Supplements to Take for Muscle Growth and Fat Loss: Before, During and After Training

Apr 14, 2009 | fitness

If you think there are short cuts to achieving your body shape goals, think again. It takes hard, hard work, consistency and discipline. But research shows that certain supplementation can give us a helping hand in our quest for the body beautiful (or functional). This article outlines a supplement program taken from Muscle and Fitness designed for people trying to increase muscle size or density whilst stripping body fat. You will learn about the different supplements to take, when to take them, how much to have and what they do.

I would like to preface this article by saying that I do not believe in short cuts. The amount of time some people spend obsessing over their supplements could be far better spent in the gym, smashing out a few more sets. If you are new to training, or returning after a break, please don’t get too caught up in supplementation. However if you are a seasoned trainer, stuck in a plateau and need a hand getting to the next level, then this is for you!

The amounts shown here are for an average 80kg (176lb) male and are guidelines only. Seek professional advice before adding new supplements into your diet.

When your goal is muscle growth/size

30 – 60min before weight training take:

  • 3-5 grams of arginine: Research shows that arginine can increase blood flow to the muscles by increasing nitric oxide. More blood to the muscles means more nutrients for them such as oxygen, amino acids, growth hormone, testosterone, glutamine and creatine. This will give you more energy throughout your workout and prepare your muscles with the nutrients needed for the post workout growth phase. Take it in a capsule or mix the powder in water/juice. Take on an empty stomach. Naturally occurs in animals and plants. Animal sources include: dairy products, beef, pork poultry wild game, seafood. Vegetable sources include: wheat germ and flour, buckwheat, granola, oatmeal, nuts (coconut, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), chick peas.
  • 5 grams of glutamine: Glutamine is a very powerful amino acid and has been shown to help in many body functions from brain activity to immune function and provides energy for the muscles. During intense activity it helps to buffer the high acidity levels that occur within the muscles. It is taken in tablet form on an empty stomach (or a suppository – eek!). It naturally occurs in beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, dairy products, wheat, cabbage, beets, beans, spinach, and parsley.
  • 3-5 grams of creatine: Creatine helps supply energy to working muscles. About half our creatine is produced internally and the other half derived from animal sources. Plants do not have creatine so vegetarians can be low in this nitrogenous acid. It has been shown to improve performance during short bursts of activity (such as weights or sprints) but little effect on endurance activities. Take this in a powder, liquid or capsule form. For absorb-ability it’s more effective taken on an empty stomach, but many people still have it in their protein shakes.
  • 20g whey protein: Protein is the building blocks for your muscles. Not eating enough protein and weight training is like hiring builders to build a house, but forgetting to order the bricks! Whey protein is better than other proteins because it has the highest Biological Value (BV) of any known protein. This means that the proportion of protein that is absorbed and incorporated into your body is higher from whey protein than from other protein sources. Anything with eyeballs contains protein (ie meat!) and many vegetables contain protein too, but quite a lot less than meat. Good vegetable protein sources include; beans, grains, nuts and seeds, quinoa (a grain), spinach, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
  • 40g Low – Med GI carbohydrates (CHO): You want low – medium glycemic index foods so that the sugar is released slowly preventing an insulin spike. Good examples would be a banana, yoghurt, rolled oats, brown rice.

Sample eating plan

About 30mins before your workout take the arginine, glutamine and creatine, on an empty stomach (at least 2 hrs after eating). Then mix yourself a ½ serve protein shake adding a banana for the CHO. Read the nutrition panel of your protein shake as some will already have the 40g CHO in it, so you won’t need the banana. If you are making this at work or home, simply purchase a stick blender (under $30) and whizz it all together at work.

