Supplements have their place in the health industry, as does pharmaceutical medicine as well as holistic medicine.
Everything is useful at some point in your health and fitness (and life) journey. It’s just a question of what’s relevant for you now to help you achieve the results you’re looking for.
In this article I’m going to outline many supplements, their benefits, potential downsides as well as what they’re used for as part of your exercise program or overall health plan.
But first, a disclaimer… I’m not a doctor or a naturopath. Before considering taking any supplements, consult with your doctor or medical professional.
Now, before taking supplements, it’s also important to firstly identify your goal. Whether it’s muscle building, toning up, burning fat, losing weight or gaining strength, there’s one or more supplements you can take that may help you achieve your goal faster and/or to support you along the way.
Keep your goal in mind as you read about the supplements I’ve listed below, and if you have any questions, I will be able to answer some, and your doctor or medical professional can answer additional questions and advise you accordingly.
Let’s get into it…
Co-Founder Exercises.com.au, Personal Trainer, Triathlete, Qualified Chef, Father of 5
Supplements: To Take Or Not To Take?
Since 2013, Australians have been spending $1.5 Billion per year on supplements. 75% of these purchases were on health and well-being products. Other types can include vitamins, minerals, weight loss and muscle building supplements.
Doctors and nutritionists believe the steady growth of the supplement industry reflects the changing attitude of Australians toward adopting a more holistic approach on health and wellness. But there are pros and cons to using supplements.
Arguably, the most difficult component of a holistic health and wellness program is also the most important: Nutrition.
Depending on your fitness goals, a nutrition plan can be restrictive or imposing. Calories from food are our primary source of fuel. If you’re trying to lose weight, you are probably exercising under a calorie-deficit.
It is difficult to maintain focus on a workout program if you are running low on energy. Supplements that contain caffeine, Vitamin B6 or B12 and Biotin or Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are effective energy boosters to use when you are on a calorie- restrictive diet.
If your training is intense, supplements provide a quick and easy way to increase the amount of macros and vitamins you need to support your program.
Oftentimes, our schedules at work, school or with family can make it difficult to adhere to a nutrition plan. Supplements are convenient for getting your precise macro-nutrient ratios and daily dose of vitamins.
If you are trying to build muscle, the main focus of your nutrition plan is to obtain your macros from clean sources and under the correct ratios. A supplement such as Whey Protein is a convenient way to get in a meal with a 2 to 1 protein to carbohydrate ratio and minimal fat.
You can store protein powder in a carousel container used for baby powder or a zip-lock bag if you’re on the go. All you need is a shaker and filtered water. Vitamins can be kept in a tightly sealed pill box.
Numerous tests and studies have shown there are supplements that can enhance performance. These tests are conducted by respected institutions under strictly controlled and monitored conditions.
Included among the popular supplements that have a reputation for enhancing performance are:
Creatine – Produces forceful contraction through production of ATP or Adenine Tri- Phosphate, an immediate energy source for muscles.
Beta Alanine – An amino acid that synthesizes carnosine which functions to remove lactic acid. End result is a prolonged delay in muscle fatigue.
Caffeine – Increases awareness and focus by stimulating CNS (Central Nervous System).
BCCA’s – Improves recovery time.
How popular are these supplements? There are brands that make supplements with all of these ingredients combined!
Using supplements can greatly support your nutritional plan which in turn can benefit your health and fitness program. But some people have grown dependent on them. It gets to a point where they cannot perform at their best without the use of supplements.
They forget these are designed “to supplement” and not replace whole foods or a well thought out nutrition plan. In extreme cases, the use of supplements becomes abused and the results can have tragic consequences.
Most commercially available supplements are synthetic which means they are made with artificial ingredients. All you need to do is read the label. Ingredients include artificial colours, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavouring.
Our bodies are not made to assimilate synthetic ingredients for a prolonged period. The human physiology reacts to extended use of supplementation by holding water. Synthetic ingredients may be difficult to excrete and excess materials can become toxic inside the body.
Some supplements particularly vitamins can be very expensive. The high price is the premium you pay for convenience in a bottle. This is especially true for highly-specialised supplements that can enhance performance.
A canister of Pre Work Out (PWO) powder will typically cost $30+ but will last for only two to three weeks. PWO’s contain Beta Alanine, Citrulline Malate and Creatine.
It is one of the most popular types of supplements in the market. It is often used by people who want immediate strength gains in the gym.
Should You Use Supplements?
There are many experts that either advocate or protest the use of supplements. Those that advocate the use of supplements maintain their value while those that protest claim supplements and vitamins don’t work.
While supplements have their place in a health and wellness program, the decision on whether you use them or not will depend on a number of factors:
Before starting any exercise, diet or supplement program you should always get medical clearance from your doctor. This is especially true for pregnant women. You could have allergies to certain vitamins and minerals or you could have deficiencies that supplementation can fix.
How long have you been exercising regularly? How much exercise time do you average every week?
Generally, if you have been exercising regularly for less than two years or if you average less than 150 minutes of physical activity every week, you do not need supplements. Your daily requirement in macros, vitamins and minerals can be provided by whole food.
Vitamins and mineral supplements are generally safe for teenagers and younger children as long as these are cleared by the Pediatrician. But performance- enhancing supplements such as whey protein and creatine should not be considered until they are in their 20’s.
Performance enhancing supplements could increase testosterone production and result in premature closing of growth platelets before the child completes the full growth cycle.
If your work or study schedule compromises a regular eating schedule, having a one or two meal replacement shakes every day would be a good idea.
Meal replacement shakes are formulated to precise macros and fortified with vitamins and minerals. It is certainly a better choice than a bag of chips or a chocolate bar.
As mentioned, supplements can be expensive. If you have other obligations to attend to, do not prioritise supplements in your monthly budget. Stick to eating whole foods, fruits and vegetables. You can get the same benefits without breaking your bank account.
If you decide to use supplements, read the directions on the label carefully and follow them to the letter. Remember, these are supplements not “magic pills” or the proverbial “lightning in a bottle”.
A word of caution on the instructions regarding the use of these supplements: You may come across an advisory stating the supplement is “safe to take year- round”. Please take note Cons #2, “Synthetic”.
Even when taking supplements that are considered safe such as whey protein, it is a good idea to cycle off the product for at least two months after you finish the first container. The success of a health and fitness program can never be found inside a bottle. Success is the product of hard work, dedication and consistency.
Stay Safe And Get Your Money’s Worth Too
In 2007, a manufacturer of a popular line of creatine, nitric oxide, fat burners and protein supplements was the subject of a massive class action law suit for false advertising.
Since 2011, supplement manufacturers of herbal products such as St. John’s Wort, Echinanea and Ginseng Root have routinely been scrutinised for consistently delivering products that do not contain the ingredients as advertised.
Early this year, an independent study on 5 of the most popular supplement brands in the market showed these did not include the proportion of ingredients as stated in their label.
Coincidentally, these supplement brands were among the most expensive in the market. If you are serious about maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle or if you are in pursuit of a personal goal, supplements should be considered part of your program.
Supplements are a convenient way to ensure your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs to support your physical activities. But the supplement industry is largely unregulated. Supplement manufacturers are not required to prove the authenticity of their claims or the veracity of the ingredients stated on their label.
This is because supplements are not categorised as drugs.
The manufacturers are not obligated to prove their products are safe before these are distributed to the market. The job of the regulating agencies is to prove these products are “unsafe” once these have been marketed. Therefore, it falls on you, the consumer, to ensure the supplement you are taking is safe.
Here are 5 ways to check the quality of your supplement:
1. Do Your Research
The supplement industry has become a billion dollar money-making machine. Several of the most popular supplement makers spend millions on advertising. They hire professional athletes as endorsers and promote “independent lab studies” that validate the effectiveness of their product.
