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Dietary supplements can be used in conjunction with a healthy diet to aid strength improvements and recovery. The following are (in order) a very basic suggestion of where to begin researching if you are interested in starting to supplement your diet and have never done so before. Please remember that it is frequently suggested that you should rest your body from all supplements for a few weeks every few months (including even vitamin pills).
PLEASE NOTE – ALL OF THE FOLLOWING ARE NATURALLY OCCURING COMPOUNDS – YOU ALREADY HAVE EACH OF THEM IN YOU IN SOME AMOUNTS!! NONE OF THEM ARE ON THE IOC BANNED LIST
A naturally occurring amino acid that is essential in everyone's diet and is used heavily in immune and recovery, not present in normal diets in high enough levels if you are undertaking strenuous exercise. This is taken almost as standard by professional sportsmen. Take 5gs immediately after a workout. Can be taken with juice to take the bitter edge off the taste.
If you are working hard then extra protein helps. If you can’t afford to eat 6 chicken breasts a day then protein as supplement is an affordable, effective alternative. Take only when working out and you’ll probably not need to take as much as the makers advise - you'll soon know when you are taking too much as you'll sweat out the ketone by-products your body produces when it has excess protein and you’ll smell quite unpleasant. When you see something called ‘whey protein isolate’ – it’s a milk derivative – i.e. it’s totally natural. What may not be so natural, or effective and will definitely be expensive – are all the other extras you get in some of the big brand products. If you want pure protein go somewhere like myprotein.com as it will be cheaper, purer and often more soluble. Mix in some nesquik if you want a flavour.
Creatine (Research carefully before buying)
Not steroidal as some believe!! This is the catalyst used in reattaching a phosphate ring to ADP to make ATP - i.e. it is in all of us already. It is a Phosphate ring’s falling off an ATP molecule that releases energy in your cells and creatine catalysis is the fastest way to get those rings reattached ready for the delivery of more energy to your cells. Thus, the more creatine you have the longer you can work at maximal effort (i.e. the longer you can reattach phosphate rings at your maximal rate). The average person’s muscles store enough creatine to keep you at max for an about 6-9 seconds. After that, you have to switch to slower energy systems (glycolysis) that produce by-products as they reattach the phosphate rings – hence why you hit lactic on a 150m effort much more readily than on a 60 m effort. As you rest, your creatine itself is recycled ready for you next effort at max rate (this is why we rest between reps).
Creatine supplementation means your body can go at max for longer, so it’s great for sprinters and those training to develop power: elevated levels can take you from an average 6-9 seconds worth of maximal rate work to around 12 seconds. CREATINE HAS NEVER BEEN ON THE BANNED LIST as it has bounded absorption. I.e. if you keep taking human growth hormone then you keep absorbing it and you keep getting bigger, hence it is banned. Creatine, however, maxes out at a certain level after which you just excrete the excess. Some people have substantially higher natural levels and these people can get no benefit from creatine supplementation, whereas others who naturally store less can find themselves benefiting considerably as they supplement up to the levels that others have. In this way some have claimed creatine is an equaliser amongst sportsmen.
Creatine commonly comes in two forms, the monohydrate and the ethyl ester. The former is cheaper and tasteless but has been linked to water retention (this bloating is what lead loads of teenagers to take it ten years ago because they thought the swollen muscle was growth - actually they were just wet. This effect was what started all the bad press on Creatine). The ethyl ester is more expensive and tastes fairly repulsive. A newer form is the hydrochloride – yet more soluble and expensive. Different people claim different benefits with each. Research and try for yourself.
HMB (Research carefully before buying)
Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid. Naturally produced by the human body in very small amounts (0.1-0.3gms a day) but can be supplemented with approx. 3gms a day for supposedly beneficial muscle growth and muscles cell necrosis limitation, in other words it’s a protein that prevents muscles breaking down so much during workouts so you get the growth without so much damage. Others have claimed it directly aids growth also but this is less obvious. Reportedly used in Russia to grow meatier turkeys. This has been a slightly controversial supplement – definitely research and take a measured view before using this (or any supplement).