What supplements will benefit ME?
Now today I thought I'd talk about supplements, as it's probably one of the FIRST things that will get asked from those looking to start a fitness journey...
Are there any supplements I should be taking?
Firstly, supplements are exactly that. A supplement to sound nutrition and a tool that can be used to benefit you, taking your progress up a notch, IF done well.
By that I mean, if you get the nutritional basics nailed first and foremost, building a solid foundation, addressing overall health, supplements can play a very beneficial part in your progress.
The ultimate goal here is our HEALTH and we can be perfectly healthy by eating well, exercising, managing stress and getting enough sleep.
The multi million pound supplement industry has the answer to any of your goals. You could walk into your local health store and find a powder that will build you big muscles, a tablet that will torch body fat and a drink that will rocket your fitness levels. Regardless of goals, theres a company claiming to have the answer.
Below are the key supplements you may want to look at getting, providing your diet is on point...
The obvious and most popular one! Protein supplements fly off shelves, yet I believe for the wrong reason a lot of the time. It's important to note that protein shakes are NOT required. They aren't essential in losing fat or building muscle. BUT they can be a great tool in the right circumstances. Protein shakes usually contain 20g-25g or protein per scoop, which can provide you with an adequate protein supply whilst on the go, as a snack or when you are unable to eat in your schedule. They are convenient, cost effective, versatile and can provide you with solid nutrition when you're on the move. Sometimes it simply isn't possible to cook a meal or buy something instantly, this is where a protein shake may be the answer.
Vitamin D is obtained from natural sunlight and is vital, especially when it comes to the regulation of calcium levels and promoting muscle and bone health. Examine.com say "Supplemental vitamin D is associated with a wide range of benefits, including increased cognition, immune health, bone health and well-being. Supplementation can also reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. People deficient in vitamin D may also experience increased testosterone levels after supplementation."
It's had a lot of positive research attention recently which again confirms it's importance. We can obtain enough through sunlight during the summer/warmer months (April through to September) but I’d recommend supplementing throughout winter, or if you are not generally outdoors a lot due to work etc. Vitamin D supplements are cheap, effective and a sure way to “cover” your needs of at least 1000 IU per day.
A multivitamin is a supplement that contains a majority of essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, folic acid and A, B vitamins, D, C to name a few but can contain varying amounts of each depending on the brand. Your typical multivitamin has been around for a while - you've probably even taken one previously, regardless if you're actively strength training or not. They are an easy, cost effective way of "covering" all your daily needs, but there has been debate of the quality of certain brands and how much is actually absorbed by our body. There's absolutely no harm in taking one daily, but again, the best way to ensure you're hitting all of your daily levels is to eat a nutritious, varied diet.
ZMA stands from Zinc, magnesium, aspartate and is a tablet form of supplementing these two minerals and vitamin B6. The key mineral in ZMA that most people will benefit from is the magnesium, which is, along with vitamin D, one of the most common deficiencies. Boosting magnesium has been shown to improve sleep, aid recovery and reduce blood pressure. Again, it's cheap enough to purchase and with no real side effects noted, it can be an easy way to increase levels, although you should be able to obtain enough through diet by consuming plenty of nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables which doesn't make it a necessity.
Creatine is produced in the body in small amounts and made up of three amino acids (building blocks of protein). Creatine essentially helps to provide us with the short bursts of energy and is found in foods such as meat and diary, in small amounts. Performing exercise like heavy strength work, olympic or power lifting and sports that require sprinting or jumping will use the creatine phosphate energy system. Creatine comes in tablet and powder form, is easy to take, has no side effects (given you're consuming enough water) and will more than likely see your strength gains increase. It's one of the only supplements I have felt has "worked" for me in the past with regards to performance, so depending on what you're looking to achieve in the gym, you may want to consider a cycle of creatine.
Bonus ones to consider..
We want to ensure our gut health is in check, promoting overall sound health. This is where probiotics may play a role. Certain factors could see your "good" bacteria levels deplete (poor nutrition, stress, being on antibiotics etc) so a high quality probiotic may boost your immune system, improve nutrient absorption and replenish the good bacteria.
You've probably heard of fish oil and the benefits. Omega 3 fatty acids are key in improving brain function, regulating blood pressure and for overall bodily functionality. You can eat 2 to 3 portions of fish weekly, take a fish oil supplement, or like me include plenty of walnuts and flaxseed in the diet.
Beta alanine is a performance enhancing supplement, specifically aimed at the muscular endurance system. It's a modified version of the amino acid Alanine and has been shown to improve performance in the gym, "buffering" that lactic acid threshold, which essentially means you could usually perform an additional rep or two. This can be key in sports performance, so could be worth a try. There is a common side effect mind - paresthesia - a "tingly" or itchy feeling, when consumed. It's absolutely harmless mind.
We'd want to aim to get everything we need from food.
Saying that, supplementation can be a very useful and effective tool in your arsenal, should you be in a position where you feel your food game is on point and are looking to take it to the next level. They can also be a cost effective addition to ensure you're getting everything you need to feel good and perform at your best.
Check out Awesome Supplements, a no nonsense, trustworthy supplement company at https://awesomesupplements.co.uk/products/?ref=102 for their range, including the vegan protein and performance blend that I personally use myself.