BY JIM STOPPANI, PHD
You need to know which supplements are effective and which works best together.. The technical term for this is “stacking,” and here we will school you on creating some basic stacks for gaining muscle mass, increasing muscle strength, boosting testosterone levels, and dropping bodyfat
We will give you the tools needed to build upon those you’ve already put together, and provide a cumulative effect that further enhances your body abilities to reach the goal at hand. Futhermore your stack isn’t limited to just physical goals; whether it’s getting a better pump from your workouts, having more energy to train harder, picking up your mood, or boosting your growth-hormone levels for packing on muscle mass, there is a stack for it all!
One of the first areas to cover is stacking supplements for building mass After all, bodybuilding is about muscle, and you first must build plenty of it to be a bodybuilder. The best mass stack doesn’t just combine effective mass-gaining supplements; it combines effective mass-gaining supplements that are proven by research to work synergistically with one another. Using these four supplements does just that to guarantee muscle-mass gains.
- CREATINE : Of course, creatine is on the list. Hundreds of studies support its effectiveness for boosting muscle size and strength. Bottom line: with creatine, most guys can expect to gain a solid 10 pounds of muscle or more, and at least a 10% strength increase. For even greater mass gains with creatine, take it with beta-alanine (next on our list).
- BETA-ALANINE : This amino acid can significantly boost the muscle-building effects of creatine. Once inside the muscle cells, beta-alanine combines with the amino histidine to form car nosine. The amount of carnosine in muscle is associated with muscle strength and, apparently, muscle size. A study from the College of New Jersey (Ewing), found that subjects who took beta-alanine along with creatine gained more muscle mass and lost more bodyfat than subjects taking just creatine.
- WHEY PROTEIN : This is simply the best protein to take before and after workouts. It digests quickly, it’s rich in branched-chain amino acids and its peptides boost blood flow. That’s not to say that whey protein can’t be even more effective — casein protein (see the next entry) enhances whey’s muscle-building effects after workouts.
- CASEIN PROTEIN : Casein is the other major milk protein (it makes up about 80% of milk protein; whey makes up about 20%). Because they originate together, it makes sense that they work well when taken together. However, casein formerly wasn’t recommended for use around workouts, due to its slow digestion rate. Research now shows that despite its rate of digestion, when casein is taken after workouts, it increases protein synthesis (the process that leads to muscle growth) as well as whey. In fact, when it’s taken with whey immediately after workouts, it leads to greater gains in muscle mass than whey taken without casein. Baylor University (Waco, Texas) researchers made this discovery in a 10-week study using trained male lifters.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Thirty minutes prior to workouts, make a shake that contains about 20 grams of whey protein, 3-5 g of creatine and 1-2 g of beta- alanine. Within 30 minutes after workouts, make another shake that contains 20-30 g of whey protein and 10-20 g of casein protein, along with 3-5 g of creatine and 1-2 g of beta-alanine.
MASS STACKING SYLLABUS
Creatine | 3-5 g before and after workouts
Beta-Alanine | 1-2 g before and after workouts
Whey Protein | 20 g before workouts; 20-30 g after workouts
Casein Protein | 10-20 g after workouts
Strength is another key area of concern for the bodybuilder. But the amount of weight you can lift isn’t just important for impressing your gym buddies Being stronger allows you to place more mass-building overload on the muscles you are training every time you go to the gym.
- BETAINE: This supplement, known formally as trimethylglycine, is a metabolite of choline. Betaine has been around for a while, but it was used primarily for promoting health. Betaine can inhibit the production of homocysteine, an amino acid that is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Preventing the body from forming homocysteine also encourages greater creatine production in the body. This is why a few manufacturers add betaine to the creatine they produce. University of Connecticut (Storrs) researchers were the first to discover that betaine is an effective strength supplement. Under their watch, 12 trained men received either betaine or a placebo for two weeks while following a strength-training program. The American College of Sports Medicine reported that when the subjects took betaine, their bench press strength was boosted by about 25%, while their power on the bench press increased by about 15%.
