Branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs) are aminoacids built of leucine, isoleucine and valine.

What are BCAAs and who should take them.

Branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs) are amino-acids built of leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are known to reduce body fat, stimulate growth of muscle tissue and help maintain the figure developed through muscle- defining workouts.

Therefore, when asked about who the offer of BCAA supplementation should be targeted at, we should answer that at all those who are searching for ways to increase their lean mass and have a well-defined body. Here I mean both athletes and amateurs who value healthy lifestyle without obesity and want to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart diseases, cancers or diabetes. With BCAAs, they can develop a beautiful body and get rid of fat without losing muscles.

BCAAs in tests

To confirm the above, let me refer to two tests.
The first one, carried out in 2009 by Stoppani, involved 36 strength athletes divided into 3 groups. The participants were subjected to an 8-week supplementation with a BCAA drink, whey drink and carbohydrates respectively. Athletes from the BCAA group reported muscle growth of 2 kg when compared to the “whey” subjects and of 3 kg when compared to the “carbohydrates” group, with concurrent fat loss of over 1% more than in the remaining groups.

The other test was conducted in 1995 by Candeloro. During the test, ten healthy and non-working-out persons took BCAAs for 30 days, whereupon measurements were taken, showing muscle growth (by 0.08 kg) and noticeable fat loss.

The results of the first test are in opposition to the opinions of certain specialists who claim that additional BCAA supplementation of a well-balanced diet is aimless. Conclusions drawn from the experiment clearly show the advantage of taking BCAAs as a supplement over their equivalents that can be found, for instance, in whey, for the growth of muscles with concurrent fat loss.

A decisive factor in the determination of the time of the day when BCAAs should be taken is the fact that branched-chain amino acids activate the same anabolic paths as the thoroughly tested nitrogen oxide, i.e. by permeating directly to the muscles (right after administered, nitrogen oxide instantly activates protein synthesis and enhances muscle proliferation). Knowing this, it can be concluded that both NO and BCAA  should be taken pre- and post-workout.

BCAA before bedtime and right after waking up?

The considerations presented above are additionally supported by the otherwise true opinion that at night, it is catabolic processes that prevail in the body, while the anabolic phase is calmed down, wherefore supplementation with BCAA would smooth away the metabolic changes that are unfavourable to muscles. Nonetheless, it shows that both branched-chain amino-acids and tryptophan are distributed within the muscles and the brain through the same transport paths.  In the brain, tryptophan is transformed into messengers such as melatonin and serotonin, indirectly lifting the mood and improving the quality of sleep. The competition between NO and BCAA for this transport path can significantly impair the body’s resting parameters and disturb the person’s mental condition. In muscles, in turn, melatonin and serotonin stimulate muscle proliferation, which is a desirable effect as well.



Proteins are commonly known to be the core building blocks of all tissues in the human body. They are found in enzymes, hormones or antibodies.  Proteins participate in metabolic processes and are responsible for correct functioning of the whole body. They make the body grow and develop and enhance recovery. As proteins are composed of amino-acids, you should compose your every-day diet in such a way as to ensure their proper intake. What are the most common proteins and their properties?

Why are proteins so important for the body?

All those who work hard to improve their physical fitness or practise sport professionally know very well that the amounts of proteins they deliver to their bodies can determine the results they obtain. Whether a protein is useful for the human body depends on the content of amino-acids and on its biological value (BV), i.e. the amounts of nitrogen derived from the protein which is retained by the body. The easiest to digest and the most absorbable proteins are obtained from hen eggs. The body uses up to 94% of the proteins contained in the eggs. This makes hen egg a reference point for other natural sources of protein (hen egg is the first on the list with BV = 100).

The market of nutrients for athletes and bodybuilders abounds with dissolving protein powders, manufactured in different technological processes, with a BV higher than that of hen eggs. This makes such products absorbed much easier than proteins obtained from hen egg.

Hen egg-white – the primary source

For years, hen egg has been considered beneficial to professional athletes or bodybuilders. Its popularity was because it was known as a comprehensive source of exogenous amino-acids, i.e. ones that cannot be produced by the body and must be delivered with diet, as an important health-enhancing factor. In fact, hen egg contains several amino-acids that are indispensable for an adult to have a healthy life, including leucine, valine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, methionine, threonine and lysine. Plus, it is characterised by the highest content of alanine and arginine, which stimulate nitric oxide synthesis. Nitric oxide causes blood vessel dilation and enhances skeletal muscle blood flow, thus improving the supply of oxygen, nutrients and anabolic hormones to the muscles. Additionally, hen egg is a perfect source of vitamins E, K, A and B, riboflavin, folic acid and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, copper, iron and selenium; and is rich in branched-chain amino-acids (BCAA).

Hen egg is easily digested by the human body, and delivers building materials needed for muscle recovery and proliferation. Although effective, the process of digestion and absorption of egg whites is rather slow and takes c.a. 1.5-3 hours, in which time the blood is continuously saturated with amino-acids. Hen egg-white has a beneficial effect on post-workout muscle recovery and helps maintain a positive nitrogen balance.

When to drink protein cocktails with hen egg-white?

Protein cocktails with hen egg-white should be drunk right before bedtime. When combined with other fast absorbing protein sources, they can be used immediately after working out and at any time of the day. It is also a good idea to drink the cocktail 1 hour before workout, to ensure high level of anabolic amino-acids during intense anabolic activity. This will suppress the catabolic response of the muscle tissue whilst intensifying anabolic reactions.

Hydrolysed whey protein

Hydrolysates are milk proteins produced due to the breaking of peptide bonds in the process of hydrolysis. In the reaction, the compounds are converted to a fast-absorbing form. This means that whey is a fast-digestible and, thus, highly anabolic source of protein; maximum blood concentration is achieved after 1-1.5 hour after consumption.

