The RIGHT way to use supplements

We have covered a plethora of different nutritional supplements, to aid in physical training and also for prepping and survival in general. Most people (at the bare minimum) use extra vitamins and perhaps supplement their diet with drinks that can be either blended or mixed and then consumed. Equally as important as their use, however, is the timing with which they are employed. Without running too “deep” into the topic, this article will provide the basics and reasoning of how to employ supplements with the best results for you.

Let’s break it down by parts of the day: Morning, afternoon, and evening. Some adjustments may have to be made: some people like to walk, jog, or work out in the morning, whereas others like these activities in the afternoon or evening. Other factors that come into play are your work schedule, travel time to and from work, and what type of employment you have (physically demanding, etc.)

I highly recommend reading articles I wrote before on some subjects that may be used to accompany this article, such as how to build your own home gym, and also how to count what physical labor you perform as a type of “workout time.”


After being asleep for around 8 hours, your body is going to need energy upon arising (hence the word “breakfast” that comes directly from “break fast,” or cessation of the nightly “fast”). If your workout/exercise is in this time frame? You’ll need to fortify yourself with a protein shake (with your amino acids), or a BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) formula…to condition yourself and prepare your muscles with nutrients prior to the work being performed.

Vitamins prior to exercise are a “mixed bag,” with some camps saying not to take them and others to take them. Personally, I do not take them before a workout, and we’ll address this later. The important thing to keep in mind: your supplements in the morning should be geared toward the performance of your workout in the morning and/or physical activities. This is not an oversimplification, but instead a statement geared toward preparatory function. I already wrote articles on each of these supplements I mention here, so I’m just going to summarize what they do in brackets for brevity’s sake.

Creatine Monohydrateload up just prior to the workout (supplies mitochondria with energy to form ATP)

BCAAs (Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine: to lower muscle catabolism): just prior to exercise

L-Glutamine: (converts directly to glycogen; critical for energy): pre-load an hour before exercise. Read more here.

It is your post-workout that is important…very critical, as you need to be consuming protein and carbohydrates to offset catabolism (and “cannibalism” as outlined previously) within 20 minutes to 30 minutes after your workout. This is where the protein shakes come into the picture, and they’re “golden” because they are in a form that is readily absorbed by your body and used in the immediacy. A bagel or several eggs will not be taken in as quickly as the shake, and by the time they are digested, you’ve passed by the 20 to 30-minute window where they were needed.

Then you’ll need a complete meal about an hour after that. This is the time to take your vitamins and other supplements. Another thing: it cannot be understated that reference materials are very important. I have mentioned several sources, and a good reference work on supplements, vitamins, minerals, and the like is invaluable for planning your daily work and workout routine.


Once again, much is going to depend on your level of physical activity during the course of your job. If you are going to work out in the afternoon? You’ll switch what we mentioned in the morning section to this part of the day. Main focus otherwise should be on a good, well-balanced meal high in protein with medium amounts of carbs, and either a shake or an electrolyte packet if needed. This is not a time of the day that (aside from prepping for an afternoon workout) you’ll be focusing on supplements and vitamins, and it is not the optimal time of the day for absorption.


This part of the day is where you’ll “make your money,” so to speak. A good, well-balanced meal for dinner is essential. Then, prior to bedtime, you will want to throw down a protein shake. This will offset what we discussed earlier: the ravages of the night and the needs of your metabolism. As the metabolism is slower during the night, you can take this opportunity to drink your shake and allow all of the nutrients to be “soaked up” akin to a sponge into your muscle and tissues. If you do it this way: one before bed? You’ll wake up with a big jump on things whether you exercise in the morning or not.

If you exercise in the evening prior to coming home from work, or when you get home?  You’ll need to take in the protein shake and other supplements prior to exercising, to offset the rigors of the day. Then knock out your workout, and then proceed to ingest a shake afterward. With a late dinner and 2 shakes consumed, you may be able to forgo a shake before bedtime. This is a difficult “juggling act” to follow, as you may have a family and family obligations and activities that may need to be taken care of that do not permit a workout as other times in the day.

The supplements you take at night can also be multivitamins and minerals…the sleep-time supplementation (just prior to) allows your body to metabolize these substances more evenly and efficiently. Excretion and/or use by your body takes longer, and the benefits are multifold.

A Few Words on Caffeine

As most of you already know, I’m a coffee-drinking Muldoon, and I also stress that coffee is proven to help your workouts. It is (in low dosages such as 1 cup, approximately 200 mg of caffeine) a fat-burner, and it helps with mental alertness, and to stimulate the transmission of nerve impulses through acetylcholine and the synaptic end vesicles for the neuromuscular system. Wow! What this means is increased alertness, and also increased neuromuscular response when exercising. Weigh these benefits with any condition you may have with your heart or with your nervous system that may mean you’ll have to forgo the coffee. Under normal conditions, one cup prior to your workout is a definite “go” that will help you out.

To conclude, taking your vitamins and supplements should not be a spur of the moment action, but a planned activity. Know what you’re taking and why, and compare a supplement’s components and capabilities with the times of the day and conditions under which you’ll be using it. Absorption is optimal while sleeping and always prepare from a nutritional perspective prior to your workouts. Questions and comments are more than welcome, and we’d love to hear what you guys and gals do to get yourselves going and make it work.  Stay in that good fight!  JJ out!


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition