The first things that most trainees become interested in once they decide to embark on a new fitness plan are supplements. I have a friend that goes out to eat wings at least twice per week and in some cases gets in as many workouts (in some cases).
Just recently he called to tell me he purchased a new "two-week" supplement stack that was promised to add 10 pounds in 10 days. He just couldn't wait to "transform" his body in less than two weeks with these "magic pills".
Overall I think of myself as a positive person, but in this case I just couldn't hide my lack of approval. I explained to him that for anyone to get the body they desire, consistency in diet and training must be their top priority.
Supplements, while very beneficial when used correctly, are just that. They supplement what should be an already solid nutrition and training regimen. Unfortunately, many believe that they can get away with poor nutritional habits and mediocre training by taking supplements.
I will say that I have tried many of the supplements out there. Never once did they make up for poor training or bad eating. If you look around most gyms, those who really stand out are the ones who train hard and eat right.
Don't get me wrong, I think using supplements judiciously and wisely are very beneficial, and can greatly enhance ones physique! Without buying my favorite supplements on Bodybuilding.com, I promise, my workouts and physique would suffer.
In saying that, there are a few supplements that in my opinion are vital to success. Understanding what they do and where they come from is as important as any training regime we embark upon.
To get the most out of your body, you must understand how it adapts to the training it endures and the foods you place in it. Supplements are no different. Below, I will briefly describe what I feel to be the best supplements and those that anybody new to fitness and training should invest in.
Whey Protein: No Other Supplement Is As Important
Whey has become as popular in the fitness and bodybuilding industry as dumbbells. It is a high quality-complete protein with adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. There are various types on the market with countless flavors.
Not only does it contain all the essential amino acids we all need, but also digests rapidly, tastes great, and allows your muscles to quickly begin the repair process following exercise.
Why can't you just eat whole foods? Well, you can, but the time it takes to digest these whole foods following a workout will no doubt leave your muscles unsatisfied far too long.
Whey will quickly pass through your stomach and enter your circulation, allowing you to reap all the benefits of the "post workout-anabolic" window. Last but not least, the ratio of protein:calories and/or protein:fat in whey protein is far superior to most whole food protein sources.
Where Does It Come From?
Whey protein has been around longer than we think. Essentially, it is synthesized from the same milk that we drink every day. In fact, it often was thrown away after the "casein," a more slowly digested form of protein was extracted from milk protein.
Approximately 80% of milk protein is in fact casein, with the remaining 20% being whey. Initially, fresh milk is tested and then approved by quality assurance experts before being pasteurized. Again, the casein and milk fat is separated out to make cheese and what remains is whey.
Now, the remaining whey will go through specialty filters that separate it even further into whey and lactose. The then concentrated liquid whey will enter an "ion exchange" tower that further increases it's concentration.
The whey is also purified at this point but in no way do these processes denature or affect the "purity" of the whey protein. The whey is then transferred to a drying tower to remove water and it is then packaged for sale.
Whey Protein Isolate:
Whey protein isolate and concentrate are different. Isolate is the purest form of whey there is and is most definitely what you should purchase in my opinion. It is approximately 90% protein and contains very little fat and lactose.
Whey Protein Concentrate:
Whey protein concentrate on the other hand has less protein and in fact can vary from 25-90% protein! This seems like a tremendous risk to take when the protein you consume can often be the most important piece to your nutritional arsenal. It is also important to note that as the protein concentration decreases, the amount of fat and lactose increases.
Whey has many components that make it so advantageous to us. Each year finds greater advances in technology that leads to more purified forms of whey protein. In my opinion it should be a component of any nutrition regimen.
Since it came on the market in 1993, no other supplement has been more widely used by athletes. While the vast majority of published studies pertaining to the effects of creatine are positive, it is not a miracle supplement. It is an extremely effective one though, and one that can accelerate your progress.
