Well it’s been a week or two since I last wrote, and a hectic week it has been. I have to say that college football was crazy last week with my own Ole Miss Rebels upsetting then #4 Florida. Add that to getting my own team that I coach ready for their first regatta and you can imagine how it’s going, I swear, do novice ever grow up? Now on to the good stuff.
Supplementation can be a great thing for an athlete. It can give you a competitive edge, help you recover, make you look better naked…..you know all those things are important. That being said there is a ton of marketing crap out there that is geared towards misleading the consumer with shiny boxes, gorgeous women, and ripped guys on their boxes, all supposedly who got that way based upon the product they are endorsing. The marketing works, because it is a multi-billion dollar industry and I guarantee there is not even 1 billion dollars worth of product that is truly worth it. That being said this entry will hopefully help you navigate the marketing BS and make a somewhat knowledgeable decision. As always if you have specific questions that I haven’t answered feel free to post a comment and I’ll get to them as they come.
So I’ll start off with the basic supplements (types not brands) and tell you which work and which don’t, the why and the how of it all, so here we go.
Creatine Monohydrate Considered the most basic of exercise supplements, CM works by aiding the Kreb Cycle by converting ADP back to ATP to be used as energy by cells. Simply put, CM takes your muscle’s waste products and converts them back to energy to be used again. It can lead to increased power and endurance(1). Also, during strenuous anaerobic exercise like weightlifting, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. This is why your muscles feel sore after a workout. Creatine Monohydrate delays/prevents the lactic acid cycle from occurring, providing grounds for the claim that CM alleviates muscle soreness(2). All other creatine products work in the same way as CM but with different advantages.
Recommended Dosing: 5-10g/day post-workout. Loading phase In my opinion is just marketing BS. I’ve tested it with and without and seen no significant differences.
Micronized Creatine The sales pitch here is that MCs are just creatine molecules with ~32x as much surface and are absorbed better by cells. In the production process, the creatine particles are ‘ground’ to a fraction of the size, making them easier to dissolve. Micronized is usually cheaper than monohydrate and less popular which makes most people think that it’s just a less effective creatine that costs less to make.
Recommended Dosing: 5-10g/day post-workout. I generally use this as it is cost effective and I see no difference between this and regular creatine monohydrate.
Kre-Alkalyn* This is a pH buffered creatine which is exactly like monohydrate, but is buffered to resist breakdown by HCl in the stomach, so that it is digested much more successfully and therefore more of it gets into your cells. In other words, Kre-alkalyn is not destroyed by the stomach like Creatine Monohydrate, so it is more effective.
Recommended Dosing: 3-5g post-workout.More effective but not really worth the cost.
Creatine Ethyl Ester* Creatine molecules are attached to an ester group and touts better absorption because it bypasses creatine trasporters of the body. Bottomline, CEE skips the typical process by which creatine gets to cells and is transported more quickly to where it is needed.
Recommended Dosing: 3-6g post-workout/day
Notes: You can find this relatively cheap online during sales but generally is still 2-3x the cost of creatine monohydrate.
All forms of creatine have been criticized as putting excessive strain on the kidneys, liver and stomach. Detractors also point to the issue that there has not been enough emphasis on studying the long term effects of creatine supplementation. The following are studies that support both sides of the argument. However, in all honesty I have found this to be a completely safe and very good supplement. Have used it for the better part of 8 years and have had no negative side effects (I do drink a lot of water though).
Creatine supplementation does not affect clinical health markers in soccer players(3)
Acute renal failure in a young weight lifter taking multiple food supplements, including creatine monohydrate(4)
Creatine supplementation does not enhance submaximal aerobic training adaptations in healthy young men and women(5)
The effects of creatine supplementation on performance during the repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise(6)
Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: an update(7)
A-AKG*/NO*/NO2* Also known as Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (A-AKG). The cells which make up blood vessels use NO to signal the smooth muscle around them to relax, which dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow to those areas of the body. It is assumed that by supersaturating your body with supplemental nitric oxide, one can force their bloodvessels to dilate. Translation - NO increases bloodflow to your muscles (All relevant links are located in the bold subtitle, look closely, there are three).
