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Muscle for life

How to Take Workout Supplements for Maximum Results

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How to Take Workout Supplements for Maximum Results

Workout supplements aren’t necessary, but the right ones can help you achieve your fitness goals.

 

If you’re familiar with my work, you know where I stand on workout supplements: most are a complete waste of money. They either do absolutely nothing or do so little that you don’t even notice a difference.

That said, some do have good scientific evidence of effectiveness and do noticeably impact your ability to lift, run, build muscle, and lose fat.

These are the workout supplements I use and recommend, and in this article, I’m going to discuss the ones I feel are most useful and why, as well as how to take them for maximum effectiveness.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is a staple in most athletes’ diets for a good reason: it’s digested quickly, absorbed efficiently, and easy on the taste buds.

It’s also especially popular with us fitness folk because of its amino profile, which is high in leucine (leucine is an essential amino acid that plays a key role in initiating protein synthesis).

How to Take Whey Protein

You can take whey protein whenever you’d like. There’s no “wrong” way to take it, really, but you should keep two things in mind:

  • I like to get the majority of my protein from whole food.

70-75% of my daily protein is from food, mainly because food is much more satiating and satisfying. (I don’t know of any research that indicates protein powder is less effective for building muscle or burning fat.)

  • Protein powder can’t help you lose fat.

I often get asked which protein powder is best for losing weight and my answer is those things aren’t connected at all. Weight loss requires compliance to a proper meal plan, which can include a lot or a little protein powder.

Now, thanks to its rapid digestion and abundance of leucine, whey protein is a particularly effective form of pre-workout and post-workout protein. (The faster protein is digested and the more leucine it has, the more muscle growth it stimulates.)

You’re probably wondering how much you should take at once, so let’s talk about that.

According to one study, 20 grams of whey protein eaten as a post-workout meal stimulates maximum muscle protein synthesis. That is, eating more than 20 grams of whey protein after a workout will not increase muscle growth.

While that sounds neat and simple, it doesn’t apply to everyone equally. Protein metabolism and needs are affected by several things:

  • How much muscle you have. 

The more muscular you are, the more protein your body needs to maintain its lean mass, and the larger the “reservoir” it has for storing surplus amino acids.

  • How physically active you are. 

The more you exercise, the more protein your body needs.

  • Your age.

As our bodies age, they need more protein to maintain lean mass. For example, research has shown that, in the elderly, 35 – 40 grams of post-workout protein stimulates more protein synthesis than 20 grams.

  • Your hormonal profile. 

Anabolic hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) stimulate muscle protein synthesis. If your body has high levels of these anabolic hormones, it will be able to make good use of higher amounts of protein than someone with lower levels.

On the other hand, elevated levels of cortisol reduces protein synthesis and accelerates the process whereby the body breaks down amino acids into glucose (gluconeogenesis), thereby reducing the amount available for tissue generation and repair. Some people have chronically elevated cortisol levels, and this impairs protein metabolism.

So, while 20 grams of protein might be enough to stimulate maximum protein synthesis under certain conditions, this won’t hold true for everyone.

Personally, I include between 30 and 50 grams of whey protein in both my pre- and post-workout meas, which is likely to stimulate maximum protein synthesis for the meals. (In case you’re wondering if the body can use that much protein all at once, check out my article on protein absorption.)

 Which Type of Whey Protein is Best?

The three forms of whey protein sold are whey concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate.

Whey concentrate is the least processed form and cheapest to manufacture, and it contains some fat and lactose. Whey concentrates range from 35 – 80% protein by weight, depending on quality.

Whey isolate is a form of whey protein processed to remove the fat and lactose. Isolates are 90%+ protein by weight, and as they’re more expensive to manufacture than whey concentrate, they’re more expensive for consumers too.

Whey hydrolysate is a predigested form of whey protein that’s very easily absorbed by the body and free of allergenic substances found in milk products. Research also indicates that the hydrolysis process improves solubility and digestibilityWhey hydrolysate is the most expensive of the three options.

So which should you buy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I’ve always used 100% pure whey protein isolate products because concentrates can bother my stomach (research has shown that approximately 70% of the world’s population can’t properly digest lactose, and I guess I’m one of them).

If dairy bothers your stomach at all or gives you any symptoms of indigestion, I recommend you stick with 100% whey protein isolate too. I also like that a good whey isolate product has very little carbs and fat, which means more calories we can “spend” on yummier foods. 🙂

If, however, you do fine with lactose and you don’t mind the extra carbs and fats that come with a whey concentrate, you can save a bit of money going that way.

Creatine

Creatine is one of the best workout supplements you can take. Period.

It’s probably the most studied molecule in all of sports nutrition, and decades of research has conclusively proven it can help you build muscle and improve strengthimprove anaerobic endurance, and reduce muscle damage and soreness from exercise.

You may have heard that it’s bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, but in healthy subjects, creatine supplementation has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage.

How to Take Creatine

The most common method of creatine supplementation found in the literature is a “loading” period of 20 grams per day for 5 to 7 days, followed by a maintenance dosage of 5 grams per day.

You don’t have to load creatine if you’re just starting with supplementation (you can just start with 5 grams per day), but loading does cause the creatine to accumulate faster in the muscles and thus causes the benefits to “kick in” faster.

Now, the whole point of taking creatine is to increase the amount stored in the muscles, and we’ve known for quite some time that co-ingesting creatine with carbohydrates increases creatine accumulation in the muscles (mainly due to the elevation in insulin levels, which acts to drive more nutrients into the muscle cells).

As this effect is mainly a result of elevated insulin levels, the same effects can be achieved with less carbohydrates but protein as well. In fact, this study demonstrated that 50 grams of protein and carbohydrates was equally effective as 100 grams of carbohydrates in augmenting muscular creatine accumulation.

So, based on this research, you should take creatine with a good sized meal to maximize its effects.

