If you spend an hour examining the packed shelves of a supplement store, you are more likely to walk away with a headache and empty pockets than a useful supplement. It is impossible to distinguish between supplements that build mass and those that build only debt without reliable nutrition and supplement information. Some supplements are useful but must be taken in appropriate quantities at the proper times.
Research supports the notion that meal timing around exercise increases the amount of lean mass gained. In one study, researchers supplemented two groups of men with the same supplement, except one group got the supplement immediately before and after resistance training; the other group received the supplement several hours before and after working out (1). The group that received the supplement immediately before and after the workout gained significantly more lean mass than the group that did not practice good nutrient timing.
The most important part of building lean mass is eating extra calories. The extra calories should come from high quality protein, carbohydrates and fat, primarily before and after workouts.
Before a Workout-
Generally, protein supplementation enhances lean mass gain during periods of resistance training– thousands of studies support this conclusion. A study conducted at Baylor University in young men showed a significant increase in muscle mass with about 40 grams of protein supplementation per day (2). Before a work-out, whey protein, casein protein or mixed protein sources (like whey and casein / egg and whey).
Supplement with 0.5 grams / kg of protein before your workout.
The branched chain amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. All of these amino acids (the smallest units of protein), and leucine especially, increase the rate of muscle building and decrease the rate of muscle break down (3,4). Hence, BCAA supplementation before and after weight-lifting allows for an anabolic effect on protein metabolism.
Experts recommend 3-6 grams of BCAAs before and after workouts; take about 3 grams for each 50 kg of body mass. A pure BCAA powder is the most ecomical way to take this supplement; one rounded teaspoon is about 5 grams. A container containing 500g should cost you about $ 22-30 and should last about 2 months, depending on your weight.
Carbohydrates are an important fuel source; lower glycemic or "slower" carbohydrates should be consumed before a workout. Good examples are oats and berries.
Consume about 0.5 grams / kg of carbohydrates before your workout.
Numerous studies have been published showing the benefits of creatine supplementation for increased lean mass and strength. One study showed about twice as much lean mass gain for men taking creatine over the placebo group when completing the same resistance training program (5). In this study the men supplemented with 20 grams / day during a one week loading phase and 5 grams / day for the rest of the twelve week study for maintenance. If you choose to do a loading phase, be sure to split the creatine up into 4 or 5 doses throughout the day to minimize stomach upset.
Creatine monohydrate is the form of creatine that has been studied the most and has been proven effective in research; 500g should not cost more than $ 15. Furthermore, there is evidence that creatine is absorbed better with high-glycemic carbohydrates; bananas and juice are good natural sources of sugar.
Example of a Good Pre-Work Out Shake for a 170 lb Man (taken 30-45 minutes before the workout begins):
1- 1.5 oz (scoops) casein protein, 2 Tbsp oats, 1 medium banana (in chunks, frozen for a thicker shake), 5 grams BCAAs, 7 g Creatine Monohydrate, ice or water as desired
Immediately After a Workout-
Quick-absorbing carbohydrates are important after a workout for a number of reasons. First of all, the enzymes responsible for glycogen synthesis are upregulated immediately after resistance training. Glycogen, which is made in the body from sugar, is a major carbohydrate fuel for weight-training. As such, it is important to get your post-work out shake into your body as quickly as possible after a workout. Additionally, the high-glycemic carbohydrates stimulate the release of the anabolic hormone insulin, which aids in muscle recovery and growth.
Comsume at least 0.5 grams / kg of high-glycemic carbohydrate after a workout when you are trying to gain lean mass. Bananas and honey are both good choices after a work-out.
Whey protein is quickly absorbed and has an overall anabolic effect on muscle, as demonstrated in a study of young males (6). In this study the men who supplemented with whey protein and creatine increased their strength to the greatest degree; those who supplemented only with whey (1.2 g / kg / day) also improved significantly more than the placebo group.
Supplement with 0.5 grams / kg of whey protein after your workout.
The rationale is the same as the above; take 3-6 grams in a post-work out shake.
Example of a Good Pre-Work Out Shake for a 170 lb Man:
1.5 oz (scoops) whey protein, 1.5 medium bananas (in chunks, frozen for a thicker shake), 5 grams BCAAs, ice or water as desired
* Do not add a fat source to your post-workout shake. Fat delays the emptying of stomach contents into the small intestine; you want the nutrients to reach your small intestine as quickly as possible *
You gain improve your gains with smart and consistent use of sports supplements. Though the supplements above are by no means an exhaustive list of all useful supplements, the most important and useful and effective ergogenic aids were included. When you are training to add lean mass, be sure to fuel your workouts 1) Take your pre-workout supplements 30-45 minutes before you begin training; and 2) Take your post-workout supplements within 30 minutes of completing your resistance training.
1. Cribb PJ, Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov; 38 (11): 1918-25.
2. Kerksick CM, Rasmussen CJ, Lancaster SL, Magu B, Smith P, Melton C, Greenwood M, Almada AL, Earnest CP, Kreider RB. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug; 20 (3): 643-53.
3. Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Kohnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan; 136 (1 Suppl): 269S-73S.
4. Escobar J, Frank JW, Suryawan A, Nguyen HV, Kimball SR, Jefferson LS, Davis TA. Regulation of cardiac and skeletal muscle protein synthesis by individual branched-chain amino acids in neonatal pigs. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Apr; 290 (4): E612-21.
5. Volek JS, Duncan ND, Mazzetti SA, Staron RS, Putukian M, Gomez AL, Pearson DR, Fink WJ, Kraemer WJ. Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Aug; 31 (8): 1147-56.
6. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2001 Sep; 11 (3): 349-64.