You can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. Well, that’s what you may have heard anyway. But, at the same time, can a supermarket really provide all you need for optimal performance? The answer is, probably not. Consider, for example, research that shows taking creatine can increase your muscle power by 15 per cent. Or that necking a caffeine pill before a workout can improve your endurance by a considerble 17 per cent. The vegetable aisle simply can’t match that level of performance enhancement. That’s why, when it comes to your athletic potential, supplements can make a real contribution. But here’s the catch: to get the most out of supplements, you need to navigate a minefield of misinformation. What follows is your playbook for sorting the snake oil from the real deal to help you go faster, longer and stronger than the next guy.
1. Take Protease supplements
A study found that protease supplements modify immune response. Protease is an enzyme that breaks down the proteins in your body, reducing muscle inflammation, meaning faster recovery and the ability to lift more on your next gym visit.
2. Have 3g of creatine twice a day
Creatine is the fuel your muscles need for explosive movement. Research says keep up this intake for eight weeks to enhance your muscle strength by a minimum of eight per cent and to improve your strength and endurance in the gym.
Creatine has been the meat and potatoes of hardened muscle men since the Nineties.
“It’s backed by over 300 journal-published studies citing its ability to improve performance by building more muscle mass, improving endurance and accelerating recovery,” says Haydn Masters, athletic development manager for the Waratahs. It might taste like nothing, but it will turn your physique into something. Fast.
3. Grab a 5g glutamine supplement
Do this after breakfast and training to accelerate your muscle growth, a study published in The International Journal of Sports Medicine found. Your levels of glutamine can often drop up to 45 per cent in one week during high-intensity training, so it’s always best to top up.
4. Add arginine
Lose 0.9kg of fat and gain the same amount in muscle in just four weeks by taking the amino acid arginine. Other benefits include improved bloodflow, additional sperm production and a reduced risk of blood clots and strokes, according to a University of North Carolina study.
5. Mix whey and creatine before you train
Take at least 20g of whey protein and 5g of creatine 45 minutes before your session. This will help deliver as much as 87 per cent more muscle and allow you to increase the amount you bench press by 35 per cent.
6. Get the right powder
Protein is crucial for muscle growth.
“Having enough protein allows more amino acids into your liver and blood, which increases recovery and muscle repair,” says Masters. “Animal proteins are excellent at this process, but you need to eat 100g of chicken to get 25g of protein. However, if you have 25g of whey, you’ll pretty much get 25g of protein. So it’s easy on the digestive system to take before training and is also time-efficient.”
Nutritional Therapist Steph Ridely explains that when choosing a protein powder, opt for one that contains high levels of branch-chain amino acids (valine, leucine, isoleucine). These are vital for muscle building, as they account for a third of amino acids in skeletal muscle protein.
7. Beginners boost with b-Hydroxy b-methylbutyrate (HMB)
There’s a carousel in the brawn-building world: more strength means more muscle, which means more strength and so on. The Journal of Applied Physiology reports that HMB helped increase an untrained bloke’s bench press by a staggering 300 per cent, compared with those who didn’t use it. We’re not suggesting it’ll turn you green with muscle, but the bump in strength will certainly lend a helping hand.
8. Power your pre-workout with Betaine
Your pre-workout swill should be a Jekyll and Hyde mix that turns you into a man possessed. To do this it needs to mask pain, increase intensity and give energy. Betaine dramatically increases squat and vertical jump strength, reports the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The citrulline improves your ability to digest not only the betaine, but also your pre- and post-workout protein, while scavenging lactic acid by-products from exercise. Your training partner needn’t get a fair warning. Research has also found six-weeks of betaine supplementation improved body composition, arm size, bench press work capacity.