If your idea of shopping for protein powder involves grabbing the tub that's on sale this week, or ordering the one your ripped buddy uses, or simply defaulting to the one you've been using forever, you're not doing it right. Whether you're aware or not, there's some shadiness in the supplement industry and not all protein powders—or other supps for that matter—are created equally. Some are better—and cleaner!—than others. That's a fact Jim Stoppani, PhD, knows a thing or two million about. Stoppani is a research fellow at Yale University School of Medicine, holds a doctorate in exercise physiology, and now has a line of supplements with GNC called JYM Supplement Science. (Oh, and he's totally ripped.)
We talked to Stoppani about what sets his supps apart from the masses (hint: quite a bit!) plus, what he sees as the most exciting advances in supplements, training, and nutrition—and the supplement stack every guy should take. Read on.
MEN'S FITNESS: What should Men’s Fitness guys know about the JYM brand? What makes it different/better than other supps and protein out there?
Jim Stoppani: As the owner of JYM Supplement Science, I formulate every JYM product myself. Not to toot my own horn too much, but my qualifications are that I’m an accomplished exercise and sports nutrition scientist, with a doctorate from the University of Connecticut (Storrs), and a former award-winning research fellow at Yale University School of Medicine. After Yale, I was the Senior Science Editor for Muscle & Fitness, Muscle & Fitness Hers and FLEX for over 10 years, as well as a regular contributor to Men’s Fitness.
After covering supplements for over a decade in the magazines, I realized that the quality of sports nutrition products was dropping severely. So I created JYM Supplement Science to give people products that actually work and deliver results. I formulated every JYM product to be precisely what a hard-training guy would need to maintain and continue improving his physique and performance at any age. Honestly, I formulated these products for myself and I use the entire JYM line on a daily basis. I’ve been training seriously since I was a kid, and I’m 49 now and in as great of shape as ever. I’m not going to put anything in my body that doesn’t produce tangible results. I’ll only take the highest quality ingredients, and everyone else who takes JYM products is getting that same quality.
MF: Why did you decide to partner with GNC?
JS: GNC provides me a physical presence in the supplement world. While most of what I do is online, having physical GNC stores all over the world allows me to use those stores as hubs to come meet, thank, and inspire every JYM Army member. This is critical, because the JYM Army is instrumental in educating supplement consumers as well. Creating smarter supplement consumers is the only way to elevate the supplement industry as a whole.
MF: How specifically, then, are you using your brand and the GNC platform to help educate people about nutrition and supplementation?
JS: GNC is welcoming my philosophies with open minds. I’m educating every GNC employee in addition to every JYM Army member out there—not just on my supplement line, but on how to educate both the manufacturers and consumers so that more effective and safer supplements are made, bought, and used. To do this, I’ve created a paradigm called the “5 Pillars of Supplementation.” [This includes Proper Ingredients, Proper Form, Proper Dosing, Proper Synergy, and Proper Timing. For more info on this, see page two of this article.] It conceptualizes a systematic approach to both proper supplement manufacturing and supplement use. This will help to auto-regulate the supplement industry so that safer and more effective supplements are made to help consumers get better results.
MF: You have an impressive science background and have written a ton on training, nutrition, and supplements. In each category (training, nutrition, supplements) what do you see as the most exciting recent breakthroughs?
JS: With training, it's the new evidence that full-body workouts may be better than split-training for fat loss and even muscle growth. In nutrition, it's the mounting scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of intermittent fasting not only for fat loss, but for improving overall health and longevity. In supplements, it's the continued research showing that betaine aids muscle strength, power, and even mass gains. Most people don’t know much (if anything) about betaine, but it’s a great supplement for guys who hit the gym.
MF: If you walk into the gym and it’s your first day and you want to create your own program, what’s the most basic thing you can do that’ll be effective?
