Tips on how to incorporate supplements to your daily routine!
Many women think that supplements are just not a very important element of their ﬁtness program; that taking supplements will make them big and bulky, are dangerous, or will somehow make them look manly. But the truth is that women who are serious about ﬁtness can greatly beneﬁt from using supplements, without fear of the unpleasant side effects.
Supplements can help build muscle and burn fat, and no matter how many supplements a woman uses, we can never develop the dense muscle that men do, as we just don’t possess the amount of testosterone necessary to have that kind of effect. Here we dispell some common supplement myths — ones that you may actually spout on the regular — and why you might want to reconsider them.
‘‘I’ve heard it’s a banned substance, and will make me look like a man.’’
Absolutely not! Creatine is by far the most researched supplement of all time, with hundreds of studies that back up its effectiveness. It is not a banned substance, and will actually enhance your workouts by helping increase strength, performance, and muscle mass. Creatine works by increasing available energy to working muscles, which means you can train longer and push more weight. Creatine does not work on the hormonal pathways of muscle building, so don’t worry that you’re going to end up looking like Rocky (or, perish the thought, Tom Selleck)! Supplement three to five grams of creatine per day, either before or after workouts. Be sure to use creatine for at least eight weeks to get the maximum benefit.
2. Pre-Workout Supplements
‘‘I eat a banana an hour before my workout — that’s more than enough energy for me.’’
Although bananas do provide a good source of energy and a few key essential micronutrients like potassium, if you want to make the most of your workout you are going to require more than just a simple banana. Pre-workout supplements deliver blends of specific ingredients that support muscle building during your workout, and can increase muscle mass, improve strength, support recovery, fight fatigue, promote optimal blood flow to working muscles, and optimize energy. The best part of pre-workouts is that you don’t need to buy a bunch of single-ingredient supplements — many pre-workouts come packed with compounds that work on these pathways. Look for a pre-workout that provides some or all of the following ingredients: beta-alanine for endurance, creatine for strength, BCAAs for muscle building, caffeine for energy, L-citrulline for muscle pumps, and tyrosine for focus.
3. Protein Powder
‘‘Eggs and chicken breasts are staples in my diet. I always meet my protein requirements.’’
Eggs and chicken breasts are great sources of protein — in fact, they are some of the best — but so is protein powder, especially protein powder derived from dairy protein, such as whey or caseinate. Whey protein actually has a higher biological value than many other foods, including chicken and eggs, which means that the protein you are taking in is absorbed and utilized fully. If you are trying to add some muscle to your frame or even maintain your current level of lean mass, you should be getting at least one to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That means if you are 120 pounds you should be aiming for 120 to 180 grams, divided into five or six meals spread out over the day. Use a fast-digesting whey protein during the day, and use a slow-digesting caseinate protein in the evenings to help sustain your muscles during the sleep recovery process.
4. Protein Bars
‘‘I try to eat only whole foods. I don’t know half of the things that are in those bars!’’
There was a time when protein bars were not much better than chocolate bars with a little added protein. But these days, protein bars can be a great, clean option if you are in need of a quick food fix. If you are looking for a convenient and high-protein snack, just take a look at the label to determine if the ingredients are of good quality. Look for one that is below 250 calories, as bars with calories higher than this tend to have additional calories coming from sugar or fat. Protein sources should consist of high-quality whey isolate or concentrate, without any hydrolyzed proteins from low-quality collagen or gelatin. Also, make sure it is low in sugar (under eight grams), has whole grains as an ingredient (like oats or bran), and contains a high amount of fibre (at least five grams). The fat sources used should be heart healthy, in the forms of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, and may come from sources such as nuts and seeds. Best of all, you can now find bars that are made from all-natural ingredients, and even ones that are gluten-free!
5. Green Tea
‘‘I drink more green tea than water, so I must be getting a ton of fat-burning benefits.’’
Drinking green tea is great for your health, as it provides a ton of antioxidants, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). But if you are counting on green tea to help you lose weight, it’s not going to happen. You need a concentrated amount of this ingredient to deliver results. Research has found that approximately 90 mg of EGCG taken three times daily will be enough for you to experience its thermogenic effects. EGCG induces thermogenesis through two mechanisms: by increasing the amount of fat used as energy during exercise and following exercise, and by inhibiting the re-uptake of norepinephrine, which is a key compound involved in metabolic regulation and appetite control. If you want even better results, combine green tea (standardized to contain an extract of at least 50 per cent EGCG) with caffeine, which has shown even greater benefits in the areas of weight loss and fat burning.
‘‘When delayed onset muscle soreness sets in, I just stretch, wait it out, or I pop a painkiller.’’
Painkillers can stop you from feeling pain, but they do little to actually help your muscles recover. Instead, consider using glutamine. This non-essential amino acid has been shown to aid recovery, reduce protein catabolism (when your body eats away at your muscle for fuel), and increase protein metabolism (a.k.a. the creation of muscle). It is found in blood, gut, and skeletal muscles, and is used as a main source of fuel for the immune system. Supplementing with glutamine essentially reduces the amount of glutamine that is robbed from muscle cells to fuel immune function. As a result, it may help reduce the amount of muscle deterioration that occurs during training, as well as delayed onset muscle soreness (also known as DOMS), because the glutamine available in the muscle cells will instead be utilized for protein metabolism and the reduction of protein catabolism. Glutamine can also stimulate increases in growth hormone levels, which will help you lose weight, get stronger, and increase muscle mass. To reap its benefits, supplement with five grams per day following your workout.
By Lauren Jacobsen