Fitness 360: Dr. Sara Solomon, Supplement Program
Sara schedules her diet around her intermittent fasting. By knowing the science behind supplementation, she perfected a program that works for her.
As someone who once struggled with proper nutrition, Sara knows about the importance of understanding the value of everything you put in your body—including supplements. She separates her stacks into "fasted" and "feeding" and uses them to meet her fitness goals.
Dr. Sara Solomon Fitness 360
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Sara's supplement program complements her diet. Each supplement plays a role in keeping her lean. Most people know the importance of taking their supplement stack, but Sara takes things one step farther because she knows the importance of timing. "There are supplements I take when I'm fasted, and there are supplements I take when I'm feeding," she says.
When fasting, Sara takes branched-chain amino acids. According to the good doctor, BCAAs are crucial to anyone on an intermittent fasting regimen. "They help inhibit protein breakdown and will stimulate muscle protein synthesis while you're in your fasted state so that training fasted will not be catabolic," she says. "I like to take a BCAA that has no sugar, no carbs, and only 10 calories." It makes sense: Any supp containing has too many calories would, by definition, break her fast.
Sara does not break her fast immediately post-workout because her workout typically wraps early in the morning. "I often don't break my fast until 4 or 5 hours after my workout. No, I'm not crazy—I just understand that consuming any type of sugar post-workout will stop the fat-burning benefits of exercise-induced human growth hormone. Thanks to sugar-free BCAAs, I can maintain my fast and still burn fat after my workout."
While she trains fasted, Sara sometimes needs that extra jolt to get going. "Sometimes I wake up and just don't feel like working out," she says. "What I do is take a pre-workout to help me get through." You can either drink black coffee, or use a pre-workout, provided it is calorie-free and sugar-free. Sara also takes green tea extract prior to fasted training to help support fat loss.
At a certain point in the evening, it's time to eat. The supplements she takes at this point are a fat-soluble multivitamins, fish oil, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), L-carnitine, vitamin D, and calcium. The multi covers any macronutrients missing in her diet. CLA has been shown to help support fat loss, and fish oil helps with leptin sensitivity—something especially important for lean people.
"Leptin is a hormone that tells you when you are hungry," Sara says. "The leaner you are, the less leptin you have. So when you diet to get lean, your leptin levels drop, which explains why eating in caloric deficit makes you feel like you are starving." But, fear not. A good dose of carbs—also known as a carb reefed—can help you avoid this. How? "Increasing your calories [from carbs] to maintenance levels 1-2 times per week will boost your leptin levels, which can boost your metabolism and fat-burning potential, and provide hunger abatement so you won't binge eat," Sara says. "It's a great technique to trick the last few pounds of stubborn fat off an already lean body."
Sara pairs fat-burning L-carnitine with the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. "What's interesting is that L-carnitine is supposed to be taken with a carbohydrate to be effective, but new research has shown you can take it with fish oil and still get the benefits," she says. "Vitamin D helps with the lack of sun in Canada—I live in Toronto—and may help with weight management, along with its other health benefits." Calcium supplementation helps boost bone strength.
The bottom line, says Sara, is to think critically about supplements —like anything else in life. "Don't do something because somebody told you to do it or because you read it somewhere or because your favorite athlete does it," she says. "Do your homework, do some research."
Ideally, the best way to meet your daily vitamin and mineral needs is through a balanced diet. If you are unable to meet your daily recommended micronutrient needs with your daily menu selection, supplements may help fill the gaps.
- Wall, B., Stephens, F., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Marmuthu, K., Macdonald, I., Greenhaff, P. Chronic Oral Ingestion of L-Carnitine and Carbohydrate Increases Muscle Carnitine Content and Alters Muscle Fuel Metabolism During Exercise in Humans. The Journal of Physiology. 2011. 589, 963-973.