The Gym-goer's Guide to Nutritional Supplements
Know your Creatine from your Carnitine? Are you downing DHEA, HMB or a drop of CLA? How big a con is sports nutrition? Not completely. As Andrew Hamilton explains in this round-up of supplements from steroids to protein powders, there is some sound science behind the marketing and hype - but everything starts with a good, natural, unprocessed diet.
When I was a gym manager, I was amazed at the number of guys who'd take expensive cocktails of nutritional supplements to bulk up after training, yet would skip breakfast, eat chips for lunch and spend the evening in the pub! The fact is that unless the basics of your diet and training are right, none of the nutrients discussed below will make a difference, except to deflate your bank balance.
The core of nutritional wellbeing comes from a natural, unprocessed diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with moderate amounts of high quality low-fat proteins, but low in fatty and sugary processed foods. (There's more on nutrition for fitness here.)
But, in addition to this, when building muscle mass is a priority, there are a few basic dietary strategies that tend to work well. Not that it is easy.
While it's true that there are a few folk out there who only have to look at a dumbbell to pack on lean muscle, for most folk it's a much taller order.
Why is muscle-building so tough?
Our bodies are programmed for survival and the key to survival is energy. Primitive man evolved needing energy to move around in order to evade predators, hunt and gather food as well as to fuel the basic processes of metabolism.
While modern man hunts his food at the supermarket armed not with a spear but with a trolley, he retains the same metabolic programming as his ancient forbears.
Building lean muscle tissue is an energy intensive and consuming process, and unless the right conditions are in place (the correct training, a surplus of calories containing sufficient protein and carbohydrate together at the right time and the nutrients required for the synthesis of muscle protein), it becomes very hard to do.
Even if the basic nutrition is right, once you start burning a lot of energy, for example by doing large volumes of energy-consuming aerobic exercise, those carbohydrate and protein calories are quickly diverted to energy production.
These are the various nutritional strategies and supplements available with details of what they do and how they work.
OK TO TRY:
- High Calorie, High Carbohydrate Diet
- Protein/Carbohydrate Weight Gain Powders/Drinks
JURY STILL OUT:
- Chromium Picolinate
- Hydroxy Citric Acid (HCA)
- Vanadyl Sulphate
Former gym manager Andrew Hamilton is features editor of Ultra-Fit magazine where a version of this article first appeared.
Page created on January 30th, 2008
Page updated on March 10th, 2010