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Stacking For Mass
The supplements you need for staggering size and strength you crave in the off-season
One of the most common inquiries I get from bodybuilders and other athletes is which supplements they should be stacking to get the best results possible. It seems like everyone’s looking for the extra edge to quickly achieve their goals. Throughout this article, I’m going to detail my personal recommendations on stacking for mass. Of course, sometimes budget comes into play, as supplements can become quite costly depending on what you decide to use. So, within this article, I’ll break things down into the A-, B-, and C-list of mass-stacking supplements.
A-LIST MASS STACK
Supplements that land on the A-list are the foundation of your mass-building supplement plan and should be prioritized over everything else. In fact, most of the essential supplements that I recommend can be used as the foundation for all supplement stacking plans, no matter what your goal is!
My A-list essentials include a multivitamin/mineral, good-quality whey protein powder, greens powder, fish oil, and a fibre supplement. Although these supplements aren’t specifically designed to build mass, if you don’t have your nutritional foundation in order with these supplement essentials, you’ll never maximize your body’s potential to achieve any goal, whether it’s burning fat or building mass. So, make sure you cover the basics before adding the B-list and C-list high-tech supplements to your mass stack plan.
Athletes and those who are training to pack on mass often have greater micronutrient requirements than the average person. Using a top-quality multivitamin/mineral supplement ensures that your daily requirements are covered. Often, a good multi will also include other key nutrients that can go a long way in supporting your muscle and strength gains.
2. Whey Protein Powder
Protein is an extremely important part of any athlete’s diet and is essential for proper growth and repair. Many athletes find that the most convenient way to make sure they’re getting enough protein throughout the day is to use a high-quality protein supplement, such as whey. Whey protein is derived from milk and has a very high biological value and is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and is absorbed extremely quickly. For this reason, it’s best to use whey protein first thing in the morning, before training and after working out when your muscles need a fast-acting source of essential amino acids.
3. Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) / Fish Oil
EFAs provide a host of health benefits and are imperative for optimal growth and performance. Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6s (linoleic acid), and are fats that must be obtained from your diet (or supplements) because they can’t be made by the body. Fish oil is the best source of pure omega-3s, and the benefits of fish oil are mainly attributed to the omega-3 essential fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
4. Greens Products
Consistent daily use of a top-quality greens supplement can have several beneficial effects on muscle growth. Greens supplements supply the body with a megadose of antioxidants and also help maintain acid-base balance in the body. Maintaining acid-base balance is arguably their most valuable benefit. If your diet is made up of too many acid-yielding foods (i.e., proteins), your body’s pH will get out of balance and this can result in muscle catabolism (aka muscle breakdown), which we don’t want!
5. Fibre Supplements
Fibre is important because it helps ensure proper health of your digestive tract, which is crucial when you’re trying to pack on mass. A healthy digestive tract means your body can more efficiently digest, absorb, and utilize the macro and micronutrients you take in. Some might have enough fibre in your diet, but many of us just can’t seem to get enough from regular foods. There are two main types of fibre. Soluble fibre binds with fatty acids and prolongs stomach emptying time so that sugar is released and absorbed more slowly. Insoluble fibre moves bulk through the intestines and helps balance acidity in the intestines. For optimal digestion, it’s important to take in a balance of both types.
B-LIST MASS STACK
PERFORMANCE & RECOVERY SUPPLEMENTS
The B-list supplements can be considered almost essential for packing on mass and can be added on to your stack after you have your A-list essentials covered. Creatine, amino acids, and pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout powders all fall into this category. Anyone who’s looking to build mass knows that greater performance and faster recovery can go a long way in helping build mass and the supplements detailed here all contribute to improvements in both performance and recovery, resulting in a heightened anabolic state for maximum growth!
Creatine is the most heavily researched sports supplement of all time and could almost be considered an essential mass stack supplement. Creatine has the ability to increase strength, power, speed, overall athletic performance, and of course, muscle growth. Any athlete looking to pack on mass should definitely try to include a good creatine supplement in his or her regimen. Creapure creatine monohydrate is a great choice, but my favorite type of creatine right now is, hands-down, creatine hydrochloride.
2. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are a group of essential amino acids that play a key role in protein synthesis (aka muscle growth). The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Countless scientific studies have confirmed the incredibly powerful effects that BCAAs have on muscle growth at the cellular level. If your goal is to pack on mass, the best times to supplement with BCAAs are before, during, and after exercise.
