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January 31, 2012 posted by

11 Supplement FAQs

I was answering these the other day for staff training and thought they’d make a helpful post for everyone. Basically they are questions we get from most of our customers in some alliteration about taking supplements of any kind. I have no idea who actually compiled these questions but I’ve heard them all many times.

1-what should I consume before a workout?

Nothing, hopefully, but there are times when eating something makes sense. Basically if your diet is good then you have an empty stomach and fully tapped glycogen stores that will last for 1-1.5 or so hours of hard training. However, there are many scenarios (dieting, too busy to eat, etc) that mean you should eat prior to training. When this is the case nutrition follows the post-nutrition protocol in that glycogen store replenishment supersedes all other factors, meaning mainly carbs, a little protein, very little fat and a solid electrolyte profile.

2-Can I take my supplements after 6pm?

Time is irrelevant because we all have different schedules and each supplement has different parameters for its usage. In general supplements are either meant to be 1) taken with food 2) taken in the morning on an empty stomach 3) taken before bed on an empty stomach 4) taken pre-workout 5) during workouts, especially long ones 6) taken post workout. Of course this is all dependent on what it is but those are pretty much the only nutritional windows we have to consider.

3-Will creatine make me fat?

Creatine has nothing at all to do with getting fat. It works in your Kreb’s cycle improving anaerobic endurance by allowing your cells to store more phosphocreatine. When you take creatine you store more water to add volume to your cells and that adds a little bit of weight but this disappears when you stop taking it. It’s never stored as adipose tissue (body fat). Only as water to allow your body to perform better. However, even a slight bit of extra weight can matter so those in, say, gravity-dependent sports will want to monitor their creatine usage.

4-I heard chocolate milk is good to consume after a workout, is this true?

In ONE study chocolate milk outperformed Gatorade or something similar that was a carb-only electrolyte supplement and the dairy industry has made a big play out of it. It does come close to a 4 to 1 carb to protein ratio so it’s more appropriate than many options but won’t perform nearly as well as specialty formulated post-workout recovery supps.

5- Can I drink too much water and is it possible to dilute my supplements, thereby minimizing their effectiveness?

You could theoretically do this but it’s not particularly likely unless you’re exercising all day long where water can dilute your electrolyte balance and create a potentially lethal condition called hyponatremia.

6- Can i eat and take my supplements at the same time?

Depends on what you are taking. This is almost always addressed on the label. As a general rule vitamins are best taken with a meal and everything else is situational.

7- Is there anything I can take to reduce my soreness after exercise?

The best thing, by far, is a post-exercise recovery supplement because quick glycogen replenishment is the most vital factor for minimizing muscle soreness.

8- My joints hurt after lifting heavy weights. Is there any supplement I can take to make this go away?

Not really. Fish oil and other omega 3 supplements can help with inflammation but post-exercise pain in a joint, unless you have a chronic condition, is due to something more akin to an injury. Regular omega 3 supplementation can minimize the risk of such conditions to some degree and is almost always encouraged, especially for people on acidic high-protein diets.

9-How much protein do I need each day?

Daily protein intake is not nearly so important as how much you get each meal. Studies continually support that fact that large amounts of protein cannot be digested at one time, meaning that it’s important to have some protein each time you eat for best results. No consensus has been reached to upper limits as there are many factors that affect digestion but somewhere around 30 grams seems to be the range almost anyone can use. Therefore we like to recommend that all meals and snacks contain somewhere in the 30 gram range as a maximum for efficient protein utilization.

10-Is it bad to eat fat in my diet?

No. In fact you’ll die without it. There are only three macronutrients and they are all equally important for proper function and performance. Fat is every bit as vital to your diet and protein and carbohydrates, which is probably why most foods found in nature have some of each.

11- If i miss my window of consumption post exercise, should i still drink my recovery drink?

Basically yes but it depends by how much you’ve missed the one-hour window and what else you’ve eaten. When you are low on glycogen you need to replenish it if you’ve recently exercised. When you don’t exercise the template changes but after hard exercise you need to replenish your glycogen stores. Your body will do this with any food it gets but it’s much slower if you use the wrong macronutrient ratio. So if you’ve eaten after your workout a recovery formulation won’t help much but if you haven’t it will, even if it’s been more than an hour or two or three.


  • Regarding post workout, considering one is eating a caloric surplus everyday with over 500 grams of carbs, wouldn't emptying your glycogen tanks be somewhat impossible since cardio is not done intensely or very often and weight training is the primary aspect of the program? Also, for post workout a better suited carb form would be instantized waxy maize starch with high molecular weight for an insanely fast absorption (expensive) but better than just dextrose?

  • Great, very informative post! I've recently been doing a bit more poking around about supplements, so this helps! Can I ask what specific supplements you use everyday (other than Shakeology and your post-workout drink)? It seems like there are so many different things out there, and it gets overwhelming!

  • Your body only stores so much glycogen. You can't load up more than an hour or so of hard work's worth no matter how much you eat. So depending on your workout you can still bonk. Many bodybuilders spend hours in the gym. Even at a slow pace each set digs into glycogen stores and they will run our unless you tap them up occasionally.Been meaning to look up that maize stuff since you mentioned it last time. It COULD be better I suppose. You might check the PubMed database to see if there's any real science on it before shelling out too much dough. Sugar works well enough it seems.

