Most of the messages I get in my inbox are questions about supplementation: what to take if you’re a girl, will whey make me big, can whey protein help me burn fat, etc. In this article, we’re going to break it down and simplify things so we can walk through what supplement does what in order to understand what you need.
It’s basic knowledge that you need protein in order to build muscle. If you’re trying to increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat without losing muscle tissue, you absolutely must have protein supplementation. Protein is made up of amino acids–the building blocks of muscle. Without the proper amount of amino acids, your body cannot build muscle tissue. Almost any gym rat/bodybuilder will tell you that they are taking whey protein supplements. It’s easily accessible and affordable. It comes in flavours like chocolate and vanilla, and some companies have gone the more creative route with cinnamon french toast, coconut ice cream, and even Matcha green tea flavours. You can take this protein supplement at any time of day (2-3 servings per day)–best taken right after a workout.
If you’re hitting the gym on a regular basis and are strength-training, you absolutely need to be taking good multivitamins. A good diet plus exercise does wonders for your health and fitness, but don’t forget to get your vitamins and minerals in either. Micronutrients are as important as your macronutrients. If you’re feeling drained with your strenuous gym and work schedule (especially if you work late nights), it could be a sign of stress, overtraining, or vitamin/mineral deficiency. Your body can benefit from vitamins and minerals by helping boost your immune system.
Glutamine is a naturally-occuring amino acid in the body. We produce it quite abundantly but unfortunately isn’t necessarily in the muscles where it’s needed the most. Glutamine is necessary for recovery especially after a hard and heavy gym session. It helps with protein synthesis and immune function, aids in glycogen and glutamine replacement as well as reduce muscle catabolism. The recommended dose is 2 servings per day with a 5-10mg serving immediately after training and another serving before bedtime.
Thermogenics (Fat Burners)
10 out of 10 women I speak to all tell me that this is the first thing they buy when building their supplement stack. Thermogenics are supplements that help increase base metabolic rate and help reduce body fat. Popular thermogenics consist of a combination of caffeine, ephedrine, and aspirin. Recently, supplement companies have started to shy away from formulas that contain ephedrine because of its side effects which include nervousness, dizziness, anxiety, vertigo, nausea, appetite loss, insomnia, palpitations, sweating, and headaches. If you choose to take thermogenic supplements, be sure to read the instructions and follow them carefully so as to avoid any health complications.
Creatine is used to store energy for movements that require an explosive burst of energy like weight lifting. It helps with recovery and energy replenishment. If you take creatine with simple carbs (breads, pasta, rice) then you help creatine be used efficiently because of the insulin spike that carb consumption causes. Insulin helps deliver the creatine to the muscle where it is then used to replenish ATP (adenosine triphosphate AKA energy) levels.
BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
We already know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein. BCAAs or Branched chain amino acids are essential amino acids leucine, valine, and isoleucine and make up one third of the muscle protein. These acids are needed by the body and can be obtained either through food or supplementation. They help reduce muscle fatigue, speed up recovery, help decrease the loss of amino acids during exercise. If you’re doing fasted cardio, you should definitely be taking BCAAs as an intra workout drink. They provide instant energy for when muscle glycogen stores are depleted.
These are just the basic supplements one can consider taking when starting their fitness and bodybuilding journey. It’s important, above all, to make sure you have proper nutrition and that you get plenty of rest. Listen to your body so you know what it needs and how to best address it. Consult with your doctor and health professionals to make sure you are clear to take any of the above mentioned supplements with no risk to your health.
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