Supplements: What’s Best For Your Goals
To increase our performance in the gym and gain muscle, our body has to push to places it has never been pushed before. When we continue to push our bodies, the intensity of our workouts increases and our bodies begin to change. If we do not push our bodies outside their comfort zones, we will see no change. To support the increase in demand from our bodies due to energy exertion and muscle growth, we must ensure we are eating the right foods and the right supplements to aid recovery. To understand what supplements you should take, it’s important to identify your fitness goals and choose the right ones depending on that.
Protein is essential for developing and growing muscles, a process is known as protein synthesis. When we workout, our muscle fibres are broken down and protein aids in repairing these tears and helping us recover. Whey protein is removed from milk during an extraction process due to its high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s). It has been proven to increase performance with athletes including building muscle and losing fat. The main amino acid for protein synthesis is leucine. This is important to check when choosing the best protein powder, as many companies bulk out their products with less effective amino acids to make them cheaper. If possible, choose a protein that’s in isolate form, which is purer than other forms. The fact that whey protein is rapidly absorbed by the body means it is a great post-workout supplement. When looking to lose weight, its best to look for protein powders including Carnitine, a naturally occurring compound that aids the breakdown of fatty acids.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are amino acids that the body cannot make themselves, they have to be consumed through diet. They are naturally found in high protein foods, typically those derived from animals some plant-based alternatives. BCAA’s support the muscle-building process (protein synthesis) and have also been shown to reduce muscle soreness. This makes BCAA’s a great supplement if you’re looking to grow muscle. Aside from food, they can be supplemented in a powder form or capsules. These forms of BCAA’s require minimal digestion allowing the body absorbs them quickly into the bloodstream.
The most studied form of creatine is creatine monohydrate. It is the most beneficial form that allows the body to push through more reps during a workout thus boosting power output. Taking this supplement helps to increase the body’s immediate energy source known as ATP. This enables the body to train at a higher intensity for longer periods. Additionally, it also increases cellular swelling. This is where the muscles hold more water which can aid in muscle growth. The positive effects of Creatine concerning increasing size, strength, and performance are undisputable.
HMB (short for β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate) is produced when the amino acid Leucine metabolises within the body. HMB helps to build muscle tissue by supporting protein synthesis. When compared to leucine, HMB is found to be more powerful at reducing the rate of the breakdown of muscle tissue. However, it is found to be less effective at stimulating muscle growth. This means that HMB is marketed as an anti-catabolic agent (purposed to reduce the rate of muscle breakdown) rather than an anabolic agent (purposed to increase muscle mass).
ZMA is comprised of Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6. This supplement is found to help increase normal hormone levels, muscle strength, encourage better sleep, assist the immune system, and aid recovery. When we increase training intensity, the body including the central nervous system (CNS) finds itself under a lot of stress. Taking ZMA as a supplement alongside your training can aid in assisting recovery and increase sleep quality. Sleep is an essential process for the body to fully recover and CNS repair.
Following the 5 supplements listed above, it is necessary when considering supplements that the role of carbohydrates isn’t overlooked. It is often theorised that when fast carbohydrates are consumed post-workout, they can positively impact the body. This is because they influence the transportation of nutrients around the body and to the muscles.
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By Ella Orrock