In the world of sports, everyone is looking for the quickest, easiest way to get from point A to point B, whether that be bigger, faster, stronger, leaner, fatter or simply just healthier. In the high speed world we live in today, people want it done yesterday, not today or tomorrow. So when it comes to accomplishing these physiological goals, there’s always one place we turn to…supplements. The first thing I want you to understand is that there is no miracle pill, drink or powder, no what the guy at GNC says. If it looks like BS, walks like BS and smells like BS, it probably is BS. Those supplements that promise massive muscle hypertrophy in 24 hours are probably the least effective.
As of today there are literally thousands of supplements we have to choose from, each claiming to produce a desired result (bigger, faster, stronger). How do they work? What are the ingredients? And which one do you choose? Here’s what I recommend and why.
THE ULTIMATE RULE
When it comes to picking and choosing supplements, I have one rule that is applied to everybody before I will even tell you what my opinion is. No supplement is truely effective without a good, clean diet. With the lack of a healthy diet, supplement effectiveness is limited dramatically.
The word supplement is defined as something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole. In this case, added to a complete diet. Without all of the natural vitamins and minerals provided by whole foods your body will not utilize your supplements efficiently.
So before you even think about taking a dietary supplement, think about what you’re eating, get that fixed and grow from there.
MY TOP PICKS
Once you have your diet in line, it’s time to decide which supplements will work best in order for you to achieve your ultimate goal. The advice I give to people is to KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. There are a handful of supplements that have been tested and retested and 9 times out of 10 have proven to work. So let’s take a look, shall we?
Notice I put creatine monohydrate…..not creatine ethel ester, creatine malate, or creatine alpha-keto-gluterniner (yes, I made that one up). Creatine Monohydrate is the most studied supplement out there, bar none. Given the constant skepticism of creatine, people want to show that it is bad for you in some way, but they keep getting proven wrong. Consider some data found in an article published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research that studied the effects of creatine monohydrate (CM) and creatine phosphate (CP) on lean body mass, weight gain and strength gains over a 6 week period. Those who ingested CM over the 6 week study increased lean body mass by5.87lbs and bench press max by 24.55lbs, while the CP groups numbers were 4.85lbs and 19.44 respectively. Sure this is one study, but you can find hundreds more just like it. Bottom line, creatine monohydrate carries more efficacy than any other supplement.
What does creatine do for you? Well, I could sit here and give you this big, scientific dissertation about it’s absorption and effect on the body, but I’ll keep it pretty simple. Creatine is stored in the body as creatine phosphate (CP). As your body produces energy, it uses a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As ATP is broken down it becomes ADP (diphostphate) and AMP (monophosphate). These molecules need to be reloaded once in this form. CP is then used to resynthesize ATP. In other words, CP gives one of its phosphate molecules to ADP to make ATP. You keeping up? OK, so in short, creatine boost anearobic power through energy production….AKA, more reps and more weight. Here’s a small list of other affects creatine has had on the human body:
1) Improve mental powers of healthy and damaged brains
2) Reduce fatigue
3) Make improvements about the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s issue
4) Improve human growth hormone (GH) levels
5) Improve heart function in those with congestive heart problems
So how much do you take? Well, here’s where you’ll find mixed results. In the study mentioned above, the subjects took a loading dose of 20g/day for 3 days then 10g/day for the remainder of the study. Loading is done to saturate the muscles quickly in order to start seeing the desired results of creatine more quickly, but is nor required. Other studies suggest, and I am with this group, that a steady dose of 5-8g/day will suffice. I like this method better because it would seem to be easier on the liver and…well, the creatine will last longer. So, to get the results you are looking for take 5-8g/day post workout for fast absorption.
BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS (BCAA)
The BCAAs consist of 3 amino acids: Leacine, Isoleucine and Valine. These amino acids are stored in your muscles in high concentrations, making them important for a number reasons. The Journal of Nutrition tells us that BCAAs account for approximately 35% of the essential amino acids in muscle protein. They are three of 9 essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are important because they cannot be produced by the human body. Therefore, the only way you get them is through ingestion. BCAAs help prevent the breakdown of muscle protein during exercise, preserve glycogen stores and help with overall maintenance of muscle tissue. BCAAs are not a performance enhancer like we talked about with creatine monohydrate. Simply put, these amino acids are used to reduce soreness and grow your muscles. Now, this is obviously still a very important role in sports training and weight training in general, which is why I recommend BCAAs.
Dosage is nothing like creatine. BCAAs are used up quickly with exercise so packing in as much around workout time is what we want to do. What I have found that works for me is 5g during my workout and 10g immediately after my workout. If during doesn’t work for you then before will be fine. Try to shoot for 15-20g around your workout for maximal effect.
THE NO BRAINERS
There are two supplements that I didn’t talk about because in my mind they are no brainers….they should be taken without asking. Number one is protein powder. Protein powder delivers a full amino acid profile, is convenient and can be mixed with a lot of different ingredients. There are two proteins I suggest to people: whey and casein. Whey protein is digested quickly which is optimal for a post-workout shake. Casein, on the other hand, is slow digesting, which is great in the middle of the day or right before bed to get a sustained release of amino acids to your muscles. You can find whey/casein blends for those of you that don’t necessarily want to buy one can of each. If I had to choose one it would be whey. Whey has the greatest bioavailability of any other form of protein, which means your muscles can use it the best.
No brainer number two is fish oil. This incredible little supplement has so many great benefits, it’s hard to explain how important it can be. Here is a very short list of the affects fish oil can have:
1) Reduce high blood pressure
2) Lower risk of stroke
3) Improve weight loss
4) Lower cholesterol
5) Reduce risk of heart disease
How many of you can say that you don’t see one effect that you would like to improve on? No brainer, right?
As most of you probably know, fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, most importantly EPA and DHA.
When picking a fish oil supplement, always look at the concentration of EPA and DHA. Most fish oil pills have 1000mg of omega-3s with about 300mg of that being EPA and DHA. Like I said, this is a pretty average concentration, but we want that to be higher. To get the most bang for your buck look for supplements containing atleast 50% EPA and DHA concentration.
As you see we’ve cover a handful of supplements in this article. With thousands of supplements to choose from, you have to be able to sift through the garbage and pick out the ones that have the research to back them up. Remember, Keep It Simple Stupid. Let me know if you have any questions concerning these or any other supplements. Thanks for reading and I hope everyone has a great weekend!