What's Up With Supps?
Supplements are a hot topic in the fitness community. There are TONS of supplements available that claim to help with pretty much any aspect of health and fitness that you can think of. Want to lose weight? There’s a supplement for that. Want to gain more muscle? There’s a supplement for that. Want to increase your energy level? There’s one for that too. A lot of the claims from supplement companies are not entirely true, and must be taken with a grain of salt. Dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA, but this only occurs after they have been brought to market, and not before. This means that a supplement can be sold to the public before it has been regulated. Once reviewed and regulated, they are only rated for whether they are safe for consumption, and not whether they have the benefits or effects that are claimed.
Many dietary supplements used for fitness have been around for years and are proven to be effective. Here is a list of five supplements that have been shown to be effective for enhancing your ability to exercise, or maximize your gainz from exercise.
Caffeine is probably the most widely used supplement for exercise performance. It has been shown to increase power output and training capacity. The effective dose is typically 1.5 to 4.5 milligrams per pound of body weight, taken 30 to 60 minutes before exercise. The lowest dose that seems effective is what you should use. Also consider other sources of caffeine you may be ingesting (i.e. morning coffee, soda at lunch, etc), so you don’t overdo it. Caffeine is a bladder stimulant, so be prepared to pee more after using it.
Protein is used by the body to maintain or rebuild muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise. Most people get enough protein from their normal diet, and supplementation is usually not needed. If you are doing moderate to high intensity weight training, or high intensity cardio, then you may require more protein than you would normally eat on a daily basis. This is where supplementation may be beneficial. Whey is the most widely used type of protein because it is proven to be effective and has fairly low caloric impact on your diet. Other options are available, including vegan sources such as Pea and Soy. For muscle building you should shoot for 0.8 to 1.0 grams of total protein intake (food and supplements combined) per pound of body weight per day. If muscle building isn’t a concern, about 0.4 grams per pound of body weight daily is recommended.
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It helps your muscles perform short duration exercise, and improves your ability to recover from such exercise. It is depleted from the body during exercise and is replenished via diet, however supplementing creatine can help most people maintain their creatine stores longer and perform more work during an exercise session. The recommended dose is typically 5 grams per day. Some companies will recommend a loading phase of 20g per day for 1 week, though the research is unclear whether this is really needed. Unless you are doing very high intensity weight training, most people can use 2-3g per day, or 0.06g per pound of body weight. Creatine can be taken at any time during the day, regardless of workout timing.
4. BETA ALANINE
Beta alanine is a substance that helps buffer hydrogen in the body. As you exercise, muscle tissue is broken down and hydrogen accumulates in the muscles. More hydrogen causes the muscle to fatigue faster. Beta alanine helps the bodily processes that limit the amount of hydrogen that builds in the muscles, allowing you to exercise harder for longer periods of time. It has been shown to be more effective for high intensity exercise than low to moderate. The recommended dosage is 2 to 5 grams per day, and can be taken at any time but is usually suggested 30 to 60 minutes before exercise.
5. L-CARNITINE AND L-GLUTAMINE
L-Carnitine and L-Glutamine are amino acid supplements that help increase the amount of Carnitine and Glutamine in the muscles, which help improve recovery and decrease muscle soreness after exercise. Carnitine has also been shown to increase work capacity during high intensity exercise, and can also cause a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate during and after exercise. Most of your Glutamine and Carnitine are taken through consumption of meat, so if your diet is relatively low in meat, or you are vegan/vegetarian, than supplementing may be beneficial if you perform an exercise program of moderate to high intensity. Taking 2 grams of L-Carnitine and/or 3 to 6 grams of L-Glutamine per day has been recommended for exercise enhancement.
A good pre-workout supplement will usually include caffeine and beta alanine, as well as some other ingredients that are supposed to help with your energy level and work capacity. If you choose a pre-workout, check the ingredients list and see if the dosages are similar to those listed above. Creatine is offered in an unflavored variety, and is best taken with your pre-workout or mixed with your whey protein. Make sure you drink at least 64 oz of water per day also to assist with your body absorbing the supplements.
It’s safe to say that a lot of adults that exercise recreationally, and eat a balanced diet, don’t need to use supplements at all. At this time, supplements are not recommended for youths or teens at all. If your exercise program incorporates a lot of moderate to high intensity activity, or your goal is to build muscle, then supplementation would be beneficial. If you have a vegan diet, you might want to use these supplements also. If your goal is to lose weight, you may be inclined to try one of the many fat loss supplements on the market. Some can be effective, but they usually do not offer a significant benefit over watching your diet and doing some exercise. They also usually come with some pretty funky digestive side effects that most would rather avoid.
Well, them’s the basics when it comes to workout supplements. Now you know...and knowing is half the battle. Now get out and get yoked….or get skinny…..or get…..whatever you want to get, I guess.
Offered for your consumption by John Leslie, DPT