Supplements are the most talked about and over-hyped subject in fitness competitions. Proper food, training and bodywork will have far great positive effects on the physique than supplements. Unless you have your food, training and bodywork PERFECT, there is little need for performance enhancing supplements. However, support supplements should be used to compensate for the greater demand on nutrients that competition training and dieting will put on your body.
Standard Bodybuilding Supplements
There are a number of key supplements that most bodybuilder use. Most of the bodybuilding supplements available have some form of the following as the base ingredient. Many will have a blend of other herbs and compounds in addition to these core products.
You will find many sites that will tell you that supplementing with protein powder is the most essential of all bodybuilding supplements. While animal-based protein is essential, protein powder is not. It is not only highly overrated it can work against you in many ways.
Let’s start with why protein powder is beneficial:
- After training. Directly after you train, you need protein fast! A steak or chick breast is going to take too long to digest. It may also not be practical to have a slab of meat with you at the gym. This is the time you will drink a very high-quality Hydrolized protein. It is fast acting and absorbed quickly. Cheap Costco protein isn’t going to cut it. It will not absorb fast enough as well as a number of other issues described below.
- When you simply cannot eat a real meal. When you are hungry you become catabolic. This happens when you no longer have amino acids to feed your muscles. Protein is made up of amino acids. To put it simply, your muscles are made of protein, so your body breaks itself down to feed itself.
The downside of protein powder:
- It is not as good as real food. Ask any IFBB pro bodybuilder if they REALLY use protein powder. The answer will be almost never. Real food is absorbed slower which releases protein over time constantly feed your muscles.
- You can’t absorb all of it. Half the processing of the protein is done for you at a factory. With little work to do, your body passes it right through. You might use half the protein powder and then be well on your way to catabolic in an hour or so.
- Poor Quality Proteins. Ever been backstage at a bodybuilding show or walked around a fitness expo? If so, you are sure to have been blasted or crop dusted with protein farts. This happens for many reasons. As mentioned much of it is not absorbed and just passing right on through. It can be lactose issues as well. One of the biggest issues is cellulose gum. This is essentially a thickening agent used in all kinds of food products. Many diet and low-fat products will use food additives like cellulose gum to give the food a thicker and creamier consistency, making you feel more full. WHAT IS IT? It is processed wood pulp, like sawdust. You can’t digest it and it will pass through but not before bloating you like a beached whale. Its VERY cheap so some manufacturers mix it in with the protein powder. So you just dropped $80 on a 5-pound jug of protein that is actually 2.5 pounds of sawdust.
The most popular of all supplement is the fat burner. Americans spend $2.1 billion on them! There are many ways to burn fat and a lot of different supplements that can do it.
Thermogenic means tending to produce heat, and the term is commonly applied to drugs which increase heat through metabolic stimulation, or to microorganisms which create heat within organic waste. Remember that a calorie is a unit of heat. Caffeine, and 1-3 Dimethylamylamine are commonly used in almost every thermogenic. These types of fat burners will give you energy but may also make you feels tired or effect your sleep.
Conjugated Lincoleic Acid (CLA) reduces body fat by increasing basal metabolic rates. In other words, it helps the body convert food more efficiently into energy. It is also report that CLA can increase muscle strength and endurance. In addition to fat loss, it can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.
Many people who are sensitive to thermongenics prefer CLA given it has no side effects and can even be taken before sleep.
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This has been around since 1993 and is one of the most popular and most effective bodybuilding supplements. When creatine was first introduced, it was touted as a muscle builder because it forced water into the muscle cells causing them to grow bigger (super-hydration).
Economically speaking, you can buy a basic creatine powder, get as much as 200 servings for not much money and have a great product at little cost that will last you quite a while. It is recommended to load up on it for 4-5 days – that’s 4-5 servings a day. Take in between meals, mix with 6 ounces of fruit juice.
After this loading phase, take it once or twice a day. Take one serving before your workouts to help with energy while training. There is mixed info out there about cycling Creatine (staying on it for 6-8 weeks then going off for 4-8 weeks) but if you cycle it, you allow your body to “de-adjust” to it and you see better results from it when you go back on it again.
As far as the loading phase, there are other Creatine products out there that do not require any loading at all. But most do, yet you have options as far as buying straight Creatine or something that has extra ingredients to help with the absorption (like Cell-tech).
Nitric Oxide (NO)
Nitric Oxide is a relatively new product compared to other bodybuilding supplements. It’s widely known now how well this works – it enhances the pump, enhances muscle size and strength, increases nutrient uptake, and can increase the effectiveness of creatine and growth hormone.
Nitric Oxide is actually just Arginine, also known as L-arginine, is involved in a number of different functions in the body. They include:
- Wound healing
- Helping the kidneys remove waste products from the body
- Maintaining immune and hormone function
- Dilates and relaxes the arteries (vascularity and pump)
It’s the real deal and should be part of every bodybuilder’s regimen. Knowing that it is just Arginine, shop around a bit and compare prices for NO2 and Arginine. You’ll probably find you save a fair amount of money with the ladder.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are three amino acids with similar structures that beneficially influence the muscles. They can be found in any food containing protein, such as eggs or meat.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Of these, nine are considered essential. When a substance is said to be essential for the body it means without it, you will die. Essential amino acids, therefore are ones we cannot survive without. Likewise essential fatty acids are necessary for us to thrive.
Of the essential amino acids, three account for as much as 33% of muscle tissue – leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
Researchers found significant increases in testosterone levels in BCAA supplemented trainees following resistance training. These studies concluded that short-term BCAA supplementation may produce a net anabolic hormonal profile change – precisely what you’re after if you lift weights.
The findings of the study concluded that:
Athletes’ nutrient intake, which periodically increases amino acid intake to reflect the increased need for recovery during periods of over reaching, may increase subsequent competitive performance while decreasing the risk of injury or illness.
BCAAs are also a real deal product. They will help maintain and grow muscle. They are absolutely essential when dieting or performing any strenuous activity such as running or biking to avoid loss of muscle.
Performance Enhancing Drugs
There are many types of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Some healthy and others very dangerous. Many are legal while others have serious legal consequences. Explained on the following page are examples of different supplements and steroid cycles. It is written not to condone the use of illicit drugs but to help educate on the dangers and to help avoid the abuse and misuse of recreational users. This may just save you a lot of complications in the future.