Absorption of such proteins takes 15 to 60 minutes. A nutrient based on this type of protein should be taken 15 minutes before and immediately after workout. Hydrolysed whey protein is the most anabolic product when it comes to short-term protein synthesis. It should be eaten together with other forms of protein, which have longer digestion time. To minimise the time when the body is left without the ingredients needed for recovery, hydrolysed whey protein should be taken right after the workout, together with complex amino-acids absorbed from the digestive tract immediately after consumption. Hydrolysed protein can also be drunk during workout, to minimise catabolic damage to the muscle tissue. Plus, it makes a perfect snack. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that hydrolysed whey protein does not deliver the sufficient amount of calories for the body to initiate metabolic processes. This calorific deficiency prevents the body from getting enough nutrients, which, in turn, slows down metabolism.

Casein and micellar casein

In the last ten years bodybuilders have become increasingly attentive to protein content in their everyday diet. This is because they have understood that muscle growth depends on the amount of protein that they regularly deliver to their bodies. Among the proteins that are specifically popular with bodybuilders and athletes is casein. Casein is a milk protein isolated in the digestive process. It is the most important of all milk proteins (comprising c. 80% of the proteins in cow’s milk), and a most useful agent in haemoglobin and plasma protein synthesis.

Casein proteins are high quality proteins, rich in exogenous amino-acids. They are filtered out in cheese production process. Based on the quality which is undoubtedly the main asset of casein, two forms of the protein can be distinguished, i.e.:calcium caseinate, or caseinate, which is the least valuable of all milk protein fractions. Calcium caseinate is collected before the milk gets sour in the cheese production process; and micellar casein, rich in glycomacropeptides, which prevent cavities and protect the body against bacteria and viruses. This group contains bioactive casomorphin peptides, known for their opioid effect. This form of casein is the best. The substance also makes one of the least processed protein supplements. With its spatial structure, intact in the technological process, when consumed the protein converts into a gel, which is highly resistant to gastric acids and very slowly moves along the digestive tract. This extends the time of release and absorption of amino-acids to up to 6 or 7 hours. The tests show that the slower the digestion, the bigger the absorbability of nutrients. All this makes micellar casein the best supplement enhancing muscle recovery.

The substance can also be used as a meal replacement. Finally, it is worth noting that digestion of gel casein takes more energy than digestion of other protein products. As a result, micellar casein  improves the chances of fat loss when compared to other proteins.

When to drink cocktails with micellar casein?

When analysing the physiochemical properties of micellar casein, it must be remembered that digestion of nutrients that are based on the substance begins only after c.a. 90 minutes after their intake, with full absorption taking 6 to 7 hours. Since micellar casein releases the amino-acids gradually for long hours, it is oftentimes referred to as anti-catabolic or night protein. Micellar casein is rich in branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs) and glutamines, which additionally prevent protein catabolism in muscle tissue whilst accelerating anabolic processes. Casein impact on recovery over the course of a several hour sleep is invaluable: it protects the body against hunger and dropping blood’s nutrient content for many hours.


All those who know the role of proteins in everyday diet need to remember that the primary source of protein should be animal products. However, when these are not available, protein cocktails can be a good solution. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that so delivered proteins should not exceed 40% of the body’s overall energy demand.

Different proteins can be combined; e.g. oatmeal can be mixed with whey protein powder. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as “bad proteins”, only they are sometimes improperly selected or used. All we need to do to succeed is use our heads.



Most of you probably know that there is no better product to increase muscle mass and improve its shape than creatine, which has a very good reputation and is the most popular and recognised substance used to enhance training. It is not widely known, however, that creatine has many other applications, outside of sports. For instance, it is used in diagnosing diseases of the nervous and muscular system, such as muscle dystrophy, and diseases affecting the elderly people, including Parkinson’s disease, muscle atrophy, exhaustion syndrome or Huntington’s disease (genetic disease of the nervous system).

What is creatine?

Creatine is an organic compound, naturally occurring in the body, which stores energy in muscles. It is composed of 3 amino-acids:

  • arginine
  • glycine
  • methionine

The human body contains ca. 120 g of creatine in the form of creatine phosphate. Creatine is supplied with food, but even when eating healthy, we are unable to deliver the sufficient amounts of the substance to our bodies. Among products with the biggest content of creatine are herrings (6.5-10g/kg), pork (5g/kg) and beef (4.5g/kg). Nonetheless, as we are unable to absorb creatine with foods only, we need a good supplementation.


How to dose creatine?

Creatine dosing is a highly controversial issue, with a number of mutually exclusive theories. It has been recognised that the optimum dose equals 5-10g per day, with higher doses administered at the beginning of treatment (to reach the proper saturation), on an empty stomach. In fact, however, there is no research that would unanimously confirm this assumption. It is best if you adjust the dose to your body weight, by taking 1g of creatine for each 10 kg of your mass. Take the substance twice a day, in the morning, before working out, and in the evening, immediately after training. Creatine has also been proved to be the most effective if taken together with other supplements like, for instance, a protein powder, carbohydrates or taurine, as they improve its absorption. Creatine can be taken all year round, without the saturation phase.


What are the effects of creatine supplementation?

Creatine is responsible for energy storage in muscles. The higher the level of the substance, the bigger the volume of energy to be used. Energy is obtained from ATP, i.e. adenosine triphosphate, which accelerates muscle contraction. ATP consists of high-energy phosphate bonds. After the cleavage of the bonds, the following substances are produced:

  • ADP – adenosine diphosphate
  • inorganic phosphate (Pi)
  • energy

Although ATP has a poor potential to store energy which is sufficient for a few contractions only, it is seen as a source of energy. It is “regenerated” through synthesis, but the process occurs only in the first fractions of a second. The re-synthesis is activated in an anaerobic process from phosphocreatine, and then from blood glucose or muscle glycogen. It is important to maintain the contraction ability and not permit significant transformations of adenosine triphosphate to ADP and Pi. However, if planning an intense effort and needing much more energy, you need to draw it from aerobic metabolism. For this process to take place, more carbohydrates, fats and proteins are needed.

