an endurance athlete.  But, on the plus side, it also has a little bit higher amount of fiber (5g) than Quaker (3g).

All in all, I feel the flavoring of the product could be improved somewhat.  With the added sugar, I would have expected the product to be much sweeter, but you really only get a taste of flavor with the added fruit -- the rest of the oatmeal is completely unflavored.  My personal preference would also to use an artificial sweetener or stevia in place of the sucrose sugar since you're already going to be getting a good amount of low GI carbs from the oats themselves.  However, I like the idea of a high protein product and I hope that once the product starts making it to the retail market, Pro Oats will be able to be sold in larger packages and become more affordable.  A pack of 7 servings of Pro Oats currently sells for $7 on their website.

So, give Pro Oats a try and feel free to post your comments here of what you think.  Big thanks to Max Cascone @ Pro Oats for the samples!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How much protein do you really need?

The question most often asked by anyone started or involved in weight training is how much protein does a person need to consume per day, per meal, per hour, per serving, before bed, and so forth to increase muscle mass.  The answer usually devolves into a spouting of common broscience knowledge about how much protein can be absorbed at a time or that too much protein gets converted to fat and other rubbish.

In order to induce muscle hypertrophy (growth) an increased amount of amino acids needs to be consumed to increase and maintain protein synthesis and positive nitrogen balance.  This is plain to understand and most people know this.  But the real question boils down to exactly how much protein does a person really need to get to that level?  Although there are various factors involved, including whether or not the person is weight training and looking to add new muscle tissue, that individuals weight, and the type of protein being consumed, you are likely to get a straightforward answer in the amount of a certain number of grams -- depending on who you ask.

Supplement manufacturers often tout the claim that you need 1-2g of protein per pound of bodyweight daily in order to grow.  But is this really a realistic number and how did they come to this conclusion?  The truth is this is actually a serious exaggeration when looking at the scientific evidence, although it is somewhat lacking when looking at heavy weight training males who workout using a serious bodybuilding/mass building routine.  Nonetheless, these results can still be interpolated for the average person and we can probably all afford to bring our protein consumption down to a more realistic level.

A recent LA Times piece quoted bodybuilding.com moderator and all around nutrition guru Alan Aragon with some good realistic numbers on the quantities of protein a person should be consuming for steady growth.

Aragon deals with more ambitious populations. For new weightlifters aiming to both lose fat and build muscle, he recommends 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Those focused merely on adding muscle need only 1.4 grams, he says. [1]
A 180lb person would equate to 82kg so that would average out to 139g of protein per day for that person looking to build muscle.  Of course, most of the protein in a persons diet should be coming from whole food sources, and not protein supplements.  As Alan points out, protein shakes are more a matter of convenience.  It can be hard to consume that amount of protein per day from whole food sources, so powdered whey, milk, eggs or soy make it much easier to supplement additional protein into the diet.  This is especially true when a typically bodybuilder/weightlifter diet is composed around eating meals every 2-3 hours.

In a paper published by The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN), they go even further on the topic.

Protein Requirements for Resistance Trained Athletes
In a recent Meta Analysis on protein requirements Rand et al. defined the protein requirement in healthy adults as "the continuing intake of dietary protein that is sufficient to achieve body nitrogen equilibrium (zero balance) in an initially healthy person of acceptable body composition at energy balance and under conditions of moderate physical activity..." An individual's protein needs are assumed to have been met when the amount of nitrogen consumed is equal to the amount of nitrogen excreted or lost (zero nitrogen balance). In the occurrence that the amount of nitrogen consumed exceeds the amount of nitrogen lost then the individual is in a state of positive nitrogen balance, and is generally assumed to be in an anabolic state. Conversely when the amount of nitrogen excreted exceeds the amount of nitrogen consumed, the individual has entered into negative nitrogen balance, and is assumed to be in a state of net bodily protein loss (catabolic state). Based on this definition, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), meant to suffice for 97.5% of the population is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. However, strength training athletes generally consume a great deal more than the RDA, with the rationale that their protein requirements exceed that of the general population. Therefore, a number of studies have examined athletes' protein requirements based on the nitrogen balance technique. [Italics added] [2]

The paper goes on to review a number of studies looking at protein intake in a variety of individuals, but noting specifically that those who are doing extensive bodybuilding and/or weight training will still more than likely need to exceed protein intakes of the average individual because of their need to increase muscle hypertrophy beyond standard levels. They also compare rates of digestion of different types of protein (fast vs. slow) and optimal protein timing, which can all get very confusing and bog down the average weight trainer who wants to skip the theoretical and get down to the nuts and bolts.  For those people, I encourage them to read Will Brink's article, The Religion of Pre and Post Workout Nutrition.

JISSN also includes a practical applications table of protein and amino acid consumption and supplementation at the conclusion of their article which can help shed some light on their conclusions.  I have reproduced the table below.  Interestingly, they recommend the consumption of essential amino acids (EAAs) in the place of a full source protein in many cases.

of Interest
Pattern of Digestion Alternate normal meals with fast digesting sources of protein or EAAs.
Rate of Digestion Protein balance is greater with slow proteins with no
additional energy; however, when combined with a source of energy, whey protein produces A greater protein balance than casein combined with a source of energy.
Timing of Protein Ingestion Consume EAAs or fast digesting protein prior to and immediately following exercise.
Protein Quality An omnivorous diet appears to be optimal for fat free mass and indexes of performance, while supplementing with EAAs may enhance protein accretion along with normal protein feedings.
Amount per serving Unsure, but Dangin et al. found an increase in protein synthesis from 23 to 33 grams of whey protein. This may be near the limit as 40 grams of EAAs did not increase MPS in comparison to 20 grams of EAAs.
Energy Source combined with Protein Both carbohydrates and fats appear to spare protein equally. However, carbohydrates
are still critical for maintaining intensity during resistance training.

The amount of protein that can be adequately consumed and digested in one sitting appears to be around the 30g mark and Will Brink makes the argument that it really doesn't matter, because as he says "You've gotta eat something."

The Counter Argument

In his anti-supplement book, Muscle, Speed, & Lies, author David Lightsey makes the case that none of these figures our accurate and the actual amount of protein necessary to be consumed daily -- even by weight training individuals is very low.  The text below is quoted from Chapter 5 "Protein and Muscle Mass: How much is Enough?"

