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Sports nutrition

This is a big topic to cover but I am going to try anyway since there is so much confusion and misunderstanding about sports nutritional supplements; what to take, how much to take and even when to take them. Most importantly, nothing beats a sound "whole food-based" nutritional plan – supplements are not magic pills that will make everything better if you eat crappy! Supplements are just that, they "SUPPLEMENT" and help fill in the little gaps of a nutrition program. That being said, I hope this brief article clears the air for most, if not all of you once and for all.

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a certified dietician or nutritionist. I am a health conscious person, who love sports, believe in living a healthy life style, often debate with nutritionists and doctors to gain knowledge and read a lot to keep myself updated. I have also done independent nutritional research and have programmed my own competitive nutrition for a successful stay fit and healthy lifestyle. If this still does not convince you that I may know what I am talking about... then slowly put this article down, step away from your computer and go buy a reputable fitness magazine or book about this topic. But whatever you decide to do, I encourage you to do your own research, educate yourself on the different types of supplements on the market and then make good choices based on your needs and goals. This article is intended to offer a quick snap shot of the most popular nutritional supplements used today and a little insight into what and why I take what I take.

The Important Seven
Here is a list of the top nutritional supplements that a good, well rounded body building, fitness, and figure plan should never be without:

1) WATER (stop mumbling about this one already!)
2) Protein Powder
3) Multi-Mineral/Multi-Vitamin
4) Omega-3 EFA
5) Creatine
6) Glutamine
7) BCAA or better still EAA

If you have heard this once you have heard this a thousand times; water is important for many reasons, least of which is to stay hydrated.

For anyone involved in a performance or physique sport; the more water that is moved inside a muscle, the better that muscle will function and the greater it’s strength and size. Water helps clear out toxins, it helps in protein synthesis and fat metabolism, it reduces fluid retention, helps keep you regular, helps supplements work better and it helps regulate salt imbalances. Do you need another reason to get more water? Ok, so it helps plump your skin, makes your hair and nails grow and helps keep your face clear of blemishes. 

Amount suggested: Athletes should consume one to two gallons throughout the day and at least 8 oz. every 20 minutes during training.

Price: Water is free, unless you like to buy the fancy bottled form.

What I do: Off season I consume one gallon or more a day, on season it goes up to two gallons a day.

Protein Powders:
Protein (amino acids) provides the building blocks for tissue, hormones, and enzymes and accounts for about 15% of the body’s composition. It is vital for life but you can get too much of a good thing. Anything not utilized by the body, will be stored as muscle glycogen or as FAT. There are both essential (those that cannot be produced in the body) and non-essential amino acids (those that can be produced in the body). Protein not only helps build up muscle (protein synthesis) once it is broken down through intense training but it also increases satiety (you feel fuller, longer) and increases thermogenesis, (the body uses lots of caloric energy to metabolize protein and to create heat). There are three main types of protein powders good for both on and off-season supplementation: whey isolate, soy isolate, and a casein blend.

Whey Isolate is important because it gives you the quick absorption of protein without the bloating caused by whey concentrates. It is a dairy byproduct used as fertilizer and as an ingredient in many other foods. This type is best ingested at 20 grams prior to training and 30-40 grams after training. *If you are on a budget and can only afford one protein powder, whey isolate protein is your best bet. 

Soy Isolate is an excellent medium-release protein, which makes it great for taking mid-day or any time. 

Casein Protein or Micellar Caseinate is a good night time protein due to its slow absorption rate. 

Amount suggested: For maintaining muscle, it is important to consume at least .75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight from both whole food and protein powder supplements. BUT if you want to increase muscle mass, ingesting 1.5 to 2 grams of protein has been successful. Protein powder is a good filler supplement for pre and post workouts as well as prior to bed. A nice night cap as it were. 

Price: The price of whey has soared to record highs recently as global demand has increased and supplies have tightened. That being said, it is prudent to search around the good discount supplement stores and online supplement providers for the best buy. I purchase the bulk 5 lb containers, per serving, it is the best price! 

What I do: I love the Activlab Whey Protein 80 Powder - bitter chocolate flavor. No, they do not sponsor me, but I am open to discussing it if anyone from Regis is reading this.