While lifting weights or exercising, the body uses an immediate form of energy called adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). After this source of energy is used, then glucose and glycogen are tapped into as energy sources. Therefore, the more creatine you have in your muscles, the faster and more explosive your initial energy can be when running or lifting. That is why so many athletes such as sprinters and football players find it so advantageous.
Where Does It Come From?
Creatine, otherwise known as methyl guanidine acetic acid, is made up of three amino acids in arginine, histidine and methionine. It can be synthesized in a lab or the liver can combine these amino acids and synthesize it's own creatine. What that essentially means is, we produce it naturally. In fact, most people synthesize about a gram a day, and those who eat red meat synthesize even more.
95% of the creatine in our body is stored in skeletal muscle, with the other 5% in the liver, kidneys, brain and testes. When energy is needed, ATP will cleave off one of it's phosphate groups, becoming ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate), and thus provide the body with immediate energy.
Creatine phosphate, with the donation of its phosphate group, allows the adenosine-diphosphate to become adenosine-triphosphate again. Thus, you recover quicker, secondary to the quick re-synthesis of ATP (Fig 8).
- Lift Weight -> ATP used -> ADP +P is left over ->
-> *Creatine donates phosphate to ADP -> ATP produced again
Creatine has also been directly related to enhanced exercise performance. The more creatine in a given muscle, the better it will be able to complete a given task.
Also, fast twitch muscle fibers the ones that are most responsible for growth and strength, contain the highest concentration of creatine. Coincidence? I think not; when we look at the benefits it yields to football players, track stars, and other explosive athletes.
In my opinion, glutamine is vital to ensure overall health, support an already normal immunity, and an optimal environment to facilitate muscle gains. While whey is extremely important for muscle repair and protection[...]
It doesn't stop there, as glutamine also aids in muscle repair and growth, as well as energy production through gluconeogenesis. Glutamine is also the most prolific amino acid in our muscles, as it comprises 60% of a muscles amino acid content.
It has also been touted as being able to promote growth hormone production, but other studies have shown the effect to be small at best. The primary reason I believe it to be one of the finest supplements, is its ability to support an already healthy immunity and aid in muscle repair.
Where It All Started
Glutamine first seemed to gain a good deal of attention when it's benefits were seen in patients suffering from bad burns. The reason it is so beneficial and aided so many of these patients has to do with its property as a major fuel source for immune cells.
While studies have shown that the percentage of orally consumed glutamine is found to be small in the blood after consumption, it is only because the digestive cells of the stomach and intestine consume most of it.
I know what you're thinking, "Why then would I want to waste my money if my muscles aren't going to be getting it?" The reason is that the consumption by these intestinal cells will occur whether we supplement with glutamine or not! These cells need glutamine to fuel our immune system and support our health.
If we don't take in extra glutamine, the body will make sure to break down muscle to provide adequate amounts of glutamine for these cells. That's right, even those of us who don't workout still need glutamine, and the body makes sure it gets it, by breaking down muscle. It does so by pulling available glutamine stores out of the muscle tissue as well as breaking down muscle to produce more glutamine.
We all know how important protein is to muscle growth, so we need to make sure glutamine concentrations are adequate to prevent muscle loss. If we are constantly breaking down muscle, there is no way we will get stronger, stay healthy, or build more muscle.
Glutamine is also a protein synthesis regulator, meaning if it isn't found in adequate concentrations in the muscles, the body will have a hard time building more muscle.
So the bottom line is—supplement with glutamine! This will ensure that the stomach cells have what they require to support immunity, muscle concentrations are adequate to stimulate growth, and that muscle is not broken down to produce more glutamine. More and more studies continue to show that this amino acid is vital for any hard training athlete. In my opinion, it is a necessity.
There you have it, the top three supplements, why they work, how they work, and where they come from. Whether you are new to training or live in the gym, these supplements can help you reach your goals.
As you progress many will find other advantageous supplements to use to maximize their physique. While I use various supplements and have tried countless others, these three have never let me down and are always present in my gym bag.
The following was an excerpt from Dr. Yehyawi's new book: "Transformation: Unlock Your True Potential."