Factor No.3- Increased Concentration of Free Creatine
During a muscle contraction, cross-bridges from actin-myosin (the contractile proteins in the muscle) are formed, generating power stroke and releasing one adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. Its re-synthesis occurs at the expense of the creatine phosphate (CrP) reserves with the formation of “free” creatine (Cr) and phosphate. The accumulation of “free” creatine intensifies the process of glycolysis. The process of anaerobic glycolysis and the resulting release of hydrogen ions (H+) is extremely important for our project – to build muscle mass. The formation of “free” creatine is a prerequisite for the formation of lactic acid (La) and the subsequent release of hydrogen ions (H+). In the following paragraphs, we will see why this is so important.
Factor No.4- Increased Concentration of “Free” Ions (H+)
I have come to the most important factor in this hypothesis which is directly related to the type of activity in bodybuilding. Here I will also explain why training that is only intended to increase maximum strength by means of 1 – 3 repetitions per set (weightlifting, powerlifting) leads to smaller muscle mass gains and aerobic training leads to no muscle mass gains whatsoever.
Have any of you heard of hydrogen ions (H+) and their fundamental contribution to muscle mass gain? You haven’t? No one in the USA or Europe has explained the nature and specifics of the connection between training to failure in the range of 6 – 15 repetitions per set and muscle mass growth these past 50 – 60 years. And this is 2015? What happens in our body during that kind of workout from a biochemical point of view? Now you are going to find out.
There are two types of glycolysis (broadly speaking: supply of energy during exertion): aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis.
Aerobic glycolysis is closely connected with the Krebs cycle, which in turn is connected with the respiratory chain, i.e. the supply of oxygen during muscle work. The Krebs cycle consists of 8 consecutive biochemical reactions which I will not explain in detail. It supplies energy, produced on the basis of all macronutrients from food (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) during low to moderate-intensity aerobic activity lasting longer than 4 minutes.
Aerobic glycolysis is a process that consists of 10 consecutive reactions which I will not explain in detail either.
The lines below are the only ones that matter:
glycolysis: glucose> pyruvate 10 reactions
complete aerobic breakdown of glycolysis:
glucose> pyruvate> acetyl-CoA> CO2 and H20
glycolysis> oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate – Krebs cycle
A certain amount of “free” creatine is also formed during aerobic glycolysis. Its accumulation intensifies the aerobic glycolysis process, i.e. the glycogen (glucose) breaks down to pyruvate with the subsequent formation of ATP, CO2, and H2O. All of that happens in red (slow-twitch or aerobic) muscle fibers. What waste product is missing here? Lactic acid and hydrogen ions (H+). The insufficient concentration of lactic acid and the subsequent dissociation of hydrogen ions (H+) is exactly what can explain the lack of strength and muscle mass hypertrophy after low-intensity exercises, such as an easy run, even if we have sufficient amounts of factors 1, 2, 3. We’ll put this information in our “back pocket” and see how important it is later on.
Anaerobic glycolysis – this is a process that consists of 11 consecutive biochemical reactions which I will not describe in detail.
We are only interested in the line below:
glucose> pyruvate> lactate (La – lactic acid – dissociation of hydrogen ions (H+) – 11 reactions
The eleventh reaction, namely, the production of lactic acid and the subsequent production of hydrogen ions (H+), is what we are interested in. Hydrogen ions accumulate inside muscle fibers, triggering a chain of biochemical reactions:
The increased concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) leads to an increase in the permeability of cell membranes, which allows creatine and hormones to gain access to the DNA molecules. In response to the increased concentration of Cr and H+, RNA is intensely synthesized.
RNA – ribonucleic acids are the molecular vehicles that transfer and implement genetic information. Where do they transfer it? From the chromosomes in the nucleus where it is stored to the cytoplasm of the muscle cell. And how is it used there? Based on the information received, the synthesis of protein molecules occurs in the cytoplasm. We differentiate between three types of RNA: messenger (mRNA), ribosomal (rRNA) and transfer (tRNA) RNA.
The production of lactic acid and the subsequent dissociation of hydrogen ions (H+) is characterized by the intense synthesis of mRNA and rRNA – this way we send information for the intense synthesis of protein molecules (muscle mass). This occurs on the basis of exertion close to the maximal effort (70-85% of your maximum capacity – during that kind of activity lactic acid is not produced in extremely high amounts) and to failure, with the greatest amount of lactic acid being produced during the last repetitions. There is intense synthesis and increased levels of mRNA and rRNA ribosomes during the workout. They have a half-life of a couple of days (from 2 to 6 days) depending on the intensity of the workout and the muscle mass amount (see factor No. 7).
Ribosomes (rRNA) are the cell organelles (or molecular organisms) performing the synthesis of proteins (the building of muscle mass). Muscle tissue is always built via ribosomes, never without them. To that end, mRNA attaches to the ribosomes, bringing the necessary information for the synthesis of proteins from the cell nucleus.
In fact, if you have not worked out in a month, during your first high-intensity workout for a particular muscle group you will have an increased number of ribosomes and mRNA, which, however, will not lead to muscle mass growth (see factor No. 7).
If you do your second workout at an exactly specified interval of time (from 2 to 6 days), depending on how advanced you are, only then will you achieve muscle mass gains.
What can we conclude from all of this complicated information that perhaps some of you did not understand?
We can define the following simple formula:
Lactic acid (La)> hydrogen ions (H+)> increased cell membrane permeability, access of “free” creatine and hormones to the DNA and RNA molecules> increased synthesis of mRNA and ribosomes> muscle mass growth
In other words, lactic acid is extremely important for muscle mass growth, because it dissociates hydrogen ions (H+) which “pulls the trigger” of this process.