You should not be misled into believing that a professional athlete or celebrity or a study used as part of marketing copy are irrefutable truths. Keep in mind, these are paid advertising materials.
Take the time to do research. Check the websites of consumer interest groups and anti-doping agencies such as the USFDA and WADA which routinely post lists of supplements with banned or dangerous substances.
2. Look For Quality Assurance Labels
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, you should look for brands that carry a third-party seal of approval from these independent organisations:
• United States Pharmacopeia (USP)
• NSF International
• Consumer Lab
Products that have a seal from any of these organisations have undergone rigorous testing to ensure quality of ingredients.
3. Be Suspicious Of Proprietary Blends
Pre-workout, whey protein and creatine supplements are notorious for displaying labels that indicate proprietary blends. A propriety blend is another way of saying the manufacturer does not want to state the proportion of the ingredients.
They maintain the blend is a “secret formula or mixture” that is unique only to the product. So you can buy a pre-workout that states “18,100 mgs of Proprietary Blend Strength Matrix composed of beta alanine, creatine ethyl esther and BCAAs”.
But what is the proportion of each? You could be getting 2,000 mgs of each ingredient and the rest are only useless fillers!
4. Pricing Does Not Always Equate To Quality
When manufacturers price their products, they factor in the cost of supplies used for production. So it may not be wise to buy the cheapest supplements in the market. On the other hand, the supplements under investigation are also the most expensive.
In fact many are consistent winners of consumer survey awards which should lead you to question the integrity of those committees. Again, we go back to the importance of research and the value of finding accurate information. Everything else you see on the label should be viewed as nothing more than marketing copy.
5. Consider Pure Supplements
You may also wish to consider shifting to pure supplements or those that do not have artificial ingredients, sweeteners and additives. They may not taste as good but the companies that manufacture these supplements are more transparent about their production methods. You can even request for a plant visit to be assured of their process.
Supplements remain an important component but always keep in mind that not all are created equal.
It remains a business after all and manufacturers are looking to protect their bottom line as you are looking to protect your own health. When buying supplements, be more discerning and discriminating. A little paranoia can go a long way when it comes to your health and fitness.
How To Design A Supplement Program
Achieving a health and fitness goal is not just a matter of putting in the training time and getting the right macros from your food. As you progress in your health and fitness journey, you will need additional help as you near your goal. Help comes in the form of designing a supplement program.
If you are physically active, your macronutrient requirement will be higher than someone sedentary. You will also need to provide greater protection for your immune system and organs.
Trying to get all of these from whole foods will be difficult especially if you’re a full-time student, hold down a 9-to-5 job or hands-on entrepreneur. Supplements are portable and convenient.
It will not take more than 30 seconds to shake your whey protein drink and even less to pop a few vitamins.
There are many supplements in the market. In fact, there are so many types of supplements including varieties that it can be overwhelming and confusing. You have to be selective and purposeful when choosing the supplements for your program to ensure you get the results you’re looking for.
Here are a few tips on designing a supplement program…
Know Your Body
Even if you have been training and following a clean diet, it would be advisable to err of the side of caution and get yourself medically cleared by your doctor or a licensed health practitioner.
The majority of supplements in the market are synthetic. Some include artificial sweeteners and food coloring. You could have an adverse reaction to them or ingesting some of these ingredients could exacerbate a pre-existing condition.
Your doctor or perhaps a certified nutritionist can advise you on the types of supplements, vitamins and minerals that you need.
Research On The Most Reliable Brands In The Market
The supplement industry is unregulated. This makes it a must to be especially selective in the brand(s) you will use because manufacturers are not required to prove the authenticity of their product. Recently, big retail chains in the US such as Wal-Mart were caught selling natural herbal supplements made of rice, wheat and other cheap fillers.
Before you buy your supplements, identify the most reliable brands in the market. While supplement review websites are helpful, many of these are sponsored by supplement manufacturers. Ask the people you can trust in your gym for their advice.
Review Your Progress
As mentioned earlier, supplements are designed with different functions in mind. But then there are the basics which could be categorised as standard components in a supplement program.
The reason why these are considered standard is because their functions are applicable to a wide range of health and fitness goals.
Your basic supplement stack could include:
• Whey protein – Fastest acting type of protein in the market that could help enhance recovery time and muscle repair.
• BCAAs – Essential amino acids that your body must have for repair and maintenance.
• Vitamin C – Functions to protect your immune system and is a valuable anti- oxidant.
• Vitamin B – Helps relieve stress and improve mental focus.
The next step is to evaluate your current progress and identify the courses of action that could help you improve performance. For example, you have stalled in your weight loss program. First, this is normal so do not be worried!
Weight loss does not follow a linear path. As your body goes through changes, its internal systems will undergo its own adjustments. Usually, a simple tweak in the diet should get you back on course.
But you may wish to consider these supplements which are popularly recommended to augment weight loss:
• Green Tea Extract – Supposed to curb your appetite and increase metabolism.
• Chromium Picolinate – Supposed to enhance the use of insulin and allows for better conversion of carbohydrates into energy.
• 7- Keto- DHEA – Supposed to work by increasing your metabolism.
Before trying any new supplement, always do the research first and check with your doctor if these are safe to take given your health condition.
Develop a Schedule
Supplements tend to be more effective when taken according to schedule. This is because each type of supplement has a specific function and optimising its benefits will often come down to timing.
Going back to our weight loss example, assuming you have been cleared to take these supplements, your intake schedule could look like this:
Upon Waking: Whey Protein
Before Breakfast: Chromium Picolinate
After Breakfast: Vitamin C, Vitamin B
Before Exercise: Green Tea Extract
During Exercise: BCCAs
After Exercise: Whey Protein
After Dinner: 7- Keto- DHEA
Include a Schedule To Cycle Off
Many supplements carry an advisory on their label that it is “generally safe” to use their product year-round. Keep in mind that most of these products contain synthetic or artificial ingredients. Prolonged use of these substances may not be ideal.
Even whey protein powder despite its general acceptance to the mainstream market is best taken periodically. Once you finish a container of whey protein or a bottle of vitamins, give your body one to months off before taking the supplement again.
There are many studies that promote the use of supplements, vitamins and minerals. And there are also many studies that refute their value and effectiveness.
Some of the strongest proponents of vitamins such as the late Dr. Linus Pauling, have research that show how vitamin C can help alleviate the damaging effects of illnesses as grave as cancer.
The best approach toward the use of supplementation is moderation. These are after all designed to “supplement” your health and fitness goals. Supplements are not “wonder pills” or “magic powders” that will get you from zero to hero overnight.
It’s great to include supplements in a holistic health, fitness and wellness program but these can quickly become counter productive if you develop a dependency to them.
Do You Need a Multi-Vitamin?
As you start making improvements in your nutrition plan, you may begin to ask yourself whether you really need a multi-vitamin. Is it a necessity for you to see optimal results or can you get by with just your diet alone?
It seems you should have one for back-up support either way, but yet, if you don’t need to spend money on this, why do so? Let’s go over some factors that would help you better decide if a multi-vitamin is right for you.
How Often Do You Fall Off Your Diet?
The first question to ask yourself – and be honest about – is how often you fall off your diet plan. If you know you are going to eat 100% healthy all the time, your need for a multi-vitamin will be lower than someone who only eats healthy 70% of the time.
In that case, they may not be getting the nutrition in that they need, so having that multi-vitamin there for backup support can be crucial.
Are You Eating a Varied Daily Diet?
Next, also consider whether or not you’re eating a varied diet plan. Do you eat red meat? What about dairy products? If you are cutting out entire food groups from your diet, there’s a chance that you may start to run a nutritional deficit.
