My Top 7 Essential Supplements for Any Gym-Goer
I tried to start this blog half a dozen times only to realize there is no way to put together an awesome introduction without over complicating my point. So, here I go, plain and simple. If you think going to the gym and eating right is enough to make you healthy, you are wrong.
Creating more value in our personal health and wellness requires an investment that goes beyond meal prep and consistent weight training. In fact, what I am going to share with you over the next two weeks is so important to your internal health that it will actually dramatically affect your external.
I’m talking about supplementation.
See, what we put into our bodies is equally, if not more, important as how we train our bodies. Most of us know the basics: eat right-exercise daily-get adequate rest-hydrate-repeat. I see all these New Year-New You ads, weight loss fad transformation schemes, portion control-restrictive eating programs..and all I can think is what a waste of time and money…what a waste of someone’s actual potential to become healthier. The bottom line is all that BS doesn’t work long term and it certainly doesn’t make you healthier. Many of them also lack a huge component, teaching and providing the knowledge of properly supplementing your body and diet for stronger performance, increased results, and overall better health.
As a personal trainer, natural athlete, and healthy lifestyle advocate, I took the time to breakdown my top seven (in no particular order) gym-goer supplements in hopes to provide you guys with some knowledge bombs and confidence the next time you are standing in front of ten dozen options at the vitamin store.
|3.||TUESDAY||Omega 3s-Fish Oil|
|5.||THURSDAY||Joint & Bone Support|
My goal over the next fourteen days will be to supply your brains with all the knowledge on why each of these supplements are important to implement into your lifestyle and why making the short term investment will result in a long term reward.
ON THE DAILY – TAKE YOUR MULTIVITAMIN
If supplements were like magic I would dub the daily multivitamin as one of the most magical, and here is why…
- Corrects Nutritional Deficiencies
- Boosts Immunity
- Healthy Aging
- Maintain Muscular Strength
- Improves Short Term Memory
- Supports Eye Health
- Protects Against Degenerative Disorders (Heart Disease; Osteoporosis)
- Boosts Mood
- Heart Health
- Reduces Risks for Cancer
- Promotes Healthy Hair & Skin
- Boosts Energy Levels
- Helps Detoxify The Body
- Improves Sexual Function
- Manages Stress
Amazing right? If those fifteen reasons aren’t enough to convince you of investing into a daily MV, I am not sure what will. Interested in my number one reason for taking one? – – > As we get older, our bodies have a harder time absorbing nutrients from food and our nutritional needs increase. With so many common culprits that make us more susceptible to nutritional deficiencies, the daily multi works in our favor to provide our bodies the essentials it could potentially lack. The human body is extremely complex and in order for it to complete all the tasks throughout a normal day, it requires a wide variety of vital nutrients. If we are deficient in any one of these, we can suffer a breakdown of the metabolic pathway that produces optimum efficiency and performance.
GETTIN FISHY WITH IT
The mighty omega! A capsule packed with remarkable health-protecting benefits, including the ability to stop, fight against and actively treat inflammation, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, lung disease (asthma & COPD), reduce symptoms of depression, and improve levels of cognition.
Gross factor – – this supplement actually comes from the tissues of oily fish and the best sources are the cold-water, fatty ones! However, omega-3s are extremely important and our bodies can’t make these essential fats – – to be specific, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Two very important PUFAs you will find in fish oil are DHA and EPA, the amount of each determine purity and potency of the product.
Fish oil has played a pivotal role throughout my own training, and is a staple in my supp stack. The anti-inflammatory properties and benefits to joint and bone health are a big factor in keeping my body at an optimum level for proper range of motion through mobility and flexibility. With strength training 5-6 days per week, my body – muscles, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds my insides aka all my tissues and organs together…yeah, all that can hurt and ache from day to day. BUT, by properly supplementing with fish oil, I have found a huge relief in both inflammation and joint pain. It also provides me the benefits of vision and heart health, a triple win in my eyes!