Furthermore, there’s research that indicates that creatine taken after a workout is more effective than creatine taken before one, which is why I take my creatine with my post-workout meal consisting of about 50 grams of protein and 75 to 125 grams of carbs.

Do You Have to Cycle Creatine?

No, there’s no scientific evidence that long-term creatine usage is harmful, so no, there’s no reason to cycle on and off it. It’s not a steroid.

Does Caffeine Interfere with Creatine’s Effects?

Maybe.

One study demonstrated evidence that ingesting caffeine with creatine monohydrate decreases muscular force production when compared to ingesting just creatine monohydrate alone, but this isn’t enough evidence to close the case.

Especially considering the fact that this study demonstrated that caffeine and creatine monohydrate taken together were more effective than just creatine monohydrate in improving the performance of high-intensity interval cardio. These results were seen in this study as well.

Considering the evidence, I like to “play it safe” and take my creatine and caffeine separately, not together like what you find in most pre-workout drinks.

Does Creatine Make You Bloated?

This used to be a problem but in the last decade or so, processing has improved greatly and it’s really a non-issue now.

It’s unlikely that you’ll notice any difference in subcutaneous water retention when you take creatine, even if you’re quite lean.

Should You Take Creatine While Dieting For Fat Loss?

Yes.

Creatine works equally well when you’re in a calorie deficit, which means you’ll retain more strength and thus lean mass.

Which Form of Creatine is Best?

There are many forms of creatine available, and monohydrate is the best. I explain why here.

Casein Protein

Casein is one of the two forms of protein found in dairy (whey being the other).

It’s a popular type of supplement in the world of bodybuilding because it’s digested slower than whey (it causes a smaller spike in amino acids in the blood, but a steadier release over the course of several hours).

There’s an ongoing debate about whether supplementing with whey is better than casein for building muscle or vice versa, but here’s what we’re pretty certain about:

  • Due to its rapid digestion and abundance of leucine, a 30-40 gram serving of whey is probably your best choice for post-workout protein.
  • Due to its slow release of amino acids, casein is a great all-around protein supplement.

While it may or may not be as optimal as whey for post-workout protein (the jury is still out on this), there is a growing body of evidence indicating that, when supplementing with powders, a slow-burning protein is the best overall choice for building muscle.

If you’re like me and your stomach can only take so much dairy and dairy derivatives like whey and casein, you can use egg protein instead of casein because it’s also digested slowly (even slower than casein, actually).

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

Branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs for short, are a group of three essential amino acids (amino acids that your body must get from your diet):

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Leucine is the star of the trio, as it directly stimulates protein synthesis via the activation of an enzyme responsible for cell growth known as the mammalian target of rapamycin, ormTOR.

Isoleucine is number two on the list, as it improves glucose metabolism and increases muscular uptake.

Valine is a distant third as it doesn’t seem to do much of anything when compared to leucine and isoleucine.

You find high amounts of these amino acids in quality proteins such as meat, eggs and dairy products, with whey protein isolate being particularly high.

How to Take BCAAs

For the reasons I discuss here, BCAAs are one of the most overrated supplements you can buy. So long as you eat enough protein every day, and have some before a workout, you don’t need to supplement with BCAAs.

That said, BCAAs do have a good use, and that’s for mitigating the increased muscle breakdown that occurs with fasted training. 

Fasted training is an effective way to speed up fat loss–and the loss of stubborn fat, in particular–but it does come with that “price” of accelerated breakdown of the muscles. Well, the leucine in BCAAs counter-acts that.

10 grams of BCAAs, which provides 3 to 5 grams of leucine, is enough to achieve this effect without raising dramatically increasing insulin levels, which would effectively “break” the fasted state.

Green Tea Extract

Green tea extract is a weight loss supplement made from green tea leaves.

It’s rich in antioxidants known as catechins, which are responsible for many of tea’s health benefits, and which have been proven to help with weight loss. Research has also shown that catechins can help reduce abdominal fat, in particular.

Catechins accelerate fat loss by blocking an enzyme that degrades catecholamines, which are chemicals the body produces that trigger the use of fat for energy.

How to Take Green Tea Extract

If you look at the dosages proven effective in clinical studies, you’ll see that 400 – 600 mg of catechins per day is the normal range.

Each pill of the product I recommend contains about 150 mg of catechins so I take 4 per day both when I’m cutting and maintaining. (I take green tea extract when I’m maintaining simply because it helps prevent fat storage and promotes a generally leaner physique.)

When you take green tea extract doesn’t really matter. Research has shown that absorption is faster when pills are taken in a fasted state, but plasma catechin levels remain elevated for several hours after ingestion, whether fed or fasted.

Personally, I train fasted when cutting, and I have 300 mg of catechins (2 pills) about 15 minutes before training, and another 300 mg a couple hours before I do cardio later in the day.

You should also know that nausea is common if you take green tea extract on an empty stomach. If I take more than 200 – 300 mg catechins on an empty stomach, I get quite nauseous.

Caffeine

Caffeine helps you lose fat by simply increasing your body’s daily energy expenditure.

As weight loss boils down to energy consumed vs. energy expended, caffeine helps you maintain a calorie deficit.

Caffeine has other benefits for us fitness folk, though. It improves strengthmuscle endurance, and anaerobic performance, and also reverses the “morning weakness” experienced by many weightlifters.

How to Take Caffeine

If you want to reap its workout-related benefits, you want to take caffeine before your workout. I take mine about 15 minutes before and it kicks in by the time I’m into my first warm-up set or two.

You can get your caffeine from a beverage like coffee, but interestingly enough, research has shown that the pure form you find in most pills and powders (caffeine anhydrous) is actually more effective for improving performance.

That’s why I recommend get your pre-workout caffeine from caffeine pills, pre-workout drink, or a fat burner.

In terms of amount, research shows that 3 to 6 mg per kg of body weight is optimal for maximizing performance benefits while also minimizing side effects.

