Supplements are common ways that athletes increase their benefits from exercise. They can make the difference between a fit, lean physique, and a slightly doughy one (for lack of better words). But they can also help improve general nutrition and healthy eating. With this being said, keep in mind that nothing beats a clean diet and exercise. Supplements should be used to assist with goals, not take the place of healthy eating and physical activity.
A common question, is whether to take supplements in liquid form vs. a pill. Your body will absorb 98% of a liquid supplement, while sometimes only absorbing 3-20% of a pill. However, pills can be great if you can’t stomach the liquid, or for a grab and go type lifestyle. If opting for pills, look for those that come in capsules (think those clear plastic pills that are 2 halves joined in the middle, versus the hard pills with no coating).
A multivitamin should be taken first thing in the morning. I like to take mine after my first couple bites of breakfast, because I get stomach pain if I take it on an empty stomach. Your body needs13 essential vitamins to function, and adding a multivitamin to your daily routine assures that you get everything you need. Remember – it’s always best to get all your nutrients from whole foods, but a multivitamin is a good SUPPLEMENT to aid in your diet.
Taken in the morning, and/or with meals. Fish oil is comprised of essential fats (aka – fats that your body can’t produce on it’s own). Fish oil helps stabilize insulin; so that dietary simple sugars are stored as energy instead of fat. Fish oil can also help preserve muscle (ie – if you don’t work out daily, you will maintain your gains through your off days). The recommended dose of fish oil is 220 mg of EPA and 220 mg of DHA per day. Fish oil is sensitive to sunlight/oxygen, so look for a dark glass bottle, and a smaller bottle if possible (the more you open it for a serving, the more oxygen gets in). Krill oil is less sensitive to oxygen/light so it’s a great option.
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids):
Helps growth of muscle, fatigue, recovery. Last longer. BCAAs are great for helping maintain muscle mass while in a caloric deficit (help lose fat but maintain muscle). They may also help improve mood and increase workout intensity, because they compete with tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin in the brain. Serotonin can increase the feeling of fatigue (think turkey day naps), so BCAAs can combat that. The current suggested ratio is 2:1:1 (2 parts leucine, 1 part isoleucine, 1 part valine).
Key roll in metabolizing protein. Helps body release HGH which helps metabolize body fat, increase muscle growth. For non-weight lifting individuals, glutamine also plays key roll in immune system – used by white blood cells to fight off infection.
Take in the morning on empty stomach. It acts as natural fat burner, and transfers long-chain fatty acids, such as triglycerides, into cell mitochondria, where they may be oxidized to produce energy. L-Carnitine has also been shown to reduce fatigue and serve as an appetite suppressant as well.
There are multiple types of protein, the most commonly known being Whey – a fast acting milk-based protein that is best at supporting muscle gain. Other types of protein include casein (longer acting – perfect for that late night protein boost to get you through the night). Try to get protein from food sources, versus a protein shake or bar. Protein shakes are good additions but females should try to stay to 1/day at max. Any more than that may add fat as well. The average recommended daily intake for women is 1g per lb per day.
Creatine monohydrate is converted into creatine phosphate in the body to keep ATP levels up. This increases the muscles energy availability, enhancing the bodies ability to do more high intensity work. Creatine’s chemical properties mean that it carries a hydration shell. This increases the amount of water in muscles. Therefore, it’s recommended that extra water is consumed when taking creatine. If all the creatine isn’t absorbed, it floats around in body (bloat) until it’s removed in urine. Take before you exercise.
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a fatty acid that has been shown to cause fat loss. It is found in dairy and red meat. CLA can help increase metabolism, and enhance muscle growth. Research does, however, show that the effects of CLA are most pronounced during the first 6 months of supplementation, and slowly plateaus for up to 2 years. CLA should be taken with each meal, and recommended doses range from 3.2 to 6.4g/day.
Fat Burners, pre-workouts, etc.
These are a category all their own, and I will go more in depth in my next post about them. Check out my post on Epiburn Pro, the newest fat-burning, appetite suppressant from USP Labs here.
As the new year has finally kicked off, I think almost everyone I know has some sort of resolution/plan to improve their health. It might also have to do with Spring Break and Summer looming over us, as it’s all we can think about with all this cold weather!
I can’t say that I am a supplement expert, or that I have it down to a science. But I thought I would share what I take (on as much of a regular basis as I remember) and the benefits that they provide my health.
Disclaimer: All these products can (and were) purchased at the Vitamin Shoppe. I may be partial because I used to work there, but I also believe of all the box stores (Vitamin Shoppe, GNC, and Vitamin World) the Vitamin Shoppe has the best deals, and they train their employees to know about all their products, and strive to provide education daily to those employees.
As far as probiotics go, I still have yet to figure out which is the best one to take. However, I tend to stick to the “middle of the road” options. This probiotic isn’t the cheapest, but it has 13 billion organisms, which is enough to convince me it’ll help my horrible digestive system. I don’t share this a lot, but I have a HORRIBLE digestive system. I’ve tried a few different things, short of giving up certain foods (gluten mainly) because I’m 12 and can’t stop eating toast or PB and J… And all my research says probiotics and enzymes (see next supplement) can help break down any food you eat, leading to a happy digestive system.
Digestive Enzymes are taken with each meal to help breakdown everything that you eat. Depending on what you require, there are different enzymes for you. This one that I take, helps breakdown carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibers, and dairy. Yeah, my system is bad, so I need lots of help. To be fair I’m also crappy at sticking to a regime of taking supplements daily, so I have yet to see how much this really helps. That’s a goal for this year, to actually take them.