DON’T BE A TIN MAN
So if you caught my tid-bit on omegas, you most definitely read about my achy body woes. This was a perfect lead into today’s topic, joint and bone support. I can’t stress enough about the importance of taking care of what keeps the body mobile. I’m talking about bones, joints and muscles – – also known as the musculoskeletal system.
- Bones: support the body and help form our shape
- Joints: the area where two bones meet and make the skeleton flexible, without them, movement would be impossible
- Muscles: necessary for movement, and pull the bones when we move
So why should you be taking a joint specific supplement? For starters, joint supplements contain many of the same components that can be found in the cartilage of the joints. They aim to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and build up the properties of the joints that have been torn or worn away. Through various, scientifically proven ingredients, joint supps create a stronger and less painful joint while ensuring the maintenance of strong and healthy tendons and ligaments.
What I love most about these powerful little pills and powders is how highly beneficial they are in reducing pain and discomfort that would have a negative effect on my overall quality of life. I value the ability to exercise and do everyday activities without sounding like a bowl of Rice Krispies *snap-crackle-pop* (weak joke skills, but hope it gave ya’ll a smile).
RECOVERY 101: PART UNO
You may recall at the beginning of the week my reference to the daily multivitamin as “magical”. I would like to recognize this next supplement to be equally, if not a little bit more, magical in the realm of recovery and growth.
Say hello to your new best friend, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). There are twenty common amino acids, nine of which are considered essential (this means our bodies can’t produce them and they have to be derived from diet). Our body relies on three of these when we run low on glycogen (the stored form of energy in our bodies, found in the muscles), leucine – isoleucine – valine.
These three almighty building blocks:
- promote muscle growth
- promote muscle repair
- acts as an anti-catabolic (prevention of muscle loss)
- reduce muscle soreness
- maximize fat loss
- promote and increase workout efficiency
- assist in protein metabolism
- Decrease muscular fatigue
The best part about BCAAs is that you can drink them any time of the day and they come in dozens of flavors! Why wouldn’t you want to recover quicker, increase lean muscle mass and have better performance at the gym during your workouts? If you aren’t currently taking a BCAA, drop whatever you are doing and go pick a tub up now.
RECOVERY 101: PART DOS
Ok, so BCAAS (“PART UNO”) covered the first half of our recovery routine, now let’s talk about what happens when our head hits the pillow and why that is equally as important as supplementing throughout the day.
Rest and recovery is one of the most valuable pieces to a healthy, active lifestyle. Unfortunately, R&R tends to be overlooked. As a personal trainer and avid weightlifter, I am often asked about how often a rest day is needed and why sleep matters to our body when going to the gym routinely.
First, take a look at individuals who are working out six or seven days a week. Progression tends to occur at a slower pace. Why? When you aren’t taking rest, you aren’t allowing your body adequate time to grow and replenish glycogen stores. The nervous system struggles to get back to an optimal working state and there is a lack of fuel adaptation and growth.
Just like rest days, we have to consider all of this when thinking about our sleep habits. When we get proper sleep, growth hormones are produced, energy consumption is reduced and the brain cells are restored. The repairing of muscle and other tissues also occurs – – bottom line, sleep has a profound effect on muscle growth and physical well being.
If you struggle falling asleep, staying asleep, or just getting sleep in general, I would suggest you consider and research investing in a product that has been scientifically examined and formulated to benefit both your body and your sleep habits. These will maximize your recovery and give you a great night’s rest.
A L-C: A SMALL BUT LARGELY IMPRESSIVE ACRONYM
If this is the first time you have heard of A L-C, or in fancy terms Acetyl L-Carnitine, I would open those ears up and prepare your mind for some awesome and highly informative knowledge. This groovy amino acid (the building blocks of protein) helps the body turn fat into energy. Yes you read that correctly and no, I can’t make this stuff up.
