Ahhh, supplements. Glorious glorious supplements. These little devils are the subject of probably the biggest “should I, shouldn’t I” debate in fitness. I’m gonna go ahead and just straighten this out right way… If this is something you’ve spent time really considering, chances are it’s because you should. BUT that does not mean you should run right now and buy out all of GNC. Take a chill pill (not literally lol) and let’s have a little discussion about these things…
My general tips about supplements are:
(1) Actually do some research before you get so fired up, bro.
(2) If you are overweight and trying to lose 40 lbs for goodness sake stop taking the same things you read in some magazine that the current Mr. Olympia takes.
(3) YES, women can take supplements!
(4) Too much of anything is too much. [which should just be a rule of thumb for life]
Getting down to the nitty gritty…
There are so many different supplements on the market. Everyone is, at some point, going to take something that does not really suit them or that they don’t like. But have no fear! Much like trying on shoe, once you know what doesn’t fit it’s easier to find what does. Don’t be afraid to test things out and get some real advice on the stuff. Pretty please (with some protein powder on top) do NOT just read a fitness magazine and buy all the same stuff the jacked guys (or girls) talking about the fitness competition they were just in say that they take. You are not them. I don’t mean that in a discouraging sense but in the way that, like I have said and will continue to say a million times over until everyone really understands it, your body is different than everyone else’s. Your body is unique and may need its own unique mixture of things to get the results similar to the ones the person in that magazine gets. Think first about what you are trying to accomplish with your fitness and then think about how supplements can aid your body in achieving that. You shouldn’t take things because your gym buddy does. You should take what you need and you don’t need quite as much as you think but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, I just want to give a brief on some of the most popular supplements…
1. Yummy yummy PROTEIN ❤
Protein is beloved in the fitness world. Why? Because it is absolutely critical to consume an adequate amount of protein when you have a demanding fitness schedule or are doing serious training. Anything that means your body is being depleted of nutrients quickly means you should probably think about getting those back into your body if you want results.
Protein aids in the repair and recovery of your muscles. It also increases your metabolism. So whether you are strength training or trying to lose weight, protein is the way to go. It can be used as a pre or post workout. If using it post workout, it should be consumed within an hour at most but honestly as soon as your heart rate slows down a little drink that shake up.
Non-dairy (Beef/Egg) v. Dairy (Whey and/or Casein): There are so many different kinds of protein and really which one you should take is dependent on your goals, desired results, and preference.
Many people take one of the two dairy proteins or, more commonly, both. Whey is probably the most popular of all protein powders and supplements. It’s known as a “fast” protein because it is digested and broken down quickly, making it the more ideal of the dairy proteins to consume pre or post workout. Casein is the “slow” dairy protein. It has a prolonged release because it is more difficult for your body to breakdown. I would not advise taking this around workout time. It is ideal though for a meal replacement or to be taken before bed in order to further help your body in the recovery process that it does naturally during sleep.
Personally, I use a non-dairy (beef & egg based) protein powder. Specifically, Carnivor and Paleo Protein are two brands I myself use/have used and enjoy. The benefits of a beef protein, other than that it fits in with many of the new diets out there now, is that it is stock full of B vitamins and high in natural amino acids. It is also the preferred protein for anyone looking to lean out.
2. Vitamins and BCAA’s
Many people, inside and outside the fitness world, take multivitamins. That kinda thing is really dependent upon what your specific body needs, what you may be deficient in, what you can consume through your diet, etc. The biggest little bugger floating around communities of serious fitness athletes and lifters is B Vitamins. There are multiple B vitamins all of which have very different jobs in your body. A lot of fitness people will promote taking a Vitamin B complex. Again this is not absolutely necessary but depending on what you get in your diet or in your other supplements it can certainly be considered.
BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are important in a fitness supplement regime because they significantly decrease muscle soreness and damage. They can also aid in the breakdown of protein in the body. There are plenty of BCAA supplements on the market but these awesome guys will also make an appearance in many GOOD protein powders. These essential amino acids include isoleucine, leucine, and valine. So next time you buy a protein powder check to make sure you see those three things listed in it and then you know you’re all set.
