The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar , unregulated industry in the USA. Crazy, right? With so many supplements and brands out there , how are you supposed to know what is worth taking and why? I’m going to give you Supplements 101 – the basics of what’s out there.
The supplements seem to go through fads..for a while , all you heard about was creatine..then protein powder was the best thing ever…then fat burners exploded…( and, so did people’s hearts..gotta watch some of those convenient store yellow jackets-anyone remember those?!! ?) The latest craze seems to be BCAAs- which stands for “Branched Chain Amino Acids”. Then there’s also the low sugar, low carb , low fat, sugar alcohol trends that weave their way in and out.
Let’s talk about the main ones .
BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids ) :
- They are essential amino acids that are required by the body. Normally found in protein foods. Supplement should contain 3 amino acids in a ratio of 2:1:1– : Leucine, Isoleucine, & Valine. Leucine is the most important one, but , still needs to be combined with the other 2 for optimal effect.
- Stimulates protein synthesis (building ) . When you do resistance training, micro-tears happen to the muscle that must be repaired. There must be sufficient protein / amino acids available for this to happen. For a muscle to grow (hypertrophy) , it requires a positive protein and energy (calorie) balance. The general thought is that BCAAs help this process by providing a quickly digested (liquid, already broken down) form of positive protein / amino acids available to begin repairing muscle immediately.
- It is also believed that the benefits of supplementing are seen over long-term usage, not necessarily upon each ingestion. Muscle growth is the holy grail of the fitness world, so if BCAAs can save even 0.0002 % of new growth, you better believe people are going to take it ? I personally have started using it in the last couple years. I have also honed in on my nutrition and macros greatly over the last few years , as well as increased my training intensity…sooo, who knows which factor actually caused muscle gains. It isn’t harmful to your body, so I thought it better to be safe than sorry. Especially during a dieting / caloric deficit…you don’t want your body to be in need of protein / amino acids and start using your muscle breakdown for energy.
- You can get all that your body needs from food sources, so , if you’re short on cash, I wouldn’t worry about not reaching your goals from lack of BCAA supplementation…as always, make sure you’re nutrition and training are consistent over time before worrying about the extra supplements.
- They should be fermented from a vegetarian / botanical source …some BCAAs are made more cheaply by using human or duck hair or feathers and extracting the aminos through heat , then adding lots of fillers.
- They most commonly come in a powdered form that you can mix into a drink. Some are flavored and unflavored. Some protein powders already contain BCAAs…check your labels!!
- There’s not necessarily a limit to how much you can take, but , it hasn’t yet been shown to make a difference after a certain point either. The usual dose is about 20g a day. Some people take 10g before and after a workout. Some people take 5g , 4x a day for a total of 20g. Some bodybuilders even take 50g a day regularly without problems.
- Has been around a LONG time..this means lots of research has been done on it! It is believed to help with muscle growth and strength over time. It helps to enhance your endurance , which means you could get some extra intensity in your workouts..which is believed to contribute to extra growth. Some people think it causes weight gain, which can most likely be contributed to water . Creatine causes extra hydration of muscles, and our muscles are somewhere around 70% water.
- It takes a while for creating to “kick-in” / saturate all of your muscles…some think up to 30 days even. Because of this, you will often see people do a “loading phase” of 10-20 grams for a week or so, then a regular “maintenance”dose of about 5g/ day.
Casein Protein :
- Casein and Whey are the 2 proteins in milk / dairy. Casein is the most abundant and the slower digesting of the 2. Not ideal for a pre or post workout shake because you need rapid absorption for the workout period. Most people use it before bed time because it’s been shown to increase the availability of amino acids (thus your body won’t be breaking down muscle for fuel) for up tp 7-8 hours.
- I actually like this Casein Protein the best: KAGED MUSCLE KASEIN ! I like all of the products from Kris Gethin’s line (called “Kaged Muscle” ) and they are what I regularly use. He has done extensive testing and research for these products. I’ve also found that they use the most natural ingredients for main-stream protein and supplements….
