There are a lot of different training supplements on the market and it can be difficult to decide which is right for you. As a general rule, you should try to avoid relying too heavily on supplements and always get your nutrients from food first. However, if you feel like you want or need a little boost in your training, then supplements can be a great way to do this. We explore the top 5 training supplements for beginners who are just becoming more serious about their training and are hoping to see more results.
It is a fact our muscles need protein in order to repair and grow stronger. Whey protein is a complete protein source and contains all 9 essential amino acids. Protein is particularly useful when ingested just after a workout because it helps to stimulate protein synthesis and facilitate recovery. Many people worry that whey protein will make them bulky or that it is like taking steroids, but whey protein is just a dried isolated milk powder.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat and fish as well as being naturally produced by the body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine is converted to creatine phosphate, which we use for energy during high-intensity, short duration exercise, such as sprinting or heavy weight lifting. Creatine supplements can be bought in various forms, from flavoured powders to pills and are taken in order to enhance the body's ability to create energy and increase muscle mass. The increased energy from creatine enables users to lift more in the gym and, therefore, create more muscle mass. Creatine also gives the illusion of weight gain and larger muscles due to increased water retention, this is because water is drawn into the muscles along with creatine, causing the muscles to appear larger and creating a weight gain of anywhere up to 3lbs. Creatine could be used if you want more energy in your workouts and to gain an increase in muscle mass, although it is important to remember that creatine can be sourced from diet alone, and so as with whey protein, supplementation is more for convenience as an easier and faster acting source.
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids. These are composed of 3 of our 9 essential amino acids, essential because our bodies do not produce them naturally and, therefore, they have to be sourced through diet. BCAAs are made up of Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine. The most popular usage for BCAA supplementation is to improve exercise performance and prevent going catabolic (muscle breakdown). This supplement is another way to increase your protein intake and therefore improve muscle repair and recovery.
Supplementing your training with caffeine is thought to increase energy, decrease fatigue and lower your perception of pain. When we are training, our bodies are constantly sourcing the energy to give the exercise our all. This energy comes in the form of glycogen, your body's stored form of carbohydrate. Caffeine slows down the speed at which we use up all our glycogen stores by promoting the use of fat as fuel. Fat is far more abundant than glycogen and what caffeine does is mobilise the body's fat stores to encourage working muscles to save glycogen and use fat as an alternative.
Read more about the effects of caffeine on training.
Fish oils are taken to boost your intake of Omega three fatty acids and are used as a treatment for a variety of health issues including heart disease, ADHD, anxiety, depression, high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. When it comes to training, this supplement has been found to be particularly useful for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant purposes. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce DOMS and speed up the recovery process. There is also evidence to show that when combined with BCAAs and carbohydrates, fish oils can increase the rate of protein synthesis, leading to greater gains in muscle mass. As fish oils are such a widely used supplement, there is a lot of choice on the market and some tablets come in cheaper for a reason. Be sure to check the labels to look for impurities and check the dosage, you should be looking for at least 1000 mg.
Remember, training supplements should only be used in addition to a healthy and balanced diet and should not be used as a meal replacement.
Why should we eat coconut oil?
Eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, consuming a steady amount of fat throughout the day lets your body know that it does not need to hold on to fat because there is a plentiful supply in the environment and therefore you could actually lose weight by eating more fat.
Coconut oil is a unique type of fat because of its combination of fatty acids which have a positive effect on the metabolism. Coconut oil contains medium triglycerides (a type of fatty acid) which go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy instead of being stored in the stomach as belly fat.
How do you make bulletproof coffee?
It's very simple to make coffee with coconut oil. Just follow these steps!
- Add one teaspoon of organic coconut oil which has been at room temperature to the bottom of your coffee cup.
- Add instant coffee granules or brew your coffee if you like the posh stuff.
- Pour the coffee over the coconut oil and stir to ensure the coconut oil melts into the coffee to create a creamy mixture.
Green tea is a type of tea that originated in China but now has spread and is enjoyed all over the world. Known for its health benefits, people will drink green tea to aid weight loss, boost their metabolism, and improve their general health. While drinking endless cups of your regular builder’s tea is not very good for your health, you can drink up to 10 cups of green tea a day and reap the benefits! So, what are the benefits of drinking green tea?
