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Friday Fitness Tip 12/20/13 - Supplements

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What supplements should I take??

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I may have mentioned it before, but one of the most common questions I hear from people regarding fitness is: What is the best supplement? Usually it is phrased more like “What can I take to get lean?” or “What can I take to gain more muscle?” My standard answer to that type of question is: “The two best supplements are food and a good workout program!” Of course this answer usually gets the response of the person rolling their eyes at me and asking the same question in a different way. That IS the real right answer – but for this week’s Fitness Tip I am going to talk to you guys about a few supplements that can help you on your way to achieving your goals – whether you are trying to shed a few pounds of bodyfat, or turn yourself into a human forklift.

Let’s start with a very important statement: There is no magic supplement out there that will make you reach your goals without having to work hard! Not even “performance enhancing drugs” are going to make a lazy person turn into a muscular beast or a professional athlete – contrary to what a lot of people want to believe. That said – there are 3 supplements that I firmly believe are worth looking into. They may give you a boost towards your goals in conjunction with a good diet and well thought out training program.

Protein Powder

The first supplement that I think is worthwhile is one that many of you are already using – and that is Protein Powder. Why is protein powder worthwhile? I’m glad you asked! Your body needs protein to build muscle – this is a fact, though there has been a lot of debate over the years about how much protein a person REALLY needs. There is research that can be found to back up just about any position on this, but my position – and that of the well respected diet gurus out there – is that 1-2g per pound of bodyweight is the way to go when you are working out. High protein/low carb diets have been shown countless times to be the superior for fat loss, and contrary to a lot of opinions will not cause kidney damage – though if you have a kidney problem they are not for you. Protein powder is a quick and easy way to bump up your daily protein intake. I prefer whey protein or beef protein isolate because both have a good taste and texture – although there are many vegetarian/vegan options out there as well. If you want to learn more about the different protein options out there check out this awesome article written by Chris Pflum: http://fitnessboard.net/wordpress/?p=138

Creatine

I’m sure most people have heard about creatine. A lot of what the average person has heard about it is not true though – so lets clear that up first: 1) It is not a “steroid”, 2) It does not cause kidney damage, 3) it does not cause dehydration! Creatine is a supplement that was introduced to us in the 1990s and is probably the most researched and studied supplement in the history of sports supplements. To seriously over simplify things –creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in muscle cells in the body. It plays a role in the energy production cycle used to perform explosive/forceful movements – and taking supplemental creatine puts more of it into the muscle cells so they are able to perform more work. Creatine is on my list of useful supplements because #1 it is CHEAP and #2 dozens of research studies show that IT WORKS. It isn’t going to increase your bench press by 50lbs in 2 weeks, but you will get some improvement in strength. You may also notice an increase in body weight – this is because creatine pulls more water into your muscle cells. Bodybuilders may look at this as a positive aspect as well. The down side is that some people have some GI issues from taking creatine, but taking it with some food and drinking plenty of water will help with this. How much should you take? There is a lot of disagreement on this – supplement companies want you to take 30g a day for the first week, then cut down to 5-10g a day, there is no reason to do that – actual research doesn’t support it. I usually recommend 5-10g per day divided up with half pre-workout and half post-workout. For a more in depth article on creatine – check out this one I wrote a while back: www.fitnessboard.net/showthread.php?8428-Lets-talk-about-creatine

Beta-alanine

Back in 2007 beta-alanine came into the supplement market – it was being hailed as “the next creatine”. Many studies have been done on it – showing that it is an effective supplement for increasing muscular strength and also improving “time to fatigue” or letting you get more reps before your muscles tire out. Stated simply beta-alanine is an amino acid that plays a role in creation of carnosine in your muscles, which allows the muscle cells to work harder and longer before becoming fatigued. Beta-alanine is a fairly inexpensive supplement that you can get in powder form or capsule form – I prefer the powder form. The catch with it is that you have to divide it up and take it 4-8 times throughout the day to get a benefit from it. One study used just under 5g per day – so what I do is take around 700mg (around ¼ tsp) with each meal, and I’ve had good results with it. It doesn’t have an instant effect – but after around 2 weeks you’ll start noticing an improvement. There is one side effect of beta-alanine that you need to know about – if you take too large of a dose at once you will notice that your skin feels like it is crawling and itching, most noticeable in your face. This usually lasts a minute or 2, then goes away – it can easily be avoided by sticking to less than 1g at a time.

I should point out that many supplements on the market these days include beta-alanine, but it is not being used correctly or in a way that will be beneficial to you. They usually put in one massive dose of it with the intention of making you “feel it working” – but it isn’t doing anything to make you stronger.

Conclusion

So there you have it – those are my top 3 supplement recommendations. You can pick from literally hundreds of options for protein powders, creatine supplements, and beta-alanine supplements so I am not going to get into what brands you should buy. You can check out the Supplement Reviews section at www.fitnessboard.net to see what people like if you aren’t sure where to start. Let me just wrap up by saying that you can find a lot of options at www.Zupplements.com (use code FBNET10 if you are a FitnessBoard member to save 10%) and at www.TrueNutrition.com (use code AAL229 to save 5%).

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That third one seems rather expensive, or am I not seeing the better sources?

The funny thing about the creatine pre workouts is that some are minimal calories, some have a LOT of calories. Some have caffeine, others do not. Finding the right balance is a pain. (Same with the protein powders, some are much higher % of protein than others.)

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I've never used any products but then I never really gotten into the workout regimen that probably would benefit from the help of a supplement.

Now my wife on the other hand has used the protein powders before to help her loose the weight before her lap-band surgery 10 years ago.

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That third one seems rather expensive, or am I not seeing the better sources?

The funny thing about the creatine pre workouts is that some are minimal calories, some have a LOT of calories. Some have caffeine, others do not. Finding the right balance is a pain. (Same with the protein powders, some are much higher % of protein than others.)

I'm finding it for around $30 for 500g which should last your 3-4 months here: www.truenutrition.com/p-990-beta-alanine-powder-500-grams.aspx - use the discount code and it will be a bit cheaper.

I tend to get my creatine from my pre-workout supplements and my during the workout drink... but I used to just buy it in bulk like the beta-alanine.

I've never used any products but then I never really gotten into the workout regimen that probably would benefit from the help of a supplement.

Now my wife on the other hand has used the protein powders before to help her loose the weight before her lap-band surgery 10 years ago.

Yeah, they certainly aren't necessary -a good diet and workout program are much more important :)

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