The “nucleus” of energy in the ATP is phosphocreatine, which serves as a rapidly mobilizable reserve of high-energy phosphates. Energy is produced in the process of phosphocreatine decomposition into:

  • creatine
  • inorganic phosphate Pi

To provoke regeneration of creatine, the body needs free creatine. When experiencing strength deficiencies, consider supplementing phosphocreatine, which you may find challenging, as the compound gets decomposed in digestion. To be successful, choose dietary supplements with creatine, which:

  • accelerate ATP synthesis, and, thus, facilitates the synthesis or proteins
  • delay the sense of fatigue (due to the activity of phosphocreatine)
  • inhibit ATP removal from the body
  • increase cell hydration

What reputation does creatine have?

Creatine is widely used by athletes and is listed among the most effective dietary supplements on the market. Creatine is often sold as monohydrate, which is soluble in water. The monohydrate quickly binds water in the muscles, thus favouring fast growth of their circumference. The substance enhances strength and endurance, expansion of muscle mass and water storage in muscles.

Those who train intensely happen to have creatine drops. Strength athletes have bigger creatine reserves in muscles, which, however, does not mean that they can abandon regular supplementation.

Creatine is also effective in endurance sports, especially in the final stages of competitions, where strength and speed count more than endurance.

What is creatine malate (TCM)?

Creatine malate is a combination of creatine and malic acid (1:3). It is known as TCM, tri-creatine malate or di-creatine malate. Creatine malate has a more stable structure than the monohydrate, but still, it is just another form of creatine available in the market.

The preparation is an intermediate step in the Krebs’ cycle, i.e. in the process of combustion of bicarbonate fragments, in which hydrogen equivalents and carbon dioxide are released. Creatine malate stimulates the synthesis of ATP, which means that it releases energy and improves athletes’ endurance.

Creatine malate is the only amino-acid that leaves the mitochondrial membrane without being converted into a different amino-acid, thus joining the Krebs’ cycle and releasing energy to muscles.

It has catabolic activity. Having left the mitochondria, the substance is converted into PEP (phosphoenolpyruvate), which transports phosphorans that are bigger than ATP and, thus, can be used for ADP activation and production of ATP. This is how energy is produced in muscles.

Another property of creatine malate is that it dissolves in water better than the monohydrate, which makes it easier to absorb. Creatine malate contains, among others,  citrates and pyruvates which, when taken up in high amounts from the digestive tract, effectively build up the muscle mass. It is good to know, however, that it can cause lower muscle growth than the monohydrate.

What is the connection between TCM and vitamin D?

Creatine is safe for humans. It is sold combined with buffering compounds such as sodium bicarbonate and trisodium citrate, which help maintain proper balance in muscle cells.

Since recently, vitamin D has been added to creatine. Vitamin D is broadly used and supports a number of cells, tissues and organs, including:

  • digestive tract
  • immune system
  • pancreas
  • skeletal system
  • kidneys
  • skin
  • parathyroid gland

Vitamin D is particularly important to people with insulin resistance, as they are usually severely deficient in Vitamin D. Insulin transports nutrients to the muscle tissue, if only the proper insulin sensitivity is developed. The process is supported with vitamin D. Insulin is an anabolic hormone and plays a major role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. TCM and vitamin D complement each other.

Other uses of creatine

Creatine has only just started to be widely discussed in the context of impact on other processes than energy storage in muscles. The substance is successfully used in elderly patients to alleviate:

  • fatigue
  • muscle atrophy
  • circular atrophy
  • exhaustion
  • Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease
  • other brain pathologies

Creatine reduces blood cholesterol. Plus, it has found application in treating inborn metabolism errors, for instance, in people with inborn absence of enzymes responsible for creatine synthesis or the growth hormone.



There are many myths surrounding glutamine in sport, including, in particular, its ability to improve the efficiency of strength training. Glutamine has been for long known as a very effective product to support muscle mass development. The good reputation of the substance was, however, undermined by results of a certain test, which were interpreted with lots being remained unsaid or misinterpreted. So, what is the truth? What is glutamine and how does it influence the synthesis of muscle fibres, hormones, muscle growth, immunity, endurance and fat burning?

What is glutamine?

Glutamine won publicity at the end of the 1980s/beginning of 1990s, i.e. more or less at the time when creatine began to be widely discussed. The amino-acid (component of proteins) distributes nitrogen around the body. This is of particular importance to athletes, as nitrogen is an ingredient of proteins and facilitates protein metabolism and muscle building:

  • when the nitrogen balance is positive, i.e. when the body retains more nitrogen than it loses, anabolic processes occur (i.e. the muscles, built of proteins, grow)
  • when the nitrogen balance is negative, catabolic processes occur (i.e. processes causing breakdown of body proteins and muscles).

With glutamine supplementation, you will not only develop and rebuild your muscles, but also produce more amino-acids. Why does it matter? Towards the end of the 1980s and 1990s, a number of tests were performed (MacLennan 1987, Millward 1989, Hammarqvist 1989, Guoyao and Thompson 1990), which confirmed that glutamine stimulates synthesis and inhibits decomposition of proteins. In their in vitro test of 1990, Guoyao and Thompson proved that protein synthesis depends on the concentration of amino-acids. When the concentration of amino-acids was the highest, anabolism grew by more than 58% when compared to the zero concentration.

The impressive results of the tests explain why glutamine enhances the synthesis of muscle fibres and makes a perfect addition to trainings and protein supplements.


