Making Sense Of Supplementation!

In this article I hope to give you some guidelines to follow that'll help you figure out how to use nutritional supplementation as one weapon in your arsenal against the weights.
Be careful where you stick your screwdriver!

Thwack! "Use your head, John! You have more sense than that!"

Boy, did I hear that line a lot while growing up! Throughout our childhood, my brother Steve and I were very interested in experimenting with things to figure out how they worked and why. As a result, many of our favorite childhood toys were dismantled, dismembered, and destroyed in our quest to figure out the timeless question, "Mommy, howz' it wuk?" Those poor GI Joes!

While this sort of tinkering may sound cool, we normally ended up hurting ourselves and upsetting the neighbors, you know, with all the smoke and screaming and stuff. I remember one time I wanted to figure out how my remote-control car worked. After the screwdriver ended up in the battery compartment, I realized that instead of learning about the mechanics of electronically controlled toys, I was going to learn all about the emergency room.

Now some may say that boys will be boys and that when you grow up, you develop enough sense to keep screwdrivers out of battery compartments. But when I watch the legions of weight trainees out there fooling around with nutritional supplementation, I can't help but think of those two little boys asking, "Mommy, howz' it wuk?"

I just want to reach through the telephone, through my computer monitor, or across the squat rack and give them a hearty tap on the head and shout, "Use your head! You have more sense than that!" (The moment you catch yourself using one of your parent's favorite lines, you are officially all grown up.)

Although I'm a big proponent of letting people learn from their mistakes, I try to walk the fine line between letting them make mistakes for themselves and giving them some guidance so they won't make the big mistakes. So with this article I hope to give you some guidelines to follow that'll help you figure out how to use nutritional supplementation as one weapon in your arsenal against the weights. Maybe this way, you can "keep your screwdriver out of the battery compartment" and your arse out of trouble.


Periodization Power

It's no secret that periodized resistance training programs lead to better results than random, uncycled, unstructured, and undisciplined training regimens. Although this is pretty common knowledge, trainees often fail to apply this same logic to supplementation. So let's do that right now.

The first step in determining the ideal supplement periodization plan is to understand what the major goals of your training and supplement program should be.

For the most part, the following goals and expectations are very realistic:

  1. Achieve peak levels of muscularity or performance at a pre-designated time. Many supplements can speed up the rate of muscle growth and improvement in performance so that training deadlines can be met.

  2. Prevent overtraining or control planned overtraining. Many supplements can help delay or prevent overtraining and related symptoms when volume is very high.

  3. Allow the use of supplements to support and enhance each training phase. Many supplements are specific to different energy systems or physique goals and should be used only during appropriate training phases.

  4. Allow time off each supplement to prevent "negative" homeostasis/adaptation. With the eventual loss of efficacy of some supplements (if you've been on them too long), you'll experience diminished returns.

With these expectations in mind, the next step is to understand what happens when we train. The GAS (General Adaptation to Stress) theory discusses three stages of training and the physiological events accompanying them. Understanding the events that occur during these stages can help you to understand what the goal of supplementation should be during each stage.


Understanding The Stages

Shock or Alarm Stage: This stage is one to two weeks in duration at the onset of a new training regimen. Muscle soreness and a drop in performance tend to occur during this period. The supplementation goal here is to minimize initial damage and maximize recovery so that you can rapidly enter the supercompensation phase.

Resistance or Supercompensation Stage: This is the optimal zone of training. Increases in size, strength, and endurance are promoted; biochemical, mechanical, and structural adaptations occur. The supplementation goal in this stage is to enhance/support neuromuscular and biochemical adaptations to training.

Maladaptation Stage: This stage is characterized by localized muscular fatigue as well as central fatigue. This stage is typically called overtraining. During maladaptation, the supplementation goal is to increase the training load of what you're capable before overtraining sets in, and to prevent the symptoms of overtraining.

