In the fast-paced world of training and nutrition, hypertrophy and fat loss, and even just general health and happiness, everyone is looking for the next quick fix.
It could be in terms of diet –
Do you need to slash carbs?
Start fasting in the mornings?
Cut out gluten and dairy?
And what about training …
Is a full body routine best?
Or will splits give you better gains?
Then we have the steady state versus high intensity cardio debate.
These arguments and questions could go on and on, but one area where confusion really rules the roost, and where no one seems to know quite what’s what is supplements.
That’s why, in this article series, I’ll cut through all the myth and misconception out there that surrounds the world of supplementation.
With the supplement industry being so lucrative, and thousands of companies out there wanting you to part with your cash in exchange for their latest product, pill, potion or powder, it’s easy to be misled.
So I’ll take you through exactly what you need and what you don’t, helping you save money, time and embarrassment in the process.
With that in mind, let’s get started with part 1 …
1. Protein Powder
Yep, good old protein powder.
It may seem a little boring and run-of-the-mill, but if you’re not consuming protein after a workout, you really are selling yourself short.
During training, your muscle protein breaks down, and hence, to recover optimally and build new tissue, you need to top it back up again.
A 2013 meta analysis study from the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” recommended consuming 0.4-0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (0.18 to 0.23 grams per pound) within 3 to 4 hours of eating a pre-workout meal. (1)
Therefore, if you’re out and about, or in a rush, a protein shake is the perfect alternative to sitting down to a solid protein-based meal.
2. Carb Powder
Much like protein breaks down during resistance training, your body also uses up its stores of carbohydrate, known as glycogen.
The “severity” of this depends upon your goals.
For those training for sports performance, engaging in endurance activities, or training twice a day, it’s critical.
You need to replenish glycogen up to its full level again as quickly as possible.
For those chasing fat loss, this isn’t all too important, particularly if you’re coming from an obese standpoint.
Bodybuilders and strength athletes sit somewhere in the middle. Glycogen replenishment is an important factor in terms of aiding recovery and helping performance and body composition, but it isn’t as important as getting in protein.
Either way, 80% of folks would benefit from carbs post-workout.
Like protein, you could get this from food, but a carb powder (possibly mixed with your protein powder) makes things an awful lot easier.
3. A Recovery Shake
Can’t be doing with mixing your own post-workout protein and carb concoction?
Then there are plenty of pre-made recovery drinks out there.
They come in different forms, with varying protein and carb ratios, so be on the lookout for one that fits your goals, and your macronutrient and calorie needs.
Another great alternative is chocolate milk.
In a comparison between chocolate milk and a popular post-workout product, nutritionist Alan Aragon concluded that the milk had the upper hand in terms of macronutrient quantity and quality and price, as well as containing an ideal post-workout split of 3 parts carbohydrate to 1 part protein. (2)
4. BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
BCAAs are the building blocks of protein – i.e. they’re what your muscles are made of.
There’s a little debate out there over whether BCAA’s are really necessary if you’re already consuming adequate protein through food and/ or supplements, but if in doubt, BCAAs are a great way to cover your bases.
As the BCAAs are already broken down from the form they’re in in a complete protein, they digest a little quicker, and could potentially kick-start the recovery process sooner.
If you’re worried about not being able to eat for a while after your workout, or think that you need that fast-acting protein, then mix up a shaker of BCAAs and sip on this towards the end of your workout.
Around 4-6 grams should suffice.
There’s never a bad time to take creatine, so you may as well take it post-workout when your body’s stores are depleted.
Creatine is the fuel for your creatine phosphate energy system, which is the dominate fuel provider for intense exercises that last 8 to 15 seconds – i.e. lifting heavy weights!
Your body’s creatine supplies are limited, and take a good few minutes to replenish. Plus, each time they’re topped back up, they don’t replenish quite maximally until you take a sustained rest.
Therefore, to keep them elevated up, and sustain maximal performance – training hard and heavy, creatine is a great addition to your supplement cabinet, whether your goals are based around strength and performance, building muscle, or stripping fat.
As a general guide, take 5 grams per day, every day.
The Wrap Up
You don’t HAVE to take any supplements.
But if you’re serious about your training, and want to take your results to the next level, the 5 here (ranked in order of importance) are well worth your investment.
They may only give you an extra 5%, but if there’s 5% there on the table to grab, why wouldn’t you!?