Certainly diet, training and experience play a part in their ability to recover from dietary excess, but as many other athletes discover, discipline and willpower are not sufficient to account for the dramatic changes seen in the pros.
This month’s Fat Attack addresses 10 of the more common and most effective means of achieving ultra-low body fat content used by the pros and high-caliber amateurs. While these methods are effective, many are illegal and most carry some element of risk. A fair question would be: Why they are used at all? The answer is simple; it’s the same drive that causes shareholders to participate in insider trading, some college students and professors to plagiarize and cheat, and politicians to lie. It’s a desire to be the best, regardless of cost, risk or ethics. Thus, while the techniques may be unique to bodybuilding, or even sports in general, the phenomenon is not.
Do not view the following information as an endorsement of these techniques. Rather, use it to approach the decision to use any of the methods described with greater foresight.
Stimulants are most easily understood as drugs or supplements that increase fat loss by providing a signal to the body that it’s in an excited state and needs to be ready for action. Stimulants act either by stimulating the release of the “fight or flight neurotransmitter,” norepinephrine (NE), prolonging its signal, or directly substituting for NE. There are two classic examples of stimulants used for fat loss by bodybuilders.
1. Clenbuterol. This drug is a direct beta-agonist, meaning it reacts with the exact same receptors NE uses to stimulate fat loss.1,2 Its main benefit over NE is that it’s more specific, attaching only to the beta-2 type receptors. This is important because there are two classes of NE receptors in the fat cell membrane – alpha and beta. The alpha-2 receptors cause the opposite response of the beta receptors in regard to fat loss from the fat cell; alpha-2 stimulation blocks fat release3 while beta stimulation promotes fat release.4 So, clenbuterol is actually a more powerful fat release signal than epinephrine, which stimulates both alpha and beta receptors.
Clenbuterol, which is used outside the U.S. to treat asthma, has been discovered to also be anabolic when used in extremely high doses in animals.5,6 However, the levels needed to achieve this effect would be toxic, likely deadly to humans, so there’s no practical anabolic effect from this drug.2 Clenbuterol is typically dosed in the range of 10 to 40 micrograms (not milligrams) per day, though some users will develop a tolerance to much higher doses.1 The effects of clenbuterol are short lived, as the beta receptors will downregulate, or burn out, within a matter of a few weeks, so many users will either use clenbuterol for only a short period or alternately go on and off the drug every couple of days. Clenbuterol has been associated with serious side effects in bodybuilders.7-9
2. Ephedrine/Caffeine Stacks. These supplements have historically been big sellers, simply because they are effective. Numerous studies have been published demonstrating the combination of ephedrine and caffeine to be effective in accelerating weight loss, often preserving lean mass as opposed to the muscle wasting seen in unassisted fat loss.10,11 An unprecedented amount of controversy has arisen regarding the safety of ephedrine/caffeine supplements due to a number of adverse events reported among users. Ephedrine/caffeine use has been associated with a number of hospitalizations and several deaths.12-14 However, in studies where dosage was controlled and the subjects were monitored, ephedrine/ caffeine has been declared to be safe and free from serious adverse events.10,11,15
The adverse reports led the FDA to ban the sale of synthetic ephedrine/caffeine (over the-counter drugs under the jurisdiction of the FDA), which is unfortunate, as most studies used the more tightly controlled and regulated OTC drugs. However, other studies have shown that some of the herbal supplements are as effective and seemingly as safe as the OTC version.16,17 Bodybuilders use ephedrine/caffeine supplements not only for fat loss, but also because it is a stimulant and can aid in maintaining energy and motivation during training.
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There really is no "magic" split that is far superior to any other. Work hard, give the muscle groups time to recover between sessions, and you'll do well on any split.
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