How To Build A Supplement Stack
One of the great things about personal fitness is that it’s a goal-based endeavour - and because of that, the number of milestones you cross are only limited by your drive to continue pushing forward.
It starts with learning the basics of exercise. But, after we start feeling more confident and gaining more momentum, it’s only logical to put more focus on the nutrition that is going to help you build more muscle, lose weight, and perform better.
Sports supplements, like Whey Protein, are designed to give you a concentrated boost of a specific nutrient or chemical that your body either produces naturally or that you might consume through food. Learning how to combine supplements, or build a supplement stack based on your fitness goal, will help you reach your target faster and reduce your risk of overloading your body through exercise.
NOTE: Before we dive in, the supplements mentioned in this article are highly regulated, widely studied and can generally be considered to be safe for you. However, if you have any reason for concern, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor.
GET TO KNOW THE BASICS
If you’re just getting started, building your first supplement stack doesn’t need to be overly complicated. At its simplest, understand that your body needs fuel to get through your workout and the ingredients to aid with recovery. That process of recovery, with proper nutrition, is how you build muscle and boost your metabolism.
We can break down your supplement needs into 3 categories that can easily be identified as such in any supplement store:
Often taken about 30 minutes prior to a workout, pre-workout supplements are mainly designed to boost your strength and performance before you begin your workout. Especially helpful if you’re training multiple times per week with intense or heavy exercises.
Most pre-workout supplements contain some, if not all, of these ingredients:
- Amino Acids
Hydration is always important - especially so during your workout. Adding an Intra-Workout Supplement to your water bottle during your workout will keep your body fuelled, helping to prevent that mid-workout crash, will boost endurance and support muscle growth.
The most important ingredient to look for in an Intra-Workout supplement is Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). You might see them labelled as leucine, isoleucine and valine.
If the Creatine or Caffeine found in many pre-workouts are not something you want to add to your stack just yet, a common way of taking Intra-Workout supplements is to take half before a workout and the other half during as Amino Acids will help with endurance and promote protein synthesis for muscle growth, maintenance and faster recovery.
At the very least, you need to include a Post-Workout protein supplement as part of your fitness nutrition. Best taken within 30 minutes following a workout, you’ll want to choose a Whey Protein best suited for your goals. Whey Protein gets rapidly metabolised by your body and put to work replenishing and repairing muscle tissue.
A clean Whey Isolate or Concentrate will usually have a fairly low carbohydrate ratio, which is important to look out for in any supplement if your goal is to lose body fat as well as build muscle.
That said, after a heavy workout (especially if you are weight training) your body needs carbs. For some, having a quick carb snack on hand does the trick - but you can also supplement a Whey Protein like our Jumbo Hardcore specially designed for mass gaining, which has added carbohydrates.
*Complex Carbohydrates are important and should not be omitted from your diet for fear of gaining body fat. But if your body fat percentage is relevant to your fitness goals, it’s just important to understand how many extra carbs you’re getting from your supplements in tandem with your food nutrition.
Bonus: Night Time
Casein Protein is the other side of the protein world. Both are derived from milk protein. Unlike Whey, Casein Protein is very slow acting and is commonly taken before bed as it can take up to 7 hours to fully metabolise into your body - which is perfect to keep your body working while you sleep.
TAKING THINGS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
We’ve just done a top-level sweep of how you can snap together a simple workout stack. As you become more familiar with different supplements you may want to break away from or compliment your complete formulas by supplementing ingredients individually for a more targeted stack based on your goals.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR MUSCLE GAIN
Creatine is a combination of three amino acids (glycine, arginine, methionine). Simply put, it produces more ATP in your body which is the energy that fuels your muscles. Creatine also draws more water into your muscles, helping to promote protein synthesis and muscle growth. First-timers may experience some water weight gain in the first few weeks, but that will eventually transition into muscle mass.
As mentioned above, Branched-Chain Amino Acids are made up Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. The primary benefits of supplementing these BCAAs is an increase in muscle growth, faster recovery times, boosted energy levels and helps to prevent muscle catabolism (muscle breakdown).
These are usually a combination of herbs, and other botanicals that help to increase your Testosterone levels. Testosterone, among other things, promotes muscle density and is essentially a natural anabolic steroid - promoting protein synthesis and increased muscle mass.
Nitric Oxide Boosters
a.k.a. NO is a gas produced naturally in your body that, by lining the inner walls of your blood vessels and relaxing your smooth muscle cells, promotes vasodilation - or blood flow. Better blood flow means more oxygen to your muscles, providing more endurance and faster recovery times. The increased blood flow to muscle tissue also gives you more Pump or enlarged muscles after your workout since they are literally pumped up with more blood.
Due to limited research, there are mixed opinions about the benefits of supplementing NO boosters (most commonly containing L-arginine and L-citrulline). Still, it has become a very popular component to muscle gain stacks.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR FAT LOSS
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
This is a type of Omega-6 Fatty Acid. Simply put, it has been shown to burn fat while preserving muscle tissue (a common problem with people who try to lose weight by simply eating less) by helping to increase your basal metabolic rate - a.k.a. Your body’s ability to turn food into energy.
L-Carnitine is a naturally occuring amino acid in your body that plays a crucial role in transporting fatty acids into your cell’s mitochondria which then burns these fatty acids as usable energy.
Making it a little simpler, Fat Burning formulas like Turbo Ripper contain an array of natural fat-burning ingredients. Some may contain stimulants like caffeine and ephedrine - as caffeine and the like are natural metabolism boosters - so, if you’re a big coffee drinker, you may want to consider whether or not you are already maxing out on your daily limit before choosing a fat burner with added stimulants.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR RECOVERY
Glutamine is the most prominent amino acid in your muscle tissue and helps with protein metabolism and preventing muscle breakdown. Your body can produce all the glutamine you need, however during intense workouts, your glutamine levels are greatly depleted and can take up to 6 days to completely return to normal.
Supplementing Glutamine has been shown to reduce lactic acid buildup, speeding recovery times, and improve muscle hydration. All this, with the benefits mentioned above, make it particularly useful for those who are ‘cutting down’ and want to burn off excess fat while maintaining muscle mass.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, the benefits of BCAAs can’t be ignored. Amino Acids are the building blocks of your muscles and including a solid amino supplement means your body has a surplus of the ingredients you need to recover faster and build more muscle mass.
YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY
Sports supplements aren’t anything to be intimidated by. Your body is designed to accomplish an incredible number of tasks and it’s our job to provide it with the nutrition and exercise it needs to continue operating optimally. The harder you train, the more your needs increase.
Building a supplement stack designed to fit your goals can be very simple. Start with the basic Pre, Intra and Post workout formulas and make adjustments with individual supplements as you become more familiar with making this a regular component of your nutrition.
And remember, supplements are just that - a component of your nutrition. As you add new supplements to your plan, don’t forget to make sure you’re not doubling up accidently or forgetting about any added calories that may need to be balanced out with your meal plan.