    Now, although I fully agree with these three stages, I propose that there may also be a fourth stage:

Familiarization Stage: This stage occurs after supercompensation if workload isn't altered. Physiological homeostatic compensation occurs and progress halts due to familiarity of the stimulus. During familiarization, the supplementation goal is to promote biochemical changes during what might otherwise be a period of stagnation.

With all this background information, we can next specify goals, break up the training year, and throw in some supplements. The following is a list of how training cycles are typically broken up and the goals for each cycle:


How Training Cycles Are Broken Up

Macrocycle or "the master plan": This is the predetermined training cycle (usually lasting several months to one year) that specifically defines the long-term physique or training goal. An example of this could be to gain ten pounds of lean mass and lose 5% body fat in nine months.

Mesocycle or "the general specifics": This period defines the specific training phases that fall within the macrocycle above. An example of this would be following an eight week hypertrophy program, followed by an eight week strength-training program, followed by an eight week fat-loss program.

Microcycle or "the details": This period is defined by the daily and weekly changes to the training, diet, and supplementation program. An example of this would be the use of heavy/light days, days off, calorie cycling, and supplement staggers.


Putting Periodization Into Practice

Using the generalized periodization model that's proposed above, the following is an example of how one might break up a nine month training macrocycle. Remember that during each phase, you need to understand that specific energy systems are being trained and the supplements you choose during these phases should support the potential adaptations.

The following describes the energy systems involved in each phase, the supplemental goals, and a supplementation scheme for maximum results.


Phase 1: Hypertrophy Training

    Goal: Anabolism

    Demands: High volume, high reps/time under tension (utilization of lactic acid energy system), high potential for overtraining

    Supplement Goals: Muscle growth, rapid recovery/prevention of overtraining (protein balance), rapid glycogen resynthesis

Week # Supplement Choices (daily protein, multivitamin, and antioxidant supplementation as well as post-workout drink supplementation throughout this phase)
Weeks 1 and 2 Topical 4-androstene-3, 17-diol - 500mg-1000mg/day
OR
Sublingual andro - 25mg every 3 to 4 hours
Weeks 3 and 4 1) Tribulus Terrestris (50% saponins) - 1500-2000mg/day
2) ZMA - 30mg zinc aspartate, 450mg magnesium aspartate
3) 5-methyl-7-methoxy-isoflavone - 800-1200 mg/day
Weeks 5 and 6 Topical 4-androstene-3,17-diol - 500mg-1000mg/day
OR
Sublingual andro - 25mg every 3 to 4 hours
Weeks 7 and 8 1) Tribulus Terrestris (50% saponins) - 1000-1500 mg/day
2) ZMA -30mg zinc aspartate, 450mg magnesium aspartate
3) 5-methyl-7-methoxy-isoflavone - 400-800 mg/day
Week 9 (active rest or week off) No supplements except protein and vitamins


Phase 2: Strength Training

    Goal: Dtrength

    Demands: Heavy weights/short time under tension (reliance on ATP-PC energy system), high neural demands, joint stress/trauma

    Supplement Goals: Enhance ATP-PC system capacity, enhance neural drive, joint protection

Week # Supplement Choices (daily protein, multivitamin, and antioxidant supplementation as well as post-workout drink supplementation throughout this phase)
Weeks 10 and 11 1) 30g creatine/day and 10g ribose/day
�OR
2 daily servings of Ribose-C
2) Topical 4-androstene-3,17-diol - 100 mg before workoutsORsublingual andro - 25mg before workouts
3) 200mg caffeine before workouts
4) Glucosamine and Chondroiton (1500/1200mg per day)
Weeks 12 - 17 1) 10g creatine/day and 5g ribose/day
OR
2 daily servings of Ribose-C
2) Topical 4-androstene-3,17-diol - 100 mg before workoutsORsublingual andro - 25mg before workouts
3) 200mg caffeine before workouts
4) Glucosamine and Chondroiton (1500/1200mg per day)
Week 18 (active rest or week off)
No supplements except protein and vitamins.
Taper off caffeine (100mg for 3 days, 50 mg for 4 days)