  • I use a lot of supps, mainly situational, so they vary throughout the year depending upon my training load and goals. I often go into what I'm doing here but not always. I'll come back here and write up some guidelines (or make another post) when I get some time.

  • Since the body can only efficiently process approximately 30g of protein, would it make sense then if a recipe calls for extra protein to set it aside for a different time? For example, if I'm going to mix 1 serving of Shakeology and Beachbody whey that puts me at 34g of protein. Normally I add 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter. Should I hold off with the PB? Also how long does it take for the body to process the 30g of protein on avg?

  • I didn't see any mention of my two main supplements: Caffeine and Alcohol. These are the bookends of my day and that's when I usually take them, but I'm wondering if there would be other times that would be more beneficial for their uptake.Thanks.~The Imbiber

  • Dear Imbiber,In fact, there is substantial evidence that indicates you should be utilizing a combination of both alcohol and caffeine in a steady flow from before sunrise until well after sunset. Studies have proven that folks who follow such a regiment not only feel better, they have a better time than folks who don't. Furthermore, and this unfortunately is merely circumstantial, there are some indications that folks who make their way through life adhering to Ed Abbey's sage advice that life is a delicate balance between alcohol and caffeine, are smarter, stronger, faster and sexier than people who weigh their carrots and eat boneless skinless chicken.Life is simply too short to dole out the fun with teaspoons. Bring on the dump truck. If some is good, then more is better. Simple math. Indisputable.Dr. J (I own a mansion and a yacht.)

  • Im curious about the only absorbing 30 grams of protein. In a 14-day trial, Arnal and colleagues found no difference in fat-free mass or nitrogen retention between consuming 79% of the day’s protein needs (roughly 54 g) in one meal, versus the same amount spread across four meals…which would lead one to believe that the body is smart enough to handle more than 30 grams of protein at a time. Even if the digestion rate for protein is only 30 grams per hour, according to this study, it would seem that there is no disadvantage to having more than 30 grams in one sitting. Not trying to argue your points, just interested in your opinion. Arnal MA, et al. Protein feeding pattern does not affect protein retention in young women. J Nutr. 2000 Jul;130(7):1700-4.

  • Obviously you can do this otherwise people couldn't exist that way we have or, say, you'd never be able to surive on one meal a day and many other examples. We can survive utilizing a number of non-optimal strategies. But we're evaluating efficiency and there a stack of new studies that high protein meals aren't utilized well. 30 grams isn't a magic number but seems a good round number that's easy to hit. Of course if you have 300lbs of muscle the scale will slide up. I'll let Denis pepper you with science and he's been digging deeply into this recently.

  • Hey M – The thing about this topic is that a lot of pro-one-big-meal people argue their point from the stance that the general (false) belief is that excess protein in a meal is either excreted or oxidized. Their stance is that protein goes into a holding tank somewhere waiting for use. I don't feel either of these to be the case. I mean, some slow absorbing proteins such as casein might make for a holding tank-like effect in that they take longer to go into the system (this is addressed in that study you cited), but generally, what happens to excess protein is that it's either converted to fatty acids or glucose. So, yes, the body is incredibly smart in that it knows how to turn whatever food it can get hold of into fuel. I would really like someone to argue around this fact for me. I've never seen it done.As for that study -here's the URL for the complete text:'s an interesting study, but it isn't really about max possible use of dietary protein; it's about maintaining nitrogen balance in young women. Just because you're getting the protein requirements to maintain nitrogen balance daily (and even the study admits there are confounding factors beyond diet) that doesn't necessarily mean you're getting all the protein you need at the right time to target the right functions when you need them most. It just means you're getting all the protein you need to be survive – if you're a young woman. And even then, read the entire study. It's quick to point out the variables that prove this study worthless is making wider assumptions about larger populations.So I don't think there's a disadvantage to having more that 30g in a sitting, but both Steve and I tend to deal with people putting their bodies through a lot. Athletes or people pushing their fitness levels up blow through nutrient resources far faster than most people. This is why it's generally accepted that micronutrient intake needs to go up for exercisers, as do total calories for performance-based individuals or people trying to build mass. Along those lines, these same people are hedging their bets making sure they have access to whatever amino acids they need when they need them.

  • Hi DThanks for the response. Not trying to argue, just curious to get others opinions. Personally, I've found that Intermittent Fasting has been very helpful in making gains in the gym. I've done several of the beachbody programs, but found that once I incorporated this IF technique, my results were taken to a new level. Ive been practicing a 16 hr fast/8 hr feeding window…in which I eat primarily 3 high protein meals within that window, alternating between high carbs/low fat (on lifting days) and low carbs/higher fat (on non lifting days). Anyway, just my $.02. Thanks for your response (Both of you).Micah

  • Micah,For sure when you begin to analyze at your level you've got to sort out what works for you. We default to a most-time scenario based on data and experience since we give across the board advise, along with a ubiquitous 'there's no one diet right for everyone'. I don't advise that people eat like me, either, because that's been tailored so that it works for me and is not the norm.

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