With so many supplements on the market, and such varied advice dished out on forums; it’s easy for bodybuilders to forget that, quite often, it is the simplest of things that can give us that extra edge.
When pharmaceutical companies are touting the next best supplement or wonder drug to help aid muscle growth, it’s always good to first stop and consider the benefit of things that many pharmaceutical companies are unable to patent. Namely, vitamins. Specifically Niacin.
Niacin has many health benefits, so before we leap into why exactly it is so good for bodybuilding let’s look at why niacin is essential for a healthy body.
What is Niacin?
Niacin is a member of the vitamin B group, known as B3 (since it was the third in the group to be discovered). The B group vitamins help convert carbohydrates into glucose (or energy). They are needed to ensure we maintain healthy liver, skin and eyes. The B group also aids functionality within the nervous system
Niacin, specifically, is also key to helping the adrenal glands produce hormones; improve circulation and to put a halt to inflammation.
When B3 was first discovered it’s most common use was an anti-inflammatory; helping, and continuing to help, people who suffer from joint stiffness and arthritis. The niacin causes blood vessels to open which has a soothing and calming effect on any kind of stiffness.
Furthermore, niacin has been prescribed for many years to help lower cholesterol. This should be done under the supervision of your doctor or nutritionist as there are some side effects, but these can be avoided if you know what you are doing.
The list of benefits and ailments that niacin can help with is too long and too comprehensive to cover completely here. But do your research, you’ll see how useful this little vitamin can be. Some of the many illnesses thought to be improved by niacin include:
- Raynard’s Disease
Use of Niacin in Bodybuilding
To begin with, it’s worth noting that niacin has long term and short term uses. Both achieving different results. One thing that both users agree on however is the importance of using very large doses to cause what is known as a ‘niacin flush’
The ‘Niacin Flush’
Essentially, the niacin flush is an overdose of niacin in the body, often starting in the scalp. It initially causes a tingling sensation and causes parts of the body to go red, feel warm/burn and itchy. Parts that are most affected are the head, neck, shoulders, back, and chest.
Whilst it is not really dangerous, it can be a bit scary the first time it happens and many people feel like they have had some kind of allergic reaction. Believe it or not, there are people who enjoy the experience. As well as the flush itself there are additional side effects that include:
However, all the symptoms can be reduced (in some cases prevented) if you know what you are doing. The most common medical advice is to slowly increase your dose, take niacin just after a meal, take niacin before you go to bed and avoid spicy food, alcohol, hot drinks and hot baths/showers.
Of course the real question is – what does this have to do with bodybuilding?
Short Term Benefits
The main reasons that many bodybuilders use niacin in the short term is because it increases vascularity. Flushing as part of your pre-competition preparation or just before a photo shoot is quite common place.
Scoring in competitions is usually very tight and strong visible vascularity can mean the difference between first and second place. Be warned, this may take a little experimentation the first time that you take niacin. If you are unable to control your flush, you could find yourself going into a competition looking like you’ve caught a nasty dose of sunburn. Also if you are a long term user of niacin, you’ll find that the vascular effects are not as prominent because the body is more used to the vitamin.
Long Term Benefits
For some bodybuilders, regular niacin flushing is more of a habit, and for very good reason. Flushing can stimulate an increase in the production of HGH – or the human growth hormone.
HGH is one of the most powerful chemicals the body produces. Formed in the pituitary gland some of it’s many functions include staying youthful, shredding fat and,most importantly, building muscle. HGH is often produced when doing heavy compound exercises like dead-lifts and squats.
But regular flushing can help HGH production along quite considerably. Many believe that taking niacin before you go to bed on an empty stomach produces the best results.
But only once your body has grown accustomed to niacin and has been able to reduce the nasty side effects. Word of warning: Whilst there are bodybuilders who regularly take high doses of niacin, there is some evidence to suggest that prolonged use in this way could cause liver damage. It’s always best to speak to a doctor/nutritionist about regulating your use of niacin.
A normal dosage of niacin is about 14 – 16 milligrams a day. Bodybuilders take vastly more. Anywhere between 300-500 mg has the desired results, though people have been known to go much higher as well.
