This week I’ll introduce 5 supplements that have benefited my training and are worth considering. I have to preface this one by letting you know that supplements should only account for around 1-5% of your overall nutrition. That means that the amount of effort you spend researching, purchasing and implementing these into your diet should be quite insignificant so hopefully this article makes that part a little easier. Likewise, you shouldn’t be spending a lot of your hard earned money on supplements, this should be going towards your food shopping budget.
Although supplements only account for a max of 5% of your overall diet, I do see value in the convenience they offer and so am willing to spend perhaps a little more than this portion of my food budget for this. Lastly, before we get into each supplement, remember that you should have a thorough understanding of how many calories and how much protein your body needs for you goals before you even consider any supplementation at all.
#1 - Whey Protein
Whey protein is one of the cheapest forms of protein supplementation and has a high biological value making it the perfect choice for those that need a quick fix of protein. The biological value provides a measure of how well the body can absorb and use the ingested protein. These factors make whey protein an ideal and convenient source of post-workout nutrition or the perfect way to top-up a protein deficient meal. While it’s beyond the scope of this post to go into how much protein you should be consuming for your goal, its generally accepted that on reduced calorie intakes to lose fat, increasing protein can help with satiety and sparing your hard-earned muscle! It should be noted that there are other forms of protein powder but in my opinion, you should only start to consider these if you can’t use whey or if you have optimised other areas of your nutrition and are looking to gain optimise that last 1%!
#2 - Creatine
Creatine is one of the most widely researched sports supplements. It is used to help supply energy for high intensity bouts of movements however your muscles can only store so much and once this point is reached its more about keeping them topped up rather than increasing the stores. The primary benefit of creatine is improved muscular strength, function and performance but there are thought to be some more general benefits as well. The best form of creatine also happens to be the cheapest – Creatine Monohydrate. Monohydrate is the most researched and often new ‘gimmicky’ forms of creatine are compared against monohydrate with none so far proving to be more effective, at best these are only as effective and a waste of the extra money. Given that Creatine Monohydrate is well-researched, seems to work and is cheap it is worth adding in if muscular power and strength will benefit you and your goals!
#3 - Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that has many benefits, both physical and mental. This makes it perfect as a pre-workout stimulant that can boost performance, focus and drive. Many pre-workout supplements contain caffeine for its powerful stimulant effects but it is also available in pure tablet form as well as naturally occurring within coffee. The downside of pre-workout is that often the other ingredients are either ineffective or not present in a large enough dose and so end up leading to you wasting money on these parts. A strong coffee, shot of espresso or a 200mg caffeine tablet can often be enough to get the benefit in a cost efficient and convenient way. With that being said, sometimes pre-workouts can give you the boost you need and as long as you know what you are putting into your body then these can be a good addition to your diet and training.
#4 - Omega 3 (Fish Oils)
Fish Oil or Omega 3 supplements are fatty acids which are commonly lacking in the diet as they come from sources like oily fish. A normal diet tends to be higher in sources of Omega 6 such as red meat and eggs. The benefits of supplementing with Omega 3 come with balancing out the ratios of Omega 3 to Omega 6 and are thought to include healthier blood vessels, skin and hair. Anecdotally, fish oil is also thought to help with joints which could be due to anti-inflammatory effects. Fish oils are readily available and cheap to purchase. One thing to bear in mind is that fish oil has the potential to be spoiled if stored in warm environments. It’s possible to check if they have gone off by observing the colour, generally they should be clear. It’s also possible to tell by smelling and tasting them, they should smell of fish but if they have gone off you will know!
#5 Zinc and Magnesium (ZMA)
Zinc and Magnesium supplements or ZMA which is the patented formula of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 are often sold as bed-time testosterone increasing supplements. Many supplement companies have their own formulation of which they will often sell under a different name and are worth considering as they will generally offer better value. The research on Zinc and Magnesium at the moment is not convincing unless you are deficient specifically in these minerals. There are some promising findings though and anecdotally perceived increases in sleep quality are not uncommon. Zinc and Magnesium contribute to the maintenance of strong bones and teeth as well as playing a role to help immune, nervous system and muscle function. Magnesium particularly can be lacking in the modern diet and maintaining healthy magnesium levels can help protect against depression, high blood pressure and lowered insulin sensitivity which is vital for recovery and building muscle!
Just before we re-cap those 5 supplements that might be useful. You need to remember the tiny percentage these add to your overall diet and training.
With most supplements we are balancing cost and convenience so that should be kept in mind before you consider them.
Here they are in order.
If you have any questions, training or diet related then simply contact me now as I'm always happy to help.
Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.