Likewise, if you are just a picky eater and tend to eat the same five or six foods over and over again, this is also another thing that can lead to nutritional deficiencies. In all of these cases, having a multi-vitamin for back-up support can be a good thing.
Are You Suffering From Any Health Issues?
Moving along, also ask yourself if you are currently suffering from any health concerns. For instance, if you are anemic, taking in more iron in supplemental form will be vital to maintaining higher energy levels.
If you’re suffering from brittle bones, you may need added calcium in your diet plan.
Some men may want to supplement with Zinc to ensure they sustain adequate stores. Likewise, females who are expecting soon should consider adding folic acid to their diet.
With all of these, you may not need the full fledged multi-vitamin, but rather should consider supplementing with the individual nutrients. It’ll be up to you which route you want to go. The supplement will obviously add more to your diet – things that you may not actually need.
Do You Use Any Fortified Foods?
Finally, also consider whether you are currently eating any fortified foods. These foods may also pose a threat of toxicity if you use them along with a multi-vitamin. While you will need to take in very high dosages of the water soluble vitamins for them to become toxic, this isn’t the case with fat soluble vitamins.
It’s good to take a look at how much you are taking in and make sure that you are in safe levels. Especially if you are also going to be taking a multi-vitamin. In many cases, with those fortified foods, you simply won’t need a multi-vitamin as well.
These are some of the main points to know and remember with regards to whether or not you should use a multi-vitamin. It really is a personal decision and will depend on what the rest of your diet plan looks like. Also remember that you don’t necessarily have to use the multi-vitamin daily.
You can certainly only take it on days that you may not have eaten as well as you should, giving you the nutrients to line up with your requirements.
5 Supplements That Could Make You Smarter
In the movie “Limitless”, Brian Finch comes across a supplement called NZT-48 which unlocks the full power of the brain and gives him unlimited abilities.
In “Lucy” Scarlett Johansson plays the title role of a woman who is injected with a drug that enhances more than 10% of her brain’s capacity and gives her psychokinetic powers.
More and more people are becoming fascinated with the idea of becoming smarter through the use of “smart drugs”, supplements or other forms of enhancements. While truth is still much further away from fiction, there are supplements in the market which have been studied to have the ability to improve cognition.
Can Supplements Make You Smarter?
First of all, keep in mind what supplements are. These are vitamins, minerals and substances that function to augment, complement or cover shortfalls in your daily nutritional requirement. Whatever you feed your body will affect your overall health.
If you eat processed foods, you are ingesting ingredients that produce free radicals which are toxic and could affect how your various organs function. This includes how your brain functions.
Science and research has shown that certain foods affect cognition, memory and comprehension. The list includes:
1. White Rice
2. Soft Drinks/Sodas
4. Microwave Popcorn
5. Packaged Biscuits/Cookies
These foods are processed with refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients which have been proven to affect brain function. If you want healthy brain function, you have to get your food from organic, natural sources which are not processed or produced with pesticides.
But there are days that we miss out on meals because of a hectic schedule. Also, it may be difficult to meet your daily macro-nutrient and mineral requirement from food alone.
By taking supplements, you can ensure your body will consistently get the most important vitamins and minerals for healthy brain function.
Here are 5 supplements that could make you smarter:
1. Vitamin B-12
There’s a reason why Vitamin B-12 is often referred to as the “Brain Vitamin”. A study in Finland showed that people who regularly took Vitamin B-12 were able to maintain healthy brain mass and were at lower risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to forgetfulness, confusion, fatigue and a shorter attention span.
Recommended dosage: 2.4mcg daily
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been proven to help in brain function; maintain healthy nerve cells, perform thinking skills, improve comprehension, form strategies and retain memories. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to poor brain health.
Recommended dosage: 600ID daily; 800IU daily for those aged 70 and up
3. Omega 3’s
More than half of your brain matter is made up of fats specifically docasahexaenoic acid or DHA. Your brain has Omega-3 fatty acids; 25% of this is composed of DHA.
These types or fatty acids can only be found in animal protein such as fish, liver and organ meats. There have been studies that link Omega-3 deficiency to dementia and other brain disorders.
Recommended dosage: 800mg daily
This is an amino acid that can induce a calm and relaxed state. It can be found in Green Tea. Theanine is popularly used as a relaxant and as a remedy for sleep deprivation.
It works by producing calming neurotransmitters in the body. When you remain calm, you are able to manage stress better. Frequent stress can disrupt your thought processes and level of cognition.
Recommended Dosage: 600mg daily
Perhaps the best way to remain smart is to get enough sleep. Lack of quality sleep can lead to a host of mental and physical issues. Melatonin is a hormone that we produce at night.
It functions as a reminder night-time is when we get sleep. People who frequently work the graveyard shift have their ability to produce melatonin compromised. Supplementing with Melatonin can help you get back to your regular sleeping patterns.
Recommended Dosage: 3mg to 5mg daily before bedtime
It is great that we have these supplements available in the market to help us think better and become smarter. But you should always focus on eating good, clean healthy food. It will make you mentally and physically healthier.
The Benefits Of Magnesium Supplementation
One supplement that you’ll want to take notes on if you hope to improve your health is magnesium. While you will take in some magnesium each and every day with your normal meal plan, often it simply isn’t enough to keep up with the demands that heavy training presents.
This is why turning to supplementation can be a wise move. Unsure what benefits magnesium will bring? Let’s go over the basics so that you can see why this is one mineral to take more of.
Tired of restless nights? Magnesium may just help you put an end to those. This mineral will help play a role in relaxing the nervous system, helping you fall into a deep slumber faster.
Since your sleep quality impacts just about every single element of your overall well-being, it’s not one to take lightly. Add some zinc to your magnesium for even better results.
Another way that magnesium can help is with fending off depressive thoughts. If you find yourself in a down mood on a regular basis, this could be indicative of a magnesium deficiency. Getting enough magnesium will also support better learning and memory, so it can help give you a cognitive edge.
For the males reading this, magnesium might be one very good way to keep your testosterone levels to where they need to be. As this is the powerful male hormone that will help assist with muscle building, it’s vital that you do what you can to keep it optimised.
As testosterone levels decline with age, this can lead to loss of lean muscle mass, which then puts you at risk for a slower metabolic rate and weight gain. Those who take in sufficient magnesium seem to be able to offset this decline.
Chronic inflammation is one of the leading causes of multiple disease and health concerns in today’s society but fortunately, it can be avoided with good nutrition. Part of lowering your inflammation is making sure that you take in sufficient magnesium.
This is because when you are deficient, you will experience reduced lipid metabolism and likely see increased blood pressure levels as well, both of which can lead to inflammation in the body. This in turn can then set you up for a number of unwanted conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis.
Furthermore, by taking in sufficient magnesium and helping lower the level of inflammation present in your body, this can also speed up your recovery from exercise sessions.
Promote Stronger Bones
When most people think of bone strength, they tend to immediately think of calcium and possibly vitamin D. But, magnesium is also a player here and will be needed to keep your bones strong and healthy.
Magnesium helps with the utilisation of vitamin D and calcium, which then work together to help ensure proper bone remodeling takes place. If you are short in magnesium, the vitamin D and calcium you do consume won’t be used as well as they could be, so this could in fact increase your risk factor for osteoporosis and bone breaks.
In addition to this, getting enough magnesium in your diet will also suppress the level of parathyroid hormone, which works to break down bone itself.
Hopefully you can now see why magnesium is so critical for your overall health. It’s one mineral that you can’t do without and most people aren’t currently getting enough.
Focus on adding a supplement to your menu and being sure to consume plenty of foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, and avocados.
