Supplements can be confusing. Many are absolutely worth the time and effort, while others are clever marketing ploys that don’t really make much, if any, difference on your performance. Further, of the ones that are worth while, the truth is that *situationally* they aren’t appropriate. So how do you know what to take and when? It all depends where you are in the life cycle of your goals.
Here’s a fun fact: the majority of protein you eat doesn’t get used as protein. It instead gets used as a fuel source. Protein/amino acids get converted to glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. When you buy powdered branched chained amino acids or essential amino acids, they have calories. It won’t show calorie content on the label(because of an FDA regulation loophole), but if you ingest 40g of amino acids, that is roughly the same calorie content as it would be if you 40g of protein. There are some differences, but a general rule of thumb is to just treat it gram for gram. For example, these amino acids have the following calorie makeup:
Valine: 6 calories per gram
Alanine: 4.3 calories per gram
Arginine: 5.1 calories per gram
If you are trying to lose body fat, you probably shouldn’t be using bcaa’s as water flavoring, or something to sip on through the day. This would just supply your body with a convenient supply of energy, but instead, we are trying to burn fat so we want stored body fat to be used as energy, not the amino acid supplement. Same goes for sipping on amino acids during your cardio. If your goal is to burn the most amount of fat possible during your cardio session, do your cardio without sipping on amino acid supplements.
I think the best time to instead use amino acid supplements would be during your workout. Depending on what the goal is, I like to use amino acids in combination with a carbohydrate source such as Highly branched cyclic dextrin or waxy maize during workouts. On a normal training day, I will do 30g amino acids and 60g HBCD and preferably start drinking it on the way to the gym, throughout the workout, and finishing it up on my drive back home. A 1:2 ratio of amino acids to carbohydrates should be a good guideline to go by.
I have been working with Justin Harris for almost a year now, and having him to keep me on track this offseason has a been huge. When we started I was 198lbs and now I am 20lbs heavier, and I’m the leanest I have ever been at this weight and easily eating the most food I ever had in my life. I have a small appetite, so pushing the calories high has been a challenge for me. 2 weeks ago, on a check in, he brought down the calories, and this is what my new diet looks like now. It’s nice to be eating less food.
*Note: I don’t only eat meat and rice and peanut butter. This was just for an example.
Low carb days – 1x a week on my non-training day.
Meal 1 – 6 oz. meat, 1 cup rice,1tbs peanut butter
Meal 2 -5 – 6 oz. meat, 2/3 cup rice, 1.5 tbs. peanut butter
Meal 6 – 6 oz. meat, 2 tbs. peanut butter
Medium carb days – 3x a week on smaller muscle groups like arms, shoulders, or any “pump” day I may do.
Meal 1 – 6 oz. meat, 2 cups rice
Meal 2 and 3 – 6 oz. meat, 1.5 cups rice,
Meal 4 – 3 scoops intraphormance or 30g amino acids, 60g HBCD
Meal 5 – 6 oz. meat, 2 cups rice
Meal 6 and 7 – 6 oz. meat, 1 cup rice, 1.5tbs peanut butter
High carb days – 3x a week on Chest, back, and leg day.
Meal 1- 5oz meat, 2.25 cups rice
Meal 2 – 5 oz. meat 2 cups rice
Meal 3 – 5 scoops intra phormance or around 45g Amino acids, 90g HBCD from truenutrtion.com
Meal 4 – 5 oz. meat, 2.25 cups rice
Meal 5 – Cheat meal
Meal 6- Cheat meal
I am also doing 3 sessions of steady state cardio a week, 20 minutes per session, post workout.
Last Thursday I finally met up with Steven Murphy at NBS Fitness, and we decided to get in a typical bro arm session. We had a good workout, and it is always a good time catching up with Steven and getting a training session in. Hopefully this is something we can do more regularly in the future. My calves are still incredibly sore from losing count on our calf raises.
Seated Dumbbell Curls –3 sets of 10 reps with a 3 second descent.
I ended up doing 3 working sets of 30lbs. I like to do one arm at a time instead of alternating back and forth each rep. The 3 second negatives really got me to swell up pretty quick.
