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Wednesday August 15, 2018

Anabolic Surge Series: Building Maximum Muscle – Supplementation by Jim Brewster

Bodybuilding Supplements for Maximum MuscleThere’s always some debate when it comes to supplements. Do they work? Do you really need them?  Proper supplementation, when approached correctly, can contribute greatly to your success. The very first thing you need to know about supplements is, simply, learn to look past the ads. Ads are there for one reason – to help sell the product. I’ll never forget an encounter I had way back in 1990,, when I was a first time GNC manager. There was a recent ad blitz regarding a new amino acid product that contained an exclusive type of ornithine. The ad made it seem that only there product with their “exclusive” ornithine worked. So these kids come in and wanted to see all the aminos we had and, of course none contained this exclusive type of ornithine because it was unique to that company. They were actually quite arrogant about how they knew so much more than I did because they read the ad before I saw it and they thought the ad was gospel. They left snug in the knowledge that they had pulled one over on GNC because we did not sell “effective” aminos. Of course, the product was short lived, the ad was BS and this is a prime example of ads misleading naïve shoppers. Does that mean that all products are that way? No, not at all. It simply means don’t take the ads as pure supplement fact. It’s just like any other ad for any other product – they’re trying to get a sale. The second thing you need to know about supplements is just that, they are meant to “supplement” your training and nutrition efforts – not replace them.  Finally, they are not steroids – don’t expect them to work like steroids.

Once you begin to look beyond the ads and understand the role of supplements, you can see the product for what it really is. Read the ingredient list carefully, pay attention to exactly what is in the product.  Are the active ingredients presented with individual dose levels per ingredient and are the amounts effective amounts? For example, a product contains creatine – if it’s 3-5 grams per serving, that’s not bad but if it’s half a gram or less, what good is that? Also, are all the active ingredients lumped together in a “proprietary blend”? You know, “2500mg of the following 30 nutrients”.  This leaves you with no idea of individual potency. You want to see an individual listing of each nutrient with individual dose amounts listed.

 In this day and age, there are also a lot of supplement review sites that help determine effectiveness. I myself like to read intelligent reviews on any product I may want to buy – if 20 of my peers use it and like it, that helps me in my buying decision.  Of course, not everything works the same for everybody but user ratings are helpful nonetheless.

OK, so what are the best supplements for maximum muscle?

Cornerstone Products

These are, in my mind, products that should be in any supplement program:

Protein powder – Protein powder is easily the most important supplement you can buy.  The major advantage is that it allows you to have a quick, convenient source of quality protein when you can’t get to food or if you’re having a hard time meeting your daily protein requirements. A protein shake is digested much faster than a meal, making shakes ideal for early morning and post workout use. I myself have worked in retail for over 20 years, much of that time being the only person in the store – for 8 hours or longer. In that case, a shake works much, much easier than trying to eat numerous small meals during the work day. Here are some of the different types of protein available:

Whey protein -Whey protein is the highest quality protein available. It's a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). It’s a fast digesting protein which makes it ideal for post workout and morning consumption as well as a good choice for use through-out the day. Whey protein is a by-product of the process of milk being turned into cheese.  Whey contains proteins, peptides (protein segments), lactose (milk sugar ), fat, salt and water. The quality of a protein is derived at by several methods; one of the most common methods is biological value or BV. Biological value is the measure of the efficiency of a protein and how it can be absorbed and used by the body – the higher the number the better. With regards to BV, egg protein has always been the standard with 100, until whey came out in the 90's. Now with whey protein BV can be as high as 170, making it number one on the market. When it was first introduced in the 90's, this was a key selling point as whey had to overcome the then dominance of 100% egg white protein.

There are three types of whey protein, let's take a quick look at each one:

> Whey protein isolate - the most pure form of whey protein

> Whey protein concentrate - not as pure, slightly higher fat & lactose

> Whey protein blend - a mixture of isolate and concentrate

The more pure the product the higher the price will be, in this case whey protein isolate is the most expensive form of whey protein. However, isolate is literally zero fat, zero carbs and zero lactose. It's the highest quality of the whey protein choices but, let's be honest, budget restrictions come into play here as it can be very expensive.

100% Egg White: 100% egg white was long the very best on the market with a BV of 88-100%, until whey came along that is.  100% egg white remains a quality choice, with some people preferring it over whey.

