To Supplement or Not to Supplement?
Walk into any sport store, chemists and even most gyms, you could be forgiven for assuming that all these supplements we hear so much about are necessary for our success in the gym. Let’s have a quick look at 4 of the most common supplements and evaluate their potential benefits, research on their effects and their side effects.
This ones a big one! Every single cell in our body needs hair. From the hairs on our heads, to the bones in your big toes, and of course your muscles! Men require around 0.85g per kg per day and women should be consuming 0.75g per kg per day to keep our bodies functioning. Common sources of protein include meat, dairy, eggs and grains such as quinoa. It’s important to understand that our bodies can only absorb around 30g of protein in one meal – so washing down a steak sandwich with a protein shake is not doing you any extra benefits as this excess protein will simply be excreted. Most people will be getting enough protein throughout the day if they eat a well balanced diet, and will not need to supplement. Supplements can be useful to those who do a lot of weights training, and therefore their requirements will be higher than that of a recreational lifter. They can also aid in muscle recovery and growth in a recreational lifters who will not be able to consume a meal containing protein within 30 minutes – 2 hours post workout.
Bottom Line – Not really necessary as most people will naturally consume enough throughout the day. But can be useful if you are looking to gain muscle size and are unable to consume a meal soon after training.
Pre-workout is sworn to make users lift more, work harder and gain faster. Unfortunately, research suggests that there is no actual physical benefits to consuming it prior to a workout. The primary ingredient in most pre-workouts is caffeine, which causes the user to experience an increase in heart rate, blood flow, the ability to focus and give the sense of a “buzz”. Whilst research has shown small increases in performance in professional body builders, users have to be pushing themselves to the absolute limits to get any effect from this – not something recreational athletes often achieve. It is also important to consider the potential side effects from consuming pre-workout such as insomnia, dehydration, headaches, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.
Bottom Line – Unlikely to be effective unless you are working at your absolute maximum. Has a long list of potential side effects
FAT BURNERS – If only there was a magical pill or powder that would actually burn off our fat! Most fat burners on the market work by making you feel artificially full, attaching themselves to fat molecules so they pass right through your system and by increasing your core body temperature to encourage more calories to burn throughout the day. The problem with this is they can also interfere with your ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins which our bodies need and may lead to a deficiency. The thermogenical effect of fat burners is often caused by a combination of caffeine and guarana which as with pre-workout can lead to a multitude of side effects including headaches, heart palpitations, stomach upset, and potential withdrawal symptoms later down the track. Studies have also found that many fat burners on the market contain harmful ingredients not listed on the label, in addition to a link between fat burner use and liver failure.
Bottom Line – These supplements will only ever work in combination with a healthy diet and exercise routine. It is always simply best to avoid snacking on junk food rather than taking fat burners due to the potential side effects.
CREATINE – This one has been around for years and remains one of the most popular supplements to date. Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in meat and fish that you consume. This is stored as creatine phosphate in your muscles ready for use during high intensity short duration exercises such as weight lifting. Theoretically the more creatine you have available, the more reps you can do before fatigue. As with protein, only so much can be stored at a time, with the rest excreted from the body. Unfortunately not everyone will see improvements with creatine due to genetic differences. Weight gain is common among users due to increased water retention, and side effects include muscle cramps and stomach upsets. There are even some studies that have found that aerobic activities (running, cyling, ect) are negatively impacted by creatin supplementation due to the increase in weight and water retention. It is not recommended for children or those with kidney issues, and the chances of muscle tears are greatly increased among users due to overexertion.
Bottom Line: There’s some evidence to suggest that it may improve performance in weightlifters however as with protein we should be consuming adequate amounts in a healthy, well balanced diet. Side effects and the risk of potentially injury should be considered before trying this supplement.
*picture source: Huffington Post