Selecting the Correct Supplements for your Goals
Once you’ve created a tantalizing training program and an equally neat and nourishing nutrition plan, a solid supplement plan will only enhance your ability to get bigger, stronger, and faster! But not all dietary products may be conducive to your fitness goals. Before you are seduced by flashy advertisements and witty slogans, check out this guide to selecting the correct supplements for your fitness goals!
Now, let me begin by saying supplements should never be used as a replacement for a less than adequate training and nutrition plan. Supplements are just that, supplements to a diet and serve to fill dietary gaps. Although these pills, powders, and compounds might help you achieve your fitness goals faster, you must always be aware of what exactly is going into your body and that is the purpose for this directory!
Goal #1: Build Muscle
Hypertrophy is one of the most sought after goals for gym bro’s and fit-chicks alike. This can be achieved through training with progressive overload, steadily increasing calories, and by introducing a few crucial supplements into your regime.
Whey Protein Isolate
If you want to gain muscle, you want to supplement with a good quality whey protein powder. There are many classifications of whey, which makes finding the perfect one very difficult. Whey is broken down into a myriad of categories; caseinate, concentrate, and isolate, the latter of which being the highest quality. Isolate is the fasted digesting form of protein, allowing the nutrients to reach your muscles faster and turn on the switch for muscle protein synthesis.
One particular study done in Australia in the last 2000’s found an increase in muscle mass and overall strength when subjects consumed a whey protein supplement pre and post-workout. From supplementing with approximately 1.5g of protein per body weight, subjects gained an average of 11 lbs. in lean body mass and lost fat while the placebo group experienced no significant change in body composition.
Supplementing with a whey protein is also an easy way (no pun intended) to increase calories. If increased muscle size is what you seek, chances are you are loading your body with excess protein, carbohydrates and fats from food. These meals will eventually fill your stomach to the point where you can no longer fit anything in there! Drinking your meals may be the easiest way to increase caloric intake and that is when a quick protein shake should be introduced.
Highly Branched Cyclin Dextrin
Studies show that intra-workout nutrition helps maintain elevated adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creatine, and insulin levels. Effects of these heightened molecules include increased strength, fat oxidation, rate of nutrient transfer into the muscles, and reduces the release of catabolic hormones such as cortisol, glucagon, and epinephrine.
HBCD’s trick the stomach into releasing large amounts of carbohydrates into the small intestine for rapid absorption. It is in the small intestine where glucose molecules link together to form high molecular weight polymers. The low osmolality of these polymers creates a pathway for branched cyclin dextrins to instantly exit the stomach for rapid, sustained increase in blood sugar and insulin.
Sipping a cyclin dextrin/amino acid cocktail during your workout will load the muscle with nutrients and maintain high energy levels throughout. This will allow the trainee to use heavier weights or increase exercise endurance for greater volume. Either way, the muscle is put under greater stress, which inevitably leads to muscle growth!
The most well studied supplement on the market, creatine has been shown to improve overall athletic performance during such high-intensity activity as weight training. Creatine may increase maximal strength and energy output during exercise, allowing the trainee to lift heavier and lift longer, especially during those last few reps of a set.
Creatine has been the subject of scrutiny for many years due to it’s allegedly negative affects on the liver, kidneys, and pancreas however there has been no evidence to suggest this conclusion. In fact, 95% of all creatine ingested is stored in skeletal muscle; increasing cell volume and making muscles appear bigger and fuller.
Goal #2: Burn Fat
Aside from the jitters and jolts it elicits, caffeine is one of the most powerful supplements on the market. Caffeine naturally stimulates the central nervous system, releasing anti-oxidants for health benefits such as improving alertness, mental capacity, and rate of fat oxidation (the body’s ability to break down fat molecules for energy).
This boost can be extremely effective especially when experimenting with a low-calorie nutrition program for fat lost. Dieters are often groggy and lack the energy necessary to complete daily activities. Why should you be miserable and tired on the road to achieving your physique and fitness goals? Supplementing with a dose of 250-400mg of caffeine each day will alleviate this daze and confusion while assisting in the fat burning process.
Unlike its predecessor on this list, L-Carnitine is a non-stimulant ingredient, but that does not mean it is not a powerful weight loss tool. This particular amino acid efficiently aids in the transportation of long-chain fat into the mitochondria of a cell where it can be utilized to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. Like most supplements, L-Carnitine is most efficient when paired with a taxing training regime!
Despite being the most richly produced amino acid in the body (especially in your muscles) Glutamine is also one of the most effective supplements for fat loss. Glutamine plays a critical role in regulating immune and gut health while stabilizing blood sugar levels and is best supplemented post-workout for its ability to resynthesize muscle glycogen lost during long bouts of training.
Glutamine may be the ideal supplement for low-carb dieters as it flips the switch on muscle protein synthesis without insulin release, thus eliminating the need for post-workout carbohydrates.
Goal #3: Endurance/Performance
Since it’s inclusion in pre-workout powders years ago, Beta-alanine has been gaining immense popularity as a performance supplement. The food we eat does not provide a sustainable amount of the amino acid and must be ingested through supplementation.
Beta-Alanine converts to carnosine and helps flush toxins and other waste products from the body, allowing the subject to train at peak performance. One recent 12-week study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition studied beta-alanine supplementation, examining 17 amateur soccer players in two groups. One group received 3g of beta-alanine per day while the other group received a placebo. The study measured sprint performance both pre and post supplementation on two 20-meter sprint sessions.
The placebo group actually declined in performance after the 12-week study, while the supplemented group improved sprinting performance by over 20%!
Branched Chain Amino Acids
Branched chain amino acids L-Leucine, L-Isoleucine, and L-Valine have been a staple of the supplement industry since the turn of the 21st century and are crucial to performance now more than ever. These “holy trinity” of compounds are not synthesized within the body and must be obtained from food or supplement. Increased energy, recovery, and muscle protein synthesis are just a few of the positive gains to be seen once introduced.
One 2010 study by the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found subject who ingested 2g of BCAA’s per pound of bodyweight experienced significantly less muscle soreness after taxing bouts of exercise. This allows the trainee to recover at an even faster rate, get back in the gym, and back to work!
Did you know that 40 years ago, Citrulline Malate was prescribed to treat mental and physical fatigue in post-surgery patients? Fast forward to present day, it still has anti-fatigue properties but is known for a multitude of performance benefits. Aside from reducing post-workout muscle soreness, Citrulline Malate may increase ATP production during exercise, allowing for another two or three reps of that heavy weight.
This notion is backed by science as researchers from Mississippi State University recently found that a dose of 8g of Citrulline Malate significantly increased the number of squats as compared to a group who received placebo.
What ever your fitness goals may be, don’t break the bank and don’t be fooled by fancy advertisements touting catchy slogans. Will supplements help gain muscle, burn fat, or optimize performance? Sure! Having said that, it is imperative that you educate yourself on what supplements are necessary to your specific goals.