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Cell Volume and Muscle Growth

Cell Volume and Muscle Growth

When most gym rats talk about getting bigger they are obviously referring to muscle growth or hypertrophy. Often, however they don’t really have a clue as to what’s happening within their muscles in order to make them bigger and stronger. For all they know little muscle fairies sneak into their rooms at night and when they wake up in the morning, voila, they’re bigger. Without fail, though, this never seems to stop the most ignorant of them from throwing around their lack of information with poorer form than the 20 lb dumbbells they use for “cheat” curls. And although I’m not the most brilliant guy in the world, I consider myself fairly knowledgeable at the iron game. For some reason, though, I seem to be a target for these gym “experts” as they are continually instructing me as to how to train and diet!:

What exactly is muscle growth? Hypertrophy vs Hyperplasia

To begin, I’d like to cover the two main ways for an individual to increase overall muscle size. The first, muscle fiber hypertrophy, refers to the increase in the diameter of the individual muscle cells. The larger the cells, the larger the overall muscle, it’s that simple. Muscle fiber hypertrophy = Big muscle fibers.

The second, muscle fiber hyperplasia, refers to the splitting of muscle fibers in the interest of creating new fibers. Obviously this would be of interest to anyone pursuing size or strength due to the fact that and if an individual has more fibers, their overall size potential is greater. Therefore when looking at hyperplasia, Muscle fiber hyperplasia + Muscle fiber hypertrophy = Many big muscle fibers.

At this point, I know that you’re all supercharged to learn how to both make more fibers and to make them bigger, but I’m going to have to put the breaks on and be the bearer of bad news. The problem with hyperplasia is that no one really knows exactly how to promote it. Once we are born, some experts believe, muscle fiber number remains fixed for our lifetime. Therefore under normal circumstances muscle fiber hyperplasia seems nearly impossible.

interestingly, though, experts have begun to speculate that under abnormal circumstances hyperplasia can contribute to overall muscle growth. For starters, recreational or even moderately intense weight training will probably NOT do it. Unfortunately there has not even been any evidence that very intense weight training will promote hyperplasia. One proposed link to hyperplasia, though is anabolic steroid use. A recent article in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found evidence for muscle fiber hyperplasia in anabolic steroid using powerlifters(1). This however, is pretty much the first evidence of a mechanism for hyperplasia in humans. The bottom line is that unless we are ready to boatload anabolic steroids into our systems, neither you nor I are going to be enjoying the benefits of muscle fiber hyperplasia any time soon. So what about hypertrophy? Well that, my friends, is a reality.

Two types of hypertrophy?

Let’s address the 2 main forms that muscle fiber hypertrophy can take. Muscle fiber hypertrophy can be accomplished by either increasing the volume contained within the muscle cell or by increasing the actual amount of muscle contractile protein making up the muscle cells. To give a simple analogy to help differentiate between the two types of hypertrophy, one can think of the muscle cell as a water-filled balloon. To make the balloon bigger (hypertrophy), one can either add more water to the balloon, thereby stretching it to its maximum capacity (increase cell volume) or one could theoretically add more balloon material to make the overall size of the balloon larger (increase in contractile protein). Although the mechanisms that cause increased cell volume and increased contractile protein content may be different, both are affected by weight training and there seems to be a link between the two that bodybuilders may be able to exploit in order to cause lasting muscle growth

First and foremost, when we talk about hypertrophy, we are most often referring to the second type mentioned above – an increase in contractile protein (adding more material to the balloon). This type of hypertrophy is the most lasting since it constitutes a remodeling of the muscle fibers, making them permanently bigger than before (assuming you continue to train, of course). Muscle increases of this type are not only asthetically pleasing, but also contribute significantly to strength. The more fibers available to contract, the more weight can be lifted!

But what about the other type of hypertrophy? Well let’s put it this way; how many of you wish that your muscles looked as good outside of the gym as they do in the gym after a great skin-stretching “pump”? I know that when I was younger, I wouldn’t even take one step out onto to the beach without doing some pushups first in order to “get a little blood into the muscle”. This phenomenon, the infamous “pump”, is a short-lived example of increased cell volume. Fluid moves into the cell thereby causing it to stretch, take up more space, and make you look pretty darn good. Unfortunately, such increases in cell volume disappear almost as quickly as they came. The good news is that there are other ways to increase cell volume for longer periods of time.

The increases in cell volume and their contribution to muscle growth that I wish to address are brought about by naturally by increases in cellular water; increases in the cellular storage of substrates such as carbohydrates, lipids, or amino acids; and increases in the cellular movement of ions like sodium and potassium. Research has shown that supplements like creatine, glutamine, and ribose can also lead to increases in cell volume by both increasing their own content within the cell but also by attracting water into the cell, causing cell swelling.

What’s the big deal with increased cell volume or cell swelling?

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you know that I’m big on citing research, for without quality research, our attempts at finding out the truth about how our universe operates are merely stabs in the dark. (Kind of like Biff’s attempt at rational thought.) This research focus applied to the cell volume question has produced quite a bit of very interesting research that has and is bound to continue to dramatically impact the fitness and sports nutrition industry. Initially cell volume studies focused on the cells of the liver since the liver is the most important organ for whole body metabolic regulation.

