Time Your Supplement Intake For Better Gains
With the vast amount of sports supplements on the market today it can become confusing what supplements to take and when, to gain the most benefit. Choosing what supplements to take and how to position them into your daily routine can give you a more effective supplement regime and ultimately lead to better gains.
Outlined in this article will be the most widely used supplements in sports and bodybuilding to gain muscle and increase performance such as a vitamin/mineral, creatine, nitric oxide, protein, BCAAs and weight gainers. A brief explanation of how these supplements work and why they are important at different times will also be given, in addition to a sample supplement regime.
Creatine can be found in meat and fish and is used in our body to create an energy source for muscular performance (called ATP). ATP is primarily used during anaerobic exercise (high intensity exercise) such as sprinting or lifting weights when bodybuilding. As creatine supports muscle energy during weight training it is wise to supplement creatine to increase its stores and therefore increase the amount of ATP that can be produced and the amount of muscular work that can be performed.
By increasing strength, energy and endurance levels creatine can help users to lift more weight and overload their muscles to gain new mass. Creatine also increases water uptake in muscle cells allowing them become bigger and absorb more nutrients to grow.
Creatine is probably the most tested supplement in the industry and has been shown to produce results. It is necessary to supplement with creatine as the amount found in red meat (the most abundant source) is not nearly enough to saturate your muscle cells.
Protein can be found naturally in all meat products and also in some vegetable and grain sources (although these do not contain full amino acid profiles). However whey protein is the most effective source. Whey protein is derived from milk, where nearly all fat and carbohydrates are filtered out leaving almost pure protein. Whey protein is the fastest acting source of protein as it spikes protein synthesis levels faster and higher than any other source. This is perfect for post workout nutrition where the fastest acting source of protein is needed to help muscles recover.
Not only is whey protein the fastest acting source of protein, but also per serving it cannot be beaten on price by any meat source. Try getting a chicken breast for 20p!
Casein protein is found in milk and also processed as a supplement. Unlike whey protein casein protein is a very slow digesting protein source, taking up to 7 hours to fully digest. However this can be an advantage at certain times of the day.
Whey protein digests very quickly and spikes protein synthesis, however because of this it obviously clears your digestive system quickly also. This has the effect that protein synthesis levels are spiked very high, but for a short period leaving no protein available for growth at periods of 3-7 hours later.
As casein protein digests very slowly it ‘drip feeds’ your muscles with amino acids that can help build and repair muscle tissue over a long 7 hour period. Therefore casein protein can work very well when taken before bed where you won’t be eating for up to 8 hours.
Casein protein has been shown to have a very strong anti-catabolic effect, i.e. it prevents muscle breakdown.
Nitric oxide is a gas produced naturally in the body and influences a vast array of processes within cells. The amino acid L-Arginine is converted within the body to form nitric oxide and therefore supplementing with L-Arginine increases its production. Supplemental L-Citrulline is also converted to nitric oxide in the body and has actually been shown to have a greater effect on nitric oxide levels than supplemental L-Arginine.
The main benefit of increasing nitric oxide levels is the vasodilation effect that occurs. Vasodilation is where the blood vessels in your body are relaxed and expanded allowing greater blood flow. This in turn increases the pump during your workouts and also allows for greater nutrient deposition throughout the day. This is of importance as it has been shown that increasing the pump in a muscle group during your workouts has a positive effect on protein synthesis (muscle growth).
Nitric oxide can therefore have great benefit around your workouts to increase the pump and feed nutrients to your muscles for growth.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are a group of three amino acids (L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine and L-Valine) that are metabolised within muscle (rather than the liver) making them relevant for bodybuilders, they also make up 1/3 of skeletal muscle.
BCAAs are not only important in building muscle but have also been shown to stimulate insulin release. Insulin is a hormone that transports and deposits nutrients into muscle cells allowing them to use food for energy and growth. Therefore supplementing with BCAAs post workout can increase the amount of food that muscles can uptake allowing for greater growth and recovery.
Weight gainers are great to take post workout as they contain protein and carbohydrates. These two macronutrients are vital to consume post workout as they help your body to refuel and recover.
Taking carbohydrates and protein together post workout in liquid form ensures a fast delivery of these vital nutrients. Many weight gainers contain high GI carbs that also have the benefit of spiking insulin levels, increasing the uptake of nutrients into muscle cells. Spiking insulin levels isn’t recommended at any other time of the day as a possible side effect is fat storage, however post workout almost all of the nutrients you consume will be soaked up by your muscles.
Possibly the most underrated supplement by many amateur bodybuilders, a multivitamin ensures adequate intake of all the vital nutrients for muscle growth. As vitamins and minerals are essential for almost all processes in your body, a deficiency of just one could have a detrimental effect on your muscle growth.
Many bodybuilders have been shown to be deficient in zinc as a direct result of weight training, therefore a comprehensive multivitamin can ensure there are no gaps in your daily nutrition plan.
Also remember that when weight training, bodybuilding or playing sports the amount of vitamins and minerals that you require increases above that of the government’s RDA.
Sample Daily Supplement Regime
There are many other supplements available that can help with your specific goals, however these are the most popular and most researched. The sample daily routine is just a guide and depending on your budget and schedule this may change. However it is recommended that post workout nutrition is where the most attention is placed.
In addition remember not to place too much emphasis on supplements. Supplements are a great addition and can increase your performance and muscle gains, but they won’t be as effective if your normal diet isn’t suitable for your goals.