Furthermore, in order to maximize caffeine’s effectiveness, you want to prevent your body from building up too much of a tolerance. The best way to do this is to limit intake, of course. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Before training, supplement with 3 – 6 mg caffeine per kg of body weight. 

If you’re not sure of your caffeine sensitivity, start with 3 mg/kg and work up from there.

  • Keep your daily intake at or below 6 mg per kg of body weight. 

Don’t have 6 mg/kg before training and then drink a couple of coffees throughout the day.

  • Do 1 – 2 low-caffeine days per week, and 1 no-caffeine day per week. A low day should be half your normal intake, and a no day means less than 50 mg of caffeine (you can have a cup or two of tea, but no coffee, caffeine pills, etc.).

 

What did you think of this guide on how to take workout supplements? Have anything else you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Gabe

    Thanks for the article, Mike!
    One note about creatine: I’ve heard that you greatly increase the amount of creatine your body will absorb if you first dissolve it in warm water. Which may be why many of the trials showing impressive efficacy use coffee as their vehicle of choice.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      That sounds like broscience. I’ve never seen any research indicating that using warm water OR coffee does anything special.

      • Gabe

        I hear ya, I wouldn’t have given it much thought but Will Brink and Shawn Phillips have championed the idea. Perhaps it’s more important for those that experience stomach upset when taking it in a protein shake for instance.

        • Michael Matthews

          Don’t know who they are, but if you find research backing the claims, let me know.

          It could help with digestibility I guess. That won’t affect absorption though.

          • Gabe

            In this case I feel that digestibility and absorption are not mutually exclusive. Temperature is a key player in the dissolution process. By solubilizing the creatine ahead of time you aren’t tasking you body with shuttling extra water into your intestines to attempt the job—which in turn can lead to GI distress.

            I don’t have all the answers but a quick search will reveal that many studies such as the ones below opted to use warm/hot liquid as opposed to cold:
            http://bit.ly/1sr3pFg
            http://1.usa.gov/1gcd5w4
            http://bit.ly/1s7tR4T
            http://1.usa.gov/1l2lEO8

            The following article offers further insight into this
            http://bit.ly/1gcdvm2 but I feel it may be worth your time to personally experiment 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            It’ll get warmed up in your gut anyway…

  • Would be super sweet if you detailed a training day with the recommended supplements and the times you recommend taking them. Just a little addition to this post. Maybe an example for someone that lifts first thing and then another example for someone that lifts after work.

    • Michael Matthews

      Not a bad idea but if you check out the timing recommendations it should be pretty clear I think?

  • Ivo Naves

    “Fasted training is an effective way to speed up fat loss–and the loss of stubborn fat, in particular–but it does come with that “price” of accelerated breakdown of the muscles. Well, the leucine in BCAAs counter-acts that.

    10 grams of BCAAs, which provides 3 to 5 grams of leucine, is enough to achieve this effect without raising dramatically increasing insulin levels, which would effectively “break” the fasted state.”

    Well, then is it better to take a leucine supplement than BCAAs, right?

    • Donald

      Maybe but have you ever tasted straight Leucine? The taste is horrendous.

      • Michael Matthews

        Exactly, haha. Leucine saves money but it tastes like utter shit. You can get yummy-tasting BCAA products. 🙂

      • Ivo Naves

        I wonder if Leucine is that nasty, bitter tasting “stuff” that never dissolves well (in a cup of BCAAs with water)…

  • Carlos Arteaga

    There says that you don’t stop taking Creatine regularlyso I wonder, How often do you load creatine?

    • Donald

      The point of the loading phase is to saturate the muscles with creatine relatively quickly. Saturation will also happen without a loading phase, it will just take longer. So you should only have to load once unless you stop taking a maintenance dose of creatine.

      • Carlos Arteaga

        Great! Just what I though. Thanks

        • Michael Matthews

          YW 🙂

      • Michael Matthews

        This is correct.

  • Simon

    Hi Mike,

    i take Kre-Alkalyn and i couldnt find anything in your article here https://www.muscleforlife.com/which-form-of-creatine-is-most-effective/ . Do you have any insights and thoughts on this?

    Tanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      I think that’s just buffered creatine?

      • Simon

        Thanks!
        I really cant say if it’s better in terms of strength and mass gains — but for me i can say it’s really better concerning bloating etc. i had bad reflux problems, and with kre none whatsoever. So i can recommend trying it when someone has the same problems.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yes buffered is easier on the stomach but isn’t more effective.

  • Ry Guy

    Awesome! Love that the most effective supps are also some of the least expensive. Especially Creatine!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah! 🙂

  • martymuzz

    on “Green Tea Extract” you take more than the recommended dose on the pot? Will this increase the nausea or side effects by taking this many?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes I do and some people get nausea when taking it on an empty stomach. If that’s you, then just take it with food.

  • Thanks for the awesome site, been reading for days!

    How do I know how many catechins are in my green tea extract? I have the Vitamin Shoppe brand: GTE 75% Plyphenols, 250mg green tea extract, 220mg green tea. link: http://tinyurl.com/kglocpc I’d like to know how many to take.

  • Stewart Mcnair

    Hi
    Two small points please
    re creatine I suffer from ulcerative colitis, not bad but controlled by pentasa. when I tried creatine my colitis flared dramatically and took several weeks to get back under control. Just a warning for any other sufferers.
    Now a question Do bcaa pills protect muscles effectively doing aerobic exercise in a fasted state as I am considering early morning hiit training and then weights in evenng
    Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks for sharing the caution Stewart.

      Yes, they do. The leucine is really what does it.

  • Tim

    Interested in your opinions on glutamine, if it’s worth taking, and if so when/how

    • Robert M

      Yes, post-workout.

    • Michael Matthews

      I like it for the purpose of fighting off overtraining and improving gut and immune health.

      I take it post-workout.