The Best Supplements To Fight Fatigue
Everyone has experienced fatigue. And while the causes and symptoms may differ, we can all agree to one thing: Fatigue isn’t fun.
Fatigue is a condition where you uncharacteristically are low on energy. Your feet feel as if it is trudging through mud. Everything appears to be in slow motion; your mind has a difficult time processing thoughts it used to do at light speed.
Your level of motivation is affected; it will be difficult to find the will to complete deadlines or meet workout schedules.
Effects Of Fatigue On The Human Body
Unless the problem of fatigue is properly addressed, you could suffer from the following conditions:
- Headaches or migraines;
- Lack of sleep;
- High blood pressure;
- Elevated cholesterol levels;
- Mental and physical exhaustion.
When people are fatigued, they usually try to remedy the situation by doing any or all of the following:
- Grab an energy drink;
- Force the body to exercise;
- Drink more coffee;
- Eat high-calorie “comfort foods”;
- Induce sleep by drinking alcohol.
These are short-term solutions which will make your level of fatigue worse and compromise your overall health and wellness.
The 3 Main Sources Of Fatigue
One of the best ways to address the problem of fatigue is through the use of supplements. Vitamins and minerals have been shown by studies to provide long term remedies to fatigue. The first step is to identify the source of fatigue then take the appropriate supplement.
(Note: The recommended dosages below are just guides. Do not take these supplements without consultation and approval from your doctor first)
1) Lack Of Sleep
How often do you find yourself struggling to get out of bed or asking for 5 more minutes of sleep? If you are not getting enough sleep that it affects how you rise every morning, it may be time to take these vitamins and minerals:
1. Iron and Magnesium – These are 2 of the most important yet overlooked minerals you should have in your supplement rotation. Iron and Magnesium provide the following benefits:
- Maintain healthy blood pressure;
- Keep blood oxygenated;
- Ensure proper functioning of muscles.
Recommended daily dosage: Iron, 8 to 18 mgs; Magnesium, 310 to 420mgs per day.
2. Melatonin – This is a hormone that is sensitive to light and helps us sleep better. This is one of the cheaper supplements you can find.
Recommended daily dosage: 500mcg
3. Glycine – If your level of thinking has been sluggish, try this amino acid which has been studied to have the benefit of improving cognition. Start out with only 3gms per day.
Recommended daily dosage: 3gms per day
4. Theanine – Another amino acid you could try is Theanine which has been shown to improve sleep quality and help you feel better the following day.
Recommended daily dosage: 150 to 200mgs 30 minutes before bedtime.
When we experience stress, the body releases cortisol which helps the body become alert and ready. But excess cortisol breaks down muscle protein which reduces the body’s ability to hold during times of stress.
Consider these supplements when you are stressed out:
1. L-Tyrosine – An amino acid that supposedly counteracts stress before it happens by essentially overriding the hormones which induce the condition. It is advised that you take L-Tyrosine before exams.
Recommended dosage: 500 to 2,000mgs at least one hour before the stressful event.
2. Rhodiola Rosea – This is a supplement that works similar to L-Tyrosine in that it desensitises you before a stressful event. It may also improve condition and alleviate depression.
Recommended daily dosage: 150mgs or single dosage of 288 to 680mgs before a stressful event.
3. L-Ornithine – Stress increases the amount of ammonia in the blood which leads to fatigue and mental fogginess. L-Ornithine is one of the best remedies to removing ammonia and has been shown to alleviate the effects of a hangover.
Recommended daily dosage: 2 to 6gms
3) Excessive Exercise
Sometimes going for that extra rep may do you more harm than good. When you frequently exercise at a high intensity, you will eventually burn out your Central Nervous System or CNS which leads to fatigue.
These supplements can help you overcome exercise-related fatigue:
1. Creatine – This supplement is popularly used to increase strength by enhancing muscle contractions. Increasing the muscle’s storage of creatine phosphate will allow you to efficiently utilise glycogen and stave off fatigue.
Recommended daily dosage: 5gms
2. BCAAs – Branched Chain Amino Acids include Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine. BCAAs fight off fatigue by preventing the excessive uptake of another amino acid, L-Tryptophan which induces fatigue-causing serotonin in the brain.
Recommended daily dosage: 20gms 1 to 3 times a day
3. Acetyl L-Carnitine – This is an amino acid that increases the rate oxygen is delivered to muscles and prevents lactic acid build up which leads to fatigue.
Recommended daily dosage: 1,000mgs
While supplements can help address and alleviate the effects of fatigue, its long-term solution rests with your lifestyle. Fatigue is your body’s way of telling you it is time to take your foot off the pedal and go on cruise control or shut the engine completely for a brief spell.
By the time you get back, you will have the energy to make up for lost ground and become more productive.
Protein Supplements: Which One Is For You?
Of all the supplements available in the market, the most popular has to be protein powder. There are many reasons why protein supplements are in high demand:
- It is an essential macro-nutrient.
- Protein powders are fortified with essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
- Powders provide a convenient way to get your daily requirement of protein anytime and anywhere.
- It is cheaper per gram of protein compared to whole food sources.
- It is easier to drink your protein that to chew on it.
Best of all, protein supplements are versatile. Whether your goal is to get big or get lean, protein powder should be part of your nutritional and supplement strategy.
The versatility of protein powder has encouraged scientists to find new ways to harness the power of this macro-nutrient. Over the years, we’ve seen different types of protein hit the supplement market. Each type of protein has its unique features, ingredients and function.
First, let’s talk about protein. When you consume protein, its molecules are broken down into amino acids. There are 20 amino acids needed to produce human protein. Of these, eight are considered essential which means they should be part of your diet.
A protein source that has a complete amino acid profile will have a high Protein Efficiency Ratio or PER. A high PER score correlates to a high quality source of protein.
Keep in mind that some of these protein powders contain carbohydrates. The carbohydrates found in protein are usually in the form of dextrose, fructose or maltodextrin which are all fast-acting sugars. Some brands contain four grams of fibre to slow down the assimilation of protein.
Before you start your supplement program, have yourself medically cleared by your doctor or a licensed health professional. Some protein supplements contain ingredients that you may be allergic to.
Here are the types of protein supplements you can find in the market. Which one fits your health and fitness program?
This is undoubtedly the most popular type of protein supplement for a good number of reasons. First, it works the fastest. The Protein Efficiency Ratio or PER of whey protein is the highest among all protein sources. It is higher even than egg whites.
Second, whey protein is affordable. If you have been training for at least one year and want to include a nutritional program on a budget, whey protein is a good supplement to start with.
Third, it is fortified with other components you need to support your health and fitness goals. Standard whey protein includes BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids including Glutamine which are essential for recovery.
Forth, most whey protein brands contain a negligible amount of carbohydrates and trace fat calories. Thus, as long as you follow strict eating guidelines, consuming whey protein will not make you gain body fat.
The ideal protein to carbohydrate ratio is 2:1 which means for a 20 gram serving of whey protein, you should not get anything more than 10 grams of carbohydrates. Because whey is a fast-acting protein, it is best taken first thing in the morning upon waking up and immediately after workout.
Casein makes up 80% of the protein that can be found in cow’s milk. Casein is insoluble and forms structures called micelles that increase its solubility in water.
When milk undergoes heat processing, casein peptides and the micelles structures are denatured and form a gelatinous material. The gelatinous material is the reason why casein is a slower digesting protein than whey and takes the body around seven hours to absorb.
The advantage of ingesting a slow digesting protein is that your body is assured of a constant supply of amino acids which lessens the risk of catabolism. Casein Protein is more expensive than whey protein. It is best taken before bedtime to enhance healing and muscle recovery.
