The absolute most anabolic* thing a natural lifter will do during their day is WORK OUT.
This is understood, to some degree, by even the biggest couch potato, who knows that he better hit the gym if he wants to build muscle and burn fat.
It’s the workout that sends the “build muscle and burn body fat” signal and the right workout will start a cascading series of events which all lead to increased athletic performance, muscle gain, and fat loss.
Notice I said the RIGHT WORKOUT. Before I go any further, make sure you are indeed training properly. An improper and ineffective workout cannot be made effective with any of the strategies I am going to discuss below. If you need a workout that is truly effective I suggest you check out my program, MAPS Anabolic.
OK, let’s assume that right now you are training with the right exercises and an appropriate amount of intensity and volume. How else can you make this anabolic event even MORE anabolic?
When you workout you are sending an anabolic signal through multiple pathways and the best way to maximize this signal is as follows:
Its pretty much accepted that taking a protein and carbohydrate shake post workout enhances the muscle building signal and accelerates recovery, but there is more you can do. What you ingest before, during and immediately after your workout can make a huge difference.
Lets start by discussing BCAAs (branched chain amino acids). BCAAs are the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They represent three of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own, hence being “essential.” BCAAs have been shown to help burn victims recover faster (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/1/308S.short). They can be used as energy by the body and having an elevated BCAA level in your blood stream has been shown to reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol during your workout and reduce other potentially catabolic (muscle wasting) effects of intense exercise (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/134/6/1583S.full).
Consuming BCAAs before during and after your workouts has been proven to enhance recovery, amplify the muscle building signal and help regulate inflammation. Take 1-3 grams before and after workouts and take 500 milligrams during.
Next up is the amino acid glutamine. This amino acid is the most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle. Post intense exercise, muscle glutamine levels can deplete considerably. In fact, glutamine is considered a “conditionally essential amino acid” because during times of stress or damage to the body it is used at very high levels and not having enough glutamine will hamper recovery. It is also used at high levels by the gut and is an amino acid that is essential to gut health. For the unaware, gut health is extremely important for overall health and hormone balance. Take 3-5 grams before and after workout and 1 gram during workout.
Now let’s talk about one of the most studied ergogenic muscle building supplements one the market: creatine. It is normally synthesized in the body with the amino acids from L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine, however, supplementing with pure creatine has been proven to dramatically raise the amount of creatine your body utilizes. Your body turns creatine into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary muscle fuel you use when you lift heavy weights. Taking creatine means you have more ATP stores, which means MORE STRENGTH. It also increases the amount of water your muscles will store (this is not bloat…bloating is water OUTSIDE the muscle), which further increases muscle performance and also signals muscle growth by stretching the muscle fascia.
For years we were told to take creatine whenever, that it didn’t matter the time of day. Now we are finding that supplementing with creatine before and after a workout significantly lowers MYOSTATIN levels. Myostatin is responsible for regulating muscle growth…the higher it is, the less muscle you build and vice versa. Studies are showing that taking creatine with a workout can lower myostatin significantly. Take 1-2 grams before and after your workouts.
Many of you may be saying, “Doesn’t my post workout protein shake contain all the amino acids already?” Yes, you are correct but increasing the levels of BCAAs and glutamine in your protein shake, over what it already naturally contains, will add increased benefits. It’s also important to note that pre-workout it’s great to take those amino acids alone without complete proteins, especially if you are watching your calories and if you want to take advantage of the growth hormone releasing effects of a “fasted” workout (no food 3 hours prior).
Try adding BCAAs, Glutamine and Creatine as I have recommended and behold the GAINS in muscle and enhanced fat burning effects that these tried and true supplements provide. Timing is everything…use them to MAXIMIZE the anabolic effects of your workouts.
*Anabolic is the state your body is in when it wants to build muscle.