March 29, 2017 | WHIMNMar 2017
The A to Z of fitness pills.
These days, awesome fitness plans and workouts are available at your fingertips, making it get easier for you to just get on with it. But when it comes to nutrition, things become a bit confusing.
With hundreds of supplements being touted as ‘the next big thing’ in fitness, it’s easy to feel intimidated. How do you know if you need protein after a workout? And should you be taking muscle-building supplements if you want to get ‘toned’? We consulted a Naturopath, who said the most important thing is recovery. If you’re muscles aren’t recovering, you may find yourself hitting a wall and unable to perform at your best.
To help you separate fact from fiction, we’ve got the lowdown on the most common supplements for fitness, and whether you really need them.
A – Amino acids
You’ve probably heard of BCAA, which stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids. In a nutshell, if you’re doing any form of strength training, this could actually be worth considering- particularly if you’re a vegetarian/vegan, as amino acids are only found in animal proteins and are essential for building lean muscle . BCAA maximises muscle recovery (win!), preventing muscle soreness, and helps to both build lean muscle and create an anabolic environment (in English, that means encouraging the body to burn fat).
B- Vitamin B
Vitamin B is often touted as being an amazing energy booster, particularly for athletes. Realistically, the jury is sort of out on this one. Unless you’re proven to be deficient in any form of Vitamin B, you don’t need to worry about supplementing. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you should make Vitamin B12 a necessity, as it is only found in animal proteins and a deficiency can cause extreme fatigue, amongst other health concerns.
This is one of the most popular supplements in the muscle-building world, as it’s been shown to increase muscle power and growth. Do you need it? Well, if you’re looking to just keep fit and healthy, perhaps not. However, if you’re dedicated to looking like a Victoria’s Secret model, and you’re exercising to exhaustion on a daily basis, it could be worth considering for your recovery.
D – Vitamin D
Most Australians are Vitamin D deficient. How does Vitamin D relate to fitness? You need Vitamin D for strong bones, and you obviously need a decent set of bones to be able to push your body. You can consider supplementing, or you can try and spend twenty minutes in the sun per day, to reach your recommended daily intake.
E – Electrolytes
Many of us reach for an electrolyte drink after a big, sweaty workout sesh, feeling as if we’ve earnt it (or as if our bodies will shrivel to a crisp without instant hydration). However, the reality is that unless you’re punishing your body every day with a half marathon, you don’t really need them. Electrolytes help rehydrate after strenuous exercise, when you’re likely to be depleted and severely dehydrated. A 30 minute to 1 hour workout doesn’t really cut it, and you’ll just be adding extra sugars to your diet.
F – Fish Oil
Many fitness enthusiasts will tell you that Fish Oil is a must, as omega-3’s have a multitude of brain, heart and overall health benefits. Interestingly, many fit folk believe fish oil can assist in balancing insulin in the body, assisting in reducing belly fat. While it’s not a ‘cure-all’, unless you’re eating 2-3 serves of fish per week, considering a EPA/DHA Fish Oil supplement can have benefits.
G- Green Lipped Mussel
This little powerhouse does have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for people putting their body under stress (through physical exertion). However, unless you’re suffering mild-moderate osteoarthritis (which you’re most likely not), it isn’t a necessity at this point in your life.
Another one making the rounds in fitness circle, this is said to rebalance your stomach acids, helping you to more effectively digest and detox. Symptoms of unbalanced stomach acid (often caused by poor diet) include bloating, gas and cramping, but you should consult a healthcare practitioner for considering this one.
I – Iron
An important one, particularly for women who are experiencing heavy menstrual periods. If you’re feeling consistently tired and you’re not eating a lot of leafy greens and animal proteins, then you may want to consider an iron supplement, to both boost your energy levels and feed your muscles.
Okay, juice isn’t really a supplement, but it is big in the health world. The problem is, juicing strips the fibre away from fruit, leaving you often absorbing pure sugar. Avoid fruit-filled juices and steer towards vegetable juices so that you’re at least absorbing the benefits and not a sugar-bomb.
