Some supplement companies are built on pre- and post-workout formulas but one neglected, crucial fueling window is during your workout. “The consumption of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during your training can help to keep your body in an anabolic state, try mixing BCAAs into your water during your workout to help keep your body anabolic. This also provides an additional energy source for your workout and helps prevent additional muscle breakdown during exercise.
6. Don’t Neglect Refueling with Carbs
“With the low-carb craze, it appears that exercisers looking to get lean or stay lean skimp on carbs altogether,” says Escalante. “Whether you’re trying to gain muscle mass or cut bodyfat, your post-workout nutrition should include 0.25–0.5 grams of simple, fast-digesting carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight (50–100 grams for a 200-pound lifter). Good examples include my fav chocolate fudge pop tarts, white rice, baked potatoes, dextrose or the fancier carb supplements such as Vitargo. This is essential to refuel your glycogen stores and to help your recovery. Additionally, these carbs will help to create a natural release of insulin, which is one of the most anabolic (muscle-building) compounds in the body.”
Ditch the “I’m going to work out on an empty stomach” school of thought if you’re going to lift. About an hour before you hit the gym, have an apple and knock back 20 grams of fast-digesting whey protein mixed in water. The aminos in the whey will provide energy and help prevent excessive catabolism (muscle loss) during exercise, while the polyphenols in the apple can help to boost strength and endurance, the aminos in the whey will provide energy and help prevent excessive catabolism, or muscle loss, during exercise. Recent research even suggests that sipping a protein drink, along with fast-acting carbs, like maltodextrin, as you train may add to muscle growth.
No one likes to work out on a full stomach, but you can’t go into the gym with an empty tank, either. In addition to the faster-digesting whey shake and apple you knock back one hour before your workout, consider downing an even longer-lasting source of fuel two hours before your training session. A high-fiber choice, which will digest at a snail’s pace, is ideal. Try a serving of oatmeal at that time but avoid any high-sugar additives or flavored oatmeals (forget those oatmeal packs altogether). Instead, use cinnamon, which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. This serving of oats will provide a steady stream of fuel to working muscles during your workout.
Epigallocatechin gallate. It’s a mouthful. It’s also a powerful metabolic enhancer and fat-loss aid found in green tea extract. Since green tea itself is diluted, you’d have to drink quite a lot to reap the benefits, so scientists formulated the extract version. Besides its powerful fat-loss benefits, it’s a more potent antioxidant than vitamins C and E. Take 200–400 milligrams of standardized EGCG 2–3 times daily between meals, with one of those doses coming half an hour before your first rep. As a bonus, use green tea itself as your fluid base for protein shakes, since the tea is a vasodilator, which means more oxygen and nutrients delivered to working muscles after an exercise session.
Caffeine anhydrous is perhaps the most effective preworkout supplement out there. In studies, it’s been shown to delay time to fatigue, blunt pain and acutely increase strength. Have your other preworkout supplement if you must, but make sure it contains 200–400 milligrams of caffeine to give you an instant boost. Anhydrous caffeine contains significantly less water than its hydrous cousin and generally occurs in supplemental form
Consider limiting the amount of NSAIDs you take, especially for minor aches and pains post-training, since they’ve been shown to reduce protein synthesis. Instead, begin including spices such as turmeric and ginger in your diet. Evidence suggests the anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric may be similar to that of ibuprofen and hydrocortisone, while ginger’s properties may help reduce minor pains.