With so many products on the market, just starting to take a Sports Supplement can be confusing. In this article, we’ll break down the top 3 sports supplements that you should take if you’re new to training.
What is protein?
Protein is a macronutrient made up of different types of amino acids. Our bodies use amino acids in a variety of ways, such as:
Building and repairing of our bodily tissues such as bone, muscle, cartilage and skin
Create blood, enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals
Maintain brain, immune and heart function
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Generally, we want to be consuming a minimum of 1.5g of protein per kg of our current body weight. Most will benefit from closer to 2g per kg of body weight. Intakes of 3g+ of protein per kg of body weight can cause side effects such as bloating and flatulence.
How Are Protein Powders Made?
Protein Powders are derived from milk. Put simply, milk is dehydrated and filtered to create Whey Protein. The filtering process creates different types of Whey:
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) - the first filtered protein and contains about 80% protein.
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) - filtered more than WPC and can contain fewer carbs and lactose.
- Whey Protein Peptides - WPI that is filtered even further. Commonly used as a fast-digesting protein.
- Casein Protein - A protein derivative from the filtering process. Commonly used as a slow-digesting protein.
Why Do I Need Protein Powder?
Protein powder is a convenient and easy to digest protein that can increase our overall daily protein intake. Increased daily protein intake is associated with increases in lean body mass, and the maintenance of muscle while dieting.
When Do I Take Protein Powder?
You can take protein powder at any time of the day. There are some benefits to having a serve of protein powder around your workout - either 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after.
Do I Take Protein With Water or Milk?
In most cases, we recommend that you take it with water so that it digests quicker and you don't increase your calorie intake by drinking extra milk.
How To Start Taking Protein
Start by having a serve of protein after your workout. A common strategy would be to bring an empty shaker bottle with a serve of protein powder in it to the gym. Once you've completed your session, fill the bottle with water and consume it at the gym.
If you're training late in the evening, try having the protein powder before your session so that you don't interrupt your sleep.
Once you're comfortable with having a serve of protein around your workout, try incorporating protein powders into your meals. We want to build a meal around a serve of protein. Some meals are difficult to add Chicken or Tofu to, such as Oats - and it can be a good idea to add a serve of protein powder to the meal to increase your overall daily protein intake. Additionally, if you're feeling hungry during a diet, a protein shake can be a great way to curb the hunger between meals.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a compound made up of the amino acids Arginine and Glycine. Creatine is the most researched supplement on the market and can be found in small amounts in animal products such as Beef, Chicken and Seafood.
What Does Creatine do?
Creatine influences the Kreb cycle to help your body recycle Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Our body uses ATP to create energy, from moving your mouth to talk, to doing a heavy deadlift.
Think of ATP as the "currency" of our bodies. Each movement requires a certain amount of currency to create energy. When supplementing with creatine, you're giving your body more currency to "buy" energy. This energy comes in the form of more power and strength when you're training and even improved cognition.
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine works through the saturation of your muscle belly. Saturation can take 1 week or 1 month depending on your loading strategy (see below). Creatine can be taken at any time of the day to maintain saturation levels. Creatine does not affect your nervous system and you do not need to cycle it.
What Are The Side Effects of Creatine?
Creatine is stored in your muscle belly. As a by-product, your muscle will hold more fluid. The additional fluid can increase the total supply of glycogen (sugar) and other nutrients being stored in your muscles for use. Your muscles can appear bigger due to the extra fluid, and there can be a hypertrophy response due to the microscopic swelling.
The additional water in your muscle can also result in increases in overall body weight.
Creatine Loading Strategies
Option 1 - 10g of Creatine per day to reach saturation in 1 week, then maintaining saturation levels with 5g per day.
- Option 2 - 5g of Creatine per day to reach saturation in 1 month, then maintaining saturation levels with 5g per day.
How to Start Taking Creatine
A common strategy will be to mix creatine with another drink, such as a protein powder post-workout or with a pre-workout. Creatine can be taken at any time of the day and the strategy can be used to simply remember to take Creatine.
Creatine does have a chalky taste when taken in isolation and can be suitable to mix with other products like protein powders and pre-workouts.
What Are Pre-Workout Stimulants?
A pre-workout, as the name suggests, is something that you take prior to your workout. The compounds in a pre-workout are designed to stimulate, energise and pump you up for your workout.
How Do Pre-Workouts Work?
Most pre-workouts will contain stimulants such as caffeine (found in coffee and tea). Caffeine can increase focus and performance, which can lead to higher intensity workouts. Most pre-workouts will also contain other compounds such as Beta-Alanine and Citrulline Malate, which can assist with blood flow (the "pump") and buffer lactic acid.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. Your body uses it to produce carnosine. Carnosine basically reduces your muscle acidity by increasing the amount of lactic acid, which helps to remove the H+ ions that are created when you exercise.
Citrulline Malate is converted into Arginine (an amino acid), which is then converted into nitric oxide to increase vasodilation (widening of arteries or veins to increase blood flow).
How to Start Taking Pre-Workouts
Take 1 serve of pre-workout 30 minutes prior to your training session.
Because pre-workouts affect your nervous system, you can become sensitised to the compounds (just like you get used to coffee). Some will increase the serve of pre-workout and have 2 serves prior to training. It is not advised to take more than 2 serves at one time.
Side Effects of Pre-Workouts
If you don't drink a lot of coffee, the caffeine in a pre-workout can give you a headache. Avoid taking pre-workouts in the evening because they can disrupt your sleep. It is a good idea to monitor your overall caffeine intake if consuming coffee and pre-workouts.
Beta-alanine in pre-workouts can give your skin a tingling sensation. At first, it can feel strange, but many look forward to the tingling.
Some may also have a mild reaction to the stimulants and respond with hot flushes. If you are experiencing redness or itchy skin, please consult with your doctor before taking more pre-workout.
Building Your Stack
By adding a Protein Powder, Creatine and a Pre-workout stimulant, you have successfully created the foundation of a Sports Supplement Stack. Once you feel comfortable with these three products, try introducing new items to your Stack and test the effects on your body. You may find some to be real game-changers, and others that have little to no effect. Consider your body as a mini-experiment as you test different products and measure the effect on your performance.