The Benefits of Supplementation –
guest post by Pablo Jareno Head Coach DMC Fitness
I remember when I first heard about ‘supplements’, and all I knew on the subject was that people who go to the gym take them to help grow bigger muscles. However, once I started to investigate a little further, and see past all their fancy names like ‘Storm’ or ‘Intense’, I found out this was not the case. In fact, supplementation can benefit anyone, especially advanced exercisers who have healthy nutritional habits and want to push their bodies that little bit more, whilst also ensuring speedier recovery after a challenging workout.
One of the first supplements I heard about was magnesium spray from Charles Poliquin, fitness industry leader. He credited it with helping muscles to recover faster and as a result, not spend the next few days following an intense workout hobbling about like an old man!
Magnesium spray has a number of benefits, including:
It replaces magnesium lost by the body during exercise
It speeds up recovery between training sessions
It supports muscle movement
It helps maintain strength
It allows the body and muscles relax
As you can see, these benefits tick a lot of boxes. Here is another top fitness professional, and friend of DMC Mike Mahler, giving us the lowdown.
Magnesium spray should be applied after showering, as pores will be open and absorption by the skin will be optimal at this time.
Omega 3 Fish Oils
Through my research, another supplement I discovered that helps increase recovery is Omega 3 fish oils, which can be taken immediately after workouts, alongside meals and in the evening before bed. To refer to Charles Poliquin again, fish oils:
Are essential to cell development
Protect against heart disease
Protect against Alzheimer’s disease
Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Decrease arrhythmia, blood clots and triglyceride levels
Reduce the incidence of strokes
Improve some measures of depression
Reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
Improve immune function
Assist in the relief of allergies
Can help prevent injury
Can contribute to supple joints
Work as an anti-inflammatory
Taking fish oils will not only benefit advanced exercisers, but any person that wants to enhance their quality of life. Don’t just take my word for it; you can see for yourself here:
Another supplement that I have been made aware of over the last year, by my team leader Davie McConnachie at DMC Fitness, is a supplement called ‘greens’.
Greens comes in a tablet or powder form, and can be taken at any time of the day for any person and boasts a great deal of benefits, such as:
Strengthening of the immune system
Cleansing of the body
Balancing of hormones
Reduced cravings for sweet things
Here are some of the expert references I looked into:
Worlds Healthiest Foods: Chlorophyll
Green Foods: Research
Ask Dr. Sears: Phytonutrients
USDA Food Pyramid: Benefits of Green Foods
Pub Med Central: Chemopreventive properties of chlorophylls
Worlds Healthiest Foods: Kale
To break the topic down a little bit more, you can refer to the following video:
Remember, an acidic environment promotes diseases, particularly inflammatory diseases, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, digestive issues, and respiratory disorders. So, it’s imperative that we keep our in a state of alkalinity at all times.
After years of heavy training, you learn to get used to muscle chat and lots of sweat, but when you are awoken at 3 o’clock in the morning due to excessive perspiration, it’s time to ask some questions! This led me to discovering a supplement called electrolytes, as I was finding that no matter how much water I drank, I was still thirsty, and my muscles were consistently cramping up during the night (causing not just a disturbed sleep for myself, but those who were abruptly awoken by my screams induced by hamstring pain). This pointed me in the direction of electrolyte tablets, and the benefits I’ve found include:
No more muscle cramps
Quicker muscle recovery
Maintenance of strength
Clarity of mind
In addition to me discovering these benefits for myself, Charles Polquin can testify to these. Here are some fitness experts outlining the benefits of electrolytes tablets:
Maintaining electrolyte levels, primarily sodium chloride, is critical in an ultramarathon. Many runners find electrolyte capsules an important part of their hydration approach and never experience any problems. Ideally, the capsules will disintegrate in the stomach, mix with water and be absorbed by the small intestine, but this may not always be the case.
As well as the benefits listed above, electrolytes have additional qualities that make them worth taking i.e.
They are a convenient and easy to carry in a race
Some electrolyte capsules contain more than just sodium and chloride, adding magnesium, potassium and calcium to the mix; however, the capsules usually only contain small quantities of other electrolytes and their value mid-race is dubious
Anti-acid (AKA buffering agent) is also present in some capsules, which may help limit stomach acidity, but could also interfere with digestion.
The most controversial supplement that probably gets the most attention within the fitness industry is protein powder, as there is a never ending list of companies offering different products that you should be taking and that offer different benefits. From my experience, (and please bear in mind that my experience in trialing different supplements is vast!) one product in particular that I have found to tick the most boxes is brown rice protein powder, namely Sunwarrior.
Sunwarrior protein powder is:
Free from diary, soy and gluten
Vegetarian/vegan friendly (it provide a supplemental source of dietary protein as substitute for animal proteins)
Rich in amino acids (the building blocks for muscles)
A catalyst for increased fat burning
Effective at increasing satiety/fullness
Thermogenic (it makes the body work harder to break it down)
Helpful for regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, thereby preventing body fat storage
This can be taken at any time, as a meal replacement or as a snack, but for recovery purposes, taking it post-workout will produce the best results. We can get protein sources from different foods, but we don’t always have access to a chicken breast or salmon fillet! Protein powders allow you to meet your daily requirements whilst being on the go.
Please note that you should always consult your doctor before adding any protein supplement to your diet.
