Part 3 – Sports Specific Supplements
In this section, I will be mostly looking at supplements that I take because I take part in sport, as opposed to supplements that I take for general health. The main goals for my supplement protocol are to:
- Reduce exercise-induced immunosuppression – You can’t reach your full potential if you are ill
- Improve recovery from one session to another – This allows you to get better quality training sessions
- Provide a fuel and stimulation for a training session – This improves session quality
- Provide a good hormonal environment for recovery and/or muscle growth.
The most obvious supplement that I use here is some form of protein shake. This is because it provides a convenient, low-fat and low-carbohydrate way of getting sufficient protein on a day-to-day basis. When I am going for very high protein numbers (e.g. 3g/kg bodyweight), I can have up to 4 shakes per day on top of meals. I like to vary the type of protein shake I have, from standard whey protein post-training, to a whey-casein mix mid-afternoon, to a casein only shake pre-bed. This is take advantage of the different absorption rates of each protein shake, with different situations requiring a different absorption rate.
On top of this I use Creatine. Creatine is required by the muscle to replenish ATP, and so it is advantageous to have high levels of Creatine within a muscle cell for this purpose. I generally take 5g per day, although in intense training periods I go slightly higher, maybe 7.5g per day. I don’t usually pay much attention to the recommended loading phase, and usually go for three weeks on, and one week off. I have never suffered from water retention or cramps that other users often report with Creatine, which might mean that I am lucky, or take a lesser dose than they did. I generally add Creatine to my post workout protein shake.
Also in my post workout shake, I add L-Glutamine, which is an amino acid shown to enhance immune function, and maintain lean body mass on a calorie-restricted diet. I generally add L-Leucine too, which is a branch chain amino acid (BCAA). There has been quite a bit of literature on BCAAs and Leucine, and their effects on exercise. On a calorie-restricted diet, BCAAs have been found to maintain lean body mass whilst increasing fat loss. In another study I came across, the addition of Leucine to a post workout protein shake resulted in a greater level of protein synthesis than with just the protein shake alone. Due to this evidence, I tend to add Leucine to all of my protein shakes. I also use L-Ornitine alpha-ketaglutarate (OKG). OKG is thought to help maintain muscle protein synthesis, and may also provide the body with a more anabolic environment within which to work.
Pre-training, I take a supplement called Exceed, which is manufactured by Myprotein.co.uk. It contains L-Glutamine, BCAAs, citrulline malate, and beta alanine. Citrulline malate and beta alanine are substances that may increase workload capacity, and improve performance in repeated bout exercise. That’s why it is ideal for me to take before training, as it allows me to work harder in each training session. I also add Tyrosine to this pre-training mix. Tyrosine is an amino acid that might improve workout intensity, as it is a mild stimulant. Before sessions where I want to perform very well, or before competitions, I will also take some caffeine. I usually aim for somewhere between 240 and 320mgs of caffeine, which works out at between 2 and 3 mgs of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. Caffeine is a stronger stimulant than tyrosine, which is why I use it for important sessions. However, I try not to use it too much as it can lead to central nervous and adrenal fatigue, which is less than ideal.
On top of this, I also take both ZMA and Green Tea Extract in tablet form. ZMA is supposed to enhance sleep quality and increase anabolic conditions, and so I take this about 30 minutes before I go to bed. I use green tea extract to increase my metabolism, hopefully allowing me to loose some excess fat.
I have also recently started to use various “greens” powders. These are useful as they contain many important nutrients, and reduce some of the acidity of a high protein intake. I tend to add these to my protein shakes, as they don’t taste that great one their own!
In the next part of the blog, I will look at how I put all of these rules together to form my own diet and supplement protocol.