Glossary of Relevant Bodybuilding Terms

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On MuscleTalk there are a number of complex words, scientific terms and jargon and acronyms used in reference to bodybuilding, health and fitness. This section will help you define and understand the main ones. It is by no means finite and more will be added. If you have any words / terms you'd like explaining then please suggest them...

For information about technical terms relating to muscle and bone, see here.

Actin: One of the contractile proteins of muscle fibres.

Additive Effect: When researchers are measuring the effects of two or more substances in a single study. Additive effect means the combined effect of two or more factors is equal to the sum of their individual effects in isolation. For example, creatine monohydrate supplementation, by itself, may enhance lean body mass by 6lb over a 4 week period; HMB supplementation by itself, may increase lean body mass by 2lb over a 4 week period. If their effects are additive, subjects may gain 8lb in a 4 week period when the two products are used in combination.

ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate): ADP is formed when ATP is broken down within mitochondria of cells to provide energy. In order to recreate ATP and replenish cellular energy stores, ADP must combine with creatine phosphate (CP).

Aerobic: Means requiring oxygen. Aerobic metabolism occurs during low intensity, long-duration exercises, like jogging.

Aetiology: The basis of how a disease or disorder occurs.

Alcohol: An organic compound formed by the fermentation of carbohydrate containing one or more hydroxyl group.

Amino Acid: Nitrogen containing, carbon-based organic compound which is the simplest unit of protein.

AMP (Adenosine Monophosphate): AMP is formed when ADP is broken down within mitochondria of cells. In order to recreate ATP and replenish cellular energy stores, AMP must be combined with two molecules of creatine phosphate.

Anabolic (Androgenic) Steroid (AS / AAS): Synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone. AAS promote anabolism and male characteristics, speed up protein synthesis, reduce catabolism, and increase muscle mass and strength in athletes who train with weights. Steroids not only exert their effects on muscles but also affect many other parts of the body, which may lead to side effects. More here

Anabolic: Refers to promoting growth or anabolism.

Anabolism: The actual building process of tissues. It might occur through the body's own natural reactions to muscular work and proper nutrition or through the introduction of erogenic aids. Anabolism occurs by taking substances from the blood, which are essential for growth and repair and using them to stimulate reactions that produce tissue synthesis.

Anaerobic: Means without oxygen. Anaerobic respiration in muscle tissue occurs during explosive activities like weightlifting or sprinting.

Anecdotal Evidence: Evidence reported by individuals based on observations and experiences, and is weak evidence.

Anti-Catabolism: The halting of cellular breakdown in the body. Slowing down the breakdown of cells favours new muscle growth.

Antioxidant: A nutrients, anutrients or substance created within our body that minimises tissue oxidation and helps control free radicals and their negative effects.

Anti-Proteolysis: A specific type of anti-catabolism: namely, the slowing or halting of protein breakdown in the body.

Anutrient: Substance found in food, which is not required for life, but may have some nutritional or health benefit.

Assimilation: The process by which food is digested, absorbed and utilised by the body.

ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate): A high-energy molecule stored the mitochondria of cells. When energy is required, ATP is broken down to ADP and AMP and free phosphate to provide this energy. This is the case in muscle cells that need energy in order to contract. ATP can be thought of as the actual fuel that makes muscles move.

Atrophy: A reduction in the size or a cell or tissue, due to lack of nutrition, disease or lack of use. For example when muscles breakdown.

Basal (Resting) Metabolic Rate (BMR / RMR): The level of energy expended by the body at rest sufficient to support the metabolic processes necessary for life.

BCAA: See Branched-Chain Amino Acid

Beta-Alanine: Naturally occurring amino acid blood buffer which converts to carnosine to delay fatigue. Available as a pre-workout supplement.

Bioavailability: The ease at which nutrients can be absorbed from a food and/or are available to tissues.

Biochemical Reaction: Refers to the broad range of chemical reactions which take place in all living organisms. For example, the conversion of blood sugar into energy, the effects of testosterone on muscle cell growth, and nerve impulse reaction.

Biological Value (BV): A measure of protein quality, assessed by how well a given food or food mixture supports nitrogen retention in humans.

BMR: See Basal Metabolic Rate

Body Composition: The percentage of your body composed of water, bone fat mass, muscle mass and other constituents. We are mostly interested in fat mass and fat free mass. More here

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA): These are essential amino acids named so due to their structure. They are valine, leucine and isoleucine, and make up a third of muscle protein.

Buffer: A substance that minimises changes in hydrogen ion concentration (pH). They may help metabolic acidosis or lactic acid build up.

Bulking: Gaining bodyweight by adding both fat and muscle, this is done by consuming an excess of calories. More here

Burn: The burning sensation in a muscle that comes from the lactic acid and pH build up resulting from exercising the muscle to failure.