Everybody knows muscle is mostly protein.  Everybody also knows that a lot of extra protein is required to build muscle and keep it healthy.  Right?  Well, actually, it's not.  Everybody is wrong.  Similarly, most people believe that muscle is anywhere from 75 percent to 100 percent protein.  In fact, muscle is roughly 70 percent water!  It contains only about 22 percent protein.  Stop here a moment, and do the math.  Let's say you want to add a pound of muscle to your current body weight per week.  If a pound of muscle contains 22 percent protein, how many grams of protein must you consume beyond your normal diet to achieve this goal? 22 percent of one pound (454 grams) = roughly 100 grams.  If one pound of muscle contains roughly 100 grams of protein, how many extra grams of protein will you need to consume per day?  100 grams/7 days = 14.3 grams per day. [Italics added] [3] 
Although this sounds like a grossly confused calculation for those of us raised to believe you need 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight,  Lightsey backs up his argument with advice from doctors and sports nutritionists.  His view of the supplement industry is extremely low, but he does make good points that I agree with -- namely that two of the most ergogenic substances you can consume are water and carbohydrates.

On the flip side of the coin, Will Brink, in his article Protein Myths that Will Not Die, counters this argument with one of his own.

Myth #4 “Athletes don’t need extra protein” 
Interestingly, there has not been much new research of note on this topic since I wrote the first version of this article in 1995. Now the average reader person is probably thinking “who in the world still believes that ridiculous statement?” The answer is a great deal of people, even well educated medical professionals and scientists who should know better, still believe this to be true.
For the past half century or so scientists using crude methods and poor study design with sedentary people have held firm to the belief that bodybuilders, strength athletes of various types, runners, and other highly active people did not require any more protein than Mr. Potato Head…..err, I mean the average couch potato.
For those of you who may need a brush up, one review paper on the subject by one of the top researchers in the field (Dr. Peter Lemon) states “…These data suggest that the RDA for those engaged in regular endurance exercise should be about 1.2-1.4 grams of protein/kilogram of body mass (150%-175% of the current RDA) and 1.7 – 1.8 grams of protein/kilogram of body mass per day (212%-225% of the current RDA) for strength exercisers” (“Is increased dietary protein necessary or beneficial for individuals with a physically active life style?” Nutr. Rev. 54:S169-175, 1996).
Another group of researchers in the field of protein metabolism have came to similar conclusions repeatedly (“Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes.” J. Applied. Phys. 73(5): 1986-1995, 1992.) They found that strength training athletes eating approximately the RDA/RNI for protein showed a decreased whole body protein synthesis (losing muscle jack!) on a protein intake of 0.86 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.


From all the research that's out there it appears that the best source of protein for any diet is from whole food sources.  The body is simply more apt at digesting protein from nature when combined with fats, carbs, enzymes, vitamins and minerals and the whole range of other ingredients found in a balanced and nutritious meal.  However, for a bodybuilder or weightlifter who is trying to add significant amounts of muscle mass in a short period of time, an increased amount of protein is necessary.  Obviously in a perfect setting that person would get all their protein from whole food sources.  But, in a fast paced world with our lives to lead, most of us will opt for the convenient option of supplementing with a protein shake or bar in place of a meal.  The most important times to consume these quick digesting proteins is around the workout period, where amino acids are needed quickly to be utilized by muscle tissue.  It appears from the research that the optimal amount of protein from a supplement that can be consumed in a single setting is around 30 grams.  According to JISSN, a fast digesting whey protein or even an EAA supplement appears to be your best choice for this purpose (although whey is a much cheaper alternative to the free form essential amino acids).


[1] Fell, James. Rethinking protein powder. Los Angeles Times.  September 27, 2010.
[2] Wilson, Jacob, et al. Contemporary Issues in Protein Requirements and Consumption for Resistance Trained Athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2006; 3(1): 7–27. PMCID: PMC2129150
[3] Lightsey, David. Muscles, Speed, and Lies: What the Sport Supplement Industry Does Not Want Athletes or Consumers to Know.  The Lyons Press. 2006.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Whatever happened to Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan?

Craig Titus - Mug Shot (LVPD)
One of the most common searches to my blog is for Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan.  Both Titus and Ryan were alleged to be involved in a murder of their assistant, Melissa James, during a fight possibly fueled by heavy doses of narcotics.

Although the story is covered pretty well, there are still a few lingering questions about the tragedy.  There were always rumors of a sex tape involving Kelly Ryan, Melissa James, and Craig Titus, but that has apparently never surfaced.  Some people claim to have seen it or clips from it, but to my knowledge, no substantial proof that it exists has ever been released. What is clear is that Kelly Ryan and Craig Titus lived a drug fueled party lifestyle and probably had a situation of an open marriage where both partners were free to swing and engage in outside relationships.

Kelly Ryan - Mug Shot (LVPD)
The fact that Melissa James came to live with Kelly and Titus is a perfect example of this relationship.  It would seem somewhat unusual for a married couple to need a young female live in assistant when they had no children and their occupation was professional bodybuilding.  What it came to in the end was apparently the result of jealousy on the part of Kelly Ryan towards Melissa James.  There were accusations that Melissa James was stealing money from them.

Although Craig Titus still doesn't freely admit that he intentionally killed Melissa James, he does admit dumping her body in their car and setting it on fire in the Nevada desert.  Both Ryan and Titus copped plea deals, making them eligible for parole in the future.  Titus will be eligible for parole in 2026 when he is 61 years old, while Kelly Ryan could be eligible for parole as early as next year (2011).  Whether or not the parole board will see it this way is yet to be determined.

A true crime novel called Fire in the Desert has been written about the ordeal, but it is explained pretty thoroughly in the 48 Hours piece, "Vegas Heat", produced by CBS that I've embedded at the bottom of this article.

48 Hours - Vegas Heat

Watch CBS Videos Online

If for some reason you can't get the video to play, you can watch online at cbsnews.com

This is a follow up on two earlier stories I did IFBB Pro Craig Titus & wife Kelly Ryan Wanted for Murder and Titus and Wife Captured!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Gregg Valentino Interview: I never took Synthol!

I originally wrote a post criticizing the much vaunted Gregg Valentino back in 2006 after his special on TLC, The Man Whose Arms Exploded, originally aired in the US.  It was called Gregg Valentino: "I'm an idiot". But then just last week I got this comment on my blog for this post:

The comment was left anonymously, but since it was written in all upper case and seemed to be written in the first person from Valentino's perspective, I decided to contact him and see if it really was him and ask if he would like to take part in an interview to clear up any misconceptions there might have been.  He agreed and you can now listen to the interview online below.

Alternate Link

Protected by Copyscape DMCA Copyright Detector

If you have any trouble listening to or downloading the interview, please let me know.  If you would like to provide a mirror to download the MP3 or a direct link for streaming, please contact me (use the link on the right) and let me know.

Gregg Valentino embodies a certain part of our culture that is not all that different from others who consider themselves to be outsiders.  From tattoos, and piercings to hair dye and wearing different styles of clothes.  At different junctures of our collective heritages, each of us has seen these things traverse from being done by a rank outsider in an extreme taboo to a common everyday appearance and even to the point of being a social norm or a rite of passage that many young people perform.  In this sense, Gregg Valentino could almost be considered an innovator.  He a took a look at the sport of bodybuilding and decided to transcend beyond even their outlandish norms and converted his body into something truly freakish.  In a way, he is like a modern Frankenstein's monster.  No other previous generation would have had the suitable science, technology, and pharmacology to circumvent normal human biology and create a Gregg Valentino.  But, as with Dr. Frankenstein's creation, Gregg Valentino is both laughed at by some and applauded by others.

