When I refer to workout in the title of this post, I am specifically focused on strength training. There are many supplements you can take after a strength training workout, but I am going to focus on 5 that can help boost your recovery and increase testosterone levels. After working out your muscles are needing some carbohydrates and amino acids to start the muscle building recovery process.
Update to my original post: There is some evidence to suggest that you might want to wait 60 – 90 minutes after a workout before consuming post workout supplements. It appears that if you worked out in a fasted state that after your workout your body will actually increase the amount of human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone as long as you don’t consume anything other than water right after your workout. So my updated advice is to wait about an hour after your workout before taking the supplements mentioned below. This will give you the opportunity to take advantage of spiking HGH and testosterone levels, thus maximizing your gains.
These are the 5 supplements I take after a workout:
- Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCCA) – There are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine. The BCAAs are among the nine essential amino acids for humans, accounting for 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle proteins and 40% of the preformed amino acids required by mammals. BCAAs not only increase the rate of protein synthesis, but they also increase the cell’s capacity for protein synthesis. BCAAs also work in your favor by reducing the rate of protein breakdown. They might also help improve workout intensity, that is why BCCA’s can be used as a pre workout and post workout supplement.
- Creatine Monohydrate – is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps make a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions. Creatine will pull water into the muscle cells, and effects the ability for your body to use fast twitch muscles. Note: your body can only store so much ATP so taking more creatine than advised will not be effective. The ideal dose is around 5 grams (1 heaping teaspoon). Creatine can be used as a pre-workout and/or post-workout supplement.
- L-Arginine – is a naturally occurring amino acid that may help to increase blood flow (in some populations) and anabolic growth-hormone secretion. This helps increase lean muscle mass/strength/power, promotes faster recovery from exercise, and improves the work capacity of active muscles. L-arginine also improves the process of clearing waste products from your muscles. This may result in a reduced sense of fatigue. I like to use about 2.5 to 3 grams after a workout.
- L-Glutamine – is the most abundant inessential amino acid in the human body and makes up the majority of the amino acids in skeletal muscle. Despite being involved in many crucial roles in our daily health and function, it’s considered “inessential” because the body is capable of producing it on its own. L-Glutamine plays a big role in supporting workout and muscle recovery, enhances immune function, and improves intestinal health. For me it seems to assist in helping my muscles recover and I have less next day soreness. I would use about 5 grams after a workout.
- Tribulus terrestris – is a flowering plant that grows in temperate and tropical areas. The compound is rich in saponins, the active ingredient claimed to increase the body’s natural testosterone levels and helps to build muscle. The primary point of the tribulus terrestris extract is that it will increase testosterone levels. It does this in a very secure method – by no means exceeding the physique`s natural upper limits. I have read that it is best to take on an empty stomach after your workout. I usually take about 1 to 1.5 grams after a workout.
My method for post workout supplementation is as follows:
Either use a fruit drink or some powdered post workout drink (even Gatorade would do) to mix with the powdered BCCA’s, Creatine Monohydrate and powered L-Glutamine. Once mixed, drink and swallow your Tribulus Terrestris and L-Arginine capsules. Wait 20 to 30 minutes before eating. This gives the post workout supplements some time to digest and get into your blood stream before you consume anything else. The reason I advocate that you use a fruit drink or something like Gatorade is that following a workout is the best time to consume sugar. When you train, your body burns glycogen, or sugar. Both blood sugar and muscle glycogen are consumed during a workout, and to recover, as well as progress, you need to restore depleted glycogen levels as quickly as possible. My next step is to follow the post supplementation with a meal that contains a decent amount of protein and some complex carbohydrates.
The only warning might apply to women taking Tribulus terrestris. I would do some additional research on the effects it may have on women before adding it to your post workout supplements.
I would love to hear what kind of post workout supplements you advocate taking.
I’ve been using one of those pre-workout powders that you mix with water to get energized for my strength training workouts and I question whether it is really worth it or not. These pre workout drinks typically have a number of ingredients like Vitamin B6, caffeine, Vitamin B12, Creatine, L-Arginine, and a bunch of proprietary substances. I’ve used one of them for about a year, and while they do help you get through the workouts, they have side effects. The most bothersome side effect is that if you take this in the evening like I do prior to lifting weights you have a tough time getting a good nights sleep.
Is it worth it?
Consider that recovering from a good strength training session must also include getting sufficient sleep, you have to question the value of getting all jacked up and compromising your rest. I do advocate that you take L-Arginine, L-Glutamine and Creatine after your workout to help you recover, but neither of these should greatly interfere with your sleep.
I was using N.O. XPLODE, but am rethinking my strategy, and may opt for something a bit less potent. I’m going to try one of those energy chews next time as my pre-workout supplement and see if that has a less disruptive influence on my sleep.
If you have any ideas on a pre-workout supplements or foods you would suggest I try please let me know.
