Supplementing doesn’t start and finish at a set point of the day, in fact it should be seen as a cyclical sequence whereby the appropriate supplements are taken at the appropriate time. However, there does remain a sort of ‘template supplement regime’ if you like, to abide by if your body is to receive adequate nutrition to support intense bodybuilding.
First on the list is protein, which is without doubt the staple of any supplement regime. Protein is to muscle growth what water is to a tree, you cannot promote muscle tissue synthesis without adequate protein. It is integral that the vast majority of protein comes via the diet from whole foods such as chicken, beef, pork or fish, but in the pursuit of muscle mass, it’s not always possible to get enough protein from food alone!
When… A protein supplement should be consumed first thing in the morning in order to minimise muscle breakdown from the 8 hour overnight fast when sleeping. Aim to consume between 20-25g of protein per serving, muscle protein synthesis (growth) will not grow any more than if you were to consume 100g per serving…20-25g is optimal. Other key times to consume protein, particularly whey protein is within 30-60mins after a gym session and as a mid-morning/ mid- afternoon snack. You may wish to consume 2-3 shakes a day delivering around 45-75g protein depending on body weight.
Creatine, and in particular creatine monohydrate which is the most scientifically supported forms of creatine on the market. In order to optimise the benefit of creatine you need to reach muscle saturation, in order to do this you should consume enough creatine per serving in order to reach the creatine threshold.
When… To do this aim to consume approx 0.3g creatine per kg bodyweight for 1 week, known as the loading phase, followed by 0.1g per kg bodyweight for another 3 weeks, known as the maintenance phase. Creatine should only be consumed for 4 weeks at a time, and it doesn’t matter when you take it e.g. before the gym, before bed or after a workout, because it’s stored in the muscle and used when needed. Creatine supports muscle power endurance, strength and muscle body size, so aim to get this into your supplement regime on a 4 week cycle followed by 4 weeks of rest from creatine, known as a flush out phase, during which time you should drink a minimum of 35ml fluid per kg body weight.
Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA)
A BCAA is without doubt one of the most overlooked supplements out there, in part because many people see it as a glorified form of protein which they don’t need, but also because they don’t fully understand it’s application. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, therefore people’s confusion is justified, however BCAA’s are a particular type of amino acid which have been proven to optimise muscle growth better than any other. BCAA’s are comprised of Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, with Leucine being of particular interest to bodybuilders for it’s key role in promoting muscle growth and repair. Isoleucine and Valine can be used for energy, whereas Leucine is exclusively used to support muscle growth.
When… BCAA’s are consumed over the course of a day in order to stave of catabolism (muscle breakdown), the drip feed effect of a BCAA supplement prevents the body from leaching your hard earned muscle mass for energy, whilst slowly feeding your muscle. You might also wish to consume your BCAA approx 10-15mins before physical exertion, this appears to minimise muscle breakdown whilst stimulating muscle growth (Tipton and Luc van Loon, 2013). A BCAA can also be sipped during physical exertion, it can increase energy whilst staving off muscle breakdown.
Tipton, K, D & Luc van Loon, J. C. (2013). Nutritional coaching strategy to modulate training efficiency. Basel: Karger.