As for Gregg Valentino himself, he doesn't consider himself to be a sideshow freak.  "I just got lucky" he says, referring to the cards he's been dealt in life.  Now refocusing his attention to the mainstream media, he still feels the pangs and urge of fame calling for him, but it still feels better to be able to have the income and free time to spend with his kids -- not to mention to be alive and in relatively good health.

Yet, throughout his career starting in the early to late 1990s he has been commonly accused of using site enhancing oils (SEOs) (aka Synthol) to create his freakish appearance and get his biceps to the size of 27 inches in diameter at his peak.  What initially made me consider Gregg Valentino a Synthol user was how out of proportion his upper arm muscles (biceps, triceps and deltoids) were even to his forearms, not to mention his chest, legs and back.  Even after speaking with a prominent manufacturer of an SEO product, they told me that Valentino's appearance was not the result of any type of SEO, but in fact, could only be the result of muscle implants.  However, looking at him today, his own explanations seem more plausible.  Implants don't shrink, but Gregg Valentino's biceps have.

Gregg told me that he never used any site enhancing oils, commonly referred to as Synthol.  Synthol is colloquially known in the bodybuilding world to be a type of oil a person injects into their muscle to increase the size without actually increasing the muscle or the strength itself.  It's sold legally as a gray area product, typically marketed as a "posing solution" to be rubbed on before a competition, even though its sold in sterile vials.  Most Synthol or site enhancing oils are made up of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) that have been sterilized with some lidocaine added as a local anesthetic.  Even to steroid users, Synthol use is tantamount to cheating.  Once Synthol is injected, it expands the muscle fascia by filling it with oil.  That oil usually dissipates over time so people have to continue to use it to keep up the façade.  Usage patterns for Synthol differ, but on one site that sells a site enhancing oil product, Synthetek, recommended starting with 1ml a day for 10 days.

However, Gregg explained to me that what he was doing was similar.  He was doing site injections of enormous volumes of steroids such as Equipoise (EQ) and Testosterone propionate (test prop), such as amounts of 6ml injections of test prop twice per week at the very least.  Test prop typically contains 25mg/ml of testosterone with the short acting propionate ester attached, which would make it a solution of 25mg of testosterone in 1ml of oil.  Using 12ml of oil twice per week alone would most likely give a user Synthol like results if site injected into a muscle group.  But, with the added benefit of the steroid hormone it would likely increase those results (not to mention the additional EQ).  Gregg says he doesn't remember how much exactly he would take each week, but because he was dealing at the time and had a huge supply on hand, sometimes he would use go through two 10ml bottles of test prop per week.  A typical dosage used for test prop is generally recommended to be 25mg every other day (which would be about 4ml of oil) with EQ generally recommended at 400mg per week (which would generally be 2ml of oil).  In my mind, this could account for Gregg's Synthol like appearance in his biceps without actually having to use it.  I also asked him if he had ever had implants and had any X-rays to prove it.  He told me that he was X-rayed for his appearance on ESPN E60 - Superfreak (click the link to watch or click here to download) but that was mostly for general health and not to check for implants.  He said if someone was willing to put up the money, he would submit to X-rays to prove that his biceps aren't full of oil or implants, but the most they would find would probably just be scar tissue now.

Using bottles upon bottles of injectable anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) as often as you wanted without regard to their price or negative short and long term side effects on the body, one could easily picture Gregg Valentino pounding vial after vial of test prop and EQ, not even keeping track of how much was used or taken boggles the mind of a sensible person.  But even a person who would consider themselves to be a sensible steroid user it is completely outrageous.  It could also easily explain the "synthol" type look Gregg Valentino achieved with the vast quantities of AAS suspended in that volume of oil.

Gregg says he now no longer does any cycles and his biceps are down from 27" to around 20" today.  He writes a monthly column for Muscular Development and is working on making appearances in TV and movies.  He stared in the popular documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" about steroid use and the bodybuilding culture. He's working on getting into movies and one particular upcoming role he mentioned was a film called Sanctum Void which is in pre-production.  He says he's concerned about his health and no longer takes any steroids or wants to try any of the prohormone/prosteroid products on the market.  He basically takes flax oil, fish oil, CoQ10 and Gaspari protein.  He's also written a new book called Death, Drugs and Muscle about his crazy lifestyle in the 90s.

Most of the interview I asked him questions specifically pertaining to the TLC documentary The Man Whose Arms Exploded which apparently no longer airs and isn't listed for sale on Amazon or TLC's website.  So, I have made it available for download.  It is split into three parts and compressed using RAR, so you will need software to decompress it, if you don't already.  Two freeware programs you can use are 7zip and Tugzip (both for Windows).  All you need to do is download them all into one single folder and open the first part and it will automatically combine the other parts, extracting the full movie for you.  The movie is in AVI format so you will need something like DivX Player to play it back.  Note: You need to download all three parts to watch the video.  Once you download all three files and put them into a single folder you then extract them into a single video file with the entire documentary (unedited).

Thanks to MediaFire for hosting the files and the interview!

MediaFire - Free File Hosting Made Simple

You can visit Gregg at his website at http://www.greggvalentino.net/

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

TinyChat Responds to Inquiry Regarding Public IP Disclosure

This is a follow up to the story TinyChats Privacy Policy and IP Disclosure

I requested information from Tinychat regarding what their policies on disclosing members IP addresses publicly when a chat room is closed and they claim it is specifically to allow law enforcement to see IP addresses when a room is terminated.  Here is what I asked them:

1. Why do you feel the need to display users IP addresses of individuals in a room that has been closed by Tinychat staff/moderators?
2. How long does this list containing users IP addresses remain up on your server for?
3. Is it possible for an individual to request to have their IP removed from this list?
4. Do you feel you are acting responsibly and providing safety and security to your users by publicly displaying their IP addresses in a room that has been closed?
5. Do you believe there is any security risk or privacy concern by displaying individuals IP addresses publicly in this way?
6. Do you have any further comments on why you have this policy at Tinychat and if you plan to continue to do so in the future?

Their response:

Room closures can happen when a federal or state law enforcement officer contacts us, requesting us to do so. Regrettably, the option to close or not close a room is not always in our hands, as we have to obey requests from law enforcement just like any other company. We would of course like to never have to close a room but as I said, this is not always in our control. We have been publicly posting the IP's for the ease of the LEO Agent in those situations, however I do agree that this data should not be posted publicly and I will be discussing internally and with law enforcement ways that we can continue to obey their requests without publicly showing this data . Additionally, if you can give me the room name in question, I can expedite the removal of that from public view. 
So, Tinychat claims that their room closures happen when law enforcement contacts them.  I do not believe this is always the case, as I'm sure law enforcement officers aren't sitting back and waiting for girls to get nude on Tinychat so they can close a room a post IPs.  Furthermore, if violations do occur and law enforcement requests information about a room, there is no distinguishing information as to who was active, who was displaying a cam, who was moderating the room or etc, making it nearly impossible to determine anything relevant that could be used as an investigation or a prosecution.