- TAURINE : This amino acid has been used as a supplement to boost muscle strength for a few years. Research shows that higher levels of taurine in muscle cells are associated with greater muscle strength and muscle endurance. Investigations have also demonstrated that when taurine in muscle fibers is decreased, as hap- pens during exercise, so too is the strength of those muscle fibers. Little is known about how it enhances performance, except that increasing its levels in muscle somehow seems to boost muscular contractions, and this leads to greater muscle strength.
- WHEAT GERM : This innermost layer of the wheat kernel stores most of the protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals found in wheat. Yet, wheat germ is not just a great source of slow-digesting carbs for a preworkout meal. Its active ingredient octacosanol is an alcohol that makes up the main component of wax in plants. Research studies confirm that octacosanol supplements boost muscle strength and muscle endurance, as well as enhance reaction time in athletes. Octacosanol increases the ability of the nerves that control muscle contractions to fire faster and more synchronously, which allows for faster and stronger muscle contractions and therefore greater muscle strength.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Add 1,000-1,500 milligrams of betaine, 1-3 g of taurine and about 1∕2 cup of wheat germ to your preworkout protein shake (taken within 30 minutes prior to training). Add 1,000-1,500 mg of betaine and 1-3 g of taurine to your postworkout protein shake (taken within 30 minutes after training).
STRENGTH STACKING SYLLABUS
Betaine*† | 1,000-1,500 mg
Taurine*† | 1-3g
Wheat germ* | 1⁄2 cup
* Add to your preworkout protein shake
† Add to your postworkout protein shake
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If there is one hormone every bodybuilder needs to be in tune with, it’s testosterone That’s because testosterone enhances strength, muscle mass and leanness. Therefore, knowing how to keep your levels maximal is critical for your bodybuilding success. Use this supplement stack for optimal levels of testosterone.
- EURYCOMA LONGIFOLIA JACK: Also known as Tongkat Ali, this rainforest plant has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb. It enhances testosterone levels through different mechanisms. One mechanism involves the freeing up of testosterone from sex-hormone-binding globulin, a protein that carries testosterone in the blood and prevents it from entering muscle cells, where it can stimulate growth. Another way that eurycoma works is by stimulating the Leydig cells of the testes to directly increase testosterone production. Research confirms that eurycoma can lower SHBG by about 30%, and increase testosterone levels by almost 20%. It has also been shown to enhance muscle growth and strength greater than a placebo.
- FORSKOLIN: What was once known just as a fat burner is now known for its potent testosterone-boosting effects. Forskolin is the active ingredient from the herb Coleus forskohlii. It works as both a fat burner and a testosterone booster due to the fact that it activates the enzyme adenylate cyclase. Activating this enzyme ramps up testosterone production by the testes, as research confirms in a 2005 study from the University of Kansas (Lawrence).
- CARNITINE: Another supplement that was known as just a popular fat burner, but now is known for its ability to enhance the action of testosterone, is carnitine. Thanks to a few studies performed by University of Connecticut (Storrs) researchers, we now know that supplementing with carnitine can augment the anabolic properties of testosterone. Subjects taking carnitine had higher levels of androgen receptors in muscle cells. Testosterone binds to these receptors to instigate muscle growth. The higher the number of androgen receptors in a muscle cell, the greater the muscle cell’s potential for growth. Carnitine works synergistically with the other two test boosters — they raise testosterone levels, and carnitine allows more of that testosterone to do its work in the muscle.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Consume 100-300 mg of eurycoma with breakfast, 30-60 minutes before workouts., and before bed. Look for Coleus forskohlii standardized to provide 20-50 mg of forskolin and supplement with it two or three times per day. For carnitine, take 1.5-3 g with breakfast, with your preworkout and postworkout shakes and your nighttime meal. Cycle eurycoma and forskolin for eight weeks, then take two to four weeks off before repeating. Carnitine can be consumed without cycling.
