Being a supplement junkie can be difficult and expensive. Stacking your supplements wisely can help you get the best bang for the buck.
In addition, stacking supplements can seem much more confusing than it needs to be. I am here to help as best I can in one article. I assume that Bodybuilding.com asked me to write this after looking at my order history from the online store.
There are a lot of things to consider when creating your own supplement stack. So many people have so many different goals that I could not possibly cover all of them.
Here are the topics I plan to hit:
Supplement Stack Topics
I will be basing my recommendations on the following assumptions:
- You are over 18
- You have checked with your doctor and know if you have any pre-existing conditions that may require you to exclude some types of supplements
- You are smart enough to read the warnings on the labels BEFORE you take the products
- You will start taking the products based upon the recommendations of the specific manufacturer
- You have enough experience to determine between the placebo effect and whether or not something actually works
Eating For Effect
As I have stressed in my other articles, all the supplementation in the world will not help if your diet is not correct. The old adage "you are what you eat", is never truer than it is with regards to bodybuilding. If your diet is crap, your physique reflects it. A bad diet can lead to bad skin, bad hair, excess body fat levels, muscle atrophy or stagnation, and a list of other maladies.
Basic rules of physiology come into play when eating for effect. To gain muscle, you must exceed the calories you burn with the calories you eat. To lose body fat, you must exceed the calories you eat with the calories you burn.
Seems simple, right? Then why do so many people fail miserably at it. Because people lack the discipline to properly track and/or plan their diets.
I always suggest that people, embarking on a new exercise and nutrition program, keep a daily food log. This will ensure that they do not cheat themselves out of results by not eating enough or by eating too much.
Eating To Gain Lean Mass:
Too many people call this "bulking". Most people who go on a "bulking diet" LOOK like they did; big and fat and swollen. By the time, if ever, they rip down to see their abs, they have kept very little of the muscle they might have gained and could have looked better by eating for "lean mass" instead.
Starches should be timed for maximum energy levels and should preferably be moderate in glycemic index (i.e. brown rice should be chosen over white rice, sweet potatoes over regular baked potatoes, etc). This will help reduce conditions that may help store food as body fat instead of help shuttle nutrients to the muscles.
Eating To Get Lean:
Eating to lose body fat is similar. The goal here is to lose FAT, NOT MUSCLE. So never look at it as just "losing weight". Every pound of muscle has the ability to burn between 30-60 calories per day.
So if you lose 10 lbs of muscle mass, you effectively lower your metabolism by 300-600 calories per day. This means if you crash diet muscle off, you will have to stay at the lower calorie intake level permanently or you can gain all that fat back plus MORE. So food needs to have plenty of LEAN protein.
The carbohydrates need to be as "lean and green" as possible. Starches and sugars need to be avoided as much as possible. You also need to keep strength training in the routine.
If you do not use/challenge the muscle, the body will find it unnecessary and, in a negative calorie state, utilize it for fuel. By continuing to challenge the muscle, and feeding it enough quality protein, it will help your body burn off the unwanted fat.
Basic Warnings About Stacking
Stacking supplements works great, if done properly. If done haphazardly, it can cause unpleasant, if not outright dangerous, side effects.
Always Read The Warning Labels:
Warning: Individuals with [certain conditions], should use only as directed by a physician. Do not exceed the recommended dosage. The recommended dose for this product contains about as much caffeine as 2-3 cups of coffee. Limit the use of caffeine-containing medications, foods or beverages while taking this product because too much caffeine may cause nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness, and occasionally a rapid heart beat.
Warning: Consult a physician before use. Do not use this product if you have a medical condition, or are taking prescription medications. Not intended for use by persons under 21. Exceeding recommended serving may cause serious adverse health effects. Discontinue use and call a physician if you experience and side effects.
OK, these are there for a REASON! Listen to them.
TOO MUCH of anything can be bad for you. Caffeine, vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, chromium, etc., can all build up and possibly cause some adverse effects if you combine too many supplements with them at the same time.
For instance, if I overload on vitamin C trying to fight off [something], I tend to get a slight rash on my neck and upper chest and my wife gets blisters around her lips. Not from extra vitamin C, but from EXCESS.
