For those of you who don’t know him, he’s a physicist-turned-nutrition expert responsible for the hugely controversial (yet highly effective) diet protocols Carb Nite and Carb Backloading.
If you’ve never heard of these plans, and you’re interested in improving your body composition and health in any way, I strongly suggest you click on both of those links you just passed up.
I’ve been following both plans on and off for the past few years … for better and for worse (but that’s for another blog post… or two, or three).
He recently released a new product as an adjunct to his plans, and being a member of his super exclusive, extra top secret VIP inner circle, I’m happy to say a few bottles are en route to my doorstep as we speak.
The new supplement is called Carb Shock, and it’s intended to give you a huge insulin spike without having to resort to carbs. If you buy the insulin hypothesis, a big spike is highly beneficial at times, especially after a workout. Keeping insulin as low as possible the rest of the time would be optimal.
Scanning the ingredient panel, I would’ve never guessed that some of the ingredients would send your insulin higher than Amanda Bynes on a bender. Licorice root? Simple protein enzymes? I’ll be damned…
And that got me to thinking: are there any other ingredients not included in here that could amplify this effect? I think I may have found one, and I didn’t have to look very far at all.
“Everybody's favorite neuromodulator. In human speak, it prevents your body from breaking down nitric oxide by inhibiting nitric oxide synthase. Instead of boosting plasma arginine levels to boost your nitric oxide levels like you would with arginine or citrulline, agmatine improves blood flow by reducing the rate at which nitric oxide is broken down in the body. There is also evidence that agmatine can be used as a nutrient partitioner, allowing your body to better utilize nutrients (I.E.: using protein and carbohydrate intake for muscle growth instead of fat storage)”
Well, let’s look at the “evidence.”
WARNING: it’s about to get science-y
Our good buddies over at Examine.com note that in a rat study (caution: context), agmatine has shown the ability to activate the imidazoline receptors in the adrenal glands. This would then reduce blood sugar by stimulating insulin secretion from the beta cells of the pancreas, which is one of the main functions of these receptors.
So the theory goes: agmatine ingestion --> stimulation of receptors --> insulin output --> blood glucose reduction.
Still with me? Good, because it doesn’t stop there.
The stimulation of imidazoline receptors and the resulting drop in blood glucose influences a rise in beta-endorphin release from the adrenal gland. A mouse study (caution: context) displayed beta-endorphin’s ability to increase glucose uptake into skeletal muscle, whether it has been exercised or not. It appears that a lot more agmatine has to be used to induce the same effect in resting muscles, however.
But now we theoretically have two factors working in our favor here: enhanced insulin output due to imidazoline receptor stimulation, and enhanced glucose uptake thanks to a rise in beta-endorphins. And there’s more.
That first rat study I mentioned (caution: context) has speculated that agmatine could possibly upregulate GLUT4 in muscle tissue, which would lead to the enhanced glucose disposal in muscle cells.
If you follow any of Kiefer’s work, you know how often he mentions the importance of these GLUT4 molecules. They normally sit dormant inside the cell membrane, until insulin happens to hit a cell containing GLUT4. These molecules then “translocate,” move to the cell surface, and pull in sugar molecules from the bloodstream to be used as energy or stored for later use.
This would all sound fantastic, until you realize fat tissue also contains GLUT4 molecules. So wouldn’t that mean that upregulating these molecules would promote fat storage?
Not so fast, says the research.
Another rat study (caution: context) indicated that beta-endorphin release did not influence “glucose uptake or glucose incorporation into lipids.”.
If all of these initial findings turn out to be true, and carry over in vivo, then agmatine truly presents us with a postworkout trifecta:
1) Enhance insulin secretion via stimulation of imidazoline receptors
2) Enhanced beta-endorphin release, leading to greater glucose uptake within skeletal muscle but that DOES NOT appear to influence uptake in fat tissue
3) Upregulation of GLUT4 molecules in muscle tissue, allowing for even greater glucose clearance in skeletal muscle tissue
I’m going to keep driving this home: context is everything. Keep in mind all of these studies were done in rats or mice, and most of them were diabetic.
But should the findings carry over, agmatine would appear to be a magic bullet for postworkout nutrition when following a plan like Carb Backloading or Carb Nite. Not only would it allow for a bigger insulin release, it would theoretically allow you to eat more carbs in the postworkout window and have them preferentially shuttled towards skeletal muscle instead of fat.
This wouldn’t give you the green light to binge on donuts and ice cream after a workout (trust me, I’ve tried), but combining these potential nutrient partitioning effects with a diet plan that is all about that paradigm in the first place could lead to some shockingly fast improvements in body composition.
Anecdotally, I toyed with agmatine postworkout for about a month or so earlier this year. It’s an ingredient included in RCSS Testogen XR, and I would take that right before my carb-heavy postworkout meal. While I didn’t take any hard and fast numbers or measurements, I was able to eat more carbs without gaining body fat. I actually felt like I lost some fat and size around my waist. A little credence for the recomping effects.
Some more anecdotes: some of my buddies over at SupplementReviews.com use it at night to help modulate growth hormone production during sleep. How does that work? You have to understand that insulin and GH cannot be present in the system at the same time.
A drop in blood glucose would lead to a drop in insulin, albeit after that initial spike you would get from stimulating those imidazoline receptors. Falling asleep in that state would allow the overnight rise in GH to occur, unabated by insulin. This would theoretically lead to better recovery and fat loss, and a few reviews by some of the guys who used agmatine in this fashion have hinted at that.
Have I stumbled across the holy grail in postworkout nutrition? Maybe… but I’m not going to muddy the waters just yet. I’m going to give Carb Shock it’s fair due as a standalone first and mark my progress. Down the line, I’ll definitely look to add agmatine to the mix and compare my numbers.
Have I convinced you to give this a shot? Let me know how your experiment goes in the comment section below!
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