Taking a good bioavailable (meaning the body is able to use it) multi-mineral/multi-vitamin is a smart choice to make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals especially for body builders, fitness and figure competitors and any other athlete who expends a large amount of physical energy training and competing. Extra B-complex, an antioxidant formula (vitamins C, A, and E), and extra calcium (especially for women) may also be helpful. We get many vitamins and minerals we need from our diets but we can add supplements when we don’t get enough vitamins and minerals. Again even a good multivitamin is not a quick fix for an unhealthy diet. The fact is that there are lots of fiber, bioflavonoids and other phyto-chemicals that we get from fruits and vegetables, so eat a balanced diet as often as you can.

Vitamins are placed in two categories, water-soluble and fat-soluble based on whether or not the vitamins can dissolve in water. Water-soluble vitamins include the B complex of vitamins and vitamin C and they are NOT stored in the body so they need to be ingested regularly. Fat-soluble vitamins do get absorbed and can be stored in the body’s adipose tissue. If taken in mega, mega doses and not utilized, the fat soluble vitamins can become toxic to the body. It is best to follow the recommended dosage on all bottles. Vitamins D, E, K, and A are considered fat soluble vitamins. 

Here is a quick list of vitamins and minerals: Folic Acid, Niacin (B-3), Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Chloride, Chromium, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, and Zinc. 

Amount suggested: Please follow the dosage on container/bottle and ingest in the morning and throughout the day as needed. 

Price: This varies from brand to brand. Make sure to buy a reputable brand though, not just the one on the closest shelf at the grocery store. Do some research here, paying a bit more for a product that your body can actually use is more of a value then paying less but then ending up dropping out “bed pan bullets” (look it up if you do not get the reference). 

What I do: I use the TOP 10 multivitamins from Activlab and no, once again, no they do not sponsor me at all. I also take a dose of B-complex (mix of the B vitamins) and Vitamin C. My diet is some what healthy since I am a vegetarian, but not always balanced. 

Omega-3s (EPA & DHA) & Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
Gotta have them! Good fats; mono and polyunsaturated, Omega 3, 6 and 9 and other essential fatty acids help regulate bodily processes such as heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood pressure, blood clotting, nervous system activity and digestion. They also help with our energy and satiety levels. Without good fats we could enjoy one or all of the following: depression, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, fatigue, dry, itchy skin, brittle hair and nails, the inability to concentrate, constipation, and joint pain. Supplementing with Omega-3 helps to fight inflammation and plays a large role in muscle recovery. Good fat does not make you fat. As a matter of fact it can help lean you out by helping to increase the insulin sensitivity in your body tissue, so less insulin is needed to carry nutrients throughout the body.
Amount suggested: Please follow dosage on bottle but normally 1,000-3,000 mg of fish oil and 500 – 1,500 mg of flaxseed oil is sufficient. 

Price: Again, shop around. Most EFA supplements are cold-pressed and need to be and stay refrigerated. 

What I do: I take both fish oil and flaxseed oil caps on and off season in the am and pm. I like Nature Made and Spectrum Essentials brand. I believe you can get them at any natural food store.

Creatine, Glutamine, BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids), EAA (essential amino acids)
These three supplements have been shown; study after study, to improve strength, size, energy, fat loss and over health. They are also some of the most efficient and affordable sports supplements on the market today. I am NOT going to go into minute detail here (which could be very easy but it will take up LOTS of space), so if you are interested, continue educating yourself on these particular supplements. Glutamine – is an important amino acid as it helps to prevent muscle breakdown and it boosts the immune system. Creatine – is naturally found in the body but supplementing with it has shown to boost muscle power, size and strength by creating more energy availability in the muscle. BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) – like glutamine, also help counteract muscle wasting and catabolism – it also helps delay fatigue during workouts. EAA (essential amino acids) are even better than BCAA, however, more expensive.

Amount suggested: Please follow the dosage on the bottle but pay special attention to WHEN they should be taken as this is important. General dosage is: Creatine (1-5 grams), Glutamine (5-10 grams) and BCAA (5-10). Dosage will also vary from women to men based on body size/weight. These are best taken before and immediately after workouts.

Price: This varies based on the brand you decide to buy. Again, look for a more reputable brand – it may be a little more expensive but at least you will actually be absorbing it into your body. 

What I do: I am doing a mix of cardio and free hand exercises cutting calories at the same time. I take a BCAA during my workouts and I supplement with Glutamine once a day.

Well, there you have it! I hope the above information has helped clear the air for most you reading this article. Again, I urge you to continue your own research and find out what works best for you. I can be wrong by some and appreciated by few. But the above works for me, so I suppose it should work for you too :). 

Good luck and train hard!

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
City: Warsaw 
Country: Poland
Date: January 22, 2012