What these studies found was that independent of hormone influence or substrate influence, decreased cell volume (cell shrinking) lead to cellular catabolism or protein breakdown, while increased cell volume (cell swelling) led to anabolism or protein synthesis. In this regard, the original authors of such papers concluded that cell swelling or shrinking acted as a “second messenger to tell the cell what to do about protein synthesis. Basically, the hormones tell the cell to swell or shrink and it is this swelling or shrinking, not the hormone’s action, that leads to changes in protein metabolism.

These findings were particularly exciting for muscle physiologists because this link could be explored in many clinical populations such as burn victims who are extremely catabolic and the elderly who tend to lose large amounts of muscle mass. Although the muscle research has mostly focused on catabolism rather than anabolism, a few important “take home” findings are evident. First is that decreased body water and intracellular nutrients can lead to cell shrinking and as we now know, increased muscle protein breakdown (7). Therefore by maintaining normal hydration and maximal substrate storage with ample fluid consumption and nutrient intake, an individual can easily prevent a great deal of protein breakdown. Also, although experimentally unproven, increased cell volume above normal hydration may lead to increases in muscle protein content. This is where supplements, especially those consumed immediately after bouts of intense exercise, come into play.

By John M Berardi

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Grapefruit Juice make your oral steroids more potent

Grapefruit Juice make your oral steroids more potent

A glass of grapefruit juice not only helps the oral steroids go down, it also makes it more potent. Now, a study in the current Journal of Clinical Investigation has revealed why: A substance in the juice fights a drug-degrading enzyme in the intestine. The insight could be a first step toward increasing the effectiveness of some oral drugs.

About 3 years ago, researchers noted that grapefruit juice helps the body absorb many types of drugs, including sedatives, hormones, and protease inhibitors. A group of doctors from the University of Michigan and the London Health Sciences Centre, in London, Ontario, set out to investigate. They focused on an enzyme in the liver and intestine, called CYP3A4, that usually breaks down toxins from spoiled food. “It’s [also] the most prolific of the drug-degrading enzymes,” says Paul Watkins, a member of the Michigan team. In fact, it contributes to the breakdown of about half of all known human drugs.

Watkins and his colleagues gave felodipine, a calcium channel blocker used to control high blood pressure, to 10 healthy men, both with and without grapefruit juice. The grapefruit juice increased blood concentrations of felodipine more than fourfold. The team also measured the concentrations of CYP3A4 levels in the intestine and found that they fell by 62%. Something in grapefruit juice appears to be blocking the action of CYP3A4. But the concentration of CYP3A4 in the liver was unchanged–suggesting that the juice does not affect the rate at which the drug is metabolized once it enters the bloodstream.

If the active ingredient of grapefruit juice can be identified and isolated, drugs might be made more effective–and less expensive per useful dose. Adding grapefruit’s CYP3A4 blocker to a pill could also assure a set dosage, an advantage, because people naturally vary 10-fold in how much of a drug they absorb. “It will make a lot of difference in the way people take drugs,” predicts Raymond Woosley, a pharmacologist at Georgetown University Medical Center

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Bodybuilding Peptides: How they work and why would an athlete use them

Bodybuilding Peptides: How they work and why would an athlete use them


So what are bodybuilding peptides?

Bodybuilding Peptides are a small chain of amino acids that isn’t quite long enough to be considered a full protein (less than 50 units).

They are, in essence, the building blocks that create protein.

In a supplement form peptides come in different chemical compounds. A few of these used within the  sporting community are known as GHRP-2, GHRP-6 and CJC-1295.

IGF, MGF and SARMs are identified as commonly used peptides used in the bodybuilding community.


 Why do athletes consider using peptides?

Peptides are used for their anabolic effect on an athlete’s muscle mass. (GHRP means growth hormone releasing hexapeptide, a type of growth hormone releasing hormone).


Bodybuilding peptides can be useful in a couple of ways.

Obviously an athlete will need to heal quickly and be productive soon after an injury. Peptides will help the muscle or soft tissue in this rebuilding healing process.

Supplements that provide an anabolic effect could also be used during pre-season and other periods where building muscle mass is important.

Muscle mass can be built quickly because the athlete can make small tears in a muscle and have it heal on a rapid schedule to continuously repeat the process – the end effect being increased muscle mass and reduced body fat in a shorter timeframe.

The bodybuilding community use peptides that are most effective in this second way as newer peptides don’t come with the side-effects of anabolic steroids.

Some peptides can induce fat loss when used correctly. Weight loss, more importantly, body fat in another key reason for using peptides. Greater weight loss at a faster pace than normally would be seen by exercise alone has been shown by many studies.

It is the links to bodybuilding and gym communities that help pro-athletes find new substances such as peptides to improve performance.

For some time now, the bodybuilding community has been aware of these supplements and the inability for testing to detect them in most cases.

This is especially the case if urine testing is the main form of detection.

Many peptides aren’t yet cleared for human use.

In fact, quickly perusing the peptide Wikipedia page , reveals they are mostly discussed in a scientific manner, not with reference to sports.

However, peptides are readily available on the sporting supplement market and aren’t very expensive.
Now we know what peptides are and what they can be used for.

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