When it comes to the amount of time you spend in the gym, most of us want to get our workout done as fast an effective as possible because after all, nobody wants to live at the gym! Finding ways to really maximise that session means you walk out with a body full of endorphins, and the knowledge that you’ve put your heart and soul into your workout. The use of supplements is just one of the ways that fitness focused individuals have been able to get the most out of their time in the gym. By having systems throughout your body firing on all cylinders, you will witness profound effects on your performance and overall results.
Without protein, the human species simply would not survive! Protein is comprised of a chain of 20 amino acids, with 9 of these being essential amino acids that your body absolutely needs via your diet. If a protein source contains those 9, it is considered a whole protein. If a protein source lacks even one essential amino acid, your body cannot adequately utilise that protein.
With us so far?
Thankfully, most protein supplements/powders contain all of those 9 essential amino acids and is the most popular supplement taken by those that engage in regular physical activity. After a heavy workout, your muscles are screaming out for fuel. Protein supplements help to maximise results, as you’re able to drive all the essential amino acids to your hard working muscle groups, which assists in repair, energy, recovery and muscle growth. In one way or another, protein plays a role in just about every function within your body.
ALCAR is an amino acid that your body naturally produces in order to generate energy. You can obtain ALCAR through some food sources, namely animal products and dairy, however many who engage in high intensity training regimes (or are vegan/vegetarian) choose to supplement with ALCAR due to its many known health benefits. ALCAR is rapidly utilised by many tissues such as the heart, brain and liver.
ALCAR has been shown to increase work output by 11% by reducing muscle lactate accumulation when training at high intensity. You might know muscle lactate as that burning feeling in your muscles, as blood begins to flow to your targeted muscle groups throughout weight training. Perhaps 11% seems like a small percentage on paper, but it does make a big difference when it comes to overall results. You’ll also find ALCAR to be a popular supplement in the fitness world as it assists in weight loss.
Vitamins and Minerals
First and foremost, you should aim to obtain all key vitamins and minerals through whole food sources. A blood test from your local doctor can reveal where you might be lacking, and help you decide if you need to go down the path of supplementation. As a base, if you lead an active lifestyle you should ensure adequate intake of:
B Vitamins: The key food sources of B vitamins are animal products, as they are largely found within animal tissue. Therefore, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you may wish to consider taking a complex B supplement. Most importantly, B vitamins assist in metabolism, are vital for generating energy within all cells throughout the body, assist in breaking down amino acids, regulating mood and are a critical group of vitamins for healthy brain function.
Vitamin C: Hands down one of the most potent antioxidants around. It’s important to know that workouts do place a lot of stress on certain muscle groups (otherwise known as exercise-induced stress) and vitamin C is the key to healing any damage, as it assists in repairing cell and tissue throughout the entire body.
Some order an extra shot of coffee before they head into the gym, others indulge in pre-workout supplements. Each offer that little more motivation and boost in energy needed to drive yourself that little bit harder. Or sometimes to motivate you to even leave the couch! Pre-workout supplements are specifically crafted to improve endurance and give you additional strength in your workout.
So exactly what is contained in a pre-workout? You will find it does vary from product to product, but top-quality pre-workouts will blend carefully selected ingredients including:
Stored within every cell and muscle in your body is an important molecule which goes by the name of Adenosine Tri Phosphate (ATP) which provides a source of fuel when needed. In a gruelling workout, the level of ATP is only available for a limited time.
Let’s say you’re at the beginning of your weighted set and operating at peak performance, that peak only lasts so long before your body says no more. That’s when ATP is gobbled up by your cells and muscles, and needs time to replenish. What creatine does is increase that window of availability of ATP, therefore allowing you to push that little harder, strengthening your muscles that little more each time. What you’ll find is you can lift more weight or increase your reps to break new personal bests.
Green Tea Extract
A supplement that has spent plenty of time in the limelight and with good reason. Green tea extract has been shown to significantly assist in burning fat both during your workout and also while resting. Green tea extract contains a blend of catechins (antioxidants) and caffeine, which seem to be the perfect partners in crime, as together they have an extremely positive effect on energy expenditure.
An amino acid which has shown to consistently increase gains in lean muscle. Impressively, one study revealed that dosing with 400mg daily for four weeks increased muscle carnosine by over 64%. What is muscle carnosine we hear you ask? In short, it is a di-peptide (naturally) found in muscle groups which helps to delay fatigue.
Magnesium Oil or Spray
If you consume low to moderate levels of magnesium-rich foods such as leafy greens, rice, seeds and nuts, then you might find that you suffer from a lot of cramps and fatigue at the gym. During stress (ie a gruelling workout) levels of magnesium can be severely depleted and it’s important to ensure your body has an adequate supply.
Sure you’ve heard of magnesium supplements, but what about oils and sprays? The skin is able to absorb the important minerals and metals found in magnesium, mostly through the hair follicles. For this reason, you’re able to apply magnesium oil or spray to the targeted region to aid in recovery and bring relief from painful cramps and spasms.
The use of magnesium sprays and oils is incredibly therapeutic in relaxing your muscles after returning home from a challenging session at the gym. Magnesium is considered a crucial part of recovery and also improves your quality of sleep, allowing you to rise bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to take on another workout in the morning.
Hard work pays off. But the physical motion of training different muscle groups is only part of the puzzle in achieving your fitness goals. As you’ve learnt, there’s so many little processes going on beneath the skin. What you put into your body is vital to how you perform. Aside from a wholesome diet, you can fine tune your body with key supplements to give yourself the absolute best chance in feeling completely fulfilled in your fitness journey, where your results simply speak for themselves.
Written by Shannon Davidson
Sports science/nutrition blog writer