  • Rod

    Can you explain why creatine is not recommended for teenage athletes? I have heard because it may possibly stunt potential growth (height) and may cause severe cramping and dehydration. I understand why it is considered a banned substance for high school and NCAA athletes, but just curios about the facts concerning use by teenage athletes . Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      I’m actually not sure if there’s a good reason for teens not to take it. I’ll have to look into it.

      • Rod

        Ok, some factual information on this issue would help out alot.

  • Ed

    Mike,
    I work out first thing in the morning. Will consuming whey protein 30 min prior to workout prevent me from being in a fasted state? In other words, if I want to conduct “fasted training” is the only substance that I should be consuming prior to the workout BCAA’s?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yes, it will. Insulin response is too high. You can only have your BCAA or leucine.

  • Sairo Santos

    Any thoughts on the alleged hair loss problem creatine causes on men? I have just bought some for the first time and have not started taking it just yet ’cause I’m very afraid of balding…

  • Maiken

    Hi Mike.

    Great article, as always.
    What’s your opinion on CLA’s? Can I use them during a maintenance routine?
    Or should I just stick with Green Tea Extract?
    Would be great to hear your standpoint on this before buying either.
    Keep it up!

    • Michael Matthews

      CLA is controversial. Some research shows it helps with weight loss and the underlying physiological mechanism makes sense, but other research shows it’s unreliable. It works for some people and doesn’t for others.

      I’ve removed it from my website recommendations and it will come out of my books in the second editions. I’d rather people spend their money on 100% sure bets.

      • Maiken

        Thank you so much

  • Thomas J Lucas

    Hey Mike!
    I really appreciate all the advice you offer. I have several of your books and I am following a meal plan from your cookbook.
    I have a question. My wife has hypothyroidism (surgically removed) and seems to be having trouble losing weight. She also gets discouraged at how easily I am losing. Are there any supplements she can take to help her fat loss. She read “thinner leaner stronger” and she is on a calorie restricted diet.

    Thanks.

  • Renier

    Great Article. I have some time taking creatine(5 grams per day) But I’m gonna change my protocol to Caffeine and alanine pre workout and a post workout shake that consist of 50 grams of protein,100 grams of carbs and 5 grams of creatine to play it safe :).

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Sounds good man. I like it!

  • Hey Mike –

    Great stuff.

    But what about supplements for us older guys? I’m pushing 60 and am new to bodybuilding. I take whey protein isolate pre- and post-workout and creatine daily. Any recommendations for anything else for someone my age? Diet is good. Health is good. Body weight is 195, 6ft, body fat index below 16.

    Any further tips or suggested reading?

    Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Nothing changes for you really. You’ll want to make sure you’re not deficient in the following vitamins and minerals as they can dramatically lower T levels:

      Zinc

      Vitamin D

      Vitamin C

      Magnesium

      You’ll like this too:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-muscle-40s/

  • AJ THEODAS

    Hey Mike,
    I just bought OPTI-MEN multi per your recommendation in BLS and was wandering how best to split the daily serving suggestion of 3 tablets up for the day? Would i take all 3 in one go, or two in the morning and one later on?
    Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! One with each meal works.

  • Frank

    Hey Mike,

    Does this apply to both the cutting and bulking phase? I read a good article on your supplements during cutting (Pheonix, Green Tea, and the rest), but what are the differences during a bulking phase? I am going to be wrapping up my cut soon and want to look into what I will need for the bulking phase. Any articles about the best bulking supplements? Schedule to take them? That would be beneficial.

    Thanks a lot Mike!

  • Jin

    hello, Mike

    I just finish reading Bigger stronger lean muscle. I work out on and off for a few years now and feeling not as much gain as I plan. I been training hard for 5 weeks now but not quite sure what to eat even I read your book(but I will keep reading it) I am taking Bcaa, creatine, fish oil and fat lost for 5 weeks already. I am 82kg now, I lost 6kg for the last 8 weeks, is it too much? I am checking out your supplement but I got no ideas because I am quite news to this. just want to look lean with muscle at 80-82kg of my body.

    Thank you very much
    Jin

  • Pingback: Day 5 - 24 hour fast - Green Tea Extract - My Six Pack MissionMy Six Pack Mission()

  • Fabrice

    Great article, it’s more or less what I read in your books, but it’s nice to have it reminded me another time.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I appreciate the support. 🙂

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  • Charlotte

    I am going to cut now and so I know you said to take 5g of leucine before workouts when training fasted, but what is the max amount you should have in one day? Because my protein has some BCAAs in it as well, which I take after workouts.

    • Don’t sweat this. An additional 3-5 g isn’t going to cause any imbalances.

      • Charlotte

        Also when it comes to yohimbine, could I take it say in the morning when I’m in a fasted state and then just eat 45 mins. later, or does it only have beneficial effects if you take it in a fasted state before working out?

        Thank you for all your help!

        • I wouldn’t use if not working out. It’s not going to do much on its own.

  • That’s not true. Creatine is great for women. Most people have no water retention issues.

    • Breann Silverman

      Hi Mike,
      I started creatine about 2 weeks ago, no loading dose, 5g/day. I’m seeing strength gains- yippee, but I’m feeling/looking slightly more thick. My muscles seem “fuller” and my weight is up a tad. Is this normal or should I back down to 3g/day? I drink a gallon h2o/day and am on month 2 of TLS. Thanks, Breann

      • Yeah some people notice slight changes like this. I don’t. Let’s keep it up and see how your body adapts over the next month or so

  • Livo

    Hei. Is it ok then if I take both BCCA and extract green tea 15 min before my training in fasted state? Thanks

  • Michael D

    Hello again Mike,

    Mark Mcmanus cited a study from 1998 that said “long-term creatine supplementation may cause creatine saturation outside the cell, which prevents effective muscle uptake for weeks or maybe even months” as a reason why he recommends cycling creatine.

