You can pile your supplements high and suck back everything and likely see some good results. In most cases, more is better, especially with protein, amino acids, creatine, and a few other choice ingredients. The ingredients selected here are chosen because of their ability to help fuel muscle growth, prevent too much muscle damage, and improve your rate of recovery. While stimulants play a big role for many lifters, the truth is that they do little to improve overall muscle quality, hence you will notice that I am not advocating stimulants in your pre-workout matrix. Certainly each of you may have your fix, your vice, or an ingredient you cannot live without, and I am all for that. Placebo or not—and I am not suggesting ingredients that don’t appear here only provide a placebo effect—if you like it, take it, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. While I have read the research and understand the physiological interactions, I, too, like some ingredients that have not seen the acclaimed fame of others through research.
Remember, about 30% of people are what we scientists call non-responders to ingredients that have been proven effective. Why isn’t the opposite true? It is—scientists are just afraid to take the leap of faith. That is where I differ: Leap, jump, fly—don’t leave anything on the table if it has a chance to help you reach new heights.
Possibly the most important thing you can do is properly fuel your body for your workout to give it what it needs to grow. Most people miss this step in light of trying to get wired up for their workouts. And while, for some, a jacked-up pre-workout may give an added kick, rarely do any give you what you really need. Stimulants do not help muscles grow. For that reason, I suggest taking a few specific ingredients to fuel muscle-building. If you feel you still need a jolt, then go ahead and get your crack fix!
Take: Creatine (up to 5g), BCAAs (at least 5g with 3g leucine), Nitrosigine (1g), citrulline malate or L-citrulline (at least 3g).
The window of growth is at its max during and immediately following your workout, and since protein breakdown is in overdrive, your protein repletion should be right there with it. Additionally, since your muscles have lost some water and other vital nutrients during their hardworking session, they need some help getting back to “normal.” It is for these reasons that I suggest the following ingredients for a solid post-workout push.
Take: Creatine (up to 5g), BCAAs (at least 5g with 3g leucine), glutamine-alanine combo (5g), protein (20–30g).
You’ve just come of a huge fast, and your body is starving for some good nutrients. Likely your muscles are looking for some loving as well. To get things rolling, you need to grab a good breakfast, one that is high in protein but also has some fat and carbs to round out the meal. With some extra help from a good supplement stack, you can keep your muscles growing by giving your body that push it needs.
Take: Multivitamin, fish oil, joint formula, protein (20–30g).
Most people like to use cardio to burn fat and calories and are often afraid to fuel up right before it. This is a mistake. While cardio has an instant calorie requirement, it also has benefits long after the session is complete. Overall, if you hit a good, fast-paced session, you will improve your metabolic rate on a daily basis that, over time, will help regulate your body’s energy and fat- burning processes. Thus, this stack is created for those who are very serious about getting more out of their cardio routines.
Take: Caffeine (up to 200mg), Peak ATP (400mg) or ElevATP (150mg), beta-alanine (1.6–2g).
Before you go to bed and shut down for the day, you need to make sure your muscles have an edge when they hit that nutrient- deprived fast known as sleep. Part of sleeping is to allow your body to work on the finer details, some of the more internal processes, rather than just focusing on building muscle, so to that end, this stack has a little of both.
Take: Fish oil, Focus/Sleep blend, protein blend (includes casein and/ or plant proteins, 20–30g).
BY DAVID SANDLER, MS, CSCS*D