In the days before whey protein was discovered, eggs were the primary source of protein. The white or the albumin was acknowledged as the healthier part of the egg although the yolk does carry lecithin and essential fatty acids.
Egg albumin comes in second to whey protein in PER rankings which means it is a high quality and fast acting protein. You can buy egg albumin in cartons or containers in semi-liquid form for immediate cooking. But there are brands that are producing powdered form of egg whites. These have been fortified with Vitamins A, B and D.
You can take egg albumin protein any time during the day as a meal replacement or after exercise. It is however, not effective when taken before bedtime because of its fast rate of absorption.
This is the best option for those who want a vegetarian source of protein. Soy protein is extracted from the leguminous soy bean plant. Although it is regarded as the best plant-based protein it does not have the complete profile of essential amino acids. Thus, soy protein has a low PER.
Soy protein has been the subject of much controversy over the past decade. There have been studies that link the isoflavones found in soy to hormonal imbalance. This could lead to unwanted decreases in testosterone and an increase in estrogen production plus thyroid problems.
On the other hand soy protein is fortified with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, zinc, iron, Vitamin E and Vitamin B Complex. Soy protein can be taken anytime of the day preferably as a meal replacement or as a post- workout shake. It is not recommended as a pre- bedtime protein meal.
Yes, manufacturers have found a way to extract protein from one of the most popular sources of carbohydrates! In addition to protein, brown rice protein powder is also rich in complex carbohydrates, fibre and Vitamin B.
Similar to its vegetarian counterpart, soy, brown rice protein does not have a complete profile of essential amino acids. Thus, it also has a low PER. Because its components include complex carbohydrates and fibre, you could drink brown rice powder as a meal replacement shake or before bedtime.
With all of these choices, which type of protein powder should you buy?
The obvious first pick should be whey concentrate for its versatility, high PER and affordability. If you want to put on size or gain strength, choose a whey protein brand that has 10 or more grams of carbohydrates.
Conversely, if you want to get leaner, choose a whey protein brand that has fewer than five grams of carbohydrates per serving. There are brands that have zero carbohydrates.
You can extend the absorption of whey and turn it into a doable pre-bedtime drink simply by adding a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, fibre or an essential fatty acid such as ground flaxseed.
If you had a more flexible budget, you could consider casein protein as part of your nutritional program together with whey concentrate.
There are studies that show combining 70% whey protein with 30% casein protein is more effective in protecting the body from the damaging effects of catabolism than just by taking whey concentrate itself.
As for the vegetable based protein sources such as soy and brown rice, it is a matter of choice. If you plan to advocate the vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, you can still reap some benefits from these types of protein supplements.
Keep in mind however that protein supplements regardless of brand or variety are intended to support a health and fitness program. Consuming protein shakes frequently will not get the job done. You still have to find time to exercise at least one hour, three days a week and eat a healthy, balanced diet to achieve your fitness goals.
Amino Acids Vs Whey Protein
Whey protein is the most popular supplement in the market. If you want to be sure, do a quick Google keyword search. “Whey Protein” comes out higher than any other supplement.
Why is whey protein so popular? There are many reasons.
For one, protein is an important macro-nutrient for enhancing recovery and repair of damaged muscle tissue. Two, whey protein has the highest Protein Efficiency Rating or PER of any protein source.
Three, whey protein is the fastest protein to digest. Studies have shown that whey protein is assimilated by the body within 30 minutes of ingestion.
Finally, whey protein does not contain protein alone. There are brands that include other ingredients such as creatine, glutamine and amino acids. Of these amino acids are of greatest relevance because these are the building blocks of protein.
When protein is consumed, it releases amino acids. So why do whey protein supplements still contain amino acids?
There are 100 amino acids found in nature but humans use only 20 of them. These are categorised as essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot synthesise on its own and must obtain from food sources or supplemental form.
Non-essential amino acids are those which can be produced in combination with other amino acids and substances.
Amino acids perform specific functions such as:
- Produce hormones to regulate metabolism;
- Produce anti-bodies needed by the immune system to protect the body;
- Produce hemoglobin to help transport oxygen to vital organs;
- Transport proteins and other substances to specific organs.
There are brands of whey protein that carry these 20 amino acids in their formula. If you read the labels carefully, the proportions or content of these amino acids may vary.
So why shouldn’t you just supplement with amino acids rather than buy whey protein if amino acids are the building blocks of protein anyway? Are you better off with an amino acid supplement or whey protein?
In a study conducted in 2008 by a group of protein researchers led by Aarsland A. Wolfe, they tested the increase in protein synthesis of 15 grams regulated whey protein supplement, 7 grams essential amino acids and 8 grams non-essential amino acids over the course of 3.5 hours.
The purpose of the study was to find out if simply ingesting essential amino acids would result in the same level of protein synthesis as whey protein. The result of the study showed there was no change in protein synthesis with the non-essential amino acids.
There was a slight improvement with the test group that took the essential amino acids but there was a significant increase with the subjects who took whey protein. The conclusion of Mr. Wolfe’s group was the increase in protein synthesis in whey protein was not directly the result of amino acids but of other ingredients in the formula.
Based on the study alone, you may be better off buying a whey supplement brand that contains all 20 amino acids.
It may give you other benefits that amino acids when taken on its own cannot. Keep in mind that the primary objective of whey protein is to get protein into your muscles as fast as possible after training to jump start the recovery process.
It is first and foremost a supplement intended to help you attain your daily baseline macro-nutrient requirement for protein. Whey protein is convenient, easily digested and affordable. You can also benefit from the other ingredients listed in the formula.
Some brands of whey protein contain casein which takes longer to digest and provides your body with a more steady supply of amino acids. There are also whey protein brands that are blended with other types of protein to give you a more varied amino acid profile.
In the end, your decision will come down to your budget and fitness goals. If you have the budget to accommodate amino acids then by all means, go for it!
Just remember to follow the directions on the label and to keep track of your performance as well as changes in your health.
Hemp Protein Vs Soy Protein
One of the most beneficial supplements that anyone who wants to take their fitness to the next level should consider is a quality protein powder.
Whey protein powder is the most typical form of protein powder as it’s high quality, reasonably priced, and tastes great (for the most part). But, if you are either lactose intolerant or are a vegetarian, whey protein powder may not be a consideration for you.
Two types of protein powder that you can consider instead include soy protein powder or hemp protein powder. Each will offer their own unique set of benefits. Let’s go over what these two are and how you can benefit from using them.
Hemp Protein Powder
The first type of protein powder that you’ll want to consider is hemp protein powder. This variety is great for both men and women and offers one very unique benefit that you won’t get from whey protein: the inclusion of omega fatty acids.
As hemp seeds are a great source of omega fats, this also means the protein powder tends to contain some as well. This protein will also pack in a good dose of fibre, which can make it excellent for helping stabilise blood glucose levels and keeping your hunger level down.
Those who include hemp protein powder in their daily diet may find that they can better stick with their diet over time thanks to these two benefits.
Hemp protein powder is typically more expensive than whey, so just note that you will be paying a slightly higher price. You also will have a smaller flavour selection, with the most common options being chocolate, vanilla, or unflavored.
Hemp protein powder does contain far more carbohydrates than normal whey, however keep in mind, most of this is from fibre, so not something to be too concerned over. All in all, as an alternative to whey, it can be a great option and will help you get your protein and omega-3 fatty acid intake up.
Most hemp brands are also quite natural, so you won’t find a lot of additives or unwanted sweeteners in their powder.
Soy Protein Powder
The second alternative is soy protein powder. This one is one that you will want to be more careful about using as it can have unwanted side effects if used in higher dosages.
In women, too much soy consumption may increase the risk factor for breast cancer, so if you have a family history of this condition or simply are worried about it, limit how much soy protein you use.