    I just started supplementing with creatine last week. What are your thoughts on his reasons for cycling creatine? (Maybe that was an old study that’s not accurate anymore?)

  • Dave M.

    Hi Mike,

    On the subject of creatine loading, I’m wondering if the 20g should be taken in a single dose or if it can be taken in several doses spread out across the day. Thanks!

  • Pic

    Mike, I’m taking 5g of creatine for post weight training workouts (3 x week) – what about off days and days when I do high intensity interval training? What do you recommend? Thanks!

    • Cool on the creatine.

      Take the 5g on off days as well. On the the days you do HIIT, you can take it right after. On any rest day, anytime of day is fine, but I recommend taking it with food.

      • Pic

        Thanks – don’t think I’ve been getting the full benefit of it so now’s a good time to change the frequency

  • Slick Back

    Hey Mike,
    Love your article. I’m about to go back to the gym and I’d like to use supplements. I did my research but it’s confusing. Everyone says something else but you seem very trustworthy and more professional than others. Could you give me tips what supplements I should use exactly? I weigh 154 pounds and I’m 5″7′. I wanna focus on muscle growth don’t wanna get huge more lean. Definition is more important to me and I’m skinny so I don’t need to lose weight. If you could help me out that’d be great!
    Best Elcin

  • Rondale Williams

    Should I take creatine before a workout at all? Is it even useful then?

  • Kevin Matasich

    Hello Mike – I read an article authored by you recently where you review the science (or lack thereof) of many of the supplements on the market today. At the bottom of the article was a link which shared your use of your supplement line…pre-, post-workout and non-training days. I can’t seem to re-locate that article. Any chance you recall the article and can provide the link?

  • anllela

    should i combine my creatine with my whey that contains caffeine for my post-workout supp? or when is the best time for me to take it.

    • Creatine and whey post-workout is great. I don’t recommend taking caffeine at that time.

      You should take caffeine in the morning and/or pre-workout.

      • anllela

        but my whey itself contains caffeine. im using dymatize elite whey, cafe mocha flavor.

        • Ah okay. You can take it if you like. There’s just no need for caffeine post-workout is all.

  • edd

    I’m a gal doing TLS on 1500 calories a day. I just started taking creatine. Is 50g of carbs enough (+ 50g protein)? I’m doing whey & rice milk & it comes to 500 calories just for breakfast.

  • Austin

    Mike even though you said it it unlikely can creatine cause bloat? I have been bulking for 2 weeks averaging 2500 cal at 150Ibs with Gregs Greek God Program, in addition I tend to get about 1-2 hours of walking in during my day. Despite this in these 2 weeks my waist looks thicker and wider and my face feels and looks puffy. So do you think it is creatine or am I gaining fat? I don’t see how I would be gaining a noticeable amount of fat at 2500 cal in 2 weeks. For reference I take about 5 grams of creatine a day.

  • Dustin

    What kind of timing/amounts do you recommend for spirulina and omegas? I’m currently running pulse/pheonix/forge for morning fasted HIIT, pulse for resistance, then recharge/pheonix for post resistance. Reason being, I heard omegas can stack better with caffein.

    • I just take mine with my lunch. No synergy between omega-3s and caffeine.

  • Kevin

    Hi Michael. Have you received reports of diahrrea and gas with Pulse and Recharge? I have tried both for approximately 5 weeks and have developed significant diahrrea and gas/bloating. I have stayed with the supplements in the hopes that my body would adjust to the new regimen and that the dside effects would dissipate. Unfortunately, I am still having the same issues. Have you heard similar reports and are there steps which can be taken to eliminate these unwanted side effects?
    Thanks.

    • You know some people don’t respond well to creatine. It’s odd. Try dropping Recharge and LMK…

  • LifeForMuscle

    hi mike! outstanding article as usual!

    so im planning on purchasing a creatine for me. however, im very worried to the side effects it has on my body as i am only 16 years old.

    what do you think about a 16 years old taking creatine? is it safe? or should i wait a few years?

    thank you! and always keep up with the good work!

    • Thanks!

      You know I’m not sure so to be safe I’m going to say no. I haven’t looked into teenage use of creatine enough to want to recommend it.

      • LifeForMuscle

        thank you for your honesty… you are a trust worthy person

        i expected you to advertise your creatine “recharge” and say it is safe for my age… but damn, you are the best man!

        keep up the good work! soon i will order whey+ because you are the only i am able to trust with supplements knowing that you make the best products out there.

        • Of course! Thanks for the support. 🙂

          Will do! LMK how you like Whey+!

  • Ed

    Hey mike! Two questions on this article. I used to drink coffee almost everyday because I like the taste and it was basically a ritual at this point. I recently started just taking 1-2 scoops of pulse in the morning and forgoing the coffee. should I cycle off the pulse for a bit to increase my caffeine sensitivity?

    Second question is, is there such thing as too much creatine in one day? Some people I know take it morning, noon, and night. I only do the scoop a day as stated in this article. Is there a right or wrong way to supplement this or is it a matter of personal preference?

    Thanks for another great article!

    • Hey!

      Good question and it depends if you’re feeling the effects or not. Are you getting the caffeine rush or?

      Yeah more than 5 grams per day is a waste. You’re not going to get more benefits out of it.

      • Ed

        Cool, thanks for clearing up that creatine question.

        I’m not getting as much of a rush as I used to. I used to get the tingling sensation in my face and hands which doesn’t happen as much either. But I was also drinking a few cups of coffee a day even after taking pulse in the AM before my workout!

        • NP!

          Hmm. Yeah I recommend taking a week off Pulse.

          Understood on the cups of coffee. You’re probably not super sensitive to caffeine, but you should still be feeling the effects of Pulse.

          Going forward, I recommend taking a week off every 6-8 weeks just to stay sensitive to it.

          What do you think?

          • Ed

            Yeah, that sounds good! I actually haven’t had any pulse this week (week off due to injury 🙁 ). And took it as an opportunity to ween myself off of the coffee as well. I’m thinking of finishing off the weekend without any caffeine and then hitting pulse again on Monday when I’m back at it!

