You’ve all seen the nutrition stores packed to the ceiling with pill bottles and all different types of powders, being advertised that they can enhance your workouts to subhuman levels. Let's break down the main 5 and what they will and won’t do for your workouts.
This needs to be stopped looking at as a “supplement” per se. Think of it as just another source of protein to include in your daily nutrition plan. Most people are barely hitting 80-100g of protein a day. If your target is 150g+, you’re going to struggle unless you add some easy ways to get protein into your diet. I know I would rather down a quick shake that has 3 scoops in it ( 1 scoop = 22g, 66g total) than trying to consume 2-3 extra chicken breasts in the day. Now add on the fact you are trying to follow this plan everyday of the week, things can get a bit daunting.
It also can be useful for times when you want to consume protein, but it would be inconvenient due to your schedule or appetite. For example, if you are on the go, a protein shake is going to be more convenient than a meal. Or if you have just finished a gym session, but it has suppressed your appetite, it can be easier to drink a shake than it is to eat.
Another way it can help is that not all meals are as easy to make high protein. A lot of people consume lower protein breakfasts such as 1-2 eggs for breakfast. One egg only contains 6g of protein, so most people are only getting in about 15-20g or protein for breakfast. By adding protein powder to things like porridge or yoghurt, you can easily increase the protein content of that meal. Also, when you’re counting your calories, the more options you have to hit your protein targets without going into too much of your carb and fat amounts is always going to be ideal.
Although a lot of people think of supplements as expensive, protein powder can be one of the cheapest options per gram of protein. I suggest not getting too focused on all the flavors and brands they’ve have out there. If you will be using the protein supplement 2x per day at least, I suggest going with a simple flavor like vanilla or chocolate. Avoid the more out there flavors like birthday cake, key lime pie etc as you will most likely get sick of that shit after a week or so.
The main ingredient in most fat burners is caffeine, which helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism and helping the body use fat for fuel. It also helps provide energy for exercise and other calorie-burning activities. In the body, caffeine increases the breakdown of fatty acids that reside in adipose tissue. Once the fatty acids are broken down, they enter the bloodstream and can be burned up by our bodies to create energy.
One thing a fat burner won't do, however, is fix a broken diet. If you're eating for healthy fat loss, then a thermogenic fat burner can help with the other stuff: boosting energy, helping to curb your appetite, promoting fat to be used for energy, and even increasing your metabolism and core temperature—what is known as "thermogenesis"—so you potentially burn more calories throughout the day.
If you're dropping weight too quickly, on a fat burner or not, you could be losing lots of lean muscle mass. So unless you want to look like a shapeless coat hanger — you should rethink your fat-loss plan.
My advice is leave the fat burners alone, too many people get mesmerized by the shiny packaging on these products. For a large majority of you they will have zero noticeable effects or they will just increase your heart rate and have you feeling antsy all day. 80-90% of your fat loss results will ultimately come from a calorie deficit that you can stick to, week in, week out.
The most common ingredients in today's popular pre-workouts include caffeine, beta-alanine, leucine or BCAAs, and nitric oxide boosters such as arginine or citrulline, all of which appear to help increase blood flow and the "pump" feeling during lifting.
Pre-workouts can be divided into two groups: those with stimulants, and those without. The stimulants pretty much always include caffeine, in widely varying doses, but may include other stimulants including theacrine (Teacrine as the most common), guarana, and many others.
You often see people drinking their pre-workout as they're walking into the gym, or even out of the locker room. This is one gym habit that you shouldn't copy if you want yours to be as effective as possible. Here's why: Most of the active ingredients in your pre-workout drink take 30-60 minutes to reach peak levels in your blood. If you wait until you reach the gym to take it, you'll be well into your second or third exercise before the full effects kick in.
If you take your pre-workout earlier than that, like 60-90 minutes, you'll still have enough energy to get through even a pretty long workout. It takes your body 3-5 hours to cut the concentration of caffeine in your blood in half. That's how long a normal pre-workout can be said to "last," although everyone metabolizes caffeine at different rates. For that reason, an equally important concern is whether you're taking your pre-workout too late, especially if you work out in the late afternoon or early evening. Since many pre-workouts contain large amounts of caffeine, taking them too late in the day may harm your sleep. That's a big deal because getting enough sleep is one of the most important factors for recovering from your hard work in the gym.
Then there's the question of how often you should take a pre-workout. Lots of people take pre-workout before nearly every workout. The only downside to this is that because caffeine is technically addictive, you may become more tolerant of its effects and need to take increasing amounts of it to get the same energy boost. For this reason, I recommend saving a pre-workout for important workouts, especially intense ones, or routines that focus on larger muscle groups like legs, back, or chest.
Creatine is thought to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. This muscular boost may help athletes achieve bursts of speed and energy, especially during short bouts of high-intensity activities such as weight lifting or sprinting.
Most think taking creatine before a workout makes sense, because that way we'll have the creatine readily available during training. This thinking doesn't hold water however, because it takes a while for creatine to enter the muscle cell where it can enhance performance. What's more, we know that the anticatabolic effects of creatine are more long lived and don't suddenly take effect during a workout.
As much as we love complicated scientific theories behind our practices, the post-workout creatine logic is quite simple: workouts deplete creatine, so post-workout we fill it back up. We can also take advantage of our post-workout insulin spike to drive the creatine into our muscles.
I suggest to my clients to start using creatine if they want, only after we’ve been training together for about 6 months.
One of the best ways to aid your fat loss / muscle gain training program is to make sure you can effectively manage both cortisol levels and your quality of sleep. Cortisol is our stress hormone and can also be known as a low-grade adrenaline. Stress hormones in the blood stream are crucial for creating adaptations such as building muscle mass and mobilizing stored body fat back to the blood stream to be burnt off. However, like all hormones, we want the right dosage. A small amount of stress hormones can be positive. Chronically elevated stress hormones, particularly cortisol, is where problems arise.
Sleep is crucial for the recovery processes, but also aids compliance levels. Poor sleep lowers leptin levels and satiety drops. When leptin levels drop, we feel less full and are more likely to overeat, sabotaging our compliance efforts. Secondly, leptin has an inverse relationship with our hunger hormone, ghrelin. When leptin drops, ghrelin rises. We are not only dealing with poor satiety but combining this with high hunger levels. This is a terrible combination in regards to compliance.
Two supplements we can use to manage our stress and ensure we get adequate sleep are magnesium and melatonin. Magnesium is calming in nature and helps suppress cortisol, especially in the evening. Outside of that, it also helps with recovery and over 300 enzymatic processes in the human body.
Melatonin is our key sleep hormone and can easily be depleted. Using melatonin in periods of poor sleep can help get our sleep and body clock back on track.