Men, on the other hand, should stay away from soy entirely. It can cause an increase in estrogen in their body, which is the hormone that counteracts that of testosterone (the male sex hormone). As testosterone is a key hormone in making a man a man, he should never mess with this.
For females though, soy protein does provide a way to get your protein intake up without taking in a high amount of additional fat or carbohydrates.
It will still have more fat and carbs than your typical whey protein powder, however generally less than hemp protein powder will. Just do watch the sugar content of soy protein powder as it can get higher if you aren’t careful.
These are just some of the facts, benefits and downsides of soy versus hemp protein powder. Hemp protein powder is generally your best bet, especially for males, and will help you meet your protein needs quickly and easily, just as a standard whey protein powder would.
3 Tasty Ways To Use Casein Protein Powder
Casein protein powder is one type of protein powder that’s helpful to have on hand because it digests very slowly in the body. This makes it an ideal protein for using right before you go to bed and will be undergoing the nightly fast or even throughout the day when you know it’ll be a while before you get to your next meal.
This said, casein protein powder leaves much to be desired consistency wise. Most people find it rather chalky to drink on its own just as you would a normal whey protein powder, meaning you need to find another way to use it.
Let’s look at a few great ways to incorporate casein protein powder into your diet plan so that you can get it in – without gagging.
Make Protein Pudding
Because cause protein is so thick, it tends to work great for making protein pudding with. To do this, you’ll simply want to combine one scoop of casein protein powder with about a third of a cup of milk (or almond milk). If you like you can also add in a tablespoon or two of fat free cream cheese for a more cheesecake type of taste.
Blend this together and then let stand for a few minutes. You should have a pudding consistency. You can also place it in the freezer for 30 minutes, stir once, and then freeze again if you prefer a more frozen yogurt type of consistency.
Top this with some fresh berries and you’ll feel like you were eating a dessert.
Prepare Protein Bites
Casein protein powder also works great for making high energy protein bites. To prepare this, you’ll simply want to mix together one scoop of casein protein powder, one scoop of regular whey protein powder, a quarter cup of coconut flour, along with a quarter cup of natural nut butter.
Then add in a little honey for sweetness along with some dried cranberries or raisins if desired. You can also add some unsweetened dried coconut flakes here as well if you prefer.
Roll into bite sized balls and then serve as a quick and delicious snack. Note that these will be quite calorie dense, so just be sure that you are adjusting the serving size accordingly so that it fits into your diet as it should.
Make Protein ‘Icing’
Finally, the last way to use casein protein powder is to make yourself your very own icing. This can be used on top of a protein cupcake if desired or simply eaten on its own whenever you have a craving for something sweet.
To make it, simply blend together one cup of unsweetened almond milk, half a cup of powdered peanut butter, two scoops chocolate casein protein powder, along with a tablespoon each of unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered Stevia.
Mix this all together and use as desired. If you don’t have powdered peanut butter, you can simply add one scoop of regular whey protein powder and one tablespoon of natural peanut butter instead.
Reduce the almond milk down to half to three quarters of a cup if necessary.
Now you have some delicious ways to get your casein protein down. Try these next time you need a great before-bed treat to calm your sweet tooth and fuel you well for the overnight fast.
What Is Glutamine And Do You Need It?
One supplement that you may have heard people talking about before and might have wondered yourself if you should be using is Glutamine.
Glutamine can be purchased on its own or you can often find it in combination products such as protein powders, branched chain amino acids, and in some recovery related products as well. But what does Glutamine do? And more importantly, should you be using it?
Let’s go over some of the main facts to know about Glutamine so that you can clear up any confusion you may have over this supplement.
What Is Glutamine?
Glutamine itself is an amino acid, which is a building block that goes into making protein. As such, you will be taking in some Glutamine each and every day when you eat your normal mixed diet containing chicken, fish, eggs, red meat or other dairy products.
Because it is an all-natural substance that you are putting into your body every day, it’s one supplement that tends to produce very few side effects, if any at all – assuming you use it in a reasonable dose.
The problem many active individuals experience however is that they don’t get enough Glutamine in from their diet to keep up with the heavy demands training places on them.
How Does Glutamine Work?
Which now brings us to what Glutamine does. Glutamine is an amino acid that plays a key role in immune function, which is the part of your body that helps you recover from illness, stress and injury.
When your immune system is down, you’ll be more prone to getting sick or simply just feeling run-down and lacking in the strength you normally have. Glutamine therefore helps to keep your immune system strong, keeping you feeling your best.
Because intense exercise is a form of stress you are placing on your body, this stress adds up and can deplete your Glutamine stores. As a result, you may find that you begin feeling burnout or even start suffering from over-training syndrome or other injuries that interfere with your workout progress.
By adding more Glutamine to your diet through supplemental form, you can help ensure that you are taking in enough and this will help maximise the recovery you get from your workout sessions.
Who Should Use Glutamine?
So this said, who should use Glutamine? Is it something that you need?
The first group of individuals who would be advised to consider using Glutamine are those who aren’t consuming that much meat or animal based products in their diet (such as vegans, vegetarians or part-time vegetarians). As these are the foods where Glutamine is most often found, if you aren’t consuming them often, chances are you are already low.
The second group of individuals who would be well served by using Glutamine are those who are training very intensely. If you are doing more than 3-4 hard workouts per week consisting of interval anaerobic training and/or weight lifting, chances are good your diet isn’t providing as much Glutamine as you’d ideally need.
Likewise, if you are participating in high level team sport training of any sort, that too will increase the total stress and demands on your body, potentially meaning you need to supplement with Glutamine.
How Much Glutamine Do You Need?
So if you believe you need Glutamine, how much should you use? Standard dosage recommendation is set at 5-10 grams per day and this should be taken in right after your workout session or it can be taken in before bed as well.
These are the main facts to know about Glutamine. When used properly, it can help give you an edge in terms of physical recovery and help you reach that next level in your performance.
ZMA: A Closer Look At This Supplement
Looking for a product to help boost your testosterone levels? If so, ZMA may be the solution. This supplement is a natural way to enhance your workout results as well as your overall well-being if you’re a male, so is a great product to consider investing in.
Let’s go over what ZMA is, what it does, and whether it’s right for you.
What Is ZMA?
ZMA is a blended supplement that contains three different ingredients. These include vitamin B6, zinc, and magnesium. You’ll likely be taking these in on a daily basis through your normal meal plan provided you are eating a mixed diet rich in fresh vegetables and lean protein.
However, you simply won’t be likely to get the dosage required of each of these nutrients to provide the benefits that the supplement does. This is why people choose to instead add it to their already balanced diet.
The Benefits Of ZMA
So what are the benefits of ZMA? First, it can help elevate natural testosterone levels. As testosterone is the primary male muscle building hormone, the more of it you have flowing through your veins, the stronger and leaner you will be. For men, and even for women, this is hugely beneficial.
Even ZMA will not make women see extreme increases in their testosterone levels, so for them, it will simply elevate their already very low levels slightly, giving them an extra edge.
While few women do take ZMA, as it is a product more geared towards men, though women should not fear it. It really can help both genders see excellent strength and lean muscle mass gains. In addition to that, ZMA is also good for helping improve sleep quality.
Those who consume it often find they can fall asleep faster at night and sleep more soundly than those who don’t. As sleep is key to progress, this also proves to be hugely beneficial.
ZMA will also help provide antioxidant benefits to your body and can strengthen your immune system. This may in turn help you recover more quickly after each intense workout session you perform allowing you to get back into the gym sooner again.
The more frequently you can train, while in a recovered state, the faster your progress will be.
