When I was first asked to write a series of articles for this website, a million ideas coursed through my head. But the one that really plagued me was that I had this much knowledge of supplements, but no apparent way of making a coherent whole of this information. I mean, where would I begin?
This may seem a bit tedious to some, who want to get down to business and talk supplements, but the fact of the matter is, if you want to explain anything in a clear way, you have to start at the beginning. The beginning of any anabolic supplementation scheme is your base nutrition. Nutrition is the single most important factor in determining our success as bodybuilders.
A simple illustration you can try at home: Count your calories for a week, and eat the same amount every day, then up your calories by 500 the 1st week and another 500 the next. In those three weeks I guarantee that you'll put on at least 2 pounds. True, most of it is water and fat-weight, but where do you think you're going to get the nutrients to feed your muscles?
Having established that nutrition is the single most anabolic substance, it's time to do some soul-searching and scrutinize your own diet. There is one thing I truly hate, and that's when someone who is severely underweight comes up to me and tells me supplements don't work. It's true that not every supplement works for every person, but in such an instance I can pinpoint the problem immediately: His diet and rest.
If these two factors are not in order, supplementation has no use. At best it will correct some of your bad habits. But it's not very likely that it will exert any extreme anabolic influence. Some people hear these testimonials and lose faith in supplements. I was there a couple of times.
Those days when you get fed up with every company claiming you'll gain X amount of pounds in X amount of weeks. And then this disgust creeps up on you and you feel everyone is out to get your money and sell you crap.
Setting The Record Straight
Supplements can give you magnificent gains, but in most cases they won't. It's important to realize when you shop for supplements that they are tools with which you can complete your masterpiece faster, not pret-a-porter muscular bodies. Try to get educated and get value for your money (Bodybuilding.com can help you get the supplements that are otherwise a waste of money at a price that may make them cost-effective).
It's even more important to realize that eating and sleeping will provide a solid anabolic base for supplements to work in.
Before you supplement, take some time, sit down at the kitchen table and draw up a nutrition plan. If you are taking in 2500 calories and not gaining, eat 500 more. Start by examining your protein intake. You will need 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of lean bodyweight, spread throughout the day over as many meals as possible.
Count 4 calories for every gram of protein. You will need 1.8 to 2.3 grams of Carbohydrates per pound. Count 4 calories per gram there as well and 15 percent of your diet should consist of clean fats (olive oil, flaxseed oil, ...) at 9 calories per gram. That should give you an approximate idea of what you are ingesting.
It's always a good idea to prepare to eat on the road. Even if you lead a very sedentary life, time may come that you are unexpectedly called away and forget all about your meal. Learn to love previously prepared meals. Sandwiches made with bread that is high in complex carbs and stacked top to bottom with protein rich foods (meat, chicken, eggs, cheese, ...) may be lifesavers in these cases.
If your family eats three times a day, eat with them. Set schedules for eating cause less missing of meals. Then try to get in 2-4 more meals on your own.
I'm aware, as a student of many years, that time and money play a big role in both nutrition and supplementation. It takes a little bit of innovation to get it going. For starters if you have classes in a big auditorium, sit in the back where you won't bother anyone when eating. If you have a break between classes, use it. Stuff like that.
To be a little more economic consider eating vegetarian for a while. That should answer the question if vegetarians can be bodybuilder, that's been posed for many times. I love meat and strongly believe that red meat is one of the key factors in building a great physique. But while in college I opted for spending my money on cheaper sources of protein: milk, eggs and cheese.
They formed the backbone of my diet for a long time. Hardboiled eggs are especially valuable. They are easy because you peel them like a fruit and eat them. And milk, well I'll expand on that in a later article, but suffice it to say that I drink a fair amount (2 gallons a day) and attribute much of my mass to it.
This all goes to show you that you don't necessarily need cups of rice, and portions of oatmeal and tons of tuna to build a solid diet. Even the strapped-for-cash, always-on-the-go student can get by. It takes a little bit of willpower to make some time to prepare the meals and such, but not half as much as you would expect.
You get used to it, just like doing homework or going out on weekends. It becomes part of your routine. Anyone who has the will to drag his a$$ to a gym 5 or more times a week has the will to stick to his nutrition plan.
For me it has always been a matter of amounts. I never truly started growing until I realized that you need to recuperate, and that it works the other way around too. The more you eat and sleep, the harder and longer and more often you can train. That's not to say you'll ever be having two-hour sessions twice a day 6 days a week, but right now I'm using a 4500 calorie diet and 10 hours of sleep to train in eight 45-minute sessions over 5 days.