This is one of the things I throw in as often as possible. I don’t eat as many vegetables as I should, and it definitely shows. This powder, mixed into a smoothie, or protein, or even just mixed into apple juice gives all the nutrients of eating every green growing thing on this planet. Slightly expensive ($2 a day roughly), but worth it. Also helps get things moving…
This is a supplement that a lot of people won’t agree with, but if I’m being honest and telling you what I take, here you go. This is a fat-burning, appetite suppressing, caffeine pill. It’s a thermogenic, so it leaves you sweating, with freezing fingers and toes, raises your blood pressure… But it works. And I love that I can take one pill in the morning with a glass of water, and don’t have to drink coffee where my breath stinks and my teeth turn yellow every day. One pill is 100mg of caffeine – a little more than a cup of coffee. This is not for the faint of heart, or the caffeine sensitive.
This is the only product I don’t get at the Vitamin Shoppe, and that’s because they don’t sell it. I LOVE cellucor. And will likely switch over to their weight loss supplement instead of epiburn pro for my next bottle. I also get 25% off at cellucor.com from Christian Guzman. Whey protein usually upsets my stomach but it’s worth it for the protein benefits, and the flavor. My favorite from Cellucor: Cor-fetti. But every flavor I’ve tried is amazing. Bodybuilding.com also has 4 serving bags of each flavor so you can try flavors. I have a big jug of the Cor-Fetti, but little bags of Cinnamon Swirl, PB Marshmallow, and S’mores.
There are obviously thousands of other supplements out there, a lot that would probably help me (ie: multivitamin, vitamin B, etc). And I do take a multi-vitamin every once in a while, but I’m not consistent with a brand that I would tell you is my holy grail. I do like Optimum Nutrition’s women’s sport multi though, because It’s a small gel-cap, vs those ginormous tablets that are usual for multivitamins.
What supplements do you guys take? Any that you recommend?
Today was a day where I didn’t feel like running. It’s cold (65) out, which usually I think of as the perfect time to go for a run when I’m used to 90 degree weather. But, I wasn’t feeling it. So instead I pushed myself to do this workout at home. And let me tell you, I was more tired after this than I would’ve been after my run! Here it is!
(Workout credit to shed-the-pounds.tumblr)
This workout is only 4 minutes, but it burns, and really gets your lungs and heart working. I admit, I tried to run through it twice, but I only made it through about 2 squat thrusts before giving up! I’m not sure about the claim that it burns as many calories as a 40-60 minute run, but it definitely burns calories and boosts metabolism. Hopefully it’ll burn off those 2 cupcakes I ate earlier 😉
What workouts do you do at home?
A couple months ago, I cancelled my gym membership. Paying upwards of $60 a month to run on a treadmill when it is GORGEOUS outside, just wasn’t making sense to me. So I cancelled the membership, at least for the summer. In the mean time I have been searching through pinterest, as well as bodybuilding.com to find awesome, easy workouts that don’t necessarily involve too much equipment, or space.
I’ve stuck a few good ones down below. Now I don’t take credit for any of these workouts. I haven’t created any of them, and I will do my best to link them back to the original sources. Please check out my Pinterest for other ideas. Follow me, I update the board regularly.
I love this “Crossfit” workout. I don’t think it’s really Crossfit (last time I check they name their workouts after women). It involves needing a space to run, and that’s it. I have a couple parks nearby that are flat and nice scenery for a run, as well as a Garmin 110 GPS Running Watch, so it’s easy to keep track of mileage, pace, and time. I also have a local high school track, which once I looked into it – allows anyone to use it as long as sports teams aren’t having an official practice.
This workout comes from Tone & Tighten.
There are a couple moves that involve some equipment, which you could choose to either skip, or modify if you don’t have the stuff. The first move involves “sliders
” but like the site suggests, you can use paper plates to mimic them. Which, to be honest, why would you pay $25+ for sliders when paper plates work just great and they’re close to free??? Other moves, like the sumo squat, or goblet squat, suggest using weights. But soup cans, water bottles, those are weights too! Finally, the last moves involve a ball – the bridge with ball squeeze suggests a basketball, or a rolled up towel, I know you all have a towel! I did this workout through 2 cycles, and my legs were definitely tired, and I was feeling it the next day!
And finally, this workout. I initially found this on Pinterest, linked to this lovely blog. The graphic itself states that it’s from gotothegym on Tumblr. I have NO IDEA how to use Tumblr, someone explain to me how!!!! But, I love the workout nonetheless. What I LOVE about this workout is it requires no equipment. Again, super easy to do at home, or the local park. And hell, we all know most of us don’t work out 7 days a week, or 5 days a week. But, stumble across this on Pinterest, and do that days workout. Better than nothing, and doesn’t involve much thinking! It’s an easy quick workout, no excuses!
I also love this because it’s an all around workout, arms, legs, abs, and some cardio. For the running portion, I usually just run until I get tired… Sometimes I run a mile, walk a couple minutes, run another mile. Sometimes, when I haven’t run for a while I’ll find a spot on the Couch25K app that is close to where I was, and see if I can complete that workout. (New runners, this program is great! There’s a free app, or calendars you can find online. It starts out slow, and while some of the jumps in progress may seem extreme, I PROMISE they are possible. And if you can’t do the workout, keep repeating it until you can!)
I hope these workouts give you some ideas of easy workouts to do during the gorgeous weather this summer. They’re easy, quick, and almost excuse-proof with no/little equipment needed.
What types of workouts do you guys do?
What gets you motivated to move on those days when you just don’t want to?
Follow me on Pinterest, and I’ll follow you guys back! Keep the ideas coming!