Supplementation can be a hot topic in the fitness world. As a coach I field a lot of questions as to what supplements one should take. Typically the answers I give are very simple. When we dive deep into supplementation we find that it all is actually very simple.
Supplementation is exactly what its definition says: Something that completes or enhances something else when added to it. By definition, supplements are not to serve as replacements. In the case of fitness and your recovery, the same definition applies. Your supplements are designed to complete or enhance your daily diet, not replace. With this key factor in mind, we can think about supplementation in a productive and useful manner.
In the fight for progress we are often looking for those small things that will give us a boost or small edge to get where or what we want. However sometimes we make the mistake of focusing on the small edges when there are larger opportunities for us to focus that will provide larger results. In this instance we’re referring to your daily nutrition habits. No supplement will serve you well if it’s not “completing or enhancing” a solid foundation of nutrition. We do not need to worry about our protein style or creatine brand if we aren’t currently on or working towards a nutritional standard that supports our fitness and energy goals. Lock in your diet first to secure 95% of the potential for gains. ADVICE: Build solid nutritional habits within your 2-4 daily meals first before investing your hard earned money on supplementation.
Next, add supplements that support your inadequacies. If you find some discomfort in consuming larger amounts of protein in one sitting, then it may pay off to supplement with protein powder in between meals to hit your daily requirement. Do you dislike a wide variety of fruits and vegetables? Do you find that you eat good foods but tend to skip those most often? Consider adding a multivitamin to your daily intake. This might provide the micro-nutrient content that you’re lacking and help your body function better. Do you have taste buds that keep you from experiencing a wide variety of proteins? Or, does your chosen diet consist of less meats where you get protein from vegetable sources? You may want to consider a BCAA supplement that contains plenty of Essential Amino Acids. The Essential Aminos are labeled such because they are not naturally produced in our body and must be consumed through food.
Choose supplements that serve the purpose you are looking for best. A great example may be type of protein. Many of us flock towards whey protein. This style of protein, derived from milk, is great for quick absorption after your workouts. However, if you’re not using your protein powder for post workout and instead using it for breakfast shakes, it may make sense to try a different style. Egg white and casein proteins absorb more slowly and provide your muscles with building blocks for longer periods of time. This may benefit you if you have long durations between meals on work days.
Now we can add supplements that support our current actions towards the overall goal. Do you want to gain muscle mass, lose bodyfat, and you’re currently working out 4-5 days a week? Consider supplementing with creatine monohydrate. Creatine is great for improving your energy production towards lifting weights and short high intensity bouts of exercise and/or metabolic conditioning. Creatine improves your performance in the gym directly affecting results in your body composition, so long as it is used on top of a solid nutritional foundation. Do you tend to go without a meal for 1+ hours before and after your workouts? It may be a great idea to supplement with some type of protein powder to spur muscle recovery after your workouts. Do you workout intensely, every day, and peak performance is a must? Consider maximizing your recovery with carbohydrates and recovery agents such as maltodextrin and glutamine.
Supplements can really help us. They can also waste our money if not applied properly. Think of supplementation as a way to improve an additional 5% once we’ve solidified the first 95%, our nutrition. If the 95% is weak, the 5% from supplementation can’t be maximized. In fact it could hold us back by leading us to believe that we are on the right track. Lock in nutrition, add relevant supplements, and continue to work hard in the gym, consistently. We’ll see you at the top.