One thing that bodybuilders must consider is how and where to spend their supplement dollars. It is an economic reality that not everyone has $100 to blow on a 2lb can of "cutting edge" protein, $60 to afford the latest thermogenic, or $40 for the latest and "greatest" box of protein bars.
Often I receive mail from ambitious bodybuilders and most commonly the question I receive is something along the lines of "What supplements work? I have read your articles, and you make good points. I do not want to get scammed. Can you help me?"
Almost everyone is familiar with the scams and fads "out there." We all know about the apple cider vinegar's, the shark cartilages, and the latest witch doctor brews. Unfortunately for those new to the bodybuilding lifestyle, what is less well known are tried, true methods of exercise, and tried, true and TRUSTED supplements and supplement companies.
Therefore, in response to the confusion prevalent amongst bodybuilding's newest members, this article is written. The aim of this article is to recommend specific supplements, in the attempt to circumvent and combat the confusion faced by those of you who have recently made the transition over to the bodybuilding lifestyle.
Supplements are, without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of a bodybuilder's arsenal. It is perfectly fine to have an amazing workout routine, but if your diet and supplement routines fail, your results will be compromised. Often, supplements are the difference between good results, and great results.
Below are several supplements that are fundamental for bodybuilders. Using them to augment your workouts will provide you with the assurance that you are maximizing your potential gains. They are listed in order of importance and priority.
When constructing a supplement program one should first give attention to the careful selection of a multi-vitamin. First and foremost consideration must be given to any potential allergies that you may have. Failure to select the correct multi-vitamin may result in an allergic reaction to the vitamins ingredients.
In my particular situation, I have an allergy to the element nickel (Ni), as did my father before me. I have experienced allergic reaction to a multi-vitamin resulting from its nickel content.
As a result, I experienced diarrhea, gastro-intestinal upset, and dull aching in my kidneys. Upon discontinuation of the vitamins, the symptoms dissipated. Given that no other alterations were made to my supplement or diet program, the multi-vitamin used is likely to have been the cause.
Therefore, to avoid this unpleasant experience, it is suggested that one makes a note of any potential allergies that may exist, and carefully examine the ingredients on a multi-vitamin prior to purchase.
Further, any other pre-existing medical conditions that one may have should be kept in mind while considering a multi-vitamin. For example, in the case of prostatitis [prostate enlargement that is interfering with the ability to pass urine], a multi-vitamin with a high zinc content [15mg or greater] is best avoided.
Time-release versus non-time release is also something that one should consider. Time-released multi-vitamins are usually more expensive but provide considerable advantage as minerals and vitamins are released at a slower, but more steady rate. This allows for better retention, and an overall better value. There is little sense in spending money on a product, only to rid yourself of the vitamins as your urinate.
Men and women require different dosages of minerals and vitamins. Resist the urge to think, "more is better." It is not; precise is best when dealing with multi-vitamins.
Glutamine is a standard issue for anyone considering a supplement purchase. In fact, Glutamine is so important and plays so many roles in the body if it's a choice between Glutamine and the latest Whey supplement, Glutamine would be first choice.
Hard training athletes need glutamine because the body is unable to make enough of it on its own when subject to intense and heavy training. BCAA's [branch chain amino acids] are precursors to glutamine, but without an external supply of glutamine to satisfy the body's needs, gains will be minimized.
When one is under stress [when working out, for example] glutamine is released from the muscles, and this can result in dehydration. Dehydration, as many will know from research, leads to a catabolic state. High glutamine levels in the body will allow for greater protein synthesis and increased hydration, which will result in increases of lean tissue.
In my personal situation glutamine has been quite helpful in boosting the immune system. Despite what you professors in Med School may tell you, glutamine works, and big time!
Also, glutamine stimulates the pituitary gland in the brain; thereby increase available levels of Growth Hormone. A neurotransmitter known as Gamma Amino Butyric Acid [GABA] is also boosted, and this helps in recovery and relaxation.