Caffeine: Naturally occurring stimulant found in tea, coffee, cola and some herbal supplement preparations.

Calorie: See kilocalorie

Carbohydrate loading: A technique whereby muscle glycogen reserves are increased in greater than normal amounts by a combination of exercise and diet.

Carbohydrate ('carbs'): Organic compound containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; very effective fuel source for the body. Different types of carbohydrates include starches, sugars and fibres. Carbohydrates are classified into monosaccharides, disaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides, depending on the number of single unit sugars in the chain length. Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram.

Carnosine: Natural blood buffer; see beta-alanine.

Catabolic: The opposite of anabolic, meaning breakdown of tissue. Catabolic states occur with disease, infection, injury, intense training, strict dieting, and immobilisation.

Catabolism: The breakdown or loss of muscle and other bodily tissues.

CEE (Creatine Ethyl Ester): Derivative of the nutritional supplement creatine. More here

Chelating Agents: Soluble organic compounds that can fit certain metallic ions into their molecular structure. These are often used to increase the absorption of minerals within the body.

Cheat: (1)Training: When muscle fatigue begins to set in or the weight is too heavy, some athletes adopt improper form to make the lift, using the surrounding muscle groups or even momentum to assist in the movement.

Cheat: (2) Nutrition: Refers to eating a meal off from a devised meal plan.

Cholesterol: Waxy fat, made naturally in our bodies by the liver, and is an essential part of living tissues. Too much cholesterol builds up on the walls of arteries including those which supply the heart (coronary arteries) and is implicated in the aetiology of heart disease and stroke. It is a vital component in the production of many steroid hormones, plays a vital role in proper cell-membrane structure and functioning and is a substrate for bile-acid synthesis, among other functions. There are different types of cholesterol, including HDLs and LDLs.

Circuit Training: A workout technique in which the individual goes from one exercise to another, one set per movement per round, with minimal rest, thus gaining some aerobic benefit at the expenses of maximal strength gains.

Citrulline Malate: Naturally occurring substrate, which, as a supplement, helps to clear products of fatigue and improve performance.

Coenzyme: A substance that works with an enzyme to promote that enzyme's activity.

Complete Protein: A protein source that contains all essential amino acids.

Concentric: This represents the positive portion of a repetition i.e. raising the weight.

Cortisol: A hormone released from the adrenal cortex and is involved in inflammation control and the immune response to trauma and infection. From these functions it is a catabolic hormones in the body. Suppressing cortisol production at key times may help bodybuilders avoid excess muscle breakdown. But, you need some cortisol to survive.

Creatine: Naturally produced in our bodies as an energy replenisher; manufactured in the liver, kidneys and pancreas and secreted into blood for transport to muscle (amongst other) tissues. Chemical name is methylguanido-acetic acid, formed from the amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine. More here

Creatine Monohydrate: Common supplemental form of creatine. More here

Creatine Phosphate (CP): Inorganic phosphate carrier that binds with AMP and ADP to form ATP. Supplementing with creatine monohydrate helps increase muscle CP reserves.

Cutting: Stripping the body of excess body fat while retaining maximum muscularity. See more

CV (Cardiovascular) Exercise: Exercise which involves high aerobic metabolism with associated heart and circulatory system benefits, e.g. cycling, running, rowing, etc.

Cytokine: Describes a broad range of molecular protein messenger cells. The cytokine family includes interleukins, interferons, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), among others. Cytokines act directly on cells and are very potent agents that can elicit massive changes in cellular function.

Deficiency: A sub-optimal level of one or more nutrients that are essential for good health. Deficiency of one or more nutrients can be caused by poor nutrition, increased body demands or both.

Dextrose: Another name for glucose, when glucose is referred to as a 'standard' value (see glucose).

Dietary Fibre: The ingestable portion of plants, including cellulose, lignin, pectin. Also know as roughage, non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) and fibre.

Dietetics: The science of nutrition.

Dietitian (Dietician): One who practices dietetics.

Dipeptide: Protein chain of two amino acids.

Disaccharide: A carbohydrate compound made up of two sugars. Examples are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), and maltose.

Diuretic: Describes any product that increases the amount of urine excreted by the body. Natural diuretics include alcohol and caffeine, but there are drug diuretics too.

DOMS: This stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and describes the discomfort often experienced around 24-48hrs after training in a particular muscle group. It is thought to be caused by tiny tears in the muscle tissue. It is wrongly used by many as a guide to an efficient workout.

Drug: Generic broad term for any substance which, when introduced into the body, changes one or more of its natural physical or mental functions. Drugs are used for the prevention, diagnosis and/or treatment of disease, as well as the relief of symptoms.