Friday, April 4, 2008

Do You Need Supplements?

"So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them." - Hebrews 13:9

During yesterday's workout, my training partner (Dennis) asked if I discussed nutritional supplements on my blog yet.

I said, "No, there's not really much to say about it."

He replied, "Exactly!" Referring to the fact that many people over-rely on a variety of supplements in order to help meet their goals.

Do you need supplements? No. Not at all. You can get everything you truly need through whole food and a good training program. Can nutritional supplements be useful? Yes. They offer convenience to meal planning and additional nutrients when they are needed quickly and easily.

However, when it comes to nutritional supplementation, I believe that less is more. A nutritional supplement should be just that - a supplement to what you are already doing. It should not take the place of more important things such as eating whole food to meet your daily protein, fat, carbohydrate and nutrient needs or simple and consistent hard training.

Your nutrition, exercise, sleep and lifestyle choices are far more important than the addition of nutritional supplements. Once you are eating correctly, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest and living a balanced lifestyle, then using some nutritional supplements can come in handy.

As for what I recommend, here's my brief list:

1) Multi-vitamin
2) Fish oil caps
3) Protein Powder (low-carb)
4) Post-workout drink

5) Vegetable/Fruit supplement (typically known as a "Greens" product)
6) Creatine

Let's go over each one in further detail along with some recommendations.

1) Multi-vitamin - Although I feel that we are already "over-vitamined" due to the amount of food products sold with extra vitamins added, a multi-vitamin is like insurance. It helps make sure that you get the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly.

As for brands, I think one of the best brands is Nutrilite's Double X multi-vitamin. There are also other high-quality brands on the market, so do some research before you buy.

2) Fish Oil Caps - There have been numerous studies about the benefits of adding fish oil supplementation to your diet. Fish oil supplementation has been shown to increase metabolism (for some, it can help burn an additional 500 calories per day), promote a healthy heart and cardiovascular system, burn fat, improve hair and skin and much, much more! Do a quick Google search on fish oil, and you'll find plenty of studies about the benefits of this wonderful supplement.

I believe the highest quality brand available is Flame-Out by Biotest. It's not cheap, but it is the best. Otherwise, you can always go to Sam's Club or Costco and pick up the Member's Mark brand of fish oil caps.

3) Protein Powder (low-carb) - We already know that protein has a higher thermic effect in the body, thus helping us keep our metabolism high and burn more calories. We also know that protein is needed in order to build muscle, and we must build muscle in order to elevate our metabolism so it will burn fat and help us stay lean.

Protein supplementation is also a quick and easy way to get additional protein in the body at ideal times or for a quick and tasty snack. I have tried many different types of protein powders both in brands and in types (whey only, whey and casein mix, etc.). Although whey protein is great because it digests quickly (which makes it ideal as part of a breakfast meal or post-workout), I prefer to use a whey and casein mix. This way, you get the best of both worlds. A quick-digesting protein and a slow-digesting protein to help keep blood sugar levels stable and to also keep a steady stream of amino acids going to the muscles while keeping you fuller longer.

As for brands, I highly recommend Metabolic Drive Low-Carb by Biotest. It is one of the best tasting and highest-quality protein powders I have used.

4) Post-workout Drink - Studies have shown that protein and carbohydrates taken immediately after your workout help facilitate recovery, burn fat and build muscle. A simple post-workout drink could be a glass of chocolate milk. Studies have shown that chocolate milk works nearly as well as some of the designer post-workout drinks on the market. My only hesitation with chocolate milk is that most of the brands contain high fructose corn syrup. So, if you are going to use chocolate milk, it may be best to use low-fat or no-fat milk and mix it with a good chocolate mix that doesn't contain HFCS.

Post-workout is the one time of the day where simple sugars are recommended. The reason is because they help refill your glycogen levels after they've been depleted from your training. We want to fill them right away to promote recovery and give the body energy for the next session. Protein is crucial to the post-workout drink because it helps promote muscle growth. If you don't want to use chocolate milk for a post-workout drink, feel free to eat a meal that contains simple sugars from fruit or fruit juices along with some protein (milk, protein powder, etc.).

As for designer post-workout drinks, I highly recommend and use Surge by Biotest. I have tried other products on the market, but Surge is the one product that I can tell the difference when I take it. It has a huge effect on my recovery abilities. And because it's available in a few different flavors (I prefer original and chocolate), you can always mix up the flavors throughout the week.

If you are using the four supplements mentioned above and following a good exercise plan and well-structured nutritional plan, then you will have everything you need. However, if you want to use more than those supplements listed above, I would recommend the following:

5) Vegetable/Fruit Supplement ("Greens" product) - Few people eat enough fruit and vegetables throughout the day. It's hard to eat five or more servings on a consistent basis each day. Fruits and vegetables contain numerous vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. Our bodies need these nutrients, and we should aim to eat more fruits and vegetables. Since it is sometimes hard to do so, supplementation can come in handy to help boost the amount we eat each day.

I have tried some of the "Greens" products available and found them hard to stomach due to the foul taste and smell. I did use a capsule form in the past that was MUCH better than mixing up a drink that looked like something out of a swamp. However, there is something newer and better available. If you have problems eating at least five servings of fruits and veggies each day, you may want to supplement with Superfood by Biotest. Not only does it taste better than most of the other products available but the quality is top knotch!

6) Creatine - Just like fish oil supplementation, creatine has been studied for more than 20 years and has been found to have a variety of benefits. Do a search on Google for more information regarding creatine and its benefits.

For brands, there are many good ones on the market. Just be sure that you only purchase a pure micronized creatine monohydrate product. Some of the others are filled with added sugar and other things that are a waste of money. And some creatine products contain different "esthers" that are not good for you. A good creatine product that is fairly inexpensive is Biotest's Micronized German Creatine.

There are many more nutritional supplements available including Testosterone boosters, anabolic enhancers, fat burners, etc. For the most part, these supplements are purely over-hyped marketing gimmicks that will leave your wallet empty with no additional muscle gain or fat loss.

If you follow my recommendations above, you will have everything you could possibly need provided your nutrition and training are on track.

Don't follow in my footsteps. When I was 18-20 (and even again in my mid-20's), I fell for many of the marketing gimmicks that promised muscle size and more! I used products like HMB, various Andro supplements and other Testosterone boosters and "anabolic" muscle stimulators. In the end, I had wasted my money and not gained an ounce of muscle or lost any more fat.

The only way to accomplish your fat loss and hypertrophy goals are through a sound nutrition program, plenty of hard work, consistency, desire, dedication, discipline and time. Remember, it's simple. But not easy.

NOTE: Although I have recommended many products by Biotest, I am in no way affiliated with the company. These are products I have used for many years and have found to be the highest-quality and best tasting at moderate prices. Like I said earlier, I have used many different brands, but these are the ones I currently use and recommend. I can give other recommendations on different brands that will be similar in quality - but they may not be the best tasting or best priced.

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