Anyone remember newbie gains? I do, fondly. That period of time when you first start strength training when gains seem to come quickly and easily as a result of simply turning up to the gym. But alas, the newbie gain train eventually comes to an end, and we are faced with putting hard and consistent work over a long period of time to add kilos to our lifts. I’m not even going to tell you the embarrassing amount of time it’s taken me to add a measly 2.5kg to my benchpress. (As a side note, have you ever noticed how many people quit strength sports when newbie gains end?) Other than smart programming, progressive overload, good nutrition and rest and recovery, there are three supplements that all serious strength athletes should be taking.
Whey Protein Isolate or Whey Protein Concentrate
Both WPI and WPC are proteins derived from cows milk. They differ only in the number of times they have been filtered, with the extra filtering of WPI resulting in a higher protein, lower carbohydrate and fat protein powder than WPC. WPI and WPC provide the amino acid building blocks we need to build more muscle. Whey protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, including high levels of the amino acid leucine, which has been shown to effectively trigger and stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
A daily dose of at least 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight a day is optimal for increasing muscle size and strength. If possible, protein intake should be timed around training. As far as high quality, and convenience options WPI and WPC are ideal protein sources to help strength athletes progress in their training.
Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule and is also one of the most well researched and evidence backed supplements on the market. We can produce creatine in our bodies using the amino acids glycine and arginine or obtain it from foods including red meat and seafood. Creatine molecules act as storage units for high energy phosphate groups which are essential to energy production.
Creatine increases the rate at which energy can be produced and used within our body. Creatine helps you work harder and work longer by replenishing your energy systems. This increases peak power output, and this in turn aids your sports performance and body composition. When used in conjunction with a resistance training program, creatine facilitates builds lean muscle. This effect results from an increase in weight and volume lifted during training due to creatine supplementation. Creatine also improves recovery by reducing inflammation resulting from high intensity or prolonged endurance exercise.
Creatine should be taken every day as its effectiveness comes from an accumulation of it in your muscle tissue. It does not need to be timed around your training. The easiest way to incorporate it into your supplement regime is to add it to your daily protein shake. A daily dose of 2-5g is recommended – and you should aim towards the upper limit if you don’t have any digestive issues.
Casein is another type of dairy protein found in cows milk, however, unlike whey protein, which is rapidly digested, casein is slowly digested and absorbed. This slow digestion of provides a sustained release of amino acids into the blood stream, which in turn provides the building materials for muscle repair and growth over a longer period of time.
Studies have shown that taking casein before bed increases night-time muscle synthesis. In other words, casein helps you repair and build muscle as you sleep and this results in strength gains. The study found that men who strength trained and took 28g of protein, along with 15g of carbohydrate before bed showed greater increase in muscle size and strength gains then men who did not take protein before bed.
If you want to read more about casein you can check out this blog here.