A Basic Guide To Using Supplements
When it comes to supplementation, many people believe that they are the answer to everything, yes if I take this I will grow or I’ll be ripped in a few weeks. One thing people neglect to understand is you need to have a structured diet and training program to follow. I always tell my clients not to depend on supplements, they are there to supplement a good diet and training program. Everyone is trying to sell something right? The supplement industry is a massive industry and they are no different! Big branding, bright colours. You’re being SOLD!
From ‘extreme fat burners’ to supplements that ‘help you control your hunger’ to stacks that ‘speed up your metabolism’ or ‘maximize muscle gain’. Over the years, I have spent a lot of money on new supplements that didn’t really “do what they said on the tin”. Very misleading sales campaigns led me to believe that these supplements would help me ‘maximise my potential’ and enable me to reach a high level of physical development. Well, hey, they fooled me. Where do we get most of our supplements from? The good old Land Of The Free, the place where dreams become a reality, you guessed it, the United States of America. The supplement industry in the states is unregulated so what they actually have on the back of the tub is not necessarily what they have inside the tub. Watch the brilliant documentary “Bigger Faster Stronger” and you will get a great insight into how they can get away with making supplements illegally and sell them legally in America.
The truth is, quite a few supplements actually do work! They will never give you what you’re looking for but they definitely help. Without guidance and or knowledge, supplement shopping can be a very daunting experience, especially for first timers. Shelves are usually stocked full of supplements with colourful labeling and bold writing which are eye-catching and seductive to the potential buyer. But do not be fooled by this! In particular, be wary of those supplements that have big and loud advert and sales campaigns – it has been proven that there is a direct connection between loud campaigns and how poor the product is! I am not insinuating here that all supplements are crap, rather I am suggesting to be cautious of what you intend to buy, know the junk from the good stuff! Ingredients are very important to look out for when buying a supplement for your training as a lot of them have additives and are highly acidic.
As the name suggests, supplements should supplement a clean, well balanced diet and structured personal training plan. When coupled like this, the combination can yield considerable results and induce dramatic changes in body composition and appearance as well as performance levels. Supplements can certainly help, but the most fundamental factors towards achieving your fitness goals are your training and nutrition. Supplements should be considered after you have those factors under control. There will never be a magic bullet system that will make you achieve your next PB, give you the physique you have always dreamt of, or acquire the trophies on the mantle. Reaching your goal will involve 100% consistency, dedication, focus, and discipline. Unfortunately there aren’t any shortcuts and there is no magic supplement!
This article isn’t a supplement encyclopedia of any sort and I am no supplement expert, rather it is intended to help you avoid wasting a lot of your hard earned money on products that won’t do anything for you. Being a personal trainer and athlete I believe there are several supplements which are fundamental to those undertaking a personal training programme, many of which I use myself. Using these supplements to enhance your training will provide you with the assurance that you are maximising your results from training.
1. Whey Protein
Whey is derived from milk. About 20% of the protein found in milk consists of whey (lactose is present in it, however). It’s a fast digesting and absorbing protein, hence why it is generally the best recommended pre and post training supplement. Taking 1 or 2 scoops of whey approximately 20 minutes before you train will help optimize your session, while taking it 10-15 minutes post training will augment and help speed up recovery.
Like a metabolic gift, whey directly transfers to your muscle cells the amino acids needed for optimal training and a speedy recovery, maximizing muscle repair and growth. It will also provide the body with a fast digesting form of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. I use Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein which is actually now owned by Glanbia the Irish owned dairy company. One scoop contains 120 calories, 24g of protein, only 3g of carbs of which 1g is sugar. It is packed with whey protein isolates and fast-acting hydrowhey peptides. Whether you are trying to put muscle on or want to lose body fat, a whey protein supplementation like ON Gold Standard in conjunction with your personal training plan will help you along the way to seeing the results faster.
2. Casein Protein
Casein protein is also found in milk. Unlike whey, it is a slower absorbing protein and therefore not designed for immediately after you train. I very rarely purchase this product, but it is the better option for when baking protein based goods e.g. muffins, cakes, protein bars etc as it has a better consistency than whey, while also being a more preferable binder. It’s great for making a guilt free hot chocolate. It is perfect for a situation where you require slow absorption as it can keep releasing amino acids for up to 7 hours after consumption, keeping you fuller for longer so if you’re struggling to get a meal in a casein shake will suffice but you shouldn’t make it a ritual. Always try get “real” food in as much as possible!
3. Amino Acids
As aforementioned, once protein is consumed it is broken down into amino acids. These bad boys are the building blocks of all proteins! Aminos are responsible for the development of ALL the body’s enzymes, thus aid many crucial day to day body functions. In terms of fitness, aminos will facilitate the repair and growth of muscles when taken in concurrence with your training session. They may be taken in tablet form throughout the day. However, as heat and pressure are used when making most tablets, the amino acids may be destroyed before even ingesting them. A powder form is the more preferred option and may be taken before, during and after your session.
It is the better option as it will allow the body to directly absorb and transfer the aminos into your muscle cells, to feed, repair and recover muscle fibres. The amino’s will determine a much more improved recovery from your training. Throughout your workout, your muscle cells will use the amino acids ingested, so taking this supplement can help restore the same nutrients lost during an intense session. It will also aid in reducing muscle pain from the tearing of muscle fibres during your workout i.e. can lessen the pain inflicted from the dreaded DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness), while also improving metabolic recovery.