How glutamine influences synthesis of muscle fibres

The shadow of suspicion fell on glutamine after the publication of results of a study carried out in 2008 by Louise Deldicque, stating that glutamine was a leucine antagonist, interfering with mTOR kinase in muscle cells. Leucine is a BCAA that is highly effective for stimulating skeletal muscle growth. mTOR kinase is an enzyme that stimulates protein synthesis in skeletal muscle, meaning that it facilitates the development of proteins and enhances, among others, the growth and development of cells. The enzyme is activated by anabolic hormones including, in particular, insulin, and by amino-acids, such as leucine. Both the scientist and glutamine opponents spoke with one voice that leucine and glutamine acted completely opposite and that the latter inhibited protein development, adversely affecting muscle sculpting.

How did this idea arise? mTOR kinase is produced through phosphorylation, i.e. the binding of molecules and a phosphate radical (here: serine molecules). Dr Deldicque conducted her study on maturing murine muscle cells, to which the following was added:

  • leucine
  • or glutamine
  • or the mix of both

The addition of leucine to the substrate increased the activity of the serine molecule by more than 50% and of the other molecule by 8 times. The addition of glutamine, in turn, decreased serine activation by ca. 25%. In the last of the cases mentioned above, the addition of the mix of amino-acids increased serine molecule phosphorylation by more than 40%. An important element of the mTOR process is activation of a ribosomal protein, which initiates anabolism.

But it is the concentration of contractile proteins in muscles that is crucial. And what happened in the study was sensational! The concentration equalled 10%, 40% and 270% for leucine, glutamine and the mix of the two, respectively. These results show that glutamine has strong anabolic properties (4 times stronger than leucine). If we combine both substances, which perfectly complement each other, the growth in the anabolic properties reaches 30 times.

A more recent study (Evans, 2007) shows that together with a drop in glutamine drops the intracellular leucine concentration, as leucine is transported inside the cells by glutamine. The conclusion is simple: the bigger the amounts of glutamine and leucine, the bigger the growth of muscles.


How glutamine influences hormones and muscle growth

According to more recent studies (e.g. Li, 2004), glutamine participates pancreatic release of insulin, which is the strongest anabolic hormone in the body. This is true for slim subjects, healthy obese subjects and ill obese subjects.

Glutamine facilitates insulin release and increases its activity, enhancing sensitivity to insulin. Furthermore, it is an effective anabolic for:

  • muscle tissue
  • and fat tissue, with a potential of causing fat growth. There is also research showing that glutamine can be a fat burner.

The substance increases the levels of IGF-1, i.e. the growth factor secreted under the influence of the growth hormone. With glutamine, the IGF-1 remains high (up to 70%) for long. Positive effects were observed both in the young and in the elderly.

In 2007, Sharp performed an experiment on eight hard-training athletes (bodybuilders). The subjects were divided in two groups and did hard strength trainings for 4 consecutive weeks. Group 1 was given 2 g of glutamine and  of BCAA daily, while group 2 was given a placebo. In group 1, testosterone grew 7 times in relation to cortisol, which was indicative of the anabolic potential of the athletes. What was significant was that not only did glutamine lower cortisol levels in the athletes’ bodies, but also inhibited cortisol catabolism (decomposition).

Nonetheless, it must be noted that cortisol-inhibiting properties are typical of glutamine administered in supplements, and are negligible in glutamine which included in alimentary proteins.

Another catabolic hormone is the TNF-α factor, which enhances myostatin production in muscles. Glutamine lowers muscle myostatin by c.a. 130%. The majority of TNF-α is produced during anaerobic efforts, which often lead to damage of muscle fibres. These include, for instance, bodybuilding trainings.

How glutamine increases immunity and endurance

Glutamine is much more than a perfect anabolic reducing the activity of catabolic hormones, as it also enhances immunity.

One of researchers (Caroll, 2004) administered a standard nourishing blend and a glutamine-enriched blend to a dozen or so critically ill patients. In group two, a 120% protein balance improvement was observed.

Glutamine enhances immunity and inhibits muscle damage caused by bacterial infections. It is also helpful in muscle wasting syndrome (cachexia) in patients with difficult and severe diseases, including cancer. In May’s experiment of 2002, a group of patients was given a blend of amino-acids while the other (experimental) group was given 14 g of glutamine combined with arginine and HMB. In the glutamine group, muscle mass grew by 1.12 kg within 4 weeks, with a decrease of 1.34 kg in the other group.

Administration of glutamine increases the concentration of muscle glycogen, allowing the athlete to train longer and with bigger weight, as his muscles get bigger and stronger. Even if glutamine supplementation increases strength by 1% only, for an athlete with a record of 100 kg this means plus 1 kg on the bar. Similarly, although muscle mass increase by 0.3% seems not much, it actually means ca. 150 g of muscles, i.e. over 1.2 kg over a period of 1 year, which is quite something for a bodybuilder.

Unbelievable results were also noted in Hakimi’s experiment of 2012. In the study, 30 students were divided in two groups, each training hard for 8 weeks. Group 1 took 25 g of glutamine daily, while group 2 took 25 g of starch. When compared to the control group, the results pointed to very positive hormonal changes: growth hormone – increase by 303%; testosterone – increase by 128%; IGF-1 – increase by 115%; cortisol – decrease by 433%. This, in turn, had the following impact on performance: Bench Press – placebo – result improved by 3.53, glutamine – result improved by 6.25; Squat – placebo – result improved by 3.54, glutamine – result improved by 6.02; muscle mass – placebo – growth by 0.9, glutamine – growth by 2.9; fat – placebo – reduction by 0.2, glutamine – reduction by 0.6 kg. As research shows, the greatest changes occurred in hormones and not in trainings.

Does glutamine help reduce fat?

Glutamine is also used when cutting down on carbohydrates and searching for a good weight burner. It is a common ingredient of mass supplements.

On the one hand, the activity of glutamine is similar to carbohydrates, but on the other, it reduces weight while helping you maintain all the desired parameters. Plus, it wins you time. Research shows that glutamine supplementation for 6 weeks improves strength by 6% and causes muscle growth by 2%.

