Supplement Reviews and Recommendations
Supplements are great thing - they come in various forms and have various purposes. Supplements help a trainee to boost energy levels, to increase protein and energy intake, to decrease energy intake, to increase energy expenditure, to boost immune system, increase strength and stamina, to ... And this statement has been verified countless times in real life.
If you listen to supplement ads, their manufacturers promise even much more. But, whatever you here, don't forget that there are no miracle supplements and that there are no shortcuts in sports, at least not legal ones (but that is another story).
Supplements can find a place in daily nutrition and routine of every person, regardless if it is just a recreational or pro-level athlete.
But in the end, real food is the real food and supplements are just that - supplements.
For example, many novice trainees focus their attention on whey proteins and they spend much time and energy debating which whey protein is the best and why. If trainee works out 4 times per week and eat at least 5 meals per day, that would be 4 Post Workout Meal (PWM) shakes based on whey and at least 35 normal meals.
Question - what is more important, those 4 shakes or those (at least) 35 meals each week?
Again, supplements are great, but in the end, it is the food that runs the show ...
Supplements come in the form of pills, tablets, powders, liquids etc. Supplements in powdered form are usually the cheapest one and larger packages are usually cheaper per gram of supplement.
Note: some supplements increase blood pressure, heart rate, energy levels, perspiration and similar. Before taking any supplement, it is necessary to consult yourself with your doctor or physician. This is not just another 'bla, bla' warning or disclaimer - if you do have any issues with your heart, for example, single energy booster (dieting pill, or preworkout energy booster) can send you meet your Maker - seriously!!! Better safe than sorry.
Types of supplements are given in the following list:
BCAA, EAA, Leucine and Other Amino Acids Supplements
Branched Chain Amino Acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine), Essential Amino Acids, pure leucine and other amino acids supplements increase daily intake of certain amino acids and have various effects on the body. BCAAs and EAAs, especially leucine, are important for keeping the body in anabolic state, help reduce fatigue, increase recovery rate, help repair the tissues after workouts etc. BCAAs and EAAs are present in everyday food, especially in the meat, fish, cheese, milk, eggs and similar foods, but when supplemented, especially on the diet, they have great effect on the preserving the muscle tissue and even building a new one.
These supplements are rather expensive, especially in the tablet form. Powdered BCAAs, EAAs, leucine, glutamine and similar supplements are often added to PWM shakes - and that would be our recommendation. If you are on a diet, focus on normal, real food and not on the supplements.
Note on Leucine - Leucine is an essential amino acid, member of BCAA group of amino acids. In last few years, there is great hype about its benefits and how important it is - it goes so much that 'old' BCAA supplements containing isoleucine, leucine and valine in 1:2:1 ratio are being replaced with supplements having 1:4:1 or 1:8:1 ratio, and with supplements containing only leucine. I am not disputing leucine importance, I just want to emphasize that isoleucine and valine are important, too. So, if you aim to take 10g of leucine, why not take 5g of isoleucine and 5g of valine, too? After all, they are also BCAAs/EFAs.
Read more about BCAAs.
Carbohydrate supplements are source of fast digesting carbohydrates and are mostly consumed in Post Workout Meal (PWM) shakes with whey protein. Sometimes, they are consumed during prolonged athletic events to replenish spent glycogen and increase energy levels in general.
Personally, for PWMs I use cheap glucose and I don't worry too much about carb supplements. Occasionally, but just occasionally (every few years), I take Labrada Power Carb - it is far from being just an expensive sugar, but also worth buying only during periods of really intensive workouts, when peeking performance for a specific athletic event.
Note: Weight Gainers are special type of supplements, designed to increase daily calorie intake for people having issues with packing on weight - ectomorphs. Personally, weight gainers ARE expensive sugars, but that is just me ...
Read more about Carbohydrate Supplements.
Creatine supplements come in the form of pills and powders. Creatine monohydrate is taken constantly every day, preferably in the PWM or before breakfast on empty stomach. Creatine monohydrate in liquid rapidly transforms itself in useless creatinine, so fast digestion is required - hence taking it with PWM shake or on empty stomach.
To avoid issues with creatine monohydrate, creatine is bind with other compounds that protect it and prevent creatinine formation - Creatine Ethyl Ester, Creatine Ethyl Ester Hydrochloride or similar products on the market.
