Typically, when people begin training for the first time, they are very excited but usually very impatient. They want to put in 24 hours worth of work and expect to see a change in their body the next day. And lets be honest, this mentality usually leads to discouragement and is very unrealistic. In one way, supplementation can help one achieve their goals a little faster then with out them. With today’s society lacking nutrient dense foods due to mass production, our bodies are not receiving the proper amount of vitamins and minerals like we did 30 years ago. Which, in turn, causes us to become more susceptible to illness and change our genetic code. However, we can change this by adding specific supplements to our daily life. And, in this trainers opinion, supplementation and nutrition are the two key points to creating a fantastic physique. But how do you choose what supplements to take? Today, I want discuss the basics of supplementation and what these basics consist of.
Beginners need to focus on three major basic principles when it comes to fitness. First and for most, working hard physically is the number one key point to an overall fit body. Without weight training, cardiovascular endurance and proper dieting, the body CANNOT grow to its fullest potential. Secondly, it’s also very important that you are using a well-designed training program geared toward your initial goals. You cant build high quality muscle mass in your upper body if all you do is run everyday. And lastly, you must manipulate your diet to ensure a proper balance of nutrition, through high quality foods and supplements to help you perform both inside and outside the gym.
Bodybuilding.com states that, “When it comes to supplements, it’s best to stick with supplements that are supported by science, both in terms of efficacy and safety.” And in that respect, I couldn’t agree more. High quality foods such as vegetables, fruits, hormone free meats and grains are expensive and also very hard to come by these days. However, with supplementation, we can fight against diseases caused by the lack of minerals in our foods. So lets start by discussing the 6 basic principles of supplementation:
1. Multi Vitamin
For the human body to complete all the tasks it has in a normal day, it must be given a wide and complex variety of vital nutrients. Becoming deficient in any one of these essential vitamins or minerals causes breakdown of the metabolic pathway that produces optimum efficiency and performance goes down quick. Obviously, this is NOT what you want!
Making sure you take a high-potency multivitamin/multi-mineral formula may help ensure the presence of those essential nutrients necessary for thousands of metabolic reactions.
Bodybuilders, athletes, and people that lead active lifestyles need even more nutrients than the average non-active person. So if you think that just grabbing the first one you see on the shelf is going to work for you, think again.
Multi vitamins consist of vitamins and minerals, inorganic and organic compounds. Vitamins control the chemical reactions within the body to convert food into energy and living tissue. They are either water soluble which must be taken daily since they are not stored in the body (Vitamin C and all of the B Vitamins) or fat soluble, which are stored in the body (A, D, E, and K). Minerals, on the other hand, are much simpler in chemical form than vitamins. They are much more stable in food preparation than vitamins also. Minerals are categorized as major/macro – (calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and sulfur), and trace/micro- (iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper, and manganese) minerals. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, young or old, bodybuilder, football player, or everyday gym rat. Your multi should be the first supplement you take every day.
Many nutritionists and myself will argue that taking green supplements can help minimize the negative effects of a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables. Notice, I didn’t say it could REPLACE fruits and vegetables, only minimize the damage. I’m a big believer in making 60% of your diet veggies and fruits. However, not everyone is a fan of these two basic principles so by all means, take a supplement to achieve that goal! Fruits and veggies can help fight against disease, deliver antioxidants to major organs, and keep your PH balance at a normal level, which in turn, can relieve heart burn, acidity, tooth decay and many other health benefits.
When it comes to supplements, none have received more attention than adding protein to your diet. Countless studies have been conducted with mixed results regarding improvements in muscular size and strength during short-term resistance training programs.
From my experiences, additional protein has lead to greater improvement in muscular size and strength. Studies have shown that drinking a rapidly digesting protein source immediately before, during and/or after your training session has helped stimulate protein synthesis and therefore facilitate recovery. Specific proteins, particularly whey protein, have been shown to rapidly digest in the body, thus getting to work faster once they enter the blood stream. Protein supplements are no replacement for high-quality protein sources from food. Food sources include various minerals that are essential for well being that you won’t find in a supplement. And I still highly recommend relying on meats (bison, chicken, turkey and eggs) that are grown in non gmo farms.
4. Fish Oils
I think of this as the super supplement! I can’t think of a person in the world that shouldn’t be taking a quality fish oil supplement. I was first introduced to fish oils because of their anti-inflammatory benefits and their effects on the cardiovascular system.
For those of you that rely on pain pills everyday, you may be surprised to learn that taking a regular dose of fish oil for a few weeks may help with inflammation to your organs and joints. I too was skeptical about fish oil being this magical anti-inflammatory supplement, but for those who know me very well, im all about researching everything! So after researching for a few hours, I learned that fish oils have positive benefits on just about everything from cardiovascular disease to various forms of cancer.
They can also aid in fat loss. Some would argue, “You cant lose fat by putting fat back in! That doesn’t make any sense.” But its true. It’s important that you use a quality supplement that’s greater that 50% of the total fish oil is from EPA and DHA. This is very important because the lower quality ones can be high in mercury, which can cause more harm then good to your body. I personally stick with the liquid fish oils because liquid is absorbed faster into the blood stream.
A rapidly digesting simple carbohydrate source consumed before, during, and/or immediately after your training will facilitate protein synthesis and glycogen re-synthesis. Basically this translates into muscle building, energy replenishing, and faster recovery.
Taking in a simple carbohydrate drink is especially important for people training at relatively high volumes and people that are looking to add muscle mass. What kind of carbs should you be consuming? I always tell my clients that they should consume starchy carbs like low-fiber white bagels and white rice and other fast-digesting sugars before and after a workout, more on this in my nest article.
Creatine has probably undergone more scientific study than any other supplement. There is so much information on creatine that I will be devoting an entire article summarizing the research on it and addressing some of the misconceptions.
My theory on creatine supplementation leads is this. Creatine can lead to greater improvement in muscular size and strength than training without it. Although not all creatine supplements are the same, I would still rely on a natural form of creatine. Creatine can be found in all red meats. Some will argue that creatine is very dangerous and may kill you to its “negative” side effects; however, the truth is that there is NO scientific evidence documenting harmful effects of creatine use on anyone. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge there is no reason to believe that it may be harmful, if taken in the recommended doses.
In conclusion, taking these six supplements will help you get the most out of your training regiment. Remember, the first place to invest your money is in a trainer who can design a quality program for you and show you how to execute it. Supplements can help you feel energized and allow you to maximize your training potential, but effort is required to create a stimulus worth adapting to.
If you have any questions, as always, just ask and I will be happy to answer them for you!