The “supps” craze is sweeping the nation. Everyone is selling them, creating them, marketing them, hiring athletes to support and try them. We’re the test-bunny generation for an exorbitant amount of synthetics, additives, good and bad.
We are the product guinea pigs of the fitness industry.
If you’ve been online or anywhere near a GNC, you’ve probably seen the insane range of things you’re being told you “need” to reach your “goals”. Or maybe a coach has pushed products at some point, suggested supplements… or suggested nothing and you’re not sure WHAT you need.
Here’s the low-down on a decently comprehensive list of What You Need, and What’s Just Robbing You.
What You Need
Anyone under any kind of stress can benefit from increased amounts of glutamine. It is primarily used to ensure optimal performance in the small intestine, however it is also found in muscles, skin, and organs such as the kidneys and the liver. Because stress inside the body usually results from an injury to the skin or muscles, or internal distress, these situations mean an increased need for glutamine. Keep in mind that resistance training creates small tears in the muscles, and we know that after training, glutamine levels in the body are reduced. Supplementing with glutamine is a good call for anyone engaged in high intensity strength or cardiovascular training.
Unfortunately, highly processed foods in this day and age mean we don’t get the amounts of nutrients we used to from organic compounds. EVERYONE should be supplementing with a basic multivitamin to support a healthy heart, healthy skin and hair and nails, recovery and other essential benefits. .
As a working athlete, you’re probably also concerned with the rate of protein synthesis taking place in your body. Since new muscle mass can only be built when protein synthesis takes course and old tissue is repaired while new tissue is built up, the faster this process progresses, the quicker you will see results. Essential aminos are a part of this process, and cannot be absorbed from food or produced as extensively as desired by the body. Supplementing with branched chain amino acids will help you recover and build faster and more efficiently. Aminos are also essential to a healthy immune system.
Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D3:
Check your multivitamin and the recommendations for your age and gender to see if they provide enough of these essential vitamins. Many do not. If possible, supplement accordingly.
This supplement helps support bone density, mood, and healthy cholesterol levels. Adding 3-6 grams of fish oil a day can help promote healthy ratios of HDL to LDL, as well as healthy levels of triacylglycerol concentrations in the body when they are already in healthy range.
Protein: a good protein source has few synthetics and additives, contains at LEAST 25g protein, and is low in sugar. You need protein powder for fast absorption post-workout. Invest in a good one, but don’t go too crazy.
What’s Just Robbing You
YOU DO NOT NEED THE EXPENSIVE, BRAND-NAME VERSION OF COMMON VITAMINS AND MINERALS. i.e. fish oil, vitamin e, multivitamins, and things along those lines: the common, basic wal-mart or vitamin store brand will do JUST FINE.
The same thing goes for expensive fat burners (mostly just caffeine and sweetener), wildly pricey proteins, and other random supplement hybrids that have no clear benefit or market research. Avoid them.
There’s only a few things I think fall into this category: pre-workouts and fat burners and creatine. SOME people benefit from these, some do not.
Most pre-workouts and fat burners are full of sucralose and additives, and are driven by caffeine. Everyone is sensitive in different ways to caffeine and niacin. If you really need a pre-workout boost (I just use coffee) or feel the need to “try” a fat burner, make sure you follow directions carefully and get a few samples until you know what you like and what your body can handle.
Two common ingredients in pre and fat burners and the need-to-know about these ingredients:
Carnosyn (Beta Alanine)
Carnosyn is the brand name of an ingredient called Beta Alanine. Beta Alanine is an amino acid (non-essential) already found in our bodies. In the muscles, it forms a bond with another amino acid called histidine to form muscular Carnosine. The Carnosine works to fight off the molecules produced in the muscles that usually lead to fatigue and eventually failure. By increasing the amount of carnosine in the muscles, we increase their endurance, as well as speed up recovery. When the beta alanine binds with the nerves under the surface of our skin, they begin to fire at a faster rate which produces the tingling effect.
Niacin (a.k.a. Vitamin B3, Niacinamide)
The B-Vitamin complex in our bodies primary function is correlated with digesting the food we consume. By doing so, they are the major players in our bodies production of energy. The sensation that we feel due to a high dose of Niacin is known as a “flush”. This flush arises from the Niacin in our body causing small blood vessels to open up, especially near the surface of the skin.
On to Creatine:
The jury is really still out on creatine, and there’s a few types. If you’re looking for a “pump” without a lot of water retention, try a monohydrate creatine. What is creatine? Creatine is known as a physiological sports ergogenic – something that can be found in small amounts in animal foods and which the liver and kidneys can generate from amino acids. Much of the creatine we “want” to “grow” is destroyed when we cook our food. According to SOME research, creatine helps to support protein synthesis, which helps muscles grow, but everyone has different results and reviews. If you do use creatine, use it following the product label and monitor your progress closely.
Biotin, milk thistle, L-carnatine, and a few others may be commonly listed in athlete plans but depend entirely on what you want to spend and are willing to invest in. Major benefits of each are not fully supported, or at least vary by individual.
Anything else you want to invest in is up to you, but do your research. Make sure that people haven’t mentioned health issues or side effects in reviews: talk to athletes you trust. Don’t go for a brand name because they’re big, make sure what they’re selling is effective.
I hope these facts help you decide what to put in your pocket, and what to leave on the shelf.
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