To supplement or not to supplement? That is the question!
A healthy balanced diet can be best explained as the optimum range of nutrients the body actually needs to meet the demands of its environment; this is why everyone needs to have a diet plan tailored to aid the achievement of specific goals.
A simplified example would be as follows:
- To gain size and muscle mass we increase the amount of the right calories we consume to give the body energy and to allow the body to repair, recover and grow.
- For fat loss we reduce calorie intake ensuring the calories we are consuming are taken from the correct food groups.
- For endurance training you increase calorie intake from complex carbohydrates and proteins for energy and recovery.
It’s essential that you look to real foods as your first port of call to supply the body with what it needs but if you are like me and have a hectic lifestyle then getting all my macro and micro nutrients from food is impractical and virtually impossible, especially if I am having to consume them at certain times of the day and in large quantities.
Supplement: 1. ‘a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it’
There is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet, therefore we use the word ‘supplement’ for a reason; it is exactly what the dictionary definition suggests and should be used alongside normal food consumption.
I do supplement but only because I can’t consume the right nutrients at the right times of day, for me it’s about the necessity of convenience. As a teacher I neither have time during the day to sit down and eat 5 or 6 meals, nowhere to safely store them and in the evenings I haven’t got the time to prepare them.
So let’s take a look at some common sports supplements that you may have thought of using and ones that I use to supplement my diet.
No matter which type of training you do, your body certainly needs protein to aid recovery enabling repair and growth of the muscles. The harder and more frequent you train the more protein you need and Whey Protein is certainly proven to be the most effective for recovery as it is high in quality due to it containing a high quantity of essential branch chain amino acids and lower in lactose resulting in less tummy problems. Having had a recent conversation with a top doctor of nutrition at Birmingham University it was advised for me to consume the correct helping of protein every 3 hours; imagine how much food I would eat let alone time in the day to eat it. With this in mind my only alternative for convenience is to supplement so to do this I use USN’s top end product called Whey Isolate but other products are available and certainly have alternative benefits.
This is a compound that is found naturally in the human body and can be found in lean animal muscle from meats and fish. It is produced in the liver and is transported through blood to feed and supply the muscles with energy. It has certainly been proven to improve performance taken in the correct way and in the right quantities and is used by nearly all modern athletes today. I supplement creatine because I can’t consume enough meat throughout the day my body needs to get the most out of my training sessions. My creatine supplement comes from USN’s Muscle Fuel Anabolic but is also provided in other USN products in the Hardcore Range.
BCAAs and Amino Acids
All proteins are made up of amino acids and there are 17 with 8 of them being known as essential. The ones to look out for muscle fuel and repair are isoleucine, leucine, valine and maybe controversially glutamine depending on which expert you talk to. We need to supplement these because most of the essential amino acids are used up very quickly with intense exercise. My source of these is provided by BCAA Power Punch and BCAA Amino Gro both are excellent products and taste great.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another supplement that divides opinion and is found naturally in foods such as turkey, beef and some dairy products. Depending on which research you want to believe CLA’s aid fat loss and help increase lean muscle mass and is now claimed to be a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E and beta-carotene. I am no doctor so therefore if used and results in fat loss are obtained then keep using it and supplement it because just like creatine it is very impractical to get the right doses of this micronutrient from food. USN’s CLA 1000 is a great tasty way of consuming this nutrient.
I don’t really want to say much about pre-workouts other than they can be very effective if you have had a tough day at work and really don’t have the energy to put into a big session. However if you are finding a reliance on these regularly then I urge you to review your diet and consume the right foods to provide your body with the better uuummfff your body needs. Be careful with some pre-workout products if you are sensitive to caffeine.