Barbell Curl – 6 sets of 6 with 45 sec rest between sets. 3 second decent on these as well.
Steven and I ended up using an ez curl bar. We worked up to a plate on each side for the first set or two but quickly got humbled, and we dropped the weight down to focus on some better reps
Preacher Curls – We ended up using the preacher machine on these. We did 4 sets, aiming for 15 reps, and we kept the rest time fairly quick again. After these 4 sets, our biceps were pretty smoked.
Rope Pushdowns – 4 sets of 8 reps after we got warmed up. Flexing hard at the bottom of each rep, and once we were fatigued to the point where we couldn’t do a hard flex at the bottom of the rep, we just pumped them out until we hit 15. Weight was around 120-140lbs.
Dip Machine Push Down – We put a medicine ball on the assist arm of the assisted dip/pullup machine and leaned over and did tricep pushdowns. 4 sets of 10-15 reps with a slow and controlled negative each rep. These felt good and I liked them, but I need to figure out a better hand position. I was struggling to find an angle that didn’t irritate my wrist.
Incline Skull Crushers – 4 sets of 10 here. We used an ez bar and brought the bar back behind our head and got a really good stretch on every rep. The weight we used here was only around 75lbs.
Standing Calf Raises – 8 sets of 10 reps, flexing hard at the top of each rep. Me and Steven lost count and probably did around 15 sets on here before we said something. We worked up to 3 plates and some change for our work.
Seated Calf Raise – I was very fatigued from the sets of calf raises before this. I think we only worked up to a plate and a half, or 2 plates max and did 4 sets of 10.
I decided to pick up a new hobby. I wanted to choose one that didn’t consist of anything to do with weight training or me having to exert much physical energy into, but something that would challenge me and force me to learn something new. After pondering for a while, I got the mental stimulation I needed from a Joe Rogan Experience podcast. I forgot who the guest was, but they were talking about The Walking Dead, and the logistics of how to survive, like acquiring water, food, etc. I started thinking to myself how I would survive. I could hunt, but eating only meat would suck, what would I eat along with it? And I realized that I’ve never grown any food in my life
As I started gardening, I realized how awesome and relaxing it is. You are ultimately playing a god-like figure. You are creating this new life, caring for it through its life cycle, and at the end of its life, you harvest it and it gives you nutrition in return. I, for some reason, can’t get over how awesome that is. Call me a hippy or whatever, gardening is the shit. I also feel that it is important to learn these skills. I mean, humans have only very recently in time, not been growing their own food.
Let’s go over my setup. I converted my spare closet into a grow closet. Translation: I took all of Annie’s clothes and put them somewhere else. Since a closet has obviously much less space than my backyard, I decided I needed to use a method that was space conservative, and I also wanted limited working parts. I researched a lot, and discovered Kratky’s hydroponic method. All you do is start out a seed in something like rockwool, or clay pebbles, Jiffy pellet, etc. and beneath that grow medium, sits in a bucket or container of water and nutrient solution. As the plant grows, the roots grow down and submerge themselves, sucking up the nutrient rich water. The roots out of the water take in co2. No watering or feeding necessary once you set it up. You also need a light source to mimic the sun, and a timer that cuts the light off and on at the same time. I just use cheap shop lights you’d see in a garage and they work fine. I have been using mason jars, protein jugs, and storage totes as containers. I have 2 basil plants, 8 heads of lettuce, a big tomato plant, and I just started germinating cilantro, spinach, more lettuce, California wonder bell peppers, and a handful of strawberries.
A few weeks days ago, I harvested my lettuce. I left about 3 inches from the base, so my lettuce will continue growing more heads for me. One seed can produce multiple plants if you leave the base intact and keep feeding them. I am proud of myself for learning a new skill and following it through. I am totally addicted to gardening now, and will always be growing vegetables and herbs. I just recently ordered some peppermint, parsley, and dill seeds and I am excited to start germinating those suckers. After these lettuce finish up, I will be growing California wonder pepper plants in the big storage totes that my lettuce is currently in.
