With the right plan and the right discipline, you can get seriously shredded in just 28 days.Read article
Working at M&F is much like being a kid in a candy store – except for the fact that we’ve grown up (just a little) and our candy of choice these days is supplements. If you’ve seen it on a supplement shelf, we’ve tried it. From the standards like whey protein and creatine to the obscure like deer-antler velvet, we’ve put them to the test. After many years of trying various supplements, we all have preferred products. Here’s our laundry list of favorites and why we find they work for us.
Weight: 230 pounds
Supplements of choice: Whey protein and creatine
>> WHEY PROTEIN
I’ve always liked having some protein (ingested preworkout) in my system when I begin lifting, and then getting in some whey right after training for recovery. And I’m one of those guys who doesn’t want to wait 15 or 30 minutes after lifting to ingest protein; I like to take whey immediately afterward. That’s why I always make sure to have protein either in my workout bag or car, along with a shaker bottle – I mix it in water and I’ve got my 30-40 grams just like that. It’s all about starting the muscle-rebuilding process as soon after training as possible – that way, I don’t have to worry about rushing home to eat dinner.
Some people don’t respond well to creatine, but I always have. Being a naturally thin, lean guy, I feel creatine gives me a significantly better pump in the gym and fills out my muscles, making them feel harder even outside the gym. I also feel like I can get an extra couple of reps on certain lifts when taking creatine; I’ve always found it to be especially helpful when training really heavy.
Bodyweight-wise, I’m typically able to add 5-10 pounds on the scale within a few weeks of cycling on creatine. I used to do a loading phase, but I found it wasn’t really necessary with the newer creatines. Now, I take 3-5 grams before and after workouts along with my whey-protein shakes. On nonworkout days (I lift four days a week), I usually take just one 3-5-gram dose with a meal, but sometimes I pass on it altogether because newer research shows that once your muscle cells are loaded with creatine, you can skip a day here or there without losing the benefit.
Weight: 175 pounds
Supplements of Choice: Nitric oxide (NO) boosters and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
>> NO BOOSTERS
I like training with an NO product because, for me, it does exactly what it claims to do – boosts blood flow and provides an intense muscle pump. You feel it right away. It gets you zoned in like a stimulant and actually gives your veins a pretty good pop when your bodyfat is low enough. Since I like to feel a pump when I’m working out, this stuff is great. But instead of getting a pump at the end of your workout after cranking out a few high-rep sets, you feel it the entire time. I’ve found NO supplements work best when I train in the 10-15-rep range.
I usually prefer powdered NO products that supply not only arginine but other NO boosters as well. I typically take 2-3 scoops on training days 30-45 minutes before my workout. On nontraining days, I consume one scoop in the morning before breakfast.
With BCAAs, I feel like I’m able to hold onto my muscle better when I train heavy. Overtraining is becoming more of a problem as I get older – my body just doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to. BCAAs blunt that effect by helping prevent muscle breakdown, and they make my muscles feel fuller and harder. As a bonus, the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that comes with high-intensity training doesn’t last nearly as long when I’m on BCAAs.
I usually take 5-10 grams of BCAAs before and after training. On nontraining days, I get one dose in the morning before breakfast with my NO product and one dose later in the day before dinner.
JIMMY PENA, MS, CSCS
Weight: 200 pounds
Supplements of Choice: Pre- and postworkout cocktail powder that contains whey protein, glucose, creatine, glutamine and taurine
>> Basically, anytime I sit down to eat, whether it’s at 7 a.m. or 3 p.m., I try to make sure my meal is as complete as possible. I also don’t enjoy trying to Frankenstein my supplements throughout the day. In other words, I don’t want to have to go here for my protein, there for my carbs, etc. I’m a one-stop-shop kind of bodybuilder. At every meal, I aim for at least 50-60 grams of carbs and 40 grams of protein, give or take. So having a shake before and after workouts or even in between meals is my modus operandi. My favorite shake combo is perfect in that it gives me my preworkout protein and carbs as well as creatine, glutamine and taurine, yet it doesn’t make me feel bloated. (I never train on an empty stomach, but I don’t like feeling weighed down, either.) I can also down this shake right after training for all the right reasons. My basic rule of thumb is to stay fueled all day, no matter my goals and objectives. The right all-purpose supplement hits the spot.
JIM STOPPANI, PHD
Senior Science Editor
Weight: 215 pounds
Supplements of Choice: Tribulus terrestris and beta-ecdysterone
>> TRIBULUS TERRESTRIS
At 38, I’m always concerned about testosterone levels, which start to drop dramatically after age 30. There’s no more important hormone for bodybuilders than testosterone – it plays an important role in strength, muscle growth and even fat loss.
To keep my body churning out enough testosterone to maintain strength and mass as well as keep lean, I take 500 mg of a tribulus product with my breakfast, lunch and dinner. On workout days, I also take an extra dose about an hour before workouts, since ramping up T levels preworkout can dramatically impact your strength and focus in the gym.
Tribulus works by increasing the amount of luteinizing hormone (LH) your pituitary gland releases, which then influences the amount of testosterone the testes produce. However, testosterone works on a negative-feedback loop to eventually reduce the release of LH when testosterone levels get too high. This means you shouldn’t stay on tribulus for more than six weeks straight. I usually wait four weeks before cycling back on for another six weeks.
I’ve found one of the most effective supplements for boosting strength and mass gains is a little-known supplement called beta-ecdysterone (or as it’s technically known, 20-beta-hydroxyecdysterone). It’s a plant sterol that can increase protein synthesis (muscle growth).
Ecdysterone was actually first introduced in the mid-’90s, but it failed to make an impact because its recommended dose was only 20-50 mg a day. Newer research has found that you need to take a much higher dose for it to be effective. I take a little more than 2 mg per pound of bodyweight per day in three separate doses at breakfast, lunch and dinner, totaling about 450 mg. On training days, I take one of these doses immediately postworkout. Like tribulus, I cycle ecdysterone for six weeks on and four weeks off. Together, these two supplements make a nice, natural anabolic stack.
Weight: 210 pounds
Supplements of Choice: Green tea extract and fish oil
>> In addition to chatting with attractive women for the magazine, my favorite hobbies include playing pickup basketball and Sunday-league soccer.
I like to have a lot of energy for these games because when I’m fatigued, my feet become bricks, my defense suffers and my offensive arsenal shrinks down to one move – the return pass.
To avoid this, I take green tea extract and fish oil. Green tea contains compounds called catechins, which are the active ingredients responsible for many of the tea’s beneficial effects. The major catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Research shows that EGCG-packed green tea extract can increase your endurance and the use of fat for fuel. That means I have more stamina when playing sports like soccer and basketball – with the added benefit of dropping bodyfat at a higher rate. (How great is that?) I take 500 mg of green tea extract twice a day, including one dose 30 minutes before getting my Jordan or PelÃ© on.
Like green tea extract, fish oil possesses many health benefits. (In fact, both are considered very safe and helpful supplements – even by our government.) Fish oil provides several positive performance-related effects, including improved endurance. The essential omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil get used as an energy source by muscle, and they encourage the body to use stored fat for fuel. This helps preserve muscle glycogen levels, which prevents fatigue. I take about 2 grams of fish oil with both breakfast and dinner. If I forget, you can be sure of one thing: The ball’s coming back to you. M&F