Mass / Weight Gain
The best approach for putting weight on is to gradually increase calorific consumption from protein and complex carbohydrates with some good, vegetable fats. A commercial weight gain supplement will typically contain the carbohydrates maltodextrin and possibly other sources from oats, rice, wheat or barley, and a mixture of slower and more quickly digested proteins, for example whey protein isloate/concentrate, casein and egg. I would add 2 - 3 of these drinks a day to the regular number of wholefood meals that I eat and combine that with a training routine emphasising compound/multi-joint exercises with heavy weights, in a lower range of 6 - 8 reps, for low volume meaning fewer sets with longer rest periods, for three and not more than four days per week. I follow a one day on one day off routine splitting the body into three workouts, each concentrating on one major muscle group, chest, back and legs followed by a rest day in between with the weekend off giving extra time for recovery and growth from using maximal poundages. An increase in calories raises strength and energy levels and permits me to train heavier which should mean a gain in weight and mass, but it is a fine line between gaining muscular weight and bodyfat. Therefore I don't want to indulge in over feeding whereby the extra calories are just stored as fat about the body. It is probably impossible to gain muscle at this time without adding a little bodyfat so I find it important to constantly review how much weight I have put on and what it actually looks like so that I can adjust specific levels such as food intake, training frequency, amount and type accordingly to regulate this weight gain. In summary to gain weight I want to take a supplement high in carbohydrate content, to lose weight I would want to do the opposite by gradually reducing calories from carbohydrates but at the same time increasing protein to hold onto lean muscular bodyweight.
As I mentioned earlier most of the increased calories should come from carbohydrates. My diet should already be high enough in protein to enable the purpose of repair and rebuilding so to increase weight overall I need to add in more carbohydrates. It is best to choose the fibrous type leading up to a workout as they facilitate a slower more steadier release of energy throughout the day. Starchy carbohydrates are the best choice to take after training as they are more quickly absorbed and so replenish depleted glycogen stores better.
As you begin to weigh more it is importaint to also increase protein consumption to enusure that any growth made is of the muscular kind rather than bodyfat. As I will need to constantly supply myself with enough of the proper calories to put size on I have found it convenient to choose some of the weight gain supplements available which contain the correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein, about 2:1, in the form of drinks and food bars. A good name brand supplement of this type can be the best nutritonal source to have at hand if I don't have access to or can't prepare wholefood or I am otherwise unable to mix up a supplement powder, for example while travelling or in the workplace. I make sure though that I read the product's label so that I can avoid anything with a high simple sugar content, and take into account that some of these protein/weight gain supplements have gone through a manufacturing process and can contain gelatine or bovine digestive enzymes.
Of all supplements creatine apparently has the greatest amount of positve feedback from research supporting its efficacy. Primarily it is claimed that creatine acts as a cell volumiser by drawing water into muscles increasing their size, and that it supplies energy to the phospocreatine energy system providing the user with more strength when summoning the type of explosive force needed during resistance training. Being able to lift a heavier weight for a number of repetitions for a series of sets is usually indicative of an increase in the size of a muscle.
My experience from taking it has meant that I have indeed been able to increase the poundages used on most exercises and over a long period of time of months and years. Whether the results are from being able to lift heavier weights or from a combination of bodybuilding experience and placebo effect or both the outcome has been a real increase in strength and weight used.
Regarding weight gain this is due to the creatine acting to pull water from other parts of the body to be stored in the muscle making them look fuller. Use also means that the body stores more water generally which results in an overall gain in weight. However taking creatine monohydrate over the long term, for extended maintenance periods and never taking a break, can result in abdominal bloat and a laxative symptoms. To avoid this outcome a more advanced product has been developed in the form of creatine ethyl ester. Monohydrate involves a loading period and taking a recommended dose of five or six heaped teaspoons daily for a period of five days, mixing it in a drink containing simple sugars such as fruit juice to "shuttle" the substance into muscles more quickly. This is followed by a maintence period of taking a teaspoonful daily for about twelve weeks, and then having a rest period of about four weeks before repeating the cycle.
I prefer to take creatine ethyl ester for two main reasons:
(a) considering all the other calculations that I make about weight training, the loading period can be too bothersome to keep track of. For the sake of convenience I can take one teaspoon a day of ethyl ester, about 5 grams, preferably in the post workout drink when it will best be absorbed, and forget about it for a period of say six weeks or so and take a break for two weeks before repeating.
