I have asked myself this question many times…
A healthy balanced diet can be best explained as the optimum range of nutrients the body actually needs to meet the demands of its environment; that is why everyone needs to have a diet plan tailored to aid the achievement of specific goals.
A simplified example would be as follows:
• To gain size and muscle mass, we increase the amount of the right calories we consume to give the body energy, and to allow the body to repair, recover, and grow.
• For fat loss; we reduce calorie intake, ensuring the calories we consume are taken from the correct food groups.
• For endurance training, you increase calorie intake from complex carbohydrates and proteins for energy and recovery.
It is essential you look to real foods as first port of call to supply the body what it needs. However, if like me, you have a hectic lifestyle, then getting all your macros and micro nutrients from food is impractical and virtually impossible, especially if I am having to consume them at certain times of the day and in large quantities.
Supplement: 1. ‘a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it’
There is no substitute for a healthy balanced diet, therefore we use the word ‘supplement’ for a reason; it is exactly what the dictionary definition suggests and should be used alongside normal food consumption.
I do supplement, but only because I can’t consume the right nutrients at the right times of day. For me, it is convenient. As a teacher, I do not have time during the day to sit down and eat 5 or 6 meals, nowhere to safely store them, and in the evenings, I haven’t got the time to prepare them.
So, let’s take a look at some common sports supplements you may have thought about using, and what I use to supplement my diet.
No matter what type of training you do, your body certainly needs protein to aid recovery, enabling repair and growth of the muscles. The harder and more frequent you train, the more protein you need.
Whey protein is certainly proven to be the most effective for recovery, as it is high in quality- containing a high quantity of essential branch chain amino acids, and lower in lactose resulting in less tummy problems.
Having had a recent conversation with a top doctor of nutrition at Birmingham University, it was advised for me to consume the correct helping of protein every 3 hours; imagine how much food I would eat, and how long it would take to eat it.
With this in mind, my only alternative for convenience is to supplement. So, to do this I use a high-quality whey isolate but other products are available and certainly have alternative benefits.
This is a compound found naturally in the human body, and can be found in lean animal muscle from meats and fish.
It is produced in the liver and is transported through blood to feed and supply the muscles with energy. It has certainly been proven to improve performance when taken in the correct way, and in the right quantities, and is used by nearly all modern athletes today. I supplement creatine because I can’t consume enough food/meat that my body needs to get the most out of my training sessions.
BCAA’S (Branch chained amino acids) and amino acids
All proteins are made up of amino acids; there are 17, with 8 of them being known as essential. The ones to look out for to aid muscle fuel and repair are; isoleucine, leucine, lysine and maybe controversially glutamine, depending on which expert you speak to.
We need to supplement these because most of the essential amino acids are used up very quickly with intense exercise. These can be consumed at any time, but I find them beneficial during intense workouts.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another supplement that divides opinion, and is found naturally in foods such as turkey, beef and some dairy products.
Depending on which research you want to believe, CLA’s aid fat loss, and help increase lean muscle mass. It is now claimed to be a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin E and beta-carotene. I am no doctor, so if used and results in fat loss, then keep using it, because just like creatine, it is very impractical to get the right doses of this micronutrient from food.
I don’t want to say much about pre-workouts, other than they can be very effective if you have had a tough day at work and don’t have the energy to put in a big session. However, if you are finding a reliance on these regularly, then I urge you to review your diet and consume the right foods to provide your body with the better uuummfff your body needs. Be careful with some pre-workout products if you are sensitive to caffeine.
I hope you have found this useful and free of confusing jargon; I have a responsibility to advise you to try and get everything you need from a rich, healthy, balanced diet first.
Remember, they are called supplements for a reason.
If you want to hear more from Mark, check out his strength training fundamentals and find out he gets results here.