Therefore, it is clear that the substance is a perfect supplementation of strength and bodybuilding workouts. It is an anabolic and a fat burner, with a potential to cause fat reduction. What is important here is the synergy between glutamine (muscle supplement), creatine and BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, valine). If you are striving for mass and strength growth, a small dose of glutamine will be enough. But if you want perfect performance and aim at enhancing muscle fibre synthesis, consider combining glutamine, creatine and BCAAs. You do not need high doses, 2 to 14 g will do. With this, you get effectiveness, low price and a foundation for your strength and bodybuilding workouts.



L-glutamine is needed by the body to function properly. It is a critical amino-acid and the most abundant in the circulatory system. If so, what is the point in taking supplements with L-glutamine in body sculpting and how does the substance influence muscles?


What is L-glutamine?

Glutamine is an organic compound belonging to α-amino-acids. It is one of the core 20 amino-acids coded by animal and human genes and is contained in a number of proteins. Additionally, the substance makes up 30-35 percent of the nitric oxide in your blood. L-glutamine represents exogenous amino-acids, meaning that it is conditionally essential for the body. It can be produced by the body or delivered from outside. L-glutamine should be supplied from outside sources when under stress or during a disease or physical effort, as then the body uses up bigger amounts of the substance than usual and is unable to produce enough of it to fully supplement the shortages. Additionally, L-glutamine fuels cells of the immune system. Products containing L-glutamine are used with the aim to reduce body mass, as they help burn fat. Plus, they are of aid when developing the muscle tissue.


Bryan Haycock

Glutamine plays an invaluable role in protein synthesis and functioning of the immune system. It is capable of regulating protein synthesis in muscles, and is crucial for maintaining the proper functions of rapidly multiplying cells such as lymphocytes and mucosal enterocytes. Cells of the immune system (e.g. lymphocytes) use glutamine as an anabolic fuel. Additionally, glutamine protects the body against too high ammonia levels, by attaching thereto and releasing it when needed for the production of other amino-acids.


Nonetheless, remember not to overestimate the significance of glutamine for the body, if taken orally as a supplement. Supplementation with glutamine has not been tested enough to clearly confirm its positive effect on muscle building or physical fitness. What is known for certain, however, is that it is of value to athletes who have realistic expectations. If you take glutamine to enhance the functioning of your immune system, during intense training cycles, you will not be disappointed. If you want to make your digestive tract function better, you should also be satisfied.


Will Brink

Manufacturers of sports supplements have started to add glutamine to a number of their products. Athletes include it in their diets. Why? The body needs glutamine for a number of processes. It regulates the functioning of the immune system and the liver and favours integrity of the gastrointestinal tract. Low serum glutamine means loss of muscle mass, with the reserves being used up during intense physical effort.

Due to its potential impact on the immune system, glutamine is believed to help prevent the overtraining syndrome in athletes who train too long and too hard. A number of tests have shown that the level of glutamine can be considered a marker of overtraining. The substance is also used for glycogen reserve restoration in muscles after intense physical effort. Yet, the exact mechanism of the process has not yet been fully explained. Glutamine probably enhances glucose uptake directly by the muscles, or is converted into glucose itself and stored as glycogen.

Another effect of glutamine supplementation can be increased level of the Growth Hormone (GH). In one of the experiments conducted, nine volunteers were given two grams (2,000 mg) of glutamine solved in a cola drink. The bodies of four of them responded to glutamine supplementation with a four-time increase in GH release.

Although no one has ever built impressive muscles only by including glutamine into their diets, the substance is assessed positively as generally beneficial to health. As such, it can be successfully used by athletes. 5 to 20 g daily added to a post-workout shake should be enough.


Zbyszko Tarczewski

Glutamine is considered to be conditionally essential, which means that in certain circumstances, our bodies are unable to produce sufficient amounts of the substance. This fact alone proves glutamine significance for humans.

The amino-acid is used in a number of ways. The major functions of glutamine include its impact on:

  • the immune system (glutamine is a fuel for macrophages and lymphocytes); considerable drop in blood glutamine was observed in overtrained subjects; if your immune system does not function properly, you will be unable to work out hard and frequently enough to produce the expected effect;
  • glycogen reserve restoration, for higher performance;
  • growth in muscle mass, among others, owing to the anti-catabolic effect of the substance or its capacity to increase the nitrogen balance;
  • maintaining acid–base homeostasis, by reducing acidification and the resultant storage of glutamine reserves in muscles;
  • increase of the GH amounts produced by the body, for enhanced fat reduction.

If dosed properly and combined with reasonable training, glutamine can support your physical activity, which is particularly visible in professional athletes. Regardless of the disciplines they represent, they do feel the effects of glutamine on their bodies.

My opinion is as follows: do not go and buy glutamine if you go to the gym twice a week. But if you are serious about working out, you may be really satisfied with itsefficiency over time.


SĹ‚awomir Ambroziak

Glutamine plays a major role in maintaining nitrogen balance. The substance controls protein accumulation and muscle development. As an agent with significant impact on energy metabolism during exercises, it is seen as a performance-enhancer. This effect of glutamine has been confirmed by studies on volunteer athletes, patients, convalescents and animals. The most recent tests, performed on intermediate-level athletes, seem to further confirm that glutamine does work, but the authors are still unable to confirm its effectiveness in this target group.

Opponents of the performance-enhancing effect of glutamine tend to say that: “Glutamine turned out to be a good supplement for the sick and for rats, and to be of no value to those who train recreationally and to athletes”. Is this true? All professional athletes that I know use L-glutamine supplements. “There is no working out without glutamine”, they say.

Let us now have a look at a study carried out by Candow, which is usually relied on by glutamine opponents. The result obtained after 6 weeks of observations in the glutamine group was only by 0.3% better than in the placebo group when it comes to lean mass increase. Referring to clinical trial standards, the authors had to consider the results statistically insignificant. Nonetheless, in practice, for a man weighing 100 kg, the result of 0.3% means c.a. 2.5 kg of pure meat per year!

