You are here

THE PERFECT STACK

THE PERFECT STACK

Jim Stoppani, PhD, and Eric Velazquez
THE PERFECT STACK

Advertisement

In his novel Animal Farm, George Orwell quipped, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” He couldn't have been more right, and his observation extends beyond the barn, too.

In the gym, you sweat and grunt through set after heavy set just like the guy on the next bench. But if your rep ranges are similar and your exercise selection is practically identical, why do this guy's muscle bellies seem to be ballooning before your very eyes?

This guy is more equal than you. His body is strangely more receptive to the rigors of training and better able to recover quickly. For him, adding a pound is as easy as slipping on his lifting straps, but for you, it's a struggle worthy of Sisyphus.

Your predicament can result from a number of factors, ranging from your experience level to damnable genetics, yet he claims that the biggest contributor to his ever-so-chiseled physique is his supplement stack. But you're no dummy. You know well the value of taking your creatine and protein -- by now, who doesn't? Hell, you have tubs of the stuff filling your cabinets at home and packets lining your desk drawers at work. So why aren't you hoisting 300-pound barbells like this guy?

For starters, you're not this guy. Everyone's body is different, meaning that his stack -- believe it or not -- may not be the cookie-cutter, foolproof combination for you to use. Supplements are tailored toward specific goals and, when taken safely in their prescribed dosages, can contribute greatly to your efforts in the gym -- but only if you know what's right for your goals and bodytype.

Rather than having you sift through tubs of gym rat–recommended products, we're dishing you the perfect stack for your bodytype and goals. So stop squandering your valued supplement dollar and get Orwellian with these personalized combos.

The Hardgainer
Hardgainers have it rough. They're burdened with the curse of being lean year-round and eating whatever they want, sans bulging waistline. We really feel for them. But all sarcasm aside, hardgainers are at a marked disadvantage in the quest for a bigger, harder physique. Calories get metabolized quickly, making it difficult for these trainees to build any quality mass. Increasing caloric intake by 1,000–2,000 quality calories per day with the help of the following supplement stack should help flip the script.

Stack these Weight-gainer, HMB, multivitamin/mineral
>> Weight-Gainer Weight-gainers are basically high-calorie protein products that supply anywhere from 500–1,000 calories per serving. In addition to quality protein, these products contain added carbs and fat to pack as many calories into a serving as possible. Most products offer at least a 1:2 ratio of protein to carbs, while some go as high as a 1:4 ratio. (If you put on fat easily, stick with those that have a ratio of 1:2 or lower.) Check that no more than 50% of the carbs come from sugar. Most weight-gainers provide about 5–10 grams of fat; avoid those that contain more than 10 grams. Make sure less than half the total fat is saturated. Following the label's directions, use between meals and mix with water, or try low-fat milk for some extra protein and calories.
>> HMB Known by scientists as beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, this metabolite of the amino acid leucine displayed a lot of promise when numerous studies showed it significantly increased muscle size and strength.
It seemed to work best in beginners at a dose of 1 gram taken 3–4 times per day, which is right where the hardgainer wants to be. More experienced lifters, hardgainers or not, can reap further benefits by upping the dose to 2–3 grams taken 3–4 times per day.
>> Multivitamin/Mineral Building muscle requires more than just added calories and protein. It also necessitates adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. As with protein, stores of certain vitamins and minerals can become depleted from intense resistance training and/or a diet that lacks food variety (particularly fruits and vegetables). The hardgainer needs to ensure he has enough macronutrients (carbs/protein/fat) as well as micronutrients to encourage muscle growth. Take a full-spectrum multivitamin/mineral with 100% of the daily value of most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Take with food twice a day to keep your muscle growth on track.

The Preservationist
Those who have worked their way to more muscular physiques may find themselves struggling to find a balance between keeping their hard-earned muscles and getting rid of their less-than-tight midsection. Overdo it on the cardio or come up short on your diet and you could see your musculature fade away faster than Kevin Federline's 15 minutes of fame. This stack helps you preserve muscle while getting rid of waistline flab, courtesy of extra protein, essential fats and a thermogenic.

Stack these
Whey protein, fish oil, geranamine
>> Whey Protein A high-protein diet is effective because protein digestion raises the metabolic rate much more than fat or carbs. It also spares muscle protein in active individuals. In regards to whey, research shows that a high-protein diet deriving the majority of its protein from whey better promotes fat loss than a diet emphasizing beef protein. Get about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day, aiming for about 20 grams of whey protein in between-meal snacks.
>> Fish Oil Fish oils are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids appear to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, among a slew of other health benefits. They also help prevent muscle breakdown (which saves your muscle mass when dieting), improve brain function and encourage fat loss. Take 1–2 grams of fish oil or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil 2–3 times daily.
>> Geranamine Geranamine is a trademarked component of geranium oil. It's classified as a sympathomimetic amine, meaning it affects the body in a manner similar to norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that speeds up metabolic rate and increases fat mobilization and alertness. The supplement version potently suppresses appetite and raises metabolism. An effective dose of geranamine appears to be about 25 mg taken 1–3 times a day. Currently, the only product containing it is ErgoLean AMP by ErgoPharm (ergopharm.net), which also includes chocamine and caffeine.

The Supersizer-in-Training
You've trained for years and have the physique to show for it. You're tight and lean, but you're not quite filling out your shirts the way you'd like. Ten more pounds would do the trick. You'll need some help from supplements in addition to reducing your cardio slightly; focusing on multijoint movements like squats, deadlifts and bench presses; and eating enough protein. Creatine, bodybuilding's Old Faithful, will anchor this powerful stack, designed to up your testosterone output and protein synthesis.