Some useful links to refer to for more information on protein are:
Brown Rice Protein Powder; Organic Brown Rice Protein
“The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program”, Tom Venturo, 2010
“The Abs Diet”, David Zinczenko, 2004
“The Fat Burning Bible”, Mackie Shilstone, 2005
This link will also be useful.
I came across this next supplement when I was reading up on intermittent fasting and weight training, and how to preserve muscle whilst at a lower body fat and training fasted. This supplement is called ‘branched chain amino acid’, or BCAA for short. BCAAs can be taken in powder or tablet form before, during and after workouts, or simply throughout the day. They contain three amino acids, namely leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are some of the parts of what protein breaks down into. I found the benefits from taking BCCAs to be numerous, including:
Reduced soreness post-training
Here, Charles Poliquin gives 9 benefits of BCCA supplementation:
They support muscle protein synthesis
BCCA levels correlate with an optimal body composition
BCCAs result in better testosterone to cortisol ratio for muscle building
There is evidence of strength gains from taking leucine alongside training
Taking BCCAs result in lower RPE and greater endurance performance
They help to decrease muscle soreness, particularly DOMS
They can help improve mental function and reaction time
They can improve mood and decrease depression
They can help you live longer by improving health
You can do some additional swotting up on BCCAs by listening to Laurent Bannock’s take on the benefits of them:
It is great to be active and to challenge your body, but making sure you get adequate sleep is just as important to athletes as it is to non-exercisers. As someone working within the fitness industry, training a lot and teaching gym classes, you would think that I’d be asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow every night. You’d be wrong – this was not always the case! I started to look into how I could maximise recovery and give my body the adequate rest that it needed. This led me to discover ZMA.
ZMA is made up of zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B6 (or paradoxine hydrochloride to use it’s scientific name!) Each of these minerals serves a different purpose. Zinc has been shown to stop the conversion of testosterone into estrogen (preventing development of ‘moobs’!), magnesium allows the body to relax and puts you into a deeper sleep at night (see Magnesium spray benefits) and Vitamin B6 improves brain-muscle connection to help both your body and mind to relax.
It’s best to take these at night on an empty stomach just before bedtime to allow you to waken up feeling fresh and bright in the morning (even in Scotland). Some of these benefits can be supported on Charles Poliquin’s website.
Here’s a short video on the benefits of ZMA:
Further references include:
“Journal of Exercise Physiology: Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength”; L.R. Brilla, V. Conte; 2000
“Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism”; Colin D. Wilborn, Chad M. Kerksick, Bill I. Campbell, Lem W. Taylor, Brandon M. Marcello, Christopher J. Rasmussen, Mike C. Greenwood, Anthony Almada, Richard B. Kreider; 2004
“European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Serum Testosterone and Urinary Excretion of Steroid Hormone Metabolites After Administration of a High-Dose Zinc Supplement”; K. Koehler, M.K. Parr, H. Geyer, J. Mester, W. Schänzer; 2009
“Office of Dietary Supplements;” Zinc: Health Professional Fact Sheet
“Office of Dietary Supplements;” Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6
“Office of Dietary Supplements;” Magnesium
Now, if we are taking all these great supplements listed above, we need to make sure our body is absorbing them in the best possible way, especially when it comes to protein powders. If, like me, you’ve ever taken a protein shake and it’s given you a sore stomach afterwards, it’s a possibility that the nutrients aren’t getting absorbed properly within your gut. Digestive enzymes will help to change this.
They can be broken down into 3 categories: amylaze (which breaks down starchy carbs), protease (which helps to digest protein) and lipase. These enzymes aid the absorption of food and breaking it down, so that it can be used for energy and to help protect blood from toxins. If you suffer from:
Allergic reactions to food
then taking digestive enzymes could be the answer. It is best to take these alongside a meal or 15-20 minutes before eating.
Further references are:
Ask Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen: “What are three causes of gastrointestinal problems?”
“Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd Edition”, Phyllis A. Balch, CN; 2002
•Ask Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen: What are three causes gastrointestinal problems
•”Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 3rd Edition”; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2000
You can also learn more about the benefits of digestive enzymes here:
Now, if you are like me and are constantly on the go, optimising healthy nutrition and supplementing well yet still catch the odd cold or flu, then probiotics may help to benefit you. This is something that I looked into after getting fed up suffering from ‘man flu’ once or twice a year. Some of the benefits include:
Helping to enhance your immune system
Inhibiting micro-organisms that cause disease
Improving vitamin breakdown
Supporting the process of de-toxification
Prevention of diarrhea
Improving resistance to allergies
Reducing risk of IBS
As you can see, this is something that most people could benefit from (I’m sure this will be music to many people’s ears and a bit more pleasant than having to listen to their partners passing wind!) Probiotics should be consumed before or after meal times.
Refer to Dr. Shekhar K Challa – author of ‘Probiotics for Dummies’ for more information
Furthermore, for a more indepth look at probiotics, the following video will ensure you are well-informed:
To summaries, I’ve spent a lot of time (and money!) trialing different supplements over the years and have found these to be the best in terms of the positive effects they have had and their value for money. As a serious exercisers the vitamins nutrients and minerals needed in the body will generally not be absorbed fully from food so in most cases supplementation will be essential to maximize results.
Great blog Pablo thanks very much for sharing it with us all. Davie
To health, happiness and “Strength for Life”