We are often asked what are the most effective Sports Supplements to use. Not a day goes past when it seems that either another product is released or another company starts operation. This can sometimes leave us totally confused so I can only imagine how a novice trainer with no experience can feel. This is why some of the not-so reputable companies pray on the novice trainer. They target this group, spinning their advertising hype trying to make their quick sales, leaving the client totally confused with their lack of progress and empty wallet.
So what is effective in the big bad supplement world? OK, lets work out the mechanics behind building muscle. We all know that weight training is just the stimulus to enable you body to build muscle. But training is just the trigger; we need the ammunition to finish the job. Building muscle, apart from training can be summarised by nutrition, intensity and recovery. By focusing on these three areas we will be able to gain all the muscle we can ever hope for - naturally and whilst remaining healthy.
The quality and the way in which you approach nutrition are vital to any type of success that will be achieved. Most people have heard the phrase 'You are what you eat'. Well when it comes to gaining muscle and losing body fat this is more relevant then ever. When it comes down to it, muscle is protein and protein is muscle. By using an effective protein supplement you can dramatically increase your strength, muscularity and potential for new muscle growth. But now it gets confusing. Every supplement company out there had a protein product on the market, whether that is a powder, bar, desert etc. Deciding on what you want and when you need to use it will determine what you use and the results you will experience. Different types for different needs.
I like to place protein powders into two separate categories:
Confused yet? Let me explain. The protein powders on the market these days are generally made from Whey powder. Whey was once a waste product used in the dairy industry when they manufactured cheese. Today, it is a highly effective nutrition supplement. Depending on whether we class a product a 'food' or a 'supplement' solely depends on its ingredients and when it is best used for maximum results. Depending on whether we class it as a 'food' and 'supplement' all boils down to ingredients and absorption rates in the body.
Protein Powder - Supplement. The more refined and processed the powder is, the quicker it can be utilised by the body. The type of powder, which is utilised quickest, is 100% Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate. Closely behind Hydrolysed Protein is Whey Protein Isolate. These Proteins are best used directly after training. What happens when you train is when you finish your body is in a highly anabolic (growing) state. To capitalise on this you need to feed your body quickly and effectively. If you do not, you body will start to break down existing muscle tissue to obtain the necessary building blocks (Amino Acids) to repair the trained muscles. The reason you should drink a Hydrolysed protein supplement at this time is that it is broken down an utilised by the body quicker then any other product available. The nutrients in Hydrolysed whey are in the blood system within 20 minutes feeding hungry muscles. This is why we class this as a supplement. During the rest of the day we want to feed our bodies a constant supply of nutrients. Hydrolysed whey has been specifically designed to be quick acting so is not as effective as other varieties for this purpose. Enter the 'food' protein Powder.
Protein Powder - Food. The key to building muscle is to supply your body a constant supply of nutrients, every 2-3 hours. If you are going to consume a protein drink as a meal then you need to consume one in which will supply nutrients until your next feeding. Enter the Protein Powder Meal Replacement or Synergistic Protein Powder. In the above table you noticed that there was 4 different types of protein. We will focus on Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate and Calcium Caseinate. Soy Protein is another variety but due to its high level of Phyto-estrogens is not recommended for males with muscle growth in mind.
Different types of Whey all have a specific role. You will recognise Whey Isolate from the above paragraph. We use this due to its fast acting capabilities. Whey Concentrate is used because it is slower acting them Whey Isolate and Calcium Caseinate is used because it is slower acting then the previous two. When used all together, the end result is far superior product then if using one single source of protein. When consumed, we have a steady supply of nutrients entering the system, supplied over a period of several hours, which is so vital for muscle growth. This combination is not only Anabolic (muscle growth producing) but also Anti-Catabolic (reducing muscle breakdown). This is like your insurance policy in regards to muscle growth.
A couple of these 'food' meals a day can greatly contribute to your success in and out of the gym. To sum it up, use a 100% Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate directly after training and use a combination of on Whey Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Concentrate and Calcium Caseinate during the rest of the day as either meal replacements or meal enhancers.
