The range of supplements available to the consumer is as confusing as it is vast. How do you go about filtering the (what I like to call) ‘bread and butter’ supplements, from the more luxury ‘cake and icing’ supplements? And just because they’re ‘luxury’ supplements, are they any more or less valuable than the ‘bread and butter’ supplements out there!?
The answer to this question (in my humble opinion) is no, both the ‘bread and butter’ and ‘cake and icing’ supplements work synergistically together, the variety of ways you can combine supplements is vast…the key is tailoring it to you and your style of training. So what makes it into the 5 supplements you just shouldn't be doing without list, and is there a fair share of basic and luxury supplements in there?
Basic or ‘Bread & Butter’ Supplements
Whey protein, creatine, multi-vitamins and minerals, BCAAs and an omega-oil blend are what I deem to be the ‘bread and butter’ of any supplement stack. 1.) Whey protein is the knight in shining armour after an intense gym session, it rides to the rescue with its nourishing amino acids helping to stop muscle catabolism (breakdown), promote muscle synthesis, as well as acting as the bricks and mortar of the structure you are building…namely MUSCLE!
If whey protein is the Lone Ranger, then 2.) Creatine is his Toto! You see creatine works with whey protein in more ways than one, first and foremost it’s your muscles own unique energy source, in other words it can’t be stolen by other body parts or major organs for energy. There is one exception to this rule, the brain, but thankfully the brain uses its own brain and leaves this excellent energy intermediate to your muscles! Creatine also increases muscle endurance as well as maximising growth, this is through its ability to divert fluid to the muscle via osmosis. The chemical structure of creatine is not that dissimilar to salt in that it becomes a solute when mixed with water, consequently the creatine solute is drawn into the muscle and where solute goes, water follows! The shift of water into the muscle means more nourishment is delivered, as well as increasing physical size of the muscle body. Granted this increase in size is attributed to the fluid, but hence why you combine creatine with Whey protein because of its ability to build!
A 3.) multi-vitamin & mineral is the foundation for growth. An optimal balance of micronutrients such as vitamin C, D & B vitamins (for example) are key to maintaining cell structure and function. An 4.) omega- oil blend can come in capsule or liquid form, but I prefer the liquid ones for their versatility, they can be added to food, whey protein shakes or simply swallowed in its original form. A good omega- oil blend will deliver optimal ratios of omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids which are key to regulating your bodies inflammatory responses. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory making them great for heart and vascular health, as well as promoting joint health integrity.
5.) BCAAs are very closely related to whey protein in that they promote muscle growth, repair and minimise muscle catabolism (breakdown), BUT, they work via slightly different mechanisms. BCAAs are designed to be taken before and during training because of their rapid absorption and nutritional density (in other words you don’t need a large serving to get the benefit). BCAAs promote growth before training, whilst whey protein encourages growth and repair after!
What’s the ‘icing on the cake’?
So what have we got so far?
Building blocks for recovery and growth post training…CHECK (Whey protein). Muscles unique energy source…CHECK (creatine). Your bodies protection and growth promoter…CHECK (multi-vitamin and mineral). Anti-inflammation and lubrication…CHECK (omega- oil blend), and your muscles anti-catabolism (breakdown) and growth encourager…CHECK (BCAAs)
Is there anything missing?
You might think that the answer to the above question is… ‘not really’, but when it comes to fine tuning, you’d be surprised at the cumulative effects many supplements have when combined in the optimal ratios! Number 6 on the list are 6.) Pre-workout supplements, these are generally stimulatory in nature, as well as encouraging blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. The benefit of these supplements is that the more blood you get to the muscles the greater the nutrient delivery will be, consequently time to fatigue is reduced and the muscle pump you achieve is maximised.
Number 7 on the list (and by no means is this any less beneficial) is 7.) Beta-alanine, this is because of it’s ability to buffer or mop up protons in the blood and muscle which contributes to the fatigue process when exercising. Protons include hydrogen ions which can increase the acidity of the blood, and the more acidic the blood, the worse the delivery of oxygen, and less oxygen means a reduced capacity to train. Beta-alanine may also be added to some pre-workout supplements and their proprietary blends, so be sure to check the label before you buy both.