Glossary of Nutritional Terms
Compiled by Ron Avidan

The most complete glossary of bodybuilding, fitness, and supplement related nutritional terms and definitions. This is by no means a complete list, and is a work in progress. This information is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace any health care professionals. It is a compilation of many sources, mixed in with our opinions.

  • Saccharin
    An artificial sweetener. It is nearly 700 times sweeter than sugar, yet leaves an aftertaste. It is not metabolized by the human body. It is useful in diabetic diets in which the patient must lower sugar intake. The FDA has listed saccharin as an 'anticipated' human carcinogen. This means that in certain individuals, the sweetener may increase the risk of cancer.

  • Salatrim
    This is a reduced calorie fat that has only five calories per gram, as opposed to nine normally.

  • SAM-e (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine)
    SAM-e is a naturally occurring molecule in virtually all body tissues and fluids. It is fundamentally important in a number of biochemical reactions involving enzymatic transmethylation, contributing to the synthesis, activation and metabolism of such compounds as hormones, neurotransmitters, nucleic acids, proteins, phospholipids and certain drugs.

  • Saw Palmetto
    Herb shown to have protective properties for the liver. It is also shown that Saw Palmetto reduces the size of epithelial tissue in the prostate, especially in the transitional zone.

  • Selenium
    Trace mineral with potent antioxidant effects; component in sulfur bearing amino acid production and fetal development during pregnancy; recent clinical evidence of cancer preventive properties. You can get it from rice, wheats and meats. Selenium helps prevent the formation of free radicals, and can possobly help prevent forms of cancer.

  • Shark Cartilage
    See Bovine cartilage.

  • Sodium
    Also known as Salt. Regulates body fluid volume, transports amino acids to cells and plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve transmission. Sodium is an important mineral found in our bones, in the fluids surrounding our cells and in the cardiovascular system. Sodium, with potassium, assists nerve stimulation and regulated water balance. It is also involved in carbohydrate absorption.

    The average person requires a minimum of one tenth of a teaspoon of salt a day. Any athlete who sweats needs more. A teaspoon a day of salt does not cause problems, nor does eating fresh foods high in natural salt such as fish, carrots, beets and poultry. Easting processed and junk foods, can lead to high, potentially dangerous levels of sodium intake.

  • Somatotropin
    Known in the medical community as GH or Growth Hormone. It is a powerful anabolic hormone that affects all systems of the body and plays an important role in muscle growth. It is a peptite hormone, which is composed of many amino acids (191 of them) linked togethers. It is rapidly metabolized by the liver and has a half-life in the blood of approxiamately 17 to 45 minutes. Because of this, detecting GH in a drug screen is very hard.

  • Soy Protein
    Primary vegetable source of protein found in protein powders; lower in nitrogen retention and BCAA's than whey and egg, but higher in arginine and glutamine and contains isoflavones with antioxidant properties.

  • St. John's Wort
    Scientific name: Hypericum Performatum. A plant herb that is used to relieve mild depressive symptoms, sleep disorder, and anxiety, although probably not effective against serious depression. In large doses, it may be unsafe as it can make the skin and eyes extra sensitive to light.

  • Steroids
    Steroids are synthetic derivatives of the hormone testosterone that allow the user to gain muscle mass and strength rapidly. In addition to their muscle building effects, anabolic steroids increase the oxidation rate of fat, thus giving the user a more ripped appearance.
  • Stevia
    A herb from Brazil and Paraguay that is a good replacement for sugar and artificial sweeteners. You can also bake with it.

  • Stevioside
    An artificial sweetener. Extracted from the herb Stevia. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but has a strong aftertaste.

  • Sucralose
    An artificial sweetener. Approved by the FDA in 1998. It is 600 times sweeter than table sugar, it is is made from a process that begins with regular sugar. You can bake with it. Sucralose was discovered in 1976. Sucrolose is derived from sugar through a patented, multistep processes that selectively substitutes three choline atoms for three hydrogen oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. The tightly bound chlorine atoms create a molecular structure that is esceptionally stable and is approx 600 times sweeter than sugar. The body does not recognize it as sugar or another carbohydrate. The sucralose molecule passes through the body unchanged, it is not metabolized and is eliminated after consumption. Sucrolose has no calories. The acceptable daily intake for sucralose is 5 mg / kg of body weight per day.