It must be remembered that an extensive health promoting effect of glutamine has been proved in a number of studies. Not long ago, the substance also surprised the researchers with its ability to effectively burn fat, which was confirmed in tests conducted by several authors, including Prada and Hirabara.



Exercises are key in building up muscles. That is obvious. But still, many beginner gym-goers, who have only just begun their bodybuilding adventure, forget one important detail. Gym pumping alone will not give you the results you are waiting for. To build up a strong and healthy muscle mass you also need to pay attention to its building blocks. Only if you combine a well-balanced diet with physical activity, can you achieve satisfactory results. You can perform even better if you add supplements that will help you regularly supply your muscle mass with the appropriate nutrients. What supplements will be of aid in your fight for a dream body?

How to start

Regularity is key to muscle building, both when it comes to working out and eating. The process encompasses three training cycles: strength building, muscle building and fat reduction. The cycles differ in the type and intensity of exercises, diet and effect. When moving from one cycle to another, remember to pause for 1-2 weeks. The key elements in the whole process are muscle building and fat reduction.

Mass diet is nothing but the appropriate combination of nutrients to cause the growth of muscles. Start with increasing the calorific value of your meals and remember to increase the supply of proteins and properly hydrate your body.

Although you are going to eat high-calorie meals in all cycles, the number of calories will be different for different periods. The body needs the biggest amounts of calories in the muscle building phase and the lowest amounts of calories in the fat reduction period. It is similar with proteins, the supply of which should be tailored to the training objectives.

Next to regular and well thought-out meals, a mass diet should contain a number of different supplements that will give your body more nutrients and minerals than it needs. If your workout routine, daily meals and mass supplements harmonise well, you will see your muscles grow.

Muscle mass that is difficult to build up

It can take you several years to build up a dream body, which is why you should thoroughly prepare to the process. Start with setting a goal and defining your body type. Then, calculate your daily calorific needs. In this way you will be able to determine how much energy you need to achieve the pre-set goal. When selecting a diet you need to take into account your body type and physical capacities.

Working out is not enough. What you also need is time for recovery and rest. Only then will you be sure that the peri-workout damage to your muscles has time to heal.

What are protein supplements

Protein supplements are probably the most popular mass supplements that enhance muscle growth. They contain protein isolated from different high-protein products, such as milk, soy or whey. Why supplement a mass diet with proteins? Because protein is the core building block of the muscles, and together with the growing intensity of trainings grows the demand for proteins, while the foods eaten with diet will not always cover such demand. One of the most popular protein supplements is whey protein. Certain fractions of the protein show pharmacodynamic activity, including anabolic activity, while other significantly reduce the levels of cortisol, which has catabolic effects and destroys muscle proteins, thus making the work on your dream body even more difficult.

Whey proteins should constitute ca. 30% of the whole pool of proteins consumed every day. Fast-absorbable whey proteins work best if combined with slowly-absorbable proteins. The initial impulse for whey protein synthesis is generated very quickly and persists for 1 to 2 hours. Then, the level of the amino-acids drops fast. Not to lose access to their core building material, muscles need supplementation with proteins, the decomposition of which takes 8 to 10 hours.

Why are BCAAs so important in mass-building diet?

Branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs) should be the base of a mass diet. These supplements are well-known and have been thoroughly tested and proved to reduce fatigue and prevent overtraining. They are particularly important in the stagnation period, when the results obtained are less spectacular than at the beginning. You start to see that the progress is slower, which can be due to the monotony of your exercises, overtraining or muscle overloading. Supplementation with the appropriate amounts of branched-chain amino-acids has a salutary effect on muscle building and growth and on fat reduction alike. Moreover, BCAAs prevent fatigue and show strong catabolic activity.

You can fully cover your protein demand with your diet. But still, high-protein supplementation can be a good idea. BCAAs are particularly helpful during strength trainings. Take a portion 30 minutes before working out and another one during the training.

BCAAs can be found in whey proteins, i.e. casein-free milk, carbohydrates and fats. The majority of research shows that whey increases protein synthesis and muscle growth much better than other additional sources of proteins (e.g. casein or soy). This is mainly caused by high content of branched-chain amino-acids, that is, BCAAs.


Creatine is a natural substance occurring in skeletal muscles. It stimulates protein synthesis and has anabolic and anti-catabolic effect. Last, but not least, creatine determines the pace of muscle growth and performance and improves recovery. Equally importantly, the substance is an inhibitor of myostatin, that is, the protein which is responsible for muscle gaining prevention. Creatine supports the activity of other anabolic steroids and testosterone, a hormone causing strength and muscle mass increase. Anabolic steroids, in turn, enhance the production of creatine, thus improving testosterone conversion. The most important task of creatine, however, is its participation in the synthesis of ATP, the compound that delivers energy during muscle fibre contraction.

Creatine is probably the most popular muscle gainer in the world. It is available in several different forms, including creatine monohydrate or creatine ethyl ester. Although new, “improved” forms keep appearing on the market every now and then, the position of the monohydrate remains unthreatened. Creatine is effective in improving endurance during intense trainings.


Research shows that caffeine is beneficial to those wanting to burn fat and build muscles, and should be included in a mass diet. The substance accelerates metabolism by 3-4% for ca. 2 hours. As a result, the amounts of fat burnt during and after the workout are also increased.

The effects of caffeine include the enhancement of strength, which can eventually cause increase of muscular power. Caffeine metabolites, in turn, increase the concentration of free calcium ions, causing muscles to contract with more strength. Caffeine should be taken 45-60 minutes before working out.