Prohormones should not be used by females or anyone under 21. People who tell you to go for it are NOT your friends and they do not care if you suffer any adverse side effects. They don't have to pay for it, you do.
So the warning here is to make sure you are not stacking too many supplements with the same ingredients. Be smart. More is not always better, more is usually just more.
syn·er·gism [ sin-er-jiz-uhm, si-nur-jiz-] -noun
- the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.
- the joint action of agents, as drugs, that when taken together increase each other's effectiveness (contrasted with antagonism).
This is essentially what we are going for when stacking supplements. Using complimentary items that can INCREASE each others effectiveness.
Stacking For Different Goals
Lean Mass Stacking:
The key here is recovery and priming the anabolic environment. The need is for protein and nutrient delivery to the muscles and enough calories to allow for growth. Items like creatine and NO supplements can assist in muscle recovery and increased blood flow.
Consuming a blend of protein and carbs before and after the workouts will help ensure energy through the workout and help speed up the recovery process after the workout. Remember, you grow OUTSIDE the gym.
Fat Loss Stacking:
The goal is to reduce body fat levels. Since muscle is basically the only thing that truly "burns calories", it is essential to help the body to KEEP the muscle and burn the fat.
Thermogenics can assist in helping to increase the metabolic rate. Plenty of quality protein will assist in keeping muscle from being burned as fuel. Good complex carbohydrates will help keep energy levels up while eliminating big insulin spikes that may allow the body to store more fat.
Basic Health Stacks:
Goals vary here greatly. Getting enough vitamins from food to keep recovery optimum is difficult. Some people, like me, have [certain problems] that need to be addressed as well as just basic joint care if someone lifts heavy. Men and women have different specific body functions that need support. I will show some basic stacks that my wife and I have used.
My Personally Recommended Supplement Stacks
Pre-workout stimulant, whey isolate, whey protein blend, carb source, creatine (if you can use monohydrate it is cheap and flavorless, I cannot use it so I often opt for creatine ethyl ester), casein protein.
Pre-workout - Pre-workout stimulant and several caps of CEE with 1 scoop whey isolate and 3/4 scoop carb source in ice water. Post workout - several caps of CEE with 2-3 scoops whey protein blend and 1 full scoop carb source in ice water. Before bed - 2 scoops casein.
Amino acids, whey isolate, carb source, creatine ethyl ester, casein protein. Pre-workout - Amino acids with several caps of CEE. Post workout - 1 scoop whey isolate with 1 scoop carb source and several caps of CEE. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
Pre-workout stimulant, BCAA's, carb source, whey isolate, whey protein blend, NO supplement, creatine, casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's, 3/4 scoop carb source, 1 scoop whey isolate in water. Pre-workout stimulant, creatine, and NO supplements. Post workout - 2 scoops whey protein blend with 1 full scoop carb source and creatine. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
BCAA's, carb source, whey isolate, NO supplement, creatine, casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's, 3/4 scoop carb source, 1 scoop whey isolate in water. Creatine and NO supplements. Post workout - 1 scoops whey isolate with 1 full scoop carb source and creatine. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
BCAA's, thermogenics, whey blend, glutamine, creatine, casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's in water. Thermogenic and creatine. Post workout - 2 scoops whey protein blend, 10g glutamine, with 1/2 scoop carb source and creatine. Before Bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
Non-caffeinated thermogenic, BCAA's, carb source, whey isolate, glutamine, creatine, casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's in water and Creatine. Post workout - 1 scoop whey isolate, 10g glutamine, with 1/2 scoop carb source and creatine. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
BCAA's, thermogenics, whey blend, glutamine, creatine, NO supplement, casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's in water. Thermogenic, creatine, and NO supplements. Post workout - 2 scoops whey protein blend, 10g glutamine, with 1/2 scoop carb source and creatine. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
Non caffeinated thermogenic, BCAA's, carb source, Whey isolate, glutamine, NO supplement, Creatine, Casein protein. Pre-workout - BCAA's in water, creatine and NO supplements. Post workout - 1 scoop whey isolate, 10g glutamine, with 1/2 scoop carb source and creatine. Before bed - 2 scoops casein protein.
If the supplement also has chondroitin, that is great, but I have personally not noticed a difference with or without it. This stack is one of those that I did not know I needed until I started taking it and stopped.
