Muscle Building Down to a Science: Part 3
Get the Extra Edge with Proper Supplementation for Massive Gains
There are a handful of supplements that truly provide a benefit to gaining muscle. Whether it is through stimulating output in the gym, saturating your body with the working parts necessary for muscle growth, or providing optimal mixtures of protein and amino acids for hypertrophy; this article will provide you with a one-stop-shop for all your supplement needs!
Check your ego at the door. If your goal is to maximize progress in as little time as possible, don’t limit yourself. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing years of scientific discovery and research to benefit your weight training. Also, don’t be upset when your workout partner, who believes in supplements, surpasses you in swole-ness.
If it’s not your ego but more your wallet that’s stopping you from pursuing the glory of ergonomic aids, there are a handful of items that you should budget to place in your cabinet. These staple items will be discussed in detail.
I’m not necessarily implying that combining two or more supplements will have a synergistic effect (although that’s entirely plausible); but it is more likely that using two or more supplements each with known benefits may have an additive effect. That is, two or more supplements may provide a greater benefit than either alone and that three supplements provide a greater benefit than two, etc…
…by consulting the research, we will design a science-selected stack to really grow those guns!
Regardless of your state of training, promoting muscle protein synthesis and reducing muscle protein breakdown is the holy grail of muscle accretion. Pushing this equilibrium towards a net positive protein balance achieves muscle retention during an energy deficit and muscle grown during an energy surplus. With this in mind, and by consulting the research, we will design a science-selected stack to really grow those guns!
Protein: Whey and Casein
The first group of supplements are essentials for gains. Of course I’m speaking about none other than whey protein isolate (WPI) and casein. Supplements that provide high quality WPI and casein with optimal amounts of essential amino acids (EEAs) (i.e. ISOFLEX/CASEIN-FX by ALLMAX) are the perfect source of protein for muscular hypertrophy.
A recent meta-analysis that assessed the effect of resistance exercise and whey, casein, EAA or a combination thereof on muscular hypertrophy, displayed a significant increase in muscle fiber CSA (Cross Section Area, this is the scientific way of referring to increases in muscle size) with supplement compared to placebo (1). WPI is quickly digested and causes a substantial increase in protein synthesis (2). At the muscular level, consumption of whey protein isolate post workout has been shown to increase the activation of p70s6k (3), an enzyme who’s activity is correlated with increased muscle fiber CSA in humans (4).
In contrast to WPI, casein is slowly digested and results in a less substantial increase in protein synthesis (2). However, the advantage to casein consumption is the resulting anti-catabolic effect produced by a prolonged and sustained level of amino acids in the blood (2). Casein has been shown to be particularly effective as a supplement taken prior to sleep. In subjects receiving casein before bed, their net protein balance overnight was positive compared to a net negative protein balance in the absence of casein (5). This overnight effect has proven to induce significant increases in strength and mass when casein is taken before bed in resistance-trained individuals (6).
High quality protein is essential for GAINS!
With Whey Protein Isolate the advantage comes from its purity. True Whey Protein Isolate is extremely low in carbohydrates and fat. This fact makes it absorb very quickly and this creates a rapid rise in the levels of amino acids in the bloodstream (which is a critical component in stimulating muscle growth). This peak in very high levels of rapidly digested protein, particularly following intense weight training, create an optimal environment for maximum protein synthesis.
***BUYER BEWARE*** There are too many products on the market claiming to be a Whey Protein Isolate when they are not. Protect yourself (and your gains)! Read your label. Make sure that your protein level is 85% or higher and your carb and fat levels are less than 2g respectively. Once you get higher than that you start to see slower absorption and as a result, a lower peak level of amino acids. Don’t let a cheaper knock off of WPI rob you of potential gains. Be smart; read the label and understand that peak levels of amino acids post-workout stimulate muscle growth.
