When we think of a supplement, we should only think of one thing - will it help me build muscle or burn fat? The answer relies on two elements; 1. Are you using it properly? 2. And does it provide your body with a high level of nutrients essential to health? The first element is critical to getting the most out of your high quality supplements, and many people get this part wrong. See below for the only 7 supplements you should be considering for bodybuilding:
1. Protein Powder
- Should only be consumed after waking up in the morning or post workout when the body is slightly depleted and ready for rapid absorption of nutrients. Only 1 shake per day is necessary, max 80g protein. Focus on getting 75-85% of protein from food. With regard to fitness progress it provides extra amino acids essential for muscle growth, repair and maintenance, (if high quality food is temporarily unavailable or impractical). See here for more info about constructing a bodybuilding diet.
- Forms Part of T-Cell molecules which prevent/fight infection as a role of the immune system, and is a powerful anti-oxidant. Vitamin C is also used heavily in the function of enzymes and is essential to the development and maintenance of scar tissue, blood vessels, and cartilage. With fitness, our bodies need higher amounts of minerals to stay healthy and supplementing our diets with Vitamin C we won't struggle to repair damage caused through training. Our bodies can also be cleaned from any toxic compounds absorbed through digestion or respiration.
- Hormone balance, maintenance and increase of bone density. Maintenance of strong immune system. With relevance to Fitness, Vitamin D continues to show a positive relationship with Testosterone levels in Men. Testosterone levels determine the amount of muscle someone can ultimately build and maintain.
- Protection of DNA, powerful anti-oxidant and involved in cell communication. It also helps with optimal brain function, gene expression and prevents the oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is a vitamin that is needed to maintain healthy red blood cells and a strong skeletal structure - which is continually valuable for our fitness progress.
- Part of the structure of enzymes that binds with Proteins and is vital to the regulation and digestion of amino acids. Part of the production of reproductive cells and optimal brain function. With relevance to fitness, it is critical to cell growth and digestion of proteins - deficiency will seriously hinder health and muscle growth.
- Essential to all living cells. Maintains optimal calcium levels, used by enzymes in ATP production and utilisation. Important in maintaining healthy circulation and heart function. It is a supplement useful for strenuous and frequent rigorous exercise due to its role in energy release. Deficiencies are relatively common in western societies.
- Improves and maintains proper metabolism function, hormone function, and reduces blood pressure. A powerful anti-inflammatory and maintains healthy levels of cholesterol in the body. They also play a role in the development and response of the Central Nervous System. Relevant to fitness goals by reducing inflammation caused by stressful workouts and providing an optimum environment for recovery.
- Must be consumed at least 45mins prior to workout, in recommended amounts in order to feel effects at the right time. Taking too much and/or for too long can decrease effectiveness over time. Try to use it only on days you struggle to find enough enthusiasm or energy i.e. Leg Day. Pre-workout drinks can be effective when trying to increase work capacity and energy during a session, but they are not required for success and provide almost no nutritional value, so they are not on the official list.
- One of the most researched compounds in the entire fitness industry, creatine if used correctly is noticeably effective. However, it's only relevant for athletes and sportsmen + women and has no real place in bodybuilding. Its function is to provide your phosphocreatine energy cycle with more fuel - the energy system used for very short but powerful bursts of force/exertion i.e. sprinting, powerlifting, olympic lifting etc - and allow the body to exert more force over short periods. Although providing the muscles with a large 'pump' due to increased water retention, it is not useful for the long set approaches of bodybuilding. Bodybuilding's aim is to make the workout harder and more damaging to our muscles rather than easier by temporarily increasing muscular force. Not needed for bodybuilding.
- When a supplement has an overwhelming amount of a non-essential dietary nutrient, in this case Carbohydrate, it should ring alarm bells. Non-essential means that the body does not need it from the diet to grow, maintain, function optimally or be healthy. Glucose is used in the body yes, but it can be synthesised from other nutrients. Weight gainers provide way too many carbs to justify their use in bodybuilding and more often than not cause you to gain fat quickly rather than muscle. A little carbohydrate in the diet is recommended, up to 20% of total daily caloric intake - but not much more. Learn more about Nutrition here.
Before starting any nutritional or supplementation program please consult your doctor. Do not rely on these products in order to achieve health, strength or vitality. These products are just supplements to a clean and whole food diet.
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