Over the years, fresh produce has gone from being picked from trees to, injected with chemicals, sprayed with pesticides, packaged in plastic and even adulterated by the time it makes it to our plate.
While it would have been ideal to be able to meet all our dietary requirements through eating food alone, our body needs a rich blend of several nutrients to perform at its best. For some of us the limitation might lie in our lifestyle -- dietary restrictions, inability to cook fresh meals, limited access to various ingredients -- and for others, deficiencies and illnesses could act as a barrier.
Either way, it has become increasingly common to rely on supplements, especially if you are working out and need to see optimal results. This is true for people who don’t workout regularly, who do workout regularly and even professional athletes. So which supplements should YOU be consuming to ace your larger health goals? Nutrition Expert, Chandni Haldurai helps us take a deep dive!
Types of Workout Supplements You Can Try
Muscle Gain Supplements
Most commonly, people begin their health journey with the aim to lose fat and build muscle. To gain considerable muscle, you need to follow a clean diet that meets your daily protein and calorie requirement, along with weight training. Once the basics are in place, you can add to your routine by consuming supplements for muscle building.
Here are the types of muscle gain supplements to consider:
1. Protein Powders
Muscle Gain Supplements largely come in the form of Protein Powders which have been taking the health industry by storm over the last few years. It can be fairly difficult to navigate the large variety of protein powders that exist today but you can check out our blog - Walk This Whey: Everything You Need to Know About Protein Powders, to get a detailed understanding!
Protein powders aren’t the only way, however. Creatine is a substance that primarily creates energy for muscles and tissues in your brain. While it is naturally found in the human body, when consumed as a supplement, it increases the muscle content up to 40% beyond what it's usually capable of, in turn affecting your overall performance promoting muscle gain.
Another substance that is naturally produced in our body is Beta-Alanine -- an amino acid responsible for reducing fatigue. While this supplement can increase muscular endurance and strength, it does not directly result in muscle gain.
Studies show that beta-alanine consumed in combination with whey can aid in muscle growth over a period of time. This combination allows the body to push through high intensity workouts for shorter periods of time. However, this supplement requires further research to prove its effectiveness and direct correlation to muscle building.
BCCA or Branched Chain Amino Acids, are a combination of 3 amino acids essential for muscle growth. It can be found in:
- Nuts and seeds
- Soy products
While Creatine is a great supplement to consume before a weighted workout, relying on strength, BCCA offers endurance and thus, acts as the perfect supplement before a long workout. You should note, however, that it is unclear how necessary this supplement might be if you are consuming protein in adequate amounts otherwise.
HMB or Hydroxy Methyl Butyrate supplements work in two ways — increasing protein production while decreasing protein breakdown. It is ideal for those who are beginning a weight training program, but it appears to be less effective for those with training experience.
Supplements for energy are widely used by most of us, even on occasions unrelated to exercise. They are far less invasive than other supplements and are easily accessible, making our early mornings and all nighters, easier to pull through.
Here are the types of energy-based supplements to consider:
The most widely used supplement, Caffeine, can be found in coffee (obviously), energy drinks, sodas, and even in some fruits, and seeds. Since it stimulates the brain and the nervous system, it can result in an instant increase in energy.
But, since the peak in energy is quite stark, the caffeine crash can be equally unpleasant. It is easy to build dependency on caffeine so it must be had in moderation.
2. Sodium Bicarbonate
Also better known as baking soda, is primarily used to counter harmful effects of lactic acid. At times, due to intense exercise, the body loses oxygen and begins creating a lactic acid buildup in your muscle. This lactic acid buildup causes muscle pulls, cramps and body pain.
As a supplement, the results of using baking soda are short term. It is ideal to use right before a race or a HIIT workout.
L-Carnitine boosts the body's metabolism by turning body fat into energy. It aids in fat loss and long-term health improvement, provided it is consumed in the right amounts over the course of a few months at the very least.
Micronutrient supplements are any vitamins or minerals that can be found in your body and varieties of food. Naturally produced food sources are and will always be the ideal way to consume your daily requirement for vitamins and minerals.
So why do you need to consume Micronutrient Supplements then?
People at risk of specific nutrient deficiencies may benefit from taking supplements under the supervision of a doctor. Common deficiencies include Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin A. While all the supplements mentioned above are safe to consume as per their recommended amounts, those with deficiencies and pregnant women aren’t advised to consume anything apart from their doctor’s recommendation.
Caution! Please ensure that you also do your due diligence in researching the brands of supplements you will be consuming and pay careful attention to the list of side effects, ingredients list and consumption quantities to avoid any complications.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod Liver Oil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. While they cause minor side effects and might not be safe for all -- children, pregnant women, and those with allergies -- they are great supplements for long term use. It helps with:
- Promoting great immune system function
- Cellular growth
- Eye health
- Reduced inflammation in the body
- Decreased blood clot formation
This reduces muscle soreness, increases range of motion, and maintains efficient blood flow, allowing you to perform even better during your workouts. Some side effects include nosebleeds, heartburn, and thinning of blood.
So there’s your mini crash course on workout supplements -- the good, the bad, and the maybes. But remember, while supplements can help with compensating for nutrition that might be lacking in your body and improve your overall health, it is by no means an alternative to leading a healthy lifestyle that includes an adequately nourishing diet and a consistent exercise routine. So take what you need to take and stay healthy!