Viagra and Bodybuilding

Getting A Different Kind of Pump With Viagra by Brian Haycock

Until now, getting an outrageous pump was hit or miss, seemingly impossible to predict. There may now be a simple way to enhance your pump when it counts the most…right before stepping out on stage. Before jumping into “what” and “when to take it”, a brief discussion of the mechanism behind muscle pump is in order.

Blood flow to muscle is dramatically increased during high intensity exercise. The increase in blood flow serves to enhance the delivery of oxygen to active muscle cells and to increase the removal of lactate. This phenomenon is all too familiar to bodybuilders. We call it a pump and it is a strong short-term motivator in the gym. You may recall how Arnold described this feeling in the documentary film Pumping Iron. Evidently, Arnold was very near a sexual climax at the very thought of picking up a weight. Talk about dedication! I can’t say that my pumps in the gym have given me the same “climactic” experience as Arnold, but then again, I’m no Arnold.

Nitric Oxide and vascular control – Changes in blood flow to working muscles have been attributed to several chemicals including adenosine, potassium, lactate, and carbon dioxide (Shepherd, 1983). Recently, nitric oxide (NO) has taken center stage as an important chemical responsible for control of blood flow to tissues. Of most importance to this article is the role of NO in modulating blood flow to working muscles. The mechanism by which NO modulates vascular control is by way of the second messenger, cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). In working muscles, nitric oxide (NO) activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cGMP, producing smooth muscle relaxation of blood vessel walls. This causes vasodilation. Increasing blood flow to working muscles in this way is necessary to counteract the effects of catecholamines (i.e. adrenaline, noradrenaline). This is the same type of mechanism as cAMP formation following beta-receptor activation.

What could Viagra possibly have to do with bodybuilding? You may be wondering what Viagra has to do with pumping up…your muscles. This is a reasonable question and I’m sure a hard sell for some of you. Let me ask you this, have you ever had an incredible pump in the gym and wished you could get that same once in a lifetime pump when you were about to go out on stage?

Unfortunately, just about everything you do to get ready for a show sets you up to look flat on stage. Viagra, through its effects on vasodilation, may mean the difference between looking flat and emaciated, or getting a freakish pump minutes before you step onstage in front of the judges.

Viagra (sildenafil citrate): a refresher course – Before I go any further I must dispel any misconceptions about what exactly sildenafil does. I’m sure most of you have already imagined some guy standing up on stage with a look of panic on his face as he inadvertently “salutes” the crowd. Rest assured, this won’t happen. Sildenafil, at recommended doses, has no effect on erectile tissue in the absence of sexual stimulation. If you don’t normally find yourself sporting a woody as you step out on stage, you have nothing to worry about. Besides, you can always experiment before hand so you know what to expect (e.g. blood pressure changes). Now, back to the science of this little blue pill. VIAGRA is the citrate salt of sildenafil, a selective inhibitor of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-specific phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE5). A phosphodiesterase is a phosphatase (as from snake venom) that acts on diesters (like some nucleotides) to hydrolyze only one of the two ester groups. In target cells, phosphodiesterase acts to hydrolyze cGMP and cAMP into inactive fragments, thus shutting down the second messenger cascade. A phosphodiesterase-inhibitor is a molecule that inhibits the action of phosphodiesterase. This allows cGMP (or cAMP depending on the type of phosphodiesterase) to remain in active form and thus extends or prolongs the activity of the cascade. This is part of the rationale for using caffeine, a well-known phosphodiesterase-inhibitor, with ephedrine. In working muscles, nitric oxide (NO) activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cGMP, producing smooth muscle relaxation of blood vessel walls. This causes vasodilation. Sildenafil has no direct relaxant effect on smooth muscle alone, but enhances the effect of nitric oxide by inhibiting phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), which is responsible for degradation of cGMP. For example, when hypoxia and/or lactate formation causes local release of NO, inhibition of PDE5 by sildenafil causes increased levels of cGMP in the blood vessels, resulting in vasodilation. Once again, sildenafil at recommended doses has no effect on penile tissue in the absence of sexual stimulation. Keep in mind that sildenafil does not change the way lifting weights causes muscle pump either, it only enhances it.

