Supplements will never replace proper nutrition, but they can help you hit your fitness goals faster! Supplements complement your diet and help cover nutrient gaps, ensuring that your body has what it needs for peak performance. No matter what your training goals are, the right supplements can help improve your health, performance and physique.
Of course, you should always know what you fuel you put in your tank. In other words, don't use anything you don't understand. Assuming you already use a multivitamin, these five mini-guides will help you build a solid supplement foundation!
Pop open the protein section of a 20-year-old diet book. It looks nothing like today's nutrition literature! It was thought that the human body needed 10-to-15 percent of its daily caloric intake from protein, a number still propagated by official government guidelines.
Now, after extensive study and testing, it's commonly thought that 20-to-30 percent is a more accurate intake, especially for hard-training athletes and weekend warriors.
Because they've been educated by strength trainers and coaches, athletes eat high amounts of protein. Their coaches discovered what works best through decades of trial and error. Just recently has this information been absorbed by the general public.
The first and most obvious step to getting enough daily protein is through food - preferably through animal sources, complete proteins. This can be time-consuming and expensive.
Eating every 2-to-3 hours isn't possible for some people, while others just don't want to eat that frequently. That's where protein supplementation factors in.
Protein supplements act fast and enable you to comfortably and affordably meet your daily protein goals, even when you're busy at work. At certain times, especially after a workout, protein supplements may even be more beneficial than food. Because whey protein is digested quickly and easily, it's the ideal post-workout protein source.
Here's a quick list to guide you into protein supplementation.
Fish oil's numerous benefits come from its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. Omega-3s are considered "essential fatty acids," which means they're necessary for human health, but aren't made by the body.
Omega-3 fats are found most abundantly in oily fish, eggs, grass-fed beef and wild animals (deer, elk, etc.). Omega-3 fatty acids are also present in various non-animal products, such as Brazil nuts, walnuts and flaxseeds.
In Palaeolithic times, omega-3 fats were found more abundantly in numerous animals. Due to industrial farming, modern preservation methods and reduced soil quality, today's animal products typically contain fewer total omega-3 fatty acids.
Because of their rich EPA and DHA content, fish oil supplements are an ideal omega-3 source. Fish oil is an essential supplement, whether you're trying to build muscle, burn fat, or boost overall health.
Fish oil supports:
- Cognitive function
- Normal, healthy immune system function
- Heart health
- Healthy skin
- Joint health
- And more!
The branched chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine and valine. When taken during training, BCAAs can improve prolonged performance and promote recovery. BCAAs may also reduce muscle breakdown (catabolism), potentially leading to more total muscle growth.
- Increase energy
- Enhance protein synthesis
- Boost strength and power
- Improve muscle-building potential
Naturally found in foods high in protein, BCAAs are already part of anyone's diet. As a supplement, however, BCAAs are particularly useful during a workout for increased energy, less total muscle breakdown, and improved recovery.
They're also useful on non-training days to help maintain lean body mass.
Glutamine is an adaptogenic amino acid found in protein. It's the most abundant amino acid in skeletal muscle, and also plays a vital role in immune system health and the wellbeing of the entire body.
In supplement form, glutamine can yield additional benefits to help build muscle mass.
- Muscle growth
- Reduced muscle catabolism
- Normal, healthy immune system function
- Gut health
Glutamine is particularly beneficial after workouts because it has the ability to re-synthesize muscle glycogen and glutamine levels lost during exercise without the release of insulin.
This is great news for people who workout several time per week, especially on a low-carb diet. Longer recovery time means a longer time to reach your goals. Start supplementing with glutamine!
Creatine is one of the most-well-studied supplements on the market. It has been shown to improve sprint times and boost the performance of athletes engaged in high-intensity activity, such as weightlifting and strength training.
Creatine can boost maximal strength and energy output during exercise, allowing you to lift heavier, longer. It also acts as a "cell volumizer," making muscles fuller.
Creatine is a by-product of amino acid metabolites found in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Approximately 95 percent of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, and the remaining five percent in the liver, kidneys, brain and testes.
While there are multiple forms of creatine available, creatine monohydrate has been around longest and is the best-tested.