There Are Giants At The Gym: Supplements
I get a lot of questions on supplementation; what I take and what recommendations I have for everyone out there looking to gain weight or lose weight. Supplements are everywhere these days. It’s a huge industry and it all boils down to what works for you? There’s a lot of trial and error involved. You have taste, if it’s working with your body and body type, what your goals are, etc.
What I suggest doing before you ever buy supplements and after checking with your physician, is to set some goals. What is it that you want to accomplish? Things like protein, I feel, are always safe as it is just an extension of ones diet. If you’re eating meats or chicken, that’s protein and supplemental proteins are merely making sure you have enough protein in your day. However, one does have to be sure of what they’re taking. It’s your responsibility to know what you’re putting into your body.
Most of the supplements I’m going to talk about occur naturally in your diet, you just have to make sure you’re getting enough of them. Supplements are just that; supplementing proper nutrition and training. I don’t want to overemphasize supplements, but they definitely serve their purpose. If you’re doing everything else you should be, if you’re eating right, and training hard supplements will give you that bit of an edge.
Not everyone will agree on each supplement – that will be up to you – but I have noticed some things in my regimen that I really like. Multi-vitamins are a MUST! It sets the foundation for your body to have everything it needs to go through basic bodily functions. I take Bodybuilding.com’s “Multi-Core”. It’s a simple all-in-one package one takes in the morning once a day (with food, unless you like an upset stomach!) These packs are my core – hence the name.
Vitamin C is very crucial, as is vitamin D. Vitamin C is not something your body can store, so you really have to make sure you’re getting enough of it. If you’re not eating enough fruits or vegetables, vitamin C might be something that you’re a little deficient in. These packs from BodyBuilding.com have both C & D in them and more!
The next supplement I want to recommend is a protein powder. I don’t really consider protein powders as a supplement because they are just help surpass the protein regiment that your body requires and meet the goals you’ve set. Most people will need right around 1 gram of protein per lean pound of body mass. If you’re cutting – trying to get leaner – you’re going to want to bump up that protein serving a little bit more.
There are two different kinds of protein that I take religiously: whey protein and casein protein. Whey protein (Protogen in my case) is your every day go to protein. It’s fast absorbing and gets to your muscles quickly. I usually take this immediately after working out – rule of thumb is within 30 minutes of completing your work out for the best results.
Then we have casein protein. This breaks down very slowly, similarly to cottage cheese in how it breaks down. If you’re going a long time without meals and you don’t want your muscles to start breaking down (catabolic), drink some casein protein and it’ll digest very slowly in your stomach. This is perfect for those of you who are on your feet all day and you can’t get a meal. It is also perfect to take right before you go to sleep, which is how I have ritualized taking this supplement, to make sure you’re feeding your body those amino acids all through the night.
Creatine Monohydrate is the next supplement I’m going to speak about. This is a supplement that if you use it, you will see your strength gains going up. I stay on it until the last week leading up to a competition. Besides protein, creatine is the number one studied sport supplement out there. How does Creatine work? Well, I’m gonna get a little scientific on you here. In your body you have ATP. ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is what your body uses for energy in short durations. When you’re going to the gym and lifting, your body is using up it’s storage of ATP. When it runs out, it starts kicking over into other ways to get energy.
When ATP runs out, it becomes ADP (Adenosine diphosphate). Creatine donates one of those phosphate groups and becomes ATP again and you’re able to use it. It allows you to work out a little bit harder, push out those one or two extra reps. Creatine also hydrates your muscle tissues. A lot of people don’t like the “puffy” look it gives you, as you might tend to retain a little extra water, but I’ve always used it and am a big fan.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are essentially the building blocks of what protein is. When you diet, you will want to stay anabolic (in the process of building muscle), which is quite hard to do that if you’re breaking down muscles in the gym and not getting a surplus of calories. When this happens it’s really easy to start using your muscles for fuel – the one thing we do NOT want to happen – because it breaks them down! By making sure you’re getting enough amino acids, you prevent this. On the market today there are a lot BCAA pills or powders. I use a powder (Amino Recovery). I just mix with water in my protein shaker and can take pre or post workout…or really anytime you want to fuel your muscles.
Fish oil is an essential fatty acid. Everyone needs good fats in their diet to burn the bad fats. Fish oils have Omega-3 fatty acids which help you to lean out, and on a personal note, gets me shredded for my shows. Omega-3 fats are categorized as “essential” because ones body can’t make them, so they must be obtained from food or supplements. Supplementing with fish oil can help promote overall health and wellness, support normal healthy immune function and support heart, brain, vision, and joint health. What’s not to love about that?!
Pre-workout drinks are all the rage these days! There’s so many out there. The one of choice for me is Scream, by Bodybuilding.com. Pre-workouts’shakes’ dilate the blood vessels and get you a good “pump” feeling that Arnold used to talk about. Some of them also have beta alanine in them that can give you a slight tingly feeling. As great as they can be, BE CAREFUL with these supplements, as most have a lot of caffeine in them.
It’s important to get your body’s feedback and be able to read your system. I’m not saying caffeine is bad; it’s shown to promote fat loss and focus, but it is – like anything – bad when you become dependent on it. Like caffeine, if you’re depending on a pre-workout supplement over good nutrition to get you through a workout, that’s when you have to reevaluate what you’re using. Caffeine is in most pre-workouts and with that I heed caution – cycle it.
You don’t want to stay on a pre-workout all the time because you will decrease the potency or effects from it and using it will become idle. Caffeine is one of those products where the more you take the more you’ll need to get that same result. You’ll notice at the beginning you’re focused and you have a lot of energy to do things, you might even get a little jittery. It is kind of a good feeling, especially if you’re going into the gym. Often it allows you to train harder and longer, but the longer and more frequently you take it, the less you’ll feel these effects because the less it will be working. Too much caffeine is not good for the body.
I don’t recommend you guys going out and buying EVERY supplement I mentioned, but rather to start off with a few of products that you’re not used to; A multi-vitamin, one or two of the different proteins, maybe one of the pre-workouts. And then keep a journal of how much you’re taking verses how it makes you feel. Are you seeing strength gains? Are you noticing any weight gain? Then depending on the results, you have to decide if what you’re taking is warranted or not and only then add in another product. This process can get a little scientific, but that’s how you’re going to get the best results out of it.
Remember, it’s your job to know what you’re taking, don’t just rely on bro-science from gym rats. Being fit should be fun, have a good time with it, don’t take everything too serious, and be smart!