When it comes to making continual progress with your physique, you must first focus on creating an effective workout program that is geared specifically towards your personal needs and goals. Next in line is turning your attention toward fueling your body with the proper nutrients on a daily basis so that your intense training sessions are supported by top quality proteins, carbs, and fats for recovery and growth.
Once these two elements are firmly in place, it’s time to set up a meticulous supplement protocol that will round out your program and provide the final edge that takes you from adequate to extraordinary. However, just as important as the specific products you utilize is how and when you take them! And with that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the why and when of some of the most effective supplements we have at our disposal.
Why: Multivitamins should be used to make sure that you are meeting all of your micronutrient needs. As we all know, cooking methods and the quality of the foods we eat often compromise our vitamin and mineral content. Intense training, stress, and environmental factors cause a lot of free radical damage, which is why you should seek out products high in antioxidants, or add an antioxidant-blend to your regular multi.
When: Take with food during breakfast and dinner.
Why: Use a supplement that contains both of these performance enhancers, because they work from two distinct physiological angles and are quite synergistic. Creatine increases creatine phosphate within muscle cells, which hastens ATP resynthesis, allowing for greater strength and power. In addition, creatine helps volumize muscle cells, which creates a more efficient anabolic state. Beta Alanine combines with histidine to increase muscle carnosine levels, which has been shown to dramatically improve endurance, delay neuromuscular fatigue, and raise the anabolic threshold by buffering muscle acidity.
When: Take two to three grams of creatine and beta alanine with your pre- and post-workout meals. On and off days, take a single dose with breakfast.
Why: More and more research is pointing to the fact that leucine is the most anabolic and anticatabolic of the branched chain amino acids acting primarily through the mTOR pathway. Leucine greatly increases protein synthesis independent of insulin and has even shown powerful fat loss properties through increased expression of uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3).
When: Add three to five grams to your pre- and post-workout meals. Additional leucine can be taken intraworkout.
Why: Glutamine helps to release growth hormone, increases nitrogen retention, staves off muscle wasting, and gives a powerful boost to the immune system (perhaps its most important effect).
When: Take five to 10 grams 30 minutes before pre- and post-workout meals, and during your final meal of the day.
Why: Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are essential for overall health, proper hormonal production (including testosterone), fat burning, mood, insulin sensitivity, skin and hair, and a myriad of other important functions.
When: The exact amount in grams you consume depends on your size and goals, but strive to get in at least half your overall daily fat intake from EFAs, preferably split evenly among all your daily meals
Why: Used intelligently without abusing them (too high a dose, and/or too often) stimulants like caffeine, yohimbe, synephrine, guarana, and others are great for a quick energy boost when feeling lethargic and in need of some peformance enhancement. Additionally, most increase thermogenesis, which assists in melting body fat.
When: Always read label directions carefully, but in most cases, a dose upon awakening and 30 minutes before training/cardio is a sound protocol. Try not to take stimulants too close to bedtime.
Why: Compounds like arginine, citrulline, betaine, beet root, and agmatine are capable of dilating the blood vessels, resuting in an enhanced muscle pump. Not only does a pumped muscle feel awesome, but the increased blood flow assists in bringing more nutrients to muscle cells, as well as signaling specific anabolic pathways.
When: Nitric Oxide boosters generally work best when taken on an empty stomach 30 to 45 minutes before workouts. Please note that they will work more efficiently when not combined with stimulants
BY ERIC BROSER