Naturally, every bright light casts a dark shadow.
What else do we know about lactic acid?
Lactic acid is quite strong and in the physiological pH range dissociates hydrogen cations (H+). The increased concentration of H+ is the reason for the decrease in pH (acidification of the blood).
In muscle cells, the decrease of pH suppresses the activity of the enzyme phosphofructokinase and the rate of glycolysis goes down, which has a negative impact on muscle contractions. H+ can displace Ca2++ (calcium ions: muscle contractions always occur with the participation of calcium and magnesium ions – never without them) from their binding sites on troponin, exerting a negative impact on muscle contractions. What is more, the decrease of pH can activate some pain receptors (that is what the stinging pain during the performance of a set of 15 – 20 repetitions to failure comes from).
In brain cells, the increased concentration of hydrogen cations can unleash a chain of side effects, accompanied by pain, nausea, and disorientation. Most of you have experienced these symptoms at the end of a high-intensity workout. H+ can suppress the binding of O2 (oxygen) to hemoglobin. The high level of H+ also suppresses lipase activity in the adipose tissue. That slows down the release of fatty acids into the blood and their use as an energy source for the working muscles.
All of these effects get stronger with more lactic acid (La) being produced during exertion. As you can see, large amounts of lactic acid actually interfere with and obstruct muscle contractions, makes recovery more difficult, and has a number of negative effects. When is the amount of lactic acid too high? When you do sets of more than 15 – 20 repetitions to failure. Another adaptation mechanism can be triggered here – replenishment and over-replenishment of glycogen (carbohydrates), i.e. a higher starting level in subsequent workouts than the previous one (but only if the athlete follows the right low carbohydrate diet), which is an important advantage for rowers and much less important for us, bodybuilders (but we can note that nonetheless). Muscle strength and mass gains are considerably lower in this kind of workouts.
OK. It has become clear that lactic acid is one of the most important factors when building muscle mass and at the same time an impediment for us if produced in larger amounts. So where do we go from here? We must produce exactly as much lactic acid as we need, neither more nor less. We will achieve this by doing sets to failure on most movements in the range of 5 – 15 repetitions (excluding warm-up sets of 12 – 20 repetitions where the intensity is considerably lower, which means that lactic acid is produced in much lower amounts – more substantial amounts of lactic acid are only produced in sets done to failure, especially in the last couple of repetitions. Besides, this method (5 – 8 repetitions to failure) has an optimum impact on maximizing muscle strength gains – one of the main factors in our project that I will discuss in a short while.) This way we will have enough hydrogen ions (H+) to “pull the trigger” of muscle mass growth, without producing too many of them, and we can also achieve optimum muscle strength gains, which is crucial when building muscle mass. This type of workout, even for a short period of time, will burn a large amount of glycogen (carbohydrates) with the subsequent production of lactic acid above average amounts – up to 80% of its maximum level, but not reaching an extremely high level.
That’s all very well, but a large amount of lactic acid, after releasing its hydrogen cations (H+), will only interfere with our recovery, i.e. we do not need it. How can we “help” our body to eliminate it? And since I have thought of everything in this hypothesis, we will discuss this point as well, namely, how we can improve our recovery. When we are finished with our strength workout, we have to eliminate the lactic acid we no longer need as quickly as possible. In our anaerobic workout we also produce carbonic acid, while in aerobic workouts, in the process of fatty acid (fat) oxidation for energy, we produce beta-hydroxybutyric acid and acetoacetic acid. What can we do to get rid of these acids more quickly and effectively? First of all, we can finish our strength workout with 10 – 15 minutes low-intensity aerobic workout or take a 15 – 20 minutes walk. Active rest after a strength workout and increased oxygen (O2) supply significantly increase the elimination of waste products in our metabolism. What are the factors that maintain the normal pH value of the blood, i.e. help us eliminate lactic acid (and other types of acid) fast:
Buffer systems in the blood:
Bicarbonate buffer – related to the higher supply of oxygen (O2) and elimination of waste products, acids and carbon dioxide (CO2). The organs that control it are the lungs and kidneys, i.e. breathing is intensified during and after a workout (up to 1 – 2 hours after the end of the workout). The time needed to eliminate lactic acid after a regular strength workout is up to about 2 hours. As mentioned, a brief low-intensity aerobic workout will help us achieve this goal. We could also take small amounts (0.5 – 1 gram) of sodium bicarbonate immediately after a workout.
There are also the phosphate buffer and the hemoglobin buffer, which I will not discuss in detail.
Protein – that’s right, protein, regardless of what form it comes in (food or protein powders), participates in the regulation of the acid-alkaline balance in tissue fluids, acting as an important buffer if uncompensated acidosis occurs. This is a new area of application of protein concentrates after a workout.
That’s it, we are done with factor No. 4 – an extremely important factor.
How can we summarize the information so far?
Until now, we knew that lactic acid was harmful, that it interfered with our recovery, provoked fatigue in the working muscles, etc. But not really. This text reveals its extraordinary contribution to the process of building muscle mass. But what are we still missing? Muscle strength. No matter how much lactic acid we produce by for example doing sets to failure in the range of 50 – 100 repetitions, we would not achieve any muscle mass gains to speak of, unless we achieve a pronounced increase in muscle strength – later on, we will also find out why. Let’s move on to factor No. 5.
Article based on the revolutionary Fitness Encyclopedia of Kaloyan Gurbalov “PROJECT MUSCLE MASS”.
To the next factor