For some, adding supplements into your nutrition plan could be the next step in taking your goals, training and results to the next level. That being said, in my experience it is important that you have all other aspects of your nutrition planning (food diary and macronutrients), training, rest and recovery in check and on point before considering supplementation.
Generally speaking, there is a great deal of uncertainty, confusion and misinformation as well as a degree of stigma about nutritional supplements.
The focus in this article is to give a brief overview, make recommendations and supply you with the right information to help you avoid these pitfalls.
There are many different types of products available, each with their own benefits.
The question is, which ones are worth paying attention to?
The most important thing to remember is to select only the supplements that are best for your specific goals and needs.
A healthy individual can survive for between 3 to 8 weeks without food but can only survive for 3 to 5 days without water*.
Needless to say water is imperative and essential to our survival, it is also the most often overlooked aspect of daily life. This trumps everything else when it comes to achieving your goals.
Drinking water promotes weight loss by boosting the metabolism and regulating hunger, it also boosts the immune system, flushes toxins from the body and keeps the digestive system regular.
Furthermore, hydration levels have a direct impact on energy levels and relieves fatigue as well as increases mental focus.
Everyone's water intake requirements will be different and will depend on body composition and activity level. For most people, it is suggested that you aim to consume 2 litres each day, or enough water so that your urine runs clear and assess the correct from there. The Vision Virtual Training water tracker is a great way to track your water intake.
*This isn't something you should test.
Nutrition is (at least) 70% of your results.
Make the best food choices you can based on your own individual macronutrients, dietary needs and lifestyle. Whole, nutrient dense, real foods are the best choices.
Nutrition really isn't complicated however if you don't supply your body with the right fuel, especially around workouts, you will not achieve your goals.
Eat right, use your food diary, hit the numbers, account for any questionable food choices and don't stress over your food choices. Educate yourself in making the best choices and how to meet your daily macronutrient goals.
Be it WPI, WPC, Casein, Soy, Pea, or Hydrolysed beef protein, at some point in time the average gym goer will have dabbled with some form of protein powder.
Whilst it is always preferred to achieve your nutritional targets through a well-balanced, healthy, whole foods diet at times protein supplements are a convenient way to provide high quality, fat free protein to your muscles post work out or between meals. These supplements supply the muscles with much needed amino acids, vitamins and minerals, enhance the recovery and muscle building process as well as assist in protein synthesis and support the metabolism.
Fish oil and Omega supplements:
Fat is essential to our health and wellbeing - our bodies need fat to function!
Taking essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6 aids in lipolysis, essential fatty tissue breakdown, boost the metabolism, regulate our hormones, transport essential vitamins through our bodies, combat inflammation and reduce the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and combat diabetes!
Essential fatty acids also help to regulate the appetite by stimulating the production of leptin, a hormone which helps the body identify when it's full.
Again, everyone's needs will be different; listen to your body in terms of dosage and speak to your trainer for further and specific recommendations.
Evidence has shown that it is best not to take fish oil or omega supplements on an empty stomach; these fats can be burned as energy and by taking them at this time, you will not enjoy the full health benefits of such products.
In my personal opinion, I advise my clients to not consider supplementation of anything else before they have introduced an omega supplement - take it daily and feel better.
In my experience it is important to take care of your hydration, macronutrients and essential fatty acids before worrying about anything else.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, they make up our muscle tissue.
The body produces a certain amount of these Aminos, however Branch Chain Amino acids, or more specifically Essential Amino Acids, must be supplied through the diet or supplementation.
These BCAAs or EAAs assist in energy production during workouts and allow for an added energy boost.
They stop the breakdown of muscle tissue, promote muscle recovery and growth and have been shown to reduce muscle soreness (DOMs). They have also been shown to reduce hunger.
Overall BCAA or EAA help fortify the muscles .
They are best taken first thing in the morning to stop muscle breakdown from the nights fast, pre/ post workout for an energy boost and promote recovery and/ or with the last meal of the day to reduce and regulate hunger and to limit muscle breakdown during the night.
Generally speaking, if you are hitting your protein requirements through real food and/ or protein powders, there is no need to be supplementing with BCAAs.
However, studies have shown that the use of BCAA's whilst training in a fasted state and on a calorie restricted diet (weight loss) helped support, maintain and even increase lean muscle mass.
Creatine is primarily used to assist mass gain and supports lean mass production through increased strength & performance.
Simply put, Creatine enhances performance and therefore enhances muscle gain leading to decreased body fat and improved body composition: more muscle, less fat.
It also assists in muscle recovery and inhibits muscle damage by acting as a buffer to minimize lactic acid build up.
A note on fat burners and pre-workouts.
These are designed to stimulate the metabolism, and give you that instant energy boost; the active ingredient will almost always be caffeine.
Drink coffee as a pre-workout instead; black, no sugar.
Caffeine takes roughly 30-40 minutes to kick in, an espresso will do the trick. Beyond that, drink green tea throughout the day.
Coffee and green tea both boast some of the highest antioxidant profiles of any food with more evidence and research being done into their overall health benefits.
On top of an increased metabolic response which leads to greater fat burning potential, caffeine promotes a hormonal response which helps the body cope with exercise induced stress and increases performance.
A cup of coffee has also been shown to promote satiety, making you feel full and thereby reduces food cravings and over eating.
Another way to increase your metabolism is through proper nutrition, exercise, more lean muscle mass and a better body composition.
The key is to use products from brands you know and trust; and if you don't know of any, ask your trainer for recommendations.
Always bear in mind that supplements should be viewed as just that - supplements!
They should only contribute to 1% of your results and are designed to enhance and improve your health, fitness and daily life. Proper nutrition, consistent training, adequate rest and recovery is paramount.
Take care of your body from the inside out. There are no quick fixes!
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.