3. Lions and Tigers and …. CREATINE! OH MY!
First and foremost, CREATINE IS NOT A STEROID. My goodness people. Creatine is nothing more than a natural combination of three essential amino acids (glycine, arginine, and methionine). Creatine is also found naturally in things like fish and red meat. It somehow has gotten confused with steroids because it does, depending on how much you take of course, produce visibly greater gains faster. Creatine increases muscle mass and strength. It should really primarily be used if you are taking part in a fitness routine that involves weightlifting. The benefits, other than longer term muscle mass results, are that it allows your body to have more creatine phosphate stores and thus have a longer release of energy throughout a workout as well as hydrates muscle cells.
There are sooooo many different kinds of pre-workouts on the market and they are all a composition are various things. Some contain more things than others. Some include caffeine in them (which could be good or bad). This is really where your own personal preference and needs come into play. A few things to look for when picking out pre-workouts are:
beta-alanine – subdues the burning feeling in muscles when they become fatigued allowing you to have longer workouts
glutamine – gets energy to the muscles quicker and for an extended period of time
nitric oxide/arginine – increases the delivery and flow of oxygen to your muscles
I, myself, just started using a pre-workout recently (before this I was taking a whey protein before my workouts) and I have seen a tremendous difference in my performance during the workout as well as how I feel post-workout. I am using Cellucor C4 and I am thrilled with it (I’ll tell you guys a funny story about picking that out). However, it is important to make sure you are picking out an appropriate pre-workout for what you are doing in your workouts because, for example, the combination of things in C4, including the creatine, could cause a gain of water weight for someone not involved in a serious weightlifting routine. Also, two tips for pre-workouts are: STAY HYDRATED! and switch things up every so often because your body will start to build a tolerance to these things and that is never good.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER
is that too much of anything is too much! Always. No exceptions.
The human body is SO SMART, smarter than you give it credit for. So make sure that when you are taking things that the body naturally produces you do not over do it. Giving it things it doesn’t get or things it gets depleted of through exercise is always beneficial but don’t go fixing something that isn’t broken. When you take an overload of things that body is already making itself, your body assumes it doesn’t have to do that work anymore and it will literally stop doing it. The sources that produce certain hormones or enzymes will succumb to adaptation and then when you do stop taking all your supplements your body will no longer have the means to produce those things. So if you are taking dozens of supplements and your body doesn’t have the chance to do any of the work on it’s own just know TOO MUCH OF ANYTHING IS TOO MUCH…
And you should probably calm down a bit.
Now I am going to get on my soap for a second here….
Let’s go back and address my number 3 general tip, women and supplements.
Funny story… So I go to Vitamin Shoppe looking for a specific pre-workout that someone had recommended to me. Just my luck, they are out of it. So the lovely woman points me in the direction of two of their more popular pre-workouts and admits that, although she has never taken any of this stuff, she has heard good things about these two specifically. I spend some time looking them over and decide with confidence that the Cellucor C4 was the direction I was going to go. As I pick the container of Strawberry Margarita flavored powder (I know right?! YUM) up off the shelf, the jacked douchebag looking guy comes over from behind the counter to “give me some help”; since I looked like Bambi apparently? So he walks over with his Christmas Story I-Can’t-Put-My-Arms-Down walk and proceeds to, oh so kindly, tell me that C4 wouldn’t be any good for me to “just do some cardio with”. (Now okay, I can look back and appreciate his accurate and legitimate advice, but in the moment OHHHH MAN I was rumbling inside.) He continues with “I mean, unless you are like actually going to lift.” As I replied to him with “Yeah. I actually CrossFit.” the expression on his face was picture worthy…
The stereotype around women and fitness drives me OUT OF MY MIND. I can rant about this for days but I just want to say that we can lift weights and we can do it without looking like the Hulk.
And to all my wonderful ladies out there who are kicking ass and taking names, YES you can take supplements. You can have a protein shake. You can take a pre-workout. You can survive things with creatine in them and still look like a female. Still remember that our bodies do function differently than a man’s does. We will gain water weight quicker. (It sucks I know!) So be smart with what you take, always do what is most beneficial for you, but do not be afraid of supplements. Personally, I do want to see some lean muscle mass and visible muscle tone on my own body. I want to be strong. But I also DO NOT want biceps as big as someone’s thigh. I take what I need to get the figure and strength and results that I want to see both in my workouts and after them. If you don’t want to take anything then don’t but do not let someone tell you that you shouldn’t JUST because you are a female… End Scene.