K – Krill Oil
The argument for krill oil is that it is more easily absorbed by the body compared to traditional fish oil, and the krill often comes from less contaminated waters. It carries the same excellent benefits for insulin balance as regular old fish oil, so the choice comes down to you.
L – L- carnitine
This one is more a hard-core supplement for those looking to build their lean muscle mass. As an amino acid, it will aid recovery and encourage an anabolic effect in the body (for fat burning). Again, if you’re looking to be a bikini model, it could be worth considering, but you’re best to get the advice of a professional. If you’re an everyday fitness enthusiast, it may not be necessary.
Magnesium may sound too good to be true, but it has huge benefits for physically active folk. What many people don’t realise is that 2 out of 3 Australians are magnesium deficient, which can hugely drain our energy levels. Magnesium is also a wonder-supplement for relieving muscle tension and soreness, and for decreasing stress. People who suffer from muscle pain or insomnia are often advised to consider magnesium, and if you’re finding your body struggling to recover, it could be for you. If an oral supplement doesn’t agree with you, look for a magnesium cream, which can be applied topically for the same results!
N – Nicotinamide
This is a form of Vitamin B that is easier on the stomach than Niacin, the more common form of Vitamin B. You should consider this one if you exercise outdoors frequently, as recent studies have shown that Nicotinamide actually assists in DNA repair after sun damage!
O – Olive leaf extract
Often touted as an excellent cold and flu defence, this is a great inflammation fighter. It may not be a necessity for achieving your fitness goals, but if colds and flu often get in the way of your fitness routine, this could be your new secret weapon.
P – Probiotics
Fermented foods are all the rage, and it’s no wonder why: they’re rich in probiotics, good bacteria that contribute to good gut health. Many believe the gut is the key to numerous health concerns, including abdominal fat, brain health and immune conditions. Getting your gut in balance could be the key to many of you tummy woes, including bloating. If you aren’t eating fermented foods at every meal, the next step could be a probiotic supplement. Always aim for at least 10 strains, to ensure your gut is getting the variety it needs.
Another popular buzzword, Resveratrol comes from the skin of red grapes, and is thought to have powerful anti-oxidant properties. Unless you’re worried about oxidative stress on your heart, it isn’t likely to boost your athletic potential.
S- Slippery Elm
This won’t boost your fitness regime per-se, but it’s a grainless fibre that can help your digestive tract, if you’re eating a lot of protein and er, not enough fibre, if you know what we mean. A tablespoon in a glass of water can help get things moving if you’re feeling a bit blocked.
Another one that isn’t necessarily for fitness, but great for any health-conscious folk, Turmeric is a proven anti-inflammatory that can benefit you if you suffer from inflammatory conditions, such as thyroid conditions. It’s best to ask your doctor about supplementing this one, but in the meantime, you can keep eating turmeric-filled curries!
If you’re consistently feeling tired and finding it hard to bounce back from exercise, Ubiquinol needs to be your new buzzword. Ubiquinol is a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body responsible for powering our cells which naturally depletes as we age, with this process being sped up if we’re physically active or stressed. It not only helps maintain energy levels, but also reduces inflammation in the muscles after exercise to help you bounce back faster. It also supports healthy heart function- an all-rounder, basically!
V – Vitamin Complex
People are divided when it comes to the need for a multi-vitamin complex. Realistically, you should be getting the essential vitamins you need from your diet, so a general multi-vitamin may not be necessary. However, if you are attempting to lose weight and thus restricting calories, supplementing with a multi-vitamin for women during this time could help fill any gaps in your nutrition.
W – Whey Protein
Protein- do you need it after you work out? Not necessarily. It’s good to give your muscles a boost of protein after exercise, to help them repair and recover. It doesn’t always need to be in the form of a protein powder though. Protein powder makes a great on the go snack if you’re struggling to reach your protein intake for the day, and for those smashing out 1 hour sessions in the gym, it can have huge benefits. But if you’re a 30-minute a day kinda gal, it probably isn’t vital.
Z – Zinc
Zinc is fantastic if you’re prone to colds and flu that often set you back and leaving you feel drained. It also encourages protein development. It’s not an essential, and can be found in a multitude of meats and seeds, but if you’re finding your immune system constantly run down, this could be a good one to add to your arsenal.