TESTOSTERONE STACKING SYLLABUS
Eurycoma Longifolia Jack | 100-300 mg in the morning 30-60 minutes before workouts, and before bed
Forskolin | 20-50 mg two or three times per day
Carnitine | 1.5-3 g with breakfast and pre- and postworkout shakes, plus nighttime meal
Fat Burner Stack
You need to keep your bodyfat low. to show off your hard-earned mass. So many people have a preconcieved notion that bodybuilding is about mass, but it’s not. Knowing how to stack effective fat burners. to get the most burn for your buck is critical for staying big and lean. Stacking these three fat-torching supplements will keep the fat off and the muscle on.
- EVODIAMINE: This extract from the Evodia rutaecarpa fruit works to burn bodyfat through a number of mechanisms. First, it stimulates specific receptors in the central nervous system that boost metabolic rate. Brand new research from Chubu University (Kasugai, Japan) shows that evodiamine can prevent fat gain in rats by enhancing uncoupling proteins, which work to maintain an elevated metabolism. Second, evodiamine reduces hunger and slows digestion, which keeps you feeling fuller longer and leads to a slow, even release of glucose into the blood- stream. This helps to prevent insulin spikes, which can bump up fat storage.
- GREEN TEA: This is one of the hottest fat-burning supplements on the market today because research confirms that it is very effective for boosting metabolic rate and, therefore, fat loss. The active ingredients in green tea are the polyphenols known as cate- chins, which have antioxidant as well as fat-burning effects. The main catechin that helps green tea burn fat is epigallocatechin gallate. This catechin inhibits the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine. This neurohormone is involved in regulating metabolic rate and fat burning.
- CAFFEINE: The world’s most popular drug is not just a morning eye opener, it’s also an effective fat burner. The main way that caffeine boosts fat loss is by binding to fat cells, which in turn, enhances the removal of fat and inhibits the storage of fat. In other words, caffeine helps to get more fat out of fat cells and into circulation, where it can travel to tissues, such as muscle cells, to be burned for fuel.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Green tea extract and caffeine are readily avail- able as supplements; evodiamine is another matter. The good news is that numerous fat-burner supplements stack the three. Look for one that supplies about 30-50 mg of evodiamine, 250-500 mg of green tea extract standardized for EGCG and 100-400 mg of caffeine per dose. Take it two or three times per day before meals, such as in the morning and early afternoon. One dose should be taken within an hour of workouts, as long as your training sessions aren’t too close to bedtime.
RIPPED STACKING SYLLABUS‡
Evodiamine | 30-50 mg
Green Tea Extract | 250-500 mg
Caffeine | 100-400 mg
‡ Take two or three times per day before meals, such as in the morning and early afternoon. One dose should be taken within an hour of workouts.
Enhancing muscle pump is not just about a quick, temporary boost in muscle size. The “pump” is due to a greater volume of fluid filling the muscle cells. This stretches the muscle membrane, which the cells sense. They initiate cellular events that result in muscle growth to make room for the greater volume. In other words, the muscle pump results in long-term muscle growth. Using the following stack works great with the mass stack for building unbridled mass.
- ARGININE: So many people believe that nitric oxide boosters actually contain NO. Not true — it would be difficult to do in supplement form, since NO is a gas. What you are getting in an NO booster is a good dose of the amino acid arginine. This amino gets readily converted to NO in the body with the help of an enzyme known as nitric oxide synthase. Just one of the many benefits of NO is the dilation of blood vessels, allowing more blood to be delivered to muscles. More blood means more water, since blood is mostly water. This effect enhances the amount of water that enters the muscles and the size of the pump obtained.
- CITRULLINE: This amino acid is closely related to arginine. In the body, citrulline is regularly converted to arginine. In fact, research shows that taking citrulline bumps up levels of arginine more than an equal dose of arginine does, because citrulline seems to be better absorbed by the body than arginine. This makes citrulline the perfect supplement to NO-boosting arginine. Research also demonstrates that taking citrulline helps to prevent muscle fatigue, allowing for the completion of more repetitions.