Intensity is what it's all about. The greater the intensity you train at and the more energy you have for training the better your results will be. The one supplement which has been proven to not only substantially increase training intensity and energy, but dramatically increase lean muscle gains as well is Creatine Monohydrate.
Creatine is bodybuilding's ultimate supplement, and for good reason. For one thing, creatine can significantly increase lean muscle mass in just two weeks. It is also responsible for improving performance in high-intensity exercise, increasing energy levels, and speeding up recovery rates. It's no wonder athletes who use it have such of an edge over those who do not. Soon nearly every athlete who competes will use it (if they don't already).
Creatine's ability to enhance energy reserves in muscles comes from its muscle protein synthesizing action, while minimizing protein breakdown. This occurs because creatine has the awesome effect of super-hydrating muscle cells with water. It enhances muscles' growth too-making muscle fibre's bigger and stronger. Quite a few studies have been done on creatine to figure out why and how it works so well. There have been over twenty double blind (meaning neither the researchers nor the subjects knew who was getting what), placebo-controlled studies conducted on creatine in the past five years. They proved that creatine increased energy levels, resulting in increased strength, endurance levels, and recovery rates.
Another unexpected benefit attributed to creatine was discovered as well: creatine accelerates fat loss, while building lean body mass! As you may have noticed Creatine is one of those supplements that 'every' company out their produces. This is good in a way that it brings the overall price of this supplement down making it more affordable for more people, but it also lets in the hungry money sales types into the equation. This means that with some products the quality is questionable. When buying a creatine product, ensure you buy a reputable brand from a proven. To put it simply, Creatine Monohydrate is able to:
Increase Muscle Torque
Increase Muscle Cell Volume
Increase Muscle Energy
Increase Muscle Strength
Increase Muscle Endurance
So, how do you use Creatine Monohydrate? To start with, you need to load on Creatine to 'saturate' your muscles creatine levels. The reason we do this is because the greatest effect will be achieved and the chance of growth highlighted in this saturated state. To effectively do this you would take 4-6 x 5 gram serves a day for 5-7 days. Afterwards for would follow what is called a 'maintenance' dose which is 5-10 grams a day for 1 month. Afterwards, you can either take 2-4 weeks off Creatine Monohydrate or you can directly follow the loading process again.
Some people feel like they need to take a break from this supplement but there is no research to prove that this is needed - it all comes down to personal preference.
You might be using the most effective training program in the world, have the most dedicated of training partners and a faultless approach to nutrition, unless you fully 'recover' between training sessions you WILL NOT achieve your goals. Recovery is so vital to the success that you will experience that if it is only marginally affected it can spell disaster for your fitness goals. So how do we enhance recovery?
Use an abbreviated training program focusing on compound movements
Train each muscle group only once a week
Try to get as much sleep as possible (the ideal 8 hours is good)
Have a sound nutrition plan eating good wholesome food
Each regularly - every 2-3 hours (and that includes night time as well)
Take a week off training every 8-10 weeks
Don't used so called training techniques as Forced Reps, Supersets etc (anything that will hinder recovery)
The last point, using L-Glutamine has been singled out by many people as a so called 'secret weapon' in their recovery process. There is nothing 'secret' about L-Glutamine so lets have a look at what it is and what it does.
Glutamine literally drives muscle building nitrogen into the muscle cell where it is synthesized for growth. In a release of the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the results of a study on glutamine revealed that a single oral dose (less then 5 grams) of glutamine elevated circulating growth hormone levels by over 400%! That's right - 400%! Significant? You bet your ass it is. With L-Glutamine you'll be able to effortlessly increase your growth hormone levels by over 400%!
By keeping a consistently high level of circulating growth hormone, you are able to combat the catabolic effects of weight training, harness the anabolic activity of increased glucose and amino acid uptake, improve whole body nitrogen retention, and increase lean tissue protein accrual. Supplementing with L-Glutamine may just be the most effective way of assisting new muscle growth! So there you have it.
By supplementing your training with good quality Whey Protein, Micronised Creatine Monohydrate and L-Glutamine, you have all the bases covered. You are supplying your body with high amounts of Protein, increasing your Energy and Intensity and enhancing your Recovery. Now all you need to do is go out and attack those weights like never before.