SUPPLEMENT GUIDE – How to build muscle and not lose your mindMatt
Want to learn about smartly supplementing your diet? Read on.
In the ideal world, we get all our nutrients from food. Every plate is full of wholesome and natural ingredients as we savour every moment mindfully. Right?! Well. We live in the real world. Duh.
It’s nice to strive for perfection, of course. The higher we aim, the higher we’ll reach. It’s true with our workout routine and true with life in general—just some food for thought, a little hors d’oeuvre.
And speaking of food. A balanced diet full of properly cooked nutrient-dense whole foods should be our goal. But balancing work, family, and sanity means we don’t always have time for the whole shebang. And that’s OK. Balance means also knowing when to use a little help!
Why use supplements?
Convenience. Supplements are helpful because they are easy and bump your supply quickly. Supplements come in many forms, drinks, powders, pills, snacks. They also provide something beyond nutrition – psychological motivation, that now you are better, faster, stronger. And when it comes to their physical effect, different supplements have different roles to play in our bodies; they enhance muscle building, replenish macro and micronutrient stores and keep our diet varied when we don’t have the time, energy or desire to eat a whole meal. Some of them also taste divine. Have you tried these protein bars?!
Imagine waking up groggy and hungry. You planned to go out jogging or do some yoga at least. Your workout gear is nowhere to be found, and you need FOOD. You need something in your body before even considering to move it (move it!)! And a banana won’t do it. Pre-workout elixirs can put you in the gym state of mind before you decide it’s too late to work out anyway. How do they work?
Pre-workout supplements have different purposes. They can enhance performance or help build muscle mass. Among the best pre-workout supplements are Creatine and BCAAs.
Want a boost to lift heavier? Want your muscles to beef up FASTER as you do? Well, who doesn’t?!
Creatine is a compound that facilitates the recycling of ATP or the cell’s energy currency (all about that dollar!) in muscle and brain tissue. But what does it mean to your gains?
Creatine acts as a cell volumizer filling up your muscles as you exercise. It improves sprint times and pushes your high-intensity training limits. Also, creatine is one of the most well-studied supplements and thus provides safe and proven results. There are many forms of this supplement, but creatine monohydrate is the most known and best-tested.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
The branched chain amino acids, or leucine, isoleucine and valine, are among the nine essential amino acids. Essential means that your body needs them to function but doesn’t produce them. BCCAs, just like all the other essential amino acids, are found in foods high in protein. Given you don’t forget your protein sources, they are already a part of your diet. Phew!
But what’s special about BCAAs?
BCAAs have been shown to:
- Boost energy
- Enhance protein synthesis
- Increase strength and build stamina
- Improve muscle-building ability
When taken pre-workout, BCAAs can boost performance and promote recovery. By reducing muscle fatigue, blocking tryptophan signals, increasing protein synthesis and boosting our organism’s overall efficiency. They may also reduce muscle catabolism (breakdown) and thus lead to more gains. On your rest days, BCAAs can help you maintain lean body mass.
Don’t overdo them, though. They say too much love can kill you, and it applies to everything in life. BCAAs benefits can turn into nasty little side effects like fatigue, nausea, and headaches when taken in excess. Everything in moderation!
How about after your training? You’ll need something that’ll help you regenerate faster.
Glutamine is an adaptogenic amino acid found in protein. But what on Earth does it mean?
It helps your body chill! By re-synthesizing muscle glycogen and glutamine levels lost during exercise without releasing insulin, it puts your body back on track faster.
- Supports muscle growth
- Reduces muscle catabolism
- Boosts immune health
- Supports gut health
Glutamine is especially beneficial post-workout – by helping it resist stressors of all kinds, it aids recovery. If you work out often and follow a low-carb diet, it can help you recover faster between training sessions and thus build the physique you’ve been dreaming about.
How about supplements your body benefits from, regardless of your workout routine? Pay attention to the nutrients that are harder to complete from diet only.
All the gods of fitness agree; there is no gain without protein. This controversial yet beloved ingredient is the base of our Western diet and the pillar of gym life. Even though we seek comfort among the carbs, it’s the protein that provides the most satiety and creates our physique. It’s recommended we consume 20-to-30 % of our daily caloric intake from protein. The ideal source is food, obviously, either meat or plant sources, both with their pros and cons. Animal sources provide more complete protein but include saturated fat and cholesterol, whereas plant sources are less complete and more carb-heavy but provide necessary fibre and many longevity nutrients.
To get enough protein, we need varied protein sources and to eat every 2-3 hours. Again, in the real world, not always feasible.
Protein supplements can patch that gap. They act fast, digest as you work or study and get you ready for your next task. Protein supplements (like a protein shake or bar) are especially beneficial after a workout, digesting easily and acting quickly on rebuilding your muscle fibres.
Here, a quick list of protein supplement types:
- Whey Protein
- Casein Protein
- Soy Protein
- Egg Protein
- Plant Protein
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, or polyunsaturated fatty acids, are a mouthful. They also go by EPA or DHA, which are their subtypes. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, which means they are a must on your menu! They help you build muscle, burn fat and boost your overall health.
Both EPA and DHA are produced by algae, then consumed by fish, so very easy to find in seafood products. Omega-3s are also found in eggs, grass-fed beef and venison, as well as plant sources such as Brazil nuts, walnuts and flaxseed.
Maybe your diet is not too high in fruits de mer and any other Omega-3 rich foods. If so, you’d benefit from supplementing the essential Omega-3s in capsule form. If the fishy smells bug you, never opt for this supplement’s bottled form, as its scent tends to be pretty pungent.
Even if you consume plenty of animal sources of this nutrient, remember, industrial farming, modern preservation and reduced soil quality have significantly lowered the natural stores of Omega-3s in animal products. So, regardless of diet, supplementation might be a safe bet.
Fish oil supplements are the most common option for boosting your EPA and DHA intake.
Omega-3 supplements support:
- Cognitive function
- Normal, healthy immune system function
- Heart health
- Healthy skin
- Joint health
- And more!
5 to 9. No, it’s not about your office hours. It’s the number of fruit and veg servings you should be getting in your diet PER DAY. Who achieves this feat, please raise your hand (or, better yet, comment below; we want to meet you, superhuman!).
Even with a super-rich diet, it’s beneficial to get extra insurance from supplements, especially with some vitamins becoming increasingly harder to find in nature. B12 is the leading example. This vitamin is made by bacteria fermenting in soil (yummy!), and with our cleanliness obsession growing, B12 deficiency might become a problem.
Also, a good multivitamin is simply common sense. If your diet is mainly composed of chips, sour candy and sodas (please seek help!), invest in a good multivitamin that can cover all your bases whilst you fix your toddler-like eating habits. Seriously, grow up.
The most spectacular form of supplements is the foods that hit the sweet (or savoury) craving spot but help you build your 6-pack at the same time. The diet comfort foods! Today’s market offers everything in its guilt-free version, like syrups, creams and spreads, bars, fit cookies, pasta, sauces, jams and even oils! So, whenever you feel like giving up on your clean eating routine, remember, you can grab one of these easy treats without compromising your fitness standards and feeling guilty afterwards.
Bon appetit and good luck with that 6pack!