  • Sugar Alcohols
    This group of sweeteners includes Mannitol, Sorbitol and Xylitol. Although found in fruit, they are commercially synthesized and not extracted from natural sources. Sugar alchohols provide a reduced glycemic response (no steep hikes in blood sugar). Sugar alcohols are absorbed slowly, but incompletely. This can cause diarrhea in some people.

  • Synthol
    An oil based solution that swells the muscle region it is injected into giving the muscle a "swollen" appearance without detail or hardness.

  • Taurine
    An essential amino acid. Plays a role in cell-membrane stabilization, calcium balance, growth modulation and the regulation of osmotic pressure in the body (water transfer). It is also a key component of bile, which is necessary for fat digestion, absorption of fat-soluable vitamins and control of cholesterol levels. A link has been shown between deficiency in this amino and retinal dysfunction (eye problems).

  • Testosterone
    Studies says that even minute amounts of it can juice both the male and female sex drives and slightly larger amounts will speed the muscle building process.

  • Theanine
    A unique amino acid found in green teas. The greater the theanine content in green tea, the higher the price. Theanine increases GABA levels in the brain and counteracts high and even toxic doses of stimulants, such as caffeine. Sleep time is improved, spontaneous physical hyperactivity is decreased and toxicity reactions are markedly reduced. Theanine can help ofset the length and intensity of the stimulatory effects of alpha and beta-agonists and caffeine. It goes beyond helping you relax and sleep well for one night. Be reversing the excitatory state quickly and safely and promoting relaxation and restoration of your brain chemisty, you are in effect priming your body for stimulation once again the following day. That should allow you not only to grow, but to get even beter results from your supplements.

  • Thermogenesis
    A fancy word meaning heat-producing. To make more heat, your body has to burn more calories. Thermogenesis occurs with training, with food consumption, and with the use of selected herbs.

  • Thiamin (Vitamin B-1)
    A vitamin which maintains energy levels, supports brain function (memory). Aids in digestion. Necessary for metabolism of sugar and starch to provide energy. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Alcohol can cause deficiencies of this vitamin and all the B-complex vitamins.

  • Tribulus Terrestris
    A herb for sexual deficiency or as a mild aphrodisiac. It may increase libido and serum testosterone.

  • Tryptophan
    An essential amino acid, known for its calming and mood enhancing effectcs. It is a naturally occuring ingredient in turkey that mellows you out and makes you want to take a nap after the Thanksgiving feast. Tryptophan can also be called 5-HTP (5-hydrotryptophan) which is make with a slightly different compound that regular tryptophan.

  • Tyrosine
    A conditionally essential amino acid, tyrosine can elevate mood and is a precursor of the brain neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.

  • Usnic Acid
    A herbal compound currently being used as an antifungal and antobiotic agent. It elevate body temperature, which can be a potent thermogenic but also dangerous. It works like DNP, which was a popular fat loss drug in the 1930s. Usnic acid shows that it uncouples oxidative phosphorylation.

  • Valine
    One of the three branched chain amino acids. They are called BCAA's because they structurally branch off another chain of atoms instead of forming a line. Studies have shown that BCAA's help to stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit its breakdown, so BCAA's have powerful anabolic and anticatabolic effects on the body. They may also potentiate the release of some anabolic hormones, such as growth hormone. Regular ingestion of BCAA's help to keep the body in a state of postive nitrogen balance. In this state, your body much more readily builds muscle and burns fat. Studies have shown that athletes taking extra BCAA's have shown a loss of more bodyfat than those not taking BCAA's.

  • Vanadyl Sulfate
    Source of mineral vanadium; helps optimize glycogen storage to yield more energy. Vanadyl is supposed to help you attain a little more muscle and inhibit fat storage by controlling insulin release. In theory, Vanadyl works inside the muscle cells by bringing carbohydrates into the muscle without the assistance of insulin. If there is less insulin, there is less chance of carbohydrates being converted to stored bodyfat.