I believe Tinychat simply does this to embarrass users and discourage them from returning.  Obviously Tinychat wants to run a clean service that does not include nudity or issues of persons under legal age, which brings up a whole host of problems for a site like this due to COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.  I believe Tinychat is technically in violation of COPPA since they allow unregistered users to display themselves on camera in public chat rooms viewable by other anonymous visitors.

At this point, I do not believe anyone in the misc who was in a Tinychat room and has had their IP publicly posted should be concerned about being contacted by law enforcement.  But, I will try and determine more about the situation from Tinychat directly.

If any user wanted to continue to use the Tinychat service, regardless of their highly questionable privacy policy, I would recommend using some form of proxy tool, such as Anonymizer, to mask their IP address from being viewed and logged by Tinychat.

It is a plus on Tinychat's end that they are reviewing this policy internally, as they say, and hopefully will mend their ways.  I will contact them back further and post more updates as they come in.  Feel free to add your comments, questions, concerns and input.

UPDATE: TinyChat failed to respond to my further inquires about their policies, as did the EFF when I put the question to them regarding the legality of TinyChat's policies.  I have heard no further updates or complaints from users about having their rooms closed and their IPs posted, so this issue may have been resolved.  However, if you know otherwise, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email through my contact link on the right.  It appears that TinyChat is no longer publicly posting users IP addresses when rooms are closed.  If you find information showing otherwise, please let me know.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

TinyChats Privacy Policies and IP Exposure

TinyChat is a service that provides users with a web based chat room and the ability to stream multiple live webcams in their rooms.  Their service is very simplistic and uses an IRC like interface, similar to Justin.tv, which the exception of the ability to have more than one cam streams going at a single time.  Like most cam sites, they have terms of services and privacy policies that disallow certain behaviors, such as vulgarity or nudity on cam.  But, TinyChat goes a step further with their polices when they feel that users have misbehaved and punishes them by not only closing the room, but publishing a list of all the users who were present when the room was running along with their full IP addresses.

Tinychat may terminate any user's access to the network, Web site and service and remove any content posted, for any reason. Tinychat reserves the right to modify or discontinue and portion or component of the service at any time and with or without notice. Tinychat shall not be liable to any user or any third-party for any termination or modification of service. By using the tinychat service you agree, that should any room be closed for any reason that all users data who may be in the room may be disclosed publicly.
 TinyChat Privacy Policy and Terms of Service

This is an abhorrent practice on TinyChat's part to expose any members IP address publicly without any way for the user to request it be removed.  This information can give away a users location and allow individuals with malicious intent to potentially attack the IP address using denial of service attacks or port scans to look for vulnerabilities or holes in the users system.

The Misc Incident

Last night on Bodybuilding.com's Misc section a user started a thread that linked to a Tinychat room with him and a female companion.  According to the user, franchise16, no nudity was recorded on cam during the chat session, but in the end, the Tinychat staff felt it necessary to close down the room and then proceeded to display the IP addresses of all the users who were currently in that room at the time.

As of the time of this posting, Tinychat still has left this information up.  As a further example of the abuse potential this opens up, a number of users took the entire list of IP addresses and claimed to post them on 4chan, to allow the members their to potentially exploit the list for nefarious purposes.  I cannot verify this claim however.

I spoke to the user who started the Tinychat room, franchise16, and asked him for an overview of the events. Here is a summary of what he said happened:

Made thread bout POF [Plenty of Fish] girl comin over
[She] Came over, had webcam open and screen off on macbook, told them mac was for music
Carried it around with me
Brought on to porch where we fooled around, was too dark to see
Had about 500 users viewing it in the room
Brought it inside and into the room
We made out for a big on bed
Took titties out, no nudity was recorded I dont believe
[The feed] Was cut about 2 min after mac was brought into room
Rest happened off cam
All IPs were posted in tinychat room but for some reason not me or any other canadian brahs
I asked him if there was any nudity shown on cam and he responded that there was not.  He also confirmed that the girl was of legal age (18) and was therefore not any sort of situation of child pornography.  franchise16 said that no Tinychat staff warned him in advance that he was violating in terms of that he should stop the cam feed before the room was closed and all the users IPs were posted.  Regardless if there even was nudity displayed on cam in the Tinychat room, Tinychat should not endanger it's users security by publicly "outting" them by posting their IP addresses when a room is terminated.

Because of this incident, I would recommend that no one use Tinychat.  The risk of having your IP posted without any warning or notification is not one that you should be willing to risk.  When using IRC servers that do not obfuscate IP addresses, users are aware that their IPs are being displayed publicly, but Tinychat doesn't do this openly or have any sort of whois command so that users IPs can be displayed to other users, outside of Tinychat staff.

I will contact Tinychat's support and report back with their response.

UPDATE: Tinychat has responded to my inquiry.  See the post TinyChat Responds to Inquiry Regarding Public IP Disclosure  for the follow up.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homemade NO2 Preworkout Stack

NO2 blend products like SuperPump and NO-Xplode are all the rage nowadays.  These type of pre/during/post workout supplements don't fit into a particular category, but are generally meant to be used to give you a boost of strength, energy and a massive muscular pump during your workout that can be very motivating to help you out in the gym.  But, they sort of take a "kitchen sink" approach when it comes to what's in them.  Generally, they have a variety of different amino acids, including creatine and arginine especially.  They also have a blend of some type of carbohydrates and a delivery system to try and get them into your bloodstream as fast as possible. Some have BCAAs and others don't.  They often times use a lot of fancy proprietary ingredients and you can never tell how much exactly of anything you're getting.  And, a lot of times, they have different stimulants, such as caffeine and exotic herbal blends to give you an extra boost to lift harder and heavier.