You workout every day, doing strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, you are reading motivational works, you take all the right supplements, spend time meditating, and still you feel like crap. Maybe just maybe your diet needs some analysis. This is exactly what I’ve been asking myself lately and I’m sure most of you are saying Joe come on your diet is at least 50% of the equation and you didn’t know that. Well I think I realized that what I was consuming was not optimal, and in my own warped way I thought if I took the right vitamins and supplements it would fill in all the gaps and I would feel great. Seriously there are days where I don’t consume a single vegetable or fruit, and I’m not sure that slice of tomato or pickle on my hamburger or that bag of fries counts. Maybe that pepperoni pizza with a bit of tomato sauce and mushrooms counts as my daily allowance for vegetables; who am I kidding?
Sure I throw in an occasional salad in every week, but that can’t overcome the other 6 days of the week where vegetables and fruits have been omitted from my diet. Just last week I was at a Mediterranean restaurant and ordered the vegetarian feast, basically a buffet filled with various salads, bean dishes, humus, bread, pastas, etc. and after consuming a large plate of this good stuff I thought I was going to explode. I’m not sure if my body was revolting against the foreign substances, but for the next 6 hours the gas was trying to escape from all orifices. And while I try to limit sugar and simple carbs from my diet as much as possible I am in need of a diet overhaul. So I am on a quest of start this diet overhaul and I mean now. So I plan on putting together some future posts on how I have overhauled my diet, and what it does to my energy levels and overall well being. I am open to any suggestions you may have.
So how many days a week should you do strength training? I think to answer this question you need to consider what type of strength training you are doing and several other factors. I’m defining strength training as resistance training, like lifting weights or some other form of resistance that stresses a muscle or muscle group with some number of repetitions. A typical set could have anywhere from 4 to 30 repetitions. There are different types of strength training routines and depending on the one you are using it will have impact how many days a week you should workout.
Types of strength training programs
Whole Body Routine: if you are using a whole body or total body routine you are attempting to work all the muscle groups of your body in one workout. These routines typically take much longer to execute because you are doing many different exercises to work all the muscle groups.
Split Routine: a split routine is where you divide the muscle groups (body) focusing on a specific group of muscles on any one day. One of the characteristics of a split routine is that they are typically much shorter in duration taking sometimes just 20 minutes compared to a whole body routine that make take an hour or more. An example of this might be a 4 day split like the one I do:
- Day 1 – Chest & Triceps
- Day 2 – Biceps, Forearms, and Shoulders
- Day 3 – Legs
- Day 4 – Back
Another factor to consider is what type of training are you doing. You may be too young to remember this but Mike Mentzer (picture above) who was a professional bodybuilder back in the 70’s. He came up with the philosophy of High Intensity Training or Heavy Duty which advocated training a muscle to failure with very heavy weights and lower repetitions. This form of training exacts a huge toll on your muscles and ability to recover between training sessions, so much that Mr. Mentzer advocated training a muscle group just once a week. That’s fine, but what about the majority of us who don’t lift extremely heavy weights and do sets to failure? Well our intensity would be lower and we would be putting less stress on our bodies. So one can assume that intensity and amount of resistance will affect our ability to recover.
Aside from the type of routine used and the intensity/load factor it is fair to assume that your ability to recover plays a role in how many training days you should engage in each week. Age can be a factor in your ability to recover, when you are younger you will probably recover quicker than as you age, simply due to higher levels of hormones coursing through your body. Another factor may be the supplements you are taking or not taking can have a big effect on recovery ability.
There is certainly a lot of variability in determining the optimal number of days a week to perform strength training, but with that said I think there are some reasonable guidelines that should be taken into consideration.
- Your ability to recover is a big factor. You should give yourself at least a couple of days rest after working a muscle group. If you continue to put a muscle group under stress without allowing time for it to repair you are in effect wasting your time.
- Choose supplements like Glutamine, Branched Chained Amino Acids (BCAA), Whey Protein, and Creatine to help your body recover by consuming them right after working out.
- If you are performing very high intensity workouts as mentioned above then give yourself additional time to recover, conversely if you are doing lower intensity workouts you may not need as much time before your next workout.
- If you are performing Whole Body strength training workouts maybe once or twice a week is all you need. In fact you might just want to look at it as performing a Whole Body workout once every 5 to 7 days, instead of how many times per week.
- Make sure even if you are doing a 4 or 5 day split that you build in a rest day upon completion of the final day in the split training program. Remember even in a split routine you will work muscles that have already been worked for instance if you work your back you might also be working your triceps and shoulders.
- If you are still sore even after taking a rest day, consider taking another day to allow your muscles to completely heal and rebuild themselves before putting them under stress again.
As already mentioned I do a 4 day split strength training routine, and with a fairly normal life I find I end up getting all the workouts completed in about a week. I typically take a rest day after “Day 4 – Back” because it stresses my triceps and shoulders, which again get worked on “Day 1 – Chest & Triceps”. My recommendation is you must find the happy medium between working out too frequently and not enough. Your body needs time to rest, but too much time between workouts and you can lose strength. So give yourself enough time for the muscles to recover and grow, but not so much time that you aren’t moving forward and gaining strength.
I would love to hear your comments and your approach to strength training.