The big three products for all weight training athletes are protein, creatine and glutamine. This assumes, of course, you're already taking the Foundational Products (multi-vitamin, whey protein and flaxseed oil).
If you want to build muscle, take a certain type of protein powder known as a meal replacement powder (MRP). MRPs include protein, carbs for energy and fat, plus 25-50% RDI for most vitamins and minerals. Essentially, they're a complete, high protein meal.
When to take: For bulking up, take an MRP between meals for extra protein and nutrition. If you're trying to lean down, use one in place of a meal.
Meal timing is extremely important after a workout. After hitting the weights, immediately consume a shake made with an MRP and 1-2 scoops from a gainer (high carb). Mix creatine and glutamine into it. The carbs help spike your insulin levels. Insulin is extremely anabolic (muscle-building), and it increases your body's uptake of amino acids, creatine and other nutrients. You only have a short 30-60 minute window of time after a workout for maximum effect.
Tip: Take a shaker bottle full of your protein powder, creatine and glutamine to the gym, fill it up at the water fountain after your workout and drink it on the way home. This is what numerous bodybuilders do. After an hour, you should be ready for a solid food meal, like dinner.
How much to take:
Consume roughly the equivalent of your ideal body weight in grams of protein per day. For women, that's about 100-150 grams a day (25g from whey, 40g from an MRP and the remaining amount from food). For men, that's about 150-200 grams a day (25-50g from whey, 40-80g from an MRP and the rest from food).
You should already be taking at least one serving of whey protein from your Foundational Products. You can even make your own MRP by taking a whey protein powder and combining it with carbs like fruit. This will boost the calorie content by and extra 100-200 calories, more in line with the protein to carb content of an MRP.
No product has come along in years that works as well as creatine monohydrate. It can help you weight train harder by extending the ATP energy cycle. That translates into getting stronger, faster. Nothing will help you push through plateaus on the bench press like creatine.
When and how much to take: The first week on creatine, super saturate your muscles by taking 20-25 grams a day (loading phase). Thereafter, take about 5 grams a day (maintainence phase).
Best form to take: The most popular and economical form is pure creatine. We prefer Fitness Labs German Creatine. It's the best creatine made.
Creatine transport (includes carbs): Studies done during the loading phase have shown creatine to be more effective when taken with high glycemic sugars. These pre-mixed products are known as creatine transports, which combine creatine with dextrose.
Popular transports include Fitness Labs CreaFit Creatine Transport and BSN CellMass. For convenience, they can't be beat. If you're in a leaning down (getting cut) phase, stick with pure creatine to avoid the extra carbs in these pre-mixed formulas.
Growth hormone is another of the most anabolic (muscle building) hormones your body makes. One study showed that a 2-gram oral dose of L-glutamine given to healthy athletes produced a 430% increase in growth hormone compared to a placebo. Another study showed 5 grams of L-glutamine helped endurance athletes stay healthy after strenuous bouts of exercise. The research is compelling, which is why it ranks as one of our core Muscle Building recommendations.
How much to take: Take about 5 grams daily, right after a workout, along with creatine. We recommend Fitness Labs L-Glutamine Powder or IDS Sports L-Glutamine with MSM. If you prefer capsule form, Fitness Labs L-Glutamine 500 mg or Optimum Nutrition Glutamine 1000 Caps are good choices.
Our next favorite products are in the second tier of recommendations.
These ephedra-free products are commonly known as complete diet formulas. They typically have the stimulant caffeine with other ingredients like citrus aurantium (bitter orange) or green tea, which can rev up your metabolism when used together.
When to take: Take a complete diet formula before meals or workouts. Complete diet formulas help pep you up to train harder. Also, use them to strip the layer of body fat that might be hiding some hard-earned muscle. They work by preventing your metabolism from slowing during calorie restriction and typically contain ingredients that help trigger your body's natural fat burning process.
This completely safe supplement really packs a punch and is an excellent alternative to andro. The 'Z' in ZMA is for zinc and the 'MA' is for magnesium aspartate. Both are naturally occurring minerals. You take ZMA at night before bed on an empty stomach. It helps maximize your body's own anabolic functions. Studies have shown it to increase free testosterone levels as well as improve strength, endurance and muscle recovery in strength-training athletes. Women don't need ZMA, nor do teenagers who already have enough testosterone and growth hormone.
Tribulus terrestris, also known as the puncture vine plant, contains a powerful element that may help the body increase its own ability to produce testosterone naturally. Studies indicate that tribulus can increase the body’s production of luteinizing hormone (LH) by as much as 70%. LH, in turn, stimulates the Leydig cells of the testicles to release testosterone. This process may elevate testosterone production by as much as 40%.
There are numerous other supplements you can use to complement these core products. But if you start with these, you'll have 85% of your nutritional bases covered.