Scientists now have the ability to clone animals, make organs from stem cells and even operate vehicles on Mars. With all these technological advancements, youÂd think that someone would have developed by now an exercise pill that could turn the average Joe into Ronnie Coleman with little more work than sitting on the couch watching Pumping Iron. If thatÂs what youÂve been waiting for to transform your physique, then itÂs time to get real.
That being said, nutritional science has made monumental progress. No longer must the bodybuilding wannabe slurp raw eggs or eat desiccated liver tablets to get big. Supplement formulations are precise, and so is their dosage and timing. Maybe youÂre working out hard and heavy but not seeing the results you want. Perhaps you get tired midworkout. We now know what you should take and when to get the best muscle-building bang for your efforts.
Research shows that taking the right supplements before and after your workouts is the best window of opportunity for making both immediate progress in the gym and long-term gains down the road. WeÂve devised a cheat sheet of sorts that instructs you exactly what and how much to take during these critical moments for maximizing your results for weightlifting and cardio workouts.
WEIGHT TRAINING Â BEFORE
30Â60 MINUTES PREWORKOUT
Take 3Â5 grams of arginine and 5 grams of glutamine. Arginine is a must before workouts. Research shows it can increase blood flow to muscle fibers because it increases nitric oxide. And that means your muscles get more of the stuff that blood carries Â oxygen, glucose, amino acids, anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone, and the other supplements like glutamine and creatine that youÂve taken. YouÂll have more energy for the workout at hand, and when the workoutÂs over and your muscles are ready to enter the growing phase, all the critical elements for growth will be in abundance. Glutamine provides your muscles with energy and produces bicarbonate to help buffer the high acidity levels that rise in the body during intense exercise, helping to prevent fatigue. Take these on an empty stomach (or at least 1Â2 hours after your last meal).
0-30 MINUTES PREWORKOUT
YouÂve downed your arginine and glutamine, but donÂt neglect all the critical amino acids for growth. The form youÂll want them in is whey protein, 20 grams worth. YouÂll also need about 40 grams of slow-burning carbs and 3Â5 grams of creatine. As weÂve already said, once the workout stops, your muscle fibers are ready to grow if the critical building blocks are there. If not, the muscles will break down.
Whey protein provides a fast source of aminos that will be absorbed quickly and taken up by your muscles by the time the workout is over. Eating slow carbs Â such as three slices of whole-wheat bread, a large sweet potato, 2 cups of oatmeal or a large banana before you train Â provides a steady supply of carbs to help keep insulin levels down during the workout, helping you burn more fat for fuel during rest periods between sets. Taking creatine before you train ensures that your muscles are chock-full of this fast energy source thatÂs used during weightlifting workouts. It can also help to better fill the muscle cells with water, which helps them become stronger. Mix your creatine into your protein shake and donÂt worry about downing it all beforehand. Get down at least half and sip the rest during the workout.
WEIGHT TRAINING Â AFTER
0 MINUTES POSTWORKOUT
As soon as the last rep of your last set is done, you want to get 5Â10 grams of leucine and 5 grams of glutamine down your throat as soon as possible. The essential and branched-chain amino acid leucine is probably the most important amino you can take for stimulating muscle growth. Research shows itÂs literally the key that turns the ignition on muscle growth. One way muscles grow larger is by a process known as protein synthesis Â the building of muscle protein. Leucine turns on the steps that lead to more muscle protein synthesis and thus more muscle growth, and immediately after you finish your workout is the critical window. Leucine also boosts the release of the anabolic hormone insulin. You want insulin levels to spike after your workout because it allows nutrients like glucose and amino acids into muscle cells. In addition, creatine relies on insulin to move inside muscle cells, and insulin plays an important role in protein synthesis. ItÂs important to get more glutamine inside your muscles postworkout because your body has probably used up the glutamine you took beforehand for energy. Keeping muscle glutamine levels high after training is critical because they regulate protein synthesis. Even with all the leucine you can handle, muscles wonÂt grow without enough glutamine. Glutamine also helps muscle cells load up better with glycogen, which is critical for muscle size (glycogen pulls water into muscle cells) and energy during your next workout. So it pays to think ahead.
30-60 MINUTES POSTWORKOUT
After youÂve given the leucine and glutamine a chance to be absorbed without competition from other nutrients, itÂs time to get your muscle protein building blocks in the form of 40 grams of whey protein. YouÂll also need 40Â80 grams of fast-digesting carbs and 3Â5 grams of creatine. Getting more whey protein in your gut within an hour after your workout will provide more amino acids for the protein synthesis you kick-started with leucine and glutamine. The more building blocks you provide, the bigger the muscle you can build. Think of leucine and glutamine as the bricklayers (they do all the work) and the amino acids from the protein as your bricks.
The fast-digesting carbs (dextrose powder, Vitargo, table sugar or white bread) will go immediately to the exhausted muscle fibers and get absorbed and stored as muscle glycogen. They also help curb the release of cortisol, the catabolic hormone that normally impedes the anabolic processes of muscle growth, following workouts. Getting another dose of creatine postworkout is smart because this is when creatine uptake is maximal, thereby ensuring that levels in the muscle are maxed out. In addition, brand-new research suggests that creatine has antioxidant properties. This can help limit muscle damage caused by heavy training and enhance recovery.
CARDIO Â BEFORE
30Â60 MINUTES BEFORE CARDIO
About a half-hour to an hour before you start your cardio session, be sure to get 200Â300 mg of caffeine and 1Â2 grams of acetyl-L-carnitine. Caffeine has been shown to spare muscle glycogen as a fuel source. Instead, it mobilizes stored fat from fat cells, which is then used as fuel instead of glycogen. It has also been shown to reduce muscle pain during exercise, which means you can train harder for a longer period. Two or three cups of regular coffee is fine, but a supplemental form such as caffeine anhydrous is better. Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid-like supplement that helps transport fat into the mitochondria of cells where itÂs burned for fuel. Taking it with caffeine makes a perfect combo because the caffeine helps free up fat from fat cells and the carnitine helps get it to the right place for burning it for fuel.
0Â30 MINUTES BEFORE CARDIO
The only thing you want to take right before a cardio session is 6Â10 grams of mixed amino acids. ThatÂs assuming youÂre exercising for less than an hour and your main goal is fat loss. If performance is important, youÂll need some carbohydrate to help you keep going longer. But weÂll assume that since youÂre reading muscle & fitness and not RunnerÂs World, your main goal is fat loss. Research from Japan shows that when subjects consumed a mixture of amino acids Â supplying all nine essential amino acids and most other aminos found in the diet Âbefore a bout of cycling, they burned significantly more bodyfat during the exercise than when drinking just water. In addition, the subjects reported that when they exercised after taking the amino acid mixture, the activity was noticeably easier to perform. Supplying your body with all the aminos needed for muscle growth will also help prevent muscle tissue from being broken down to use its amino acids as energy.
CARDIO Â AFTER
0-60 MINUTES AFTER CARDIO
When your cardio is over, itÂs time to replenish your tired muscle fibers. Getting in 20Â40 grams of whey protein, 40Â80 grams of fast-digesting carbs and 5 grams of creatine is essential to help the muscle fibers recover. Whey protein provides the building blocks to rebuild the fibers, simple carbs replenish depleted muscle glycogen levels and creatine helps replenish creatine levels in muscle cells. If you do cardio on separate days from lifting, this is another great time to get your creatine because the muscle cells are primed to take it up. M&F