I'm aware that a lot of people aren't going to like me for letting the cat out of the bag on HIT, but the reason HIT works so well for underweight bodybuilders is that that is all they can handle on their limited recuperation. I started out at 153 pounds. I know what I'm talking about. Most never eat enough or sleep enough to be able to handle the training the old school guys did.
And those that do, rarely do it naturally. Learn to feel your body, and do the work you can handle. And when in doubt: EAT! Better to eat more than you use than not enough.
Normal people call me Peter, but my friends call me Big Cat. My mom always taught me to practice what I preach, as it lends credibility to your words. So far that advice has paid off. I earned my nickname, because I really am a big cat. My friends used to say that whenever they came by, no matter what time of day, I was either eating or sleeping.
Just like a cat. And you can't deny the power cats have. Just look at a majestic lion, all that power, yet all he does is eat and sleep. Take an example.
I don't want to leave everyone waiting for all the hot info on supplements to start gaining though, so I'm going to tell you a little bit about some supplements that I feel comfortable recommending to anyone. These are jewels that should be treasured in any supplementation program. There isn't much to be said about them, so its not worth spending an entire article on it. So here they are.
If you don't have this, you should. Any kind will do, as long as it covers most of your daily need for all important micronutrients. Balancing the macronutrients on a budget often leads to shortages in micro-nutrients. By supplementing them you are providing your body with key elements that will avoid using the supplements to make up for these shortcomings.
The only division here that is important for bodybuilders is that between anti-oxidants and oxidants. The oxidants aid in anabolic events and spare protein for muscle synthesis and the anti-oxidants protect you against the damage oxidants and heavy training may cause. Both produce an amount of free radicals that start a catabolic process known as aging. So anti-oxidants are just as important as their anabolic counterparts.
A classic in our sport. This stuff was being used in the '50s and is still being used by smarter bodybuilders today. Desiccated liver provides you with a wide spectrum in additional vitamins, including a rich variety of the B-vitamins. It also contains amino acids, and when taken in large quantities can provide serious amounts of them.
I advised a friend to take them, only he did so before he started training, and I guarantee you when he farted everyone left the room (for those unaware, that is the best way of telling if you have excess protein in your body). Such a problem corrects itself of course when you are training hard and using all these free amino acids. Liver has the capability of making you absorb a large quantity of water and so gaining major amounts of weight that create an anabolic environment.
I once witnessed someone gain 7 pounds in 7 days this way. And 6 weeks later he had gained 13 pounds of quality muscle. This is an extraordinary case, but it illustrates the benefit such a simple supplement can have. And here is the added bonus: compared to most supplements, its unbelievably cheap.
Naturally I'm talking about people who need to bulk up and not those who are on a diet. These are killer supplements to food, often better than the so called MRPs. They can substitute a meal, and provide you with more calories than your food would: Quality calories.
The important things to watch for when shopping for a weight gainer is that it contains enough protein per serving (30-45 g) and that you get enough additional carbs (more carbs than protein basically) from two sources: a) simple sugars for energy and bulking fat and b) complex carbs for body function, long-term energy and fiber. Next to liver and multi's they are no doubt the best value for money.
Just try calculating what all you get and whether you could compose a meal that supplies the same amount of easily absorbable protein (whey and casein) high quality carbs (dextrose, maltodextrin) and clean fats (MCT's) for less or even the same amount of money. On top of it you get a high content in vitamins and minerals.
I feel comfortable recommending these supplements to anyone. In future articles I will talk about scores of supplements, ranging from creatine to prohormones and HMB to ZMA. But none of those, not even whey protein, I would as easily recommend for just anyone. Even if you do decide to try any or all of the other supplements, it would be wise to use these three. They work very synergistic with other supplements and may fortify their effects.
My next article will deal with the most controversial of all supplement topics: prohormones. I want to get that one out of the way, so I can sketch a clear picture of all the pros and cons as well as information on how they work and how best to stack them.
I hope this first article gave you a short overview of some of the key elements you will be watching as you try to tweak your supplementation schedule. Keep this in mind and I'm sure you'll find that the articles I will present you with in the future will prove very interesting to you.
Success is the measure of a man, and the more that measure increases, the more successful he is. Size is Size, relish it, and don't scrutinize it! Until next time…