Optimize Your Gains with a Systematic and Coordinated Approach to Daily Supplementation
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Let’s face it, maintaining a high caliber of fitness takes a lot of work and organization. When you consider how much time you spend preparing meals, training, eating, and sleeping, it’s amazing that you have any time (or energy) left to get anything else done!
So how can you maximize your efforts to get the biggest gains?
The answer is simple! Take a systematic and coordinated approach to your daily supplementation regimen. If you are currently following a random schedule for supplementation, then you are not maximizing your fitness efforts— exercise biochemistry is not a ‘random science’, so neither should your supplement regimen. In the following article, we present a science backed and affordable supplement strategy, coordinated with 5 key times of the day that are perfect for optimizing gains.
WAKE UP, SHAKE UP!
After a solid 8 to 10-hour sleep, your body is in a fasted state and is breaking down your hard-earned muscles to be used as nourishment. Before you even wipe the sleep from your eyes, get some amino acids into the body to shut down catabolism and prime the day for growth.
Whey Protein Isolate: Whey protein isolate is one of the purest protein supplements available, it has high bioavailability, naturally contains the highest levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), and has a complete amino acid profile.
Recommendation: Males and females, Mix 0.20 g of high quality whey protein isolate per pound of body weight into 16oz of water (e.g., if you weigh 175 lbs – 0.2 x 175 = 35 g of whey isolate).
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Named as such due to their unique branched chain structure, the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine have been used in bodybuilding and power sports for decades. BCAAs turn on “molecular switches” which increase protein synthesis and recovery, and boost the immune system.
Recommendation: Although whey protein contains a robust BCAA compliment, we suggest adding 3-5 g of BCAAs to your morning shake to ensure your BCAA reserves are topped up for the hard day ahead. Make sure the product you choose has at least twice the leucine as isoleucine and valine.
MEALTIME– Absorb and Catalyze!
A consistent, well-structured, and balanced diet is fundamental to making constant improvements in fitness. Here are 3 supplements that synergize with diet to optimize nutrient absorption and energy production.
Multivitamin: Vitamins support overall health by catalyzing vital processes in the body. For example, vitamin C acts as a potent antioxidant, the B-vitamins are essential for the energy producing (metabolic) pathways and repair/regeneration of cells, and minerals maintain normal cellular function. Since athletes tend to follow strict diets, taking a daily multivitamin will make up for any lacking micronutrients. In addition, intense training calls for more vitamins and minerals to catalyze metabolic reactions. Be sure to buy a product that is formulated for athletes, as it will contain all the necessary vitamins and minerals balanced for the stresses of training. Further, some vitamin requirements differ among the sexes, so buying a product specifically formulated for men or women may provide additional advantages.
Recommendation: Because formulations vary, take as directed with breakfast.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the body, keeping bones strong. It also helps reduce body fat, increases muscle strength, and promotes muscular development. Vitamin D binds to receptors on muscle cells to enhance muscle contraction and promote increased protein synthesis. Recent studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is common in North Americans, and exacerbated in athletes. The body can make vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight (by converting cholesterol to vitamin D); however, this mechanism of vitamin D “intake” depends greatly on the season and your sun bathing habits.
Recommendation: Vitamin D is fat soluble, so you can choose to take your daily amount in one shot or split it up among the day’s meals. We suggest taking a total (including what is in your multivitamin) of 2000 to 4000 IU of vitamin D3 (the active form of vitamin D) daily.
Fish oil: The omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish have been shown to reduce inflammation, increase cardiovascular health, increase the efficiency of the heart during exercise, maintain healthy blood lipid profiles, and, more recently, increase fat metabolism and lean mass gain.
Recommendation: Take 1 to 3 grams of high DHA and EPA fish oil with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
PRE-EXERCISE- Prime the Pump!
This is the optimal time to prime the body for performance. Taking the right supplements at the right time will ensure you have set up a perfect internal environment for an intense workout from start to finish. Hence, the longstanding success of pre-workout formulations. In fact, the top pre-workout formulations provide everything you need in one product.
If you are already using a pre-workout formula, excellent! But, be sure it contains most (if not all) of what we recommend in this section. The following supplements will provide an abundance of energy a metabolic support to fuel your workout.
Betaine: Betaine (aka trimethylglycine) is a methylated derivative of the amino acid glycine and exists in foods like wheat, beets, spinach, and shellfish. In the body, it serves as a methyl donor. Studies simulating methyl-deficient diets report disorders in protein synthesis, as well as muscle disturbances. Overall betaine has been shown to improve muscular endurance at high power output, it hydrates cells, reduces inflammation, maintains intestinal function, protects DNA, and lowers homocysteine levels (which promotes cardiovascular health). In a paper published in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition, resistance trained men who received a betaine supplement for 6 weeks saw improved body composition, muscle size, work capacity, and improved power versus placebo.
