Before I get started on supplements let me just say that the most important part of building a better physique is nutrition. Whether your goal is to build muscle, burn fat or improve your energy, nutrition is the key to your success. No supplements can beat a healthy diet, and without a healthy diet taking supplements is simply a waste of time.
Right glad thats out of the way. Don’t get me wrong supplements can certainly help build muscle, burn fat, increase energy levels and improve your results, but that’s only when you already follow a healthy diet.
Just take a look at the name: “supplement.” These products are simply designed to “supplement” an already healthy diet, not “replace” it.
Once you have your diet on track and you are eating healthy, then you can consider supplements. However, don’t just jump in head first and grab anything the salesman makes wild claims about.
Here are a few supplements that I would recommend starting with:
Protein powders are a convenient way of getting some extra protein into your diet. For best results consume a whey protein shake as soon as you finish your workout, this will speed up recovery and boost muscle growth by supplying the body with the essential amino acids it needs.
No need to go for expensive brands, just what suits your budget, however avoid any brands that contain too much sugar.
Other than protein supplements, creatine supplements are the most talked about and most effective muscle building and performance supplements on the planet. Creatine supplements can provide a 10 to 15% boost in overall strength, and lean muscle mass gains of up to 10 pounds. Because of their popularity, creatine supplements are extremely cost-effective.
The health benefits of creatine have been studied quite extensively. Research has found that proper creatine intake is essential to good health in a number of ways. This includes
- Enhanced muscle mass/strength
- Increased muscle energy availability
- Increased power output (more sets/reps)
- Enhanced recovery after exercise
For optimal results take 5-10g of creatine before and after your workout, using pure creatine monohydrate. Again no need to go expensive just what suits you budget.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAA’s are made up of 3 branched chain amino acids known as leucine, isoleucine, and valine. It has long been known that these three amino acids are great for preventing muscle tissue breakdown and building new muscle tissue. What most people don’t know is that BCAA supplementation can increase fatty acid utilization for energy by decreasing protein breakdown for energy use.
To get the most benefit out of your BCAA supplementation it is best to consume 8-12 grams during training and another 10-20 grams throughout the day and between meals. This will optimize both muscle retention and fat loss.
Essential Fatty Acids
Just as the name implies EFAs are essential to the human body because play a role in many different biological processes. Essential fatty acids differ from other fats in that they cannot be synthesized within the human body. This means that EFAs must be consumed through diet. If not enough EFAs are consumed the body will sense that it does not have the nutrients that it needs to function properly. As a result it will essentially “hold on to” body fat. This is just one of the reasons EFAs are so important for fat loss.
EFA’s have a wide range of benefits including:
- Decreasing body fat mass
- Increasing amino acid uptake
- Reduce cholesterol and blood pressure
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Decreased inflammation
- Improving joint health
- Improve functioning of the brain
- Repair damaged cell membranes
These benefits go far beyond, as well as include, fat loss. Some of these benefits may seem like they are of little or no consequence to your fat loss efforts, but it is important to note that a body that is functioning properly will also have a metabolism that is running at full capacity.
A great way to increase your EFA intake is by supplementing with Fish Oil and Flax Seed Oil. 5-10 grams per day will meet bodily requirements.
Green tea is one of the most powerful natural fat-burners around that help boost your metabolism. It is made from leaves that are unfermented and are said to contain the highest concentration of antioxidants, known as polyphones. Antioxidants like polyphenols located in green tea are said to protect us by neutralizing free radicals and dangerous compounds in our bodies, reducing and possibly preventing the damage they cause.
Many studies have been conducted into the health effects of green tea. These studies have found green tea be useful with the following health conditions:
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Crohn’s disease
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Skin cancer
- Ulcerative colitis
The power behind green tea lies in the fact that it contains high levels of catechin polyphenols, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is an extremely powerful antioxidant – in addition to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it can kill cancer cells that do form without harming healthy tissue. EGCG has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels and inhibiting the formation of abnormal blood clots. Considering that the formation of abnormal blood clots are the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke, green tea is great for fat loss and should be used by anybody who has an elevated risk of the above health conditions.
A multivitamin typically offers a convenient way to increase the intake of vitamins and minerals that may be difficult to obtain from food alone. The contents of a multivitamin may differ slightly based on the manufacturer but it typically contains, at minimum, the following major vitamins and minerals: A, B, C, D, E, K, Iodine, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, and Selenium.
A prolonged deficiency in any or all of the aforementioned vitamins and minerals may cause unwanted ailments, sicknesses, or diseases. A multivitamin is an excellent source of inexpensive “insurance” that especially comes in handy for road warriors who’s daily diet may vary drastically from day-to-day.
The two main ways to obtain vitamin D are by exposing bare skin to the sun and orally with vitamin D supplements. This is why so many people around the world are Vitamin D Deficient, because of their lack of exposure to the sun. Proper vitamin D levels in the blood have been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease blood pressure, decrease bone fracture risk, and improve mood.
I recommend you get a Vitamin D supplement that offers 3,000IU a day. You should also note that it is fat soluble, so take it with a meal.
Zinc and Magnesium
If you train hard, then you’re likely deficient in zinc and magnesium. These important minerals are often depleted in many athletes and gym goers.
Replacing these lost minerals with ZMA supplementation can increase testosterone and insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels, two critical components of muscle growth. ZMA also enhances the quality of your sleep, which can lead to more optimal GH release at night. Most ZMA products on the market today provide about 30 mg zinc, 450 mg magnesium and 11 mg Vitamin B6.
There you have it! Remember that supplements are simply there to supplement you diet. Nothing will give you better results than a healthy diet, so get your diet on track first then get your supplements.
Until next time train hard,