Is green tea good for your health?
Green tea is full of antioxidants which are fantastic for our health. There are many things in the fitness world that claim to be great for you but are actually just a gimmick, however antioxidants are proven to be good for us. Oxidisation is a natural process that happens to everything in nature (think rust). It is this process that causes us to age and the oxidisation of our cells can lead to ill health. By consuming antioxidants in our diet through superfoods like blueberries and green tea, you can slow down the aging process and improve your health.
The tea leaves used to make green tea don’t go through the same oxidisation process used to make oolong and black tea which is why it is considered a superfood. Green tea contains many vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins. All of this goodness will give you benefits such as improved mood, clearer skin, and a faster metabolism.
What if I don’t like green tea?
Green tea can be a little bitter when drunk on its own and its taste is not for everyone! The health benefits are so good that even if you don’t like drinking green tea, it’s still worth trying to get it into your diet somehow. Matcha green tea powder is a food supplement that you can put in smoothies or juices to still get all the benefits. One scoop of matcha green tea powder is the equivalent of drinking 10 cups of green tea! Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea which is specially grown to promote the production of caffeine and theanine which can calm your mood when consumed. Matcha is now a widely recognised superfood and health food product and is used in everything from ice cream to confectionary.
Could you make hunger part of your daily routine? Could being hungry actually be good for you? Intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular in the fitness world, promising results of increased muscle, reduced body fat, and enhanced energy. Is this just another fad diet or is this the ultimate way to build muscle, keep fit, and stay lean in the process?
Fasting Diets Through History
Fasting isn’t a new concept. In fact, throughout history, our ancestors have been fasting for thousands of years and it is a key part of many religions. From Cavemen forced to feast and famine, to hunger strikes in political protests, and symbolic religious fasts said to cleanse the soul, fasting has always been a part of our existence. Throughout the ages, fasting has been proven to affect our physical, mental and emotional needs. But what are the health implications and how could it affect our training?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. Yes you will get hungry, but you do eat, eventually. Those embarking on an intermittent fast will typically split their day between two metabolic states, the fed state and the fasted state. Whilst the lengths of fasting differ between individuals, the most popular format is the 16/8 method. 16/8 requires 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window, for example between 12 pm and 8 pm users would eat and then fast from 8 pm until 12 pm the next day, providing a 16 hour fast.
Fed State Metabolism
Once you begin eating, your body enters into a fed state where your metabolism begins to convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy. After you eat, there are high levels of nutrients in the bloodstream and blood sugar levels are high. In order to control this, the body releases insulin. At this point, your body’s ability to burn fat is limited. Your body remains in this fed state until it is finished digesting and absorbing your food.Typically, this can last anywhere between 3 to 5 hours after eating, depending on what it was you ate. After your food is digested we begin a transitional stage before fasting called the postabsorptive state. Finally, approximately 12 hours after our last meal, insulin has significantly dropped and our bodies move from the postabsorptive into a fasted state.
Fasted State Metabolism
When you go into a fasted state, insulin levels drop and your body now has to burn fat stores for energy. When it was fed, your body wouldn’t burn these fat stores as there was glucose to use as its primary source of fuel, but since that’s run out, your body is forced to burn fat. This is why those who follow an intermittent fast often lose weight without changing what it is they eat or how much training they do, simply by adjusting the timing of their eating they design an eating pattern for burning more fat. What’s more, in a fasted state, your body's human growth hormone levels are significantly higher, due to the fact you are using fat for energy rather than food so your body increases the production of human growth hormone in order to preserve muscle. The increased levels of human growth hormone can result in an increase in muscle gains, quicker recovery, and an overall leaner physique.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can help weight loss.
Due to an overall reduction in your weekly calorie consumption, those using an intermittent fasting eating schedule are more likely to benefit from losing weight.
Intermittent fasting can lower your risk of diabetes.
Intermittent fasting is thought to lower the risk of type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and adjusting insulin resistance. Whilst it's difficult to find any conclusive research, some doctors have even argued type II diabetes can be cured with intermittent fasting. Weight-loss is at the forefront of treating type II diabetes.
Intermittent fasting can help your body repair.
Fasting initiates ‘autophagy’ in the body, this is a process of waste removal whereby the body starts to break down dysfunctional proteins which build up in the body. The removal of these waste products helps your body to function better and repair itself more effectively.