Creatine is another staple supplement that should be part of any muscle building stack. By supplementing with creatine, intramuscular phosphocreatine levels increase. Phosphocreatine is used in a biochemical reaction whereby phosphate is donated to regenerate precious ATP; the fuel source of working muscles (7). As one of the most widely used performance enhancing supplements, it has been shown to significantly enhance total lean body mass and exercise performance (7) regardless of gender or training status (7, 8). Recall the potential additive effect of stacking two or more supplements together. Not surprisingly, it has been observed that stacking creatine with whey protein may be better than supplementing with whey protein alone for lean mass and strength gains (9).
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have long been heralded for their ability to prevent muscle protein breakdown during exercise (10). But BCAAs are much more than just anti-catabolic. They have also been shown to reduce the effect of muscle damage, including reduced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and enhanced maximum voluntary contraction following resistance exercise (11, 12). BCAAs have also been shown to stimulate the activation of p70s6k, very similar to the effect that whey protein is known to have on increasing MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) (13).
The term p70s6k is just a fancy name for the signal that muscle cells use to trigger new muscle proteins to be laid down. What we know for sure is that this p70s6k signal acts like a sensor; when there is a lot of BCAAs (either from WPI or pure BCAAs), the cell “senses” these nutrients and tells muscle cells to BUILD! (13). The ability to attenuate (or mute) muscle protein breakdown while augmenting muscle recovery and anabolic signalling, make BCAAs the perfect addition to any muscle building stack.
Invest in your training and the payoff will be HUGE!
What is also essential for this process to take place is muscle activation, in other words, YOU HAVE TO WORKOUT! Once you load up the bench press and physically exhaust your muscles, you create a condition for optimal growth; the muscles have been forced to overcome the dramatic increase in weight that you put on the bar. Adding high quality Whey Protein Isolate (that is loaded with BCAAs) or pure BCAAs themselves (such as AMINOCORE or ALLMAX Essentials BCAA), you are adding fuel to the muscle-building bonfire!
These supplements, used alone or in combination, compliment a resistance training routine to maximize your results. By neglecting supplementation, you’re spending a lot of wasted time in the gym that could otherwise be turned into desired hypertrophy. Invest in your training and the payoff will be HUGE.
By: Steven Bugiel (IG: @stevieinonstagram) BSc (Food Science and Nutrition); MSc (Biochemistry)
Cermak NM, Res PT, de Groot LC, Saris WH, van Loon LJ. 2012. Protein supplementation augments the adaptive response of skeletal muscle to resistance-type exercise training: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 96:1454-1464.
Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrere B. 1997. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 94:14930-14935.
Farnfield MM, Carey KA, Gran P, Trenerry MK, Cameron-Smith D. 2009. Whey protein ingestion activates mTOR-dependent signalling after resistance exercise in young men: a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. Nutrients 1:263-275.
Terzis G, Georgiadis G, Stratakos G, Vogiatzis I, Kavouras S, Manta P, Mascher H, Blomstrand E. 2008. Resistance exercise-induced increase in muscle mass correlates with p70S6 kinase phosphorylation in human subjects. Eur J Appl Physiol 102:145-152.
Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, Beelen M, Wallis GA, Gijsen AP, Senden JM, LJ VANL. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc 44:1560-1569.
Snijders T, Res PT, Smeets JS, van Vliet S, van Kranenburg J, Maase K, Kies AK, Verdijk LB, van Loon LJ. 2015. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr 145:1178-1184.
Branch JD. 2003. Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 13:198-226.
Lanhers C, Pereira B, Naughton G, Trousselard M, Lesage FX, Dutheil F. 2017. Creatine Supplementation and Upper Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 47:163-173.
Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Davidson KS, Candow DG, Farthing J, Smith-Palmer T. 2001. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 11:349-364.
MacLean DA, Graham TE, Saltin B. 1994. Branched-chain amino acids augment ammonia metabolism while attenuating protein breakdown during exercise. Am J Physiol 267:E1010-1022.
Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. 2012. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 9:20.
Shimomura Y, Inaguma A, Watanabe S, Yamamoto Y, Muramatsu Y, Bajotto G, Sato J, Shimomura N, Kobayashi H, Mawatari K. 2010. Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 20:236-244.
Karlsson HK, Nilsson PA, Nilsson J, Chibalin AV, Zierath JR, Blomstrand E. 2004. Branched-chain amino acids increase p70S6k phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287:E1-7.