Casein: Derived from milk, a good quality and a slower digesting powder than whey. Great for night time use as you want to keep protein in your system as long as possible while you sleep. Most lifters will use both whey and casein, whey after the workout and in the morning for fast digestion and casein at night and during the day when you know you'll be without protein for more than three hours. Good protein choices would be Dymatize, Optimum and Gaspari to name a few.

Creatine – I use creatine monohydrate mixed in with Gatorade and a BCAA powder that includes Glutamine as a intra workout drink. I firmly believe in this concept. I don’t use a pre workout stimulant based product because I train in the early evening - I want to be able to sleep. The thing with a intra workout is, you’re really starting recovery before you even get done training. Training is catabolic – it leaves you in a state of glycogen depletion and muscle protein breakdown.  Recovery is so important because it reverses this situation. Using an intra workout drink limits this condition because you’re putting key aminos and carbs back into your system during training. Creatine enhances performance but also builds muscle and acts as a volumizer. Creatine itself is probably the most researched product out there and has been proven to work time and time again. I know some federations have banned it, Congress thinks it’s a steroid and some current companies seem to be against it. How naïve. Try it, it works, you’ll see good results from using it. If it doesn’t work for you, now you know and you move on to the next product.  I use creatine monohydrate by Dymatize. Other popular creatines are Con-Cret and Kre-Alkalyn.  For a intra workout drink, Intrabolic by Athletic Edge is a good choice.

BCAAs – as talked about above, great as part of a intra workout drink. BCAA’s have enjoyed recent popularity due to their contribution to anabolism and the recent, exciting research that links Leucine directly to protein synthesis. What is protein synthesis?  Protein synthesis is the process by which individual cells construct proteins. Some have referred to this process as muscle growth itself, making Leucine potentially a critical supplement.  Good choices here are Xtend by Scivation and, for me, Formula X by Athletix.

Multiple vitamin with extra B and C – a quality multi is health insurance – it insures you are not lacking in any nutrients that are essential to general good health. Many of the nutrients in a multi tie in directly to things like proper muscle contractions, energy metabolism, stress control (B+C), testosterone production – does this sound like it might be helpful for a bodybuilder?  I use vitamin packs, such as Super Vita Pack by ISS Research.

Fish oil – A great source of healthy fats, fish oil supplies the Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. It’s known to be excellent for heart health, skin health and mental health. While not a “build muscle” type product, it provides good fats you may not be getting from your diet. Optimum and NOW offer good choices.

Glutamine - Glutamine is a very common supplement  that’s usually part of a BCAA mix  as well as a single agent sold as a powder or tabs/caps. It’s a nonessential amino acid that is actually the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue. Here are the benefits of glutamine: prevents muscle catabolism, promotes muscle anabolism, enhances the immune system, and enhances glycogen storage. If you buy this separately, AST makes a good product.

Joint product – Regardless of your age, taking care of your joints with a good joint product makes sense. Years of heavy weights can take their toll on your joints, you control this by using good form, knowing when heavy is heavy enough, and using joint products proactively. Animal Flex by Universal is a solid choice.

Optional products - these are products that are important and may be a staple depending on you.

Pre workout – this is a staple in the program of many bodybuilders. These are almost always stimulant based with most newer ones containing ingredients that will enhance focus and mental intensity. They provide great workout energy, a great pump and they’re a mainstay of the “cell expansion” concept. A good choice providing you don’t mind caffeine or if you train early in the day. Most pre workouts contain at least some creatine, NO and beta alanine. There’s a long list of products here – this category was pioneered by such choices as NO-Xplode by BSN and Super Pump by Gaspari.  Popular newer products include 1 MR – this is more concentrated, and Neuro-core – this is heavily targeted on mental focus and energy. Most users have personal favorites and you have a lot of choices so this list is by no means all inclusive.

Post workout – you can approach your post workout shake two ways – make it yourself or use a pre made product. Personally, I like to make my own but there are numerous quality products out there. Look for one that covers protein and carbohydrate needs as many provide only carbs. MHP has a good post workout product with Dark Matter. Making your own? Use about 30-40 grams of whey protein and the same amount of a fast carb source, like dextrose or maltodextrin.