(b) I have alternatively taken a daily teaspoonful of monohydrate and acheived the same outcome. However I can report experiencing the negative side effects of using monohydrate over a long period of time so there will always be that issue in the back of my mind. Personally I have been able to alleviate this by substituting its use with creatine esthyl ester. I have read that monohydrate is a purer form and so has a higher biological value due to it not having been esterised. You could try both types to see which works best for you. As creatine ethyl ester powder is the worst tasting supplement I have ever come across you my also want to take about four or five tablets or capsules instead.
Glutamine is also used for the purpose of cell volumisation, for improved recovery from breaking down muscle fibres from weight training and in reducing consequential muscle soreness, and is also reported to aid in carbohydrate uptake and the repenishment of spent glycogen stores. To this end I would take it to help put on weight or spare muscle during a dieting phase. My preference is to take glutamine peptides with the post workout drink, because glutamine is an amino acid it fights for absorpsion with other amino acids present in protein powder so I use the more readily absorbed peptide version. Alternatively you could take the less expensive L-glutamine on an empty stomach, so it doesn't have to compete with other proteins, the last thing before bedtime.
Fats and Simple Sugars
Some weight gain powders will come with a relatively small amount of fat in their composition. This is acceptable during a mass building stage but I would avoid anything above 10g per 100g of the total calories stated in the ingredients. Look at the label to see if the supplement contains too large an amount of simple sugars and fat and if so swap it out for something that hasn't.
Weight Loss / Lean Muscle
During any calorie cutting stage protein consumption needs to be particularly high so that the weight lost comes from burning bodyfat and water loss and not from lean muscle tissue. The general consensus is that about 1 gram of protein should be consumed per 1lb of bodyweight for someone on a maintenance diet. At this stage I am more inclined to increase that rate to somewhere between 1.5 - 2.0 grams of protein, complete protein that contains all of the nine essential amino acids e.g. meat, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, to feel comfortable that I am holding onto muscle that has been built. I would choose a whey protein isolate with as few calories, less than 2 grams of each coming from either fat or carbohydrates, as a way of making sure that my protein needs have been met. Casein isolate protein is an excellent choice before bedtime as it digests more slowly than whey and so keeps the body supplied when it is fasting during sleep.
Complex and Simple Carbohydrates
As I am cutting overall calories mainly from carbohydrates and eliminating uneeded food choices, I don't require a carbohydrate supplement except with the post workout drink. Immediately after training I have between 40g - 80g of maltodextrin and dextrose, or waxy maize starch to initiate an insulin response that is designed to replenish energy expenditure and quickly supply protein to the muscles starting the recovery process as quickly as possible. The research that I have seen on this states that it is best to combine the simple sugar dextrose with the complex carbohydrate maltodextrin post training because they restore glycogen at a more effective rate.
Strength levels and energy production will be reduced from normal during the dieting phase so here I'll use creatine to help get me through a workout and for the purpose of actually holding onto the muscle that I've previously built. I don't think there is much value in taking creatine just prior to a workout, as taking it is about building up a stockpile that is stored in skeletal muscle tissue and expended as ATP during the execution of explosive movements used in resistance training. The creatine added at this time will be used for increased performance during the next training session. I put a teaspoonful or about 5 grams into the post workout drink so that the carbohydrate insulin spike together with the body's desire to grab any resource post exercise to initiate repair and rebuilding, will assure the best uptake. A lot of water is needed for this absorbsion to happen so I constantly drink it throughout the day which will volumise muscles to keep them looking full.
Glutamine acts in a similar way to creatine in helping to keep the muscle cells volumised while calories are being reduced. It is also considered to expediate the recovery process, aiding in carbohydrate absorpsion replenishing energy and reducing muscle soreness. I add about a teaspoon or 5 grams of glutamine peptides to the postworkout drink
To promote thermogenesis and fat burning I'll drink a large cup of strong organic coffee, a heaped tablespoon of 4 or 5 in strength, that has been left to stew for at least 10 minutes. I find that taking caffeine 20 minutes before a workout can be a beneficial mental and physical stimulus that allows me to focus on completing the exercises in a routine. This is a good way of getting the energy needed to train during the difficult period of dieting.
