Chalking Fitness on Supplements

This blog series is written in collaboration with Helth.uk – a new supplement company based in Oxfordshire, UK, that’s seeking to offer clear & clean supplements to athletes across many disciplines. In these blogs I will seek to offer three things:

  1. My personal opinion on the use of supplements to support my training
  2. Some insight into the biochemistry behind certain supplements
  3. My experience of using certain supplements

It certainly does not claim to suggest that taking any supplement “X” will make you a better athlete or turn you into sculpted adonis – I’d caution against any supplement company that does. Equally, if you’re looking for a magic pill that is going to give you all the gains, I’d suggest this isn’t going to be the blog for you. Nothing worth having is typically gained without hard work & dedication. I’m a scientist by education & profession so will seek to provide you with a well-balanced review of the science; with links to open-source research where possible. I also feel strongly about the clear communication of science so I hope these blogs will be easy to read & informative in themselves.

My personal two cents on supplements

I’ve heard the phrase: “You can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet” and I certainly agree with this. I therefore understand the argument that if you’ve not got your diet dialled in why are you even considering taking additional supplements. However, I can also pose the suggestion that regularly taking a supplement or two can demonstrate intent to get the most out of your training or provide a helping hand in ensuring your body has all it needs to repair & strengthen itself.

I’ve dabbled with a handful of supplements over the years of training. I generally try to follow a high-protein diet to ensure my body has enough protein to repair, sustain & hopefully increase muscle mass. For this reason, whey protein has been a pretty constant daily supplement over the last few years.

Recently I’ve returned to taking a daily dose of Creatine monohydrate. This is one of the most supported supplements – increasing intra-cellular water which is deemed to help with muscular power output. I’ll undoutbly blog about this in more detail in the future.

Whilst I’ve also used pre-workouts in the past, I have to admit that here I am probably guilty of being attracted to the shiny packaging and a perception that it will be the difference between a PB-filled session & disappointing workout! I’ve definitely developed more of an interest in exactly what supplements I’m adding to my diet and what effect, if any, it may be having on my body.

Very conveniently, Helth.uk offers clear insight into the biochemical drivers behind its supplements. In August 2019 it launched it’s first supplement, PHLOW ARGININE. A single serving of 500 mg L-Arginine with only additional anti-caking agent in an easy-to-swallow neutral-tasting capsule.

PHLOW ARGININE from Helth.uk

L-Arginine is an amino acid. It is often combined with other supplements such at creatine & beta-alanine in propriety blend pre-workout mixtures. It can also be found nutritionally in red meats, poultry, fish & dairy products. Whilst widely available as a fitness supplement it is also used medicinally to address a range of blood-pressure related conditions. That said, there is very limited robust scientific evidence to support its effectiveness; which is likely one reason it doesn’t get the limelight in same way creatine does in the fitness industry.

The Biochemisty in 100 words… (actually 104!)

The conversion of L-arginine into citrulline by certain enzymes in the body can produce nitric oxide (NO) as a side-product. In the cells that make up the walls of blood vessels the nitric oxide facilitates the expansion of blood vessels (dilation) and regulation of blood pressure. L-arginine can also be converted into a number of other amino acids via ornithine and like many biochemical processes within the body, these processes are reversible which creates an equilibrium in the body. The many factors that influence all these processes, and thus the exact influence of additional L-arginine on cellular production of NO are not fully understood.

The conversion of L-arginine into citrulline & nitric oxide is part of the wider Urea Cycle. Like most biological reactions, they are reversible and influenced by many external factors. [Ref]
Note that citrulline can be deemed a secondary NO promoter as it can be converted to L-arginine by ASS1 & ASL [Ref]

Given that the body’s circulatory system is its built-in transportation system, blood vessel dilation can increase blood supply to the muscles and potentially more effective supply of nutrients & removal of toxins. It is therefore possible that ensuring your body has sufficient L-arginine (via dietary or supplementation means) can support improved muscular stimulation during training but also reduced muscle soreness during recovery – both of which are facilitated by the increased circulatory transport of nutrients & toxins. Please note however, there is evidence for and against the effectiveness of L-arginine supplementation in improving NO production in the body. Here’s a 2018 article from Men’s Health that gives a similar summary of the evidence.

My take on the using the PHLOW ARGININE…

I’ve being taking PHLOW near-daily for the last 6 weeks, irrespective of whether my planned training is bodybuilding or high-intensity Crossfit-style. While not a well-controlled study, as there are many other factors that influence training, I’ve certainly noticed a increased ability to achieve a good “pump” my body-building sessions. Typically targeting sets of 5-15 reps, this immediate response is desirable & leaves me feeling I am getting more out each working set. However, despite this perceived “pump” during my body-building workouts, this is not manifesting itself during my Crossfit training session. Such a pump may be seen as constricting or debilitating when the intent is to often to achieve as many reps as possible (AMRAP) in a specific time or complete a suite of movements in as quick a time as possible. What I have pleasantly found is that my recovery is sufficient to enable me to sustainably combine both body-building & Crossfit training throughout the week; with neither program feeling like it is adversely affecting the other. I couldn’t tell you this is a direct benefit of taking PHLOW ARGININE but I’m definitely going to keep it on my daily supplement list.

With a one-capsule-a-day recommended does PHLOW ARGININE is easy to throw in the bag when heading to the gym or travelling

Disclaimer: Nothing in the blog should be taken as advice regarding nutrition or supplementation. If you desire personalised advice or have a medical condition you should consult a trained medical professional.

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