If you have made a training plan, you have the cycles that you would go through, you track your meals/nutrition, then you might understand what else is missing. If you are not a good eater (which is pretty often the case with beginners), then you would see by now, that you won’t be able to take in all the necessary daily calories from only ’clean food sources’. This is when a ’weight gainer’ can be handy. Weight gainers normally have plenty of carbs beside proteins. If you can take in enough calories but you struggle getting sufficient amount of protein from solid food, then you can use protein powders to complement your meal plan.
How much should you take? This is why you should keep track on all your meals and write a meal/nutrition diary. You will find the nutrition information label on every packs. You will see how much carbohydrate/protein/fat the powder contain and you can calculate the amount you need according to your meal plan. If you are to increase or decrease your calorie intake, then the simpliest way to do this is by supplements.
So, the basic supplements are:
- Supplements containing carbs – weight gainers, the protein content of these powders is 5-35% They can help to get those extra calories needed when trying to gain weight. As weight gainers mostly have simply sugars, consume them moderately and try to get the majority of your carbs from solid foods
- Supplements containing proteins – protein content is min.60%. They are suitable to complement either ’bulking’ or ’cutting’ diets. One of the most important properties of protein powders is biological value, which is a measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from a food which becomes incorporated into the proteins of the body. Plant proteins are, in this regard, are poorer than animal protein sources. One of the highest biological value protein source is whey protein. When choosing a protein powder you should also consider the possible food allergies. If someone has soy, egg or milk allergy, then they have to choose other protein sources.
- Vitamins, mineral supplements – micro nutrients which can’t be manufactured by our body (in most cases), so we need to take them in with our nutrition. While a bodybuilder’s diet can be pretty strict regarding the food choices, but at the same time, their body is under constant, huge stress from training, the application of these supplements is highly recommended
- Amino acids – proteins are actually chains of amino acids. Complex amino acids are, simply put, encapsulated/ tableted protein powders (sometimes altered a bit, like enzimatic pre-digestion). So, when do we need them? When it is convenient…when we can’t bring a freezer-bag with us, or when we can’t make a protein shake, we are still able to pop in some amino tablets. There are two types of individual amino acids which are more important from a body builder’s point of view: glutamine and bcaas (isoleucine, leucine, valine). Glutamine helps the faster recovery of muscles after training, and bcaas helps preserve muscle mass during training.
- Creatine – This is the safest and most effective supplement available today to build muscles (Naturally, creatine alone doesn’t build muscles, you need a proper diet and a training program)
- Other supplements such as plant extracts, individual amino acids, different other natural nutrients and molecules, in the form of tablets, caplets, liquids or powder These supplements can help provided you have your diet sorted and you follow a progressive training plan. I have to dissapoint you, there are no magic pills for fat loss or muscle gain. First you have to build a diet plan and also, a training plan which can support your goals. As long as you don’t have these sorted there is absolutely no point of using supplements. There are certain supplements, for example for joint health, skin care, which are beneficial (and maybe healthy too), but if you don’t have the basics, then these won’t make any difference towards reaching your goals.
There are two very important factors to mention: adequate fluid intake and sufficient sleep.
Fluid intake is extremely important for everyone, especially for athletes. In case of body builders, it is not only important because of sweating but also because of the by-products of the extra food and nutrient intake as water is needed for the detoxification process in the body. How much and what is the optimal fluid intake? At least 2-4 liters of water daily (even more for advanced athletes). For the novice trainees, who don’t drink water consciously, it can sound a lot.
Hint: do it gradually. Grab a bottle of water and bring it with you and drink it all. In 1-2 weeks you should get to a point where you drink two bottles of water a day. High intake of protein is necessary for muscle building but this high intake can also stress the kidneys hence you have to drink as much as possible. Remember, your body is trying to get back to the state of homeostasis and you are trying to divert it from it…so drink!
Rest. No, bodybuilding doesn’t get along with partying, drinking, smoking and drugs. These all work against homeostasis and your body will try compensate these by self-regulation, which needs energy and this energy will come from the energy that could be used for progression, musclebuilding and adaptation. If you are serious about this sport, then you will quit smoking, stop drinking and partying (or at least minimise the number of occasions). After an intense training session your muscles, your nervous system, your metabolism need time and energy to recover. Hence you need to rest/sleep. You need at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily and in an ideal world you could have a 1-1.5h nap during the day as well. Not everyone can cope with tough sessions every day. Take a day off from training and have a rest day. If you need more than one day, rest more days. Pay attention to the signs of ovetraining.
Continuous training and permanent attention to diet is exhausting mentally as well. It is essential to be able to recover mentally. The success of a bodybuilder is not decied in the gym, nor in the kitchen but in the head. Make the decisions you need for your success, in the gym: weights, form, progression and in the kitchen: no junk food, no garbage, whole, nutritious food coupled with good timing but at the same time you need the ability to relax, to have a break and fill your life with other things too. There is life beyond your body (and the love of your body)…
The question of the amount of muscles gained in a week, in a month or in a year is always asked. Nobody can tell the answer to this question. Reading this short summary it should be obvious, there is no exact solution or formula to calculate it. Genetical factors such as training (technique, quantity, training system, level of the trainee, etc.), nutrition, supplements, timing, psychological factors, rest (mostly sleep), illnesses can all influence the extent of your potential for progression.
In reality, an absolute beginner who starts eating properly and trains hard can achieve 0,5-1kg gains/week for months, in case of superb genetics. An average-built person can be satisfied enough with 0,5-1kg gains monthly in the first year. If someone is not so lucky genetically, then they may struggle to gain 1-2kg a year.