By JIM STOPPANI, PHD Flex
You’’ll often hear bodybuilding compared to building a house. To craft your physique, first you need to focus on the foundation, increasing your strength by concentrating on compound core lifts, such as squats, benches and deadlifts.
From there, you assemble the structure, expanding your workouts and watching your body take shape, much like a home with the walls going up. Adding the finishing touches to the paint, the trim can be compared to an advanced athlete honing different muscles to bring his entire physique into balance.
The same analogy can be extended to your supplement plan. You begin with the foundation with the basics and over time add new formulas and products as your body transforms. Here, we’ll help you nail down a blueprint for growth in a three-step massgain stack that’’ll help you as a beginner or anyone who hasn’’t tried supplements before to get started and gain the greatest benefits from each and every supplement you take.
HARD HAT AREA We could make this a no-brainer by just giving you a stack of seven supplements to start taking that would work well to help you pack on quality mass.
So why don’t we? Month after month, taking the same supplement stack in the same doses will most likely lead to a dead end in the mass-gaining department. At the very least, the various ingredients would cease being as effective as they were at first. In a progressive plan such as the one outlined here, you start with fewer supplements at lower doses, adding new ones and increasing the dosages as the effectiveness of the others starts to diminish.
Again, we look back to the house. You can’’t put on the roof at the same time that you are laying the foundation; you have to build the house in steps. First you set a solid foundation, then you put up strong walls and, finally, you finish with a secure roof. Doing it this way allows you to maximize the effectiveness of the separate supplements and build upon them, not only increasing the immediate efficacy of each product, but also the long-term effectiveness of the stack.
One more benefit one homeowners and nonhomeowners alike can appreciate is cash savings. Using the progressive approach allows you to slowly increase dosages over time. This plan helps you weed out supplements that may not work well for you; if you started taking all seven supplements at the same time, you wouldn’’t be able to tell if a particular one was working well or not. Let’s face it, as good as many supplements are, they don’’t all work for everyone. Creatine, for example, is considered one of the very best on the block— however, it is estimated that about 30% of the population would get poor results from creatine. Yet the other 70% get phenomenal results. If you are unlucky enough to be in the former category, you wouldn’’t know it unless you are phasing in your supplements and, thus, could gauge what’s actually prompting a physical response.
MONTH 1: LAY THE FOUNDATION
It’’s time to bring in the concrete mixers and get down to business. The three supplements you will start with are essential to take these supplements, and no others, for one full month before progressing to the next step.
Whey Protein Many of you probably already use whey protein, but how often? Are you taking it before and after every workout? If not, adding 20 grams at those critical times can help you make considerable muscle gains. Because whey protein digests quickly, it provides your muscles with an immediate supply of critical amino acids to prompt growth right after a workout.
If you’’re already taking whey before and after workouts, adding another 20 g first thing in the morning can further enhance your gains. In the morning, after waking from a seven- or eight-hour fast, your body is more than likely breaking down muscle protein for aminos to burn for fuel. Drinking a whey protein shake first thing provides aminos your body can turn to instead. Whey also returns aminos that were stolen from muscles during the night, helping to reverse them out of a catabolic and into an anabolic state, priming them for growth.
Glutamine Although it won’’t result in immediate gains when you start taking it, using glutamine consistently will help you add mass over time. Glutamine is central to muscle function and is one of the most plentiful amino acids found in the human body, assisting in recovery and muscle growth. The digestive system requires so much glutamine to function that it will steal it from muscle tissue; supplemental glutamine helps to spare those muscle glutamine levels and aids the function of the digestive system.
Glutamine helps to buffer the fatigue-inducing chemicals that form during intense exercise and helps muscle cells uptake glycogen after a workout. This is why you’’ll start off taking it before you exercise to delay fatigue and help you bang out more reps per set. Glutamine boosts growth-hormone levels and is critical for maintaining immune function, helping ward off illness and a possible layoff from the gym.
ZMA This combination of zinc and magnesium plus vitamin B6 has been shown to boost levels of testosterone and insulinlike growth factor-I in athletes. If you train hard, you likely have suppressed levels of the minerals zinc and magnesium, as most athletes do. Taking ZMA provides these minerals to keep you in an anabolic state, which will boost your muscle mass and strength, as research has shown.
As with glutamine, you likely won’’t notice a huge immediate boost in strength and mass gains from ZMA; yet, over time, athletes who take a ZMA product nightly tend to see better increases in mass and strength than when they don’’t take it. As a final note, most ZMA products provide about 30 milligrams of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium and 11 mg of vitamin B6.
MONTH 2: CONSTRUCT THE WALLS
These supplements will help hammer home gains in mass to— the two additions are proven muscle boosters and will work well in combination with the whey, glutamine and ZMA you’re already taking.
Creatine If you’’re not already using creatine, now is the time to start. If you are already taking it, then stop for the first month. Sounds crazy, but if you’’ve been taking creatine for more than a few months, you likely aren’’t seeing the phenomenal advances in size and strength that you originally experienced from the supplement. Here’’s a secret for those of you continuing to take it out of fear of losing what you’’ve packed on to— bodybuilders who stop taking creatine for a month don’’t notice much loss in size and strength. Their muscles start making more creatine when they stop taking it for a while. Then, when they go back on it, they get a boost from the supplemental creatine— it’’s a cycle worth taking advantage of.
Leucine Scientists found that the most crucial of the branched-chain amino acids and— leucine is the key that turns on protein synthesis, which is the method that muscle cells use to make more protein. Since muscle is protein, that means growth! Research shows that taking leucine with a pre- and postworkout whey shake can further boost muscle protein synthesis, IGF-I levels, strength and growth.
MONTH 3: RAISE THE ROOF
In the third month, add two more proven supplements to keep your mass gains coming.
Arginine This amino acid is readily converted to nitric oxide in the body. NO is involved in numerous bodily functions, the most important for bodybuilders being vasodilation. That refers to an increase in the diameter of blood vessels, which results in an increase in blood flow and allows greater delivery of nutrients, oxygen and anabolic hormones to your muscles. Plus, it creates a greater pump during a workout. If that wasn’’t enough, arginine also boosts GH levels when taken at high enough doses.
20-Beta-Ecdysterone This phytochemical protects plants from insects and provides powerful anabolic properties to humans. It works by significantly boosting protein synthesis. To get the most out of 20-beta-ecdysterone, you need to take high enough doses multiple times per day with food. Start with 2 mg of 20-beta-ecdysterone per pound of bodyweight per day for 30 days, or 400 mg total per day for a 200-pound bodybuilder. We also recommend taking each dose with a high-protein meal to better stimulate protein synthesis.
MONTH 4 AND BEYOND
To keep adding mass after the third month, stick with the supplements you started with in month one and— you always need a solid foundation, even if you renovate your house.
Next, evaluate the supplements you tried in months two and three. If one of them didn’’t seem to give you much of a boost, try replacing it with another mass builder. For example, consider a testosterone booster, such as Tribulus terrestris, or a cortisol blocker, such as phosphatidyl serine.
Meanwhile, if a supplement became ineffective, try dropping it for a month to let your body get used to functioning without it. When you begin to use it again, you should notice a nice boost in its effectiveness.
Here are some final notes on specific supplements in this stack. For arginine, increase each dosage to 5 g from here on out, and consider taking a month off from it every three to four months. For 20-beta-ecdysterone, up the dosage to 3 mg per pound of bodyweight by increasing the number of doses taken each day. Also consider taking a onemonth break from it every three to four months.
There you have it, seven solid tools for constructing an impressive physique Â— use them wisely, and they’’ll help you craft your dream home.