The world of supplements is a vastly overcrowded one, with everyone looking for the next big trend or quick fix pill it can be hard to break down the advertising lingo and figure out what products actually are and how they could (note the emphasis) help us achieve our goals.
Let’s start by asking a question, how many giant beanstalks have you seen?
And yet we build up supplements as the modern-day ‘magic beans’.
Training supplements work if the rest of your diet and training are on point. They are not a quick fix and they will not work without an effective diet and training regime, however, there are some supplements which can help make life more convenient and accentuate your hard work, rather than do it for you. Some of the most popular are explained below:
5 Training Supplements for beginners:
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 your 9 essential amino acids. Protein is particularly useful when ingested around workouts because it helps to stimulate protein synthesis and facilitate recovery. The reason a whey shake is used at this point is for two simple reasons:
- Whey protein is the fastest absorbing protein and, therefore, the most effective post workout, rapidly entering the bloodstream.
- It’s easier and more convenient than eating a meal on the go.
The body can only digest around 20-30g of protein at any given time and most shakes contain around this per serving, so be careful not to over-do it. Too much protein can lead to your body becoming too acidic which can be detrimental to health as well as result in bloating, wind and mild discomfort. Read our post on protein and weight loss.
Creatine is probably the most widely researched supplement there is and is most commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders. 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 into 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. BCAA’s 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), because of this many users will supplement with BCAA’s if they are training fasted. In 1998, subjects were given either BCAA’s or a placebo before completing an endurance cycle ride in the heat. The BCAA group cycled 153.1 minutes on average, while the placebo group averaged only 137 minutes, suggesting BCAA’s enabled an enhanced exercise performance. BCAA’s are also thought to help the body recover from resistance training by promoting protein synthesis. A Japanese study gave men and women BCAA’s or a placebo before an intensive training session comprising of exercises known to produce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) such as squats. Both sexes reported less soreness when they were given the BCAA supplements.
Caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world and for a good reason. Supplementing with caffeine prior to training is thought to increase energy, decrease fatigue and lower your perception of pain. When we are training, be it an endurance run or a session in the gym, 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 mobilize the body's fat stores to encourage working muscles to save glycogen and use fat as an alternative. The result: More energy to train and enhanced endurance. Researchers in the UK found that athletes who ingested caffeine had a rating of perceived exertion (RPE is a number on a scale of 1-10 based on how hard you’re working) that was 5.6% lower than athletes who were given placebos. The researchers also found that the caffeine improved their overall exercise performance by 11.2%. Both coffee or a caffeine pill will have the same effect, however some prefer to opt for a caffeine pill as they can then monitor and regulate their caffeine dosage with more precision. Caffeine pills are also great for those who don’t like the taste or coffee, or the risk of yellow teeth!
More on how caffeine enhances training.
Fish oils are taken to boost your intake of Omega three fatty acids and are used as 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.
As you can see these top 5 boast an array of benefits and are great for use as a quick and convenient supply to the various nutrients, however don’t be fooled into thinking these supplements can’t be sourced through a high quality diet. Supplementing with the above will help give your training a kick- start, but the effort is really all down to you.