Should Your Supplement Stack Change Through the Year?
The days of three sets of ten on bench and curls, followed by banging down the protein are gone. The typical gym user is more educated than ever about training methods, nutrition and a suitable supplement stack, but beyond understanding what these variables all do, is there another level to understanding?
I believe there is – the typical gym user can adjust their supplement stack to reflect their training, goals and requirements throughout the year.
In this article I’m going to break supplementation throughout the seasons. Of course we’re all different, so I’m approaching this with a ‘broad strokes’ mentality – the suggestions I make would suit most gm goers, but if you have very specific requirements, refine them further.
The Nutrition Seasons: Winter Supplements
For most of us, winter is the time where we’re covered up and looking to pack on the muscle. We’re bulking, adding size, training hard and not too worried about keeping especially lean. You’ll need the extra calories to support your training and recovery.
There’s also the fact that it’s winter, there are colds and flu’s doing the rounds, you’re probably drinking and eating more with Christmas parties etc, so you’re doing your immune system no good. You should look to support that.
Your winter supplement stack should do a few things…
- Support a high training volume.
- Add extra calories to help add muscle mass.
- Boost immunity.
- Help keep mood up during the darker days.
With that in mind, I’d suggest a stack centred around…
- A mass gainer to help the weight gain – ideally one with a high concentration of whey and possibly creatine.
- Vitamin D – you’re unlikely to be seeing much of the sun, so get your vitamin D any way you can.
- A high dose fish oil, to help brain and joint function. Joints don’t like cold weather much, so support them as best as you can.
- Some CBD oil to help improve sleep quality and depth.
The Nutrition Seasons: Spring Supplements
By the time the spring comes along, there’s a good chance your winter bulk is coming to an end. At this point the attention should be turning to a gradual leaning out phase, where a slow but steady drop in calories will see you drop the first bits of fat.
At this point you don’t need to be too aggressive in your fat loss strategy, but you do need to keep an eye on your general health. Sunlight is still likely to be an issue in early spring, so you’ll need to bear that in mind. Finally, training volume will still be high, but the extra nutrition support from the mass gainer won’t be around.
Your Spring supplement stack needs to…
- Support a high training volume at a lower calorie level.
- Maintain vitamin D levels at limited sun levels.
- Support mental health.
A supplement stack I’d suggest for spring would be…
- Vitamin D – there’s still not enough sunlight for natural intake.
- A high quality whey protein – lower calories than the mass gainer, but still provides hypertrophy help.
- Fish oil – maybe not super high dose, but spring can still be tough for joints.
- Creatine – helps support intense training without huge calories.
The Nutrition Seasons: Summer Supplements
By the summer, everything is tighter. Generally your nutrition is better – vitamin and mineral intake from a dietary point of view is great, sun exposure is higher and training volume is high, but not as high as winter and spring – the hard work bulking has been done earlier in the year, now it’s about maintaining that muscle.
Now your stack should reflect underpinning health whilst calories are lower. You can’t go beasting yourself in training on lower calories, so your training is to maintain muscle without adding fat. Your training may need a little boost if energy is flagging, but that can’t come from a high-calorie source.
Your Summer supplement stack needs to…
- Keep you healthy whilst on lower calories.
- Boost your training.
- Underpin general health, help you recover.
A supplement stack I’d suggest for summer would be…
- A low calorie, low carb whey. You need the protein, not the calories.
- A multivitamin – this is your insurance policy against mineral loss in sweating etc.
- Not a supplement as such, but I’d probably up my caffeine to support training quality.
The Nutrition Seasons: Autumn Supplement Stack
Like the spring, the autumn is the other side of the summer hill. It’s warm, but rarely hot. It’s cool, but rarely cold. You’re probably not ready to give up the lean physique yet, so won’t be in a rush to ramp up the calories. Training will still be about maintenance at this point in time.
The sunlight will be dropping, so you have to take this into consideration – we’ve discussed before how vitamin D is an important vitamin for both health and performance. After a few months of lower calories you could probably do with a few extras, so your stack could reflect that.
Your Autumn supplement stack needs to…
- Add a few extra calories to help maintain muscle mass.
- Support joints as the weather cools.
- Continue to underpin general health.
- Add vitamin D to counteract declining sunlight.
A supplement stack I’d suggest for Autumn would be…
- Whey protein – probably mixed with milk rather than water.
- Fish oil – doesn’t need to be high dose, but a little extra would help.
- A multivitamin – more insurance before food intake ramps back up.
Next Level Knowledge – Tailoring Your Supplement Stack to the Seasons
We’re at a stage in the fitness and nutrition world where more information is available than ever before. As gym and supplement users, we have high quality data and studies and we can make decisions about our health, fitness and performance that are backed by evidence. When you use this correctly, you can make huge gains in physique and performance.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to look at your current supplement stack and question whether or not it’s time to change up your approach, giving you year-round benefits. Take a look around other articles in the site to learn more.