Straight after weight training take:

  • 5-10g Leucine: Research shows that this branched chain amino acid ignites protein synthesis, which is the growth of your muscles. It also boosts insulin which is an anabolic hormone that plays an important part in muscle growth. By allowing insulin to spike after a workout, it aids the release of nutrients like glucose and amino acids to enter the muscle cells and increases protein synthesis. Many believe this is one of the most important amino acids you can take for stimulating muscle growth.
  • 5g glutamine: See above for description. You need to take glutamine after a workout because your glutamine levels would be depleted and they regulate protein synthesis. If you don’t have enough glutamine, your muscles won’t grow. More glutamine in the muscles also attracts more glucose which attracts more water and is important for muscle size.

30-60mins after weight training take:

  • 40 grams of whey protein: See above description. Think of this as the delivery of bricks, and the Leucine and glutamine you took earlier as the brick-layers.
  • 40-80 grams of high GI CHO: These fast-digesting CHOs will go straight to the fatigued muscle fibres, replenishing them and being stored as muscle glycogen. They will also curb the release of cortisol, which can impede muscle growth. Examples of high GI CHO include; potato, white bread, white rice, puffed wheat, rice cakes.

Sample eating plan: Assuming you’ve trained in the evening, this could be your dinner. Steak/chicken/ostrich/fish (20g protein), baked potatoes (40g high GI carbs) lots of vegetables and a whey protein shake for dessert.

When your goal is fat loss whilst maintaining muscle size

30-60mins before your cardio session take:

  • 100mg-200mg Caffeine: That’s 1 -2 espresso’s. Caffeine has been shown to spare muscle glycogen as a fuel source. Instead it utilizes stored fat from fat cells using that as fuel. It is also documented that it can reduce muscle pain during exercise, meaning you can train harder for longer.
  • 1-2g L-carnitine:is an amino-like supplement that helps transport fat into the mitochondria of cells where it is burned for fuel. This and caffeine complement each other very well.
  • The CHO debate: If your goal is fat loss then you must train on an empty stomach and only drink water throughout your workout. However if your goal is performance taking some CHO will assist. If your cardio session will go for over 90min then taking some sugar during your workout is important too, such as Gatorade, or an energy gel.  The amount of CHO you take in before a cardio session is a personal choice. I do not recommend taking any CHO’s closer than 2 hours before your session, or you may end up tasting it twice!

0-30mins after your cardio session take:

  • 20-40g high GI CHO: high sugar products such as lollies, white bread, white rice. Click here for a full list
  • 20-40g Whey Protein: See description above. The protein helps to rebuild the muscle fibres that may have broken down during the session.
  • 5g Creatine: See description above. This will help any damaged muscle fibres recover similarly to the effects of protein. It also quickly brings your body’s natural creatine levels back to normal.If you are doing cardio on alternate days to weights, it’s another good time to take creatine as your muscles will be primed to take it up during their growth phase.

Sample meal plan: Gatorade at the end of your session while you cool down. Mix in your creatine. Then make yourself up a protein shake. Check that the protein shake doesn’t have CHO in it, as you might be able to skip the Gatorade if it does.

Your Supplement Shopping List:

I am assuming you have all the staple foods in your kitchen such as bread, pasta, rice, meat, fruit and vegies. The below supplements are exactly that, nutrients to supplement your otherwise healthy eating regime. I am not affiliated and do not financially benefit from any of the below products, it’s just a helping hand for you. Everyone has their favorite brands .

If you live in Australia, you may find it easier to shop at GNC either online or on foot as a lot of the metagenics products below are practitioner only. Inner West Sports and Spinal do stock some Metagenics.

If you live in the US, all of the below products are available online or visit the US version of GNC

Whey protein for the Aussies

Whey Protein For the US

Arginine

Glutamine

Creatine

Leucine

L-carnitine

The main thing is to not get too bamboozled by all of this. Getting enough protein and training with the right intensity are the two key elements, everything else is a helping hand.

What supplements do you take? Is there one that you have found has a greater impact? For example, creatine has a huge effect on me, not only can I push my body harder in the weights room, but I am pumped for days.  What works for you?

Other Posts you might like:

A review of protein supplements

Protein Supplements by Joey Sheather

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