Someone gave me a suggestion to write a blog post about how to approach supplementation on a budget…so I decided to approach this with how I would prioritize different supplements. First of all, i’m not ranking individual supplements, but rather grouping them into 5 general categories that I am ranking in terms of importance. So as they say in the Bud Light commercials, Here we go:
Category #1: Intraworkout and Post-Workout Recovery Aids
When it comes to working out, you have to consider the bottom line. You are imposing stress on your body, namely breaking down muscle fibers, forcing the body to respond and adapt by rebuilding the tissue to be bigger and stronger. This can’t happen without the presence of key nutrients (protein and amino acids). In simple terms, your body uses protein (which is comprised of amino acids, the building blocks) to build new muscle. In order to benefit from your workout, you need the right nutrients at the right times. If you are only going to use one category of supplements, because your budget doesn’t stretch any further, then I would suggest whey protein and BCAAs. Rather than re-explaining the benefits of BCAAs for consumption during your workout, I will refer you to an old post, where I discussed this:
As mentioned in the previous post, whey protein is the best way to provide a fast digesting protein with a high bioliogical value that is readily utilized. Whey can also be used for simple on the go meals (mixed with oats or greek yogurt or consumed with a healthy fat source such as almonds) and can be incorporated into healthy recipes, such as my waffles or muffins. It is versatile and provides a convenient way to meet protein requirements.
Category #2 Performance Enhancers
For those interested in building more muscle, supplements that increase anaerobic endurance, increase strength (enabling you to impose greater stress on the muscle in the same time period) or increase the rate of recovery between exercises, while also prolonging your workouts are a priority. The key players in this category are Creatine Monohydrate and Beta Alanine. In short creatine monohydrate is a cell volumizer that enables you to restore ATP levels faster. This translates into prolonged strength…more reps at the same weight or more repetitive sets without the same level of fatigue. You can stay stronger longer. It is also important to recognize that a hydrated muscle cell is a happy cell. When your muscle cells are hydrated you will look full, hard and strong and your muscles will perform optimally. Cell hyrdation is a necessity for an anabolic environment. Dehydration = catabolism= NO GOOD, YOU SUCK, GO HOME.
Beta Alanine compliments creatine by acting as a buffer to neutralize/offset the effects of elevation of hydrogen ion concentration (which lowers pH levels in the muscle). Beta Alanine functions as a carnosine synthesizer…elevated carnosine levels help absorb the hydrogen ions, which are responsible for hindering and impairing muscular function and performance. Beta Alanine results in greater output, anaerobic endurance and delay of fatigue.
Both Creatine and Beta Alanine are very affordable supplements that can be purchased in bulk.
Category #3 Metabolic Optimizers
This third category of supplements is one i’ve already written a post about before, so I will simply refer you to that post:
Category #4: Sleep Aids
You may have heard the term “You don’t grow in the gym”…well that’s the truth. What you do in the gym breaks the body down, so you need to provide the proper environment outside the gym to allow for growth and repair of muscle tissue. The majority of actual growth occurs while you are asleep (when your body is in complete rest)…so it’s important for you to get GOOD RESTFUL SLEEP. If you have an issue with this, then you might want to consider natural sleep aids.
Gamma AminoButyric Acid aka GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is responsible for inducing relaxation and sleep, reducing stress and tension, and increasing the levels of HGH. Some studies actually suggest GABA supports favorable changes in body composition (reduction of bodyfat)
5 HTP or 5 Hydroxytryptophan is a precursor to serontonin, which affects sleep as well having positive effects on mood, appetite and anxiety levels.
Category #5: Thermogenic Aids
This last category of supplements I rank least in importance, despite the fact they are are probably the most popular and most sought out/purchased. Unfortunately people turn to thermogenics aids/fat burners to compensate for poor dietary habits or inadequate sleep. YOU CANNOT SUBSTITUTE FOR THE FUNDAMENTALS. You need to maintain proper nutritional balance and you need adequate rest. Relying on a supplement to provide energy or burn more calories is a shortcut and a mistake. These types of supplements are only useful for someone who is already optimizing everything else. I typically do not recommend thermogenic aids to anyone who is not competing. Understand that they directly affect your central nervous system and reactions will vary with each individual. It is one thing to utilize these aids when you are dialing in for a specific date and can utilize the boost for a period of time while you are increasing activity level and decreasing calories at the same time…but these are not supplements everyday individuals should be using and becoming reliant upon for energy. Even for those who handle stimulants well and do not abuse them, thermogenics aids should be cycled.