JS: I say keep it basic and make sure you’re training with some intensity. Supersets of opposing muscle groups are great for intensity and are also time-efficient. Three sets of 10-12 reps per exercise always works to promote both muscle-building and fat-burning. Head to the dumbbell station and do this:
Dumbbell Bench Press, 3 x 10
Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows, 3 x 10
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press, 3 x 10
Pull-ups, 3 x failure (as many reps as you can do per set)
Dumbbell Step-Ups, 3 x 10
Hanging Leg Raise, 3 x failure
Dumbbell Curl 3 x 10
Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension, 3 x 10
MF: For advanced athletes for whom training has become stale, what’s the best way of breaking through plateaus?
JS: Use periodization to regularly change the weight used and number of reps performed per set.
MF: What do you see as the biggest mistakes men make when it comes to training and supplements?
JS: Not taking their supplements at the right times around workouts.
MF: For a beginner looking to start training and add in supplements, what “stack” do you recommend for him? What about for a guy over 40?
JS: For a beginner, I would start with a protein powder blend that offers fast-digesting whey protein, medium-digesting egg protein or even soy protein, and very slow-digesting casein protein, such as my Pro JYM protein powder. Research confirms that this type of protein blend extends the anabolic window longer, and this could lead to greater gains in muscle size and strength. If someone’s jumping into one of my programs at JimStoppani.com, he may consider adding HMB as well for the first few months. HMB has been found to help beginners recover better after intense training. Take 1.5 - 3 grams of HMB twice a day with meals. After six months of solid training, you can start focusing more on creatine, beta-alanine, betaine, and BCAAs – all of which are contained in both Pre JYM and Post JYM (my pre-workout and post-workout products, respectively).
For the guy over 40 like me, you definitely want to use a protein blend like Pro JYM. Research shows that older guys require more protein than younger guys to achieve the same level of muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. At this age, it's also a good idea to optimize hormone levels with ingredients like fenugreek and ashwagandha, both of which are contained in Alpha JYM, my testosterone-optimizer. These ingredients can help raise testosterone production by enhancing the health and function of the testicles. They can also help to lower the conversion of muscle-building testosterone into DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which is associated with prostate cancer.
The 5 Pillars of Supplementation
By Jim Stoppani, PhD, owner and creator of JYM Supplement Science
The 5 Pillars of Supplementation are built on a solid nutrition foundation. It's like building a house—you have to pour the foundation first. Before you start using supplements, you need to have a nutrition plan based on your goals and lifestyle. This point also holds true for supplement manufacturers; you can't just peddle supplements without first giving your customers solid nutrition advice. That’s the foundation of everything I do at JYM Supplement Science as well as JimStoppani.com.
The five pillars are:
1) Proper Ingredients – Each ingredient must have ample evidence of its effectiveness in both the lab and the gym. Each ingredient must also have adequate evidence of its safety, again with both laboratory research and real-world evidence.
2) Proper Form – Each ingredient must be used in the proper form for the desired results, as certain forms of an ingredient may be better for certain products. For example, creatine HCL is better absorbed than creatine monohydrate, so it takes far less creatine HCL to provide results. This also helps prevent stomach issues that are common with the monohydrate form.
3) Proper Dosing – Each ingredient must be provided at the proper dose found to be effective in the lab and the gym. This includes synergies when multiple ingredients are used to provide an additive effect. For example, a lower dose of Alpha-GPC can provide a very effective brain boost when combined with adequate amounts of Huperzine A, caffeine, and tyrosine, as compared to taking Alpha-GPC alone.
4) Proper Synergy – To get the best results, be it better recovery or greater fat loss, combining certain ingredients with others to enhance each ingredient’s effect is critical. For example, taking creatine with BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) is a good synergy because leucine instigates insulin release, which is critical for creatine uptake by the muscles.
5) Proper Timing – When you take your supplements can be just as critical as the form and dosing of the ingredients. As an example, research shows that when protein and creatine are taken before and after workouts, subjects gain more muscle and strength, while also losing more body fat, than subjects taking the same supplements in the morning and at night.