I generally use Optimum Nutrition Essential Amino Energy as a pre workout because it’s loaded with caffeine which will raise cortisol during training causing a bigger anabolic effect for muscle growth and more recently have started using BSN Amino X which is caffeine and aspartame free. This product consists of rapidly absorbed free form amino acids, including muscle building branch chain amino acids. Leucine, isoleucine and valine and arginine which allows for a more intense vascular pump. It also contains natural energisers such as Beta Alanine and glutamine which are boosting ingredients that will provide energy to fuel your session, enabling you to reach an optimal training level.
If you want to meet your fitness goals, I believe this is the most important supplement that you must have in your arsenal, Micronutrients or Multi Vitamins! These guys are an inexpensive “insurance” policy that makes sure all your daily requirements are met and cared for. They are vitally important to help with PH levels in your blood, hormonal imbalances and the general well being and function of your body. I eat an abundance of greens like kale, broccoli, spinach, asparagus and green beans etc which contains a lot of vital vitamins not forgetting they contain a lot of fibre keeping your digestive system working properly and alkalizing your body which keeps you free from sickness.
It is therefore essential to obtain a wide and complex variety of vitamins and minerals so that the body can complete all the tasks it has in a normal day. Becoming deficient in essential vitamins and or minerals will eventually cause your body to stop functioning at its optimum level. It will suffer from a metabolic breakdown. You will hit a wall and your development will reach a plateau. It is a known fact that if one key nutrient is missing from your diet your body will shut down the anabolic drive and power to grow muscle and or lose body fat so that it can support more essential metabolic processes.
When this happens, your results will come to a halt. Thus a deficiency in many minerals and vitamins will disrupt and slow down the pathway that should allow your body to produce optimum efficiency and performance. This, of course, is not what you want! Making sure that you are taking in a high-potency multi-vitamin stack will aid in ensuring you are ingesting all those essential nutrients that are pivotal for the body’s metabolic reactions.
So.. don’t just grab the first product you see on the shelf. You need to be cautious, as many are useless and some may not contain all the micronutrients your body needs. In general, high potency multi-vitamins will often come in packs with many tablets to take each day. I take Universal Nutrition Animal Pak, one of the best selling ‘training packs’ since 1983 which has won several awards. They are scientifically balanced and contain mega vitamins and minerals, performance nutrients, and amino acids.
Another point worth mentioning is to make sure that your stack contains Omega 3 Fish Oils and if not, it is vital to purchase these separately. This is particularly important for those following a high, low carb, high protein high fat diet. Omega 3’s are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and play numerous important health roles such as improving heart function and cardiovascular health, while they also have anti-inflammatory properties and help increase insulin sensitivity levels by stabilizing insulin hormonal levels AND blood glucose. From all the macronutrients, fats and especially Omega 3 oils provide a much more supple supply of energy. They also help regulate your hormones, metabolic rate, and also help with dropping body fat levels by using these fatty acids or triglycerides for energy.
Who’s a coffee-aholic? Because I’m guilty as charged. I absolutely love my coffee. I love everything about it, the smell, the taste, the mood it puts me in when I drink it. Not only does it taste awesome, but it acts as a stimulant by effecting your adrenal glands to release more energy giving you that kick in the hole you need. So many of us take this supplement every day without even thinking about it, but forget to consider the impacts it can have on performance levels. In fact one of the first things I will ask one of my personal training clients is “how many cups of tea or coffee have you had today?”
Why I hear you asking?
Well, if you take in too much caffeine your body starts having an adverse or the opposite effect to that stimulant than you think! I’m actually no longer shocked when I hear, “oh I’ve had 10/12/15 coffees today. I am NOT joking when I say this. People just have no idea what they are doing to themselves, their mind and their body! So in fact when you take in that much caffeine you become more fatigued, far less energy, dehydration, cortisol levels are constantly increased and therefore priming yourself to get fatter, sleep patterns are completely disrupted, your metabolism hits the floor.
The adrenal gland is overworked and begins to function below the necessary levels. The ‘dragged-down’ symptoms of the adrenal gland can then do a real number on your fitness regime and negatively affect your fitness goals. As I stated above, too much caffeine will also raise cortisol levels. What is this? This is a steroid hormone that converts proteins into energy, releasing glycogen and counteracts inflammation. It is known as the ‘stress hormone’. A sustained level of high cortisol can destroy healthy muscle and bone, cause increased body fat, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, causes hormones to become imbalanced, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function and will weaken the immune system. As the saying goes ‘too much of a good thing is not healthy’. It is a known fact that approximately 200 mg of caffeine can increase blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour.
Do you need any more? Didn’t think so! The maximum amount of caffeine or coffees/teas you should have in any given day are 2 or 4 shots of espresso. One in the morning and one mid afternoon or pre workout and take in at least 3/4 litres of water per day. 80% of your body is actually water, bet you didn’t know that either 🙂 To gain even more benefit from caffeine which will actually help with fatloss and your metabolism, have a caffeine free day every two days, just take in decaf or herbal teas, caffeine free of course!
So to conclude my love for coffee, Man I love it, I do, it’s one of my daily pleasures, and knowing the effects of drinking too much, I limit the amount I consume per day. I drink decaffeinated throughout the day, and switch to caffeinated directly before my training session as I’ve told you to do. Drinking coffee directly before you train will not only fuel your energy levels, but as your cortisol levels rise, putting stress on the body, it is forced to produce more growth hormone which enables the body to build more muscle and burn more fat! If you try this method of timing caffeine intake, trust me, you will definitely notice the difference!
Danielle Hayes CPT | Cover Model Body Coach
Cover Model Body Personal Training