Should meat eating, muscle building, fitness seeking carnivores consume plant-based supplements like BCAAs, Glutamine and even Creatine?
The short answer is yes.
Setting the whole omnivore vs. carnivore vs. herbivore debate aside, the goal is to get the nutrients we consume to muscle cells and other tissues in a form that can be used the best.
Nutrients that have been proven to enhance performance are called “ergogenic” nutrients. These have research showing they can help the body either build more muscle, stronger muscle, reduce body fat, or help you become faster.
All these outcomes are great, especially if you are already putting in the work. So, why not get more out of it?
Now, lets look at the nutrients we are talking about and the forms they come in. The main ergogenic nutrients for the purpose of this short article are the most proven and researched. They are Creatine, Glutamine, and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Most people in our fitness bodybuilding industry take some combination of these before, during and after the workout.
To simplify, there are two ways to make these compounds. One is to use acids and chemicals created solely in the lab and/or ingredients that are not normally considered food. The breakdown process that follows involves high acidity and strong chemicals for the reactions to take place. BCAAs might use duck feathers or hair while glutamine uses chemicals not derived from plants. The concern with this process is the structure and functioning at the cellular level.
Although not much research has been done with ergogenic nutrients, there has been a lot of research done on synthetic vitamins. It shows the detrimental effects of synthetic compounds used to make nutrients used by the body.
1. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 22,000 pregnant women were given synthetic Vitamin A. The study was halted because birth defects increased by 400%. N. Eng. J. Med. 1995; 333: 1369-1373
2. Another study involving 29,000 male smokers who were given synthetic beta-carotene and synthetic Vitamin E was also stopped when rates of lung cancer, heart attacks, and death increased. N. Eng. J. Med. 1994: 330; 1029-1035
3. “The Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Trial observed a higher death rate in the isolated synthetic beta-carotene group and no treatment effect in the isolated alpha-tocopherol group.” Nutr. Rev. 1994; 52(7): 242-245
4. “The Heart Outcomes Prevention and Evaluation study reported greater all-cause death with isolated Vitamin E.” N. Eng. J. Med. 2,000; 342(3): 154-160
5. A research study conducted in March of 2009 showed that, “Taking synthetic Vitamin C and synthetic Vitamin E actually blocked the beneficial effects of exercise in terms of insulin sensitivity and antioxidant activity.” PNAS, published ahead of print May 11, 2009. “Subjects who received naturally occurring Vitamin C and Vitamin E from consuming fruits and plants did not have this problem.”
On the other hand, ample research shows the benefit from taking nutrient compounds derived from plant-based foods.
1. “Naturally occurring fruit and plant sourced micronutrients increase health and prevent illness.” Boyer, J and Liu, RH. Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:5
2. “Naturally occurring fruit and plant sourced essential micronutrients provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition and reduce the risk of chronic illness.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 78(3): 517S-520
3. “Diets high in naturally occurring essential micronutrients sourced from fruits and plants help prevent heart disease and cancer, and also help protect against a variety of other illnesses including cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and asthma.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2003, 78: 414-421
4. One study done on lifestyle, genetics, and degenerative disease echoed the above (#3) sentiments (Science 2002, 296: 695-698), and so did this research on oxidants, antioxidants, and degenerative diseases of aging (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1993, 90: 7915-7922).
5. “Dietary consumption of naturally occurring vitamins from fruits and vegetables lowers risk of lung cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration.” Free Radic. Biol. Med. 2009, Jan 15; 46(2): 299-304
So, although the jury might be out, the facts and research are swinging toward the same outcome with ergogenic nutrients. Since the potency and dosage is the same with synthetic and animal-based products versus plant-based, why not use the plant-based source?
Plant-based ergogenic nutrients like BCAAs and Glutamine are fermented and don’t use the high caustic acidic process. Even plant-based Creatine only uses nutrients sourced from plants ensuring all the compounds are present in their organic (life promoting) state.
The bottom line is that because of the fermentation versus acidity process and the use of organic life-giving compounds versus synthetic, plant-based ergogenic nutrients are a better bet for your fitness and muscle gains.