Although these products provide a lot of good motivation from the extra energy and the visual pump you get during and after the workout the real question is whether they actually increase strength and body composition beyond that of the supplements that we know do, like creatine and whey protein.  Originally, an NO2 product was just made up of the amino acid arginine or an a derivative of it, such as arginine bound to malic acid or ketoglutarate (AAKG) in a certain delivery system like a powder or pill.  The intended purpose was to increase levels of nitric oxide in the blood and the theory was that this would increase blood flow to the muscles, delivering all the rich nutrients from food/vitamins and amino acids to help build muscle, but there is no scientific data that shows this to be true.  Mostly what supplementing with arginine did was just give users a very noticeable pump in their muscles, but not much else. This is probably due to the cellular volumizing effects of just allowing more water and glycol into the muscle during the workout.  Some studies done with arginine showed no benefit on body composition, strength, 1 rep max (1RM) or any other positive factors. But, arginine has always been one of those bastardized amino acids.  It always looks good on paper, but no one can really say it has positive effects for body composition or strength. [4] Some studies show it increases growth hormone levels when taken at certain times in certain dosages, and others show nothing. [5,6] But one thing the supplement companies have learned is that arginine absolutely provides a visual effect in the form of what bodybuilders and weight lifters refer to as the "pump".  This is when you are lifting and the muscle becomes fuller and harder and this effect typically lasts several hours after the workout, but it is only temporary.

A more recent trend, NO2 supplements can be placed in just about any category of ergogenic (muscle building) and contain any range of ingredients.  The trouble is that a lot of these products are very expensive for the amount of servings they provide.  In this article I'll go over some ways you can make your own NO2/preworkout supplement yourself with bulk powder ingredients blended together in portions that work.  You can add in other ingredients based on your budget and your goals.  Then, you can simply flavor the formula yourself with whatever you like and drink it before and/or during your workout to get that same effect of cellular volumization, strength, energy and hopefully even some real body composition and ergogenic benefits too!


We'll start with creatine since we know that creatine has real life muscle building and strength effects. [1]  There are a lot of fancy creatines out there, such as creatine ethyl ester (CEE), Kre-Alkalyn, di-creatine malate, and so forth.  But, the only creatine that has been conclusively shown in studies to be effective is good ole' plain jane creatine monohydrate. [2]  That's not to say that the other creatines don't work -- they might even be better.  But no one has ever tested them side by side to determine that.  There was only one study comparing creatine monohydrate to CEE side by side and creatine monohydrate was shown to be superior in every way. [3] So, I'll show you a few examples of what creatine powder you might want to choose for your own blend and get that one based on your budget or if you're just feeling experimental and want to try one of the other more exotic creatines out there.  Ideally you want to be getting at least 5g of creatine per serving or per day, but you can go up to 10g if you wish.  Some creatines like CEE only require a dosage of 3g per serving however.
I recommend the Higher Power brand creatine monohydrate for our NO2 mix.  It is the same price per gram as the Cheap Supplements brand, but it is also micronized for superior digestibility and absorption.


Just like creatine, there are a lot of different forms of arginine you can pick from based on your budget and what you want to go with.  I wasn't able to find arginine ethyl ester in pure powder form though, so we'll just be looking at plain free form arginine, di-arginine-malate, and arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG).  Any one of them would be fine, but I would probably pick AAKG, although regular arginine would be just fine.  As a commenter below pointed out, plain arginine has an unpleasant taste, giving AAKG a leg up over its amino acid cousin.  One study using AAKG showed an increase in 1RM, but no effects on body composition or overall strength.  [6] However, arginine does also have other positive effects such as vasodilation and the potential to increase growth hormone (GH) and insulin like growth factor (IGF) levels. [4,6] But, the main reason we add it is to get that great pump effect we desire from our NO2 mix.  The problem with high dosing arginine is that it can cause upset stomach and so we want to keep it within the low range, giving us the benefits, without the negative side effects, so we will try and keep it within the 5-10g range.
I recommend the Higher Power AAKG arginine powder.  AAKG is what was used in one of the main studies looking at arginine for strength and body composition, but either of the two options would be also good.  The Higher Power brand is cheaper per gram than NOW.


I picked dextrose as the main carbohydrate for the NO2 mix for a couple reasons.  Firstly, it's dirt cheap.  Dextrose is the same thing as glucose, which is sugar in its simplest form. Ideally, you want a fast absorbing carbohydrate around the workout window (before/during/after) to replenish the ones that are being used during the exercise routine. Dextrose goes right into the blood stream to give you the insulin spike you want, and doesn't have any fructose in it to go through conversion in the liver. [7]  Sports drinks like Gatorade are good, but the fact that they have high fructose corn syrup is what takes away their advantage. [9] Other products have maltodextrin in them which is also not ideally suited for our purposes.  Dextrose is going to give you quick energy and get the ingredients in the blood stream faster.  As we know, creatine works best with a high GI (glycemic index) carb as it's delivery system, and so it's perfect for this.  Fructose is an extremely poor choice for this purpose and so I had to discount any product that had it or maltodextrin in it as I looked for suitable products for our blend.  Fructose is processed by the liver before it is released into the blood stream creating insulin resistance.  It also starts to create triglycerides from fat after consumption, leading to the potential to increase adipose (fat) tissue from repeated usage.  So, it's best to just stick with the basics and use dextrose. [8]  There are many special carbohydrate mixtures out there that have timed released formulas and other things like added amino acids and vitamins, but you shouldn't need those provided you already take a multivitamin daily and get plenty of protein from whole foods and/or protein supplements (like whey).

But, for low GI purists out there, you could also substitute dextrose for ground oatmeal powder, which is available premade by Protein Factory or you can blend it yourself.  In the past, I've found trying to blend oats into a powder to be a real chore, so I would just opt to buy the powder.  It should work just as well as dextrose, although possibly not quite as quickly and not as dramatic of an insulin spike will happen when you use it.  This is essentially a toss up between people who may be trying to follow a ketogenic diet routine (who would be going for the oats) or anyone else (who would choose dextrose).
I would recommend the NOW Dextrose powder.

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine increases skeletal muscle concentrations of an amino acid dipeptide, carnosine.  Carnosine acts as a pH buffer in the muscle, helping to reduce lactic acid build up.  Lactic acid causes the fatigue and the burning in the muscle after long periods of high intensity training, so supplementing with beta alanine can help reduce this.  It also appears to increase strength in some, making it a great combination to take with creatine.  There are speculations that anabolic steroid usage leads to increases in skeletal muscle carnosine levels, similar to how they also increase creatine production (another reason why steroids are so effective at muscle building).  The dosing for beta alanine can be in the range of 4-6g daily, but it should be consumed throughout the day as taking one large dose causes an unpleasant tingling and stinging sensation in the skin, possibly caused by histamine release. [12,13]  The recipe I have at the bottom of the page lists 1g of beta alanine for our blend, but you will need to consume around 6g daily from other sources outside our blend.  Because users cannot tolerate more than 1g of beta alanine per dosage, it must be spread out.  This can be a bit tedious, but there are products, like Molecular Nutrition's PeakBeta, which comes as a time released beta alanine capsule that can be swallowed and delivered into the body throughout the day.  Although its more expensive than the powder, it is more convenient to use, so it's a trade off that will have to be made if you decide to use beta alanine.  You may consume teaspoons of beta alanine powder at multiple intervals during the day, or use a time released capsule product.  You should base this decision on both convenience and your supplement budget.