Other indispensable ingredients

A good mass diet should contain vitamins and minerals to ensure proper functioning of the body during and after workouts. Magnesium: rarely added to muscle gainers, the mineral should be supplemented separately. With magnesium, you will maintain proper functions of your nervous and muscular system. Additionally, it improves the quality of sleep and recovery at night. The daily dose of magnesium is 400-500 mg about 45-60 minutes before bedtime.

Another element to be included in your mass diet is Vitamin D. The few studies concerning the dependency between Vitamin D and physical performance that have been conducted show that it influences the quality of physical activity and muscle growth. The recommended daily dose equals 500 to 1000 mcg. Vitamin D works best if taken with meals that contain fats, to ensure its optimum absorption.


Every athlete’s and bodybuilder’s diet should be well-balanced, meaning that it needs to be well adjusted to individual needs of the person working out and contain all the necessary ingredients. The combination of mass diet with suitable muscle gainers and the right dose of rest makes a perfect recipe for a beautifully sculpted body. Remember to wisely choose your diet and workout routine.



The most popular of all recreational substances consumed on a number of different occasions, with a vast variety of flavours to choose from. Drunk during meetings with friends and family and accompanying humans since time immemorial, but not without significance for the body and health. Alcohol. Does it also affect your performance?

Going back to the basics, it can be concluded that moderate drinking can be healthy (within reasonable limits and on condition that you choose the right alcohol), but excess alcohol consumption causes damage to internal organs, serious diseases and accumulation of unwanted fat.

Calorific value of alcohol

The front runner, when it comes to the number of calories, is whisky (250kcal in 100g), with clear vodka being the first runner-up (220 kcal). Subsequent positions in the list are taken by beer (67 kcal) and wines: white (66 kcal) and red (60 kcal). It is worth noting, however, that wine and beer contain vitamins and minerals.

The circumstances in which you drink alcohol are of paramount importance. These include the amount of alcohol consumed, the food eaten together with the alcohol (or lack thereof), the high-calorie drinks drunk, etc. Since alcohol is rarely drunk alone, as a solitary glass of vodka, the analysis should be comprehensive, encompassing the background and other calories consumed together with the alcohol.

How alcohol affects your training capacity

Detailed tests were performed on the effects of alcohol consumed after intense training and before working out. In the former case, the dose was high and equalled 1.5g per 1 kg of body mass, while in the latter, two variants were considered, i.e. training under the influence of alcohol and working out 13 hours after consumption (hangover).

The results showed bigger alcohol impact on testosterone in men than on production of the hormone in women.

Therefore, it can be concluded that when combined with training, the effects of alcohol differ depending on the sex. Men are definitely advised to separate these two pleasures in time. Nonetheless, it must be noted that occasional consumption of alcohol is not strictly contraindicated when in a workout routine.

Alcohol and muscle mass

Unfortunately, studies on protein synthesis after alcohol consumption are sparse. Still, however, experiments on rats clearly show that muscle protein anabolism is reduced when in contact with the alcohol consumed. Simply speaking, alcohol slows down the pace of muscle growth.

As the study was performed on rats, and not on humans, the scale of the phenomenon is difficult to assess and the results are difficult to differentiate based on weight, sex, age or the amounts consumed, and cannot be translated directly into the loss or hindered growth of muscles. Nevertheless, the existence of such a relationship is unquestionable.

Alcohol and testosterone

Having analysed the muscle mass, we can now move to the endocrine system, which has been proved to be alcohol-dependent as well. Studies performed on humans showed that alcohol did not significantly lower the levels of testosterone in women, with some of the subjects reporting growth of the hormone. The results concerning men, however, are quite different.

Men who consumed 40g of alcohol within 24h (which is not a high dose), had low testosterone concentration (ca. 6.8%). Increase of the dose to 1.5 g per 1 kg of the body mass (i.e. app. 128 g for a man weighing 85 kg) caused testosterone reduction by 23%. The scale, if large amounts of alcohol are drunk regularly, is huge.

The effects of alcohol on other hormones, such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, have been tested, too. The studies encompassed post-workout levels of these hormones in physically active men.  Analyses showed lack of differences between men who consumed alcohol and those who worked out sober.

This shows that occasional consumption of insignificant amounts of alcohol does not produce any problems and does not change the level of hormones, including testosterone, while regular drinking reduces testosterone secretion.

Alcohol and electrolytes

This is yet another aspect to be considered. It is no secret that drinking alcohol produces a diuretic effect, leading to dehydration and a considerable loss of electrolytes. As the above is true for working out both “under the influence” and before the body returns to form, training right after partying is not recommended.

Alcohol and fat tissue

Once oxidised to acetic acid, alcohol gets into the blood. Excreted in trace amounts only in sweat, while breathing and in urine, it circulates in the body. This is how alcohol digestion begins, with the substance becoming the major food ingredient used by the body to produce energy. In the digestion process, other energy sources (proteins, fat)  are marginalised. Most of the product is metabolised, while the rest (5%) is stored as fat. As can be seen, although considered to be rich in calories, alcohol tends to be demonised.

Enough of the numbers. What you should remember is that when drinking alcohol, we tend to eat more, first, because we usually drink during parties, sitting at tables laden with food and, second, because alcohol does not really inhibit the appetite.

Here, again, the results proved to be sex-dependent. Small, occasional portions of alcohol protect women against obesity, while excess consumption produces an opposite effect. At the same time, women who overuse alcohol are at risk of myopathy, a degenerative muscle disease.

When it comes to men, it was noted that those who drank more than 1 beer a day were more prone to developing abdominal obesity.

What we eat together with alcohol is not insignificant for fat reserve increase. This tendency was observed in alcoholics, in whose menus alcohol supplanted a number of high-calorie products, leading to weight and fat loss. Obviously, given the benefits and costs associated with alcohol, it should by no means be treated as a diet.

Alcohol vs. diet in a training plan

According to logic, occasional consumption of insignificant amounts of alcohol has basically no impact on diet as a whole. Nonetheless, you should never combine it with improper nutrients: with alcohol, the supply of proteins, fat and carbohydrates is lower, and your body receives fewer building blocks to use.