          • You’re ahead of the plan! Haha.

            Sorry to hear about the injury. 🙁 Good call on the rest. Take care of it!

            LMK how it goes on Monday taking Pulse again!

  • Valery

    Hello, Mike. I dot’t completely understand about interfering caffeine with creatine effects. Should I just intake caffeine and creatine separately (let’s just say 1 hour between) or there is should be bigger pause? Now I intake my creatine every day just after awakening and after one hour or two – caffeine. All of this I do in fasted state (I use intermited fasting).

    • It’s not something you really have to worry about. Personally I have my caffeine about 30 minutes before training and my creatine about 30 minutes after, when I go eat.

      • Valery

        Ok, thank you. And what do you think about taking creatine in the evening?

  • Omar Karim

    hey mike…
    i am 22,90 kg,180 cm and i have a really confusing question..
    i follow intermittent fasting and do hiit thrice mornings fasted state and weight lift at evenings..so i have reached a level i started feeling my energy isn’t enough anymore to lift heavier..i have my meal plan taken care of..
    my question so far i have lost 20 kg without supplement but now it feels like i am losing more muscle mass..and i kept reading about bcaa and creatine to preserve muscle mass so is there anyway i do all that naturally without supplements?because i still wanna lose some weight as i still got side fat but at the same time keep my muscle mass…

    • I get where you’re at Omar. When was the last time you took a rest week or deload week?

      Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      Fortunately, you don’t need supps to reach your goal. They can help get you there faster, but they aren’t required.

      Also, how much protein are you eating daily and how much weight are you losing a week?

      LMK!

      • Omar Karim

        i am eating 160 grams of protein because that’s the maximum i can eat naturally without supplements though i read your articles and it clearly indicates i need more after calculations…i was loosing weight fast at the beginning but past 3 months i have been loosing 1-2 kg a month maximum..

        i wanna know when i do hiit on a fasted state do i eat or drink naturally to avoid muscle loss?
        and i wanna get to 5% body fat what can i do better?

        • Okay. Yeah the first step will be getting your protein intake up. Here’s why:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

          To help, I recommend high-protein snacks like greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.

          If you really can’t get the protein you need daily with food, I strongly recommend picking up some whey protein powder.

          For the weight loss, you should be able to lose 2-3 KG a month while maintaining muscle.

          When doing fasted training, you can’t eat or drink anything with calories beforehand or it breaks the fast. You do need to take leucine or Forge to prevent muscle breakdown though:

          https://legionathletics.com/products/supplements/forge/

          Let’s start with that and see how you do. Talk soon!

  • Chase

    Hey mike…
    I’m 5’9 and 132lb about 5% body fat but want to bulk up what can you suggest?I take creatine and pre-workout before I workout and protein after is there something I should be doing differently

    • For the supps, I recommend taking creatine post-workout–not pre-workout. Otherwise, you’re good there.

      For help bulking up, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      LMK what you think!

      • Chase

        Thanks I have been doing that for over a week now i’m going to keep doing this and hope it helps!

  • Bryan B

    Hey Mike,

    I hope you’re well. Thanks for another awesome article, and pretty much everything else you do for everyone. BLS and BBLS got my training simplified but revolutionized at the same time! I also just purchased Forge, Fortify and another bottle of Phoenix!

    I’ve got a couple of questions, first regarding supplements. My wife and I are trying to conceive. She doesn’t train or take supplements but should I lay off supplements entirely? Or do you know of some that are safe?

    Secondly, I wonder if you have any articles written (or any direct advice) regarding why I might be losing quite a bit of strength? For 4-6 reps I’m down 10kgs on my bench, 20kgs on my squats and a whopping 40kgs on my deadlifts (sucks!). I’ve been sick for a week and didn’t train for that long. Food intake was also quite low during that whole week, missed my calorie count by about 500 give or take. Been back a week now and lifts are down. Shoulder and arm exercises are maintained though. My weight is also down from 93kgs to just under 90 after that week. Any thoughts as to what might be happening?

    Thanks a lot man. Know you’re busy, so any advice would be much appreciated.

    Be blessed Brotha

    • Thanks man! I really appreciate all the support!

      None of the supplements you’re taking should have any influence on fertility or otherwise.

      You’re just bouncing back from being sick. Give it a couple of weeks and you should be back on track.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Bryan B

        That’s affirming. Thanks a lot man. Have an awesome rest of the week.

  • Steve

    Hey Mike
    I’m thinking of purchasing recharge
    What flavour does it come in and do you deliver in India?

    • Cool! The flavor is fruit punch (unflavored coming soon!) and yep, we ship to India. 🙂

      • Steve

        Nope you didn’t 🙁
        I just got credited the amount I paid .
        Can you suggest some other supplement ?

        • Sorry I’m not sure what you mean exactly?

          Optimum Nutrition’s are good, and they should be available to you over there.

  • SKHAWAT

    HEY MIKE

    I HAVE BEEN TAKING MOST OF THE SUPPLEMENTS (E.G. PROTEIN, CREATINE, BCCA’S) THAT YOU MENTIONED IN YOUR ARTICLE. I HIT THE GYM AT LEAST 4 TIMES A WEEK WITH OTHER SPORT AT THE WEEKEND. YET THE MUSCLE GAIN AND DIFFERENCE IN MY BODY IS VERY LITTLE. I AM ACTIVE IN DAILY LIFE, PLAY SPORT AND ALL I TRY ALL SORT OF STUFF. DONT KNOW WHAT THING THAT I M DOING IS WRONG OR DO I NEED TO TRY SOMETHING ELSE.

    PLEASE SUGGEST. IT WOULD BE A GREAT HELP.

