The Scoop on Supplements Part 1
The Scoop on Supplements
So you decide to lose some weight. Or you decide to get into shape and build some muscle. Or you have started a new sport and want to get an edge by increasing your endurance or your muscle recovery time. You walk in the local nutrition shop and … WOW! The choices are almost endless. All make incredible claims and most have an incredible price tag. The good news is that if you are an educated consumer you can get products that will help you reach your goals and you can do it relatively inexpensively. Following are the major categories of supplements and a very brief, basic explanation.
Multi-Vitamin Formulas and Vitamin Packs
Vitamins and minerals are hardly a supplement fad - in fact, they're supplements that everyone, especially bodybuilders, should use every day. You want to build muscle and burn fat, right? Well, then you'd better make sure your body is in top working order. Intense weight-training & aerobic exercise takes its toll on your body, and a complete multi-vitamin/mineral formula or training pack can improve your recovery time, reduce muscle soreness, postpone fatigue, strengthen the immune system, and over the long term, can help you get better results faster from the time you spend exercising.
Protein & Meal Replacements(MRP's)
Whether you are losing weight or building muscle, protein powders should be a part of your supplement plan. Protein is required to build and maintain muscle. You can get protein from foods that you eat. The problem with this is that to get the amount of protein that is optimal for building muscle you need to eat of lot of food. To avoid getting too much fat and calories with your protein you will need to eat very lean sources of protein such as chicken, fish and lean cuts of beef. This gets very expensive and inconvenient. Protein powders to the rescue! For a buck or two per serving you can get good quality protein to feed your muscles that is both convenient and low in fat. Which protein to take?
In a nutshell, remember these points:Whey protein breaks down in your body very fast. It is ideal to use right after your workout and when you wake up in the morning. Optimum Nutrition's 100% Whey Gold Standard and Natures Best Isopure are great products that mix easily and taste great. 20-30 grams of whey protein before your workout and again post workout can jump start your muscle building and repair process.
Slower digesting proteins like Casein and Egg are great for feeding your muscles over a longer period of time. These are good all of the time but especially before bed or other times when nutrition will not be available for several hours.
There are also Protein Blends that mix more than one type of protein to offer an easy solution to round the clock muscle feeding. They generally cost a little more per pound but offer a lot of convenience. A couple of the most popular choices are BSN’s Syntha 6 and Gaspari’s Myofusion.
For added convenience in reaching your daily protein requirements there are also concentrated protein shots, protein gels and a myriad of protein snacks. Be careful with the snacks though and check the labels for fat, sugar, calories and sodium. Meal Replacements (MRP’s) are just as they sound. They are designed to replace a quality meal and offer convenience. They typically cost around $3 per shake and offer protein, carbs and good fats in proper ratios. Bodybuilders as well as those trying to lose weight will get their best results from eating 5-6 smaller meals per day. MRP’s make the “in-between” meals easy, effective and affordable. An alternative to these can be a protein shake eaten with a complex carbohydrate like an apple, oatmeal or fat free yogurt. When on the go however, MRP's offer easy nutrition.
If you want to build muscle mass then you will probably want to take some form of creatine. Creatine helps build lean body mass, provides energy so duration of exercise or work can be lengthened; and speeds recovery so exercise frequency can be increased. As more creatine is stored, more water may be brought into the muscle cell, giving the muscles a full, or ""pumped"" feel and look. The initial weight gained from using creatine is mostly water - from the cell volumizing effect. However, this is not simply ""water retention."" Cell volumizing means more water inside muscle cells; water retention happens outside the cells - A BIG DIFFERENCE! Within the first month of creatine use, you actually start gaining more muscle tissue - not just water. Cellular hydration caused by creatine creates a favorable environment for muscle growth, stimulates protein synthesis and may work as a lactic-acid buffer as well.
Newer creatines like creatine HCL and Kre-alkalyn use new technology and do not cause the bloating and cramping that some people experience with the older creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is however, the most most studied and proven form of creatine and is available as a single product and in blends with other ingredients.
Most creatine products are sold in blends that contain other products for muscle growth and recovery. Other ingredients will be added based on the goal of the product. See post workout products below.
During stress (i.e. weight training), the body's requirements for glutamine appears to exceed the individual's ability to product sufficient amounts of this amino acid. Glutamine has a potent anti-catabolic effect, and studies have shown that supplementation can prevent muscle wasting because glutamine plays a role in controlling protein degradation (associated with muscle breakdown), protein synthesis, and glycogen synthesis. Glutamine is also one of the few amino acids that has been clinically shown to help boost immunity and causes extra growth hormone release. 5-10 grams both pre and post workout is recommended. Like creatine, glutamine products are usually blended with other ingredients for convenience but can be purchased as a single item as well.
Pump Products (Nitric Oxide)
These products are primarily based around arginine. In your system arginine stimulates your body to produce nitric oxide. NO is a vasodilator which means it causes your blood vessels to swell and therefore carry more blood to your muscles. Along with the blood all of the nutrients are taken to your muscles allowing for faster growth and recovery. The standard dose for arginine alpha-ketogluterate is 3g and is taken 3-4 times per day. It is necessary to take these products exactly per label directions for effectiveness. Results in the form of increased vascularity can usually be seen 3-5 days after starting to take the product.
By increasing testosterone levels you are able to more rapidly increase muscle. This allows your body to absorb more amino acids from your protein, resulting in more lean muscle gains. Another benefit is the body's raised androgen levels, which effect the body's ability to recover faster than normal from strenuous exercise. Increasing testosterone levels can also elevate mood and increase libido.
Many of the natural testosterone boosting products contain D Aspartic Acid, Tribulus, Eurycoma and/or other herbs. These products are not steroids, which are illegal and can interrupt your natural production of testosterone. Popular choices are Animal Stak by Universal, Beast Sport’s SuperTest and Gaspari’s Viridex XT.