I am getting very interested in aquaponics, which is a self sustaining system that uses live fish to give nutrients to the plants through their waste products, the plants suck up the nutrients which filters the water back into fresh water that is recycled back to the fish. Next year me and a friend are going to build one at his place and see what we can grow out of it. Too bad The Walking Dead characters don’t know about aquaponics or Kratky’s hydroponic method!
I usually suggest people to eat whole foods as opposed to protein shakes, and to drink protein shakes as their last option. Whole food meals are going to be your best bet for improving body composition, and your diet should consist of mostly whole foods. I do think however, there is a time and a place for protein powder. You shouldn’t just nix them out altogether.
Times of convenience
Protein powder is just more convenient to tote around as opposed to a chicken breast. I am a full-time student, and most of my classes are back to back. Some teachers don’t care about eating in class, but some do. This is when a protein shake comes in handy. This also applies to people who work at a job that they can’t exactly take 20 minutes to eat a chicken and rice meal every 2-3 hours. Other times like traveling, and any other everyday life responsibilities could also not let you have time to eat, but you can almost always drink a shake.
When you are really pushing calories high
Another good time to use protein powders is when you are pushing calories, and are struggling to get the meals in. I have the appetite of a bird. On my high carb days, I am pushing around 5-6k calories and on normal training days around 4k. Sometimes I just don’t have the appetite to down a steak and rice meal every 2 or 3 hours. 2 cups plus of rice, and a 5-6oz steak is a lot of food volume. But If I opt for something like a whey protein shake and a simple carbohydrate such as kid’s cereal or something, that is easy to put down, and it digests quickly, so within a few hours I will be hungry again as opposed to still feeling full. However, If I was in a prep or trying to lose weight, I wouldn’t be opting for a protein shake and kid’s cereal. When you’re hungry, you are going to feel much fuller between meals eating steak and rice and veggies as opposed to a whey shake and kid’s cereal.
I almost don’t even want to put a post workout section in an article about the best times to use protein powder, but this point kind of piggy backs from the previous paragraph. I think if you can, it is best to eat a whole food meal post workout, such as steak and rice. However, after a hard leg or back day, it can be very challenging to get down a large steak and rice meal. If you are in a situation where your appetite is taking 2-3 hours to come back after a hard workout, and it’s throwing off the rest of your meal timing, you can opt out of the whole food meal and replace for some faster digesting foods. As mentioned earlier, kid’s cereal and whey protein are a great option here. Drinking calories is much easier to get down, and it won’t make you feel as full, and fast digesting powder like whey is something you can really benefit from here. If you can down the steak and rice though, opt for that.
Christian came to me around Christmas of last year wanting to start following a diet plan. Anyone who knows Christian knows he has a good bit of muscle on him, and he walks around pretty lean. I knew working with him was going to be a fun time. Christian came to me eating fairly low calories. From Christmas until we were around 8 weeks out, we were slowly pushing calories up. At the 8 weeks out mark, we tightened up a bit and made a few adjustments and coasted with that game plan until around 3 weeks out. Christian’s diet at 3 weeks out looked like the following: (please note that this wasn’t his exact diet. He may have eaten carbs instead of rice and different fats instead of nut butter. I just use meat, rice and peanut butter for examples.) He was around 190lbs at this point.
Medium carb day
Meal 1 – 5 oz meat, just under 2 cups rice.
Meal 2 – 5 oz meat, 1 cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 3 – Same as meal 2
Meal 4 (Intraworkout drink )– 15g amino acid, 30g HBCD
Meal 5 – 5 oz meat, just under 2 cups rice
Meal 6 – 5oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter.
Meal 7 – 5oz meat, 2 tbs of nut butter.
High carb day
Meal 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 – 4 oz meat, 2 cups rice
Meal 4 – 45g amino acid, 90g HBCD.
Meal 7 – cheat meal.
Low carb day –
Meal 1 – 6 oz meat, 1 cup rice, 1 tbs peanut butter
Meal 2 – 6oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 3 – 6 oz meat, ½ cup rice, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 4 – 6 oz meat, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 5 – 6 oz meat, 1tbs peanut butter
Meal 6 – 6 oz meat, 2tbs peanut butter