    THANK YOU.
    SKHAWAT

  • Andrei

    Hey Mike again. I have one quick question to you regarding some joint suplements. I glucosamine sulphate pills for almost two months. First month 2 grams per day then 1 gram per day. My joints ( especially shoulders because there i had the problem) started to fell better and won’t clunch at every rep. But i started getting wrist and eblow pain as i’m getting bigger and bigger in my lifts. I consider trying some more “powerfull” joint suplements but i don’t want to throw my money on the window because i’m kind of on a budget.

    I have two options:

    1)

    MSM 900 mg

    Glucosamine HCL 750 mg

    Chondroitin Sulphate 600 mg

    per day

    or

    2)

    Glucosamine HCL 1.05 g

    Rosehip 1 g

    Chondroitin Sulphate 450 mg

    Methyl Sulphonyl Methane 400 mg

    Celadrin 150 mg

    Olive Leaf Extract (5:1) 75 mg

    Curcumin 52.2 mg

    Hyaluronic Acid 38 mg

    per day

    Didn’t want to link the original sites because i don’t want to advertise anything. Second option is a bit more expensive. Thanks in advance.
    PS: Sory for reposting but i saw my message was deleted on other thread because of spam (don’t know why that happened).

      • Andrei

        I read all threads about suplements on your site and listened to all your podcasts regarding suplements but i can’t still decide. Hope you can help me with a hint xD. Thanks in advance.

        • Thanks. 🙂

          I personally take glucosamine (in case it does anything for people with healthy joints), Fortify, and fish oil every day (for my joints–I take other supplements for other things).

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hey mike, I’m a little worried about taking forge because of the yohimbine (I’ve heard it can cause acne and other side effects). I like to train fasted and wanted to know if you suggest any other decent bcaa products that I could use without yohimbine?

    • We’ve sold tens of thousands of bottles of Forge and the worst reactions we’ve heard is jittery and uncomfortable. It’s a safe molecule but can become unsafe if abused (like many things).

      If you want to avoid it though, go with pure leucine before your fasted training.

      • Brandon Dedic

        Thanks for the reply. Would an hmb supplement work as well?

  • Nishu Singh

    Mike. As always thanks for a great article 🙂
    I get very drowsy, sleepy, and almost a high feeling if I take BCAA on an empty stomach. Anybody else has that problem? So on fasted taking traning days I just dont take bcaa. Any advice? Thanks

    • My pleasure! Huh. That’s odd.

      Have you tried leucine or HMB instead?

      I don’t recommend fasted training without the proper pre-workout supplementation.

      Hope this helps! Welcome.

  • Sam

    Hi Mike,

    What about taking green tea extract while bulking? Or would that just be defeating the object?
    Thanks. Sam.

  • Matt

    In regard to HMB, there seems to be varying suggestions on whether to spread the dosage over the day. If I were to take 3g per day while training fasted, is it better to take it all right before the workout or to take say 1g x 3 spread out.
    Thanks.

    • Hey Matt! I recommend taking it all right before fasted training. No need to take it at any other time.

      Welcome! Talk soon.

  • dregh

    hi am 40yrs old and have just started hitting the gym,i want to get in shape ie,loose some weight and gain some muscles but am told am too old to gain muscle now.Advice me on wht to do.and wht supplements to take.

  • DJ

    Great article Mike. I visit your site and review comments frequently. Very informing and trustworthy. I’ve been working out for 6 months now and I am down to 155 from 175.That has come from strictly fasted training and I’m looking to gain some mass. I have plateaued recently and the only supplement I take is whey protein post workout. I just purchased some creatine and BCAA and I am going to add them to my diet. From what I gather from all the comments and your article, I should take my BCAA dose pre workout, and my creatine and protein post workout?

  • Richard Steven Middleditch

    Mike. I don’t know if i can agree with you about the caffeine dosage recommendation. For a 95kg person you are saying to take up to 570mg of caffeine in one hit. That is a dosage that could potentially lead to caffeine intoxication. The european food safety authority recommends 200mg at one time is safe for adults conducting exercise directly after consumption.

  • ‘As long as you stick to a dosage of less than 3 grams daily, you should be able to get the energy boosting effects of creatine without raising your DHT levels.’

    Hey Mike, I read the above in an article about creatine and hair loss. It says if you already have male pattern baldness, which I have, you have to be careful. Do you think the above statement is accurate?

    • I just read a thread on reddit of guys saying they experienced drastic hair loss on creatine. Scary shit. I think it’s probably not worth it. That’s unfortunate because I am struggling a lot with gains and I am in pain all the time. It hardly feels worth it anymore. Do you think I should try steroids?

      • Hey Ru-an,

        It may accelerate it in those who are already experiencing male pattern baldness or are susceptible to it. Still need more data, but if you fit that bill, you can either lay off creatine or stack it with propecia or something that combats hair loss.

  • Abhishek

    Is Glutamine also a good supplement??

  • Ondrej

    Hi Mike, love your articles!
    I have two issues with Creatine, it’s does not dissolve well and it’s bitter. To combat these issues, I dissolve Creatine in 80°C (176°F) water and mix it with lemon concentrate (which is mostly citric acid). Is this OK?

  • Aliasgar

    Can i take Creatine and Bcaa togeather after my workout?

    • Sure can, but no point to take the BCAA. You’re better off with whey for recovery.

      • Emmanuel

        Just whey? or whey + creatine? (I practice brazilian jiujitsu and have been out of energy for a while an need something for recovery)

  • Rakesh vats

    Hey mike , i just bought optimum nutrition whey, casein , amino and creatine. Is that more than enough for gaining muscles or do i need to add anything else apart from these? Please suggest

    • Yep that’s enough! You’ve covered all the basics.

  • sakib800

    Wait wait wait. Mike do you know if whey protein causes hair loss?

    • Absolutely not. It’s only protein–same as milk, egg, meat.