Will Intermittent Fasting Get Me Results?
There’s a vast array of suggested benefits of intermittent fasting which could inspire you to give it a go, however, studies with definitive research conclusions in humans are limited and so it seems the best way to find out if intermittent fasting is for you, is to try it for yourself. Keep a food and mood diary and take your weight, measurements, and photographs before and after a three-week trial to give yourself a full and fair picture of your progress. When you first start a fasting programme you may experience symptoms such as:
- Extreme hunger
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Feeling weaker
These symptoms should all fade once your body becomes accustomed to your new pattern of eating, however if you experience any more serious or unusual side effects it is best to return to your regular eating pattern and then contact your GP if symptoms persist.
Research has shown it takes 21 days to adapt to a new habit, so it's best to stick it out for 3 weeks to discover if it really works for you.
We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for us. But do most of us realise just how much we are consuming? And do we truly understand the dangers of overconsumption?
What can too much sugar do?
Public Health England states there are two clear reasons we need to be concerned about our sugar intake: obesity and tooth decay. 64% of adults in the UK are classed as being overweight or obese. Obesity caused by a high sugar intake and excess calories can lead to further health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. It can also lead to psychological issues such as bullying, low self-esteem, and even depression.
What happens when we ingest sugar?
Put in very simple terms, when we ingest anything high in artificial sugars we experience a sugar rush. Insulin is then released to control blood sugar levels. The temporary spike in energy experienced is usually promptly followed by a sugar crash, which is where cravings develop and the ‘just one more’ temptations defeat us.
Whilst we are working towards satisfying these overwhelming cravings, excess sugar is being stored in the liver. Too much of this can cause the liver to be overloaded and forced to expand to try and compensate. Once it has reached its maximum capacity, the liver then sends out any excess sugar to be converted into fatty acids, which are stored as fat in less active parts of the body.
Is a sugar rush as addictive as drugs?
Dopamine is the body's 'reward' chemical which releases energy and motivation when your body needs it most. Dopamine is to thank for those 'cravings' you feel and can be an almost overwhelming feeling when enough dopamine is released. When you consume sugar, huge amounts of dopamine are released into the body, which explains why it can be so difficult to stop eating sweet things once you start. Other substances which release huge amounts of dopamine are Class A drugs such as cocaine, which is why it is said that sugar is as addictive as drugs.
How can we slim our sugar intake?
It is vital that you always read the label when purchasing a new food. There are so many foods and drinks out there that contain a lot more sugar than you realise, even in foods that claim to be 'healthy'. The best way to lower your sugar intake is to check how much sugar is in what you are eating and either opt for a lower sugar version or cut it out completely. So for example here we have Tomato Soup:
Nowadays, nearly everything has a high amount of sugar in it. Let's take this tomato soup for example. You would expect this to be a very healthy, low-calorie meal.. right? Let's check the label.
This tomato and basil soup from Waitrose contains 11.1g of sugar per serving. The recommended serving by the manufacturer is half a pot, so if you consume the entire pot (which you probably would if you didn't read the label first) you are actually consuming 22.2g of sugar which is more than an average-sized Snickers bar which contains 20g of sugar!
Sugar In Meal Replacements
A very popular way of losing weight these days is consuming meal replacements, whether they are shakes, drinks, or bars. However, meal replacements aren't always sold by weight loss companies and are not always marketed as being for weight loss. Brands like Weetabix are now marketing meal replacements with their new Weetabix On The Go which is heavily marketed towards people who don't have enough time in the morning to eat a proper, nutritious breakfast. These products are sold as being a 'complete' breakfast with lots of fibre and protein as the main selling points, but let's take a closer look.
This is the nutritional information for the Weetabix On The Go Vanilla flavour drink. As you can see, one serving (one bottle) contains 20g of sugar. Again, as much as a chocolate bar! So, you might as well be eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, right? When you actually look at the ingredients of this product, they are essentially just milk, cream, sugar, and wheat derivatives. Not exactly a wholesome, healthy breakfast!
Should I Stop Eating Sugar Completely?You don't need to completely cut sugar out of your life, but it's very important to consciously cut down your intake. Make sure you always check the label of what you're eating and try to stick to whole, natural foods such as vegetables, grains, and lean protein.