- …and they make the FLUFFIEST protein powder pancakes out of all the protein powders we have tried ? Just saying. LOL
CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) :
- It is an omega 6 fatty acid . These are fatty acids that are essential for your body function but must come from an outside source-food. CLA is advertised to promote fat loss and boost your metabolism. This is definitely controversial. Many people think that it’s better to just get fatty acids from the food you eat, as it’s more balanced and natural. The amount of CLA in supplements is significantly lower than what is in food. In conclusion, there are minimal studies showing effectiveness, so I personally wouldn’t waste my money when you can get significantly greater benefits from eating grass-fed meats .
- This is a VERY hot topic that I could go on about for quite a while. This is a huge money racket market also. Basically, 99% of people have no business taking these. Most of them don’t even work. The small group of people that I think they are ok / beneficial for are people at the end of a competition prep. These people are most often very experienced with training and nutrition , extremely exhausted from many weeks of rigorous training, and are attempting to get to ABNORMALLY low levels of body fat for a SHORT period of time. Fat burners are NOT a cure for your bad eating habits or lack of exercise. Period. They WILL not help you much if you dont get those things under control . For a while. I’m embarrassed to say , I did take a popular fat-burner called “adipex” way back in the day, when I weighed 110# and thought I was fat. ? I knew NOTHING about real nutrition or training. It was stupid and a waste of money. Since then, I have never taken any . You don’t have to have it. It is often a “crutch” or quick fix for a lack of knowledge or discipline. I’ve been able to have success with fat-loss and muscle-building without ever using these. Even during my most intense training and diet (competition prep) . (((( Although , I did live off of coffee for extreme sleep deprivation LOL))))
- it is the most common amino acid found in your muscles. Can help with repair and growth , especially with intense training during a deficit (lower calories / diet) . Its benefits are seen in the longer -term , like BCAAs. It promotes a positive nitrogen balance , which is required for muscle growth and repair and your immune system…aka ” recovery ” state of your body.
- dosage is about 10-15 mg a day . Check your protein powder or other supplements, because they often already contain some glutamine.
- a powder that you mix with water to boost energy and increase blood flow to your muscles before / during a workout session.
- most contain some form of stimulant, such as caffeine. There are non-stimulant ones.
- Can contain other helpful ingredients such as BCAAs, glutamine, or creatine.
- I’d like to say that pre-workout NUTRITION / what you eat before is the MOST important thing .
- I do take pre-workout pretty regularly…This one :PRE-KAGED Pre Workout Powder …… At this stage in my life, I most often give up sleep for my fitness. It is what it is. Shout-out to all the fit moms out there-you know the struggle. ??
Whey Protein :
- Most commonly used protein in protein powders.
- Very fast digesting, but short-lived.
- Best used pre or post workouts for muscle growth and repair.
- Usual dose is 20-30 mg per scoop for most commercially prepared products.
- IT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A HEALTHY DIET OR A MAGIC POTION FOR GETTING IN BETTER SHAPE!!!!!! Don’t be fooled.
- It CAN help you to reach protein goals if you are having a hard time getting all of your protein in for the day. It is also helpful for convenience , when you just cant get to your meals. If you are replacing several meals a day with protein shakes, you need to evaluate your planning and discipline.
These are the most common supplements that I see people talk about. Some of them can have benefits over time , BUT, in the grand scheme of things, they really aren’t necessary for most people. If you can’t afford them or have issues with them, don’t feel discouraged. People that are just trying to get healthier or lose weight will most likely have the least benefit from them. Athletes and people with years of experience , will have the most benefit. Nutrition > training > sleep > meal timing / frequency > supplements for overall health. For weight loss : calories > macronutrients > micronutrients > meal timing > supplements. So, really , don’t stress over supplements !!!
If you’re wondering what is the healthiest diet / nutrition plan , read HERE!!!
AND, lastly , ALWAYS ALWAYS question the motives behind WHO is promoting certain supplements .
Hope this helps! Feel free to message / email me with any questions you may have!!
If you are wondering where to even start , read HERE for the first step !!
Happy and Healthy Living Y’all !!
* This post contains affiliate links , which means that I may receive a commission on any links that you click. Having a healthy body and mind is my passion and I would never promote anything against this or anything that I don’t personally use. *