Carnosine’s role as an intracellular buffer is undisputed given its location within the skeletal muscle of humans and its chemical structure (Harris et al. 1990). Consequently, there is potential for supplementation with b-alanine to result in improved exercise performance, especially during high-intensity exercise. [13]
The NOW Beta Alanine appears to be the better deal at 5¢ per gram, so I would recommend that.  Alternately, you can use a time released beta alanine product.


Citrulline and citrulline malate (citrulline bound to malic acid) is a non essential amino acid that makes the conversion to arginine and arginine derivatives via enzyme pathways.  It was originally touted as being beneficial for aerobic exercise, but recent studies have shown that it has positive effects during anaerobic exercise.  For one, citrulline itself, when ingested, creates and causes the body to make and utilize some amino acids more efficiently. [10]

Citrulline-malate ingestion significantly increased the plasma concentration of citrulline, arginine, ornithine, urea, creatinine and nitrite (p < 0.05) and significantly decreased the isoleucine concentration from basal measures to after exercise (p < 0.05). Insulin levels significantly increased after exercise in both groups (p < 0.05) returning to basal values at recovery. [11]
Citrulline malate has also been shown to reduce post workout muscle soreness, also known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Although you can opt for the more expensive citrulline malate formula, l-citrulline alone would probably work just as well for your NO2 mix. I could not find it sold in bulk powder, only prepacked in capsules.  The dose for citrulline should be in the 1-5g per serving range.

Taurine is another amino acid that plays a key role in many exercise mediated actions.  It can increase endurance, strength and energy, as well as cause a great deal of cellular volumization and hydration to the muscles.  It's one of the main ingredients in Red Bull (along with sugar and caffeine) to give its users a positive feeling of well being and alertness.  It's also one of the cheapest ingredients here on our list, so that is another plus in adding it to our cocktail.  The dosage range can be anywhere from 1-6g per serving. [14]

The Nimbus Nutrition brand appears to be the cheapest at 2¢ per gram.

Caffeine (Optional)

Since many NO2 products use a variety of different stimulants I thought I would include the option of adding caffeine in here.  Obviously we don't want to use caffeine in powder form since it would be hard to measure out and scoop, so the best idea is to buy it in tablet form and split it.  A 200mg caffeine pill split into 4ths would give you 50mg of caffeine, which should be sufficient for a good amount of energy.  If you feel like you need more, you could always take half the pill.  Pills can be split using a cheap pill splitter found at a pharmacy or just using a butter knife (press into the tablet, don't saw at it) and obviously scored tablets are best for this, but normally more expensive.  The other issue with adding too much caffeine is that it acts as a vasoconstrictor (restricting blood flow) while the other ingredients, arginine especially, are trying to act as vasodialators (expanding blood flow).  So you don't want too much caffeine with your NO2 blend or it will negate the effects.


You can flavor your blend in whatever way you choose.  I would recommend buying unsweetened Koolaid packets and then adding the sweetener of your choice, such as Splenda (sucralose) which can be bought in large bags and is now sold as a generic product at most grocery stores or you could use Stevia powder.  Aspartame, saccharine, or sugar alcohols such as maltitol or xylitol would also be suitable alternatives, but obviously it is a personal choice.  You could use some table sugar (sucrose), but you wouldn't want to use much since you already have a high GI carb source from the dextrose, so an artificial sweetener would be preferred here.  Mix the Koolaid flavor of your choice and then sweeten to desired results per serving.  If you are blending it up all at once for use later in the day, you would not want to mix it in liquid, but leave it in powder form so the ingredients wouldn't break down or denature.

What's missing?

You may notice I left out a lot of popular ingredients found in many of these NO2 pre/during/post workout blends like BCAAs, Ribose [15,16], and Glutamine [17,18].  I still feel like the scientific evidence on these is very sketchy.  BCAAs may be a good idea, but their expense puts them at a disadvantage.  Ribose is basically just fancy and more expensive sugar, and we know from many, many studies that glutamine just simply is not orally bioavailable and never makes it into skeletal muscle tissue, making it a total waste of money.  I also didn't include any fancy or exotic herbs that may act as stimulants, nootropics, or insulin stimulating agents.  Although some of them may be advantageous, it's impossible to know what the proper dosage is and find it in a cheap enough form to buy in bulk and add it into our blend.  Not to mention flavoring a lot of these herbs is going to require some very fancy concoctions -- more so than Koolaid would cover up.  In reality, they are probably also not necessary and a lot of times just added on the ingredients list in a proprietary blend, so you, the consumer have no idea how much you're getting and whether or not it's even in a worthwhile amount.  Basically, it's a gimmick.  Still, you could always use any stimulant product you prefer in place of the caffeine, it's up to you.

The Home Made NO2 Cocktail

This blend should have all the main ingredients all the other fancy and more expensive NO2/preworkout blends on the market have, with real working ingredients that are actually scientifically shown to effect strength, body composition, endurance, energy, and stamina.   The ingredients here may even be more abundant than you are getting in one of the marketed blends since, as mentioned, all the ingredients are listed in a proprietary fashion not giving you a clear picture of what you are taking and in what amounts.

You can drink it before, during or after your workout -- although I believe that before or during would be optimal.  So, here are the ingredients you want in the proportions I recommend.  However, you are more than welcome to alter them to suit your needs and tastes.  You can increase the dosage of Beta Alanine beyond 1g if you are comfortable doing so.  Many users report an unpleasant tingling sensation in dosages beyond 20mg/kg (which would be approximately 1.6g for 180lb person). [13]
  • 5g Creatine monohydrate
  • 5g Arginine-alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG)
  • 20g Dextrose
  • 1g Beta Alanine
  • 2g Citrulline Malate
  • 2g Taurine
  • 50mg Caffeine
Mix into 16-32oz of water (with the exception of the caffeine tablet).  Add Koolaid powder and Splenda to your liking.  The dextrose will already be sweet, so you may want more or less depending on the flavor.  You may want to use a whole packet of Koolaid or more depending on the flavor of some of these amino acids, but start off small and decide for yourself.  Some flavors of Koolaid may work to mask certain unpleasant flavors with Tropical Punch probably being the most masking, but again, this is personal preference.

