Timing is everything, feeding your muscles for growth is a science. Here’s how to optimise your supplement intake for the best results.
Supplementing your diet with scientifically formulated products will give your efforts in the gym a boost as they deliver vital macro- and micronutrients in the most bioavailable form and in the most efficacious doses to boost performance and optimise recovery.
To get the full benefit it’s important to time it right.
Timing your intake
The principles of supplement timing are based on the biology and physiology of the human body. The body is better able to assimilate protein and deliver these nutrients, along with other important micronutrients, macronutrients and energy substrates to muscles at specific times of the day.
The key to understanding the science of when to supplement centres around the hormonal changes in the body that happen due to a number of factors.
Factors like glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity are constantly altered throughout the day, which means the body goes through various catabolic (breaking down) and anabolic (building up) states. Exercise also stimulates the release of these hormones.
Break down to build up
The resultant hormonally-driven catabolism is actually an important part of the anabolic process as we need to ‘disassemble’ nutrients for energy production and the repair of cells, especially muscle cells. The main exercise-induced catabolic hormones are epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol and glucagon.
Generally speaking, the potential for anabolism is highest first thing in the morning, after a workout or at night while sleeping as the body is primed for muscle gain. It’s therefore important to ensure that we feed the body with the right type and amount of protein at these crucial times. This is when supplementing with well-formulated products can be highly beneficial.
It’s also important to note that because the body swings from one state to the next during the course of the day, some supplements are not optimal during certain times of the day, but may be highly beneficial at other times.
Take, for instance, periods when catabolism is highest. It can be detrimental to your muscle-building efforts to take a pre-workout that contains stimulants and/or thermogenic fat burners just after waking up and before eating your first meal. This is because these substances raise cortisol levels and increase metabolism at a time when the body has depleted its circulating amino acids following the overnight fasted period.
However, when taken prior to a workout, these supplements can deliver a potent boost in energy and focus, while also promoting more efficient fat metabolism. This not only improves conditioning, but also delivers a more sustained source of energy to fuel hour-long intense training sessions.
And as our energy demands peaks during training, these must be met by either ingested and/or stored macronutrients and other performance potentiators. Numerous studies have shown that ingestion of a whey or blend protein supplement that contains some form carbohydrate, like glucose and/or maltodextrin, is the ideal form of nutrition to limit muscle damage during training and also begin the anabolic process, without causing digestive or intestinal discomfort during training.
Immediately after a workout your body enters a highly anabolic phase, generally referred to the “anabolic window of opportunity”. That’s because muscle cells are most receptive to ingested nutrients during this time due to heightened insulin sensitivity.
This results in increased muscle cell membrane permeability, which means that it is vitally important to the anabolic process that you ingest highly bioavailable protein and a source of carbohydrates to ensure glycogen and amino acids can be shuttled into muscle cells for growth, repair and recovery
This is best achieved by drinking a whey protein shake with a source of high glycaemic carbohydrates. The other anabolic hormones also begin working during this period to repair the muscle and decrease inflammation.
The other important period for muscle growth is sleep, as this is when the bulk of the body’s vital recovery and repair processes occur as a cascade of anabolic hormones are released during this time. It is therefore essential that we supply the body with a rich source of nutrients to promote further anabolism and assist the repair process during sleep. A slow-digesting protein supplement like casein can be highly effective in this regard. Consumed in combination with a rich source of healthy fats, which will limit the rate of gastric emptying, these supplements can supply a steady trickle of amino acids to growing muscles throughout the night.
The ingestion of the appropriate supplement at the right times throughout the day is therefore an intelligent way to enhance workout performance and improve recovery, to ultimately build more muscle.
Supplement Timing Guidelines
When: On waking
What: Primal Whey protein
When: Before cardio
What: Thermogenic fat burner
When: After breakfast
What: Primal CLA
When: Before afternoon weight training
What: Primal Pre-workout
When: During weight training
What: Primal BCAA 8:1:1
When: After your workout
What: Primal Whey protein