Supplementation Before and After Weight-Lifting: The Bare Minimum For Building Lean Mass
If you spend an hour examining the packed shelves of a supplement store, you are more likely to walk away with a headache and empty pockets than a useful supplement. It is impossible to distinguish between supplements that build mass and those that build only debt without reliable nutrition and supplement information. Some supplements are useful but must be taken in appropriate quantities at the proper times.
Research supports the notion that meal timing around exercise increases the amount of lean mass gained. In one study, researchers supplemented two groups of men with the same supplement, except one group got the supplement immediately before and after resistance training; the other group received the supplement several hours before and after working out(1). The group that received the supplement immediately before and after the workout gained significantly more lean mass than the group that did not practice good nutrient timing.
The most important part of building lean mass is eating extra calories. The extra calories should come from high quality protein, carbohydrates and fat, primarily before and after workouts.
Before a Workout-
Generally, protein supplementation enhances lean mass gain during periods of resistance training– thousands of studies support this conclusion. A study conducted at Baylor University in young men showed a significant increase in muscle mass with about 40 grams of protein supplementation per day (2). Before a work-out, whey protein, casein protein or mixed protein sources (like whey and casein/egg and whey).
Supplement with 0.5 grams/kg of protein before your workout.
The branched chain amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. All of these amino acids (the smallest units of protein), and leucine especially, increase the rate of muscle building and decrease the rate of muscle break down (3,4). Hence, BCAA supplementation before and after weight-lifting allows for an anabolic effect on protein metabolism.
Experts recommend 3-6 grams of BCAAs before and after workouts; take about 3 grams for each 50 kg of body mass. A pure BCAA powder is the most ecomical way to take this supplement; one rounded teaspoon is about 5 grams. A container containing 500g should cost you about $22-30 and should last about 2 months, depending on your weight.
Carbohydrates are an important fuel source; lower glycemic or “slower” carbohydrates should be consumed before a workout. Good examples are oats and berries.
Consume about 0.5 grams/kg of carbohydrates before your workout.
Numerous studies have been published showing the benefits of creatine supplementation for increased lean mass and strength. One study showed about twice as much lean mass gain for men taking creatine over the placebo group when completing the same resistance training program (5). In this study the men supplemented with 20 grams/day during a one week loading phase and 5 grams/day for the rest of the twelve week study for maintenance. If you choose to do a loading phase, be sure to split the creatine up into 4 or 5 doses throughout the day to minimize stomach upset.
Creatine monohydrate is the form of creatine that has been studied the most and has been proven effective in research; 500g should not cost more than $15. Furthermore, there is evidence that creatine is absorbed better with high-glycemic carbohydrates; bananas and juice are good natural sources of sugar.
Example of a Good Pre-Work Out Shake for a 170 lb Man (taken 30-45 minutes before the workout begins):
1- 1.5 oz (scoops) casein protein, 2 Tbsp oats, 1 medium banana (in chunks, frozen for a thicker shake), 5 grams BCAAs, 7 g Creatine Monohydrate, ice or water as desired
Immediately After a Workout-
Quick-absorbing carbohydrates are important after a workout for a number of reasons. First of all, the enzymes responsible for glycogen synthesis are upregulated immediately after resistance training. Glycogen, which is made in the body from sugar, is a major carbohydrate fuel for weight-training. As such, it is important to get your post-work out shake into your body as quickly as possible after a workout. Additionally, the high-glycemic carbohydrates stimulate the release of the anabolic hormone insulin, which aids in muscle recovery and growth.
Comsume at least 0.5 grams/kg of high-glycemic carbohydrate after a workout when you are trying to gain lean mass. Bananas and honey are both good choices after a work-out.
Whey protein is quickly absorbed and has an overall anabolic effect on muscle, as demonstrated in a study of young males (6). In this study the men who supplemented with whey protein and creatine increased their strength to the greatest degree; those who supplemented only with whey (1.2 g/kg/day) also improved significantly more than the placebo group.