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Eating more food is an obvious requirement for weight gain but it has to be of the right type and amount, and at the right time to make sure that the extra calories don't make you fat. I eat several small meals a day consisting mostly of fibrous carbohydrates, a whole protein source with some vegetables. I think this way the body has a better chance of digesting the meal rather than storing any extra calories. I space this out between 2 - 3 hours, if it is a wholefood meal it will take longer to digest than a supplement or meal replacement product. For various reasons, availability, preparation, transportation, supplements can be used to increase the amount of calories needed to gain weight. So for this reason they can be used as a good addition to help in topping up the neccessary calorific increase. Otherwise wholefood should always be the first choice unless there is a reason you may want to have a particular nutrient at a certain time. This is a list of some of the stated claims with the active ingredient on some commercially available protein / weight gain supplements:

  • Cell Volumisation - Creatine, Glutamine
  • Energy / Workout Performance - Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Fructose, Glucose, Guarana, Green Tea
  • Delay Fatigue - Creatine
  • Increase Workout Strength - Creatine, Nitrus Oxide (NOX), Caffeine, Tribulus Terrestus, ZMA
  • Anti-Catabolic (reducing cortisol/promoting actisol) - Creatine, Glutamine, OAKG
  • Increase Growth Hormone - Hydroxy Methyl Butrate (HMB), Arginine, Ornithine, Pro - Hormones
  • Increase Testosterone - Tribulus Terrestrius, ZMA
  • Weight Gain - Protein Powders (Whey, Casein, Milk, Egg, Soy), Carbohydrate Powders (Oat, Wheat, Rice), Creatine, Glutamine
  • Enhance Muscle Pump and Vascularity - NOX, Argine, Ornithine
  • Mental stimulus - Caffeine, Guarana, Dibencozide
  • Increased Endurance/Stamina - Glutamine, Dextrose, Maltodextrin
  • Replace Glycogen - Glutamine
  • Reduce Muscle Soreness - Glutamine

It can be difficult to discern except by a process of trial and error if a product works or not, and this can involve a considerable amount of both time, especially if you do the research, and financial investment. I do place a certain value on supplement research but I like to keep an open mind as to who funds that research, and who sets the agenda of the value or efficacy of a particular product. Over the years that I have been training naturally I have probably tried all if not most supplements, and use a small number because I have been able to detect that they had an effect. This is a list of what has been most beneficial to me to increase mass: Protein supplements, Weight gain powders, Meal Replacements, Creatine, Glutamine, Maltodextrin, Dextrose and Vitamins and Minerals.

I can't know on a cellular level if for example a certain ingredient has increased testosterone levels or if it has reduced the catabolic hormone cortisol, so I simply ensure that my diet contains enough nutrients from protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fruit and vegetables. Anything taken beyond the basics may have an additional benefit if it works for you, but you may have to apply your own judgement. Below is a guideline of what I would consume around training time to prepare for and recover from a mass building workout:

2 hours before training Meal consisting of 80% carbohydrates from fibrous sources - oatmeal, brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, 20% protein from wholefoods.

30 - 45 minutes before training.

Pre-workout drink.

20mg - 40mg of whey protein powder or 1- 2 scoops, 1 banana.

Immediatley after finishing training.

Post-workout supplements drink.

Drink containing - 20mg of whey protein/1 scoop, 20mg of casein protein/1scoop, 30mg - 40mg of dextrose powder and 30mg - 40mg of maltodextrin powder, 1 heaped teaspoon of Creatine and 1 heaped teaspoon of Glutamine Peptides.
45 minutes - 1 hour following Meal consisting of slow digesting starchy carbohydrates such as - potatoes, white rice, white pasta. Wholefood protein source such as - meat, fish, chicken, eggs. Apply a ratio of 2:1 for carboydrates over protein. 1000mg Vitamin C.
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