Supplementation definitely has its place in a healthy lifestyle. Good supplements either provide something that is beneficial for us that is hard to get from food and drink alone or they provide beneficial nutrients in a convenient form.
The food supplement industry can be quite deceiving, effective advertising and bold claims convince many to buy supplements that are simply no good, or no good to them in particular. We live in innovative times but new isn’t always better. The supplements I personally take and recommend are not new and they’re not expensive. They do happen to be backed by scientific research however so if you want results then consider the supplements I recommend here.
The need for protein in the diet is hotly debated but as you’ve read, protein provides a lot of benefits for anyone who wants more muscle, less fat and better health.
Protein supplements include whey protein powder, milk protein powder, soy protein powder and many others. They are normally powders but can be found as protein bars or ready to drink protein shakes.
Protein supplements simply supplement your protein intake. The protein in them is the same protein found in milk or whichever type of protein powder you choose (soya, pea etc.) but simply in a processed and concentrated form.
Most protein supplements don’t vary that much in terms of quality although bioavailability – how much is absorbed – varies based on what type of protein it is. Some companies price their products higher than others and this gives the impression of a superior product.
I suggest buying a supplement that has a high content of protein which contains only small amounts of carbohydrates and fat. I advise this because a quality product will contain at least 80% protein and also because carbohydrate and fat are generally inexpensive to buy from shops whereas protein-rich foods are generally more expensive.
|Bioavailability of Protein-Rich Foods|
|Whey Protein Isolate||100-159|
|Whey Protein Concentrate||104|
Adapted from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine; Protein – Which is Best? Hoffman J, Falvo M; September 2004
Protein supplements are not necessary for great results but they can be a great, convenient source of protein at a price that is similar to that of food sources.
Amino acids are components of protein. Just as protein aids in contributing to our bodies protein levels, amino acids do too. Amino acids are generally more expensive but don’t require the digestion that protein do.
My personal experience with BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) supplementation is positive. I experienced better energy levels, increased strength and an increase in muscle mass when taking them (perceived, not measured). This genuinely surprised me as most of the research doesn’t support their use, I have trained athletes in the past that swear by them too. This is one you’ll have to make your own mind up on.
Creatine is an excellent supplement for improving physical performance. It helps athletes to improve strength, gain muscle and recover faster from sessions. Creatine also draws water into muscles causing them to appear bigger, this effect is only slightly noticeable but it can be an appreciated side effect for some. Creatine isn’t an essential nutrient as it can be made from several amino acids but supplementation can improve some areas of health as well as athletic performance.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee and a number of soft drinks. Caffeine alone isn’t effective in causing weight loss but it can still help somewhat by increasing calorie expenditure to a small degree.
Caffeine is a great supplement for increasing performance, it has a great track record for improving performance, from long distance events to strength tests. Caffeine before your cardio may make a modest difference to your fat loss results over a 12 week effort.
Appetite Suppressants or Anorectics are substances that reduce or eliminate appetite. There are natural appetite suppressants which can be bought in supermarkets and there are the stronger pharmaceuticals that are available only from your doctor. I do not have any personal experience with appetite suppressants but I would encourage anyone considering them to consult with their doctor first.
A number of these supplements actually do work, however they are hardly as revolutionary as they are made out to be. We may hear of an exotic ingredient from which fibre is extracted, this fibrous extract increases the feeling of fullness and reduces food intake. If we simplify this to just relevant information, these supplements contain fibre, fibre increases satiety therefore these supplements work. Whether you wish to pay for the branded supplements or invest in a far cheaper fibre supplement such as psyllium husks or simply eat more vegetables to increase satiety is your choice.
Fat burners are stimulants that encourage your body to expend more energy. Fat burners are also known as thermogenics because of their effect on body temperature but they’re not miracles – I’ve never seen anything to suggest that they raise energy expenditure more than a few percent.
It’s important to point out how these supplements work. Fat burners are stimulants so there is a natural limit to their effectiveness, strong stimulants cause problems because they affect the whole body and not just the stored fat I’d suggest caution if you choose to use fat burners and starting with a half-dose.
Fat blockers are supplements or drugs that stop you from digesting fat, they don’t stop you from digesting 100% of your fat intake but they can block a pretty significant percentage of it. Fat blockers block the digestion of fat or oil in the stomach which can lead to a few problems of its own. The fat that should have been digested in the stomach will go through the full length of the digestive system still undigested which can lead to oily stools, urgency to empty one’s bowels and other related problems. This can apparently be reduced by reducing the fat content of your diet. In most cases I would urge you to control what you put in your mouth and let nature take care of the rest.
Consider supplementation to improve your nutrition. Protein powders, fish oil and creatine are very helpful.