  • Vitamins
    Complex organic molecules essential for biochemical transformations necessary for proper metabolism and disease protection. Some popular vitamins are:

    • A: (Retinol)
      A vitamin with antioxidant properties, important for eye protection and bone growth; protein and hormone synthesis (including GH and testosterone); supports tissue maintenance. Helps reduce susceptibility to infection. Essential for healthy skin, good blood, strong bones and teeth, kidneys, bladder, lungs and membranes.
    • B-Complex Vitamins
      A group of eleven known vitamins that work together in your body. All play vital roles in the conversion of food into energy. Essential for the normal functioning of the nervous system, and the maintenance of good digestion. Helps promote healthy skin, hair, and eyes. These are water soluble vitamins, which means they cannot be stored by your body and must be replaced every day.
    • B-1 (Thiamin)
      Maintains energy levels, supports brain function (memory). Aids in digestion. Necessary for metabolism of sugar and starch to provide energy. Maintains a healthy nervous system. Alcohol can cause deficiencies of this vitamin and all the B-complex vitamins.
    • B-2 (Riboflavin)
      Energy production and amino acid production. Helps body obtain energy from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Helps maintain good vision and healthy skin.
    • B-3 (Niacin)
      Important in carbohydrate metabolism, formation of testosterone and other hormones, formation of red blood cells and maintaining the integrity of all cells. Helps body utilize protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Necessary for a healthy nervous system and digestive system. It also lowers elevated blood cholesterol levels when taken in large amounts of more than 1,000 milligrams a day.
    • B-5 (Pantothenic Acid)
      Supports carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism; hemoglobin synthesis. Helps release energy from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Needed to support a variety of body functions, including the maintenance of a healthy digestive system.
    • B-6 (Pyridoxine)
      Supports glycogen and nitrogen metabolism; production and transport of amino acids; production and maintenance of red blood cells (hemoglobin) Essential for the body's utilization of protein. Needed for the production of red blood cells, nerve tissues, and antibodies. Women taking oral contraceptives have lower levels of B-6.
    • B-12 (Cobalamin)
      Necessary for carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism. Important to amino acid and fatty acid synthesis; essential for hemoglobin and nerve cell growth and maintenance. The anti-stress vitamin, sometimes prescribed for stress reduction.
    • Biotin
      Energy metabolism, fatty acid and nucleic acid synthesis.
    • C (Ascorbic acid)
      Antioxidant, synthesis of hormones, amino acids and collagen (connective tissue); excretion of excess cholesterol. Necessary to produce collagen, the connective material of all body tissues. Important for the health of the teeth and the gums. Strengthens capillaries and other blood vessels. Plays an important role in healing injuries. Aids in the body's absorption of iron. Vitamin C is water soluble, which means it cannot be stored by your body and must be frequently replaced.
    • D (Calciferol)
      Supports calcium absorption and deposition into bones. Must be present for your body to use calcium and phosphorus. Essential for growing children to insure that teeth and bones develop properly.
    • E (d-alpha-tocopherol)
      Antioxidant, especially protective of polyunsaturated fats and body tissues. Acts as a preservative, preventing many substances, such as Vitamin A, from destructive breakdown by oxidation in the body. Prolongs the life of red blood cells. Necessary for the proper use of oxygen by the muscles.
    • Folic Acid
      Necessary for the production of red blood cells. Essential for normal metabolism. A deficiency may cause a form of anemia. Drinking alcohol and taking oral contraceptives can cause lower levels of this vitamin in your body. Especially important during pregnancy to prevent birth defects.
    • K
      Supports blood clotting, bone mineralization.

  • Whey protein
    Dairy source of protein (other than cassein), known for high levels of BCAA's and high nitrogen retention. Made from milk curd, whey protein is the Rolls Royce of proteins because it has a superior amino acid composition (including high levels of leucine, arguably the most important branched chain amino acid), superior biological value (meaning that more of what you eat gets digested and into your system), is very low in lactose (a milk sugar that most adults have difficulty digesting).

  • Willow Bark
    White willow bark is a source of salicin, a chemical relative of asparin. The effects of willow bark are milk pain inhibition, and increased blood flow to the skin and greater heat loss.

  • Yohimbe
    From the bark of an African tree, Yohimbe is a popular herb percieved as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. Yohimbe contains yohimbine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine in it's energizing effects.

  • Zinc
    Mineral important as a cofactor in energy metabolism, amino acid and protein synthesis; Antioxidant effects to protect the immune system. Essential for growth, tissue repair, and sexual development. Plays an important role in healing. Since animal proteins are the best sources, vegetarians are often deficient in zinc.

  • ZMA - Zinc Magnesium Aspartate
    This compound has been found to increase muscle strength.