If you’re working out hard and eating well but still don’t see the desired results, then maybe it is time to introduce supplements into your training routine.
To make things clear from the beginning, supplements are only intended to 'supplement' your diet and not replace healthy food.
However, supplements play an important part when it comes to increasing the intake of nutrients you might not be getting from food.
In addition, they offer great convenience. With today’s hectic way of life, it’s not always possible to prepare healthy meals. Supplements provide a great alternative whenever you need extra protein, calories, or vitamins.
But how do you know which supplements are best for you? When is the right time to take them? And in what amount?
This guide to supplements aims to make things easier and help you make the most of your workout.
Carbohydrates are one of the crucial elements of any pre-workout routine because they act as fuel for the body. To be more precise, the body converts carbohydrates to glycogen and stores it. Once the body needs extra energy (e.g. when exercising), this stored glycogen is broken down and converted into glucose.
So, people that work out should be aiming for as much glycogen as possible in order to produce enough glucose to fuel the body, improve performance in the gym, and build serious muscle.
What type of carbohydrates to take: You can take carbohydrates in the form of synthetic supplements (powders) or through carbohydrate-rich foods such as oats and bananas. Make sure to consume carbohydrates in moderate portions to prevent fatigue and bloating. Avoid simple carbs (added sugars) because they’ll lower your blood sugar levels. Opt for honey instead.
How much carbohydrates to take: This depends on the body type and weight but in general, 2.5 grams per pound of body weight should be consumed per day.
When to take them: It is best to take carbohydrates about an hour before your workout to allow your body to convert them into energy.
When you’re working out, the glycogen in the body gets depleted. This means that your muscles are in really bad shape and need fast recovery. Taking carbs right after the workout will speed up the muscle recovery process, allowing you to give your best during the next training session.
What type of carbohydrates to take: After a hard workout, eating a full meal is probably the last thing that comes to mind. Opt for a quick drink packed with fast acting carbs (e.g. maltodextrin), electrolytes, protein, and good fats.
When to take them: The best time to take carbohydrates is immediately after the training session when the muscles are filled with blood and ready to absorb nutrients. To maximize the results and speed up muscle recovery, you need to keep consuming carbohydrates after the workout. Ideally, you should consume a full meal which contains about 100-150g of carbohydrates about two hours after the training.
How many carbohydrates to take: 60-80g per meal should suffice.
Its main purpose of this most common workout supplement is muscle growth. However, adequate intake of protein also helps repair and maintain muscles.
In the pre-workout stage, protein is taken to prevent the muscles from using protein from the body as a source of energy. The reason for this is simple – protein is a poor energy source (that’s why you need to consume carbohydrates, as we mentioned earlier).
After the workout, glycogen stores in the muscles become depleted, which is solved with the intake of carbohydrates. But your muscles are also injured. They’ll continue to break down protein, which means that more glycogen will be used. And if the glycogen in the muscles gets too low, they will turn to another available source of energy – proteins. In other words, the body will use its own muscles as an energy source. Taking enough protein will begin the post-workout recovery process and prevent the body from ‘eating’ itself.
What type of protein to take: Even though there is a number of different protein powders out there, whey protein remains the most popular choice of athletes because it is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that boost muscle recovery. However, whey contains dairy so for those that are dairy-free, other options include hemp, rice, soy, pea, and egg-white protein.
How much protein to take: Try to consume 20-30g of protein about half an hour before the workout and 40g immediately after the workout. If your body weight goes over 200 pounds, consume 50-60g post-workout. Two hours after the workout, eat a whole meal that contains some kind of protein like lean steak, chicken/turkey breast, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, or dairy products.
As mentioned before, the body’s primary source of energy is carbohydrates. However, the energy from carbohydrates starts kicking in after a few repetitions. Before that, the body relies on creatine to generate energy. In other words, creatine is taken to generate additional energy for improved performance. This means you’ll be able to lift more weight and, in turn, improve power, strength, and lean body mass.
How much creatine to take: Take 2.5g creatine about 40 minutes before the training. To make the most of your workout, add the creatine to a shake that also contains protein and carbohydrates.
After intense workouts, the creatine reserves in the muscles become depleted. To begin the repair process, consume 2.5g of creatine right after the workout.
Caffeine may improve performance depending on how your body handles caffeine. If you have a sensitive stomach, caffeine can upset it and make you nauseous during the workout. In addition, taking caffeine late in the afternoon or evening can keep you up all night.
However, for those who have no such issues, if taken in the right amount, caffeine can improve focus and boost energy.
How much caffeine to take: Start with 100mg to see how your body reacts to caffeine. If you don’t notice any nervousness or upset stomach, increase the dosage to 200 mg.
Besides in the form of powders or tablets, caffeine can be consumed in the form of coffee or, better yet, tea. Drinking a cup of tea with some honey, about 20 minutes before the workout. Avoid energy drinks like Red Bull because they’re loaded with sugar which can make your system crash in the middle of the training session.
You don’t need to take caffeine in the post-workout stage.
To maximize the benefits of your workout, you need to take the right supplements at the right time.
During the pre-workout stage, the goal is to fuel your body to improve performance. For this, you need to take enough carbohydrates. Post-workout, you need to speed up the muscle recovery process. For this purpose, you need protein and carbohydrates.