What supplements to buy, what to leave and what really works for looking and feeling great
Your first week of training is over, you feel like you’re ready to take on the world, with your new found energy and love for working out and even though it’s only been three sessions, you can nearly see some definition back in the stomach. (We’ve all been there). Your trainer has given you an initial detoxing diet to accelerate fat loss but while the food looks and tastes healthy, he’s also recommended you take some supplements to help on your new health journey. The only problem is, although you love eating clean and healthy, you don’t particularly like the sound of taking extra tablets and powders, defeats the whole purpose of being healthy right? Does this sound familiar?
There are some truths behind this. Most supplements you buy in your local workout gym supplement store aren’t exactly appealing. The whole process that goes into getting them is off putting. From walking into the store that’s covered with pictures of oiled up pro wrestler look-alikes with angry faces and veins that look like hose pipes, the guy behind the counter is not much better as he stands with his arms crossed as if he’s on the door of your local nightclub itching to use the phrase ‘not tonight love’, and finally the actual supplements themselves, with their buzz names such as ‘anabolic’ or ‘muscle blaster intense’, does not strike you as being healthy or clean and definitely not something that you want to get into. You are not alone in your thinking. Most of these supplements are aimed at your 23 year old guy or girl who have read every bodybuilding magazine out there and have made a decision to do and pay whatever it takes to get muscles popping out of their tops and pants. Companies have recognised this and naturally are using it to their advantage to sell whatever they can to these young people.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to take these supplements or even visit one of these shops in order to sustain or improve your healthy holistic lifestyle. However, in order to feel the best we can, recover from our workouts and get the right nutrients to improve our bodies function, then we do need to take extra bits here and there.
In our modern society, food is not as clean and processed free as it was say fifty years ago. This means that foods which have always been rich in vitamin C such as broccoli or kale, do not have the same nutrient content due to foods being sprayed with pesticides and basically being tampered with. Other foods such as mushrooms which were high in vitamin D, are not what they used to be and with the fact that Ireland, as great a country as it is, we’re not blessed with the sun and so this leaves us Vitamin d deficient.
Yes, in theory most foods should contain enough vitamins naturally in them for us, especially if they’re organic but unfortunately that’s not the case. What you have to remember when it comes to supplements and what’s the recommended dose, the supplement companies are not always right. Like personal training, there is no one ideal programme and diet that is going to help everyone. It takes a little bit of trial and error and a lot of planning. When you hear, ‘recommended dose’, this applies to your average guy or girl, who works 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, has a bad diet and does not exercise so if you think about it that way, their supplemental and nutritional needs will be a lot different to yours. Especially now as you have started training hard and regularly.
When you’re put on an initial detoxing diet, then it normally last for about 7 to 14 days and will have lots of green alkalising foods and lots of fish which contain omega 3 fats which are incredible for loosing weight, and very little grains and absolutely no sugar and wheat or gluten i.e. bread as these two food ingredients will fill up your body with fat storing toxins. This will obviously be a bit of a shock to your body as, like anything your body gives up such as cigarettes, you will crave them. Because of this initial shock to your body, you may have a little less energy than normal.
What’s great to help with this detoxing and to give your body a little more energy to work, are fish oils. These can be picked up in any health store. Fish oils are a good fat and are full of omega 3 which will help your brain to concentrate; help when you’re craving bad sugary foods, and give you sustained energy with no dramatic highs and lows that you get from sugary foods. By increasing the amount of good fat that you have in your body, this will help moisten the hard, visceral body fat that is the most dangerous of fats in your body and allow it to be burned off easily.
This mineral is so important for people who are training hard and looking to loose unwanted weight. Low levels of zinc in both men and women causes infertility which most people know but zinc also is important for physical performance, energy levels and overall body composition. In the initial stages of a new workout programme and food plan, it helps as it is great at allowing the body to detox itself.
We all know how important sleep is for our bodies and who doesn’t wish they could sleep a little more or even get a better quality night sleep, but due to our highly stressful jobs and lifestyles, shutting off at night is not always easy. Magnesium, as well as having many benefits, aiding good sleep is the one that stands out. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and allows your brain to relax when you are finding it hard to sleep. Studies have shown that a lack of magnesium in our bodies leaves us agitated with interrupted sleep so if you’re looking to get a deeper sleep that leaves you energised in the morning, then increase your magnesium.
Ok so we are all familiar with vitamin c and that we need it, but do we know why. Due to foods being sprayed with pesticides and not being as natural as they were say 40 years ago, the vitamin C content in fruit and veg, is not as strong, hence why extra supplementation is needed, especially when training. Vitamin C is great for building up your immune system which we all need for the long winter months, but when taken after a workout, it lowers cortisol levels and speeds recovery. Cortisol is a stress hormone which will store fat, stress us out and cause general havoc to our healthy bodies so minimizing it in our bodies is key. Vitamin C will help this.
Ireland has many fantastic things. The friendly people and the warm atmosphere to name but a few but unfortunately, the weather is not one of them. The lack of sunlight in this country means that we could be D3 deficient. D3 has been always been known as a vitamin but is now called a prohormone with many benefits. Most commonly, d3 has been associated with helping bone marrow and preventing rickets and osteoporosis, but it has many other benefits to our bodies. Here are some of the benefits; healthy immune system, strengthening muscles so you can train harder, helps against depression, great for regulating blood sugar levels in our bodies so we don’t jump up off the couch at night while watching x factor and devour a packet of biscuits, and last but not least, extremely good for weight loss.
Protein shakes and protein bars:
When you’re exercising, your muscles will need extra protein than normal. Don’t be afraid that you will put on massive muscle as you wont. Meeting your protein needs is not easy and may require you to use a protein supplement. When choosing one opt for whey protein as it is the easiest to digest. Some people however may not be able to tolerate it as they might have a reaction to dairy in their stomach. If this is the case, then go for a protein supplement made from rice.
Protein bars, for the most part are a tasty treat but that’s it. I would not put these in your diet as helping you loose weight or repair muscle, They have a massive sugar content and will most likely trigger your brain into wanting the real thing so in my view avoid, or keep to your cheat meal at the weekend,
You are nearly converted to becoming lean, fit, healthy and active in your daily life. It feels great and the endorphins you get after each workout and after each healthy meal , completely outweigh the negatives of training and keeping fit. This has been the hardest part but now you must stay focused. Remember why you’re doing this and stay resilient. In two months, you will not know yourself and all the great comments you’re getting from your friends and family will motivate you even more. Keep at it.