It would be advisable to start on a low dosage and see what suits you best. At such high levels you may think that the trade off between increased vascularity/HGH and your face on fire is just too much to bear.
Natural Solutions to Increased Niacin
Of course taking niacin pills is not the only way you can increase your body’s levels of niacin there are plenty of foods that also help boost your levels as well niacin rich foods include:
- Pork – 15mg per 100g
- Cereal – 30-58mg per 100g
- Tuna – 5.8mg per 100g
- Cremini Mushrooms – 4mg per 100g
- Turkey – 11.75mg per 100g
- Peanuts – 12mg per 100g
- Liver – 11.5mg per 100g
You can probably see that including niacin is definitely beneficial to including in your bodybuilding regime. Not only can it help you maintain certain desirable feature and has endless health benefits; it is also reasonably cheap.
So if you are on a budget and lack the funds to buy more expensive supplements, niacin is a highly recommended option. Do be cautious though, there are many niacin brands out there that all serve a variety of different functions. Let’s have a look at two of the best products available for your needs.
How to choose the right Niacin Supplement
Supplementation is a great way to boost your body’s intake of niacin. However, there are a few things you have to know before you buy a supplement. Here are a few tips to find the best niacin supplement for your needs:
Avoid niacin that is ‘flush free’ – these supplements have been modified to stop the flush but many bodybuilders report them to have little to none of the desired effect niacin is taken for in the first place.
Slowly increase your dosage – this was mentioned earlier but can’t be stressed enough. By increasing slowly you will be able to determine the best dosage for yourself and reduce the effects of the flush.
Do your research – talk to colleagues that use niacin supplements. Ask on bodybuilding forums to see if anyone has any recommendations and then check out product reviews on sites like amazon.
Niacin Supplements: The Best of the Bunch
When looking for niacin supplements for the first time you can be overwhelmed by the sheer volumes out there. All of them tapping into a very specific market. Here are a couple of products that are best suited to body builders for very different reasons.
#1 – NIACINMAX
A new competitor in the field of niacin supplements Niacinmax is geared towards improving high performance in many cardio sports as well as bodybuilding:
- Niacinmax has developed a unique delivery system: A strip that dissolves on your tongue and enters directly into your bloodstream. This cuts down on any nutrient deterioration that can occur when a conventional pill passes through the digestive system.
- The delivery system also reduces the intensity of the flush to a mild sensation compared to many other products
- Along with the unique delivery system, Niacinmax utilises liposomal encapsulation technology. In short, the niacin is protected by a layer of tiny bubbles that prevent any damage before it enters the bloodstream.
- Niacinmax increases production of HGH and also allows recovery time to be much shorter. It’s recommended that you take niacinmax a few hours before training which allows HGH release to start.
- Whilst the strips are only 75mg compared to more traditional supplements which can be as high as 500mg, This is because conventional supplements compensate for the deterioration that was mentioned earlier. In fact, one strip of Niacinmax is 45 more times effective than a 100mg pill.
#2 – RUGBY NIACIN SUPPLEMENT
Rugby, offers niacin tablets geared towards athletes and people suffering from specific diseases. Rugby is one of the more well established niacin supplements on the market, so you know you are buying a trusted brand. Here are some of the features of this product:
- Rugby is aimed at high dosage users (1500 -2000mg) who have been recommended niacin to lower their cholesterol.
- As a body builder the 500mg doses are ideal for those who are regularly flushing. Given that the bottle contains 1000 pills, you won’t need to purchase the product that often.
- Rugby is an ‘immediate release’ niacin. Useful for competitions when you need to build up that vascularity.
- Users report that the flushing experience is ‘intense’ but settles down as your body gets use to it. For those of you that enjoy the experience, this could be a big selling point.
- Compared to many similar products, Rugby is very cheap. Particularly considering you would be buying in such a large quantity.
To sum up, many niacin products achieve similar results. But it is worth shopping around to find the product that works best for you. With a little experimentation and advice (particularly from your doctor), you will find that you are one step closer to the body that you always wanted.