Without a doubt my favorite part of the fitness world is supplements. However, supplements remain one of the most misunderstood aspects of fitness. Walking into a store like GNC or Vitamin Shoppe can be an overwhelming experience when you see the multitude of products on the shelves. This is even worse when you are new to working out. With all due respect to these stores, the clerks may or may not always have a diverse knowledge of supplements and nutrition. This article will outline how to choose the right supplements for your goal and help you understand why they work!
How to Choose the Right Supplements for Your Goal
GOAL: GAIN MUSCLE
Whey Protein: Whey is a fast digesting protein derived from cow milk. Whey digests in around thirty minutes which makes it optimal for post workout recovery. Protein gets broken down into amino acids which repair and build muscle tissue. Whey isolate is the preferable form.
Vegan Protein: You can be a vegan and still gain muscle! There are many bodybuilders and athletes that don’t consume milk products. Choose one that is low in carbs and high in veggie protein.
Drink a shake of 20-25 grams pre workout and 30-40 grams post workout.
Creatine: Creatine is a naturally occurring organic compound in vertebrates (this includes humans). Its primary biological function is to supply energy to the muscles. Creatine brings water to muscle tissue to help engorge the fibers and enlarge the muscle. This also can increase overall growth by causing more cells to be designated to muscle repair. Creatine comes in many forms but the most proven are creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride.
Creatine monohydrate can be taken in 5 gram doses post workout and works best with fast digesting carbs.
Creatine hydrochloride is taken in 2.5 gram doses post workout with fast digesting carbs.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs): Branched chain amino acids are a set of three aminos (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). These three amino acids are essential, meaning the body cannot synthesize them. They are effective for stimulating skeletal muscle protein synthesis.
BCAAs doses are in a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, valine.
For people who seem to recover slowly or have compromised immune systems, choose an amino acid complex that’s even more complete. If you break down food poorly or you have multiple food allergies, this could also be the case. You can purchase products that include almost ALL of the amino acids.
*The Real Deal- Even the best quality protein is not a magic bullet. Putting on slabs of rock hard muscle is an unrealistic expectation. Protein shakes aide in muscle repair and growth predicated from a comprehensive resistance workout program. The amount of muscle you build depends on factors like diet, effort in the gym, and genetics.
GOAL: LOSE WEIGHT
Protein Shakes: These are a great way to supplement protein intake. Protein is the only macronutrient that the body cannot store and also helps build muscle tissue. A protein shake between meals can help reduce hunger and prevent overeating.
Aim to get .5 – 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight from sources like poultry, lean beef, fish, and whey/casein or vegan protein powders. If you are aiming for weight loss choose the lower end of the range .5 – .75 grams of protein per pound of weight. You can take this even further and calculate your protein intake for the weight you’d like to be.
Fitness Tip: If you want to be 150 pounds but you are 175 pounds – calculate your protein intake for your goal weight of 150. This will help with your transformation. If you can’t do that initially, change your protein intake over time in a “step down” process.
Green tea extract: Green tea (Camellia sinensis) extract is widely proven for its thermogenic qualities. Green tea extract contains compounds called catechins, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG inhibits the enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters which regulate metabolic rate. This encourages greater calorie burn.
Take 500 mg 2-3 times a day before meals. Look for a product with at least a 30-45% EGCG content and 70-90% polyphenol content
Acetyl-L-Carnitine: Acetyl-L-Carnitine helps transport fat across the mitochondria of cells. The mitochondria is a cells power plant where energy is produced.
Take 1.5 grams thirty minutes before meals
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA): CLA is an Omega-6 fatty acid that has been shown to inhibit the enzyme that allows fat to be stored in the body.
Take 1-3 grams three times a day, the last before bed.
The Real Deal: Weight loss or more accurately fat loss comes from a comprehensive eating plan and workout program. You must establish a calorie deficit by either lowering calories or increasing use through workout. Any thermogenic supplement or ingredient will not burn fat while you sit. These products simply help increase metabolic rate and fat usage. Sitting back and eating what you want and just popping a pill is not and never will be a realistic weight loss scenario.
GOAL: GENERAL HEALTH
Multivitamin: Vitamins and minerals play roles in a multitude of functions within the body. For more on vitamin function read my article Vitamins By The Letter.
The average American diet is void of many important nutrients. Furthermore, those who train and athletes whose body endure high levels of physical stress need a quality multivitamin to support well-being and optimal performance.
With vitamins, you really get what you pay for. You can buy a quality product for around $20.00-$25.00 that will last you about a month. Consider that a majority of people spend that weekly in designer coffee that holds no nutritional benefit and is often full of empty calories from sugar.
Quality multivitamins will often feature dosages that are above the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA). This is off-putting to some as it is deemed excessive. Keep in mind that the RDA is heavily flawed and does not account for a multitude of variables. In reality is it very hard to get all of the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs strictly from food.
Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement with food, preferably with the first meal of the day. It’s not advised to take on an empty stomach as some vitamins are fat soluble and require fat to be absorbed in the body.
*Avoid products that contain calcium. Calcium inhibits the body’s usage of some minerals. Supplemental calcium should be taken by itself 30-60 minutes away from other supplements or medications. However, calcium should be taken with Vitamin D.
Fish Oil: Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are important to health for a variety of reasons including reducing the risk of heart disease as well as brain function and joint health.
Try to avoid lower end products as they may not be adequately processed to be free of mercury. Look for a product that undergoes molecular distillation which is a filtration process that removes heavy metals and toxins. This also helps prevent fishy smells and aftertaste often associated with lower quality products. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
Take a Fish Oil supplement in a dosage of 2,000 mg fish oil twice daily with meals. Total daily recommended dosages of EPA and DHA are 1500 mg each.
The Real Deal: Your overall health depends on a multitude of factors including diet, activity level, genetic, environmental, etc. Supplements like multivitamins and fish oil fill in nutritional gaps. However simple habits like avoiding processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, recreational drugs, smoking, and overuse of over the counter and prescription drugs will all contribute to good health.
A supplement can do wonders to improve your quality of health, however they cannot compensate for poor lifestyle habits.