It seems that every week there is a new breakthrough in the field of dietary supplements touting the next best thing has just arrived and dozens of companies jump on the bandwagon to fight over your hard-earned money. With the insurmountable onslaught of supplement information and advertising in the print and digital media, one can easily get confused, frustrated and just freakin’ pissed at all the opinions floating around regarding what works and what doesn’t. And don’t ask the meathead at your gym, unless you want to fall deeper into the vortex of misguided broscience.
These “breakthroughs” can lead unsuspecting bodybuilders down the wrong path of little to no gains, empty wallets and a disdain for the world of supplements in general. Not all supplements are created equal or even created to actually work. Heavy marketing campaigns ensure sales push out products with little or no real research to back them up.
Below are four tried and true supplements that are all too familiar and are considered the all-stars of muscle building. These four heavy hitters have displayed higher performance during workouts, better recovery,and more muscle mass in the long term both in the lab and in the gym.
If you have never heard of creatine, then welcome to earth. Touted by athletes and researchers as one of the most effective supplements ever created, creatine has grown quite a powerful reputation over the last couple of decades.
In its purest form, creatine monohydrate is the gold medalist of effective, ergogenic supplements. Clinically proven through countless studies on not only muscular strength and endurance creatine has a significant effect on power, fat loss, recovery between workouts as well as faster recovery between sets.
Creatine is formed from arginine, glycine, and methionine and helps support ATP in muscular contraction. As it gets converted to creatine phosphate in the muscles it creates a very anabolic environment in the tissue allowing more protein synthesis to occur. This “superhydration” of fluid in the muscle cells allows more nutrients to help repair and grow tissue. Heavily researched and widely used, athletes from all disciplines have sworn creatine’s effectiveness with readily apparent and fast-acting results. This supplement is a must in any strength athlete’s arsenal.
- Try taking 3-5 grams pre and post workout with your whey shakes. The pre workout dose will prime the muscles so they will be ready for the intense training to come and the post workout dose will enable the muscles to shuttle in creatine at a quick rate so the tissue will be topped off for the next session.
Casein is the largest compound found in milk. It is slow to digest and some forms take up to six to seven hours to fully metabolize. That is why casein is a great choice when you know you may not eat for a while or right before bed. This slow release of amino acids will ensure your muscles are getting exactly what they need to keep growing.
Caseinate is a form of casein that is made mostly of protein and is somewhat soluble. Usually as calcium caseinate, potassium caseinate, or sodium caseinate manufacturers like the solubility of caseinate as it mixes well in fluid.
Micellar casein protein undergoes a microfiltration process to separate lactose, fat and whey from the casein part of the milk. Because of this extra process micellar casein does not mix easily with fluid but it is the slowest digesting of the casein proteins making it ideal for nighttime use. Lastly, the fastest digesting protein of the casein family is hydrolyzed casein. It goes through a process called hydrolysis where amino acid bonds are broken making short-chained proteins. Due to the faster absorption rate hydrolyzed protein is a good addition to your pre and post workout shakes.
- Try utilizing Micellar casein at times when you have a long time period between meals and before you go to bed. The slow release of amino acids will ensure you are getting what you need for accelerated muscle growth. Hydrolyzed casein is best used in combination with your post-workout whey shake. Its fast action will supply yet another form of protein so you get a full spectrum of the building blocks of your physique.
3. Whey Protein
What can be said that hasn’t already been said about the most popular and widely used supplement around? Whey protein, in its many forms, is known for its fast-acting potential for quick absorption so you can kick-start the recovery process before, during and after training.
When milk is made into cheese, whey is the substance that has floated to the top due to the separation process. Whey protein concentrate goes through a couple of manufacturing processes known as ultrafiltration and diafiltration which leave most of the proteins intact with a small amount of fats and carbohydrate. Although whey concentrate is somewhat fast digesting, it is still slow compared to its relatives.
Whey protein isolate is next in line when it comes to speed of digestion which is due to the extra step in processing that concentrate does not go through. Ion-exchange chromatography, which is a longer filtration process, allows isolate to be purer and the protein to absorb faster, however, some protein fractions are lost in this process. The fastest sibling in the protein family is whey protein hydrolysate. This protein is taken to an even more thorough filtration process known as hydrolysis to break the amino acid bonds increase absorption. That is why hydrolysate is the best protein to take immediately after a workout. Whatever whey protein form you choose, try taking it around your training times and first thing in the morning when amino acids are critical for continued growth.
- Try 20 grams in the morning about a half hour before your first solid meal, 20-30 grams before training and 40-50 grams after training. Of course you must weigh all your options when choosing a whey protein product such as price, availability and taste.
As the most important group of the nine essential amino acids, branched chain amino acids have a potent effect on protein synthesis. BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine are used for fuel during intense workouts thus preventing your body from scavenging hard-earned muscle for energy. This, in turn will help with muscle tissue repair and help facilitate performance. At other times of day BCAAs help stimulate protein synthesis and ward off cortisol, the catabolic hormone. More research is pointing to leucine specifically as the breadwinner of the mighty trio. With its significant effect on several key hormones that can trigger the activation of pathways for better recuperation and muscle repair, including leucine to your supplement regimen is a no-brainer.
- 5-10 grams upon waking in the morning: BCAAs first thing in the morning is just another weapon in your arsenal to ward off the catabolic effects of fasting most of the night. Your body can readily utilize BCAAs as fuel while whey and glutamine quickly get to muscle tissue.
- 5-10 grams pre-workout: Again, taking BCAAs before a workout can fuel the body with energy so you can spare muscle tissue and it will also keep you in an anabolic state for growth.
- 5-10 grams post-workout: This will enhance protein synthesis and depress the catabolic hormone cortisol which can enhance muscle breakdown and limit testosterone’s effect on muscle growth.
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