When considering a purchase of glutamine one should pay careful attention to the wording. Does the package say "free form" or "peptide bonded"? These are two important but very different phrases. Peptide-bonded glutamine is more stable than its free free-form counterpart. It is also more expensive. Peptide-bonded may be taken with food while free form is best taken on an empty stomach.
Obtaining enough protein in the diet alone is often difficult. Theoretically it is possible. However, by relying exclusively on whole-food sources to obtain ones complete daily protein requirements, one risks the digestion of incomplete proteins, as well as placing undue stress upon the digestive tract.
Therefore, to circumvent the previously mentioned difficulties, a protein powder is useful. When selecting a Whey protein product, careful attention should be given to the type of Whey protein contained in the can. Things to consider are: Yield, Functionality, Amino Acid Profile (BCAA - EAA ratio), WPI:WPC Ratio, Filler Percentage, Taste, Ease of use, Blendability, Digestibility, Functionality and results.
Creatine is an excellent supplement that when used as part of a strength program can produce great gains in lean muscle tissue for the user. When considering a Creatine product, purity should be of primary consideration. Contrary to popular propaganda, one does not need to have 75gm of dextrose in order for Creatine to be effective.
Creatine monohydrate is best taken, in my experience, with the following substances in a post-workout shake:
- 5gm Glutamine
- 10gm Creatine monohydrate
- 50gm Dextrose
- 40-60gm Whey protein
Dextrose is beneficial when taken with Creatine, as it illicits an insulin spike, thereby shuttling more creatine into the intended target: the muscle. However, reducing the amount of dextrose, and introducing Whey protein into the mix may elicit a greater insulin spike. By doing this an insulin spike equivalent to using 90g of dextrose may be seen.
Creatine is fairly cheap, and over the years its quality has improved considerably. Long gone are the days of Chinese creatine. Creatine monohydrate in the powder form is the recommended type, as attempts at stabilizing liquid creatine serums have not been met with success.
ZMA is a supplement that may be considered a "basic" by some or an "accessory" by others. It is included here as a basic because it assists greatly in recovery and prevents muscle wasting resulting from a calorie-reduced diet.
ZMA is a supplement that boosts natural testosterone levels to their maximum. It does this by employing a unique synergistic combination of three minerals [Zinc, Magnesium, Aspartate]. I include ZMA in my supplement regimen, and find is useful especially when on a fat-loss program.
When on a strength and muscle-building program, ZMA is useful in that due to increase testosterone levels brought about by increased calories and its use, a great increase in strength can be seen.
When on a fat-loss program, a thermogenic can greatly increase fat loss. Two popular brands are Hydroxycut and Xenadrine NRG. Having used both, I am in a position where I can recommend one or the other.
In my own fat-loss program I prefer Hydroxycut because compared with Xenadrine consistent levels of fat burning compounds are maintained in the blood more consistently due to the dosing procedure. When considering a fat loss product, it is important to go with products that have been tested and are manufactured by reputable companies. Usually, a product with ECA will qualify.
ECA [Ephedra-Caffine-Asprin] has been shown to safely reduce body fat levels in healthy adults without major side effects. In future articles I will discuss ECA in more detail, but suffice it to say that ECA is an effective supplement when on a fat-loss program. Fat burners when used with a sound fat-loss plan and adequate cardiovascular exercise will ensure maximum, but safe, fat loss.
A supplement program is an integral part of a bodybuilder's arsenal. An effective supplementation program will be tailored around pre-existing medical conditions as well as bodybuilder's goals for body-composition modification.
The selection of effective supplements manufactured by reputable companies will ensure that products chosen will meet label claim, and will assist the bodybuilder to achieve his or her respective goals.
When coupled with an adequate fitness regimen consisting of weight training and cardiovascular work, supplementation can yield considerable results and elicit dramatic changes in body composition and appearance.
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