Supplements, while very beneficial when used correctly, are just that; they supplement what should be an already solid diet and workout regimen. If you look around most gyms, the lifters who really stand out are the ones who crush hard workouts and eat right.
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.
Here are the supps anybody new to fitness and training should invest in.
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 the essential amino acids we all need, but it also digests rapidly, tastes great, is a good calorie value, and allows your body to quickly begin the repair process following exercise.
Whey protein is a particularly great source of branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. BCAAs are critical for building and maintaining your muscle. They get used up when you work out, so it can be helpful to replenish them from sources like protein powder.
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 ratios of protein to calories and protein to fat in whey protein are far superior to most whole-food protein sources.
Where Does Whey Protein 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 considered a useless byproduct of cheese making and thrown away. Approximately 80 percent of milk protein is in fact casein, with the remaining 20 percent being whey.
The remaining whey will go through specialty filters that separate it even further into whey and lactose. The concentrated liquid whey will then enter an "ion exchange" tower that further increases its concentration. The whey is transferred to a drying tower to remove water and is then packaged for sale.
Most whey protein powders have 20-25 grams of protein per scoop. This will be enough for most people, although bigger dudes on aggressive bulking diets sometimes take two scoops of whey protein to get 40-50 grams of protein at a time.
Different Types of Whey Protein
Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate and concentrate are different. Isolate is a more pure form of whey and is most definitely what you should purchase, in my opinion. It is approximately 90-percent protein and contains very little fat and lactose.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate, on the other hand, has less protein and can vary from 25-90-percent 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 lead to more purified forms of whey protein. In my opinion it should be a component of any nutrition regimen.
Since creatine 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, 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 Creatine Come From?
Creatine, otherwise known as methyl guanidine acetic acid, is made up of three amino acids: arginine, histidine, and methionine. It can be synthesized in a lab, or the liver can combine these amino acids and synthesize its 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 more than those who don't.
95 percent of the creatine in our body is stored in skeletal muscle, with the other 5 percent in the liver, kidneys, brain, and testes. When energy is needed, ATP will cleave off one of its 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.
Creatine has also been associated with 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, especially when we look at the benefits it yields to football players, track stars, and other explosive athletes.
And of course, creatine also makes your muscles look more full and "pumped."
The most common form of supplemental creatine is creatine monohydrate. While other forms are gaining in popularity, creatine monohydrate is still a solid choice. Taking 3-5 grams per day is standard.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in our body. Supplementing with it will increase glutamine levels that are lowered due to exercise.
Glutamine is important for gluconeogenisis. Gluconeogenesis (or glyconeogenesis) is the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino acids and the glycerol portion of fats.
If you don't take in extra glutamine, the body will break down muscle to replenish the amounts that are lost during your workout. So, the bottom line is: Supplement with glutamine!
Whether you are new to training or live in the gym, these supplements can help you reach your goals.
As lifters 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.