Five world-class athletes share their daily supplement programs.
By Mike Carlson
The quest for a lean and muscular body is served well by a meticulous, dependable routine. That’s one reason why supplements are so popular among physique athletes. They make that habitual clockwork lifestyle a bit easier. But while weighing food and counting calories is a strict practice of hard numbers and science that is a slave to the law of thermodynamics, supplements inject a bit of Chaos Theory into the equation. They are influenced by individuality to a surprising degree.
Building muscle is a science, but there is also a certain amount of art to the process, a human factor that comes from being in the gym every day for years. Bodybuilding has always been a combination of both worlds, melding clinical research with raw experience. Finding the right supplements for your own individual goals is the art that allows the science to happen.
Here we have pulled back the curtain on of the supplement closet of five elite athletes. They discuss when, what, and how they take their supplements in hopes of sharing the sum of their clinical knowledge and hard-earned wisdom.
Weight: 198 pounds (contest), 215 pounds (off-season)
Lives: Boise, Idaho
A 10-year veteran of the NPC, first in bodybuilding and then Men’s Physique, Hildebrandt is the area director of fitness for Axiom Fitness health clubs. He has been dieting and supplementing seriously for the last decade, and in his career he has tried just about every supplement in both the sports-nutrition sphere and the crunchier alternative health field. Hildebrandt has been using a version of the following regimen for about two years.
Upon waking: Sixteen ounces of water mixed with five drops of lemon essential oil, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, one scoop of Dymatize MPS BCAA and whey protein isolate formula, and 10 grams of Dymatize Glutamine. Hildebrandt likes this combination for digestion, liver support, and Ph balance.
With breakfast (post-cardio): Multivitamin, omega-3 fish oils, 1,000 IU vitamin D, probiotics, 1,000 milligrams of Dymatize CLA.
Late morning: Dymatize Amino Pro with caffeine.
Pre-workout: One scoop of Dymatize M.P.ACT pre-workout formula, one serving of Dymatize Liquid L-Carnitine 1100.
Intra-workout: 2.5 scoops of Dymatize Amino Pro (caffeine-free formula) mixed in a half-gallon of water.
Post-workout: Immediately after the workout, Hildebrandt takes 1.5 scoops of Dymatize Iso-100 hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, five grams of Dymatize Creatine Monohydrate, 10 grams of Dymatize Glutamine, and one more dose of Dymatize CLA.
Afternoon: One serving of Dymatize Liquid L-Carnitine 1100.
6:00 p.m.: 1.5 scoops of Dymatize Iso-100 hydrolyzed whey protein isolate mixed with two tablespoons of powdered peanut butter.
Evening: Between his 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. feedings, Hildebrandt mixes two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with five drops of lemon essential oils and some coconut water.
With 8:00 p.m. meal: Multivitamin, probiotics, omega-3 fish oils, 1,000 IU vitamin D.
Bedtime: Hildebradt will usually eat a whole foods meal before bed, but twice a week or so he will make a shake with Dymatize Elite Casein, along with 1,000 milligrams of Dymatize CLA, one serving of Dymatize Amino Pro, and 10 grams of Dymatize Glutamine.
Do you have a specific philosophy on supplements? Supplements are very useful at accelerating recovery and results when you fill in any gaps that you have in your nutrition plan. I am a huge believer in being habitual about nutrition and supplements. Meals have to be at the same time every day, and the same thing with supplements.
Have you ever tried a supplement that worked for you and not other people, or vice versa? Pre-workouts in general are very person-to-person. The perfect pre-workout for me might make someone else feel nothing and vice-versa. I have had that happen a number of times. Creatine and protein are going to work on just about everybody, but when it comes to central nervous system stimulants and vasodilators, I think people metabolize those differently.
If you could only take three supplements, what would they be? Dymatize Iso-100 in fudge brownie flavor, Dymatize Amino Pro, and Dymatize Elite Casein.
Weight: 197 pounds (contest)
Lives: Kansas City, Missouri
Sponsor: Magnum Nutraceuticals
AJ Ellison has been an elite athlete for most of his life. As a college track star, he was once ranked as the 14th fastest runner in the US for the 800 meters. After his collegiate athletic career ended, he got serious about mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Six years ago he dove into physique competitions and became the WBFF Muscle Model World Champion in 2013 and 2016.
Upon waking: Oatmeal blended with Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro, a four-stage protein blend that contains whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, micellar casein, and egg protein isolate; and a dose of Magnum Nutraceuticals Performance Greens powder. He also takes a dose of Magnum Nutraceuticals Big C, a bend of four different types of creatine, as well as herbs to improve uptake.