It is very difficult to get enough vitamins and minerals to support an active lifestyle with the amount of processing that occurs to most of our foods. If you are like me, you may not get enough of the green stuff to provide these.
Men need prostate support and do not need additional iron supplements.
Multivitamin with Iron, Calcium Citrate, and Green Food Supplement
Women need additional iron and definitely need additional calcium, especially if dairy consumption is low.
My Personally Recommended Supplements
I've tried them, they work. I stand behind that. If you buy them and don't like them, send them to me and I'll finish them for you. I could use some free stuff! But seriously, I've tried a lot and these are what I buy on a rotating basis.
- CEL N-Cinerate
- Muscletech Hydroxycut Hardcore
- Goliath Labs Thermoloid
- IDS Lean Up
- IDS Whey Isolate
- Syntrax Nectar
Whey Protein Concentrates Or Blends:
- Scivation Whey
- SportPharma Just-WHEY
- Higher Power Glutamine
- IDS Glutamine With MSM
- Optimum 100% Casein (find me another that's this good and I'll try it)
Aminos And BCAA's:
General Dietary Stuff:
IDS Whey Isolate, 1/2 scoop IDS Waximaize, 2 scoops Scivation Xtend, and 1 scoop Scivation Vasocharge in ice water. 3 White flood tabs, 3 CEE tabs and 1 Primaforce Cissus.
2 scoops Scivation Whey, 1 scoop Optimum Casein, 10g IDS Glutamine with MSM, and 1 scoop IDS Waximaize in the blender with ice and water.
In The Vitamin Cups:
3 CL Orange Triad, 1 NOW MSM 1500, 1 allergy pill, 1 Optimum antioxidant, 1 Primaforce Max CLA, 1 HP Saw Palmetto, 1 Primaforce ALA, 1 Primaforce Cissus, 2 NX Vaso, 1 SNS Liver Support, 1 Health Plus Super Colon Cleanse Sport
3 CL Orange Triad, 1 NOW Glucosamine 1000, 1 allergy pill, 1 Optimum antioxidant, 1 Primaforce Max CLA, 1 HP Saw Palmetto, 1 Primaforce ALA, 1 Primaforce Cissus, 2 SNS Liver Support, 2 Health Plus Super Colon Cleanse Sport
I work hard, I lift heavy, I try to compete every 12-18 months, I am over 40 and still getting bigger and stronger. I supplement to help my body recover to the best of its ability. I also make sure to drink plenty of fluids. I try to take in 1 to 1 1/2 gallons of WATER along with another 1/2 to 1 gallon of other fluids. A dehydrated muscle is a tear waiting to happen.
Note To Readers:
If you look above, some of these items appear in more than one category. For instance, White Flood and Primal NO appear in pre-workout stimulant AND in NO supplement. Meaning they have NO properties AND caffeine. So don't double up on the caffeine.
IDS BetaNOX has caffeine precursors in it and warns against taking with other caffeine supplements, so it may make a really good evening supplement and not so much for morning if you need extra caffeine. There are a lot of "all in one" pre-workout drinks, make sure of the ingredients before stacking them with other supplements.
If you are an evening lifter, pay close attention to the caffeine content of your supplements if caffeine in the evening interrupts your sleep patterns. Remember, sleep is the time your body is at its optimum level for recovery and repair. Don't cut it short.
I hope this has helped some. It is not meant to be a scientific study on the effects of stacking, just some basic guidelines to show you that it does not HAVE to be rocket science. Knowing how you respond to supplementation can help anyone create a safe and effective supplement stack.
More Supplement Stack Articles:
- The Benefits Of Stacking Supplements! - By Topic Of The Week
- Breakout With Beginning Bodybuilding Stacks! - By Joseph Amici
- Supplements: Reach Your New Year's Goals! - By Derek Beast Charlebois
- Other Supplement Stack Articles...
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me. I attempt to respond to everyone if possible.
Until next time, Lift Big 2 Get Big. -CTGBLUE
PS: Due to numerous requests, my next articles will be dedicated to "Surviving the Holidays" and "The Resolutioner" (yes, they need help too, we all know it, they just don't, yet).
PS: Let me know if there's a certain topic YOU would like to see me address.