Hopefully, these questions and my responses will prove useful to you.
First up, a question from wunderbier:
Q: Eric, Iíve got a couple exercise/health related questions Iíd like to pose to you, as youíre our resident expert on such matters. The short back-story is that I was overweight (80lbs over) for a number of years (4-5) and have nearly taken all of it off now.
1) I imagine itís quite varied, but is there a typical body fat % at which abdominal muscles become visible for a guy?
2) Whatís a safe body fat % for me to maintain indefinitely? (Iím at 10% right now according to a home Bio-Impedance Analysis scale, which is probably 4-5% lower than reality.)
3) The stretch marks donít bother me (okay, a little) but what would you make my chances to be that the skin on my stomach still has enough elasticity to continue shrinking back without turning into floppy excess that would take surgery to correct? (Iím 27.)
A: Since most methods of measuring body fat % are extremely skewed, Iíd say a good guideline regarding your body fat % is that you can usually begin to see your abdominal definition at around 10-12%.
Regarding the percentage of body fat that a male of your age can maintain without risks... Iíd say around 8%... thatís a basement figure. I wouldnít go lower unless your genetic makeup wonít allow you to stay up at around 8-12%. Also, donít forget that ALL methods of body fat analysis (including air and water displacement) are fairly inaccurate. Calipers are decent, but they canít measure visceral (brown) fat. Autopsy is the only sure method and I wouldnít go that route as the recovery period is lengthy... ok, infinite!
Regarding your chances of eliminating those stretch marks naturally? Iíve seen guys put on thirty pounds of muscle and GET stretch marks and Iíve seen men and women remove thirty or more pounds of body fat and GET stretch marks. Iíve seen them go away and Iíve seen them stay forever. Everyoneís elasticity is different. I worked with a woman who weighed around 185 lbs when we started. She was a mother of one. She had purple stretch marks on the side of her left hip at the oblique. She dropped fifty pounds and then decided she wanted to compete at the Female Figure level. We put another twenty pounds of muscle on her and then cut her weight and body fat to 140 lbs and 9% respectively. Those purple marks never went away, but no one noticed and she placed fifth in the Goldís Gym Classic in Brick, NJ a couple years ago. Check her out on my old fitness website if itís still up and running...<a hrefhttp://www.greaterbody.com>www.greaterbody.com. If I had stretch marks that refused to recede, I would try tanning. It worked for her!
Next up, another question from wunderbier:
Q: Wow, excellent reply, thanks. And thatís quite amazing, what you were able to help Janice achieve with her body. Real quick, thumbs up or thumbs down on: HMB, creatine, nitric-oxide inducers?
First off, prior to beginning dietary supplementation of any kind, please consult with your physician.
Now, to address your question:
A: Thumbs up on all three (if you choose to supplement with anything at all).
HMB (Beta Hydroxy-Beta-Methylbutyrate): Made from leucine (a branch chain amino acid). May decrease muscle catabolism (breakdown). Combining with creatine may be very effective at improving strength and lean body mass.
Creatine is a proven supplement in all its various forms. The most bio-available is the Creatine Ester HCL.
Iíve found Nitrix to be the best value among the AAKG/Nitric Oxide boosters that actually work. If you choose to supplement your diet with any of these compounds, youíre much better off ordering them on the internet. Youíll pay wholesale prices and shipping is between five and nine US Dollars. If you donít see any difference in your body fat percentage, performance or lean muscle mass within a few weeks of beginning Creatine or AAKG supplementation, it may be because you naturally produce all the creatine and/or nitric oxide you need. Most people donít, but there are always exceptions. If youíre a fairly stocky man or woman, you may fall into this category and youíll probably only be disappointed by AAKG and/or creatine supplementation.
Q: JCW wants to know even more about: Creatine, DHEA, various fat burning stuff, NO2 and vitamins that are deleted by drinking a little more alcohol than a doctor might suggest. Step back, here comes a boatload of information.
A: Creatine: a compound that can be made in our bodies or taken as a dietary supplement. The chemical name for Creatine is methyl guanidine-acetic acid - which is why it is much easier to just call it creatine. On average a 160 pound person would have about 120 grams of creatine stored in their body, 95-98% of it being stored within the muscles.
What does Creatine do? Maybe the questions should be what doesnít creatine do?