Test boosters/ Insulin mimickers/GH – hormone manipulation makes a lot of sense for any natural bodybuilder. The point here is that you are trying to make the most of your own hormone production through various means, such as using the right exercises and techniques as presented in Part 2 and proper nutrition and supplementation.  For me this is a staple but not everyone is willing to try these types of products, hence the “optional” classification. Each of these types of products is natural, safe, a long way from illegal drugs, and work on the body gently. In fact, just as some don’t want to try these, they may be too weak for other users. I personally have had good luck with test boosters, usually based on tribulus. New to this category are DAA supplements which I am using now with excellent results. Formula-X by Athletix is a great choice – this is my favorite new product. Other good test boosters include Vitrix by Nutrex, another product I’ve had good luck with.  Both MHP and Universal make effective GH products. Insulin mimickers are not a huge category at all but good choices here include Glycobol by Anabolic Innovations.

NO – I have to say, this is a great product and it’s tied in directly to cell expansion. First brought to market by the man that brought us creatine, NO increases blood flow which not only enhances the pump but transports nutrients to your muscles faster.  MRI actually introduced NO to the market back in 2003 and the founder of this company had a huge hand the introduction of creatine back in the 90’s – he’s known as “Mr. Ceatine”.   NO is as much part of pre workouts as it is a stand-alone product.  I’m currently using Satur8 by ISS with good results.  

Beta-Alanine  -this has been called the “new creatine”. It’s a non-essential amino acid and is the only naturally occurring beta-amino acid. Not to be confused with regular alanine, beta- alanine is classified as a non-proteinogenic amino acid, as it is not believed to be used in the building of proteins.  Benefits of Beta-Alanine include:

Increase Muscular Strength & Power Output.

Increases Muscle Mass

Increase Anaerobic Endurance

Increases Aerobic Endurance

Delay Muscular Fatigue- Train Harder & Longer

Allmax and Anabolic Extreme make good standalone Beta Alanine products.

Prohormones – this is as hardcore as you can get and still arguably be natural. Some users have no problem taking these, others condemn them instantly. Use of what really are steroids weak enough to be legal is a purely individual thing. One point: if you compete, most natural federations have banned these. This is not an easy supplement to use and if you are considering a cycle, you have to approach it much like a steroid cycle and consider the addition of in-cycle therapy and post cycle therapy to maximize your gains. The other thing is, you will not keep all your initial gains. If you, for example, gain 15 pounds over a 6 week cycle, you can expect to keep around 7 pounds if you do everything right with your post cycle therapy.

Sample Stacks –

Basic Stack:  protein powder, creatine, multi, fish oil – this is a good, basic stack that is budget conscious and will get you decent results. From this starting point, you add based on goals. Use of an intra workout should be next, a pre workout can be added, again, if caffeine is not a problem for you.  I personally always use a NO product when I use Creatine, and I like to use at least one hormonal product. The ultimate hardcore stack will be based on prohormones. However, the more you add the more you have to pay, so here’s an example of a good advanced stack that doesn’t include everything you can use:

To the base stack, add creatine which is to be used with NO and a simple carb drink such as Gatorade intra workout, and to be taken as directed at other times of the day and on off days. One point: use of creatine monohydrate requires a simple sugar product to enhance digestion, other types of creatine, such as ethyl ester or micronized, do not. With this, I would use a BCAA powder that contains Glutamine  - add this to your intra workout cocktail, and a test booster. Formula X by Athletix is just that – a test booster/BCAA mix that works great for the purpose I just described. To my knowledge, it’s the only product of its kind and it fits my needs perfectly. This stack is not all inclusive but you won’t go broke using it.

Supplement Strategies:

Hormonal Manipulation 

Let’s understand this by first looking at the main anabolic hormones in the body:

1.Growth hormone  -   stimulates cell growth by accelerating the rate of protein synthesis. Although every cell responds to GH to a point, muscle cells are particularly responsive to GH. The main stimulation of growth by GH is indirect: liver cells respond to the presence of GH by synthesizing and releasing somatomedins, also more commonly known as Insulin-like growth factor which is a peptide hormone that binds to receptor sites. In muscle fibers IGF-1 increases the rate of the uptake of amino acids and their incorporation to new proteins. GH is also involved in fat burning; this takes effect sometime after meals when blood glucose levels are normal again.

