Posted 16 February 2013 by Brad Borland

A Simple Guide To What Is

In Your Supplements


Your simple guide to what is in your supplements
and other odd sounding compounds

Microfiltered, isolates, extracts, ethyl esters, concentrates, acetyl-L, sulfates, what on earth do all of these terms mean? Is monohydrate a good thing? Do I really need to include guggulsterones to my supplement plan? Will I actually burn fat with forskolin? You may have heard of some of these words attached to your favorite supplements such as creatine ethyl ester, microfiltered whey isolate, and acetyl-L-carnitine.

But, what do these added compounds signify regarding the efficacy of these supplements? supp_guide_q1.pngHow do they improve absorption, metabolism, and integrity so that you can build a leaner, more muscular physique in the quickest time possible? More importantly, what the heck are they?

Supplement science has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last decade from the improvements of creatine to the new forms of protein. With all of these new developments one can now devise a precise supplement plan based on absorption, timing and bioavailability.
Below is a short list of some of the more popular supplements on the market and what these different forms or additions actually do. Let us begin by explaining a new twist on some your old favorites.

World Of Whey

When milk is made into cheese, whey is the substance that has floated to the top due to the separation process. Whey protein concentrate goes through a couple of manufacturing processes known as ultrafiltration and diafiltration which leave most of the proteins intact with a small amount of fats and carbohydrate. Although whey concentrate is somewhat fast digesting, it is still slow compared to its relatives.

Whey protein isolate is next in line when it comes to speed of digestion which is due to the extra step in processing that concentrate does not go through. Ion-exchange chromatography, which is a longer filtration process, allows isolate to be purer and the protein to absorb faster, however, some protein fractions are lost in this process.
supp_guide_q2.pngThe fastest sibling in the protein family is whey protein hydrolysate. This protein is taken to an even more thorough filtration process known as hydrolysis to break the amino acid bonds increase absorption. That is why hydrolysate is the best protein to take immediately after a workout.

Whatever whey protein form you choose, try taking it around your training times and first thing in the morning when amino acids are critical for continued growth. Try 20 grams in the morning about a half hour before your first solid meal, 20-30 grams before training and 40-50 grams after training. Of course you must weigh all your options when choosing a whey protein product such as price, availability and taste.

Casein, Casein, and Casein

Casein is the largest compound found in milk. It is slow to digest and some forms take up to six to seven hours to fully metabolize. That is why casein is a great choice when you know you may not eat for a while or right before bed. This slow release of amino acids will ensure your muscles are getting exactly what they need to keep growing.
Caseinate is a form of casein that is made mostly of protein and is somewhat soluble.

Usually as calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate, or sodium caseinate manufacturers like the solubility of caseinate as it mixes well in fluid.
Micellar casein protein undergoes a microfiltration process to separate lactose, fat and whey from the casein part of the milk. Because of this extra process micellar casein does not mix easily with fluid but it is the slowest digesting of the casein proteins making it ideal for nighttime use.

Lastly, the fastest digesting protein of the casein family is hydrolyzed casein. It goes through a process called hydrolysis where amino acid bonds are broken making short-chained proteins. Due to the faster absorption rate hydrolyzed protein is a good addition to your pre and post workout shakes.

Try utilizing Micellar casein at times when you have a long time period between meals and before you go to bed. The slow release of amino acids will ensure you are getting what you need for accelerated muscle growth. Hydrolyzed casein is best used in combination with your post-workout whey shake. Its fast action will supply yet another form of protein so you get a full spectrum of the building blocks of your physique.


Monohydrate, Malate and Ethyl Ester

Creatine monohydrate is the simplest form of creatine which is formed from arginine, glycine, and methionine and helps support ATP in muscular contraction. Unfortunately a significant amount of creatine has the potential to bypass absorption and be expelled while causing bloating and discomfort. Other forms have been designed to remedy this problem. Enter creatine malate and Creatine ethyl ester.

Malic acid (which helps to provide energy) and creatine monohydrate combine to make tri-creatine malate. Tri-creatine malate potentially makes creatine more bioavailable and can reduce gastric discomfort as well as impact the ATP cycle more effectively. All of these positives give creatine a greater chance to do what it was meant to do; replenish energy stores in muscle tissue for more muscular endurance and subsequently strength and muscle mass gains.

Creatine ethyl ester works a little differently. Creatine is combined with an ester, which are compounds that help transport creatine across cell walls for greater absorption. Ester utilizes fat in a way so greater amounts of creatine actually react inside of the cell instead of outside creating water retention. The results? More creatine is absorbed, less is wasted, and you get longer and stronger workouts.

If you want to try creatine and are somewhat on a budget, try monohydrate and pay close attention to the effects. If you feel bloated or gastric discomfort then try the malic acid or ethyl ester varieties to see which works best for you. 3-5 grams pre and post workout should do the trick.


Carnitine is synthesized in the body from the amino acids lysine and methionine. By transporting fat to the mitochondria of cells carnitine helps burn it for fuel. Not only will it utilize supp_guide_q3.pngmore of your fat stores for energy, it will also enhance recovery after those long bouts in the gym. As if the benefits couldn’t get any better, carntine will increase the number of testosterone receptors in muscle cells to enhance muscle growth. Once L-carnitine takes fatty acids to the mitochondria of muscle cells it is converted to acetyl-L-carnitine which has been shown to positively affect the body by preventing brain-cell death and to protect nerve cells from degeneration due to aging or disease.

The best bet for L-carnitine in either form is to start slow with 1 or 2 grams per day around workout times and slowly build up to 4 or 5 grams with one gram in the morning, pre and post workout, and a gram before bed. L-carnitine is not an overnight sensation like creatine, but it will help you get leaner and help protect you from chronic muscle damage.



As the active compound in the mint herb Coleus forskohlii, forskolin will help boost testosterone levels and increase fat loss. This natural thermogenic compound activates enzymes to start a chain of events breaking down fat stores in fat cells and using them for fuel. Try 20-40 grams three times per day preferably before meals.


Guggul is from the gum resin of the guggul tree Commiphora mukul. Its thermogenic effects cause a significant increase in fat loss by boosting metabolism. Additionally, it helps prevent fat from being stored. Guggulsterones are added to many fat burners to help burn calories while dieting and intense training. Usually manufacturers suggest 30-60 mg three times per day with meals.


Usually used to spice up foods Cayenne is a pepper plant found in South America also known as Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens. The medicinal properties of cayenne are derived from a chemical called capsaicin which gives the pepper its heat effect. This has been shown to raise core temperature, increase blood flow and burn more fat in the process. Cayenne (in pepper or powder form) can easily be added to any diet and it is found in numerous fat burners.


Also referred to as yohimbe, yohimbine is the active ingredient found in the African Pausinystalia yohimbe tree. The positive fat loss effects of this natural compound are numerous; it helps fat cells release fatty acids more easily to be burned as energy, it causes blood vessel dialation to occur much like the effects of nitric oxide, and it helps to maximize norepinephrine levels which is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating. 2-8 mg three times per day included in your favorite fat burner will do the job.

Green Tea Extract

Contrary to popular belief green tea’s main component regarding fat loss is a compound known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and not caffeine. EGCG inhibits an enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine resulting in higher levels of the metabolic hormone and increased fat loss. Combined with caffeine, green tea extract is one powerful and widely used natural supplement. When supplementing with green tea extract shoot for 500 to 1000 mg three times per day before meals.

Written By Brad Borland, M.A., CSCS,


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