Being jacked is far better than being a waif.
That might polarize some people but hey, no one ever said, “I wish I was weaker”.
We are out of swimsuit season and it is a good time of year to focus on adding a little bit more muscle to that frame and getting a little stronger.
A proper “bulk” requires adequate calories, sufficient protein, and a smart training plan.
Adding in smart supplementation can also help maximize your gains this bulking season.
Now there are a lot of shills out there selling you some nonsense products.
I don’t believe in that so I am going to cut through the BS and let you know what supplements are actually going to help you in your bulking season.
This is a list of the 4 most well documented supplements that can aid in your bulk.
Creatine increases the capacity of your phopshagen, aka creatine phosphate, energy system, effectively increasing your anaerobic work capacity. Essentially it is useful for improving strength endurance and recovery between sets. This is nerd speak for “creatine helps you bust out 9 reps instead of 8 during your squat”.
This is actually a very important aspect of creatine supplementation as it can effectively increase your training volume over a period of days, weeks, and months. When all else is equal, more volume typically equals more muscle.
When you look at the science, creatine supplementation appears to be the most effective legal nutritional supplement currently available in regards to improving anaerobic capacity and lean body mass (LBM).
The research surrounding the ergogenic effect of creatine supplementation is extensive with hundreds of published studies looking exactly at those two outcomes. Approximately 70% of the research has reported an increase in exercise capacity, while none have reported an ergolytic effect.
In both the short term and long-term, creatine supplementation appears to enhance the overall quality of training, leading to 5 to 15% greater gains in strength and performance. In addition, nearly all studies indicate that “proper” creatine monohydrate supplementation increases body mass by about 1 to 2 kg in the first week of loading.
In the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on creatine the authors state, “The tremendous numbers of investigations conducted with positive results from creatine monohydrate supplementation lead us to conclude that it is the most effective nutritional supplement available today for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and building lean mass”.
I guess the case is closed on that front.
According to recent research, 10-40% increases in muscle creatine and phosphocreatine stores have been observed with creatine supplementation. These results were observed after a specific “loading” protocol was observed.
This protocol involves ingesting roughly .3 g/kg/day for between 5 and 7 days (roughly 20 grams a day in 5 gram increments) and 3-5 g/day following the first 5-7 day period. While other protocols have been suggested that involve no loading phase and “cycling” on an off creatine supplemenation, they have not shown to be quite as effective in maintaining increased levels of muscle creatine levels.
Creatine supplementation is not a requirement, but it can help with performance in the gym if you are searching for improving performance and overall training volume.
Bottom line: creatine is a safe, effective way to increase work capacity and may have additional health benefits. It is also the cheapest, proven way to increase training capacity
2. Beta Alanine
One of the leading theories for muscular fatigue is a build-up of hydrogen ions (i.e. a decrease in muscle pH). Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that helps reduce the build up of H+ by converting into carnosine, which helps “buffer” out the excess hydrogen. This allows for greater work capacity in the anaerobic energy systems, specifically the glycolytic pathway.
There is good evidence from human studies that beta-alanine can improve performance. It has been reported that supplementation with beta-alanine can increase your work capacity by a few reps when training in moderate rep ranges (8-15).
It has also been shown to improve interval-type training, where individuals have improved performance in repeated bouts of sprint intervals.
Interestingly, beta-alanine works separately and synergistically with creatine supplementation. There are two anaerobic energy systems, the phosphagen and glycolytic systems. Creatine augments the phosphagen system while beta-alanine augments the capacity of the glycolytic system.
As such, beta-alanine and creatine are often stacked together and have been shown to be an excellent combination for individuals looking to increase performance in their anaerobic training.
The typical dose for beta-alanine is 2-5g/ day. Similar to creatine, it is not dependent upon timing, so it can be consumed at any point during the day.
There are reports of users getting a tingling feeling when consuming large doses of beta-alanine. Splitting your daily dose into two smaller doses can alleviate this.
3. Whey Protein
Here is me shooting it to you straight. If you want to get jacked and you aren’t hitting your daily protein goals (0.7 grams-1.2 grams per day are pretty good bench marks) you are leaving gains at the table. While you can hit your protein goals from whole food sources a good quality whey protein can make hitting those numbers easier.
Whey protein (WP) is a protein source derived from milk. WP supplementation has recently gained popularity amongst athletes as it is reported to improve athletic performance and muscle growth.
WP is a popular dietary protein supplement purported to provide improved muscle strength and body composition due to a greater compliment of essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids and to result in greater biological value.
There is an extensive body of research surrounding the efficacy of WP supplementation in increasing strength and muscle mass. The results of the research are not entirely unequivocal; however, a significant amount of evidence suggests that WP increases both strength and muscle mass.
Additionally, researchers have recently shown that the constituents of whey protein upregulate the cell signaling pathways, specifically mTOR, responsible for muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy, presumably due to high concentrations of leucine.
Typical dosing for WP is about 20-30g. However, this number can greatly vary based upon your daily protein intake, body weight, caloric status, etc.
Whey protein is an excellent source of bioavailable protein, has a high BCAA content, and when a good brand is selected is an excellent addition to your nutritional program.
When you scour the blogosphere you get two different views on casein. One is that it trumps whey and is the greatest thing since sliced bread, the other is more of a “much ado about nothing” and says that casein is just another way to skin the protein cat.
Much like whey protein, casein is a rich source of amino acids and provides a biological complete amino acid profile.
Casein is digested slower than whey, and as a result provides a longer time frame of amino acid infusion into the blood stream. This has led to the hypothesis that casein may be superior for muscle gain by providing a longer infusion of amino acids and that it is especially helpful when taken at night before bed.
While there are wide spread claims about the superiority of casein the research doesn’t appear to support them.
A study done in 23 individuals showed that both whey and casein had a similar effect on muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Another study showed that whey hydrolysate was more effective at eliciting muscle protein synthesis after exercise than casein.
The findings of the above study were replicated in an older population where whey again outperformed casein in measures of muscle protein accretion. Finally, in an isotope labeled infusion study, researchers were able to show that both whey and casein lead to similar increases in muscle protein synthesis.
What does all this mean in the real world? It appears that casein and whey likely have similar real world effects on muscle growth from a biochemical stand point with whey maybe holding a slight edge. Another, non-scientific aspect of casein is that when used in food production (i.e. baking) it can act as a thickener and give baked goods and smoothies a thicker texture.
Instead of viewing it as whey vs. casein, it is better to view them as complementary. They each have their roles. Like whey, casein protein is an excellent source of bioavailable protein and when a good brand is selected is an excellent addition to your nutritional program.