Supplements…what’s the deal? Do you need them? Which ones should you take? What do they actually do? So many questions. Supplements are exactly that….supplements. They will not give you superpowers, turn you into an absolute ninja in the gym or shred fat for you miraculously. They are added extra’s, like sprinkles on a ice-cream sundae. Instead of writing a blog post that’s more like an encyclopedia of supplements, I’m going to tell you about my top 5 supplements.
I just want to caveat that before you waste your money on supplements, make sure your training and nutrition plan is on point because if you’re eating trash there aren’t any supplements which will do the hard work for you. You’ve got to get the basics right first.
The supplements in the order I take them are…
My day starts bitterly, no not because I have crawled out from my warm bed, but because I have to crunch my multi-vitamin tablet and it doesn’t taste too great. In life there are 2 types of people; those who can swallow tablets and those who can’t. I am one of those who can’t, so I am limited to what supplements I can take – everything either has to be crunchable or soluble (or if there is not other option I’ll empty the powder from a capsule into a shot of water).
A multivitamin is a “blend of adequate amounts of major micronutrients.”(1) Which means it gives you everything you need, but may not get from your food on an average day. “It may help support against the possibility of deficiencies in some of the other vitamins and minerals that can result from reduced food variety or calorie intake (e.g. dieting) and increased vitamin loss from exercise. Being deficient in many of these micronutrients can lead to low energy levels and restrict muscle growth, strength gains and fat loss.”
2. Fish Oil
Again, I can’t swallow the capsules so I opt for liquid and I go one step further and get flavoured Fish Oil – did you know you can get it in Lemon or Vanilla flavour? That’s right, stick with me and I’ll give you all the weird little facts.
“Fish oil is a supplement that can help bodybuilders in many ways. Fish oils play an important role in a bodybuilder’s health and fitness level. Fish oils speed up recovery time, burn body fat, support testosterone levels, and promote muscle growth. Fish oil supplements also reduce the risk of heart attacks, lower blood pressure, and prevent strokes. Consult a doctor before using fish oil.”(2)
I train first thing in the morning, and I train fasted (without eating beforehand). It’s what works for me, but to give me that ‘get up & go’ I take pre-workout. This is because I don’t drink coffee, so I need to get my caffeine fix from somewhere. Those of you who drink caffeine know it perks you up and improves focus, and “it also has been found to support a boost in muscle strength, intensity and fat loss during workouts.”(1)
Pre-workouts are an interesting supplement, you need to get the mix just right (each manufacturer will provide a serving recommendation) but if you use too much your skin may feel a bit tingly, itchy or hot (maybe all 3!). Whenever you try a new pre-workout ALWAYS start with half a scoop, see how you react, how you feel and then add more next time if you feel good.
Pre-workout makes me feel great, I know when I train in the morning and fasted that I’m not going to be lifting as heavy as if I did a session at the end of the day after having 3-4 meals throughout the day, so this gives me a little kick up the butt to perform as best I can when I land in the gym at 6:45am.
I also take it because I like to sip on something sweet before I hit the gym. I drink about 3 litres of water a day, so I know how to drink it au natural and I love it, but for the gym I prefer some flavour. Pre-workouts come in all kinds of crazy flavours so have fun with it, and experiment. I swap pre-workouts all the time, because there are so many to try.
I’m currently using one of the best selling pre-workouts in Australia. It’s CELLUCOR C4, in Pink Lemonade flavour.
C4 also includes Creatine Nitrate – that’s not a mandatory ingredient for me, it’s a nice to have. Creatine Nitrate is a form of Creatine; “Creatine is an amino-acid-like compound that occurs naturally in muscle tissue. It’s most basic function is to help muscles create fast energy during exercise. Taking supplemental creatine may help increase the amount of energy the body has to draw upon, supporting increased endurance and strength. The compound also draws water into muscle cells, increasing their size and causing a stretch that can yield growth.”(1) I rarely supplement Creatine separately, it’s just convenient that it’s in this pre-workout, like I said earlier, this isn’t an everyday supplement for me.
On the days I don’t train and have pre-workout, I’ll have a thermogenic in the morning before breakfast instead. What does a thermogenic do?
“Thermogenesis is a metabolic process during which your body burns calories to produce heat. Several factors induce thermogenesis in your body including exercise, diet and environmental temperature. Thermogenesis can promote weight loss because it increases your body’s calorie burn. Although inducing thermogenesis can help you burn more calories, a low-calorie diet and regular physical activity are the best ways for you to lose body weight.”(3)
I’m just going to repeat that last sentence “a low-calorie diet and regular physical activity are the best ways for you to lose body weight.’ AMEN! Do not pick those fat burner tablets up from the supermarket along with a bottle of wine and a packet of cookies. They will do nothing for you. They will only ‘supplement’ your healthy lifestyle, they cannot do the hard work for you. I’ve been there, I was desperate, I crunched 2 of those disgusting tasting tablets, had a reality check and threw them out (that was about 4 years ago).
My favourite thermogenic is Oxyshred from EHP Labs. They have lots of flavours to choose from and I sometimes use this instead of pre-workout in the gym. This one has the 3 killer ingredients you want from a fat burner; Caffeine, Acetyl-L-carnitine and Tyrosine.
Again with this one I would recommend taking half a scoop on your first try.
5. Whey Protein
Why is this number 5? Because I take it post-workout. I mostly use a Whey Isolate because it offers rapid replenishment for my muscles after working out.
Protein shakes are available to supplement a balanced diet. Your diet should be packed with nutrient rich meals, and if you’re not quite hitting your protein quota or need to get some in quickly after a workout then a shake is very convenient.
“Women may actually benefit more from protein powder than men do,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Marie Spano, R.D. “Men who are involved in a general fitness program typically have enough protein in their diet, whereas many women fall short. Protein powder can help fill in the gaps.”
“When you’re strapped for time, eating on the run, or trying to cut down on your meat habit, getting that much protein can be challenging. That’s where protein powder comes in. Mixing it into a shake or smoothie can help you hit your protein goals wherever you go. Meanwhile, sprinkling some powder in your pancake batter or soups or putting some on top of your oatmeal can also help make every meal and snack into high-protein one.” (4)
I recommend reading my blog post all about protein, click here.
Remember these supplements are not a magic potion! You need to work hard
I hope this helps, comment below with any questions or other topics you would love me to write about.
Oh and in case of you are screaming at this post saying “Where are BCAA’s?” well I take them if I’m having a morning off the pre-workout and fancy something flavoured to drink in the gym, however I get all the BCAA’s I need in my post-workout protein shake to aid my recovery, so I don’t usually double up.