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body, and many research studies show that intense exercise can cause a decrease in plasma glutamine levels. Scientists believe that a decrease in glutamine levels can cause a cascade of negative effects, which can easily be corrected with glutamine supplementation. Athletes who might be prone to overtraining and depleted glutamine stores can definitely benefit from the recovery-enhancing properties that glutamine has to offer. Glutamine also has cell-volumization properties that can help trigger anabolic effects in muscle cells.
Recent research studies show that carnitine supplementation can upregulate anabolic hormone receptor sites. The best form of l-carnitine for this purpose is l-carnitine l-tartrate, or at least that’s what the research says. Studies also show that l-carnitine l-tartrate can reduce exercise-induced muscle tissue damage and speed recovery! The ideal dosage is in the 1,000- to 3,000-milligram range.
5. Pre-Workout Powders
Over the past few years, pre-workout supplements have gained great popularity with athletes and bodybuilders because they can result in an immediate increase in physical performance. There are a multitude of different formulas on the market, and many of them are quite effective. These products are great to use when you hit a plateau as they can help push past your previous physical limits. Most pre-workouts on the market include a variety of ingredients including caffeine, beta-alanine, arginine, and other stimulant agents.
6. Intra-Workout/Post-Workout Powders
Over the past several years, it’s been common practice for bodybuilders and athletes to consume specific meals and drinks before, during, and after working out in an effort to enhance muscle recovery and performance. During and after an intense workout, a cascade of physiological reactions take place in your body, priming it for growth and repair. To take full advantage of your efforts in the gym, you must quickly replenish your body with the nutrients it requires, and this can be accomplished with an intra- or post-workout powder that includes high-molecular weight carbohydates. Recent scientific evidence shows that waxy maize starch is the best carb source to consume during and after your workout to enhance recovery, performance, and muscle growth. Vitargo is the most studied and proven type of high-molecular carbohydrate and my personal favorite too.
C-LIST MASS STACK
HIGH-TECH SPECIALTY SUPPLEMENTS
After you have the A-list and B-list supplements covered, you can look to the high-tech supplements found here to put the final touches on your ultimate mass stack! The C-list is the cream of the crop and includes test boosters, GH boosters and sleep aids, and high-calorie gainers.
1. Testosterone Boosters
Testosterone is the body’s most powerful muscle-building hormone, and elevated testosterone levels can result in more mass. Quite a few testosterone-boosting supplements are available on the market, and many can effectively boost testosterone levels without any negative side effects. Testofen, a patented extract derived from fenugreek, is considered one of the most effective testosterone-boosting compounds currently available on the market. Tribulus, zinc (or ZMA), and saw palmetto are some other popular and effective test-boosting compounds.
2. GH Boosters / Sleep Aids
Only a few good natural growth hormone-boosting ingredients are available, and some of these same ingredients also support improved sleep. That’s a win-win situation for anyone looking to pack on mass! Based on all of the clinical research, two of the most effective natural growth hormone stimulators are GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and melatonin. GABA is an inhibitory amino acid and has a direct affect on growth hormone secretion. Melatonin is a pineal hormone and a powerful antioxidant that affects GH secretion by activating central neural pathways at the hypothalamus level. L-carnitine l-tartrate is another excellent natural GH booster, but we covered that amino in the B-list. L-theanine and 5-HTP are other ingredients that can effectively promote better sleep.
3. High-Calorie Gainers
Gainers supply the body with a surplus of calories, which “hardgainers” need in order to grow and get bigger. High-calorie gainers are definitely not for everyone, but for those of you that have a real hard time packing on mass, you can certainly benefit from a quality high-calorie gainer. When choosing a gainer, look for one that delivers an ample amount of high-quality protein, both fast- and slow-released carbs, and a moderate amount of healthy fats. High-calorie gainers even have research to back up their claims. One study that was conducted on young male athletes showed that the addition of 1000 to 2000 calories per day to their regular diet (in the form of a gainer shake) could result in significant gains in lean mass.
4. Joint Support Supplements
A joint supplement could actually be considered an A-list or B-list supplement, but that depends on how bad your joint situation is. If your joints aren’t too bad, this type of supplement probably isn’t essential per se. However, if your joints are really bad and you find that they’re holding back your mass and strength gains, you’d be best to prioritize it and try to include in your stack.
PUT YOUR PLAN TOGETHER AND GET STARTED!
Now that you have a good understanding of the A-, B-, and C-list mass-stacking supplements, go ahead and begin creating your personalized stack. A strong and powerful physique always starts with a solid base, and the same goes for your supplement stack! So always make sure you build your stack from the essentials and then add on to it as you become more advanced.
ABOUT DON GAUVREAU MSc, CSCS:
Known in the industry as the Supplement Godfather, Don is one of the leading researchers and product formulators in the sports supplement industry. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rippedfreak.
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