Dosage: 3-6g pre-workout
Arginine Ethyl Ester* Also known as AEE. If you have been paying attention, AEE works on the same principle as CEE in that it uses the ester group to increase absorption and better transportation to where it is used(8), making it a more effective version of A-AKG.
Dosage: 2-4g pre-workout
Notes on Nitric Oxide: Generally is a waste of money. It makes for a great session in the gym as it will increase blood flow significantly and gives you a great “pump” but in all honesty it doesn’t increase performance and is extremely over-hyped.
Whey* Standard and most popular protein product. It’s derived from cows/milk (9) and is considered best for bodybuilding and strength training. Two options are Isolate and Concentrate, with Isolate considered the better choice.
Soy* Derived from the soy plant, this is the kind of protein that you can find in vegetarian foods. Not as popular as Whey protein, but this source contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, as plants do not produce cholesterol.
Notes: I do not recommend this to anyone other then 80 year old women that have low estrogen. Soy is an inferior protein and increases estrogen significantly. 35g of soy protein is equivalent to ~5x a daily birth-control dosage of estrogen. So I’m all for avoiding this.
Casein* A slowly digested protein, these are less common compared to both Soy and Whey. These proteins are to be used before bedtime and claim to prevent catabolism with muscles. The lowdown is that these proteins stay in your system all night and prevent your body from eating itself.
Notes: This would be my protein of choice for the most part. The only time I take whey would be immediately post-workout due to it’s quick acting nature. Other then that one time I stick with casein so that way my body can continue to have an influx of protein throughout the day and constantly repair damaged muscle.
Dosage for Protein: 1g/lb of bodyweight minimum. Depending on my diet and whether or not I’m trying to gain weight I’ve gone as much as 2g/lb of bodyweight.
Glutamine*L-Glutamine is a very popular supplement and is considered to be the best choice when supplementing with amino acids, although its actually effectiveness is very highly debated. It is recognized as a supplement that bolsters the immune system in sick patients, it still needs to be proved as having a place in sports supplementation(10).
Notes: Great for recovery, helps prevent DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
L-Leuchne: L-Leucine has been shown to increase anabolism when taken with food. It is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA). Recent research has shown it’s ability to increase protein synthesis significantly. This means for an athlete, increased muscle repair, and rebuilding of new muscle.
Notes: I am currently testing this out in high dosages with my daily meals and will give an update later on this month as to the results. I expect results to be good though.
Amino Acid Complex Amino Acids, aka the building blocks of protein, are supplemented in order to increase the synthesis of protein, although they are not really necessary if you eat right. Amino Acid tablets are extremely popular, but are, again controversial as to whether or not they actually work.
Notes: Waste of money. You get a full complex of amino acids in protein shakes as well as in most animal meats.
Other Random Stuff:
Testosterone Boosters: Basically does what it says. They boost natural testosterone production. The only one that I have ever found to be any good is P6 by cellucor. The others didn’t really work. That being said P6 is banned by most doping agencies.
Estrogen Blockers: These will block estrogen, which is a good thing for athletes as high estrogen levels often go hand in hand with a higher ability to store fat.
ZMA: Short for Zinc Monomethionine Aspartate and Magnesium Aspartate (you’d think it would be called ZMAMA, but it’s not). This helps with recovery due to the fact that most people are zinc and magnesium deficient. Can also help with better sleep.
Melotonin: Great natural sleep aid. Comes in dosages of 1, 3, and 5 mg. I take 3 pretty regularly and always sleep better with it.
Fish Oil: One of the most important supplements you can have. Nobody gets enough Omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fats help with pretty much everything from heart health, skin health, increased fat transportation, and a good many other things.
Multi Vitamin: It’s a necessity. Get one. It will help with recovery, help your body function better, and generally keep you healthier.
Until next time