Muscle power and muscle strength are often used as interchangeable terms. However, power actually refers to the ability to generate force quickly; think of the clean and jerk action, a baseball swing or the explosion of a vertical jump as examples that would measure muscle power output. Muscular strength on the other hand is the generation of muscle force without reference of time or speed – things like one-rep max bench or deadlift are pure strength movements.
For the athlete of course, the ability to maximize muscular force with speed makes for an incredible combination that can ultimately mean the difference between winning and losing, or getting that new PR.
To begin to understand how supplementation can support muscle power output and improve performance it’s important to understand how our skeletal muscles work and some of the important chemical and physical reactions that are involved. Check out this incredibly informative video that explains in detail the numerous steps involved in skeletal muscle contraction and movement. From the neurotransmitter signals, to the calcium release and the energy involved in muscle contraction – everything is covered.
The presence of elevated levels of calcium in the presence of ATP allows for the actin and myosin fibers of the muscle tissue to contract by sliding along one another, shortening the muscle fiber and contracting the muscle group as a whole.
This is a relatively simple summary, but it is effective at highlighting that there are several key physico-chemical steps and opportunities where supplementation can support muscle contractile force and power output:
1) Acetylcholine Availability: This can be ensured with supplementation of acetylcholine precursors like choline bitartrate, L-Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (alpha-GPC) or citicholine.
2) Calcium Release: Critical to muscle contraction, active ingredients like the amino acid Taurine can aid in pumping more calcium into the muscle fibres. Similarly one of the active constituents of the herb Selaginella tamariscina, amentoflavone, can also increase calcium release with muscle tissue.
3) ATP Availability: As the energy currency of our cells, ensuring adequate stores of ATP are available during anaerobic activity is critical to optimal performance. The most well-known supplement contributor to anaerobic ATP availability is creatine. Lesser known perhaps, but discussed in more detail in a recent blog post, trimethylglycine (betaine anhydrous) can support creatine synthesis and has been shown to amplify muscle power output.
The Making of The Ultimate Muscle Horsepower Complex
There has been quite a bit of research of some of these ingredients for not only their ability to impact muscle contraction and power output but physical performance overall:
Taurine: A structural derivative of the amino acid cysteine – Taurine’s presence in the body is higher in muscle cells, heart tissue and the testes. Rodent studies have examined the impact taurine can have on muscle force and endurance and the results were profound. Researchers found rats supplemented with taurine had increased muscle twitch force and enhanced muscular endurance – they were able to hold their muscles contracted for longer with less loss of strength. When investigating how exactly taurine may be benefiting performance, they found that taurine supplementation increased the concentration of Calsequestrin, a protein that is involved in the transport of calcium into cells. As seen in the video above, calcium presence is an important step in muscle contraction.A recent study performed in 2013, researchers explored the benefits of taurine supplementation in relation to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and endurance in people. They explored both taurine supplementation alone as well as in combination with BCAAs and found that the added taurine decreased perceived muscle soreness, reduced blood markers of oxidative stress due to free radical muscle damage as well as reducing muscle damage via anti-inflammatory action. This study confirmed earlier hypotheses about taurine supplementation having significant benefit for individual training.
Amentoflavone: A very interesting polyphenolic compound that has received some interest recently in the supplement space is Amentoflavone. It has quite a bit of vitro research on it that is yet to be confirmed in a controlled human study – however anecdotal reports of its usage have indicated an acute increase in muscle strength as well improved muscle pump or blood flow; both of which are linked to its proposed mechanisms of action. As mentioned above Amentoflavone can increase the release of Calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in muscle tissue, about 20x more so than caffeine – making it capable of enhancing muscle contraction – improving strength and muscle power.Another interesting ability is the inhibition of the enzyme Acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that starts the muscle contraction cascade of events, but slowing its breakdown it allows for prolonged muscle contraction. Amentoflavone also has implications in fat loss, insulin sensitivity as well as vasodilation properties via phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibition (think Viagra). Overall it makes Amentoflavone a great ingredient to utilize pre or intra workout, especially in combination with BCAAs and Trimethylglycine on a caloric deficit diet to enhance fat loss.
Choline Bitartrate: As mentioned enhancing acetylcholine presence in the neuromuscular junction is critical to the muscular contraction trigger event. Choline bitartrate is a B vitamin-like molecule and precursor in the body’s synthesis of acetylcholine. Supplementation with choline may help support this key neurotransmitter’s availability. However, like taurine and amentoflavone its benefits do not end there. Choline can support fat metabolism, liver health, neurological health and mood, as well as improve exercise performance. Research suggests that choline levels can drop during exercise, and supplementing choline prior or during exercise may enhance workout intensity and reduce fatigue.
Combining Taurine, Amentoflavone and Choline Bitartrate together with Trimethylglycine(Betaine anhydrous) would make for a potent combination and a multi-faceted approach to enhancing muscle power; supporting all 3 critical steps in muscle contraction: acetylcholine availability, calcium release and ATP availability. Thus forming the Ultimate Muscle Horsepower Complex – found only in New Amino HP, coming soon!