How To Make Your Supplements WORK!

For the past few years I have taken upon my self to learn as much as possible about the human body, both from a structural and a bio-chemical stand point. This is how to make the most of your supplements.

I'm sure that many of you have noticed that nutrition and the quality there of, is one of my biggest concerns. Well, that and Ass-Kicking workouts. But this article was spawned mainly in response to a thread I came across on the message boards. For those of you who haven't figured it out, I go by the nickname EricS.

Anyway, on the boards I came across a thread entitled "Protein Absorption: When is it a waste?" Now digestion is one of my favorite of all physiological topics, so I couldn't resist to look at this one. Much to my dismay, there were some serious misinformed people here.

I sat and responses like this:

"Whey is ALWAYS a waste, unless it's after a workout. Use casein or other REAL foods as protein intake. Whey is all a marketing hype"

* I found this strange because whey and casein both come from milk, yet they seem to think whey is not a food but casein is. I had to step in there and shell out some studies to prove that it wasn't marketing hype. I will assume that anyone reading this knows that it isn't just hype and I shouldn't need to reference myself in this matter.

The responses came flooding in much to the tune of "Use it only after a work out or its wasted" or "Its wasted because it is absorbed too fast". So I felt the need to step in again and explain why protein (and that counts ALL protein, not just whey) can be oxidized for fuel. After that no one really came back to the discussion so I'll just assume that they understood the error of their ways. And to be honest I've seen many threads like this and that is why I felt the need to write this article. I think to many have the wrong impression on how to use supplement to make them effective.

Crash Course In Physiology

To start we need to understand only 2 simple laws of human physiology. The first being that the brain's #1 and favorite source of fuel is glucose, or the human form of "sugar". Yes, the brain can live on other sources, but it would much rather live off of glucose and will put up one hell of a fight to do so. This brings us to the second point, which is that all 3 of the macronutrients, fats, carbohydrates and proteins can be converted into glucose. And for the record, protein is easier to convert than fat.

If you have read some of my other articles I talk a lot about insulin. I'm sorry but you are going to have to hear it again! Insulin, in most cases, is secreted proportionally to the appearance of glucose in the blood. The faster the rate of glucose appearance, the faster the insulin secretion, and likewise, the more glucose, the more insulin.

The Brain

Now that we have that settled, we can move to the next important thing - The brain has tons of insulin receptors! So when blood sugar and insulin gets too low, the brain is the first to know. Now comes the tie-in: because the brains favorite source of fuel is glucose, it will take the next thing you put in to your body and use it to restore glucose and glycogen levels. Yes, even proteins [1,2,8].

Ok, so the lesson is over, but it was a necessary one. As you can see if you are one who attempts to use a whey protein supplement (Not to be confused with a MRP), you can easily see that it is going to be used for exactly what we don't want. Using whey protein supplements to fill the gaps as meal replacements is a bad idea. When blood glucose and insulin levels are low al the protein is going to be used to restore those glucose levels, i.e. for energy. And that is expensive energy.

I can think of quite a few less expensive ways to get my glucose levels back up. It doesn't matter how fast or slow a protein may be absorbed, glucose restoration is top priority and it will be done first. So have protein alone, is pointless in muscle building efforts. Whether its whey, casein, egg, or a chicken breast, much of it is oxidized when eaten alone.

So how do make our protein supplements work the way we want? Well, it is actually very simple. Make sure that you glucose and insulin levels are up and constant before chugging down a protein shake or amino acid supplements [6,7,9] (especially Glutamine [2]). The smart thing to do would be to use you protein supplement exactly as that, SUPPLEMENTS. Meaning in addition to your small meals.


In fact, this method has recently been shown to be so effective that it stood the sports medicine and nutrition world on its head [3]! In that study, they used a large portion of whey as the protein intake. 1.5g/kg was the minimal intake for all subjects. I'm going to go on a limb and say that is a far cry from what you take in a day, isn't it?

