Supplements for Exercise
These can play an important role in health and exercise performance but supplements are not necessary to achieve your goals, however some do have proven benefits. As a personal trainer I find it extremely important to reiterate that supplements are not intended to replace your food intake but rather to enhance it, always remember this! If you feel your diet needs improvement or you have specific questions about your food, don’t hold back. The information in this post is not a recommendation, simply a bit of knowledge!
Vitamins, minerals, herbs and some processed products are popular forms of supplements. Most of these are found as pills, capsules, powders, drinks and energy bars. Because supplements are not subject to the same testing as medications, it is important to be well-informed before choosing a supplement that’s right for you. There are several supplements that can be beneficial for those weight training or trying to lose fat.
Whey protein is originally derived from milk and can be isolated to create a powder substance. Whey is considered an excellent source of protein and may increase muscle mass and muscle strength with combined with an exercise programme. One of the reasons it is so effective is because the protein full of amino acids. Furthermore, whey protein may have beneficial effect during a workout on exercise performance and afterward during muscle recovery. As with most protein-based recovery supplements, improved recovery and energy replacement has been noted when a carbohydrate is also consumed. For example, mix whey protein with milk after a workout. The highest quality whey protein is whey isolate which as an excellent amino acid profile and extremely high biological value.
Essential Amino Acids
Amino acids play a central role as building blocks of protein and within metabolism. Humans can produce 10 of the 20 amino acids required by the body, thus creating two classifications: essential and non-essential amino acids. As the name implies, essential amino acids are an important part of the diet because the body cannot make them. Failure to obtain enough of even one of the nine essential amino acids can lead to a breakdown in the body, typically in the form of muscle. Unlike other macronutrients our bodies do not store protein (or amino acids) therefore, ensuring adequate intake of protein on a daily basis is key.
Most of these amino acids can be found in eggs, soy protein, fish, beef, seeds and nuts. The nine essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Amino acid supplements can be taken and are best used by the body when taken with carbohydrates. Based on a study published in the Journal of Physiology, after resistance exercise (weight training) amino acid levels in the body were decreased, therefore, the body would not be able to build and repair muscle tissue efficiently. However, when subjects were given an amino acid-carbohydrate drink within 3 hours, exercise anabolism improved.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fat is one of the macronutrients – along with carbohydrates and protein – needed by the body. Fat provides us with energy and helps absorb certain vitamins, however, it is important to focus on the right fat in the right amount. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for overall health and are deemed as a good fat. These fats help reduce inflammation which is now seen as the main cause of heart disease and even obesity as some experts claim that it is actually an inflammatory disease and may help lower risk of chronic issues including cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has also been linked to improved brain health and memory, particularly in those over 50. While this may not seem important if you are a healthy individual, omega-3 may also help with recovery after an intense workout.
Fish, plant and nut oils are the primary dietary sources of the fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week. However, if you find you do not consume enough of these foods it is also effective to take a fish oil or flaxseed oil capsule. When choosing a fish or flaxseed supplement read the label to determine the amount of EPA and DHA (the type of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish) in the pill, and this will determine how many you should consume.
Regardless of your fitness goals, a multivitamin is probably the one that you take already! It is nearly impossible to calculate the micronutrients in your diet and including a multivitamin can make sure your diet is complete with all the nutrients needed. There are special circumstances that may warrant additional vitamins or minerals. For example women may need additional folic acid while pregnant or calcium if at risk for osteoporosis.
Even though a multivitamin should cover all your nutrient needs, some individuals also need magnesium and zinc supplementation. Magnesium is found in relatively large amounts in the body and is responsible for about 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. Additionally, magnesium can help with fatigue, anxiety, high blood pressure, leg cramps, migraines, premenstrual syndrome, asthma and hay fever (just to name a few).
Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium so if you find yourself not consuming many of those foods a magnesium supplement might be right for you. Very small amounts of zinc are necessary for human health, however, it is important for proper growth and maintenance in the body. It is also known to boost the immune system. There are also links between zinc supplementation and improved athletic performance and strength.
Caffeine is categorized as a stimulant to your central nervous system, warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Caffeine is mostly found in beverages such as coffee, tea, drinks and many other forms. There are both positive and negative effects of caffeine, which is why is important not to consume large quantities (over 800-1000mg a day). Positive effects of caffeine include increased attention and alertness, lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of diabetes, and increased metabolic rate. However, if consumed in large quantities caffeine can cause anxiety and addiction, increased blood pressure, and stimulation of urination.
Caffeine may reduce your desire to eat for a brief time while also stimulating thermogenesis – a way your body generates heat. Avoid caffeinated drinks high in fat or calories which undo any positive
effect of the stimulant. While caffeine may not produce significant weight loss they may help ward off a craving or give you more energy for your workouts.