Should You Supplement?
One of the things I get asked by people when their motivation levels are high is: What Supplements do I need to take?
First of all, let me just be clear that as a PT, I’m not currently qualified to recommend specific supplements to my clients.
Don’t ask me how then, I could in theory get a job in a retail supplements store and sell to people as they walk in off the street with no real assessment process, or sign up to sell nutritional products via MLM and suddenly be able to do so? Are they? That is the question!
What I can tell you is what I am personally taking at the moment and why:
- Fish Oil – While I do eat a wide variety of foods (said to a client just today in response to “did you have an empty stomache?”…. I NEVER do!), I know that I’m not consistent with my oily fish intake. A balance of Omega 3 & 6 essential fatty acids in the diet is ideal for health, however most of our diets are higher in omega 6’s such as red meat and eggs. Fish oil supplementation can help to bring back balance to this aspect of nutrition, and a balance of Omega 3’s and 6’s is associated with lowering a wide range of health risk factors. The benefits of daily fish oil supplementation include: improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of diabetes and a reduction in inflammation. Studies suggest supplementation of Fish Oil may also have fat loss and performance benefits in strength training.
- Echinacea – I had previously only turned to echinacea tablets in the treatment of cold & flu, but this year I decided to take it daily in the hopes of preventing getting sick and time off work. While I did still catch a lurgy sadly, the severity and duration was not as bad as what I have witnessed in others around me so far this year – limited to a few days rather than weeks. I did however have to reduce my training volume for a bit and am now only just rebuilding this. Having taken echinacea in good faith on the advice of those around me, I decided to see what the research says for the purpose of this post. It seems that while there is inconclusive evidence to support the role of echinacea in prevention of upper respiratory illness, there is some to support that it helps to reduce the severity. Since there is no evidence to suggest regular use may be harmful, so I might stick with this one for the rest of the season just in case!
- Creatine Monohydrate – Being the most widely researched performance supplement, I decided to personally trial a loading and then maintenance dose to see if I felt STRONGER. Truth be told, there are also apparent benefits to improved cognition and memory by supplementing creatine, and with my exam period fast approaching, I’m keen to give myself the edge in any way I can. I definitely have experienced some fluid retention and weight gain during supplementation, but until I became sick briefly and dropped back my training, I was feeling quite a bit stronger and more capable in all of my resistance sessions. I’ll finish my tub and see how I go. It’s important to note that there are other proprietary variations of creatine available on the market, but your best bet is to stick with Creatine Monohydrate.
- Caffeine – enough said? I’ve always been an avid coffee fan. I used to drink several takeaway coffees a day to break the monotony of an office job. This did not assist my weight management at the time, although I didn’t realise at the time how much. Fast forward to today and I love a black coffee in my aeropress with some quality roast. If I were to add a lot of milk, I’d struggle to train at high intensity, so while I still enjoy a takeaway coffee, I prefer my pre-workout pure black good quality coffee. Caffeine is used to improve reaction time, athletic performance and may have some benefits for fat loss but be aware that side effects of over consuming can include dehydration, headaches and sleep disruption. It’s best to aim to have one day a week caffeine-free (note to self).
- Magnesium – I started taking magnesium some time ago as a relaxant for tight muscles before bed on an as needs basis on the advice of a massage therapist. While there’s not a lot of evidence to support that magnesium definitely improves sleep, I find that when I take it I experience a deeper more restful sleep, so that is a huge plus for me. Magnesium also assists in muscle protein synthesis – muscle growth 💪. I get Eagle Mag Restore capsules at Pat Collins’ Total Health & Education Centre. Beware that some people may experience gastric distress when taking magnesium supplements.
A note on “Fat Burners”, specifically, L-Carnitine Supplements: Research has shown that in order to be taken up into the muscles, a fair amount of carbohydrate should be consumed when supplementing L-Carnitine. For most of us, this runs the risk of bringing us out of a caloric deficit – which is your primary consideration for fat loss. If you’re not supplementing with carbs, you’re probably peeing most of the carnitine out, and should save your money and focus on the basics of nutrition first as far as fat loss goes…..
When considering supplementation of vitamins, amino acids or performance aids – ask yourself: who is selling it to you and why….(is it professional or sales advice)…. can you can obtain it from your diet, or by adjusting your diet and probably most importantly – can you afford it?