The Magic Window

 Supplementing before and after weight training can provide a tremendous boost to your muscle and strength gains, but you have to time it perfectly.  Here’s how.

Every great story has a beginning, middle, and an end, and every great workout deserves the same.  Too many people think hitting the weights as hard as they can is all that they need to do to make amazing gains.  But that’s only getting the middle right.

The body of research on weight training shows that you can dramatically enhance your results by taking specific supplements before and after your workout.  In other words, you’ll get much better growth if you think of your pre-workout period (one hour before training) as the “beginning” of your workout, and your post workout period (one hour after training) as the “end” of your workout.  By taking advantage of these two critical hours – something we call the “magic window” – you’ll get even better results than you will from training alone.

Here are TVIFITGUY’S  pre- and post workout recommendations for maximizing muscle growth:

THE MAGIC WINDOW PRE-WORKOUT:
Here’s a rundown of the timing and dosing of the most essential sports supplements you should take within the one-hour magic window before your workout.

Caffeine
Numerous research studies show that this central nervous system stimulant enhances workout performance through a number of mechanisms.  Caffeine provides the needed drive and energy for high-intensity training by enhancing the amount of fat you burn during workouts.  It has also been shown to immediately increase muscle strength.  Moreover, caffeine blunts muscle pain during workouts so that you can take your training to failure – and beyond – for maximum gains in muscle size.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 200-400 mg of caffeine in supplement form about an hour before workouts.  You can also drink a cup or two of coffee, but research demonstrates that supplemental forms of caffeine are more effective.

No Boosters
            Nitric oxide (NO) is a ubiquitous molecule, meaning it’s found throughout the body and is involved in multiple processes.  Most importantly for muscle building, though, are its effects on the dilation of blood vessels.
            When you take supplements that boost NO production, blood vessels become larger in diameter, allowing more blood to flow to your muscles to deliver more oxygen, nutrients and anabolic hormones.  This leads to even greater energy during workouts, a bigger muscle pump and better muscle recovery and growth after training.
            Although some people think NO boosters actually provide NO, in fact they supply NO precursors, such as the amino acids arginine and citrulline, as well as ingredients that help convert these aminos into NO, such as Pycnogenol.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take an NO booster that provides 3-5 g of arginine in the form of L-arginine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, arginine ethyl ester or arginine malate about 30-60 minutes before you work out.

Whey Protein
      Research shows that this fast-digesting protein, which is rich in branched-chain amino acids
(BCAAs), boots muscle growth, especially when used around workouts.  It also contains peptides that increase blood flow to the muscles.  This makes whey the ideal workout protein.
            When you take whey before workouts, it helps to deliver more oxygen, nutrients and anabolic hormones to your muscles, which provides you with more energy, and enhances muscle pumps and helps to prevent muscle breakdown during workouts. 

  1. Timing and Dose: Take at least 20 g of whey protein (mixed in water) during the 30 minutes before each workout.

BCAAs
            The branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are hands down the most critical amino acids for repairing and building muscle.  They stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which leads to muscle growth, and they also blunt the catabolic hormone cortisol.  Taking BCAAs before workouts is important because muscles use these aminos for fuel, helping to prevent fatigue during workouts.
            Although whey is rich in BCAAs, you can get even more benefits by boosting your pre workout whey shake with extra BCAAs to give you extra gains in both strength and muscle mass.  In fact, a study from researchers at the Weider Research Group reported that trained lifters taking BCAAs around workout time experienced significantly greater gains in muscle mass and strength as compared to those taking just whey protein.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 5-10 g of BCAAs during the 30 minutes before each workout.  Look for BCAA products that provide leucine at ratio of 2:1 per dose of isoleucine and valine.  In other words, a 5-g dose of BCAAs should provide 2.5 g of leucine, 1.25 g of isoleucine and 1.25 g of valine.

Creatine
            Made from the amino acids arginie and glycine, creatine is the proven thoroughbred of muscle-building supplements.  Hundreds of studies support its effectiveness, with reports of gains in strength of more than 10% and gains in muscle mass of more than 10 lb over a relatively short period of time as compared to weight training without supplementing with creatine.
            Creatine works through a number of mechanisms. It helps the muscles create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the quick form of energy that muscles need to perform rep after rep during workouts.  It also pulls more water into muscle cells, which can have a long-term effect on increasing muscle growth.  And it can boost levels of a critical muscle growth factor known as insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I).

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 2-5 g of creatine in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine malate, creatine ethyl ester or creatine alpha-ketoglutarate during the 30 minutes before each workout.

Beta-Alanine
            This amino acid gets combined with the amino acid histidine in the body to form carnosine.  Muscles with higher levels of carnosine have greater strength and enhurance, as carnosine increases the muscle’s ability to contract with more force and to do so for longer without fatiguing.  Studies confirm the athletes who take beta-alanine experience increased muscle strength and endurance.
            Recent research also shows that beta-alanine enhances creatine’s ability to stimulate muscle growth, as trained weightlifters taking beta-alanine plus creatine gained significantly more muscle mass than those taking creatine alone.  Another study of beta-alanine reported that subjects following a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio program actually gained muscle mass by supplementing with beta-alanine, despite not lifting weights.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 1-3 g of beta-alanine during the 30 minutes before each workout.

Carnitine
            This supplement can enhance muscle growth through a number of mechanisms, all of which are supported by clinical research.  For starters, carnitine increases blood flow to muscles, which means if further boosts the effects provided by NO boosters and whey protein.
            In addition, carnitine increases the amount of fat you burn during workouts by taking more fat from storage and carrying it into the mitochondria of muscle cells, where it is burned for fuel.  This not only helps reduce body fat, but it also enhances your energy levels during workouts.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 1 or 2 g of carnitine in the form of l-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine or L-carnitine-L-tartrate during the 30 minutes before each workout.