Back to the question at hand, carbohydrates are the key. More specifically, the combination of types of protein and carbohydrates are what is really the key. Almost exactly like I had outlined in part 2 of anabolic aerobics, the combination of hydrolyzed whey proteins and low glycemic carbohydrates act in synergy to increase nitrogen retention [4, 5, 3]. We all know that taking whey with a high GI carb is good for after a work out, but you need (and I stress need) to shift gears in your carbohydrate intake.

It is that important to your muscle building efforts. So outside those 3 hours after your workout, low is the way to go! Your small meals should be actual meals with protein, fats, and low GI carbs. Your best bet for these carbs are vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans, etc. Low GI starches/legumes are acceptable as well. And then as you are finishing your meal, start sipping on your whey protein drink. I have found this to be incredibly effective and I have stated eating big bowls of vegetables with every meal. Even with my MRPs.

Not only do vegetables provide some carbohydrate to restore glucose level, but also it keeps insulin constant, which prevents the oxidation of other material for energy. And they are a great way to get in fiber, which is something the average bodybuilder is lacking.


  • When glucose levels are low (between meals) protein supplements are oxidized.
  • When glucose and insulin levels are up, protein supplements are channeled more towards muscle protein accretion
  • Low GI foods and Hydrolyzed Proteins combined greatly increase nitrogen retention
  • Throw down a big bowl of vegetables when ever possible (bulking or cutting, you can never overeat vegetables, except the potato)
  • Use your supplements as supplements in addition to whole food, not in place of.
  • Carbohydrates are the missing key; adding oil to a protein shake won't cut it. Slowing down digestion means nothing.

I hope now that you can understand how to use your supplements correctly and get the most out of them. I think it is strange to read through the message boards and see someone who is considered "veterans" or the "go-to-guys" ramble on about something that is completely ass backwards.

And God forbid that anyone try to tell them differently, that would be a cardinal sin. I will admit that I do enjoy learning and researching, but it I find it rather disturbing that one must take it to this level to sort through the junk just to figure out what is right and what is wrong.

I think the major reason behind my research endeavors is I feel that if you are going to give someone advice, you'd better know what you are talking about, and make sure its right. Hopefully I can make that aspect of your bodybuilding journey that much easier.

So remember, there is a right way and a wrong way to use?Whey!

Source Of Information

1. Rasmussen B, et. a. An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. J. appl. Physiol. 88: 386-392, 2000

2. J. L. Bowtell, K. Gelly, M. L. Jackman, A. Patel, M. Simeoni, and M. J. Rennie. Effect of oral glutamine on whole body carbohydrate storage during recovery from exhaustive exercise. J Appl Physiol (1999) 86: 1770-1777

3. P.J. Cribb, A.D. Williams, A. Hayes, M.F. Carey THE EFFECT OF WHEY ISOLATE AND RESISTANCE TRAINING ON STRENGTH, BODY COMPOSITION AND PLASMA GLUTAMINE. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 34(5), 2002

4. Anges, SD. M. et al. Dietary composition and physiological adaptation to energy restriction. Am. J. Clin. Nutri. 2000: 71(4) p901-907.

5. Pollain MG, et al. Effect of whey proteins, their oligopeptide hydrolysates and free amino acid mixtures on growth and nitrogen retention in fed and staved rats. JPEN. 1989:vol13#4:382-386.

6. J. L. Bowtell, G. P. Leese, K. Smith, P. W. Watt, A. Nevill, O. Rooyackers, A. J. M. Wagenmakers, and M. J. Rennie Modulation of whole body protein metabolism, during and after exercise, by variation of dietary protein J Appl Physiol 1998 85: 1744-1752.

7. Tessari, P., S. Inchiostro, G. P. Biolo, R. Trevisan, G. Fantin, M. C. Marescotti, E. Iori, A. Tiengo, and G. Crepaldi. Differential effects of hyperinsulinemia and hyperaminoacidemia on leucine-carbon metabolism in vivo. J. Clin. Invest. 79: 1062-1069, 1987

8. Bolio GYR, w al. An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. Am J Physiol. Endo Metab. 273: E122-E129, 1997.

9. Castellino, P., L. Luzi, D. C. Simpson, and M. W. Haymond.. J. Clin. Invest. 80: 1784-1793, 1987 Effect of insulin and plasma amino acid concentration on leucine metabolism in man