Expert Advice: Muscle-Building Supplements

Our expert weighs in on how to get the most out of your supplements
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Q: I’m trying to gain mass but
 I work out in the morning, so my preworkout nutrition is hard to get in. I know that I should take my nitric oxide booster on an empty stomach, but how do I also get in my protein shake and carbs?

A: Take your NO booster as soon as you wake up. Then, 30 minutes later, drink a protein shake with about 20 g of whey. Also, have about 20 to 40 g of carbs from fruit to help stop the catabolism from your night of sleep and to fuel your workout.

Q: Are extra amino acids a waste of time? Will I really see a difference?

A: As a whole, they are the most critical amino acids to take. Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston) found that leucine (the key branched-chain amino acid) is crucial for kick-starting the muscle growth process. Leucine is one of three BCAAs. In a study that I conducted with colleagues from the College of Charleston (South Carolina), we found that trained bodybuilders taking additional BCAAs gained more than twice the strength and muscle mass — and lost more than twice as much bodyfat — as those not taking them.

Q: When is the best time to take L-arginine — before a workout or before going to sleep?

A: Arginine is best taken without food. I suggest 3–5 g first thing in the morning before eating, 30 to 60 minutes before workouts and 30 to 60 minutes before bed.

Q: I’ve been doing 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training four or five days a week after my weightlifting sessions. I’m on a reduced-carb diet and my legs are starting to lose all their energy. Should I switch to a more moderate intensity? I’m afraid I may be starting to lose some muscle.

A: That’s common when doing HIIT on low carbs. The good news is that when your legs fatigue like that, it’s a sure sign that you are burning major bodyfat. When you are losing bodyfat, you will lose overall size, but not necessarily muscle. That’s why it’s good to have your bodyfat tested before you start a diet to know what you are losing. If you think you are losing muscle, be sure that your protein intake is about 1.5 g per pound of bodyweight and consider adding one high-carb day per week. Also consider supplementing with creatine and beta-alanine for the stop-and-go energy you need for HIIT.

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