1. Tolson, David. Creatine Overview. Bulknutrition.com. Accessed 6/30/10.
2. Brink, Will. The Creatine Grave Yard. Brinkzone.com. Feb 20, 2009.
3. Spillane M., et al. The effects of creatine ethyl ester supplementation combined with heavy resistance training on body composition, muscle performance, and serum and muscle creatine levels. Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, Baylor University, Box 97313, Waco, TX 76798, USA. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009 Feb 19;6:6.
4. Campbell BI., et al. The ergogenic potential of arginine. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Baylor University, Waco, TX. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2004 Dec 31;1(2):35-8.
5. Zajac A., et al. Arginine and ornithine supplementation increases growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 serum levels after heavy-resistance exercise in strength-trained athletes. Department of Sports Training, Academy of Physical Education, Katowice, Poland. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1082-90.
6. Campbell B., et al. Pharmacokinetics, safety, and effects on exercise performance of L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate in trained adult men. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory at the Center for Exercise, Nutrition, and Preventative Health Research, Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA.  Nutrition. 2006 Sep;22(9):872-81.
7. el-Sayed MS., et al. Exogenous carbohydrate utilisation: effects on metabolism and exercise performance. Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, School of Human Sciences, U.K. Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol. 1997 Nov;118(3):789-803.
8. Tolson, David. Carbohydrates and Exercise Performance. Bulknutrition.com.  Accessed 6/30/10.
9. Dolson, Laura. Fructose: Sweet, But Dangerous. About.com. October 09, 2008.
10. Pérez-Guisado J., et al. Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. Department of Medicine, University of Córdoba, Córdoba, Spain. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 May;24(5):1215-22.
11. Sureda A., et al. L: -Citrulline-malate influence over branched chain amino acid utilization during exercise. Research Group on Community Nutrition and Oxidative Stress, Laboratory of Physical Activity Sciences, Departament de Biologia Fonamental i Ciències de la Salut, University of Balearic Islands, Crtra. Valldemossa Km 7.5, 07122, Palma de Mallorca, Illes Balears, Spain. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010 May 25.
12. Derave W., et al. Muscle carnosine metabolism and beta-alanine supplementation in relation to exercise and training. Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium. Sports Med. 2010 Mar 1;40(3):247-63.
13. Sale C., et al. Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine concentrations and exercise performance. School of Science and Technology, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK. Amino Acids. 2010 Jul;39(2):321-33. Epub 2009 Dec 20.
14. Author unknown. Taurine.  Supplementwatch.com accessed via archive.org. 6/30/10
15. Kreider RB., et al. Effects of oral D-ribose supplementation on anaerobic capacity and selected metabolic markers in healthy males. Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, Center for Exercise, Nutrition and Preventative Health, in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Baylor University, Waco, TX 76798-7313, USA. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Mar;13(1):76-86.
16. Dunne L., et al. Ribose versus dextrose supplementation, association with rowing performance: a double-blind study. Sports Medicine Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA. Clin J Sport Med. 2006 Jan;16(1):68-71.
17. Candow DG., et al. Effect of glutamine supplementation combined with resistance training in young adults. College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2001 Dec;86(2):142-9.
18. Antonio J., et al. The effects of high-dose glutamine ingestion on weightlifting performance. Sports Science Laboratory, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):157-60.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rethinking BCAAs

I've never recommended BCAAs to anyone who's asked me about them.  I generally tell them that they get a sufficient amount in their whey and that to supplement with the necessary dosages to get a beneficial advantage requires an extremely large dose -- which is extremely expensive.

But a new study funded by Scivation on their BCAA + Citrulline product, Xtend, had some interesting results.  In their study, thirty six men were given either 14g of BCAAs, or 28g of whey, or 28g of carbohydrate in the form of a sports drink (like Gatorade), or a placebo.  The group consuming the 14g of BCAAs had a decrease in body fat, increase in lean mass, and increase in strength after only 8 weeks.

That is a pretty interesting result considering the small amount of BCAAs ingested.  The general recommendation for BCAA consumption has generally been around 30g per day taken during the workout, but there has always been contention and a great deal of broscience around what the proper ratios should be for leucine, isoleucine and valine, with leucine being the most important of the three.  Over the years, there have been some interesting leucine supplements sold, but they have never really panned out in real life even though the studies are intriguing.  The most interesting of these being HMB (beta-Hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid).  An old forum post I made answering a question about whether or not HMB was worthwhile includes some details on this supplement.

You'd really need to take closer to 10gm+ (probably closer to 30) per day [of HMB] for it to be effective. However, [...], there are more studies indicating little to no effect of supplementing with HMB than there are studies showing that it's effective, and most of those were done by the patent holder, Dr. Steve Nissen. Nissen patented it for multiple usages - originally to increase lean muscle mass in domestic farm animals, as well as mood elevation, lowering cholesterol, and of course - "anabolic" effects (nitrogen retention). You can view his patents for HMB here:


Unfortunately, HMB never panned out in the real world for many reasons. The first was because the cost was so high, most manufacturers put it in formulas with minuscule dosages, such as 500mg per serving. It was also introduced after creatine, which proved to be so successful that people were thinking anything was possible - and another amino acid metabolite sounded especially promising. So, when Bill Phillips, founder and former CEO of EAS, said that taking HMB made him "...feel like I'm on Deca [Deca-Durabolin]!" people believed him and bought HMB en masse and were all dissapointed with the results. The quote has since become the de facto joke of the supplement industry.

The other problem when you start supplementing with individual amino acids is that it can have an effect of throwing off the balance of the other EAAs that you want to have and would expect in a normal diet, which is why better results have been shown when using them in a combination (such as with BCAAs, or as I recommend, just using whole protein sources like whey or a full meal). Layne Norton (str8flexed) probably knows a whole lot more about leucine, since he co-authored a study of the effects of it when used during PW - Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise.

The other thing about HMB that was discussed early on was it's conversion to ketoisocaproate aka KIC (see HMB - Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate by Bryan Haycock) which is now available on it's own, patented and sold by Muscletech as GAKIC (Glycine-l-arginine-alpha-ketoisocaproic acid calcium) and Leukic (L-Leucine-ketoisocaproic acid calcium). There are also generic versions of this available [none I could find are still sold, if you find any, let me know] There appear to be more supplements with ketoisocaproate modified amino acids available. So, those might be better alternatives to HMB itself, since they are the compounds HMB would convert to anyway - although there have only been a few studies on them (see the last supplement the blog article I wrote that includes the study and the patents here).

Still, I have seen the very cheap version of HMB that you're referring to [this was HMB bound to calcium], so being so affordable now might make it worthwhile but it's hard to say. Previously, BSL sold a cheap HMB derivative that was modified in such a way as to avoid paying licensing fees to the patent holder, but I don't remember hearing much, if any, positive feedback on that. Maybe some company will come along and start selling HMB ethyl ester or HMB malate to try and make it more bioavailable (there are already companies selling leucine ethyl ester and I don't know if that is any better than the plain jane version). 
The Search for the Ultimate Post-Exercise Anabolic Supplement by Anssi Manninen, M.H.S.
 So, would I recommend BCAAs now?  Maybe, if you can afford them it comes out to about $1 a day and appears to have some good effects, at least during the eight week range.  The true test will to be if someone can duplicate this study.  There is a link to the study (in PDF) you can download below:

Consuming Branched-Chain Amino Acid Supplement During a Resistance Training Program Increases Lean Mass, Muscle Strength and Fat Loss

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Low Testosterone or Marketing Hype?