      • sakib800

        ok lol thanks, I just had to make sure becasue i keep reading this random BS articles saying stuff like whey protein and heavy weighlifting increases testosterone which might slow hair growth…(becasue of DHT) these have me confused lol

        • No probs. Shoot me an email if you’re concerned about hair loss:
          roger at muscle for life dot com

          Lots to discuss, and it’ll be a better medium for it.

  • Abhishek JagtP

    Is bcaa effective? what is the best time to take bcaa?

  • AmyL

    I am cutting and am about to order Phoenix, Forge and Pulse. Wondering if I could also take Recharge or if it would stall fat loss. Thanks!

    • Hey Amy, Recharge will not stall fat loss, and can help with muscle recovery. Hope that clears it up!

  • Vaibhav Nahata

    Hi, I seek for your suggestion.

    I workout early morning around 6-6.30 AM and have breakfast after my work out . please suggest how can i place
    BCAA , CREATINE and GLUTAMINE in my daily routine during the full day.

    What dosage to be take and when?

    Please advise and help?

    • Hey Vaibhav,

      Take BCAA prior to your workout, if you’re training fasted. Take creatine (5g) after the workout, and glutamine (0.75g/kg) whenever you’d like. Follow the directions on the label and you’ll be fine.

  • bowden

    Hey, I am just wondering if it is best to take Creatine in one go or if it is okay to separate it throughout the day? I find 5 Grams a bit to much as it gives me GI problems, therefore is it okay to have maybe 2 Grams three times a day or will this hinder results? Cheers Al

  • Arthur

    Hi, Mike! Great article. I’d been looking for something in details and found it here. Great job. My question – so, as for normal workout program, not “loading”, I should just get 2-3 grams per day of creatine. Right after workout together with my whey protein shake? What about days, when I don’t workout, should I take it with meal as well or skip it?

    • Take 5g/day to maintain your creatine levels. You can take it any time during the day, and you still take it on rest days.

  • Jim Kestner

    I’m 48 years old trying to loose weight. 5’8 206lbs. I’ve been taking green tea fat burner and want to know if I can also take Creatine? I want to gain muscle but it’s most important to continue to loose weight . My goal weight is 165-170. Any advice? I have started a work out program that includes treadmill and weights.

  • Brady

    I’m 28 5,11 194 lbs 20% bf currently in phase 3 of p90x3 and do cardio and
    go to gym 2-3 times a week on top of it. Got my macros on point now.
    What should I be taking to help me lower body fat% and increase muscle,
    help with longer & better workouts, recovery.

    I work out every morning at 8-9am and usually do cardio at night which don’t use a pre-work out for at all.

    I am currently using

    Evl lean mode fat burner

    Optimum nutrition gold standard pre work out

    Optimum nutrition gold standard whey

    I’m sure I am not taking full advantage of stack/supplements that are
    available.
    Thanks in advance for you advice & suggestions!

  • Roseanne Rodriguez

    I just received my Forge and Phoenix and am super excited to start using them. I have both TLS and shredded Chef books with the 1 year challenge so I have a solid workout plan and meal plan with good macro ratios. My question is if I should still take my BCAAs pre workout now that I have forge. I drink whey after working out and casein before bed.

    • Hey Roseanne! That’s great you’re about to get started. No need for the BCAAs now that you have Forge.

  • David Gouveia

    Hey great infol! My question is I’ve always heard you should always take protein within 30 minutes after your workout, but also supposed to take creatine after a workout with simple carbs to speed the process. So if I take both protein and carbs, won’t that effect absorption of the creatine and/or reduce the ability of the protein powder to increase protein synthesis?

  • Simaar Ahmad

    Hey man,
    to start things, love ure stuff and ure books, amazing!
    to the main question now and hoping u can help me out, so taking creatine witth 50 grams proteins and 50 + grams carbs after workout is the best way to take it? i was reading on legion.com where it said it doesnt matter if u mix or eat it with whatever, it gets digested the same way, im confused-.-, can u explain me this please?
    ty man,
    cheers

  • SolZ

    Great article!

    I have been a non-cofee drinker my whole life and just started supplementing caffeine 30 mins before my workouts. The caffeine makes me really jittery and I tend to drink a lot of water in between sets. Is it true that drinking too much water actually reduces the effect of caffeine?

  • Zak Smith

    Hey Mike,
    If I take creative for a month or two, will I lose muscle when I stop taking it?
    Zak

    • Hey Zak, nope! Whatever muscle you gain while taking creatine will stick with you when you stop taking it.

  • george

    Hi Mike,

    I finished your book bigger leaner stronger (great book by the way). I also purchased the supplements, but I have a question. For example for the pre workout (lifting fasted) where you have to 1 1/2 serving of legion forge 1/2 serving of legion pulse and 1 serving of legion phoenix, do you mix them all together or you take them one by one? i

    • Hey George, I’m glad you enjoyed BLS! Before working out, I swallow the pills, and mix the Pulse with water 🙂

  • Jay L

    Hi Mike,

    Do you have any experience with clients who take Accutane (or its other variants) due to acne?
    Does it affect gains and the whole heavy lifting + HIIT routine?

    Thanks!

    • Hey Jay, it shouldn’t have any effect on your gains, but you should always check with your doctor.

      • Jay L

        Thanks Mike!

  • Jay L

    Hey Mike!

    Got another question: I follow your program and I train fasted every morning. Here is my current supplementation:

    – pre workout 30 mins before
    – I take BCAA as my intra workout drink, sipping it in between sets
    – post workout whey shake with 5g creatine

    How does that look? Should I be taking BCAA preworkout or is taking it intra workout fine since I’m training fasted ?

    Thanks!

    • Hey Jay, seems solid to me. I would generally take HMB, Leucine, or BCAAs 15 minutes before the workout, rather than during, but it wouldn’t make a big difference.

  • JohnPerkins

    This article really helped me when I have started to use preworkouts. I’m also recommending your guide to my clients when they are buying preworkout supplements in my shop, thank you!

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