Sports Supplements: Separating Fact from Fiction
Welcome to the jungle of sports supplements! A trip to your local nutrition store can be a bit overwhelming when you are trying to make an informed decision on which is the safest and most effective product for your health and wellness needs. With a seemingly endless myriad of choices of sports supplements, it is so important to have the facts on what your body needs and does not need. Also, it is very crucial to be aware of which supplement companies offer the highest quality products and which ones are not all that they are cracked up to be.
The cardinal rule is that your supplements should never cost more than your groceries. It is easy to get excited about “stacking” numerous supplements to achieve specific fitness goals, but the bottom line is that your body needs quality whole foods above all else. Just as the human body cannot survive on vitamins alone, it also cannot survive on exclusively sports supplements. Protein drinks and energy bars are great additions to any nutrition program, but the foundation of any meal plan is organic, healthy food. The right supplements will enhance nutritional intake as long as there is a solid base of protein, carbohydrates and even the right kinds of fats, in any given diet.
Keep in mind that dietary supplements are NOT required to obtain approval from the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) before being marketed and sold to consumers. Before a company markets a dietary supplement, it is responsible for ensuring that the supplement is safe and that any claims about the product are not false; however, a company does not have to get approval, so there are sports supplements on the shelves of very reputable nutrition stores that do not contain high quality ingredients. A few years ago, there was even a notable controversy when sports supplements were randomly tested in laboratories. Test revealed that some mainstream companies’ products only contained less than half of the amount of nutrients that were listed on the nutritional information label of the products.
So, what is the best way to separate the good from the bad regarding supplement brands? The best resource is research. In the present day, with information being just a click away, it is easier than ever to thoroughly search for legitimate facts on the quality of sports supplements. Any product that has been through clinical trials is definitely on the level. The products that are subjected to the rigid standards of clinical trials and have been validated are definitely high quality supplements. The companies that sell these products have substantiated their claims and can back up all of the information about the sports supplements they market.
The best game plan when deciding which supplements to begin taking as part of a nutritional program is to first narrow down what your fitness and health goals are so that you can take the right supplement for the right reason. There are many products available for muscle building, weight loss, energy, endurance, immune boosting, joint support and even hormonal balance. Focusing on taking supplements to enhance the effectiveness of a well-balanced meal plan is the best way to get on the right track to great results. Here are some of the safest and most effective sports supplements commonly found in nutritional stores:
Muscle is made of protein - the more of it you have, the stronger your metabolism will be. Whey protein is naturally found in milk but is processed into a concentrated form that can be conveniently mixed in a shaker cup, immediately following a great workout at the gym. There are even different levels of whey protein: whey isolate is processed more than regular whey protein; thus, allowing for quicker absorption by the body. A step above whey isolate is whey hydrolysate, which is absorbed even faster. Many of the standard whey protein powders contain a combination of both whey isolate and whey hydrolysate. These are great options for anyone who is lactose intolerant because they are easier to digest due to the proteins being broken into smaller fragments during processing.
Branched Chain Amino Acids
When it comes to improving exercise performance and reducing muscle breakdown, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are an excellent weapon as part of any supplement arsenal. The three branched chain amino acids (Valine, Leucine, and Iso-leucine) are the powerhouses of amino acids for muscle building and recovery. BCAAs help to minimize muscle soreness, while also helping to give the body more of the necessary building blocks it needs to repair muscle after a hard workout. BCAAs come in a variety of forms including; capsule, powder and even flavored drinks.
In the 1990s, creatine monohydrate was the hottest selling sports supplement among athletes and recreational weight lifters alike. What made creatine so immensely popular was that it increased strength while simultaneously increasing lean bodyweight. Though, it is very important to acknowledge that a large portion of the lean weight gain was due to fluid retention at the cellular level of the muscles. There are some aspects of taking creatine that must be considered to use it properly. It is appropriate to take creatine for specific events such as a sports competition or a workout involving a PR (Personal Record). It is not wise to take creatine on a daily basis. Not only will the body’s natural creatine levels decrease, but it is counter-productive and possibly strenuous on the kidneys. Also there is no need to “load” creatine the first week of consumption. “Loading” involves taking 3-5 times the regular amount of creatine each day for about 5-7 days. The supposed purpose of this method is to create a vast storage of creatine within the body for the muscles to draw upon, as needed. An appropriate dosage of 5-10g (1-2 heaping teaspoons) per day is very effective and much more cost-efficient than “loading”.
In recent years, the surge of pre-workout supplements continues to rise at an astonishing rate. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are all looking to get every edge they can to perform at their best during each workout of every day. Beta alanine is one of the most potent nutrients in these pre-workout supplements and is extremely effective in increasing energy and muscle performance. Athletes often feel a very noticeable increase in workout intensity after ingesting a pre-workout containing this powerful beta amino acid. As noticeably effective as it may be, understanding beta alanine and the possible side effects is imperative to remaining safe while utilizing this supplement. One of the main short-term side effects of beta alanine is a “pins and needles’ feeling in the skin. This sensation usually goes away in an hour or two. While beta alanine is generally safe in very moderate doses, it is important to take great care not to exceed the recommended usage of any pre-workout supplements. Many of these sports supplements are vasodilators, which open blood vessels to improve muscle performance and the potential for workout capacity. Use extreme caution when beginning the use of any pre-workout product. It is very smart to check with your physician as well to be sure that any pre-workout sports supplement will not adversely affect your health.
Green Tea Extract
The benefits of green tea extract can help enhance a weight loss nutrition program because of its ability to aid in burning excess fat, increasing metabolism and regulating blood sugar in the body. It is a natural thermogenic that can help give the body the boost it needs to burn more calories at a faster rate. Be advised that there is caffeine in green tea extract so it must be taken in careful moderation. Green tea extract is a very fast and convenient way to get many of the benefits of green tea in a short amount of time.
Advances in science and technology have made sports and health nutritional supplementation truly astounding. There is a vast world of available products that can enhance meal plans and assist everyone in attaining their health and wellness goals. More products are being developed and made available each day. As amazing as it is to live in this nutritionally advanced age, it is ultimately important to always focus on the most effective supplement of all: consistency. Staying consistent with clean, healthy eating and challenging workouts will be the most effective vehicle on the road to long-term results. Sports supplements are great assets to any program, but consistency is the key to success.