Whether your goal is to add muscle or lose weight, it’s important to compliment your diet with the right nutrients from supplements. Figuring out which supplements are right for your needs is just the first step. It’s equally important to figure out how to take each product and what time is best to take it!
This guide to supplement stacking is designed to provide you with a brief overview of when to take some of the most popular types of sports nutrition supplements and how much the experts recommend taking at different times of the day.
Early Morning Supplements:
The following supplements are ideal to take before you eat your breakfast or while you’re enjoying your first meal of the day:
Whey protein is a great way to replenish your body’s supply of fuel first thing in the morning. Your body can rapidly absorb this milk-derived protein and begin using its complete profile of amino acids quickly to get you moving. To get the best results from your morning whey, have some carbohydrates with your meal, like whole grain toast, quinoa cereal or fresh fruit. The combination of carbs and whey protein will provide both immediate energy and sustained energy.
Recommended dosage: 20 to 30 grams with breakfast, preferably one with carbs
Rich in the nutrients EPA and DHA, fish oils provide you with a potent dose of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that most adults don’t get enough of in their diets. The nutrients help to fight inflammation to aid in recovery after workouts. Plus, they are shown to promote a healthy cardiovascular system and support brain function, making them an overall health supplement, not just one that’s great for athletes.
Recommended dosage: 2 grams enjoyed with breakfast
L-carnitine is an amino acid that your body stores in your muscle tissue. When you exercise, l-carnitine helps your body metabolise fats to supply you with energy. This makes it an incredibly beneficial supplement for individuals who are working out to get lean. Studies show that l-carnitine’s benefits are enhanced when it’s consumed alongside carbohydrates.
Recommended dosage: 2 grams taken with carbs at breakfast
Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another essential fatty acid, but its benefits are different than the fatty acids found in fish oils. Research has shown that CLA promotes fat burning and supports the production of new muscle cells. Like l-carnitine, the supplement is commonly used by people who are working out primarily for fat loss and muscle gain.
Recommended dosage: 4.2 grams per day. You can take it all at breakfast or divide it between each of your three meals of the day
A number of supplements can help you give it your all at the gym and enhance the effectiveness of your workouts. The following supplements have all been shown to be beneficial prior to workouts. You can take them as standalone products or purchase pre-workout supplements that contain combinations of them.
Recommended time to take: 1 Hour Before the Gym
These supplements take longer to be absorbed by your body and begin providing benefits. Take them one hour before the gym for best results:
Yes, the thing in your coffee or tea that gives you an energy boost can be an important part of your supplement routine. Naturally derived caffeine is often used to keep energy levels high during workouts. Plus, the substance has been shown to activate the nervous system, which can boost the rate of fat burning.
Recommended dosage: 150 to 300 milligrams
Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract provides a dose of caffeine, plus a second beneficial natural chemical: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). An antioxidant, EGCG is believed to support fat metabolism and complement the actions of caffeine. Most people choose to take caffeine or green tea extract. Stacking both could over-stimulate you, particularly if you’re prone to jitters if you drink coffee or tea.
Recommended dosage: 500 to 1000 milligrams. Look for a supplement with a minimum of 30 per cent EGCG
L-arginine is an amino acid that is used to produce nitric oxide, making it responsible for helping to keep the blood vessels dilated during workouts. Enhanced blood flow helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to keep you energized and fight fatigue. There is also evidence that l-arginine might stimulate the release of human growth hormone, which in turn can help to support muscle growth.
Recommended dosage: 5 to 10 grams
Citrulline is another sports nutrition solution that increases nitric oxide levels in the body to support blood circulation throughout intense workouts. Studies show that this nutrient can enhance the benefits of branched chain amino acid supplementation as well. In addition, citrulline malate helps to remove ammonia from the bloodstream during physical activity, cutting down on the soreness that develops due to exertion and reducing fatigue. Citrulline is an added ingredient in most preworkouts.
Recommended dosage: 6 grams taken 30 minutes before exercise
These supplements are absorbed more quickly and are best taken 30 minutes before you exercise:
Beta alanine is an amino acid that is used to produce carnosine, which in turn is shown to reduce fatigue during workouts. The amino acid also helps to keep pH levels balanced within your muscles while you workout, decreasing the risk of lactic acid build-up and the uncomfortable burning that accompanies it. There is also evidence to suggest that beta alanine can support gains in lean muscle mass and help bodybuilders perform more reps. In addition, studies show that beta alanine can complement or enhance the benefits of creatine monohydrate.
Recommended dosage: 3 to 6 grams split into 2 servings with the first 30 minutes before exercise
Beta-hydroxy-B-methylbutyrate (HMB) is derived from the amino acid leucine. In clinical studies, it has been found to increase strength and help people produce more explosive movements at the gym. The nutrient is also shown to cut down on post-workout soreness. The benefits of HMB seem to be more pronounced in beginners, so supplements that contain it are usually recommended for those who are just starting to train.
Recommended dosage: 3 grams split into three 1-gram servings with the first 30 minutes before exercise.
Glutamine plays a vital role in protein synthesis and is needed to keep the immune system running at peak capacity. When you work out, your body’s needs for glutamine increase, and supplementation can help to ensure that you get enough to keep your body running at its best. There is also evidence to suggest that glutamine and branched chain amino acids can encourage the body to produce new muscle tissue when stacked.
Recommended dosage: 20 to 30 grams total, but have at least 5 grams after your workout to support recovery.
There’s one supplement that is great to grab in the middle of your workout:
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) include the amino acids isoleucine, valine and leucine. These nutrients are needed to help your body produce and utilise proteins. As a result, they play an important role in supporting recovery following exercise by assisting with the repair of strained and damaged tissue. When you take BCAAs in the middle of your workout, they can help to delay the onset of fatigue, so that you can finish your workout strong.
Recommended dosage: 10 to 15 grams.
This supplement is a winner when used after your workout:
Creatine is one of the most popular sports nutrition supplements on the market because of its proven benefits for promoting the accumulation of new muscle cells. This nutrient stored primarily in your muscle tissue provides energy to your muscles during workouts. Scientists believe that increasing creatine monohydrate levels helps bodybuilders work out harder and therefore see enhanced results from workouts.
Recommended dosage: 5 grams taken with carbs and with 20 grams of whey protein
Before Bed Supplements:
Great supplement that is best to take close to bedtime:
If you’re looking for the perfect bedtime snack, a casein protein smoothie or shake is the perfect solution. Your body absorbs this protein at a very slow pace, and when absorption occurs during sleep, it can help to counteract the natural protein loss that happens while you sleep as your body repairs muscle tissue and produces new cells.
Recommended Dosage: 20 to 30 grams of casein protein plus a second dose of omega-3 fatty acids with 2 more grams of fish oils
Keep in mind this guide to supplement stacking is just a general guide. Not all of these supplements are ideal for everyone, and you might need more or less of some of them, depending on your workout goals. Your physician, a trainer and our team at Sportsfuel can all help you put together a supplement regimen that is tailored specifically to your needs.
If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! We’ll be glad to recommend supplements or answer your questions about sports nutrition.