A good, hard, training regimen is the only way to get a perfectly lean body, and it releases all those endorphins that make you feel awesome afterward. But by all estimates, a sound nutritional program accounts for around 80 percent of your results. What those don't account for is the power of supplements.
Add these 15 critical elements to your diet, and you'll supercharge your lean muscle gains, accelerate fat loss and improve your overall health.
What it is: One of milk's two proteins.
What it does: Whey's primary characteristic is its digestibility. Once in the body, it breaks down quickly, swiftly sending its aminos to muscle tissue. This is beneficial because there are certain times of day (first thing in the morning, before and after workouts) when the lean whole-food proteins we normally recommend (eggs, chicken breast, lean steak, fish) digest too slowly to be effective. But whey doesn't deliver only protein. It contains peptides (protein fragments) that have been suggested to help increase blood flow to muscles, which is particularly helpful before workouts, so that muscles may receive more oxygen, nutrients and hormones right when they need them.
How to take it: Take 20 grams of whey protein (mixed in water) first thing upon waking, within 30 minutes before workouts and another 20 g within 30 minutes after training. And you can always have a scoop as a snack between meals.
What it is: Any number of compounds that serve to increase levels of nitric oxide in the bloodstream.
What it does: N.O. relaxes the muscles that control blood vessels, which makes them increase in diameter, allowing more blood to flow through them and to muscles. Because blood carries oxygen and nutrients such as glucose, fat and amino acids, more of these getting to your muscles may help support better energy production - so you can train harder for longer - and better recovery from workouts, which means bigger muscles that can be trained more often. Blood also contains a high percentage of water, which gets pushed through those wider blood vessels into muscles to create the muscle pump you experience when you train. That pump stretches the membranes of muscle cells, which may help you by signaling the cells to grow bigger. In addition, NO may help support lipolysis, which is the release of fat from the body's fat cells, allowing it to be burned for fuel.
"N.O. relaxes the muscles that control blood vessels, which makes them increase in diameter, allowing more blood to flow through them and to muscles."
How to take it: Look for products that include ingredients such as arginine, citrulline, GPLC (glycine propionyl-L-carnitine) or Pycnogenol. Take one dose of an NO-boosting supplement about 30-60 minutes before workouts.
What it is: Only the world's most popular stimulant drug.
What it does: You already know it perks you up and improves focus, but it also has been found to support a boost in muscle strength, intensity and fat loss during workouts. And it works especially well when taken with green tea extract. Caffeine promotes an increase in the amount of fat that gets released from your fat cells. Meanwhile, green tea boosts metabolic rate, which is the way the body burns fat in the bloodstream. Taking these compounds together may just be the support necessarry to ensure that the fat that caffeine has released will get burned up for energy.
How to take it: Take 200-400 milligrams of caffeine two or three times per day, with one dose 30-60 minutes before workouts.
What it is: Two essential omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
What it does: What doesn't fish oil do? It reduces may help support overall health, and, a biggie, it also has been found to turn on genes that stimulate fat burning.
How to take it: Take 2g of fish oil three times daily, with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What it is: The other of milk's two proteins.
What it does: Though they come from the same place, whey and casein couldn't be more different. Casein is extremely slow to digest, which means it provides a steady stream of aminos over a span of several hours. That makes it ideal for certain time periods, like right before bed, when your body is about to go without food for seven to eight hours. In fact, one study performed by the Weider Research Group found that when subjects took casein protein before bed, they gained more muscle than those who took casein in the morning. Another study found that when subjects consumed a mix of whey and casein after workouts, they had improved muscle growth as compared to subjects who took just whey.
How to take it: Take 20g of casein right before bed. Also consider combining 10g of casein with 10g of whey in your post-workout shake.