There are a number of nutritional supplements on the market that are said to help with anything from weight loss, to assisting with increasing ones’ lean mass and level of strength.(2) Here we will go over two good workout supplements that may assist in increasing ones’ strength and lean mass. The main factor in increasing your lean mass has to do with one’s level of the male hormone testosterone, but there are other factors that can assist indirectly as well. One of these has to do with the rate of break down and re building of lean mass after a workout. Although this may not directly assist in an increase in lean mass, it is still an important factor in training, and will be looked at here through the supplements mentioned
The anabolic and catabolic reactions of lean muscle mass due to a workout have to do with the build up and break down of muscle respectively. There are a number of different proteins that assist in this process. These proteins are made from what is known as amino acids. The amino acids make an in-complete protein into a complete protein which can then assist in the rebuilding process of the muscle after the stress of a workout. One of these amino acids is called leucine, which has been shown to play an important role in the process. Numerous studies have been conducted showing that the substance HMB which is short for hydroxy methyl butyrate to assist in this process. The substance of HMB is a metabolite of the amino acid leucine. Using this as a supplement will assist in the rate and level of recovery seen when compared to using no supplements at all, but are there other supplements which may assist through making the actions of HMB better or more effective ?
There is also another natural substance that when used either alone, or combined with the use of HMB has shown possible promising effects concerning the breakdown and rebuilding of lean muscle mass (9). The name of this substance is called ursolic acid, which is found in the peel of apples and other natural substances. It is a liphopotic compound, and has been shown to decrease markers associated with aging which cause muscle atrophy (8). There are numerous studies that have been done concerning the effectiveness of ursolic acid in increase the individuals lean mass and strength when compared to no supplements being used. The majority of studies found showed no significant difference in lean mass or strength gained during a long period of training (1,3,10), but there are others which have shown it as being somewhat effective. This being the case, more studies need to be done in order to validate the true effects of ursolic acid on strength and size.
The main factor that was seen for individuals supplementing with ursolic acid was a decrease in the amount of markers indicating protein breakdown due to training, along with an increase in the rate of recovery seen (3), and even a decrease in body fat percentage in some cases (3, 4,10). This may point to this being good to be used as a therapy for anyone that may be over training, or needs a fast recovery time. Part of this could also have to do with the effects of ursolic acid on energy used (6,8). Being able to perform an identical task but requiring less energy to do so indicates an increase in performance. This may indirectly allow one to increase their level of strength at a possible faster rate than those that do not use the supplement, although more research should be done This may point to the combination of HMB and ursolic acid being effective for anyone that is overly active and needs a faster recovery time (9). This could be anyone from the individual that may go to the gym a little too often, to the athletic population which is required to workout both in the gym and on the field. There have even been some findings that ursolic acid may assist in some muscular conditions, or natural decrease in lean mass due to aging.
Effects on muscular conditions and aging
The effects of ursolic acid have not only been looked at concerning the breakdown of muscle due to activity, but also due to the general aging process. This is what is known as sarcopenia. In many cases, the use of ursolic acid has shown to be effective in blocking the loss of muscle mass and degradation, while even stimulating protein synthesis or the building of proteins. Being able to use a supplement that can decrease the amount of muscle wasting seen could be of good use for any muscle wasting condition such as, sarcopenia (11). Or other type of medical conditions as well (5)
There are also genes associated with both atrophy or decrease in muscle size, and hypertrophy or increase in lean mass. In some cases, an increase in the hypertrophy gene was seen, along with a decrease in the gene associated with atrophy, indicating a possible positive effect of ursolic acid (7). Other factors that the use of ursolic acid has been shown to effect have to do with the type of muscle effected. In studies found, it was shown to have more of an effect on the oxidative type of muscle (6). This would be either type 1 which is solely for endurance purposes, or type 2 A which is an intermediate type of muscle that can be used for either slower endurance type or moderate rate activities.
In conclusion, although there are numerous other studies conducted concerning the use of ursolic acid on strength and size, results suggest ursolic acid as being used more for therapeutic purposes concerning one’s activity level. This works through the decrease in the amount of muscle breakdown due to training. Also, although in many cases, it was shown to have only small effects when used alone, it may be more effective when combined with the supplement HMB to assist in recovery. Overall, it may be a good additive to HMB if you’re using it post workout, but not as effective when used alone. From the information found, although ursolic acid may be of some assistance for an experienced individual concerning workouts (1,3,10), but it may be more effective when used more for medical purposes (4,5,7,8.) Using this supplement for post workout purposes may be somewhat effective, but may serve a better purpose when an individual has to be inactive for a longer period of time, or has any type of neuromuscular medical condition.