Morning: Magnum Nutraceuticals Heat, a thermogenic formula without caffeine; and Magnum Nutraceuticals Carne Diem, a pharmaceutical-grade form of L-carnitine.
Pre-workout: Magnum Nutraceuticals Limitless pre-workout formula and Magnum Nutraceuticals Opus, a mix of leucine, vitamins, minerals, and other amino acids. He also takes Magnum Nutraceuticals Volume, a pre-workout capsule that gives insane pumps, and one more does of Magnum Nutraceuticals Heat.
Post-workout: One serving of Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro along with some rice cakes.
Before meals: Ellison will swallow a couple capsules of of Magnum Nutraceuticals Mimic before carb-heavy meals. The matrix of insulin-mimicking ingredients helps his body shuttle carbs to hungry muscles instead of storing them as body fat.
Nighttime: Magnum Nutraceuticals After Burner is a fat-burning thermogenic but with no stimulants, so you can take it before you sleep. Ellison will combine that with Magnum Nutraceuticals E-Brake to help combat estrogen and push out excess water. He’ll also blend up one more serving each of Quattro and Performance Greens.
Do you have a specific philosophy on supplements? I’m a big whole-foods advocate. If you’re diet isn’t on point, it doesn’t matter how great your supplements are. Supplements are meant to be “in addition to.” When your diet is on point, supplements give you that extra added boost.
Have you ever tried a supplement that worked for you and not other people, or vice-versa? A lot of physique athletes take protein powders out of their diets during their prep, but I drink Quattro all the way up to my show. It digests very well for me. I also take Big C [creatine] the whole time. I don’t bloat off of Big C. It’s in my system, my body has adapted to it, why would I cut it out at the end of my prep?
If you could only take three supplements, what would they be? Magnum Nutraceuticals Quattro, Magnum Nutraceuticals Performance Greens, and Magnum Nutraceuticals Volume.
Weight: 185 pounds (contest)
Lives: Chicago, Illinois
Sponsor: Beast Sports Nutrition
One of the brightest stars of the IFBB Men’s Physique division, Brandon Hendrickson is the 2016 Arnold Sports Weekend champion and a fourth-place finisher at the 2016 Olympia Weekend. A first-generation American whose parents hail from Trinidad and Tobago, Hendrickson has a physique that presents much bigger onstage than he actually is. Hendrickson competes at 185 pounds (less than 10 pounds more than Olympia champion Jeremy Buendia), but most people guess he’s at least 200 pounds.
Upon waking: Beast Sports Nutrition Beast Pack multivitamin and mineral, 2,000 milligrams Beast Sports Nutrition CLA, 1,000 milligrams Beast Sports Nutrition Carnitine, 1,000 milligrams cinnamon extract, 500 milligrams chromium, B-complex vitamins.
Between meals one and two: 2,000 milligrams arginine, 15 milligrams zinc.
With meal two: One dose of digestive enzymes.
With meal three: 1,000 milligrams cinnamon extract.
10 minutes before meal four: Stack of ephedra, caffeine, and aspirin (ECA); 2,000 milligrams of Beast Sports Nutrition CLA; 1,000 milligrams of Beast Sports Nutrition Carnitine, vitamin A complex; vitamin B complex.
Pre-workout: Beast Mode Black.
Intra-workout: Aminolytes by Beast Sports Nutrition, a BCAA formula with extra amino acids and electrolytes. “I need the electrolytes because I am always sweating. I start training with hoodie on, and by the end of my workout I’m drenched,” he says.
Post-workout: Two scoops (50 grams) of Beast Protein whey blend with water, and five strawberries.
With meal five: One dose of digestive enzymes.
Between meal five and meal six: 2,000 milligrams arginine, 15 milligrams zinc.
Do you have a specific philosophy on supplements? I go by what my coach tells me to take. Most of the things I take are provided by Beast Sports Nutrition. The other supplements I take are vitamins and things for overall health. Before I started bodybuilding I hardly did any supplements. I am very old school. I try to rely on my diet.
What is different about your supplement regimen than most people? I take a lot of digestive enzymes. Sometime I have a bloat issue, so when I do take them it helps a lot.
If you could only take three supplements, what would they be? Beast Sports Nutrition Protein, Beast Sports Nutrition Aminolytes, and Beast Pack multivitamin.