Recommendation: Take 1.5-2.5 g of betaine 30-60 min before training. If you plan on using a pre-workout formulation, then be sure it contains at least 1.5 g of betaine.
Caffeine: Although caffeine is a CNS stimulant, its effects on energy levels go far beyond its energetic buzz. Many studies show that pre-workout caffeine supplementation dampens perceived exertion and muscle pain during exercise and into recovery. As such, many find that pre-workout caffeine promotes higher workout intensity and volume, resulting in greater gains in shorter time.
Recommendation: Take 200-400 mg of caffeine 30-60 minutes prior to training. If you plan on using a pre-workout formulation, it will likely contain caffeine.
BCAAs: Pre-workout BCAA supplementation tops off blood amino acids, which will get consumed in your upcoming workout. Taking BCAAs before training also delays fatigue, so you can perform equally as hard at the end of your workout as the start.
Recommendation: Take 3-5 g of BCAAs, 30 to 60 minutes before training. If you are using a pre-workout formulation, confirm that it has at least 3 g of BCAAs (containing at least twice as much leucine versus isoleucine and valine).
Creatine: The research supporting creatine as a strength and muscle builder is undisputable. Creatine is rapidly taken up and stored in skeletal muscle where it provides much needed high energy creatine phosphate to supply muscles with the substrates to quickly make ATP (energy for contraction). In the end, having elevated creatine stores in muscle promotes dramatic increases in strength and power during explosive and extended performances with less time needed for rest.
Recommendation: Take 2-5 g of creatine monohydrate 30-60 minutes prior to training.
Beta-Alanine: Beta-Alanine supplementation boosts muscle carnosine levels over several weeks. Elevated muscle carnosine levels increase muscle energy/endurance by buffering skeletal muscle acidity that accumulates during prolonged high intensity exercise. This simply means that pre-workout beta-alanine can help you push harder for longer during your workouts.
Recommendation: The research suggests that you can reap the benefits of beta-alanine with as little as 1.6 g per day, however it will take longer for muscle carnosine levels to peak. For optimal results, take 3-5 g of beta-alanine, 30 minutes prior to training. If you are taking a pre-workout formula, be sure it contains at least 1.6 g of beta-alanine per serving.
POST-EXERCISE- Rest, Replenish, Recover!
You are exhausted, your muscles are screaming for nourishment and are primed for nutrient delivery and absorption. The post-workout period is one of the most crucial opportunities for maximizing growth and recovery.
Whey Protein Isolate: Whey is the ideal post-workout protein source, as it absorbs at a moderate 8-10 g per hour, so a 20-40 g shake will raise amino acids quickly and keep them elevated for about 2-4 hours. Whey boosts anabolic insulin better than any other protein source, this enables greater shuttling of glycogen and nutrients into fatigued muscle, promoting faster and greater recovery.
Recommendation: Males and females, immediately post-workout, mix approximately 0.20 g of high quality whey protein isolate per pound of body weight into 16oz of water (e.g., if you weigh 175 lbs – 0.2 x 175 = 35 g of whey isolate).
Creatine: When taken after exercise, creatine monohydrate can replenish and boost muscle creatine stores. Having extra creatine around after training not only provides energy substrates for future exercise bouts, but also promotes greater protein synthesis in recovery by physical and hormonal mechanisms. First, it increases the amount of water taken up by muscle cells—which swells the muscle and signals for increased repair (it also makes your muscles look bigger). Second, it increases the release of the anabolic hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and decreases myostatin levels (the ‘anabolic brakes’) during recovery from heavy training.
Recommendation: Mix 2-5 g of creatine into your post-workout whey protein isolate shake
Beta-Alanine: Because beta-alanine supplementation builds muscle carnosine levels over time, then you must replenish beta-alanine post-workout. This strategy will ensure that your muscle carnosine levels remain topped up for the next workout.
Recommendation: For optimal results, mix 1.6-5 g of beta-alanine in your post-workout whey protein isolate shake.
Betaine: Because betaine is lost during sweating and it supports anabolism, it’s a good idea to replenish it after training.
Recommendation: Take 1.5 to 2.5 g of betaine with your post-workout whey protein isolate shake.
Before Bed- Nocturnal Nourishment!
MICELLAR CASEIN: Casein is the most abundant protein found in cow’s milk. Micellar casein has the unique ability to form a gel in the stomach, slowing absorption, and making it a sustained supplier of amino acids. Past research illustrates that a single serving of micellar casein can sustain blood amino levels for up to 7 hours. This unique feature of micellar casein makes it an excellent anti-catabolic supplement, which provides muscle building amino acids, all night, while you sleep.
Recommendation: Mix 20-40 g of micellar casein in 16 oz of water and drink immediately before hitting the sack.
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