A pump when you need it – There are several reasons why the pump you get back stage is far from dramatic. Getting a good pump depends in large part on lactate (A.K.A. lactic acid) formation by the working muscles (Chen,1996). As your muscles are forced to work anaerobicly, lactic acid is formed triggering a series of signals that dilate blood vessels leading to the muscle. A muscle adapted to caloric restriction shifts its preferred fuel from carbs to fatty acids and ketones, neither of which generates lactate when used for fuel. So while training on a low calorie and especially a low carb diet, lactate induced muscle blood flow is reduced compared to normal well-fed conditions. On the day of the show you want to look lean but with full muscle bellies. The only way to do this is to be in a state of good hydration, loaded with glycogen, have restored muscle triglyceride levels, and have a decent pump when you step on stage for the morning prejudging. Hydration, glycogen and muscle triglycerides will have to wait for another time, but getting a pump just got a little easier. Because NO triggers vasodilation in skeletal muscle vasculature, Viagra will increase the ability to get and maintain muscle pump by inhibiting PDE-5 production.

One final suggestion – Now I know some of you will try this and say, “Ya, that worked pretty well, but how can I make it work better?” To do this right you should drink (on an empty stomach) between 6-8 oz electrolyte replacement drink with 2-3 grams L-arginine about 15 minutes before you pump up. The sodium in the drink will allow the fluid to remain in the blood stream longer. The sugar will increase insulin, which also enhances vasodilation to skeletal muscle. Finally, L-arginine is a precursor to NO and has been shown to increase NO mediated vasodilation. I’ll tell you again that you should try this before hand so that you know what to expect.

:: Men’s Health ::

References:

1. Aghdasi B, Reid MB, and Hamilton SL. (1997) Nitric oxide protects the skeletal muscle Ca2+ release channel from oxidation induced activation. J Biol Chem 272:25462-25467
2. Balon TW, Nadler JL. (1997)Evidence that nitric oxide increases glucose transport in skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 1997 Jan;82(1):359-63.
3. Brown GC (1995)Nitric oxide regulates mitochondrial respiration and cell functions by inhibiting cytochrome oxidase. FEBS Lett Aug 7;369(2-3):136-9
4.Catterall WA. (1991) Excitation-contraction coupling in vertebrate skeletal muscle: a tale of two calcium channels. Cell Mar 8;64(5):871-4
5. Chen YL, Wolin MS, Messina EJ. (1996) Evidence for cGMP mediation of skeletal muscle arteriolar dilation to lactate. J Appl Physiol Jul;81(1):349-54
6.Etgen GJ Jr, Fryburg DA, Gibbs EM. (1997) Nitric oxide stimulates skeletal muscle glucose transport through a calcium/contraction- and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase-independent pathway. Diabetes Nov;46(11):1915-9
7. Goodyear LJ, Kahn BB (1998) Exercise, glucose transport, and insulin sensitivity. Annu Rev Med ;49:235-61 Haycock B. Pharmacological approaches to fat loss. Mesomorphosis (July 1998, Vol. 1, No. 2) http://www.mesomorphosis.com/exclusive/haycock/ephedrine.htm
8. Janabi N, Chabrier S, Tardieu M.(1996) Endogenous nitric oxide activates prostaglandin F2 alpha production in human microglial cells but not in astrocytes: a study of interactions between eicosanoids, nitric oxide, and superoxide anion (O2-) regulatory pathways. J Immunol Sep 1;157(5):2129-35
9.McAllister RM, Hirai T, Musch TI. (1995) Contribution of endothelium-derived nitric oxide (EDNO) to the skeletal muscle blood flow response to exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug;27(8):1145-51
10. Shepherd, JT (1983) Circulation to skeletal muscle. In: Handbook of physiology, Section 2: The cardiovascular system, Volume III: Peripheral circulation and organ blood flow, JT Shepherd and FM Abboud (Eds.). Bethesda, MD: American Physiological Society, pp. 319-370.
11.Wilson, JR and Kapoor S. (1993) Contribution of endothelium-derived relaxing factor to exercise-induced vasodilation in humans. J. Appl. Physiol. 75:2740-2744.
12. Young ME, Leighton B.(1998) Evidence for altered sensitivity of the nitric oxide/cGMP signalling cascade in insulin-resistant skeletal muscle. Biochem J. Jan 1;329 ( Pt 1):73-9

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