Weight: 220 pounds
Lives: Blue Springs, Missouri
Sponsor: Core Nutritionals
Brandon Cass is the owner of Cass Strength, a master trainer, powerlifting coach, and contest prep coach. He is also the all-time American record holder of the conventional raw deadlift, pulling 844 pounds at a bodyweight of 217. He has held over 12 world records in various powerlifting federations. Unlike powerlifters of old, Cass stays lean and athletic, maintaining a body-fat level of nine to 11 percent.
Meal one: A shake made with Core Nutritionals Pro sustained-release protein blend and Core Nutritionals HMB.
Pre-workout: Before his 8:00 a.m. training session, Cass will take five grams of Core Nutritionals Creatine Monohydrate and a serving of Core Nutritionals Fury Extreme pre-workout, which also contains five grams of creatine. Around this time Cass will also take a serving of Core Nutritionals Flex, a joint health product that contains MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Intra-workout Core Nutritionals ABC, a BCAA formula that also contains beta-alanine, glutamine, and citrulline malate.
Post-workout: A low-carb Gatorade G2 mixed with Core Nutritionals Taurine.
Afternoon: One serving of Core Nutritionals Grow, a nutrient-dense mass-gainer formula with 40 grams of whey protein, a blend of slow-digesting carbs, and a mix of digestive enzymes.
Nighttime: One serving of Core Nutritionals ZZZ sleep formula.
Other supplements: Cass takes a Flintstones Chewable multivitamin every day. When he was a child he was diagnosed with Hirschsprung's disease, a congenital condition of the colon. This makes his digestion a little tricky, and he’s found that chewable vitamins absorb much better than traditional pills.
What is the least effective supplement you ever took? There was a product that came out that was supposed to a testosterone booster. This was in the 1990s. It was called “Beefed In A Bottle.” It was sublingual product, so it had a dropper and you put it under your tongue and held it there for two minutes. It tasted like complete ass, and it was like $60 a bottle.
What is different about your supplement regimen than most people? A good joint product works for me. I don’t care what age you are, that is something that should be in your supplement regimen. And you’ll never be able to convince me that creatine doesn’t work. I don’t care if you’re a UPS driver or a hardcore weightlifter, it will make a difference in how you feel, how you perform.
If you could only take three supplements, what would they be? Core Nutritionals Creatine, Core Nutritionals Pro, and Core Nutritionals HMB.
Weight: 103 pounds
Lives: Southern California
Sponsors: BMR Sports Nutrition
Tiny but mighty, Bikini Pro Narmin Assria trains like a heavyweight bodybuilder. While most of her peers are focused on dieting and getting lean, this Southern California native pushes heavy weights year-round in order to get more muscular. Assria turned pro at a slight 85 pounds. Since then she has added more than 20 percent of her bodyweight in the form of muscle. Clearly, she is doing something right.
Upon waking: One capsule of the BMR Tartarus fat burner formula, before her fasted cardio.
Morning: Woman’s multivitamin, digestive enzymes, fish oils, CLA, and GLA. Assria also takes a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning.
Pre-workout: One scoop of BMR 4CE 30 minutes prior to going to the gym.
Intra-workout: “I always bring a shaker with my BMR BCAAs and I sip on it while I’m training—the best way to keep the muscles full and stay hydrated,” she says.
Post-workout: “I always make it a point to have protein on me at all times after a workout. It is so important to make sure you eat right after a session. I usually always have a protein shake ready to go in my car from BMR Sports Nutrition. My favorite protein shake is their strawberry flavor with strawberry chunks. It tastes so amazing,” she says.
Afternoon: More BMR BCAAs.
What is different about your supplement regimen than most people? Throughout the day I’ll consume BCAAs from BMR Sports Nutrition. BCAAS have become my key to keeping my muscles full and hydrated. I won’t allow any workout to go to waste, and when it tastes amazing it’s easy to keep drinking your BCAAs. I usually take in a gallon of water a day, so when I get to flavor my water it makes it that much easier.
Do you have a specific philosophy on supplements? I believe providing your body with high-end supplements is very important. You wouldn’t put cheap gas in a Ferrari, so why would you feed your body something negative? Supplements just give you that extra help—sometimes you don’t get all what your body needs in food. For example, I’ll be first to admit I don’t get all my greens in, so I substitute that with a powder supplement. There’s always ways to give your body those extra benefits, you just have to go out there and experiment.
If you could only take three supplements, what would they be? BMR BCAAs, BMR Protein powder, BMR 4CE pre-workout.