Saturday, December 6, 2008

Supplement Usage: Protein Powder, Creatine, Beta Alanine, etc

(note: There were a few typos in the earlier version since I may have published an earlier rev. All fixed now--thanks Brad).

Question: So given the extensive information below (see this post HERE), what daily supplements do you take?


Thanks for the good question!

Yep, the whole area of supplements can be incredibly confusing. Add in that some companies spend millions on advertising with normally little to zero scientific backing and the consumer is many times left confused.

Supplements are just that SUPPLEMENTS to a healthy lifestyle. I think it was Paul Chek that said something like (paraphrasing here), "supplement are like gold nails and food is like the wood. If you use gold nails to put together crappy wood (poor nutrition), it will not work very well."

I don't get too concerned over supplements until athletes can hit 90% compliance on their nutrition plan. There are times when I may add a supplement(s) sooner, but that depends on the time line I have and the issues that are going on. The following are ones I think most can use.

The list
1) Protein supplement: This is mostly just a convenience item since I like to have athletes get some protein at every meal. There are some data showing that the addition of a whey protein around training time is a big benefit (nutrient timing). Plus it is very convenient.

2) Fish oil/Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): Most just don't get enough fish oils (EPA and DHA) or enough Omega 3 fatty acids (an EFA) in their diet, period. These oils are used EVERYWHERE in the body and are literally incorporated into almost EVERY CELL. No, these will not make you fat, and many times are the reason you are NOT deflating that spare tire. Are they "magical?"--no, but they are essential and most don't get enough.

3) Greens/fruit veggies supplement: Again for convenience. Just like EFAs, most don't eat enough fruit/veggies. They also lie their butts off and say they get "enough" as shown by studies where most OVER estimate how many servings of fruits/veggies they eat. There are some limited data that a more basic diet (think more fruits/veggies) is better for muscle growth too and general health.

4) Multi Vitamin: Don't go overboard on this, just cheap insurance.

Others to add:
5) Creatine monohydrate: Don't waste your money on any other form as there are virtually zero studies showing any additional benefit. Plus this form is by far the cheapest. There are some newer data showing possible cool neuro protective effects too. Side effects in almost every study have been extremely minor.

Optional depending on goals:
6) Beta Alanine: If you are doing some very high intensity work (e.g. repeated sprints, sports, intervals, etc) this may be one to try out. The current data looks promising, but it is far from conclusive. Personally, I notice a difference as beta alanine helps to buffer those pesky H ions (the ones that cause that burning feeling).
Be sure to check out this link to other beta alanine studies HERE.

7) L-Carnitine: Dave Barr is a big fan of this one. Check out his info HERE. There was one study showing that L Carnitine may need high levels of insulin in order to "push" it in.

8) Anti oxidants: Vit C and Vit E are the big ones. Remember that any antioxidant can be a PRO oxidant at a high enough dose so don't go crazy. Notice a moderation theme yet?

9) Vit D: Esp is you live in a northern climate in the winter (uh, like Minnesota). I personally promote more vacations to warm climates, but that is not always possible. See this link for a cool study I put up the other day on Vit D and muscle growth/strength.

10) Probiotic: These work to help restore the healthy bacteria in your gut. If you have had antibiotics within the past 1-2 years and any digestion issues, this would be worth a try in most cases.

11) Proteolytic Enzymes: These can work to push down inflammation and promote healing. Most need higher doses between meals though, but they seem to work great for acute/chronic injuries/pain. Mobility work like Z Health is HUGE for those issues too.

For me personally, I typically use
Protein powder, Udo's oil (EFAs), creatine, L carnitine (with pro/cho drink around training time), beta alanine (when doing more intervals and trying to increase CRF), Vit C (500 mg), Vit E (400 IUs).

If I travel, I may use a bit more since my access to fruits/veggies/food is more limited.

I take 2 hours on Sundays to prepare all my food for the week so I am good to go come Monday AM. I use Dr. John Berardi's Precision Nutrition system---it rocks!

I know that seems like a lot, but most are not using all of these at the same time and not right away. Get your nutrition in order first. There are some many compounds in food that we have no idea about yet. I think broccoli alone has something like 300 different polyphenols in it.

Your mom was right, eat your fruits and veggies.

Thoughts? What do you current use? Results?