Peri-Workout Supplementation differences for Strength and Hypertrophy Training -Derek Woodske, B.Sc., CSCS


In the weight room we have two general goals that we, want to achieve as an athlete; one get as strong as possible and two gain as much muscle as possible.   There are times depending on your goals that one of those two tasks take on a greater importance than the other but for the most part you are either getting stronger or getting bigger and very few weight room athletes are purely focused on getting smaller and leaner. If they are, it still represents a small percentage of a 52-week calendar probably in the neighborhood of 15-20% of the total year.

So if we break down the idea of strength and size into the smallest component of time, you would be left with the actual workouts broken into single daily sessions over a period of time. This unit for the majority of athletes even the most advanced will represent the smallest or most particular aspect of their training block and it will over time have the greatest impact on their total success. As athletes and coaches we often focus on the implications of the total macrocycle or training block on the results that we have and often we judge our progress three to four weeks at a time but in actuality all a successful year of training represents is a couple hundred really good daily sessions. Where you as an athlete put you body into the most optimal environment possible as often as possible.

As an athlete your goal is not to focus on increasing your total success in a 52 week cycle by five, eight or ten percent over the previous year but rather you should focus on getting the most out of the individual days, improving your sessions so that you no longer have bad ones. Every day you are trying to squeeze point two percent out of every single session and over the course of 52 weeks your success will be waiting.

Assuming that you have your training figured out or you are working with a coach that has helped you develop a cumulative plane to reach your goals with the iron lets look at a few things that will maximize your chances of success nutritionally and more specifically supplementation wise.

Let us start by looking at what is happening during a training session and what your goals are doing to dictate what is going on physiologically during a session in the gym. For starters if your goal as a weightlifting athlete is strength then your workout nutrition and supplementation is going to differ from that of an athlete that is trying to maximize trauma for the sake of hypertrophy. For example when you seek to maximize the biochemical cascade of change that follows hypertrophy training you want to stimulate an acidic environment in the muscle tissue that causes stress markers to increase. Leading to a release of growth hormone, IGF-1 etc., and in doing so will stimulate the mechanism for muscle hypertrophy and muscle growth, when you have an extremely acidic environment due to the lactate response to training that is the essential signaling mechanism to allow the body to start to perpetuate hypertrophy and growth.

Whereas when you’re training specifically for strength specifically lower repetition numbers, you want to mitigate the effect of lactate production and cellular acidity. The reason being an acidic environment or lactate increases in the muscle individually will decrease the contractile properties of type 2B fibers. So when you’re training specifically for maximal strength or CNS-based training you want to reduce lactate production during a given training session to ensure prolonged performance. So as you can see even with the world of weightlifting there can be as huge difference in your peri nutrition depending on your goals.

Let’s start by looking at peri nutrition for strength and conditioning as opposed to hypertrophy. There are three phases to peri workout supplementation starting with pre followed by intra and finished with post. On your way to the gym maximize neurological function so that you’ll have the greatest amount of training drive available when you get into the session. To do so you can look at using supplements, that have been linked to improving neurological drive and those would be caffeine, phosphatidylcholine and DMAE for example. Once the training session begins you’ll want to ensure the most alkaline environment possible and two of the best supplements to consume would be beta alanine for its ability to buffer H+ and creatine monohydrate as producer of ATP. Both of those supplements would be taken previous to the start of the session, but their effects carry through the duration of the training. Another technique that can be used to ensure that you’re maximizing the training environment internally is to consume an alkaline-based drink like water with sliced lime for example will help buy a few more fractions of performance for a given session and remember success is the accumulation of fractions over time not one big bang at the end. Once the workout has completed your new goal is to maximize recovery. You want to decrease inflammation and increase testosterone as quickly as possible so that you can be prepared to maximize your next strength session in the shortest window possible. To do this you want to make sure that you’re, shifting the cortisol testosterone window back into your favor by consuming a protein supplement like whey protein isolate with increased levels of BCAA and L-Glutamine followed by vitamin C and fish oil for its strong anti inflammatory properties.

When comparing the peri nutrition protocols for hypertrophy training as opposed to strength and CNS based work you want to look at a couple of differences that will have significant impact on promoting the environment necessary for muscle growth. The pre-workout stack is very similar in the sense that you still want to maximize neurological function. In doing so,  you want to maximize training drive however you have to be somewhat more specific with the supplements that you choose due to the fact that some of the most common bodybuilding supplements on the market or contraindicated for the purpose that you’re using them for. For example, caffeine is tremendous for neurological drive however, it is a vasoconstrictor by nature therefore decreasing blood flow to the working muscle tissue and when you’re looking at fractional increases daily multiplied over the course of the calendar year decreasing nutrient delivery during hypertrophy training will decrease overall muscle growth when you look at prolonged exposure and training volumes. A second supplement that receives a lot of positive feedback but may not be the best one for your goals is the amino acid L-arginine. In a resting state L-arginine will increase growth hormone Buy 100%, when given to an athlete while training it will increase growth hormone levels by roughly 200%. However, weight training without the use of L-arginine as a supplement will increase growth hormone levels during by 300 to 500% at a dose of 5 to 9g.(1) So even though L-arginine and strength and conditioning combined will increase growth hormone significantly the research does show that it does not increase as much as strength and conditioning alone. Does this mean that you should stop using L-Arginine absolutely not but it is best used as pre sleep supplement to maximize resting recovery rates in my opinion and supplements like Propionyl-L-carnitine 2(GPLC) may be a better choice to expedite nutrient delivery through consistent peripheral blood flow.

So when looking at their three phases of supplementation for maximizing muscle growth, we want to ensure that we come into the session with maximized neurological training drive regarding elevated dopamine and acetylcholine. Once the training session has commenced, you want to maximize the anabolic environment that is occurring within the muscle tissue via systemic blood flow which is occurring naturally. Increasing branched-chain amino acid consumption at this time in the neighborhood of 10 to 15g will sufficiently improve muscle growth and when the session finishes you want to maximize your anabolic window. Achieve this by taking another large dose of Amino acids the post workout shake consisting of both whey protein isolate for its fast acting anabolic nature as well as a mixed protein that will release over a longer period. Casein for example,  with an addition of L-glutamine and fast acting carbohydrate to shuttle nutrients into tissue at the highest rate possible via the insulin relationship would work. 

So you can see when comparing pre-intra-and post workout nutrition from the standpoint of strength or hypertrophy there are subtle but significant differences the key is to ensure that you are maximizing the effects of each individual session to potentiate the maximum amount of success you can have in a 52 week. There are dozens and dozens of supplements on the market that you can use to maximize your goals certainly more than I can cover and a short introduction to peri nutrition. However, it is important to understand that supplements are simply not the name of the bottle or the company that is stated but more importantly the compounding nutrients that make up that product. I Recommend that anyone that is serious about maximizing strengths or muscle growth needs to understand the basics of the nutrients that make up the products they consume and do a little bit of research to see if that product is maximizing potential or negating the effects of your training.


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