The use of A L-C has been scientifically researched and proven to help the body produce energy that is important for heart and brain function, muscle movement, and athletic performance. For these reasons, it is a popular supplement amongst both bodybuilders and healthy lifestylers. When focusing on the more scientifically complicated side of A L-C, it specifically transports lipids and fatty acids into the mitochondria (“flashback to highschool” = organelle found in high number within most cells wherein the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur). Through this process the amount of fat that becomes available to use as energy actually increases. What is even more amazing is that this allows muscles to utilize fat for energy instead of just glucose, in turn helping to lower blood sugar. Also keep in mind that when our body has more sources of energy available, it helps delay muscle fatigue by giving a significantly enhanced oxygen uptake within the muscles, thus decreasing damaged tissues….meaning more efficient and effective workouts!
Now aside from all the muscular benefits, A L-C also provides us with cognitive ones too. Improved memory and learning has been noted when taking this supp, as well as thought processing. Reflexes and reaction times can also be improved, with an increase in energy levels, alertness, and even motivation.
Pretty awesome right? I know, which is why you will find this guy in my daily stack of Vs and Ms. I make sure to take one of these with my higher carb meals, always pre and post workout, to really reap the benefits! Give it a go and see how your body rewards you both in and out of the gym.
THE POWER OF PROTEIN POWDER
If you’ve ever visited a vitamin store, taken a jaunt down the supplement aisle at the grocery store, or even browsed online, you have probably experienced the overwhelming feels that come with choosing a protein powder. You go in with one intention and are quickly shaken down by the daunting task of trying to decipher brands, flavors, pricing, types…what happened to just protein powder and why has this turned into a high anxiety experience? First, I want you to calm yourself, shopping for supplements isn’t an ideal time to have an increased heart rate — save that for the gym. Second, let’s start by process of elimination to determine exactly what you need and why.
If you are looking for a fast-digesting form of protein, whey isolate may be the best choice for you. In any of its forms, an isolate powder has a good digestibility and amino acid profile – – specifically containing leucine ((triggers muscle growth) . What makes an isolate, an isolate, is the partial removal of other non-protein components – guaranteeing the purest form of complete protein for the body.
Taking a closer look at the benefits of isolate protein…
- works faster after ingestion
- promotes muscular growth
- reduced body fat
- boosted immune function
- improved blood glucose levels
- increased protein synthesis
- decreased risk for muscle and bone loss
- enhanced workouts
- provides a spike in amino acids
So what’s the secret to reaping iso gains? Start by supplementing 30 grams immediately before or immediately after working out. Why? This protein is specifically designed to enter the body and rapidly digest. Providing a rush of amino acids to the muscles while fueling and replenishing what is necessary for pre-workout optimization or post-workout recovery.
Next, we find casein at the opposite end of the protein spectrum. A master in timing, casein has the ability to provide the bloodstream with a slow and steady flow of amino acids that could sustain in the body for hours. This means increased satiety levels, aka feeling fuller longer. It also means improved muscle growth and muscle tissue preservation with better overall fat balance. But wait, there’s more…prepare yourself for strength gains because casein is highly anti-catabolic (i.e. reduces the breakdown of proteins and muscle mass).
Recapping the benefits of casein protein…
- lasts longer in the system, slower to digest
- increases muscle mass
- preserves lean muscle tissue
- stops the body from breaking down amino acids already available to muscles
- improves metabolic rate
- longer satiety
- increased strength
- contains anti-catabolic properties
Supplementing with casein is easy, all you gotta do is treat yourself before bedtime to a scrumptious shake using 30 grams of powder! Why? Because it works slower and digests at a much slower rate than an isolate, casein will provide your body with readily available “raw materials” (amino acids) while you sleep that are needed to build and repair muscle tissue through protein synthesis (which occurs at a much lower rate when protein isn’t ingested before hitting the pillow).
Who says two is better than one? I DO! Imagine a super-duper-combo-mash up of isolate and casein. I’m talking about a double duty protein powder that rapidly increases protein synthesis (whey isolate) and blocks the breakdown of proteins (casein). Offering the benefits from a single source instead of two seperate allows the body to balance out the immediate effects of isolate with those found in casein.
Wondering if taking a blended powder is better pre/post workout or before bed? Lucky for you, there is no optimal answer for this one. And that is lucky why? Because blends are designed to maximize protein needs any time of the day and are all about versatility!