Hereís what it does (feel free to click on any purported benefit for a more detailed analysis):
What is DHEA and why supplement with it? Those are great questions. DHEA is a prohormone precursor. Because itís a prohormone precursor instead of a prohormone, itís still legal to purchase over-the-counter in the United States (elsewhere, you get the better stuff legally). Being male and thirty-seven years of age, DHEA is something that I have considered adding to my supplementation regiment and then decided against it. Hereís why:
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a steroid hormone, a chemical cousin of testosterone and estrogen. It is made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands. Production peaks in the mid-20s, when DHEA is the most abundant hormone in circulation. From oneís early í30s on, thereís a steady decline in DHEA production, so the average 75-year-old has only 20% of the DHEA in circulation that he or she had 50 years earlier. At all ages, men tend to have higher DHEA levels than women.
By definition, hormones are chemical messengers made in a gland or tissue that start, stop, or otherwise orchestrate activity in some other issue. That makes DHEA a hormone in name only, since no one knows exactly what it does in the body. For years it was thought to be a kind of ďchemical trashĒ left over from making other hormones. About the only thing that researchers can agree on is that DHEA is easily converted into other hormones, especially estrogen and testosterone. The Food and Drug Administration isnít sure what to do with DHEA supplements. Ten years ago the agency told companies to stop selling DHEA, which was marketed at the time for weight loss, and classified it as an unapproved new drug, obtainable only by prescription. Then in 1994, DHEA was reclassified as a dietary supplement, allowing sales over the counter.
The longest and perhaps most carefully conducted work in humans comes from one Dr. Yen and his associates. In their latest study, published last year in a special issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences devoted to DHEA and aging, eight men and eight women aged 50 to 65 took either 100 milligrams of DHEA or an identical placebo pill each night for three months. For three months after that, they took the opposite pill. Within two weeks of starting DHEA, circulating levels of the hormone were a bit higher than normally found in young adults. Lean body mass increased slightly in both sexes, as did muscle strength, which also improved with the placebo. Fat body mass decreased in men but increased a bit in women. There was also a rise in some chemical markers that suggested improvement in immune function, though the number of colds and other illnesses was not measured. An earlier study from Dr. Yenís group showed that three months of daily 50-milligram doses of DHEA significantly improved the sense of "well-being," although it did not improve sex drive, as advertisements for DHEA often claim. Another study in which volunteers took DHEA suggests that this hormone may help treat the autoimmune disease lupus.
Trials looking at DHEAís ability to boost the immune system and maintain mental function in older adults are in progress. Experiments on a few dozen people over six months hardly constitute proof that a treatment works. One reason why such trials are crucial is that DHEA has side effects, some of which may be irreversible. Since DHEA is converted into testosterone, some women who take it grow body or facial hair and, if they are under age 50 or so, can stop menstruating. DHEA has also been shown to decrease levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol in women, and could increase the risk of heart disease, the leading killer of older women. In men, the increased levels of testosterone seen with daily DHEA pills could stimulate the growth of a tiny prostate tumor that would otherwise have remained dormant. Excess testosterone could also cause the prostate to enlarge, making urination difficult. Then again, DHEA supplementation may simply lead to more muscle mass, etc. in men. We just donít know yet. I donít use it. Whether you do is totally your call.
Fat Burners (Hydroxycut, Lipo-6, Stacker II, etc)
They workÖ hereís why:
This oneís simple. Caffeine, aspirin and ephedrine are synergetic. They increase oneís metabolic rate and body temperature. Everyone knows or should know the obvious side-effects (irritability, irregular heart beat, nervousness, etc.) If these side-effects donít bother you, follow the manufacturerís recommended dosage and then burn fat (and maybe just a little muscle) while sitting on the couch thinking about which beer to pull from the fridge next. Most of these fat burners contain caffeine in some form, white willow bark or some other form of salicin / salicylic acid (aka aspirin) and ephedrine (or its first cousin, bitter orange). If youíre looking for a fat burner, I recommend proper diet and exercise. If youíre looking for a fat burner in pill form, I would take a name brand product with the combination of caffeine, aspirin and ephedrine. Additional ingredients (unless listed as being standardized for a certain percentage of caffeine or ephedrine) are probably useless ďwindow dressing.Ē
(AAKG) Arginine alpha-Ketoglutarate (A-AKG) (NO2 or Nitrix): Increases Nitric Oxide production within the body thereby amplifying growth signals, accelerating fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, and promoting recovery. Increases blood flow into skeletal muscles and allegedly promotes creation of ďnewĒ muscle fibers. Increases lean muscle mass. Combining with creatine may be very effective at improving strength and lean body mass.
Vitamins/minerals depleted from alcohol consumption:
Please remember to consult your physician prior to beginning dietary supplementation of any kind.
Thatís it for now. If you have any questions about diet, exercise or beer (as it relates to both), feel free to beermail me anytime at <a hrefmailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com.
A> Iíll address more questions next month in Beer & Health #11. Until then, as always, everything in moderationÖ including moderation.