Your nutritional needs for when you’re bulking are very different to when you’re cutting. Therefore it is advised that you tailor your supplement stack specifically to meet your goals. In this article we will take a look at how to make the perfect stack for when you’re muscle building, and when to take these supplements.
Supplements for Muscle Building
In an ideal world, the following should make up the perfect stack of supplements for you during your bulking or muscle building phase:
- Weight gainer protein powder: To help you reach your target calorie and protein requirements for the day. Choosing the best weight gainer and consuming it on top of a good diet can dramatically speed up your growth, even for hardgainers.
- WPI or hydrolysed whey protein powder: These fast proteins are essential for post workout recovery and to make the most out of the anabolic window created from pumping iron.
- Micellar casein or other night time protein powder: These slow proteins are perfect for right before bed time. This keeps your muscles fuelled and anabolic throughout the night, to ensure you don’t stop growing, even while you sleep.
- Pre workout supplement: To get the best workout, take a pre workout supplement. These are designed to keep you pushing harder and longer. Better workouts mean better muscle stimulus, which leads to better gains.
- Intra workout supplement: These contain a variety of ingredients to help sustain you during your workout. They replace vital electrolytes, provide nourishment for your muscles, and help to prevent catabolism during your workout. All this combined helps to speed up your recovery.
- Post workout or creatine supplement: Another important supplement to have post workout. These are typically high in carbs to replace muscle glycogen and speed up recovery. At the same time, it shuttles creatine into your muscles to help you lift harder next time.
- BCAA supplement: Branched chained amino acids have been shown to be beneficial for strength and lean gains, even when used on top of a protein powder (Colker et al, 2000). Sometimes these are already included in sufficient quantities in your post workout supplement, but if not, consider adding it to your stack.
- Testosterone booster: Testosterone is the king of bodybuilding hormones. Simply put, higher levels of testosterone does wonders for packing on the muscle. A testosterone booster is designed to help support natural testosterone production, this may therefore be helpful for lean gains.
- Growth hormone booster: Human growth hormone (hGH) declines as we age. This is a supplement designed to help naturally boost hGH production. This supplement is more important for the older bodybuilders.
- Multivitamin: The demand for all nutrients, including vitamins and minerals increase when you are growing, under stress, or training hard. To ensure you have no gaps in your nutrition, take a multivitamin, because a deficiency in anything will seriously impede your lean gains.
How to Take Supplements for Weight Gain
Here, we will explore a way to put all these supplements together and take it in a timely fashion. There is of course room for adjustment so that things fit in with your schedule. But try to keep these principles in mind when you’re making up your own routine.
- First thing in the morning: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s probably been around 8 hours since you last ate, and it’s important to kick your body into anabolic mode again. This would be a good time to down a big breakfast, along with a weight gainer shake.
- During meals: Eat frequent meals high in protein. Depending on your level of training, you may need up to 2 g protein/kg body weight. Please refer to our “Recommended Protein Intake per Day” article for more information. This would be the best time to take your multivitamins, as these are well absorbed when consumed with whole foods.
- In between meals: Chances are you may find that you are not getting enough calories or protein from whole meals alone. You can therefore slot in the odd weight gainer shake for when you can’t or don’t want to eat a whole meal.
- Before training: Pre workout supplements should only be taken at this time. Generally, it is recommended that you take these on a (relatively) empty stomach. However, some people also may wish to add in some fast proteins and/or BCAAs to aid in recovery. This is also a good time to take any test boosters you may have.
- During training: Intra workout supplements should be taken during a workout.
- After training: This is a hugely important time. Your fast protein should definitely be consumed at this time. Not only is protein important at this time, but so are carbs, so stack your protein with a post workout supplement that contains creatine. BCAAs can also be thrown in here for good measure too.
- Before bed: If you are young, the choice should always be a slow protein like micellar casein. But if you’re slightly older, this is where it gets a little tricky, because you have to make a decision. hGH supplements are ideal for the older bodybuilder. However they only work on an empty stomach. This means that they cannot be stacked with micellar casein before bed. The decision therefore needs to be made between increased hGH production or sustaining anabolism through the night with a slow protein.
Colker et al (2000), Effects of supplemental protein on body composition and muscular strength in healthy athletic male adults. Current Therapeutic Research, 61: 19-28