Furthermore, as body weight stabilisation depends on the appetite, you should not disregard alcohol in this respect. The research conducted showed that those who drank alcohol before meals ate bigger portions than those who only drank soft drinks. Plus, the first group felt satiated much later than the other group.

This seems insignificant for occasional drinking, but if you drink alcohol frequently, you will probably not avoid additional kilograms and nutrient deficiency.

Know where to stop

Basically, alcohol should not be demonised or brought down to the role of number one enemy of workouts. But only if used moderately and reasonably. Putting aside the numbers and statistics, it must be remembered that even if you have slept well at night, your general state after carousing will not help you do a good workout.



Wouldn’t it be great for you to be able to say that you are eating well? Wisely chosen supplements and nutrients make it easier to correct dietary mistakes and are a perfect way to diversify your diet. Plus, they are indispensable as a specific and directional support of  physical activity. 

Table of Content:

1. Diet vs. Supplements

2. A Good Diet. How to Choose the Nutrients?

3. How to Properly Build Up Muscles?

4. Can Supplements Replace a Good Diet?

5. Diet Rich in Omega Acids


1.  Diet vs. Supplements

In our society, we tend to say that “chemicals” are harmful. Potentially harmful and banned chemical products are lumped together with legally sold, professional supplements , produced in pharmaceutical plants. This often causes misunderstandings.

Plant protection products, farm animals fed with synthetic foods, antibiotics, environment pollution, crossbreeds, genetically modified foods, etc. tend to make our diet far from being wholesome, healthy and nutritious. What is even worse, with such products we introduce into our bodies a number of potentially harmful ingredients, and never really know what we eat.

Supplements and nutrients by renowned companies are subjected to much stricter control (both at the stage of raw material selection and on the entire processing line) than the foods sold, for instance, at the market.

You can be sure that the ingredients listed on the packaging by a renowned producer are exactly what you will find inside (the Polish legal provisions define the issue exhaustively).

2. A Good Diet. How to Choose the Nutrients?

Our ancestors’ diet, in the dim and distant past, was mainly composed on meat and fish, eggs, edible roots, seeds, nuts, fruit and vegetables. This is where ancient people took vitamins and minerals from.

Modern man’s diet, in turn, mostly contains cereals, vegetables, milk and milk products, as well as fruit, meat and fish. Although eating fruit and vegetables is highly encouraged, cereals remain on top of the list [more about cereals, see “Perfect Body” issue 2 – editorial note].

But theory is one thing, and real life is another. If you compare the dietary recommendation with the diet of an average John Smith, you will not find the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables.

So, no wonder so many people have deficiencies of microelements.
Supplementation with plant extracts or dedicated combinations of minerals and vitamins is often the best and most convenient way to eliminate such deficiencies.

Nonetheless, you need to remember that natural products contain many microelements that cannot be found in supplements or nutrients. This makes supplements an addition to, and not a replacement of, a reasonable diet.

3. How to Properly Build Up Muscles?

Many people find it difficult to build up muscles. To make the work effective, you need to eat more than you burn. And this is where supplements enter, to help you achieve your objective.

With high-protein nutrients you will easily and tastily supplement your diet, without force-eating subsequent food portions, up to the level when you will effectively increase your weight. Yet, you must be careful not to overdo, as then you will start to accumulate unnecessary fat. Remember that insignificant increase of fat mass is permitted.


Chicken breast or 1 portion of high-protein nutrient?

This is my favourite comparison, which I always use whenever asked about what a high-protein nutrient really is.

Let us have a look at the list of macroelements:

100 g of raw chicken breast, without bones and skin, contains (on average):

  • 21 g of protein
  • 3 g of fat
  • 0 g carbohydrates

100 g of System Protein 80, a popular high-protein nutrient by Olimp, contains:

  • 77 g of protein
  • 5.7 g carbohydrates
  • 3.8 g of fat

If you compare doses with the same protein content (27 g of System Protein 80), the results are as follows:

  • 21 g of protein
  • 1.6 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g of fat

Assuming that an average physically active person should eat 2.2 to 2.5 g of protein per each kilogram of body mass every day, the daily dose for a person weighing 80 kg equals 176-200 g,

i.e. almost 1 kg of chicken breast, the bodybuilders’ favourite source of protein, every single day. Or 228 to 259g of the protein powder.


Rice or a portion of gainer?

Let us have a look at another important element of bodybuilders’ diet, i.e. rice, and a popular flavoured supplement for those who have problems building up muscles.

According to information on the packaging, 100 g of dry rice contains:

  • 7 g of protein
  • 1 g of fat
  • 75 g carbohydrates

A very similar proportion is represented by Gainbolic by Olimp Laboratories: 100 g of the powder contains:

  • 15 g of protein
  • 1 g of fat
  • 80 g carbohydrates


The main difference is considerably higher protein content in the supplement, with similar other values.

For this reason, we recommend breaking the dietary monotony from time to time and replacing rice with a portion of gainer.

4. Can Supplements Replace a Good Diet?

No, but they can make it more complex or fill the gaps.

The diet of our distant relatives (those from the first days of humanity) is often used as the diet of reference.

Our ancestors used to eat much more Omega-3 fatty acids, while cutting down on Omega-6. The proportion between these two varied, depending on the location of the early human settlements, from 1-3 to 1-6. Analyses show that in an average diet of today’s man the numbers equal 1-25 to 1-50. Some scientists explain many civilizational problems with these disturbed proportions.

Therefore, out of concern for our health, we should consider correcting the share of both in our diet.

5. Diet Rich in Omega Acids

Obviously, this can be done by eating more fish found in the deep sea, but not everyone likes their taste. Plus, there is also the issue of high content of heavy elements, including lead, in their meat.

Therefore, supplementation with Omega-3 capsules should be considered.