Sometimes as you read this column,you may get the impression that attaininga bodybuilding physique is pretty easy. Italk about how to control your hormones,how to stimulate fat loss, how to drivemuscle growth, how to channel food en-ergy to muscle stores, and so on, andbodybuilding sounds not too hard. Thetruth is, achieving a bodybuilder’s phy-sique is very hard, and that’s why youdon’t see too many bodybuilders walk-ing around. If it was easy, everybodywould look great.The key reason why it’s so hard isthat you have to be in a calorie deficit tostimulate fat loss, yet in order to drivemuscle growth you have to supply all thenutrients and energy muscles need togrow. In a way it’s a paradox to do bothat the same time. But it is possible.The easiest way to lose fat is just tostarve yourself. Starving people are notfat. As you know, the problem with thisapproach is that during severe caloric re-striction you lose about half muscle andhalf fat. Your body tries to hang on tothe fat as long as it can so it won’t runout of energy.
At the other end of the spec-trum, is pretty easy to gain weight if youjust eat like a pig. There are very fewpeople who can’t gain a lot of weight ifthey just eat enough calories. This is whatthe hoard of “weight gainer” powders outthere are for. If you add 1,000 calories aday to your diet, you will gain weight. Theproblem, of coarse, is that if you just in-discriminately add calories to your dietmost of them (probably about 75% bymost estimates) will end up as fat.So we have to lose calories to lose fat,but if we cut calories half the weight whichis lost will be muscle. And we have toadd calories to gain weight, but about 75%of excess calories usually end up as fat.Genetically gifted bodybuilders may nothave such a problem. I’ve met severalpeople who were quite strong and wholooked like bodybuilders before they everwent into a gym. But these people are rare.Most of us are all too familiar with thescenarios described above. And this iswhy attaining that bodybuilding look is hardfor most people.What’s the answer? How can the av-erage person attain a really spectacularphysique? Hard work, consistency, anddedication.
These are the core principlesof the Parrillo philosophy. If you can giveme those, I can give you a great physique.Without those, all the information andtraining and supplements in the world justdon’t matter. It’s really up to you. So howdo you do it?The key concept is an idea called nu-trient partitioning, which means directingingested dietary energy toward the leancompartment and not to fat stores. Theidea is to have your food energy go tobuild muscle while drawing on your fatstores to fuel activity. Achieving this re-quires two things. First is a very specificeating program which supplies energy isa way which supplies nutrients to buildmuscle but not providing calories whichare stored as fat. There are certain foodsyou should eat and specific foods youshould avoid. Each meal must be struc-tured according to fairly narrow param-eters. The nuts and bolts of how to dothis is described in the Parrillo Perfor-mance Nutrition Manual, which is thecornerstone of the program. The sec-ond requirement for nutrient partition-ing is a training program. Training pro-vides the stimulus to build muscle as wellas activating the body’s fat-burning path-ways. How does it work? What happensis the nutrition program and the trainingprogram come together to have certaineffects on the body’s hormones.
Andthese hormones control muscle metabo-lism and fat metabolism. If you followthe program faithfully you can actuallymodify the hormonal environment insideyour body in such a way as to signalyour muscles to grow and simulta-neously signal fat loss. And by supply-ing nutrient energy is a specific patternyou can direct this energy to the leancompartment while at the same timeburning body fat. If you read my articlesover the last two or three years you willhave a virtual textbook on the science ofhow this works, down to the cellular andeven molecular level.So let’s say you want to do it. Wheredo you start? You start with the NutritionManual and a solid training program whichincludes lifting weights and aerobics. It’svirtually impossible to achieve the resultsof my program without the NutritionManual. Virtually every advanced levelbodybuilder in the world is on this pro-gram, and that’s no exaggeration. Youhave to start there. I’ve spent over twentyyears researching this area and experi-menting with advanced level competitivebodybuilders. My approach has been toassemble all of the scientific informationon muscle and fat metabolism, and then try different strategies in real athletes tofind out what really works. The Nutritionand Training Manuals give you the ben-efit of twenty years of research and workright at your fingertips.Are there any supplements that canhelp? Yes, definitely. One in particular thatfits into this program is called MuscleAmino™.