The active component in green tea is the polyphenol EGCG (epigallo catechin gallate) and it is taken as a fat burner and an antioxidant. It is stated that it increases the amount of fat ustilised for energy. I will take 400 mg - 600 mg, 2 - 3 capsules before training for this purpose, and I have found that when stacking this with caffeine it produces a strong thermogenic effect, which makes me at least feel that it is actually working. I think that this is an excellent supplement to use to enhance the already high amount of thermogenesis produced, and thus calorie burning, from cardiovascular exercise and resistance training. There could be an increased fat burning and antioxidant benefit from raising the amount taken by another 2 - 3 capsules immediately after training but I would find this difficult to determine. I think the most importaint point is that it is most beneficial when taken around the allotted training time.
L - Carnitine
I have taken carnitine as it is an ingredient in many weight loss supplements. Its function is to transport fat across muscle cells converting it into energy to be burned as fuel. Among other claims made are that it promotes the storage of glycogen which enhances energy levels and so reduces fatigue. I have taken the recommended dose of one capsule before training and would find it difficult to ascertain if I had felt that it raised my energy levels, or that it had contributed significantly in losing more weight while using it during a dieting period. You may want to increase the dosage from 1 to 3 capsules in the morning, before training and last thing at night to see if there is a noticable effect.
Essential and Non essential fatty acids
Conjugated Linolenic Acid
CLA is a free fatty acid that has been claimed to build muscle and helps to reduce body fat. I don't think that there is any extensive or conclusive research available to support its efficacy except in its use with lab animals.
It may be that people who are obese/overweight are those that would most benefit intially from its use. I would use it with other fatloss supplements towards the end of a weightloss program to induce a combined cumulative effect to get that final bit of weight off.
(MCT) Medium Chain Triglycerides
The theory behind Essential and Non Essential Fatty Acids is that eating these type of good fats induces the body to lose bodyfat by increasing the metabolism via thermogenesis and using it as energy, rather than being stored. MCT is a fatty acid the same as CLA and it is stated in exercise literature that when it is added it causes the other calories that are part of a meal to be burned as fuel.
I would use it in the same way as CLA, during a weightloss and carbohydrate restricted diet as a way to provide energy during calorie reduction. I have used both and think that it is most effective towards the end of a dieting phase.
Before, During and After
Just as important as the supplementation taken immediately after training and at specific intervals throughout the rest of the day, are those that are taken an hour or two before. I see it this way. It is neccessary to have the following nutrients around the time of a workout for the benefit of giving myself more energy and reducing fatigue during training and to start the recovery process as soon as possible. Therefore to this end I will need to ingest carbohydrates and protein to replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle tissue respectively, and take in such things as antioxidants and anti-inflammitory aids, something that reduces cortisol and accentuates growth hormone, insulin and testosterone, and possibly something that aids in the digestion of all this. In short I need to have available the nutrients with the greatest biological value and those which are the most rapidly abosorbed to promote the process of rebuilding or anabolism. This is the phase of metabolism in which simple substances are synthesised into the complex materials of living tissue, constructive metabolism. It would obviously also be advantageous to take a supplement that prevented catabolism or the destructive phase of metabolism which involves the degradation of starches proteins and fats to be used by the body as energy rather than growth..
Of course an increase in protein is absolutely essential for the repair and regrowth of new muscle tissue. This is my primary choice of all supplements for this reason, and it is easy enough to calculate the 1 gram per 1 lb of bodyweight ratio. There are many sources of proteins available: whey protein isolate/concentrate, milk protein, calcium caseinate, micellar casein, egg, soya etc. I prefer whey protein isolate because whey has the highest biological value at nearly 100 per cent and the isolate version contains only very low levels, less than 1 gram each of fat and carbohydrates. Whey is also very high in Branched Chain Amino Acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein essential for growth and repair.
I choose a casein protein before sleep as it digests much more slowly than whey to supply a steady stream of amino acids throughout this time.
Soya protein has more antioxidants than whey so offers better protection from the oxidation created by training, and this is good for reducing postworkout muscle damage. I would add approximately 10 grams to 20 grams to the post workout drink.
Fast digesting carbs are best at this time because they spike insulin, which drives more of the protein's glucose and amino acids into muscle cells for better recovery and growth. I have also read that if taken 30 minutes before workout they can blunt the catabolic hormone cortisol's levels.
We are told that because glutamine is the most abundant amino acid present within the body and strenuous exercise greatly depletes it, that extra supplementation is needed to mitigate this loss and facilitate recovery. Key benefits of taking it are said to be: helps replace glycogen and restore energy, decreases muscle catabolism during training, increases protein synthesis, increases growth hormone, aids the digesetion process, reduces muscle soreness.
