Supplements are a great way to help with muscle soreness, rebuilding muscle, and staying healthy while keeping a consistent exercise schedule. This article will cover the pros and cons associated with many of the main supplements that are out there on the market.
Covering some of the most common supplements is challenging. Much research is in this article to support the main points discussed to ensure that the information is tested and true. Many people are big fans of supplements like protein powders for post-workout recovery but there are many more supplements that can be of great use to those who exercise. This article is for someone advanced in training as well as one who is new to training. Supplements are a great way to increase strength, shorten recovery time and develop better health. Being conscious of what it is in a supplement increases your safety while using it.
Less Soreness – Glutamine
Muscle soreness is unavoidable when you are breaking down the body during exercise. Often times the soreness has a delayed onset and does not set in until 24-48 hours post-exercise. The amount of muscle soreness is something that can be altered. Glutamine is a supplement that will directly help with relieving muscle soreness. The International Society of Sports Nutrition has done much research showing the effects of glutamine and muscle soreness. Studies do prove that glutamine does help with peak force recovery and muscular soreness. Glutamine is an amino acid that helps the processes of reliving skeletal muscle soreness. Especially after those hard workouts, take glutamine post exercise. Importantly, taking glutamine before going to sleep will help the body recover from muscle soreness quicker.
Skeletal Muscle Rebuilding – BCAA’s, Protein
During different types of exercise, the body is breaking down, especially during the eccentric parts of the exercises. The body will require more skeletal muscle during this adaptation. For the general population, this will not make muscles huge but rather it will increase the strength of the muscles and possibly increase the size of the muscles. More cross-bridges will be created in the muscles between actin and myosin. The addition of these cross-bridges to the muscle belly is called hypertrophy.
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are the building blocks for skeletal muscle. Keeping the body supplied with BCAA’s will help the overall recovery process. BCAA’s are often not enough for what the body needs to rebuild all the muscles broken down from exercise. Additional protein should be added to the diet to also help the muscles heal quicker. The body uses many types of protein to rebuild skeletal muscle: soy protein, whey protein, isolates and more. Branched-chain amino acids will help these protein types rebuild.
More Reps – Creatine
Creatine is found in many types of meat, especially red meat. Creatine is also sold as an individual supplement. The reason behind taking creatine is for more repetitions. The creatine-phosphagen system is the first system the body will use for energy before it uses the other two systems. This system of energy is used during the first few seconds of explosive exercises and during the day to day tasks like standing up from a chair and pulling open a door. During a workout, the first few repetitions will use the creatine-phosphagen system. Having the creatine stores full in the body will help with those repetitions which could cause one to do more repetitions by the end of the exercise. Because the supplement is a monohydrate molecule, there will be water retention in the muscles. Some people have been known to add 10-15lbs of water weight due to the creatine supplement.
Healthier Joints – Fish Oil
Due to the increasing load of weight on the body and additional stress during exercise, the body will have to adapt to the stress. The muscles are able to recover quickly within a 48-72 hour window post-exercise usually. The joints are also stressed during exercise. The muscles move due to an axis which is always a joint of the body. The origin and insertion points of the muscles determine the joint axis and lever arms. Articular cartilage is the coating on most joints in the body that are stressed during exercise (synovial joints). Joints do not necessarily have direct blood flow to the cartilage, but a sack of encapsulating fluid called the bursa protects the joints. During exercise, the pressure gradients in the joints change allowing waste to leave the bursa as nutrients enter. As a result, the cartilage in the joints benefits from a healthy shifting of substances. Weight-bearing exercise can often cause more stress to the joints. Keeping synovial joints full of good nutrients will help the protection of the articular cartilage.
Keeping the joints lubricated with fish oil supplements can reduce joint inflammation and sustain the life of the cartilage in the joint. Many individuals with arthritis or arthritic predisposition take fish oil to sustain the cartilage that is still remaining. Taking the supplement during heavy weight training programs can help keep the body healthy. Arthritis.org posted “A 2010 meta-analysis found that fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in RA patients and reduced or eliminated NSAID use.” The article then went on to discuss a study from 2005 that used fish oil and olive oil to help against Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Motivation and Energy Boost – Pre-Workout
Going to the gym and exercising is not always easy or an exciting thing to do. Sometimes motivation levels decrease or seem nonexistent. It is difficult to be effective or efficient when one gets tired. Caffeine has been known to increase energy levels and affect performance. Pre-workout is a supplement that should be taken in cycles because of the stimulants that are in the supplement. Caffeine is not the only thing in pre-workout that allows for better performance. There are vasodilators in pre-workout that can help blood flow quickly to the muscles at a use and the stability muscles that do not always get great amounts of blood flow. Beta-alanine is an amino acid that will help sustain muscular endurance and is often found in pre-workout supplements. There are many other ingredients in pre-workout that may help with rebuilding muscle proteins, decreasing muscular fatigue, improving muscle-mind-connections for a short time. Some pre-workouts have creatine and BCAA’s already in the supplement.