- PYCNOGENOL: As previously mentioned, arginine relies on the enzyme nitric oxide synthase to catalyze its conversion into NO. Maximizing the conversion of arginine into NO requires that the activity of this enzyme be maximized. That’s where the antioxidant flavonoid from the bark of the French maritime pine tree — Pycnogenol — comes in. Pycnogenol helps to boost NO production from arginine by increasing the activity of NOS.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Take 3-5 grams of arginine in the form of L-arginine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine malate or arginine ethyl ester without food about 30-60 minutes before workouts, in addition to 2-3 g of either L-citrulline or citrulline malate and 50-100 milligrams of Pycnogenol.
PUMP STACKING SYLLABUS*
Arginine | 3-5 g 30-60 minutes preworkout without food
Citrulline | 2-3 g 30-60 minutes preworkout without food
Pycnogenol | 50-100 mg 30-60 minutes preworkout without food
*Works well with the mass stack from “Supplement Stacking 101”
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- CAFFEINE: Of course, caffeine has to be included in the ultimate energy stack. It’s a central nervous system stimulant that can ramp you up to the point where you feel like you can lift any weight. But it’s not just the jolt that the world’s most popular drug provides that makes it essential here. In addition to stimulating you, caffeine has been found to enhance muscle strength on its own when taken about one hour before workouts.
- TYROSINE: This amino acid provides a definite pick-me-up. In the body, tyrosine is used to produce many important hormones, such as those for the thyroid, as well as neurotransmitters, which include dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Higher levels of dopamine can help focus the mind and deliver the drive for heavy lifting. As demonstrated in research studies, higher epinephrine and nor-epinephrine levels in the body can help to reduce fatigue and maintain strength during workouts.
- COQ10: Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone (because it is ubiquitous within the body), is critical for helping to produce adenosine triphosphate in the body. ATP is the major energy substrate that muscle cells use to contract, as when lifting weights. So having optimal levels of CoQ10 can provide you with optimal levels of ATP in muscle cells during workouts, allowing you to complete more reps and train harder and heavier. In fact, Japanese researchers from Osaka City University Graduate School of Medicine reported in a 2008 issue of the journal Nutrition that when subjects supplemented with 300 mg of CoQ10 per day for eight days, they experienced less fatigue during exercise and recovered faster between bouts of exercise.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
About one hour before workouts, take 200-400 mg of caffeine and 2-4 g of tyrosine. Then, right before workouts, take 200 mg of CoQ10 with your preworkout shake. Also take another 100-200 mg of CoQ10 with another meal of the day, such as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
ENERGY STACKING SYLLABUS*
Caffeine | 200-400 mg about one hour before workouts
Tyrosine | 2-4 g about one hour before workouts
CoQ10 | 200 mg with preworkout shake; another 100-200 mg with a meal such as breakfast, lunch or dinner
*Works well with the strength stack from “Supplement Stacking 101”
When you diet you may notice that your mood takes a nose.. That’s because lowering carbs and calories also lessens levels of the hormone serotonin This can put you down in the dumps, and it can make your cravings get out of hand. Another sad factor of low mood. is that, according to research, it can also depress muscle strength. Taking this stack along with the fat-burning group of supplements we provided can help enhance fat loss by keeping your spirits and strength upand cravings down.
- BETA-PHENYLETHYLAMINE: Also known as phenylethylamine, this is a naturally occurring metabolite of the amino acid phenylalanine, which enhances the transmission of nerve impulses. PEA boosts fat loss by stimulating an increase in the body’s levels of norepinephrine, which keeps metabolic rate and fat burning on high. PEA also provides a feeling of euphoria by boosting dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain.
- RHODIOLA ROSEA: This is a root extract that increases the body’s resistance to a variety of stresses. Rhodiola also improves cognitive function, mood, and athletic performance. It performs these functions by improving the neurological mechanisms of dealing with stress. This includes stimulating the release of the mood-modulating neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. Rhodiola has also been shown to increase the beta- endorphins that help with pain reduction and improve mood. Research shows that it’s also effective at mobilizing fatty acids from adipose cells, particularly during exercise, which means it can further enhance fat loss.
