Strength Supplements 101
Hard training dictates whether or not you gain strength in the gym, but taking the right supplements can boost those gains even more.
Author: Johnnie Jackson, IFBB Pro; Photographer: Paul Buceta; Model: IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson
[Q] Johnnie, how much protein should I be taking in per day for maximum strength gains? How much of that should be from powders?
[A] I consume a lot of protein every day — usually close to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight — but I’m a hard-training, 225-pound guy, and I know how protein affects my training and my look. It may take you a while to learn what the right amount per day is for you, but 1–1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight each day is good if you’re training hard. As far as powders, I’d say 75% of your protein should come from whole foods. I have two Nitro-Tech shakes per day, usually pre- and post-workout, but I’ll drink another one if I’m up late as a means to keep my recovery going. Bottom line, you need adequate daily protein to repair the muscle you’ve ripped apart through heavy training. This part is essential if you ever expect to get stronger.
[Q] Many of my buddies at the gym swear by amino acids tablets, but I think my protein powder is pretty much one and the same. Should I be investing in amino tablets?
[A] Even if your protein powder contains some amino acids, you should consider investing in extra. Here’s why: Branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) in particular are critical, especially if you’re trying to get ripped and restricting overall calories. They’re like fertilizer for growing muscles, and you should aim for 5–10 grams per day in addition to whatever’s in your shake(s). BCAAs are also a great source of energy. Take them and I guarantee you’ll notice gains in your strength and muscle size. There are a few other critical aminos, including glutamine, which is the body’s most-abundant amino acid.
[Q] What’s the best supplement combination to take before a super-heavy training day?
[A] Well, you want to walk into the gym with some basic, familiar strength supps like arginine for blood flow, caffeine for strength, creatine for power and protein to get a jump on recovery. Preworkout, I take the recommended doses of MyoShock, Gakic, Leukic and Creakic — these products are by MuscleTech, my sponsor. And during my workout, I sip on IntraVol, a higher-carb drink designed to help drive up insulin so that more nutrients get transported to your muscles while you work. Translation: more strength!
[Q] What are your experiences with creatine? Some people say it works, others say it just makes them bloated?
[A] I’m convinced it does work as advertised. It helps you get more reps with heavier weight, which means more strength and more muscle over time. Some guys — not all — will experience some water retention from this supplement, but if you’re training to get bigger and stronger, carrying a little extra water is all part of it. Creatine will absolutely help you gain strength. If you’re worried about water retention, there are some newer types of creatine on the market like creatine ethyl ester that are less likely to result in bloating. But most guys should just keep it simple and stay with a basic creatine monohydrate product. It works and it’s still fairly inexpensive.