Does anyone really NEED supplements? Do you need to take a protein powder? Do you need Creatine?
The short answer is no. You need a healthy diet, and you need a sound exercise regimen. But you don’t NEED supplements.
To Quote Alwyn Cosgrove on his Big Rocks Theory (remember he’s Scottish, so read this with a Scottish accent):
“Picture a jar packed to the brim with big rocks. Can you fit anything else in the jar? At first glance, no but if you think about it – you can fit some small rocks. Is it full now? No – you can still fit some pebbles in there. Is it full now? No – we can still add some sand – is it full now? Still no – we can now pour in some water. Now it’s full. So understand that all these bells and whistles and magnificent pieces of equipment are like the water. Its fine, it fits and it can serve a purpose – as long as you didn’t forget to put in the big rocks.”
He was speaking about Training, but the theory equally applies to Nutrition and Supplementation. The rocks are the basics. A Good diet, a good routine, and good sleep. The pebbles are the next step: the basic supplements like Vitamins, and fish oil. The water is all the little stuff that can have a minor impact on performance ONLY if everything else is in place. Otherwise, it is just a waste of money.
So lets start with the Supplements that I think are the most important after food.
A basic multi vitamin./Mineral is a mainstay. But, most people neglect it. Too bad, as it will help you lose fat, and gain muscle. In fact I suspect that if you put a multi head to head with Creatine in a year long study, that the multi would out perform the creatine. Yes, that’s right, I said it. This is because most people just don’t get enough of the basic nutrients from their diets.
A wide selection of the American Population is considered to be Malnourished … Their Obese, yet they are malnourished. That is just insane.
Yes, a Multi has it, but it’s not enough. I am a big believer in large doses of this vitamin. It has been shown to have a positive impact on future health in so many arenas that it seems down right criminal not to take it. Including aiding in the prevention of certain Cancers and Heart Disease. And even if some of the studies are mixed, Vitamin C is so cheap, and has no toxicity, that you’re best strategy is to take it anyway, just in case.
Fred Stevens, an assistant professor in the Linus Pauling Institute, recently said
“We knew that vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help neutralize free radicals. But the new discovery indicates it has a complex protective role against toxic compounds formed from oxidized lipids, preventing the genetic damage or inflammation they can cause.”
Take 3 grams (that’s 3000 mg’s) daily, in divided doses. At least 1 gram after workouts.
For the same reasons as above. In fact, a combination of Vitamins C and E have been shown to significantly reduce your risks of Alzheimer’s disease, (the other major reducer is exercise, by the way), and Heart Disease (women, and Men), and Colon Cancer.
Take 400 IU, in divided doses.
This is a big one. Taking Fish Oil capsules help you to maintain a better balance of Omega-3’s to Omega-6’s (Ideally a 1:1 ratio), as they are full of Omega 3’s and are easy, and relatively cheap, compared to eating enough Salmon or Sardines to fill the quota. You have GOT to maintain that balance.
The reasons to take them are too numerous to go into fully in this article (I have a dedicated “fish oil” article in the works), but I’ll go over, quickly, some of the main ones:
You’ll burn up to 400 more Calories per Day (really!)
Less Arthritis and Joint pain
Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
Reduced Risk of Diabetes.
Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
And Bigger, more functional, muscles.
Make sure that you’re using Salmon Oil, Sardine, Anchovy, or Crilla. There are others, but these seem to hold the most promise. (I get the Tader Joe’s Salmon Oil, but I hear good things about Biotests Flame Out). And you want it to have a combined 300 mg of EPA+DHA.
Take about 6 to 10 caps per day. (the studies are based on about 3 grams of EPA+DHA per day). You’ll than yourself.
Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA’s
Not essential for most, but for athletes and those seeking optimal performance, they have a place. BCAA’s, though themselves not a carbohydrate, have the ability to cause an insulin spike aids in muscle and liver glycogen re-synthesis (for later use as energy during exercise).
If not using a supplement like Surge, then take 4 or 5 grams/hour of exercise.
Workout Drink (like Gatorade, Surge)
I think this is darned near essential. Here’s a basic list (compiled by Dr. John Berardi) of positives you can expect with just a simple carb drink (like Gatorade, or Powerade):
• Improved aerobic and anaerobic endurance during training, practices, and games
• Decreased stress response to training, practices and games
• Improved immune function post training and competition
• Decreased acute phase inflammatory damage after training, practices, and games
• Improved whole body rehydration
• Improved muscle and liver glycogen resythesis
Take about 30 grams of carbs for every hour of training. For athletes or those seeking optimal performance, add 15 grams of protein per hour (containing 5 grams BCAA’s).
But, at the very least, drink gatorade or powerade. Water is not enough.
And there you have it. Those are the Supplements that I’d throw in into the jar. But, remember, they are called “Supplements” not “Replacements” for a reason. You must have a healthy diet in place. No excuses there.