Advanced supplementation for bulking 101 is upon you! Line up 10 guys at your local gym and growing muscle mass is likely to be the goal of at least half of them. Go to Gold’s gym and it’s more likely closer to all 10 of them!
But the key difference from those true freaks you see at your local gym, apart from genetic advantages or taboo enhancements, is a thorough working knowledge of supplement optimisation along with a sickening work ethic.
They know how to formulate a comprehensive supplement stack to keep their body in an anabolic state, enhance repair and recovery and get the most out of their training sessions to maximise muscle growth. Whilst there isn’t a single supplement on the planet that can grow muscle tissue without hard work, diet and exercise; there are certainly massive advantages to a truly pro level supp stack for gaining lean tissue this offseason!
Let’s have a look at the most researched and effective supplementation, break them into categories and most effective times to utilise them. For the sake of simplicity, I will categorise them into 4 umbrellas of:
- Post Workout
- Anabolic State Optimisation/Recovery
These guys actually have the potential to truly influence your muscle building potential by allowing you to thoroughly smash your next workout and push through the lifts you failed last week. The only proven path to hypertrophy is the progressive overload model and this requires you to lift more this week than you did in the last. A comprehensive pre workout can help you achieve this feat!
Active ingredients to look out for are Citrulline Malate dosed preferably at the 6 gram mark, Creatine, as well as any endurance and focus promoting amino acids such as L-Tyrosine, Alpha GPC, Betaine anhydrous and the elephant in the room, stimulants! Caffeine is a well studied performance enhancing compound that can be coupled with other potent compounds such as Synephrine and Theacrine. Keep an eye out for a blend of synergistic stimulants in your pre workout for the best in sustained energy to keep hitting those big numbers and keep that progression in your overload program.
Intra-workout for Muscle Building
Seeing as ATP is the major fuel source for anaerobic exercise, including all explosive bouts of training such as weights required for muscular hypertrophy, supplements like Maltodextrin and Creatine are perfect for sustained performance. An intra workout that contains high GI carbohydrates like dextrose and maltodextrin, coupled with Creatine (see pre workout section) will see incredibly efficient energy production and recovery between sets while keeping insulin spiked and cortisol down. Throw in 5-10 grams of a 2:1:1 BCAA supplement to prevent muscle break down, improve intra set recovery and assist in energy production as well and you have an intra workout that will support all the performance required to build maximal tissue! This will look something like:
- 30-40grams of Maltodextrin/Dextrose
- 5-10 grams BCAA’s
- Creatine 5-7 grams (if not included in pre workout)
Whilst the importance of the ‘anabolic window’ may well have blown out of proportion in recent years, the presence of a solid supplemental protocol can make significant moves towards anti-catabolism.
There are 3 main priorities post workout when trying to achieve muscle growth. The first two are to lower cortisol and get your body out of a catabolic state caused by the strenuous activity just conducted. This can be achieved by addressing the stressors actually present. So post workout, glycogen is depleted and ATP, your body’s energy currency, is regenerating as well in layman’s terms. Therefore, the fastest way to return from catabolism is to replenish glycogen and help return your ATP which is tackled beautifully by the addition of 5-7 grams of Creatine Monohydrate with 40-60 grams of a maltodextrin or dextrose supplement to rapidly refill glycogen stores, create an insulin spike and drive nutrients and creatine into the muscle cells for growth and repair.
The third and final priority is the rebuilding and involves consuming 30-50 grams of protein from a Whey Protein Isolate or Concentrate, closely following completion of the exercise. While there is new research now showing whole food protein sources to be as anabolic, or more so, than protein powder supplements post workout, a fast absorbing high-quality whey protein supplement is an essential part of your muscle building arsenal. The high amino acid profile of the whey protein isolate supplements, in particular, the high Leucine content, will activate mTOR which increases protein synthesis and initiates the rebuilding processes. One last supplement to add to this laundry list of anabolism is Glutamine at 5 grams, which, as a conditionally essential amino acid is very necessary to supplement with after strenuous exercise to further recovery.
So to summarise, your post workout shake should look something like:
- 30-50 grams of Protein from Whey Protein Isolate/Concentrate
- 40-60 grams of Carbohydrates coming from Maltodextrin/dextrose (ie. Pure Carbs)
- 5-7 grams of Creatine Monohydrate
- 5 grams of Glutamine
Anabolic State Optimisation / Recovery
The one hour you are in the gym tearing it up is actually the least important piece of the puzzle when it comes to building tissue. The weights room is simply the catalyst that signals that the body must grow stronger in response to stressors placed on it that were greater than previous workouts. The bigger picture that will see you pack on the beef is the other 23 hours of the day. It is all about putting your body in a state for as much of the day as possible, to optimise your time spent in building and repairing mode. This can be done by keeping calorie intake high with regular, nutrient dense meals, by lowering cortisol throughout the day which can also be done with supplementation (5 Supps to Conquer Cortisol) and finally, by enhancing the time the body is being anabolic through supplements such as BCAA’s throughout the day along with an amazing steroidal plant saponin known as Laxogenin. This amazing compound can increase protein synthesis by 200% with dosages of 100mg per day. Combine this supplement with a natural test boosting supplement and a high protein diet with plenty of amino acids trickling in with your BCAA supplement and you will be well and truly maximising your gains for the rest of the day!
Now for the next supplement, it is worthy of noting that nothing will trump a sound, tailored nutritional strategy aimed at providing ample calories made up of quality protein, fats and carbs from wholefood sources. However, when not available in a whole food option, a Mass gainer supplement is an ideal way to pack in the calories, proteins and carbohydrates required to fuel muscle growth.
The final category of supplements are more lifestyle aids but will never the less enhance the bodies ability to digest and partition nutrients while keeping systemic inflammation and cortisol lowered. These are of course supplements designed to aid in gut health improvement.
These include the use of probiotics at around 25billion Cfu per day, digestive enzymes such as protease and lipase with meals, apple cider vinegar to increase digestive enzymatic action and increase insulin sensitivity and high doses of glutamine with your usual ZMA supplement before bed. Glutamine will rebuild the stomach lining like few other supplements available, which has a host of benefits around immunity, digestion and keeping down irritability from a high-calorie diet.
Muscle building requires high caloric consumption of nutrient dense whole foods combined with a tailored hypertrophy focused weight training protocol focused on progressive overload. These are the fundamentals that we must all master before we can hope to become the next Ronnie Coleman.
However, a supplement regime aimed at optimising the amount of time our body is undergoing anabolic processes rather than catabolic will also greatly influence your end result. By not being plagued by elevated cortisol levels, by maintaining regular period of elevated protein synthesis and by ensuring adequate macronutrient requirements are filled pre, intra and post workout, you will start tipping the scales towards muscle growth and could very well be the key to success in your next successful muscle building campaign! In case you missed the supplements in the article, see below for your new muscle building bible stack!
|Pre-Workout||A comprehensive, clinically dosed pre-workout supplement|
|Intra-Workout||Amino acids-Glutamine, BCAA’s, Creatine|
|Post Workout||WPI/WPC Protein Powder|
|Anabolic State Optimisation/Recovery||Laxogenin|
|Anabolic State Optimisation/Recovery||Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes and Apple Cider Vinegar|
|Intra/Post||Maltodextrin/Dextrose based supplements|
|Anabolic State Optimisation/Recovery||Natural Test Booster and ZMA before bed|
|Anabolic State Optimisation/Recovery||Mass Gainer shakes if whole food not available|