Creatine increase stamina, strength and endurance just few days after taking - been there, doing that. When taking creatine and other supplements, be sure to drink plenty of water, so that any toxins and similar compounds are flushed away through the kidneys. And be sure that your pee is fully transparent - if it is yellow, you are not drinking enough water.
Again, before taking any supplement, be sure to check your health at your doctor's office, especially kidneys, liver, heart, do some blood tests etc.
Dieting pills work in several ways to help one reduce body weight and lose unwanted fat. Energy pills provide additional energy and negate the need for more food. Appetite suppressor pills contain chemicals that, at least in theory, signal the brain that we are not hungry and that there are no need to consume food. Carbs and fats blockers contain compounds that bind to the carbs and fats in stomach and prevent their absorption - this way, they also block complex carbs, healthy fats and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Most modern dieting pills that actually work combine at least two of these three methods in one supplement.
Do dieting pills work? Yes, they do, but only as part of good diet combined with regular exercises and enough rest.
Many people believe that just taking dieting pills is enough to melt away years of accumulated fats - that is just waste of money.
For short, there is no workout and no dieting pill which can outrun bad nutrition.
Read more about Dieting Pills.
Glutamine and Glutamine Supplementation
Glutamine is one of the most contradictory stories in sport supplementation and nutrition. Supplement companies are trying to convince potential buyers that glutamin supplementation in general has numeral benefits, but many studies are showing something else ...
First thing first - scientific studies are one thing, real life is another thing. How come?! Well, scientific studies must be done as 'double blind' test on enough large number of people that are going to be disciplined in their daily activities during the study.
Double blind test means that test subject (person taking glutamin or placebo) nor tester know who is taking glutamin and who is taking placebo. And how large number of test subjects are going to be disciplined for longer period of time, while some supplement company is financing few scientists and their studies? And how many scientists are going to say to the companies that are financing them that their supplement is worthless?
Read more about Glutamine.
Joint Support Supplements
Joint support supplements help and stimulate formation and repair of damaged cartilage and other tissues found in the joints. They often contain glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), gelatin/collagen, calcium, magnesium, vitamin c, vitamin b complex, zinc, omega-3 and other vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and/or compounds that help joints health.
Joint support supplements can be found in the form of pills or powders. Pills are often more convenient, but powders contain more active ingredients per serving and are generally cheaper.
Note: Joint support supplements require weeks, if not months to show measurable effect on problematic joints, so give them time.
Also, they are not pain killers! :) Read more about Joint Support Supplements.
Meal Replacement Supplements
Meal replacement supplements come in the form of powders, liquids/drinks or protein and energy bars. Meal Replacement Protein (MRP) powders are most common - put a serving or two of your favorite powder in dry shaker and when you have need for a tasty meal, just add water, shake it and drink it. Meal replacement Ready-to-Drink (RTD) drinks are even simpler - just shake them little bit and drink. Protein and energy bars are sometimes just an expensive candy bar, but there are brands that have excellent, tasty and nutritious protein bars, with the content that justifies the price.
Cheaper MRPs are based on various whey proteins, with just a traces of casein and egg albumin proteins. Such MRPs are digested rather quickly. MRPs with higher content of casein and egg albumin, or pure casein or pure egg albumin protein powders cost more, but their digestion lasts for hours and feed the body with constant stream of nutrients.
Pure casein protein powders are suitable for daily shakes and especially for bedtime protein shakes.
Read more about Meal Replacement Supplements.
Omega-3, EFA, CLA and Other Healthy Fats Supplements
Human body requires around one third of saturated fats, one third of monounsaturated fats and one third of polyunsaturated fats. Foods grown commercially often lacks healthy fats or they come in bad ratios. In order to increase healthy fats intake, one should, first of all, change diet and focus on healthy fat sources like fish oils, fatty fish, olive oils, various nuts, organic eggs and similar.
If you find out that even after changing your diet, your healthy fats intake is not good and that your cholesterol HDL and LDL ratio is bad, then consider taking these supplements. Most common healthy fats supplements are Omega-3 supplements, with EFA and CLA supplements being right behind.
Pre-Workout Energy Boosters
Pre-workout energy boosters increase energy levels during workouts. They are usually consumed some 15-30 minutes before workouts. They usually contain caffeine, taurine, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, beta-alanine, arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, some simple sugars and similar.
