The topic of supplements quickly arises on the road to getting fit. Do we need them? Which ones? I’ll share all about which supplements I recommend for women as well as ones I don’t think are worth your time.
You may remember this post from awhile back. Since sharing a few supplements recently on my Instagram stories, I’ve been flooded with additional questions on it – I love how you ladies seek info on things you’re interested in. So, I wanted to share this very informative post of mine to hopefully help answer your Qs.
My goal in sharing this is to empower you to make the best decision for yourself. What I like and what I find beneficial may not be the same as what is best for you. So, I’ll share non-biased information first on each supplement and then give a little bit of my opinion.
Also, just some background… both my husband and I have worked in the supplement industry. Anthony worked in it for many years and knows the ins and outs, so I’ve taken quite a bit of knowledge from him as well. Strangely enough, our experience has lead us to this conclusion… supplements are beneficial for an active individual but are not necessary; supplements simply supplement an already healthy lifestyle consisting of regular workouts and healthy eating.
This answers two quick questions:
1) Are supplements needed? No.
2) Are supplements beneficial? Yes, they can be, if you buy focus and energy supplements that are specifically designed for the job.
Another helpful thing I’ve learned about supplements is that they are always changing. What’s good one day is outdated the next year and reputable company can get bought out and change overnight. It’s why I rarely, if ever, share brands I use. I don’t stick to one. I’m not affiliated with any. I like to bounce around and I honestly like that approach best.
Okay, let’s dive into the good stuff. Here’s the list we will cover:
- Amino Acids
Protein is one of the three macronutrients also known as the main components of food (fats and carbohydrates are the other two). We eat protein every day: chicken, fish, beef, etc. Protein is the macronutrient most responsible for satiety: the state of feeling full. It can play a large role in keeping cravings at bay as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Protein powder supplements and protein in general are useful for the purpose of muscle recovery. Exercise causes tiny micro tears in muscle cells. The process of rebuilding that damage is known as muscle protein synthesis; it’s a process that requires a sufficient amount of protein ingested in our diets or through supplements. Because it is often difficult to get enough protein in through food forms, protein supplements have become a helpful alternative. They are also an easy addition to use in meals like protein smoothies.
Protein is my staple supplement. If I could only choose one from this entire list, it would be protein. I’m serious about my fitness/muscle goals and ensuring I hit my daily protein goals has helped greatly. There are a lot of different types of proteins and I’m pretty selective; this post shares exactly what I look for when buying a protein if you want to read that after this.
Just like the name implies, pre-workout supplements are those taken prior to a workout with the goal of allowing you to achieve a greater workout. How exactly? Well, that all depends on the specific pre-workout product. The one ingredient most often found in a pre-workout supplement is caffeine or stimulant ingredients used to boost energy levels.
Unlike drinking a cup of tea, coffee or any typical caffeinated beverage, pre-workout products also contain a cocktail of other ingredients. It’s important to look and these ingredients and understand why they’re added. Like I mentioned, many ingredients are used for the stimulant effect and others are used to help maximize the muscle pump. Working out increases our heart rate, dilating the veins and creating a greater flow of blood transported throughout the body. If you see these veins and arteries as a highway system, imagine that pump ingredients add an additional lane to a busy highway… the flow of oxygen-rich blood moves more efficiently and faster to the muscle cells.
Pre-workouts are a “fun” supplement to me and I drink a pre-workout about 4-5x per week, typically prior to a weight training workout. BUT, I often advise to proceed with caution when it comes to pre-workout supplements. I tend to shy away from stimulant heavy pre-workout products and prefer those that focus on the muscle pump. For caffeine content, I stick to a a “two cup” rule that I’ve made up which means having the equivalent caffeine to about two cups of coffee or 150-170 mg (even way less on some days).
I prefer a muscle pump style pre-workout because I find it actually helps me feel the most of each movement while I’m in the gym, yielding greater benefits. To achieve that, I look for pre-workouts that contain ingredients like: agmatine, norvalline, citrulline malate, glycerol mono saturate and beta alanine (beta alanine is the feeling is tingly a pre-workout can provide, so don’t get one with that if you don’t enjoy that feeling lol.)
If you think of protein as a train; amino acids are each individual train car that make up the protein train. Branch chain amino acids or BCAA supplements aid the body in a variety of ways. They have been shown to reduce muscle soreness, which is key for those of us who are active. BCAA supplements also work to keep the body in an anti-catabolic state. When the body is in an anabolic state, it builds: like muscle cells. When the body is in a catabolic state, it breaks larger molecules down to use the individual parts. When a BCAA supplements acts in this way it means it’s working to prevent muscle from being broken down (promoting a fit body is how I like to think of it).
BCAA supplements fall into my top 3 picks along with protein (#1) and a pre-workout (#2). I use this supplement on more of an as needed basis instead of regularly. Some days, I use the supplement during my workout then again in the evening blended with ice to crush a craving. Other days, I won’t use it at all. I’ve actually gone months without using this product.
Glutamine, more specifically L-Glutamine is an amino acid; it’s the most abundant amino acids found in the body. It is produced in muscle cells and transported via the blood stream to organs that need it. There are so many roles that glutamine plays a part in that it’s almost too much to list, so for the sake of keeping this short and sweet, just know glutamine is involved in a a lot of the body’s processes. If the body uses more glutamic than the muscles can make, such as during times of dress, muscle wasting an occur, which is often one reason people look to glutamine supplements.
A glutamine supplement can be beneficial for recovery. Workouts, especially weight training and HIIT type of workouts are an intense expense for the body: for the muscles and central nervous system. Because of that, our immune systems actually suffer after exercise. Some studies have shown glutamine helps support the immune system especially in exercise recovery. Also, post-workout, we have depleted muscle glycogen stores (glycogen is the body’s storage form of carbohydrates). For this reason, we like to have a nice meal after we workout to refill these stores and aid in recovery. Glutamine has been shown to help the muscle cells replenish their glycogen stores.
Eh, all of this sounds great, but I’m not a big believer. The problem is not glutamine; it’s the glutamine supplements and how much they are under dosed. The amount of glutamine needed to achieve all that was described above is way off from the amount glutamine provided in a supplement serving, making the benefits not really beneficial. Overall, I just see this as one more supplement to add to the list and in my case, it’s one supplement I just rather not add to MY list although I do know many ladies who take it regularly.
A multivitamin has a simple goal of providing our bodies with vitamins the benefit overall health. Vitamin deficiencies are caused by a slew of reasons from poor diet to certain illnesses. Because vitamins play a vital role in our bodies, a multivitamin ensures we are getting in sufficient levels.
This isn’t new news and you very well may have heard this before, but awhile back, there was news report after news report sharing findings that multivitamins of all sorts were being found in the septic systems. Use your imagination a bit here so I don’t have to get graphic lol. They weren’t finding full multivitamins; they detected the presence of them in what passes through us. The reason this is important is because it indicates they weren’t absorbed in the body and therefore, were simply passed through. Now that’s money down the drain if I’ve ever heard of it haha.
This is a little elaborate for some and I have yet to personally do this, but I’ve heard of a great option for those concerned about vitamin and nutrient levels. You can get more specialized blood work done to show all your vitamin levels. Each of us as individuals have individual needs… some of us have low iron, others of us have low vitamin D levels. But, we aren’t just naturally low in vitamins. I kind of see a multivitamin as a bandaid. If there’s a real issue, I want to know about it, so spending some extra time at the doctor to dig to the bottom of it sounds like the better option. I don’t take a multivitamin, but I am interested in using blood work to reveal if I need something specific as these needs change regularly with age, hormone fluctuations and life events.