The top supplements you need for an athletic body are creatine, glutamine and protein. This is my guide on how, and when, to take these vital supplements for strength training and effective bodybuilding. First, lets look at what these big three do for your workout.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine is for energy. It gives you the strength you need for getting a few more rep curls in. It is raw power for your muscles. How much you need depends on how much you have worked out, and what your diet is. Your body can actually synthesize this substance. It is also found in meat. If your body already has a sufficient store of creatine, then taking it as a supplement won’t give you as much extra power, because you’re not deficient. However, if you have been strength training for a while, and building muscles, and notice that you give up much sooner than normal, it is probably because your reserves of creatine have been depleted and you need to replenish it.
What Does Glutamine Do?
Glutamine contributes to muscle growth. Its a nonessential amino acid, in that your body can synthesize it. Bodybuilders take it as a supplement so there is no deficiency when looking for gains. Muscle cells are storage for glutamine, so when a muscle tears and is damaged, it is readily available for repair. Post-workout, when your body is in recovery, glutamine levels are significantly reduced. Replenishing this nutrient makes the entire amount available for muscle repair, giving you quicker gains and less downtime for resting in-between workouts.
What Does Protein Do?
Protein is necessary for building and repairing your body. Not only your muscles, but organs, hair, nails and bones all require it. Building muscle actually requires two things, a caloric surplus (also known as an anabolic state), and protein. It is difficult to build muscle when there isn’t extra calories present, which is one of the reasons why proper nutrition and bodybuilding go hand-in-hand. This is the most popular bodybuilding supplement for a reason.
Why Timing is Important
The benefits you receive from taking supplements will be limited if not taken at the proper times. Depending on the time, your body is in a different mode, like when you wake up, when you sleep, or immediately before or after a workout. You want to avoid overlapping supplements so your body has time to absorb each one. Here are guidelines to take your supplements to get the maximum benefit from them.
Typically, after you wake up your body has been without food for between 6 and 9 hours. At this point, you are cannibalizing muscle tissue for energy. Not good! A proper, nutritious breakfast will get you into an anabolic state, where you are digesting food instead of muscle tissue, and you have a calorie surplus available to build on, instead of wreck, your previous gains.
It is important to remember that, while eggs and other “real” food is important for a balanced diet, it takes time to digest these foods. After eating a breakfast of eggs, your body (depleted of energy) must then expend more energy to digest the food before restoring yourself to a state of calorie surplus.
If maintaining a toned physique is important to you, then taking a protein supplement early in the morning (when you first wake up) will make energy immediately available to you, and keep yourself from that cannibalistic state where you’re deteriorating muscle tissue.
I personally take beef protein powder early in the morning. Why beef (and not whey)? Because whey also takes time to digest. Most whey formulas contain sugars and saturated fat, which are more complex and take longer to digest. Furthermore, they are not digested in the stomach, but actually begin absorbing in the small intestine. Follow the linked-article above for a full explanation of the benefits of beef over whey powder.
Meanwhile, beef is immediately digested, directly in the stomach. When you wake up, you are literally in a race against the clock to limit wasting your hard-earned gains. Carnivor Beef Protein Isolate is usually my choice (though read the linked article for times when I use a different supplement).
Take Supplement Before or After Workout?
This part has to do with Creatine and Glutamine. It’s been noted by experts that both of these are absorbed by the body in the exact same way (sodium transports them to cells). The concern is that if you take both of them together, they will compete with each other for distribution through your cells and you will not get the full benefit of both.
Some experts suggest that taking Creatine a half hour before, and a half hour after your workout is the best timing. Next, you would take Glutamine immediately before you go to bed. This makes sense in that Creatine is for giving your muscles the energy you need to perform properly during your strength training. Glutamine, on the other hand, taken at night while your body enters a period of rest, makes this substance available for repairing and building muscle.
As I’m taking Glutamine before I go to sleep, I also take Casein protein powder. Casein is the “sticky stuff” in milk, a raw protein that is the solid protein leftover of milk. It gels and can be a little tricky to digest. Actually, it digests much slower than other types of protein. That is what makes it incredible for taking immediately before sleep. It is a type of slow-release protein that your body will benefit from all night long. In my opinion, it is easier on the colon than whey, and it is a very common thing for bodybuilders to use this as their night-time protein.
A recap of my supplement schedule, I wake up and take beef protein powder first thing. I’ll take more during the day at various times, depending on whether my schedule allows for preparing a proper nutritious meal (or if I resort to more shakes). Before and after my workout, I take Creatine — it gives you a noticeable difference in muscle responsiveness. Then, just before sleep, I take Glutamine and Casein powder.
My Top 4 Supplements
Below are the beef protein powder for morning, casein for evening, creatine and glutamine that I use. Aside from vitamins and minerals, these form 95% of my supplement routine. As a side note, I did try all-natural strength training with only proper foods for a spell, and I can assure you that you will see far better results with the help of these bodybuilding staples.