Phase 3: Power Training

    Goal: Speed of movement

    Demands: High velocity movements (neural component), low reps/short time under tension (reliance on ATP-PC system)

    Supplement Goals: Enhance neural drive, enhance ATP-PC peak power and capacity

Week # Supplement Choices (daily protein, multivitamin, and antioxidant supplementation as well as post-workout beverage supplementation throughout this phase)
Weeks 19 and 20 1) 6-8g of tyrosine before workouts
2) 1-2g of phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) before workouts
3) 200 mg caffeine before workouts
4) 30g creatine and 10g ribose per day
OR
2 servings of Ribose-C per day
Weeks 21 - 26 1) 6-8g of tyrosine before workouts
2) 1-2g of phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) before workouts
3) 200 mg caffeine before workouts
4) 10g creatine and 5g ribose per day
OR
2 servings of Ribose-C per day
Week 27 (active rest or week off)
No supplements except protein and vitamins.
Taper off caffeine (100 mg for 3 days; 50mg for 4 days).


Phase 4: Training For Fat Loss

    Goal: Fat loss

    Demands: Caloric restriction, high volumes/time under tension/reliance on lactic acid system, potential for overtraining and muscle loss

    Supplement Goals: Maintenance of lean mass, increase metabolic rate and fat mobilization, prevent overtraining (maintain protein balance)

Week # Supplement Choices (daily protein, multivitamin, and antioxidant supplementation as well as post-workout drink supplementation throughout this phase)
Weeks 28 and 29 1) 3-5g fish oils/day
2) ALA 150mg 2 x per day
3) Glucosol (corosolic acid) and Inzitol (d-pintol) 50mg/50mg 2 x per day with meals
4) ECA stack (10mg/100mg/150mg) 1 x per day OR MD6 1 x per day (before training)
Weeks 30 - 33 1) 6-10g fish oils/day
2) ALA 300mg 2 x per day
3) Glucosol (corosolic acid) and Inzitol (d-pintol) 50mg/50mg 2 x per day with meals
4) ECA stack (10mg/100mg/150mg) 2 x per day OR MD6 2 x per day
Weeks 34 and 35 1) 6-10g fish oils
2) Taper off stimulants; week 34 take 1 full dose per day; week 35 take 1/2 dose per day
Week 36 (active rest or week off)
No supplements except protein and vitamins


Final Thoughts

Now that you have an example periodized program complete with supplement additions, here are some final thoughts you should keep in mind when attempting to design your own plan.

When deciding which supplements to incorporate into your training schedule:

  1. Prioritize the goal of each training phase

  2. Understand the demands of each training phase

  3. Prioritize which supplements will contribute the most to attaining your goals.

Also, keep in mind that in my opinion, no supplement (except protein, MRPs, post-workout drinks, and vitamins) should be taken year round. In addition, understand that although some supplements (i.e. androgens) can assist in every phase (hypertrophy, fat loss, strength and power, endurance), it's not wise to use them 365 days of the year.

Not only will their efficacy diminish, but this type of use may have some potential negative health implications. So when deciding when to use something like 4-androstenediol, remember to use it only during the heaviest training periods that you've prioritized.

Also remember that supplement benefits don't always persist, so cycling may be necessary. A convenient way to structure your supplement cycling is to use tapering and transition periods to cycle off supplements. In short, use your head and develop supplement strategies that actually make sense. And if I see you "putting your screwdriver in the battery compartment" again, you're gonna get a smack!

Click here for a printable version of this page!

About The Author

John M Berardi is one of the world's foremost experts in the field of human performance and nutrition. His company, Science Link, provides unique and highly effective training, nutrition, and supplementation programs for high level athletes as well as recreational exercisers. John is a prolific author and a sought after speaker and consultant. Visit www.johnberardi.com for more information about John and his team. Also, check out his new DVD entitled No Nonsense Nutrition.