SupplementsIf it works, it’s banned. If it’s not banned, it probably doesn’t work. The main reason to take a dietary supplement is to fill a nutritional gap that you’re not meeting in your regular diet. Be careful though, because almost anything that is not classified as a drug can be stuffed into a capsule, pill, or powder and sold as a dietary supplement. People can take dietary supplements to prevent or treat specific health problems, enhance physical/mental performance, alter body composition, increase metabolism, or control appetite. Your diet may be lacking in nutrition if you: eat a lot of junk food, avoid macro groups (ie. “I’m not going to eat carbs/fat”), eating too much or too little of one macro group, if you eat only one large meal a day, and even if you’re a picky eater. In this case you would want to look at finding a well balanced approach, figure out what you’re lacking, and consider supplementing it into your diet. For now, we will focus on how supplements can help enhance your performance in the gym.
Ergogenic Aids are used to enhance your energy use, production, and recovery. Some work and are effective. Some are bogus and hyped up by marketing. Unfortunately, it takes some trial and error to discover what will work best for you. Below are general guidelines for three common performance supplements that have been proven successful.
Creatine helps build muscle, increase strength, and it’s legal… Yay! It is synthesized in the body through amino acids methionine, glycine, and arginine. It’s also found in foods such as red meat. Typically you will load creatine for about a week and then follow that with a daily maintenance. You may notice weight gain at first because creatine draws water into the muscles and increases muscle protein synthesis. Creatine can be safely taken for up to 5 years. Remember that it is a supplement to your diet, so if you’re looking to gain muscle then you should also be eating enough carbs to enhance the muscle uptake of creatine. Creatine is a great supplement to consider if you want to increase your endurance, strength, and power.
Caffeine is a stimulant that mainly affects the central nervous system, heart, and muscles. For most, the best time to take any stimulant is 30 minutes to an hour before exercise. A cup of coffee contains about 200-350 mg of caffeine. Be cautious of over consumption of caffeine. Ingesting too much of it may have negative side effects such as: insomnia, anxiety, nausea, rapid heart and breathing rates, headaches, and even chest pain.
If you’re in need of an extra boost of energy then you might want to consider using a pre-workout that combines both of those supplements. You’ll find creatine and caffeine in most brands of pre-workout. Most pre-workouts will also contain creatine-nitrate to enhance your strength/pump and beta-alanine to enhance your muscular endurance.
I always offer supplement recommendations to my clients based on their goals. There are so many supplements out there (CLA, BCAAs, L-Carnitine, HMB, Glutamine, etc.) that you can easily get confused if you take matters into your own hands. But, if you’re considering stacking your own supplements, ask yourself: Does it work? Is it safe? And is it legal/ethical? And remember there is no magic pill. Nothing will substitute hard work, intense training, and the right mindset. Before supplementing make sure your diet is on point, you are motivated, and your training is consistent. Once you decide to use supplements in your program, take the correct dose, the correct form, and follow the supplement guidelines to maximize the full potential, and enhance results safely.
For any supplementation questions or concerns, feel free to send me an e-mail at email@example.com. I’d be happy to help you get on the right path!