Finally, ZMA is also key for helping you sustain the highest metabolic rate possible, allowing you to be as lean as you can. Those who use ZMA will be better able to maximise their use of energy from the foods they eat and will tend to have a healthier thyroid as well.
Your thyroid can play a very important role in bodyweight (and fat) management, so optimising it is key if weight control is a goal. The zinc in ZMA also helps to regulate the hormone leptin in the body, which is also heavily involved in regulating your metabolic rate as well as your hunger signals.
When your leptin levels are not at proper concentration, you’ll find you feel hungrier all day long, being more prone to eating foods that you really don’t need.
Should You Consider ZMA?
So all in all, ZMA is a product that you may want to consider taking yourself. As it is natural, you shouldn’t notice you have any unwanted side effects from it, but you will notice the extra edge it tends to give you in the gym and out.
Males especially, who tend to lose more zinc on a regular basis will see great benefits from supplementation and may find that they feel more like their normal selves when their testosterone levels are optimised.
What To Know About Fat Burners Before You Start
If you’re wanting to get ripped and hoping to maximise your rate of fat burning, one thing that you may have been looking into is one of the many fat burners on the market.
Once you start looking for a fat burner product, you’ll find that the list of options is almost limitless and it can be hard to know right from wrong. Or, more importantly, which are safe options for you to use?
To help make you more aware of what can potentially happen when using a fat burner, let’s take a closer peek into some of the fat burner side effects to know about.
Increased Feelings Of Anxiety
The first side effect you may find you start to experience is an increased level of anxiety. This is often thanks to the caffeine and/or bitter orange found in fat burners, both of which, in higher dosages, can cause this to occur.
It may not be anxiety that you feel, but instead, more of a sense of being irritable and restless. Different people will respond to these products in a different manner, so be aware to watch for any changes in how you feel. This may or may not be tolerable depending on the individual.
The next thing that you’ll want to know about is the issue with sleep. While if you take your fat burner early in the day, you likely won’t have an issue, taking it too close to when you normally go to bed could definitely leave you struggling to fall asleep.
Many fat burners stimulate the central nervous system, so they’ll be doing their part to keep you awake. As sleep is also an important factor for ongoing fat loss, this isn’t one that you’ll want to overlook.
Increased Heart Rate And Blood Pressure
One of the more dangerous side effects of fat burners is an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Those who are taking these who already have high blood pressure will want to tread very carefully because they’ll likely notice their levels go up even more once on them.
If you are an otherwise healthy individual and are using the fat burner in moderate safe doses, this likely won’t be an issue, but if you are already dealing with health concerns, always speak to your doctor first before going on them.
Lower Hunger Levels
Another side effect that may seem like a favourable one for most people of fat burners is decreased hunger. And while it’s great to have lower hunger to make sticking with your diet plan more manageable, the issue is that it can work a little too well.
Remember that you still do need to eat so much per day to meet your nutritional needs, so if the fat burner prompts you to decrease your calorie intake too much, you’ll have issues with that.
Some people may need to constantly remind themselves to eat while using these fat burners to ensure they aren’t becoming malnourished.
Finally, the last thing that you’ll want to know about is that you will be at a higher risk for burnout and over-training when using fat burners. This is due to the CNS stimulation you’ll be experiencing – your body will only be able to tolerate so much before it has the opposite impact on you.
Rather than causing you to feel energised, it’ll cause you to feel tired and experience slow recovery between workout sessions. The best way to avoid this and all the other side effects listed above is to first, always start with the smallest dose when using a fat burner and second, consider cycling on and off it.
Use it for 2-3 weeks and then take one week off to give your body a break. Then restart on again if needed. When used wisely, fat burners can give you an edge on fat burning but when used improperly, the opposite impact can occur.
Supplementing With Beta Alanine
Looking for supplements that’ll help you take your workout one step further? If so, you’re likely looking into some of the pre-workout (PWO) products available on the market today.
There are literally thousands of different pre-workout products, all which aim to help you accomplish one thing: perform better in the gym. By understanding what the ingredients do in the pre-workout products you come across, you can ensure that you are taking one that will lead you to the results that you want to see.
One particular ingredient that you’ll come to find a great many pre-workout products containing is that of Beta Alanine. Let’s take a closer look at what this ingredient is and how it can help you.
What Is Beta Alanine?
Beta Alanine is an essential amino acid – and one that your body can make naturally itself when you eat a variety of different protein sources. This said, the reason people supplement with it is because you’d never be able to make levels high enough to serve the benefits it has to offer.
As such, providing a highly concentrated source of this amino acid in supplemental form works to your advantage. The way that Beta Alanine works is by raising the levels of carnosine in the muscle tissue, which then helps boost your performance.
The Benefits of Beta Alanine
The biggest benefit that Beta Alanine brings is helping to buffer the buildup of hydrogen ions that occur in the muscle cell during very intense exercise. If you’ve ever done a higher rep set of say leg extensions and felt an intense burning that made you quit, you will have been experiencing those hydrogen ions during that time.
By using Beta Alanine then, you can counteract this buildup, allowing you to exercise harder for longer. That in turn means greater results. Those who are using Beta Alanine also typically report being able to generate more maximum strength and power as well, so it may help improve your overall exercise output as well.
Essentially, it helps you workout harder than you ever have before, which then leads to superior results.
Potential Side Effects To Know About
Now, before you rush out to use this supplement, there is one side effect you should know about. When using larger doses of it – doses that are typically found in most pre workout supplements, you may feel a sort of tingling sensation taking place throughout your body.
Now this sensation is not dangerous by any means, it simply indicates that the substance is working. That said, some people don’t like how it feels and may shy away from the product entirely because of that.
To help get around this, consider taking smaller doses of Beta Alanine, multiple times per day. This can help reduce the sensation while still allowing your muscles to become fully saturated with this amino acid, allowing you to see the benefits.
How To Use It For Optimal Results
So if you’d like to get started with Beta Alanine, what’s the best way to take it? First, consider taking it with Creatine. Studies have shown that it exerts the best results along with Creatine as Creatine as well helps you work harder for longer, buffering fatigue (just in a different manner).
So the two products together can really give you the best defence against the onset of fatigue. Most people will take Beta Alanine right before their workout session as they do find it has a slight stimulation effect and can enhance energy levels.
These are some basic facts to know about Beta Alanine. If you want to take your performance to the next level, it’s one product to start utilising.
4 Ways BCAA’s Can Enhance Progress
One particular supplement you may have heard about before and are wondering if you should give a try is Branched Chain Amino Acids. These are three particular amino acids, L-Leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-Valine that are utilised directly by muscle tissues.
While you will get these from the meat sources that you consume in your daily diet, when taken in supplement form, they can bypass the liver, moving right into the muscle tissues.
This can help out in a number of ways. Let’s look at four reasons why using BCAA’s is such a wise move.
Improved Muscular Energy
The first reason to use a high quality BCAA product is because it can help to enhance your overall level of muscular energy. By taking the BCAA’s, you will be able to get in more reps and sets during the workout than if you had gone without.
If you choose to combine the BCAA’s with Creatine, another product that will delay the onset of fatigue, you’re in an even better position. This can then mean greater strength and muscle size gains thanks to the increased workload you’re doing.
Decreased Muscle Breakdown
The next reason to use BCAA’s is because they can really help to limit the overall level of muscular breakdown that’s occurring as you do each workout. This then means that the recovery process won’t be quite so involved post-workout, meaning you can get back into the gym again sooner and continue on with your training.
If you are doing highly demanding workout sessions, which are quite damaging to your muscle tissues, this can really work in your favour. If you typically find that you feel very run-down and fatigued post workout – even into the next day – BCAA’s can help you avoid this.
Improved Metabolic Rate
Another benefit of branched chain amino acids that few people know about is the fact that they can also improve your overall metabolic rate.