So the most tangible indicator for me is if it actually reduced muscle soreness for example when I would feel it the most, during the next few days after a heavy leg workout. I can't significantly report that taking regular doses immediately after training and at regular intervals has had a definate effect. However continuing to supplement but reducing post workout exercise bike cardio from 20 minutes to 10 minutes did mean that I have felt leg muscle soreness for longer. Nevertheless I still believe it to be a valuable aid during a dieting phase for the purpose of holding onto gains and during a weight gain phase to promote muscular growth.
It is hard to define specifically but once I changed from adding L - glutamine post workout to glutamine peptides, I did notice a positive effect on muscle retention while dieting. While reducing calories I would reduce carbohydrates and increase protein. For this reason I feel that the peptides are more effective in delivering some of the stated benefits.
Essential Fatty Acids
EFAs are said to improve the body's ability to deal with stress and inflammation and elevated EFA levels it is stated reduce recovery time by mitigating the inflammatory response. To this end it could be valuable to add them to help the recovery process. I believe it is neccessary to have EFAs in my diet to lubricate my joints. I take 4 - 6 gelatine free, check the label, capsules during the day, pour a teaspoon over salads or add it to a protein drink. I wouldn't cook with it because exposing the oil to high temperatures reduces its effectiveness.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAAs are a grouping of the three amino acids - leucine, isoleucine and valine. Essentially these three amino acids are a main component of protein which means BCAAs must be present in large enough quantities to facilitate growth. The stated claims are:
they preserve muscular protein levels and mitigate muscle damage and keep the anti-catabolic hormone cortisol levels low.
that they are essential amino acids required to preserve muscle tissue and help restore muscle glycogen stores.
they prevent muscle muscle tissue breakdown during training.
They are available in tablet form and it is suggested that they are best taken before, during and after workouts for maximum effectiveness. Personally I prefer to take whey protein which also contains high levels of BCAAs, often in the exact same amounts, in the morning and before sleep, 30 minutes before training and with the post workout drink which ensures that I get the same amount.
It is also stated according to exercise training literature that stacking with Vitamin B6 increases their effectiveness.
Energy and Endurance
Carboydrates - Simple (Disaccharides) and Complex (Polysaccharides)
As carbohydrates are the most common source of energy or fuel it is of course neccessary to have a good supply. There are two types of carbohydrate supplements: those designed to supply an instant amount of energy containing simple sugars - glucose, dextrose, fructose or sucrose, and those that supply a more constant form of energy e.g. weight gain powders containing maltodextrin, a complex carbohydrate made from corn, rice, or potato starch. Of course it is preferentail to get most of the carbohydrates needed to supply the day's energy and long term endurance from wholefood sources - rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, oats etc but there are times when supplements can come into the picture.
If it is a training day I would begin by eating a wholefood meal that contains fibrous or slower digesting carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, wholemeal brown bread, yams, or wholefood pasta, which will constantly supply me with the energy I need leading up to the workout. Post training I want starchy carbohydrates from "white foods" such as white bread, white rice, pasta and potatoes which will re-supply my energy reserves much more quickly as they contain faster digesting simple sugars. Further to this I need simple carbohydrates plus a quickly digesting protein source which will supply me with the amino acids needed to begin repair from muscle breakdown as a consequenc of training, and energy to complete the workout. My research tells me that the best choice is dextrose with whey protein because they digest the quickest. Another common combination is to eat a banana with the whey protein drink, but I have read that fructose sugar contained in fruit and fruit juice could actually hinder the assimilation of protein.
Taking this into account, among other factors, the quickest way to replenish used energy from weight training is to combine maltodextrin and dextrose with whey protein immediately after. It has become popular to use them in combination because they spike insulin levels differently and so replenish glycogen at different rates.
So in conclusion most energy should come from organic wholefood sources which contain the complex carbohydrates that will supply the long term energy or endurance before, during and after exercise, and for convenience weight gain or meal replacement products can be used to make up that energy requirement. I would especially use a supplement that contains the simple sugar dextrose before a workout to provide energy and a combination of dextrose and maltodextrin to spike insulin afterwards as the quickest way to replenish energy and drive nutrients into my system.
