When Should I Take Muscle-Building Supplements? Here's What Fitness Experts Say

Scott Webb/Unsplash

Lifters will tell you there's an art and science to building muscle — and they're not wrong. Fitness enthusiasts often time their eating habits around workout routines in order to maximize the effects of exercise. The same logic applies to those taking supplement to help boost lean muscle growth.

Read more: Do Vegetarians Live Longer? Here's What Science Says

According to Bodybuilding.com, what may matter most is not so much the timing but that two popular supplements —  creatine and glutamine — don't overlap, as they're both absorbed into the body via sodium and therefore could be in competition. Instead, if using both creatine and glutamine, Bodybuilding.com recommends taking creatine a half hour before and after exercise, and taking glutamine at the very end of the day.

Scott Webb/Unsplash

Daily Burn also reported that there are certain types of supplements better suited to boost performance and should therefore be taken before exercise, while other types of supplements should be taken after to encourage muscle recovery. For instance, unsweetened cherry juice or powder is recommended post-workout, as studies have shown it can expedite recovery. 

The publications suggests taking a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) blend — which is made by mixing the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine — both before and after a workout. BCAA blends are high in protein, like certain vegetables, meats and eggs, which can help both build and repair muscle tissues. 

Bernard Weil/Getty Images

"The most important [essential amino acid] in the blend is leucine, especially when it comes to fixing the damaged muscle," Dave Ellis, former president of the Collegiate and Professional Dietitians Association, told Daily Burn. "[It's particularly important] when we get done beating a muscle up with a lot of work in the weight room or sprinting or running steps, or pounding for an endurance athlete." 

For protein shakes and the like, experts say they're best saved for post-workouts as they can boost recovery, the SF Gate reported. However, taking protein before a workout may improve muscle growth. 

So which is it? According to the blog Best Workout Supplements, it could be that the pre-or-post workout debate comes down to a matter of volume.

"When taking protein before you work out, you've got to keep it light," reads the blog post. "Anything more than 20 grams of protein is going to be too much. Even 20 grams can be too much depending on your size. Also, a whey isolate or low carb protein like optimums gold standard is ideal."

Visar Kryeziu/AP