Friday, February 5, 2010

Supplements: Which Ones Are Worth Taking?

This is one of the most common questions I get during seminars -- "What supplements do you take?" The implication of the question indicates that supplements are very important, even essential, to fitness. The hope of many is that they can take a handful of pills and be absolved from hard workouts in the gym and from having to stay strict on their diets.

Not true.

Supplements play a role but a minor one. If you are eating clean and working out hard, supplements are important. If you are not, you are throwing your money away.

If you are one of those who is hitting the gym 4 times or more a week, working out hard, pushing yourself, and eating clean (meaning no "junk"), here are the supplements I have found to be worthwhile:

1) Whey Protein: I use whey protein in the morning (20 - 30 grams) to get my body into an anabolic state (muscle-building). Met-Rx, Gold Standard and Lean Dessert all do the job.

2) Casein Protein: This is a slow releasing protein that feeds your muscles over a longer period of time (7 hrs), much slower than the instant effect of whey. Like whey, it has anti-catabolic properties which help in muscle growth. I use casein protein immediately after my workout, usually with oatmeal which provides the carbs I need to transport the protein. I also use casein protein before I go to bed so my muscles are constantly supplied with a steady stream of amino acids throughout the night! A good source of casein protein is cottage cheese. I also like BSN Syntha-6. Most often before bed I take a scoop of Syntha-6 in a half cup of 1% cottage cheese. (Note: I do not supplement with soy protein as some studies show that it increases estrogen levels in men -- exactly the opposite of what we want to happen.)

3) Creatine monohydrate: This form of creatine is proven to be the most effective. Creatine is known to increase strength levels by increasing the rate of PCr regeneration during high intensity resistance exercise. In other words this allows you to complete more reps of a given exercise which, assuming sufficient calorie intake and protein, means more muscle mass. The maximum creatine level in the body is quickly achieved by consuming large doses of 20-30 grams for 3-5 days, followed by a daily maintenance dose of 2-5 grams.

4) Glutamine: This is an excellent supplement for decreasing the rate of muscle breakdown post exercise and increasing protein synthesis in muscle tissue. 10-20 grams of glutamine is the recommended daily intake immediately after an intense training session to replenish depleted glutamine stores. I also add Glutamine to my workout drink.

5) NO: Nitric Oxide enhancer. I take NO before and during my workout in my workout drink. NO balances the nitrogen in the body and allows you to do more, push harder and thus get better results. I use White Flood by Controlled Labs, but NO Explode by BSN is also popular.

6) BCAA: Branch chain amino acids. Like glutamine, these help keep your body from feeding on lean muscle. I take them after my workout.

7) Multi-Vitamin: Essential nutrients are not met through a regular diet. Supplementing vitamins and minerals is important. Animal-Pak is great but the multi-vitamin and mineral tablets sold at Costco maybe the best value.

There are others I take and some I cycle on and off. More on those in future blogs.

Train hard!


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