2.Testosterone -   actually this is part of a hormone group known as gonadotrophins which regulate the activities of the gonads the ovaries in women and the testes in men. There are two gonadotrophins: follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, also known as lutropin. This is the hormone that stimulates the sex hormones in men, also called androgens of which the most important is testosterone, certainly one of if not the most widely known hormone in bodybuilding. Often thought of as evil, confused with steroids, and sometimes wrongly frowned upon, testosterone is critical for muscle growth to occur. It's a steroid hormone and is made from cholesterol.  Although testosterone is often thought of as a sex hormone as it controls the development of male sexual characteristics, it has a much larger role as it ties into bodybuilding: it promotes protein synthesis and nitrogen balance leading to greater muscle growth.

3. Insulin-  Insulin is a peptide hormone released by the pancreas when glucose concentrations exceed normal levels. Elevated levels of arginine and leucine also cause this hormone to be released. Insulin effects are asserted through a series of steps that begins when it binds to receptor proteins on the cell membrane, which leads to activation of the receptor which attaches phosphate groups to intracellular enzymes. What this means is that it enhances the glucose absorption and utilization and ATP production. It also enhances amino acid absorption and protein synthesis. Additionally, it stimulates fat storage. So it can be seen that insulin is a powerful anabolic hormone but also a double edged sword.

Insulin, Carbohydrate Timing and the Anabolic Window -

The reason insulin is a double edged sword is because too many simple carbs throughout the day will lead to insulin spikes which in turn can lead to body fat gains. Therefore insulin must be controlled; you only want a spike when you are severely depleted of glycogen such as at the end of your workout. At that time insulin is very anabolic, shuttling nutrients into the muscles and blocking the catabolic hormone cortisol. Looking at the time frame around the workout, one of the best things you can do to get the best results from your training session is to set yourself up for nutritional success by eating moderate GI carbs in the hours leading up to the workout, as you approach training time, say about one hour away, you mix up a drink containing a fast absorbing carb source like maltodextrin with dextrose, or waximaize (about 30 grams), some essential aminos high in the bcaa's and glutamine, creatine and nitric oxide.  Some pre-mixed powders currently on the market will add insulin mimickers, such as chromium picolinate, cinnulin, alpha lipoic acid and 4-hydroxyisoleucine. You begin to sip your drink about one hour prior to hitting the gym, you drink one more drink through-out the workout  to help maintain an anabolic state while you train - this is the intra workout drink concept which I touched on above and as you can see, the cocktail can become quite involved. Then about 30 minutes after your workout, you can have a traditional post workout shake of whey protein and a fast digesting carb source; about 45 minutes after that a traditional solid protein/carb meal such as lean beef, chicken or turkey, brown rice and some mixed veggies. This type of nutrient timing takes full advantage of the anabolic window which typically has referred to the hour following the workout but more recently really refers to the hours that surround the workout. As well, you are taking full advantage of the cell volumization concept. This ties into sarcoplasmic hypertrophy – one of the muscle growth theories I touched in Part 1 -  which means you are increasing the volume of the sarcoplasm, the jelly-like substance that surrounds and baths the myofibrils in your muscle cells with nutrients such as water, amino acids, creatine and glycogen. Finally, this approach focuses on the anabolic benefits of insulin.

To further work with your own hormones, add in a test booster – either a basic pill based product like Vitrix or Formula X which I use as my BCAA powder – it just also happens to be a DAA powder as well. A GH releaser can be added for ultimate effect. This 3-fold supplement approach will enhance the Anabolic Surge training programs since those programs were designed in part with hormonal manipulation in mind.

Protein Timing – mid-night protein intake

It’s common for very serious bodybuilders to set their alarm for around 2am so they can have a small protein shake – say, 15-20 grams in 4-6oz of water. Why? To promote a continual anabolic state, or, state of positive nitrogen balance.  Catabolism will happen while you sleep; this is a simple, easy trick that can make a big difference – you can’t build muscle in a catabolic state.

So, that concludes this article and series. I hope you make some great gains with this program. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Strength and Training Expert Jim Brewster

Thanks for reading, Jim Brewster

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Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions or comments.


0 #2 Joseph Supp 2013-03-21 02:25
Thanks for your tip, and the link to the max lift app as well. Looks really helpful.

@ Jim--thanks for a really useful article full of serious info.
0 #1 Spencer 1RM 2012-06-03 22:30
excellent post, very detailed. just stumbled upon your blog today. looking forward to reading more.

the only thing i'd caution is as you get near your max weight, it is important to take care and precaution as that is when your body is most prone to injury. I use the max lift app from iphone that allows me to measure my limits. it's available on itunes.

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