You may have seen advertisements on TV for a site called IsItLowT.com which report many signs and symptoms of low testosterone such as low energy, weight gain, depression, etc.  IsItLowT.com is owned and operated by Solvay Pharmaceuticals (now owned by Abbott), makers of AndroGel, a rub on cream used for TRT or testosterone replacement therapy.  You'll notice if you go on there site and visit the "What you can do section" testosterone cream is the first recommendation they make.  AndroGel is testosterone base, without any modification to the molecule, in a transdermal carrier.  It can cross through the skin and into the blood stream, but it is generally an expensive option and blood levels aren't maintained as they are with injectable testosterone.  The gel also only comes in packets of 5mg dosage for a one day application.  Since the average male produces between 2-11mg of testosterone per day naturally, an additional 5mg is not going to account for much - and it is definitely not going to assist in the area of muscle building or body composition.  However, blood levels of testosterone from AndroGel throughout the day are maintained over a 24 hour period. This is also an improvement over previous testosterone patches which had to be placed exclusively on the scrotum.  AndroGel can be rubbed in pretty much anywhere.

Below is a copy of my misaligned scan from William Llewellyn's Anabolics 2005 book showing steady state testosterone concentrations in the blood from 30 days of using 10g AndroGel daily.  As you can see, blood levels of testosterone stay stable throughout the day, but as we will see below, it far under performs when looked at side by side with injectable testosterone with added esters.

TRT is a very popular treatment amongst athletes and bodybuilders, because it essentially gives them a legal means to get testosterone.  One of the more popular TRT therapies advocated is American made Upjohn testosterone cypionate at 200mg/week.  An average steroid "cycle" when used by a bodybuilder will be on the scale of anywhere from 500mg to 1000mg of testosterone per week, combined with other AAS (anabolic androgenic steroid) in a "stack" to add synergistic effects from the other compounds and promote whatever goal the athlete has in mind.  Some of these products can be from dubious sources, since all AAS are scheduled in the US, the athlete has to find them on the black market.  These will come from veterinary labs, where the products are legitimately made for animals (there is no biological difference between animal and human steroids, they both work the exact same way and can be switched from mammal to mammal).  Or some where the products are claimed to be made for animals, but it is actually produced to be sold to underground steroid suppliers claiming to be affiliated with vets as a cover.  There are also many home brew steroid "underground labs" that buy bulk raw pharmaceutical AAS material from China and then package it themselves for redistribution.  Both of these methods can come across problems with quality control and lack the common safety that USP grade drugs available with a prescription do.  So, when a bodybuilder has the prospect of being able to take steroids safely, under a doctors guidance, in a legal setting, and maybe even let insurance cover it, the choice is obvious.

The most commonly prescribed form of injectable testosterone for TRT is testosterone cypionate, as mentioned above, at 200mg per week.  When looking at concentrations of blood levels using testosterone cypionate, we can clearly see the benefit of once a week dosing, but that it is a much higher level of testosterone in the body.  Cypionate is an ester that is bound to unmodified testosterone and added to an oil solution.  Once injected it forms a deposit site under the muscle where it is slowly moved out of the oil and the ester groups begin to cleave off at varying rates (in this example, generally over a period of 2 weeks).  Here is  another diagram from Anabolics 2005 showing the pattern of testosterone release after the first injection on day 0 and how it tapers after about 10 days.

Benefits of TRT

As men age their bodies do slowly start to produce less and less testosterone.  But there are other reasons too, such as poor diet, weight issues, depression, and certain medications.  We are also becoming more and more aware of compounds know as xenobiotics, phylates, and endocrine disrupters that could be potentially causing our male populations gonads to dry up.  Although this is a subject for another article.

Increasing testosterone within a supraphysiological dosage can have many positive benefits, including reduction in fat storage tissue, energy, focus and concentration from increased DHT in the brain, increased libido, sexual drive and stamina (obviously the main functions of these sex hormones) and more.

Determining whether or not you qualify to be considered for TRT is based on your current testosterone levels and your age in some cases.  The first step is to take a full panel male blood test to see where your testosterone levels are at, and make sure you don't have risk factors for prostate cancers or other issues that can come up when using supplemental testosterone.

But it's not all good news

Doctors and scientists who recently reviewed the IsItLowT site for Reuters came to some alternative conclusions.

Iheanacho and Matsumoto said separately that the symptoms described in the [IsItLowT marketing] campaign are "nonspecific," and could be linked to diabetes, circulation problems, or depression, as well as aging. The Low T site does say that the problem is more common in diabetics and the overweight.
"If someone is low in energy and is 65, that might be entirely compatible with his general life and -- let's face it -- decline," Iheanacho said. "It would be entirely normal."
The endocrine group's guidelines, which appear in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, say doctors should only make a diagnosis of low testosterone "in men with consistent symptoms and signs and unequivocally low serum testosterone levels."
The treatment isn't without peril. The Endocrine Society said it's not recommended for men with prostate cancer or for African-American men with fathers, brothers, or children with prostate cancer. In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration required that testosterone gels be labeled with a prominent warning after repeated reports that young children showed signs of early puberty after being exposed to it, typically through skin contact with their fathers. (italics added)

So, yes, many of the symptoms described by the IsItLowT campaign could be attributed to other illnesses, diseases and problems.  It is also important to note, a fact of which I myself was not aware, was that getting the testosterone creams and gels in contact with children can cause early onset of puberty!

But, a full panel male blood test will always help determine whether or not you have low testosterone and could potentially be a candidate for TRT.  It also helps identify potential risk factors that could be going on at the same time, making a blood test a win/win either way.  The one thing you can be sure of though, is you don't need to waste your money on any of the over the counter testosterone boosting supplements.

UPDATE 8/6/2010: Almost as soon as this article went up, Reuters posted a new article shedding some doubt on the entire hypothesis of "male menopause"

For many middle-aged and elderly men, low libido, depressed mood and a lack of energy may just be the signs of normal aging -- and not low testosterone levels.
That's the conclusion of a new study that found only about 2 percent of men between 40 and 79 would qualify for a strict diagnosis of so-called late-onset hypogonadism, sometimes called "male menopause."
Earlier studies had indicated the diagnosis was much more common, and millions of prescriptions are written every year in the U.S. to help men with "Low T," as one drugmaker refers to the controversial condition. (See Reuters Health story June 8, 2010.)
Based on a random sample of more than 3,000 European men, British researchers found that only three symptoms -- fewer morning erections, fewer sexual thoughts, and erectile dysfunction -- were consistently related to low levels of the male sex hormone.
Read the full article: Doubts cast on "male menopause" criteria (Reuters)

1.  Llewellyn, William. Anabolics 2005. Body of Science Publishing, Jupiter, FL.  2005
2. Dillion, John.  Do you have 'Low T?' Or is it just hype?  Reuters, New York, New York.  6/8/10
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