Muscle Amino™ is a pharma-ceutical grade, ultra-pure, crystalline, free-form amino acid mixture of leucine, iso-leucine, and valine. These are the so-called“branched chain” amino acids, becausetheir side chain contains a branched car-bon structure. The branched chain aminoacids (BCAAs) are among the essentialamino acids. Of the twenty amino acidscommon in human proteins, twelve ofthem can be made by the body and arecalled “nonessential” amino acids. Theother eight cannot be made by the bodyand are called “essential” amino acids be-cause it is essential they be obtained fromthe diet. Obviously, bodybuilders need tobe attentive that their diet supplies all ofthe essential amino acidsthey need, because they arerequired for muscle main-tenance and growth.There are two specialthings about the BCAAs:they are among the mostabundant amino acids inmuscle proteins (1) and they areheavily catabolized (broken down)during exercise, especially intenseaerobic exercise (2). These two rea-sons plus the fact the body cannot makeits own BCAAs increase the need forBCAAs by athletes, especially athletesconcerned about achieving maximummuscle mass. BCAAs seem to be prefer-entially taken up by muscle tissue andstored there, providing an anabolic effectas well as a nitrogen-sparing (anti-cata-bolic) effect (3).Muscle Amino™ is really the ex-act thing we’re looking for in asupplement. It’s selectively taken upby muscle, so it will add to musclemass and not fat mass.
It providesessential building blocks which areused to build muscle protein, having aanabolic effect. And it blocks break-downof existing muscle tissue during intenseexercise. This is a perfect example ofpositive nutrient partitioning. MuscleAmino provides nutrient energy which isspecifically targeted to building up musclestores while not contributing to fat stores.You can see why I call it “Muscle Amino.”Exercise induces changes in the body’spattern of energy metabolism, and thesechanges are driven by energy needs, sub-strate availability, and hormonal regulation(2). This change in the pattern of energyflow in the body is what brings about thechange in body composition we seek. En-ergy to fuel to body is derived from oxi-dation (burning) of the carbon chains incarbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The ra-tio of the fuel mixture which is oxidizeddepends on the nutrient ratio consumedas well as exercise type and intensity (2).In other words, whether you burn fat orcarbs or protein for energy depends onwhat you eat and how you exercise.During normal conditions, 80 – 100%of the body’s energy requirements aresupplied by fats and carbohydrates (2).
This means that amino acids can provideup to 20% of energy needs on a daily ba-sis, and more during intense exercise. Inone study protein breakdown and use ofamino acids for fuel were measured inmen following a 10 mile run. It was foundthat 57 grams of protein were consumedas fuel during the run, accounting for 18%of the energy cost of the run (2). Thismeans that as much as the entire USRDAfor protein can be burned during a singleintense aerobic exercise bout. Thereseems to be little doubt that intensely train-ing athletes need more protein than sed-entary people, since the energy cost ofexercise results in a significant amount ofamino acid oxidation.Bodybuilders virtually unanimouslyagree that they need extra protein. Mostof them have the misconception that theyneed extra protein to supply the buildingblocks for muscle growth. The truth isthat two or three extra bites of chickenevery day will supply enough protein foryour muscles to grow as fast as they can.The real reason bodybuilders and endur-ance athletes need more protein is that theyburn more protein for fuel during exer-cise. If you don’t supply enough proteinin the diet to make up for this increaseddemand then the body will actually breakdown muscle tissue to supply the aminoacids to use as fuel. This is your worstnightmare. Since the biggest demand foramino acid fuel is during aerobic exercise,it turns out that endurance athletes actu-ally have even higher protein requirementsthan bodybuilders (2). Very few peoplerealize this, including very few enduranceathletes.
