When you are returning to training after a long break your diet and exercise approach is important but so is your supplementation. It can either boost your results and help your muscle memory bring you back in no time or it can be badly done and not have an effect it should do. A lot will depend on your goals, are you getting rid of body fat or are you just trying to get your size back? We will start with some universal choices and then we will go more specific.
Protein – doesn’t matter is it protein powder, protein bars, protein ready-made shakes or high protein food it’s all similar to some degree. With protein products you pay for convenience (try caring chicken breast to the gym and chewing on it after the workout) and good flavour. It shouldn’t even be in the supplementation section it is a basic part of your diet. Have one portion (20-50 g) immediately after the workout and have it when you don’t have time for a full meal. How much you should consume depends on your diet and goals, those are just basic guidelines. Don’t exceed 2-3 doses a day from supplements, rest of your protein should come from food. If you struggle with adding weight using a weight gainer, that will contain protein and size adding ingredients as well as significantly more calories is a good option.
Creatine – it is the most tested, cheapest (cost is only about 33 pence a day) and reliable supplement you can find. It will make your muscles grow faster and your strength progress faster. If you are bulking you can go with classic monohydrate. When you’re cutting: creatine HCL (or most newer forms) is a better option because you don’t want extra water retention to cloud your results. Use 5 g (usually one scoop) a day, first thing in the morning on non-training days and on training days half of that before training and a half after. Using more doesn’t give you better results but there is no harm in trying 10 g to see for yourself.
EAA/BCAA – I prefer EAA myself but a lot of ppl gets equally good results from BCAA. Try both and see which one works stronger for you. Drinking it during a workout will significantly boost your recovery, and soreness is a big issue when you return to training, so getting any help with that is always good. Those products shine during the reduction when you are on caloric deficit they let you keep more muscles. 20 g is recommended in this period since you are just back to training, ideally 5 g before workout 10 g during the workout and 5 g after. But here the sky’s the limit, it’s not like creatine that once your muscle reaches saturation higher dose doesn’t do much. With EAA and BCAA the more you take the stronger they work. You can add 10g portion first thing in the morning and 5 g every time you have a meal with low-quality protein. When your initial returning soreness is gone, 10 g during the workout, especially during caloric deficit should give you the best results. During the bulking phase when you have an excess of protein 5 g during a workout should suffice too.
Omega3 & multi-vitamins – not only they optimise your muscle growth and fat burning but they are cheap and help everything in your body to stay healthy. If you think about getting a protein tub of creatine before those, don’t. When you train your body will use more microelements and vitamins than an average human being, deficits in those might seriously harm your progress and health. The only situation in which you can skip it is if you eat well-balanced vegetables 5 times a day and have around 3 grams of omega 3 in fish you consume. From my experience almost no one does but if you are that good with your diet, by all means, skip it.
Need a little bit extra? There are a number of other things, that you can use, pre-workout if you struggle with low energy or motivation, natural testosterone boosters if you are past age when your hormones are at the best levels or weight-loss products. But in general, when you return, focusing on basics works better and when you get your results back and muscle memory is no longer helping you it’s time for more advanced supplementation. For now, you will be surprised what you can achieve with this simple protocol.