Glutamine taken before exercise is said to combat fatigue and afterwards boost recovery. Whether it is the palacebo effect or not I can say that I feel it does have an effect on strength and recovery levels. I think that glutamine peptides together with the glutamine available in the whey protein that I use are an effective way of providing this. I think it is hard to decide if I need more or less on training or non - training days, or before or after a workout so I try and keep levels constant. I would definately take a teaspoon or 5 grams post workout and probably the same amount before sleep then again first thing in the morning. The only way to decide if it works is to try at least this dosage by itself for a month while keeping to a regular training plan, and then repeat again without to discern if there had been a noticeable differance.
Creatine contains high levels of the chemical ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is required for making muscles contract effectively. The addition of creatine it is claimed helps limit the depletion of ATP making more of it available for muscle contraction. So more available ATP during training should mean that the phosphocreatine energy system supplies increased energy allowing the user to lift progressively heavier weight for longer, resulting in more intensity and especially boost energy levels near the end of a workout.
I can certainly report that weight gain is a consequence of creatine use and that that is mostly due to water retention. Despite this the body is comprised of 60% - 70% water anyway, so I would have to judge if this weight has just accumulated around the abdomen causing a bloating effect, or if it has been distributed around the body to making the muscles looking fuller. For me this is a neccessarily subjective descision as to whether the gain in weight has increased my strength and ability to lift heavier weight alone or do I believe that there has been an increase in ATP, or a placebo effect, or all of this or a combination?
I have experienced accrued strength during a creatine cycle and so would conclude positively that this supplement worked for that particular reason. I can't accurately say though that I had felt that it provided more workout energy or that I was able to train longer, I prefer to keep workouts relatively brief and intense anyway (45 minutes or less), as other factors must also be of consequence such as: amount and quality of sleeptime, recovery, diet, and/or use of other energy giving supplements before training.
I would definately take it together with increasing calories to put weight on because creatine does cause the body to retain water but as the body is 60% - 70% water anyway
I do feel that it does supply energy when I am dieting and energy levels are low from reducing calories
The advice that I have seen recommends that creatine is used as part of a cycle - using it for 6 weeks then having a break for 1 - 2 weeks so that the kidneys have a break and muscle receptors are allowed to recover and don't become accustomed to usage.
I feel that it does help to keep strength levels up while dieting
Health and Wellbeing
Omega 3, 6, 9
Help in the maintenance of healthy skin and hair.
Glucosamine and Chronditin
Help to reduce inflamation and joint wear from resistance training.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
are good for improving energy production, digestion, cardivascular, nervous sytem function, hormone production and effective immune response
High in antioxidants may reduce muscle soreness and damage.
Whey protein isolate, casein, dextrose, maltodextrin, creatine ethyl ester, glutamine peptides.
This is the Post Workout drink that I use. The dextrose and maltodextrin will raise insulin hormone levels and drive the protein into the blood stream more quickly so increasing absorpsion. Added to this is that whey protein is also the fastest digesting protein. Reasearch reports that the whey and casein work better when used in combination at this time. For the purpose of absorpsion the post workout period is the best time to get the glutamine and creatine into your system. One of the declared benefits of glutamine is that it reduces muscle soreness.
Caffeine / Green Tea and L - Arginine
Following are some of the stated benefits of caffeine:
Increases focus and awareness, boosts strength levels, stimulant to the Central Nervous System that increases heart rate and blood pressure, decreases physical fatigue, raises metabolism for fat burning. As caffeine is a stimulant I primarily use it to raise my metabolism, blood pressure and heart rate and so forth for the purpose of fat burning in combination with exercise to also burn calories.
Contains a small caffeine content and is used for thermogenesis.
L - arginine
Augments NO2 Nitrus Oxide production and is said to bring about a visible increase in vascularity and pump, boosts growth hormone levels and insulin release, and is a vasilodator that increases nutrient supply via the blood stream.
The reccomendation is 3 - 10 grams on an empty stomach. Avoid taking it with other amino acids such as those in protein powder as the arginine will have to compete with them for abosorbsion.
ZMA and Tribulus Terrestius
ZMA is said to induce sleep aiding recovery time.
Tribulus raises is said to raise testosterone levels.
Bedtime Whey protein isolate, casein and glutamine peptides
A combination of fast and slowly absorbing proteins that digest while you sleep together with the amino acid glutamine which is reputed to reduce muscle soreness and help in replacing glycogen. The peptide version unlike the L-Glutamine version doesn't compete for absorbsion with the other amino acids present in the whey and casein protein.
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