Updated Feb. 15, 2018

In part one of this series I described the importance of knowing what is in your food and products. As a recap: Making your food from simple ingredients gives you a much better control over what you ingest. Similarly, creating (or stacking) your own combinations of single-ingredient components allows you to make supplements that do what you actually intend. The same is also true for beauty products. This entry will break down the ingredients (as well as the functions of these individual products) to make an energizing, muscle-building stack. The recipe included in this article will address energy and focus, protein supplementation, and protecting hard-won muscles from breaking down.

Energy & Focus

Most pre-mixed products will include a wide range of ingredients, many of which bolster metabolism and prolong or intensify focus and exertion. The problem is that proprietary blends aren’t necessarily spelled out clearly on labels, and many other components are unintelligible. What’s more, most of these ingredients (e.g., green tea extract, coffee extract, etc.) are essentially sources of caffeine, and others aren’t proven to work as advertised (e.g., Carnitine,“nitric oxide”/NO, etc.). If you tolerate caffeine well, this may not be an issue; however, if you contend with anxiety or other conditions that are exacerbated by caffeine, you will need to avoid it. If you do add caffeine to your stack, use a tablet that has nothing but caffeine in the ingredient list. Note: The energizing components of these mixes and stacks can give you the jitters or induce aggression. It is for this reason that you should practice stacking: You can leave this part out, should you so desire.

Protein & Amino Acids

Protein is the building block of muscle. You must have it. Your own dietary restrictions and preferences will dictate which products you will add into your stack. Complete protein is gained from animal products. For pre- and post-workout supplementation, you will need a fast absorbing protein. Whey is the best option. Casein, egg and beef proteins are slow digesting, and soy is controversial because of its possible connection to estrogen levels. A note for vegetarians: The only plants I am aware of that are truly complete proteins are quinoa and soy.

Also, you will need to decide if you want your stack to provide calories or not. If you are keeping your calories controlled, you will not want to add protein itself, but it’s components (amino acids). If you use a whey protein powder, these products already contain Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA), so you will not need to add more to your stack. Check your protein’s label for more information.


Once you have invested all this effort and work, you’ll want to make sure your gains are protected. When your body doesn’t have enough calories, or if it senses your muscles are either unnecessary or too expensive calorically, it will break muscle fibers back down for energy. This process is called catabolization. To avoid this, you can add anti-catabolization ingredients to your stack.


Choose one product from each row to create your stack. Please note that some of these ingredients have not been approved or confirmed by the FDA to provide the results claimed on their labels. Also, I suggest first using each supplement alone to see if you tolerate each individual component of your stack. Once you feel comfortable that your system can handle each ingredient, then put them together into your personalized stack.


info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.