They do this directly by increasing the level of protein synthesis taking place in the body, which then speeds up how many calories you’re burning, as well as indirectly by helping you gain more lean muscle mass, which then means you’ll have a higher resting metabolic rate as well.
All in all, with both of these acting in your favor, it can mean a leaner body composition over time. Especially if you’re eating properly to lose body fat, this can make a significant difference.
Increased Strength Output
Finally, the last reason that you should be considering using BCAA’s is because they can provide a greater overall strength output during the workout session as well. You’ll notice that you exert more overall muscular power when using this product, which means more weight lifted and more strength gained.
This over time can really amplify the overall results that you see.
When looking for these products, do keep in mind that often supplement companies will pair the BCAA’s with other ingredients, usually designed to enhance your energy levels.
This can be fine, however if any stimulatory ingredients (such as caffeine) are in the product, you’ll want to be more careful about when you take it and how much you’re using. Otherwise, it may lead to unwanted side effects and begin to interfere with your sleep quality.
All in all though, you will see great results by including BCAA’s in your overall supplement protocol. It’s one product that’s great to use both during as well as after your gym sessions.
The Best Supplements For Vegetarians
If you’re leading a vegetarian lifestyle, it’s important that you have an awareness on the major vitamins and minerals you may be falling short on. Vegetarians can be just as healthy as meat eaters provided they take care to ensure they aren’t falling short on a few key nutrients.
Let’s go over the best supplements that all vegetarians should consider including in their protocol plan to keep healthy.
The first supplement you’ll want to consider is a quality protein powder. Now, you may instantly think protein powder is not an option since it’s made from whey, which is a derivative of dairy.
But hold on to that thought. You can also find hemp protein, pea protein, brown rice protein as well as soy protein powder, all of which will work fine for the vegetarian. As getting enough protein can be tricky when using this lifestyle, this can really go a long way towards helping out.
Take note that men should lean more towards using hemp protein powder over soy protein powder as too much soy intake as a man may decrease testosterone levels and cause an increase in female sex hormones instead.
One additional great thing about hemp protein powder is that it’ll also supply you with some omega-3 fatty acids, which will go a long way towards promoting optimal health.
The next supplement you’ll want to consider is calcium. Unless you are eating dairy as part of your diet plan (which lacto-vegetarians do), you’ll likely be falling short in this bone-building nutrient.
Adding a supplement can give you the assurance you need. While you could turn to calcium fortified orange juice, this will be very high in sugar content and simply isn’t ideal for anyone on their diet plan.
And while you’re at it, consider adding vitamin D as well. This is one vitamin that all individuals should supplement with, vegetarian or not as most people simply don’t get enough in their daily diet and unless you have a high direct sunlight exposure, chances are you’re falling short.
Iron is the next nutrient on the list to be focusing on if you’re a vegetarian. Iron is important for keeping you energised as you go about your workouts and for speeding recovery between workout sessions.
But yet, the best form of iron to take in is found in red meat foods, something that clearly is not making its way into your diet plan. The solution? Supplementation. Adding a quality iron product will help you get past any deficiency issues.
Moving along, zinc is the next supplement to consider as a vegetarian. While you can find zinc in some vegetarian-friendly foods, it does tend to be highly concentrated in animal foods and as such, you should be aware you may be seeing deficiency.
Zinc is important for sustaining high energy levels during exercise as well as for boosting fertility, improving your immune system strength, and for keeping your heart healthy.
All in all, it’s one nutrient you definitely don’t want to be missing out on.
Vitamin B12 is the other supplement that you’ll want to be taking into account with your nutritional intake. Vitamin B12 almost exclusively found in animal based products, so as a vegetarian, you won’t be taking it in at all.
It’s important for keeping your metabolism strong and also helps with the proper maintenance of the central nervous system. Adding a supplement will help prevent you from falling short.
There’s a closer look at the few key supplements that all vegetarians should be considering. Are these in your line-up of products?
Why You Should Cycle Off Supplements
Food is our primary source of nutrition. But there are times that we fail to attain our daily baseline targets for one reason or the other. Supplements help cover these nutritional shortfalls.
And while supplements do provide health benefits, can become counter-productive if used without proper discretion.
Always approach supplements with caution. First, get a medical check up to make sure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients listed in the supplement.
Second, only buy supplements from reputable manufacturers. Take the time to research online or ask advice from people who are knowledgeable in the industry.
The third tip would be to follow the directions on the label. And while you should take the supplement as recommended, there is one area which must be taken into serious consideration: when to cycle off supplements.
If you read the labels carefully, most of these manufacturers would state that you can safely take their product year-round. When it comes to supplements, it would be better to err on the side of caution and take the opposite route.
Cycling Off Supplements
Cycle off the supplement every 4-8 weeks or once you have finished the entire container whichever comes first. “Cycling off” means to discontinue the use of the supplement for a period of time, usually 4 weeks.
Telling someone who is deep into his or her fitness program to cycle off a supplement can be a challenge in itself. Many believe cycling off the supplement will derail their progress; make them weak or decrease energy output.
There are supplements designed to generate greater energy and focus such as pre-workout drinks but for the most part, these fears are just psychological in nature. If you want to maximise the benefits of supplements for your health and performance, you should cycle off them.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Supplements are exactly that. They are not intended to replace whole food but supplement it. Your primary source of nutrition must always be whole food produced by organic or natural farming methods.
2. Supplements, even those that provide substances not produced by the human body, are not magic formulas. If you want to improve and get better, you should still put in time and effort in your training.
3. Read the label of your supplement. Many of these include artificial ingredients such as sweeteners, flavours and colours. Anything that says “artificial” is not natural and will be toxic to your body over the long run.
4. Overuse of supplements can lead to dependency. It creates a psychological need to have the supplement as a prerequisite for a productive workout. When this happens, the supplement will become a crutch to your progress.
5. Supplements such as amino acids, creatine and beta alanine work by attaching itself to receptor cells in the body. If you keep flooding these cells, it will eventually lead to receptor cell burnout and desensitise it. Your intake of supplements becomes a matter of diminishing returns.
Are there supplements you can take year-round? Yes. Vitamins and minerals are generally safe to take 365 days a year but again, read the label. There are manufacturers of organic and natural supplements.
One such supplement is Yellow Maca Powder which is made from organic Peruvian Maca root. Maca powder has been shown by studies to have the abilities to provide energy, enhance strength, builds up your immune system, increase testosterone production and your libido. Maca is used on smoothies and as a topping on yogurt or oatmeal.
Supplements should be part of your health and fitness program. But remember that too much of a good thing can downsides too. Cycle off supplements and you will be able to optimise its benefits for your health and body.
Wrapping It All Up
After reading about the above supplements, which one or more do you think could work for you?
It’s important with any supplement and any medicine for that matter, to think of it as a support mechanism to help bridge a gap between where you are now and where you want to go. It’s not ideal from a health perspective to have to rely on any ‘pill’. So try to think of anything that comes as a pill as a short-term fix or support.
Health is such as complex and diverse area which opens up the possibility for confusion, misinformation and more. So it’s essential to do your own research and relate everything back to your body, and what will work for yourself and your lifestyle.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to supplements, so keep this in mind as you investigate which one(s) are right for you in order to achieve your goals in the short to medium term.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Dmitri Simons is a Master Personal Trainer, Head Trainer and Co-Founder of Exercises.com.au.
Dmitri is a qualified PT of 15 years, a qualified Chef, Father of 5 and competes in Triathlons in his spare time. His passion is helping people achieve their health and fitness goals by taking control of their health, eating healthier and engaging in different forms of exercise such as weight lifting, stretching and cardio.