While such supplements actually increase energy levels and give extra strength and endurance, they also increase heart rate, blood pressure and have other effects on human body. If you are not perfectly healthy, Pre-Workout Energy Boosters are one more type of sport supplements that can help you meet your Maker before it is time ...
Read more about Pre-Workout Energy Boosters.
Protein and Energy Bars
Protein and energy bars are meal replacement supplements in the form of food bars of various sizes and content. They range from 30g to 100g or even more, often having between 100 kcal and whopping 500kcal (or even more).
Their protein content range from just few percent to 50 or so percent. The larger the protein content, the higher the price. They are very convenient meal replacements - just unwrap the bar and eat it. Due to sugar alcohol content, they are moist, sweet and not fully loaded with sugars. However, sugar alcohols, if consumed in larger amounts can cause ... stomach issues :)
If you prefer protein bars as meal replacements, choose ones with large protein content and with main protein source other than whey protein - whey protein is good thing, but it simply digest too quickly.
'Energy bars' is often just a fancy name for candy bars with low amounts of protein. But, if you are endurance athlete looking for quick energy booster during workouts and athletic events, an energy bar every hour (depending on the discipline, your preferences and similar) can significantly improve the performances.
Read more about Protein and Energy Bars.
Vegan Protein Supplements
Vegan protein supplements are based on plant protein, mostly from pea, rice, wheat, hemp, soy and similar plants. They are hypo-allergic, often NON GMO, often contain no gluten or other compounds that can cause stomach issues or allergies. But, they usually cost more than animal based protein powders and their Protein Biological Value (Protein BV - value which measures proportion of absorbed protein from food which body can incorporate into the organism's proteins) and Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS - method of measuring protein quality based on human amino acid requirements - a PDCAAS of 1.00 or 100% is good quality) is not so good.
For example, whey protein isolate has protein BV of 159 and PDCAAS score of 1, eggs have protein BV of 100 and PDCAAS score of 1, while pea protein has protein BV of 65 and PDCAAS of 0.69, while wheat protein has BV of 54 and PDCAAS score of only 0.42.
Note to all beef eaters out there: beef is NOT a complete protein, not even grass fed beef - it lacks Tryptophan (type of amino acid).
Read more about Vegan Protein Supplements.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Multivitamin and mineral supplements help increase daily intake of vitamins and minerals, and meet daily RDA values, which sometimes can be hard.
If you have no time to cook and eat proper meals, even when such meals are part of planned and organized nutrition, then consuming enough vitamins and minerals can be troublesome.
Here is where good multimineral and multivitamin supplements can come handy - just take a pill or two of a good multivitamin a day (as recommended by manufacturer) and you are ready to go.
But, what do you prefer, pills and powders or nice, tasty food? :)
Read more about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.
Whey Protein Supplements
Whey protein comes mostly in the form of powders. Its main purpose is making Post Workout Meal (PWM) shakes, where it is usually combined with creatine, glutamine, C vitamin, BCAAs, EAAs, fast carbs etc. to make liquid meal that is consumed right after workouts and digested within one hour of consumption. PWM shake increases level of nutrients in blood stream rapidly, leading to insulin spike, which additionally 'force' nutrients into the cells. This helps regeneration and recovery after hard workouts and shortens the time required for body to get prepared for new activities.
Also, PWM shakes lead to increased strength, stamina and muscle mass - just don't expect to gain 10 pounds of muscles by drinking 5 pounds of whey protein :)
Note to the ladies - don't be afraid to workout and drink whey - you will not grow bulky muscles 'over night' or anything similar. But, you will get nice, firmly toned body and will feel fantastic :)
Whey protein comes in the form of whey concentrate, isolate, hydrolysate, whey peptides and their blend. To avoid any issues with digestion, many whey supplements include digestive enzymes, so even lactose intolerant people can use them safely - however, if you are lactose intolerant, avoid whey concentrate and focus on, at least whey isolates, reinforced with digestive enzymes.
If you are vegan - sorry to say, but whey is made from milk and you can't use it. However, many vegan protein products are available on the market, enabling vegans to increase their protein intake easily and efficiently, boosting their energy, stamina and muscle mass.
If you are lacto-ovo vegetarian (one that can eat milk and egg products), then you can consume whey as you like.
Read more about Whey Protein Supplements.
List of supplements is quite long, however, focus on the most important ones and you will do just fine.
Remember - real food is the real food! :)