Not regulated by the FDA
One of the main reasons that supplements are labeled “dietary supplements” is because they are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The FDA does not monitor any dietary supplements. That being said, there have been supplement brands known to use pointless chemicals as ingredients and not label them. The main issue is when a supplement says that it has 25 grams of protein but truly only has 18 grams. This is false advertising and is an outright lie to the customer. If a supplement is having zero effect on your training, the supplement may not be what you were intending it to be. Many other complications can come from anything that is not FDA approved. The main thing to focus on during these types of situations would be the brand and the amount of safety the brand has been known for.
Harmful chemicals like synthetic food dyes that are in most supplements
Things that are not natural to the body can be harmful to the body. Food dye is one of them. Food dye is not good for the body. It has been stated in California’s Proposition 65 as cancer causing and behavioral changing. A study by the FDA in 2004 called the “Southampton Study” stated that food dye and preservatives cause adverse behavioral changes in 3-year-old children. The FDA ran a test showing that ADHD was lessened in children with less food dye in their diet. The list of studies goes on from that outside of the FDA.
There are many other chemicals that can be harmful to the body in larger doses. Many of the chemicals in supplements are not in high amounts and are accurately measured BUT multiple doses per day can be harmful. Silicon dioxide is a chemical in most powders similar to pre-workout. It keeps most of the ingredients in the powder to not stick to each other. It has been known to cause lung disease if inhaled. There are many other chemicals that if not taken in the right amount or while hydrated, can cause health issues down the road. This idea leads to the next point.
Harder on your kidneys and liver
Pre-workout, creatine, BCAA’s, excessive protein, and dumping many chemicals into your bloodstream will make the kidneys and liver work harder. This is not always a bad thing but also not a necessary thing. Creatine breaks down to creatinine and is filtered through the kidneys to leave the body via urine. This break down of creatine happens naturally. The first energy system used during standing, jumping, or moving your weight the first few times will be the creatine-phosphagen system. Once the creatine molecule is used, the waste is creatinine.
This does not necessarily mean that it is harmful, but that the kidneys will be working harder due to this. Staying hydrated while on many of these supplements is very important. The breakdown of protein is a nitrate molecule that is seen as waste to the body. Excessive amounts of protein will require more hydration to filter all the nitrate molecules that are broken down from protein.
Types of Protein – Whey, Soy, Vega, Meat
Labeling can be misleading. There are many proteins that affect the body differently. There are many types of protein that can be placed in a protein powder. If the name of the protein is a “blend” it can often have Whey, Casein, and Soy proteins. This would be expected in a blend of protein. The misleading information comes into play when a supplement that is labeled as “whey protein” and has a mix of soy protein and whey protein. Again, be aware of even the ingredients in your supplements.
Soy protein is often broken down into a form of estrogen in the body and is debated throughout studies if it truly decreases male testosterone levels. Meat or bone protein is much more expensive but can be very beneficial. The human body will absorb over 90% of protein when it comes from another animal. Meat and bone protein powders will be absorbed almost completely. When it is a protein from a plant or vegetable, the body will only absorb 60-70% of the protein. This being the case, not only can it be more expensive as well, but you will also need a larger quantity to get the amount intended. Whey protein and casein protein are both from milk. They are the two main types of protein in milk. Whey is a faster absorbing protein whereas casein is slow digesting and will not be absorbed as quickly as whey will. Whey is the most cost-effective.
Know what you put into your body! The main take away you should have is that when it comes down to taking supplements it is critically important that you know what you are putting in your body. Use supplements that will help your training and recovery. Many chemicals and additional ingredients can be in supplements that you need to research. Look up the ingredients individually. Read research journals on the ingredients or supplements that you may be skeptical to take. There is plenty of research out there covering these supplements and many others. Be slow on your decision process. Use brands that are known for their safety. Safety should always be one of the first things to think of when picking up a supplement.