The Science Behind Alistair
50lbs Of Muscle!
The MMA media is full speculation about how former Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem was able to add an amazing 50lbs of solid muscle to become one of the biggest men in the UFC heavyweight division. The Dutch MMA star has grown from a 205-pound light heavyweight in 2006 to a slim 224-pound heavyweight in 2007 to a 254-pound monster in December 2008 for his fight against Badr Hari. But rumours and hearsay about performance enhancing drugs aside, here we take a scientific look at the known facts surrounding Overeem’s supersized new frame.
Firstly it’s important to look at Overeem’s genetics. Essentially in sports science there are 3 kinds of body types; Ectomorphs, Endomoprhs and Mesomorphs.
Ectomorphs: Are characterized by long and thin muscles/limbs and low fat storage; usually referred to as slim they are not predisposed to store fat or build muscle. Stefan Struve is perhaps the best example of an Ectomorph.
Endomoprhs: Are characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure, usually referred to as fat. Endomorphs are predisposed to storing fat. Perhaps the best example of an extreme endomorph is Roy Nelson.
Mesomorphs: Are characterized by medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist; usually referred to as muscular. Mesomorphs are predisposed to build muscle but not store fat. Overeem is a perfect example of an extreme mesomorph.
Simon Sulaiman (Holland’s Strongest Man 2009) undergoing a strength based workout designed to increase muscle mass and power, with a high protein diet. These 3 key factors (genetic makeup, nutritional changes and conditioning changes) are all obviously conducive to adding muscle mass and could explain his added 50lbs of muscle.
Firstly we look more specifically at his diet; Overeem’s nutrition resembles that of a strongman competitor, eating huge portions 5-7 times a day. This is not only ideal to ensure his workouts are efficiently fuelled, but it also ensures optimum protein synthesis (protein synthesis is the repair and regrowth of your muscles.) Also famously he has been tucking into kilos of horse meat, and whilst this may appear strange at first, when compared to ground beef, horsemeat has 55% more protein, 25% less fat, 30% less cholesterol and 27% less sodium. So per 100 grams you get 21 grams of protein, 0g of carbohydrates and 0 sugar, ideal if you want to add quality muscle without the addition of unwanted body fat. He also mentions the abundance of protein shakes he’s consuming between meals, this is again particularly important since certain protein shakes contain a higher biological value of protein than other food sources. The Biological Value of protein just identifies the amount of the protein the body is able to use to repair the muscles and ensure they grow bigger and stronger. Whey Concentrate Protein for instance has one of the highest Biological Values of any protein source higher than bacon, beef and chicken. (1kg of Impact Whey Protein is available from Myprotein.com for £12.99)
Next as previously mentioned his training is heavily strength based, performing large, heavy compound movements that are ideal to add muscle mass. They not only recruit a lot of muscle fibres to perform such exercises as deadlifts and farmers walks, but they also send a signal to the endocrine system telling it to release more anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. So not only does the exercise itself cause the muscles to grow, but because of the nature of the exercise hormonally the body becomes more prone to putting on muscle.
Lastly there is of course the entire controversy about Overeem possibly using performance enhancing drugs. But again, because of developments in sports science, there are products on the market that when taken in conjunction with a well-designed workout routine, can increase muscle strength and power dramatically. For example MP MAX® T Matrix from Myprotein.com contains D Aspartic Acid, an amino acid that is formed principally in the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and testes. It plays an important role in the production of compounds associated with libido, tissue growth and the production of Luteinizing hormone. D Aspartic Acid stimulates the production of signal molecules which in turn enhance the activity in your testes as well as your pituitary gland. From an athletic perspective this allows your body to produce the compounds that help increase lean growth, strength, power and energy. In one particular study, researchers provided a group of males (aged 27-37) a daily dose of 3.12 grams of D Aspartic acid for twelve consecutive days. The growth compound level in the subjects that received the supplement had risen by 33% after the twelve days. The results of this study have massive implications for those looking to improve their athletic potential and also to improve their body shape with lean tissue. (180 tablets are available from Myprotein.com for £39.99.)