This is why endurance athletesusually have a very thin (sometimes re-ferred to as “stringy”) look – they burnmore protein than they take in, so theirmuscles get catabolized as fuel. If endur-ance athletes would simply increase theirprotein intake they would become moremuscular and stronger, and probably be-come better, faster athletes as well. Usu-ally in a contest between two equally skilled athletes, the stronger one wins.Muscle mass is determined by the bal-ance of protein synthesis and protein deg-radation (2). When synthesis exceeds deg-radation, protein mass accumulates andthe body is said to be in positive proteinbalance (or positive nitrogen balance).When degradation exceeds synthesis, thebody is in a negative protein balance andmuscle mass is lost. The proteins in yourmuscles are not exceptionally stable overtime, but rather are in a constant state of“turnover.” This means that every daysome of your body proteins are brokendown and destroyed to be replaced withnew proteins. Proteins are the mechani-cal workhorse of the cell, being respon-sible for doing the physical work of life.For example, during muscle contractionwhat happens is protein filaments calledactin and myosin slide past each other inopposite directions, thus making themuscle shorter. Like any mechanical partsthat move and rub against each other, theyget worn out.
After a while the old pro-teins are broken down and replaced withnew ones.When you eat a protein food, it getsdigested in the stomach and intestine intoindividual amino acids and short chainsof amino acids that are small enough tobe absorbed into the bloodstream. Even-tually all of the protein is broken downinto individual “free” amino acids. Thesecan experience two main metabolic fates.They can be used to build new proteinsor they can be burned as fuel to produceenergy. Not all of the amino acids aretreated equally however. The branchedchains are used as fuel more than the oth-ers (2). Muscle contains special enzymescalled branched chain aminotransferaseand branched chain keto acid dehydroge-nase which permit the breakdown of theBCAAs for energy (2). This allows muscleto use BCAAs as fuel whereas the otheramino acids are oxidized in the liver. Sowhile exercise increases protein require-ments in general, it especially increasesBCAA requirements.This coupled with the fact that theBCAAs are among the most abundantamino acids in muscle protein make itobvious why athletes have increased needfor the branched chains. They use morefor energy, plus they need more for pro-tein synthesis. Virtually every book andarticle about supplementation for athletessuggest the BCAAs as one of the coresupplements.
Of all the supplements outthere, Muscle Amino is certainly one ofthe most high-tech, because it specificallytargets the metabolic problem at hand. Bysupplying more BCAAs to the body lessmuscle tissue is catabolized during exer-cise, helping to maintain positive proteinbalance and net gain of muscle tissue. Thisis a prime example of a low calorie nutri-ent which specifically targets metabolicpathways to have a positive partitioningeffect. Muscle Amino™ is selectivelytaken up by muscle where it acts to pro-mote protein synthesis and prevent pro-tein breakdown. Since it is taken up bymuscle and not by fat, this is a way tosupply nutrient energy which will be par-titioned to the lean compartment. It shouldbe emphasized that endurance athletes willbenefit from this supplement at least asmuch as bodybuilders, if not even more.To see a real noticeable effect fromMuscle Amino™ you need to take a fairamount of it. At least ten grams a day,and twenty would not be too much. IMuscle Up – The Keys to Building Mass and Staying Lean, Part Isuggest three capsules with each of sixmeals per day. Smaller amounts will havea smaller effect, but this is a supplementwhere the effects accumulate over time.It is best to take Muscle Amino™ withmeals to increase absorption. There’s alot more to be said about amino acid me-tabolism during exercise, and how to useexercise and nutrition to shift your me-tabolism into a muscle-building, fat-burn-ing mode. I’ll pick up here next monthand get into some of the molecular detailsof what’s happening with amino acidmetabolism during exercise and how touse this information to maximize musclemass.
1. Rombeau JL and Caldwell MD.Clinical Nutrition: Parenteral Nutrition,Second Edition. W.B. Saunders Company,Philadelphia, 1993.
2. Wolinsky I and Hickson JF. Nutri-tion in Exercise and Sport. CRC Press,Boca Raton, 1994.
3. Bucci L. Nutrients as Ergogenic Aidsfor Sports and Exercise. CRC Press, BocaRaton, 1993.