- 5-HTP: The essential amino acid tryptophan gets converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan before it forms serotonin and melatonin in the body. This can help you to curb carb cravings and get you to relax before bed. Unlike tryptophan, 5-HTP is readily absorbed and can easily enter the brain. It also cannot be used for protein synthesis, as tryptophan can; therefore, the majority of 5-HTP you ingest goes to your brain where it gets converted to serotonin and melatonin. Research confirms that 70% of the 5-HTP that is ingested gets into your system. Research also con- firms that 5-HTP curbs carb cravings and enhances weight loss. University of Rome researchers found that subjects supplementing with 5-HTP ate fewer calories per day and lost about 10 pounds more than those taking a placebo.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Take 100-500 mg of beta-phenylethylamine once or twice daily, as well as 50-300 mg of Rhodiola rosea (standardized extract yielding a mini- mum 3% rosavins and 1% salidroside; a 3:1 ratio of rosavins-to-salidroside) two or three times per day without food, and take 50-300 mg of 5-HTP in the evening.
BRAIN / MOOD STACKING SYLLABUS*
PEA | 100-500 mg once or twice daily
Rhodiola | 50-300 mg two or three times daily
5-HTP | 50-300 mg in the evening
*Works well with the ripped stack from “Supplement Stacking 101”
Here’s a stack that will work with the testosterone stack we put together for you. This one boosts levels of growth hormone, an anabolichormone that enhances muscle growth and fat loss. Maximizing both testosterone and GH is the best way to stay anabolic. The critical times to boost GH levels are during workouts and while you sleep.
- GLUTAMINE: This amino acid has a host of bodybuilding benefits, with just one of those being an effective GH booster. Louisiana State University (Shreveport) researchers found that supplementing with glutamine increased GH levels in as little as 90 minutes after subjects ingested it. The scientists speculated that one way glutamine likely increases GH release is through its ability to stimulate arginine production in the kidneys. Arginine enhances GH release by blunting a hormone that normally would inhibit its release. Another possible way that glutamine works on GH is through its conversion to glutamate, a potent stimulator of GH.
- GABA: Gamma-aminobutyric acid is actually an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in the body. It has numerous positive effects on the nervous system, such as enhancing the body’s sleeping cycle when taken at night. But GABA also stimulates the release of GH. This has been shown in several investigations, with the most recent being a 2008 study from Shenandoah University (Winchester, Virginia). The researchers reported in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise that weight-trained men who took 3 g of GABA before working out or just resting increased GH levels by about 200% after the workout and about 400% when at rest.
- ALPHA-GPC: Alpha-glycerylphos-phorylcholine is derived from soy lecithin and is actually a source of choline. It enhances mental function by increasing acetylcholine production, and it stimulates the release of growth-hormone-releasing hormone, a hormone that does as its name implies — boosts GH release.
STACK THEM LIKE THIS
Take 5-10 g of glutamine, 3-5 g of GABA and 100-500 mg of alpha-GPC with your preworkout shake and again before bed.
GH STACKING SYLLABUS*
Glutamine | 5-10 g with preworkout shake and before bed
GABA | 3-5 g with preworkout shake and before bed
Alpha-GPC | 100-500 mg with preworkout shake and before bed
*Works well with the testosterone stack from “Supplement Stacking 101”.
Stack on Stacks
For: Super Mass
Stack These Stacks: Mass Stack/Testosterone Stack
For: Big and Strong Physique
Stack These Stacks: Mass Stack/Strength Stack
For: Big and Ripped Physique
Stack These Stacks: Mass Stack/Ripped Stack/Testosterone Stack
For: All of the Above
Stack These Stacks: Mass Stack/Strength Stack/Ripped Stack/Testosterone Stack