Just about the first and main question that people seem to ask if you’re even semi into lifting, weights, fitness, etc. is this: what supplements are you taking, are supplements necessary, what are the best supplements? Supplements, supplements, supplements. If I had a dollar for every time I saw or heard the word supplements regarding the fitness industry, I’d be super rich. In their defense, in our current society everywhere you look there is a new advertisement for some diet pill, juice detox cleanse, magic fat-loss drink promising to instantly get you the results you want. But the only way to get the results you want is to work hard and be consistent with your workouts and nutrition over time. Progress takes time, not popping some pill into your mouth or drinking a detox and being good to do. However, there are certain supplements that can aid in things such as digestive health and muscle recovery. Supplements can definitely help, yet understand that none of them are necessary. Let me repeat this: supplements are NOT necessary in order for you to succeed. Having a good diet filled with a variety of foods, getting in your micronutrients, being strategic in your training, and taking proper time to rest and recovery can all help you reach your goals just as much as some supplements might. But if you choose to look into supplements in this post I am going to breakdown some of the main supplements you might have heard of into what their purpose is and why someone might take them.
Pre-workout: The purpose of taking this supplements is to increase energy, and enhance workout performance and efficiency. This can be done because most pre-workouts are filled with caffeine which keeps you awake as well as activates epinephrine and norepinephrine (think fight or flight response) which wires your body. I understand it may seem tempting to chug pre-workout, especially when you feel sluggish; however, you should not be solely reliant on pre-workout to power through–this can be detrimental to your overall health in the long-term. An active, healthy lifestyle, diet, and good sleep can do just the same. Instead, focus on using it every now and then.
Creatine: Creatine supplements are thought to be responsible for improving strength, increasing lean muscle mass, and helping the muscles recover. It does this by converting into creatine phosphate in the body that which helps make adenosine triphosphate (ATP)–the energy muscles store up and use to produce work. Many people take this either intra-workout or post-workout to help with recovery. However, creatine is a naturally-occuring substance found in meat and fish and other sources of protein.
Glutamine: Glutamine is the most common amino acid found in your muscles. Studies have shown that it can aid in minimizing breakdown of muscle as well as improving protein metabolism. Again, many take it either intra-workout or post-workout, even with mixed with creatine for extra muscle recovery. Glutamine can be found in foods rich in protein, legumes, and certain vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, and beets.
BCAAs: Branched chain amino acids are the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are “essential” because you’re body does not produce them on its own, you have to get them through foods (again protein-rich foods such as meat and eggs) or supplementation. BCAAs are the building blocks of protein, therefore, helping you fuel your muscles properly as well as help enhance muscle protein recovery. This is the reason people take this during or after workout.
Protein Powder: Protein powder is a supplement that is just as it sounds–provides protein. There are different types such as whey, casein, egg, plan-based, etc. and which is best for you will depend on your dietary needs and the way your body digests each. This is actually one supplement that I do take; however, I ensure that the bulk of my daily protein comes from whole foods (meat, eggs/egg whites, yogurt, cheese, etc.) rather than all protein products (powders and bars). Protein powder can definitely be sued to help reach your protein goal for the day, but again, don’t majorly rely on it over natural sources.
Vitamins: There are many vitamins essential to our body’s health (Vitamin A, B, C, D, K to name a few) and with a diet rich in a variety of wholesome foods, all these vitamins can be received in ample amounts. Vitamins should not be supplemented unless there is a known deficiency–otherwise get them from a proper diet of nutrient-rich foods. For example, in past blood work I have been shown to have low levels of both B12 and Vitamin D, so I’ve been taking supplements for both of those.
Digestive Health: Digestive health supplements are things such as probiotics or digestive enzymes. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that your body needs. Our bodies are filled with bacteria–both good and bad–and probiotics helps keep your gut health with good bacteria. This can mean aiding in digestion, and helping balance out your good/bad bacteria for gut health. I take a probiotic every morning to help with digestion. Digestive enzymes on the other hand are usually more geared to treating symptoms of things such as acid reflux and IBS.
Let me know some of the supplements you take below and why you take them!