The Magic Window: Post Workout
            Much of the reason that this period is so critical is because, when the final set is over, your muscles are like sponges and will absorb the majority of nutrients you throw at them.  Here’s rundown of what you should take after you finish your workout, and exactly when you should take each of these supplements.

Whey Protein
            Research confirms that one of the most critical times to get in whey protein is immediately after workouts.  That’s because the muscles are being broken down after your workouts from the stress of lifting weights.  Consuming a fast digesting protein, such as whey, shifts this dynamic, so instead of breaking down muscle tissue, your body turns to building muscles.
            Whey protein does this by promoting muscle protein synthesis (the method whereby muscles grow through the building of muscle grow through the building of muscle protein, one amino acid at a time).  Whey is among the very best choices to make after a workout due to its very rapid digestion and its rich supply of BCAAs.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 20-30 g of whey protein (mixed in water) within 30 minutes of completing every weight training workout.

Casein
            The other milk protein, casein, boosts the benefits of supplementing with whey.  Casein is a much slower-digesting protein as compared to whey.
            Years ago, slow-digesting proteins were considered inferior after workouts because your body only has a short time window to boost recovery and muscle growth.  Yet research now shows that taking casein after workouts is as effective as whey at boosting muscle growth.  And when you combine both whey and casein protein after workouts, research confirms that you boost the muscle growth benefits you get compared to taking either alone.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take 10-20 g of casein protein with your post workout whey shake within 30 minutes of completing every weight-training workout.

Vitargo
            Vitargo is a patented complex carbohydrate supplement that has plenty of clinical research supporting its superiority over other carbs.  Vitargo moves through the stomach at a rate that is more than twice as fast as typical sugars, such as those found in sports drinks.  The results is a carb that gets into your bloodstream much faster than any other carb, resulting in an incredible spike in the anabolic hormone insulin.  This insulin spike helps deliver those carbs - as well as the amino acids from whey, casein and BCAAs, plus creatine – to your muscle fibers.

  1. Timing and Dose: Go with 35-70 g of Vitargo within 30 minutes of completing every weight-training workout.

BCAAs
            Now that you know how critical BCAAs are, it should come as no surprise that M&B recommends you take another dose after workouts.
            As mentioned earlier, boosting muscle protein synthesis after workouts is critical for recovery and muscle growth.  Research shows that BCAAs can directly alter pathways in muscle cells that results in the greater stimulation of muscle protein synthesis.  Providing BCAAs after a workout complements your pre workout dose, giving you greater results than taking just one of these doses.

  1. Timing and Dose: Go with another 5-10 g dose of BCAAs within 30 minutes of completing every weight-training workout.

Creatine
            As mentioned above, one major mechanism by which creatine improves muscle growth is through the boost it supplies in levels of IGF-I in muscle cells.  IGF-I is critical after workouts to push muscle growth through the roof.  After workouts is the best time to replenish muscle creatine levels, as the muscles are like sponges, eager to absorb nutrients, and the fast-digesting carbs help to really push creatine into the muscle cells.  This is one reason why your muscles feel so full after using creatine.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take another 2-5 g dose within 30 minutes of completing every weight-training workout.

Beta-Alanine
            As with creatine, you need another dose of this critical amino acid after workouts to maximize the levels of carnosine in muscle.  The insulin spike you’ll have after workouts from the fast carbs will ensure that the muscles are saturated with carnosine.  And with its synergistic effects with creatine, you’ll enjoy an even bigger boost post workout.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take another 1-3 g dose within 30 minutes after workouts.

Carnitine
            The latest research on carnitine finds that to maximize its levels inside muscle cells, the best time to take it is when insulin is spiked, such as after workouts when you have consumed a fast-digesting form of carbs.
            Research also shows that when testosterone levels are high (as they are after workouts) carnitine helps to get more testosterone into muscle cells.  It also increases blood flow to muscles, so it will drive all the other supplements to the muscles – as well as oxygen and anabolic hormones – to better enhance muscle recovery and growth.

  1. Timing and Dose: Take a 1- or 2-g dose of carnitine within 30 minutes after workouts.

AFTER WORKOUTS IS THE BEST TIME TO REPLENISH MUSCLE CREATINE LEVELS, AS THE MUSCLE ARE LIKE SPONGES, EAGER TO ABSORB NUTRIENTS.

THE MAGIC WINDOW: CHART VERSION

Here are pre- and post workout recommendations that is condensed into one handy chart.

Pre Workout Supplements

Supplement

Dosage

Timing (before workout)

Caffeine

200-400 mg

60 minutes

NO booster

3-5 g

30-60 minutes

Whey Protein

20 g

30 minutes or fewer

BCAA’s

5-10 g

30 minutes or fewer

Creatine

2-5 g

30 minutes or fewer

Beta- Alanine

1-3 g

30 minutes or fewer

Carnitine

1 or 2 g

30 minutes or fewer

Post Workout Supplements

Supplement

Dosage

Timing (after workout)

Whey Protein

20-30 g

Within 30 minutes

Casein

10-20 g

Within 30 minutes

Vitargo

35-70 g

Within 30 minutes

BCAA’s

5-10 g

Within 30 minutes

Creatine

2-5 g

Within 30 minutes

Beta-alanine

1-3 g

Within 30 minutes

Carnitine

1 or 2 g

Within 30 minutes

 


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