Stack these
Creatine, ecdysterone, tribulus terrestris
>> Creatine Creatine remains the most effective dietary supplement for anyone, regardless of training experience. Hundreds of studies support its effectiveness at increasing strength, power, speed and muscle mass. Take 2–5 grams before and immediately after your workouts.
>> Ecdysterone Technically known as 20-beta-hydroxyecdysterone, this plant sterol kick-starts protein synthesis in muscle (read: it triggers the process of muscle growth). Go with a dose of at least 2 mg per pound of bodyweight per day or 300–600 mg per day in 2–3 divided doses with high-protein meals. On training days, take one of those doses immediately after working out.
>> Tribulus Terrestris This herb stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland. It then travels via the bloodstream to the testicles, where it stimulates testosterone production. Take a total of 500–2,000 mg daily in 2–3 divided doses with food to get your T-levels surging. Go five days on and two off for a maximum of eight weeks. On workout days, take one of those doses about an hour before hitting the iron.

The Strength Seeker
Maybe you don't want to flip 500-pound tires for a living, but there's something cool about the sound of a barbell loaded with clanking 45-pound plates getting re-racked in the gym. You want to be that guy? Then heave these powerful products into your cart on your next supplement run.

Stack these
Green tomato extract, creatine, carnosine
>> Green tomato extract (GTE) In a recent unpublished study, trained men who consumed just 6 mcg of GTE gained twice the strength of the placebo group on the bench press and enjoyed more than three times the gains on the leg press. The GTE group also gained 1 inch on their arms, whereas the placebo group saw almost no improvement. GTE appears to work by increasing the amount of blood vessels that supply muscles. More blood reaching the muscle means more oxygen, nutrients and anabolic hormones, as well as enhanced removal of waste products. GTE is currently available only in Endothil-CR.
>> Creatine For gaining both size and strength, you can't beat creatine. It's proven anecdotally and in research to increase strength by roughly 10% and lean mass by about 10 pounds. Take 2–5 grams both before and after training. >> Carnosine Carnosine is a dipeptide (meaning it's made of two different amino acids) that can boost both strength and endurance. When muscles have higher carnosine levels, they're able to contract longer and with more force, because carnosine increases their capacity to deal with the byproducts that build up during exercise and normally cause fatigue. Take 1–1.5 grams of carnosine before and after workouts.

The Marathon Man
Honestly, we don't understand the guys who run marathons, but we admire their lean physiques, chiseled abdominals and Lance Armstrong–like endurance. Whether you're looking to start training for your first Tour de France or hoping to increase your fat loss by spending more time in the gym, here's how to go from here to eternity.

Stack these
Green tea extract, branched-chain amino acids, cordyceps
>> Green Tea Extract Green tea contains compounds called catechins, the superstar among the group being epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is responsible for many of green tea's beneficial effects. Research shows that green tea extract can increase endurance and fat utilization. Look for a green tea extract that supplies about 90–150 mg of EGCG and take it 2–3 times per day.
>> Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) The three amino acids that constitute the BCAAs -- leucine, isoleucine and valine -- provide an alternative energy source for almost all body tissues, including muscle. Supplementing BCAAs before bouts of prolonged exercise may reduce muscle breakdown, decrease the tendency of intense exercise to suppress the immune system and delay fatigue. Take 5 grams before and after workouts.
>> Cordyceps Cordyceps sinensis is a rare Chinese mushroom that's fermented and processed into a supplement; it gained popularity in the early '90s due to the success the Chinese women's track team experienced taking it. Actually, it has been used for centuries to increase energy. Recent research found it increased oxygen consumption and endurance capacity in subjects who took it for 12 weeks. Ingest 750–1,500 mg 2–3 times a day with food.

The Animal
Maybe you don't feel like you have any glaring weaknesses. Cool. But there's no one out there who wouldn't love to bust out of a rut or shatter a personal best on their next lift. To introduce some serious fuel to your routine -- to go longer and harder with more strength than ever before -- here's the stack for you. This potent combo includes GAKIC for an immediate increase in muscle strength and endurance, and citrulline malate and caffeine for added energy and focus.

Stack these
GAKIC, citrulline malate, caffeine
>> GAKIC This acronym stands for glycine-l-arginine-alpha-ketoiscaproic acid. The amino acid glycine improves the body's production of creatine and growth hormone (GH), and it also enhances the firing of nerves that stimulate muscles to contract stronger. The amino arginine boosts GH and nitric oxide (NO) levels. Alpha-ketoisocaproic acid (KIC) is a form of the BCAA leucine. It possesses anticatabolic properties that preserve muscle tissue, and it plays a role in energy production and aids in the removal of muscle-fatigue-inducing ammonia during exercise. Look for a product that supplies about 10–15 grams of GAKIC per serving, and take it only on workout days.
>> Citrulline Malate This amino acid/energy precursor combo helps muscles produce rep-pumping energy. It improves blood flow to the muscle through enhanced NO production and helps muscles rebuild internal energy stores (ATP and phosphocreatine) between sets, so you'll have more energy available to churn out more reps on your next set. Take 3 grams on an empty stomach in the morning and one hour before workouts.
>> Caffeine This powerful central-nervous-system stimulant can keep you energized for hardcore workouts and boost mental alertness, concentration, mood and even muscle strength. The best supplement source is known as caffeine anhydrous. Take 200–300 mg 1–2 hours before workouts.

Comments