Warning: This is a hotly debated topic among the fitness world. Some people really swear and live by them, and some people say they are not needed or only certain supplements are needed.
When I first started my fitness journey, supplements seemed to be popping out of the wood work. I could look at a fitness article without there being at least three adds for what would help me with energy, recovery, and muscle building. Or do I want the best performance for the time I put into working out? If so then use this product!
My head was spinning and I was so leery of being scammed that I tried to do as much research as possible. Because who does not want to get the best out of their workout, and not waste their time doing their workout? I decided to just change one thing at a time. I just wanted to get my body moving, and find a workout that I did not hate. That was my goal. I focused on working out then on my diet, trying to get all the nutrients in that I need. Because I thought and still do, that you can get most of the nutrients you need out of the food you eat. So even though I did research I still sat on all my information and just ruminated on it.
Now I do take supplements but use them just as what they are supplements. I take them to supplement my nutrition. I do not rely on them however have found them to be helpful.
If you are just starting out, and or just working out 2 times a week, at a very moderate to light level. Then I really don’t think you need to take these supplements. If you tighten up your nutrition and can get your protein, carbs, and fats in through food. Stick to that.
However, if you are training hard, doing HIIT workouts, training more than twice a day, and more than 30 minutes at a time… then I have found for my body, the supplements actually have helped me. Again, all I can speak to is what has and is working for me at the time. Experimentation is the key. Find what works for you and your body. Also of note, I am not a great meat eater. As a matter of fact I prefer plants to meats. Just as something my body processes better. So for that reason these supplements actually help me.
Ok So my “stack” of supplements I take are as follows:
(note: I am not sponsored by any of these companies and I am not paid by anyone to say this)
Pre-workout – BCAA’s + Caffeine – I take ON BCAA’s
Post workout – Recovery after strenuous workout, contains BCAA’s, B vitamins, electrolytes, replenishes glycogen, and carbohydrates –I take Vega Sport Recovery
Nuun – is an electrolyte replacement for hydration, low calorie, and low sugar. (15 calories, 1 g sugar, 300 mg sodium, 150 mg potassium, 25 mg magnesium, 13 mg calcium
Every day – Multivitamin, vitamin D, Glucosamine and Chondroitin ( This was prescribed to me by my doctor after my herniated disk. But is a great addition to your supplements as you get older for joint and cartilage repair.)
What is a BCAA? There are 20 amino acids your body uses to synthesize proteins. Nine of the 20 are considered essential, and your body cannot make these you must ingest them. Three of the 9 essential amino acids are the branch chain amino acids or (BCAA). They are Valine, Leucine, and Isoleucine. As a primarily plant eater I have a hard time getting in quickly soluble proteins. When you take the right supplement, you get all the BCAA’s that your body needs to repair your muscles from a strenuous workout.
These are the 4 benefits of BCAA’s:
- Decrease muscle soreness- BCAA’s decrease muscle breakdown that can lead to soreness, so you have DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) for a shorter period of time.
- Builds muscle – BCAA’s leucine activates protein synthesis, to help build muscle
- Prevents muscle wasting – When your body is low on BCAA’s it will break down your current muscle and re-synthesize its proteins for what it thinks you need. This breaking down and re-synthesizing is normal body process, and the BCAA’s help prevent that even if its just a little bit.
- Reduce exercise fatigue – BCAA’s are used up when you exercise, and as the levels of BCAA’s decrease in your blood, your body releases tryptophan to your brain, which makes you brain think you are tired and fatigued. The theory is taking them before workout keeps the levels high in your blood and therefore you can work harder for longer.
You don’t need the BCAA’s before every workout, and you don’t need to drink the Vega Recovery after every workout. You want really want to take them only if you did or are going to do a hugely strenuous workout. Also you want to take time off taking the preworkouts that have added caffeine in them.
Here are some BCAA’ rich foods:
- Greek Yogurt
- Soy Powder/Milk
- Whey powder
Why Are These Supplements Great For Me?
Here is why they are great for me. Over the holidays, I ran out of BCAA’s. I went for a month without them, and I was doing fine. However, I noticed that my muscle fatigue and soreness was sticking around a bit longer. I took it again last night and had a much better sleep this last night. I woke up not feeling like my muscles had been run over.
Also during Thai Camp, I became desalinated. I took my BCAA’s in the morning and made sure I was drinking plenty of water. This is great for a normal workout but after about 4 hours of working out that day, water and pre BCAA’s was not enough. I got a major cramp in my calf, and needed magnesium, potassium, and salt replaced. It also took a massage therapist to help me calm the muscle down. I was facing another 3 to 4 hours of training that day, and I made sure I replaced what I lost in sweat, and what my body was burning through.
Again do your research, find something that will work for you. If you are vegan or vegetarian a great product I like and its called Vega. As with everything, look at the ingredients and make sure they source their ingredients from reputable places, and with good nutrition.
As always thanks for reading. My respects to you, and have a great day!