Weekly Wednesday Blog – July 27, 2022
This week’s topic is on SUPPLEMENTS.
A question that often comes up when working both athletes and gym goers is “What supplements should I be taking?”.
Supplements fall under the Nutrition umbrella of Health and Fitness and if you read last week’s Monday “Cup of Coffee ” you know that there are some stepping stones before anyone would really need to be worrying about supplements. Here is a link to the Nutrition Hierarchy to check in if supplements are what you should be worried about at the moment.
Supplements are exactly what the word says. They are meant to “supplement” an already nutrient dense whole food diet. Where I see the biggest need to include them isif you are trying to include extra of a certain macronutrient without having so much extra volume of food to consume or to increase performance for your sport.
The most common supplement you will see is Protein Powder. They typically will include a range of 15g-35g of protein per serving and come in a number of flavors. If you are eating a balanced whole food nutrient dense diet you most likely already consume enough protein on the daily without needing to supplement with more. However, if you take a look at what protein is doing for us (tissue building + aids in recovery process) then in some cases some protein supplementation may be warranted. For example if post workout you know you won’t be able to get a good amount of protein (20+ grams) consumed for over an hour then a protein powder + water shake will help kick start your recovery process. Another time people will struggle with getting adequate protein is during breakfast. Recovery from a laborious job, working out or just a stressful day is a 24+hr process. This means we need to consistently consume adequate amounts of protein. A way you can ensure this is by using protein powder in the morning. A tasty treat can be making yourself some oats in the AM and then once warmed up include a chocolate protein powder into them to make a “desert” like meal! Another option is making overnight oats with protein powder. I have included a recipe you could try below!
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
The next supplement we are often asked about will be BCAA’s. It stands for Branch Chained Amino Acids. Essentially it is just part of the building blocks that make up a molecule of protein. Our body needs to consume essential amino acids as we do not produce them ourselves. BCAA’s contain primarily isoleucine, leucine, and valine. They tend to have more leucine as it is shown to improve muscle protein synthesis the most. In reality if you include this it is essentially you just consume more grams of protein. So like protein powder it most likely is not needed if eating a nutrient-dense whole food diet. Where you could be utilizing it would be during a workout that you are wanting some flavor in your water (most come in a variety of flavors) with just a minimal dose to ensure you are keeping protein levels up throughout the day. There are no known side effects to including these but it may not be the best usage of your money if you would be getting the same results from your chicken breast in your post workout salad.
Another common supplement is creatine. It has shown to consistently increase the ability to move more weight in resistance training exercises (squat,deadlift, bench, power clean). This is because during these lifts our body is utilizing our 1st energy system (Creatine-Phosphate System) and having extra creatine in our muscles increases our ability to produce ATP (energy). Consuming creatine by itself won’t make you stronger but over weeks and years of training it will consistently allow you to lift 1 more rep or an extra 5 lbs. This overtime with structured programming results in the increases in strength + power. In the past there has been talk about “pre-loading” your creatine or it won’t be effective. This is NOT true, as long as you are taking the recommended dose over time you will see the same positive results. There have been no conclusive side effects found in studies done but some anecdotal issues that come up with creatine usage is weight gain (often okay if in a sporting context) and dehydration. If you decide to supplement with creatine it is something to be aware of.
When you walk into a gym you will see many people with a shaker bottle of some neon color getting a good shake before sending it down the hatch right before they workout. This is typically some sort of “Pre-Workout”. This tends to have some sort of high sugar (glucose) component along with a high caffeine number. Many athletes/ gym goers will say it “wakes” them up and sometimes gives them the tinglies. In our opinion if you had slept the right amount the night before and had adequate nutrition containing carbs, protein, fats and vitamins you would not need this “pick me up” to get a workout in. Secondly, “pre-workouts” in general have the least sanctions/security over. This means if you are a high level athlete and possibly will be drug tested it may contain something you are not legally allowed to have. For a general fitness enthusiast it probably is not something you are going to want to consume either. This is not to say they all are like that but, there is a chance. What we recommend to switch this out with would be a regular cup of coffee (most likely having 1 in the morning is plenty as caffeine stays in the system for quite some time) and increase some carbs pre-workout to get that increased awareness and “pick-me up” feeling into your workout. A few good examples could be some extra honey, fresh fruit or even just 5-6 skittles.
My hope is that through reading this I have given you some “food for thought” on what each of the supplements are meant to do as well as how eating a nutrient dense whole food diet really mitigates the need for them to begin with. As well, if you are going to choose to use them you now have some good starting thoughts on how, when, and the why behind doing so.
If you have any more questions on supplements or are thinking you may need some support when it comes to the nutrition realm of Health and Fitness please feel free to reach out.
– Coach Riley