Recap: The Purpose of Supplements
Just in case you missed my last article, I want to start with a quick reminder: supplements are extras. Before you start looking at any supplements – even something as simple as creatine monohydrate or fish oil – you need to make sure that your diet and training are in order.
By “in order,” I mean that you’re following a healthful diet, low in processed foods, high in protein, that provides a slight caloric surplus (assuming you’re bulking). I mean that you’re following a progressive training program, and giving each and every workout 100% effort. Yes, there are lots of more advanced strategies you can implement with regard to both diet and training, but these are the minimums.
Once you’ve got those minimums covered, you might want to start looking into supplements. And if you’re bulking, you can’t go wrong with these:
During your training, you want a mix of EAAs and fast- digesting carbohydrates. There’s a lot of good science that shows how supplementing with EAAs (particularly leucine) around training stimulates muscle growth. We need the carbs because muscle glycogen is depleted relatively rapidly during training – and again, the research shows that a moderate carbohydrate intake during training stimulates muscle growth (and can sometimes increase performance, too). High molecular weight (HMW) carbohydrates tend to be best here, as they’re most rapidly digested and therefore reach your muscles the quickest.
I also suggest you get in 5-10 grams of creatine monohydrate during your training. Creatine is proven to safely and effectively increase strength and weight. There are many, many different forms of creatine available, but the “standard,” creatine monohydrate, is just as good as any of the fancier variations, and much less expensive.
The easiest way to do all this: slam a scoop of Granite’s Recovery. It has everything you need, tastes incredible, and is easily the most convenient all-in-one solution you’ll find. It’s got both the right combination of EAAs and HMW carbohydrates to fuel an intense training session. Now, remember, supplements are extra. Hell, a pint of fat-free chocolate milk is probably sufficient for your intra-workout nutrition, although I’d rather you use something a little easier on the stomach. Personally, though, I much prefer the peace of mind from using Recovery, because when I take it, I know I’m doing all I possibly can to maximize my training response and muscle growth.
Oh, and there’s one more benefit to intra-workout supplements: you’re sneaking in some extra calories! (Yes, EAAs have calories, just like protein, and obviously so do carbohydrates). That can be a huge bonus when you’re struggling to get down enough whole food.
During a bulking phase, you should be training pretty heavy – maybe not in every single workout, but certainly in most. This type of training will provide the stimulus you need for growth. The downside? It can also lead to aching joints.
That’s where joint support comes in. Now, common knowledge says to take high doses of fish oil to prevent joint issues, because good research does show that fish oil can help reduce inflammation. I’m a huge fan of high-quality fish oil for health reasons, but in my experience, even very high doses will do very little to help your joints.
Granite’s Joint Care, on the other hand, contains collagen and curcumin – both of which also have a lot of good research supporting their efficacy, and, in my experience, work much, much better than fish oil. Now, I’m a powerlifter, so I’m lifting heavy and hard almost all of the time, so I double up on my Joint Care dose. But as long as I’m taking even the minimum, I find that the persistent aches in my shoulders, elbows, and knees are virtually nonexistent.
One caveat: Joint Care won’t make you invincible. It won’t entirely prevent tendonitis or muscle and tendon strains and tears. You still need to train responsibly and listen to your body – but Joint Care can definitely help, by taking the edge off of heavy training.
Do You Need a Mass Gainer?
I think the one “bulking staple” missing from this list is a mass gainer – but that’s not an oversight. See, the truth is that mass gainers are typically just a little bit of protein powder mixed with a whole lot of sugar. While sugar might have a time and place (it’s not a terrible substitute for a HMW carb intra-workout, for example), if you’re getting most of your calories from a mass gainer, you’re missing out on the opportunity to fuel your body with quality food from whole, unprocessed sources.
But what if you just can’t stomach any more whole food, and you want to gain solid mass? Well, first, I feel your pain. I do not have a huge appetite myself, so trying to bulk up is a struggle. Fortunately, Granite’s still got ya covered. You’ll just use a mix of EAAs and Intra-Carb instead of Recovery. Here’s how you do it:
1. Figure out how many grams of carbohydrates you need to add to your diet in order to meet your caloric intake goals. Remember, the peri-workout window is the most important time to get in nutrients, so you’ll want to be fairly aggressive here. About 0.25 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight is a good place to start for your peri-workout nutrition, but you can easily do double that — in fact, I know some pro strongmen who take in as much as TWICE their bodyweight in grams of carbs around their training! I don’t recommend starting there, but the point is clear: get your carbs in.
2. Once you’ve got that number, you can determine how much Intra-Carb you need. Each scoop has about 20 grams of carbs, so divide your total peri-workout carb needs by 20, and that’s how many scoops you should use.
3. Add EAAs: about 15 grams (2 heaping scoops) is perfect. If you’re over 250 pounds, go with 3 scoops. PROTIP: GET THE SAME FLAVOR OF INTRA CARB AND EAA. I’ve made the mistake of mixing Candy Green Apple with Strawberry Lemonade — it’s not bad, but doubling up on the same flavor is way better.
That’s it! It’s easy — so what are you waiting for? Get to the gym and, as always: Think Strong and Train Hard!