Pros and Cons of Fitness Supplements for Performance

Nutrition

Walk into any supplement store, or even Whole Foods, and you will see tons of supplements for different things. Pre-workout, intra-workout, creatine, protein, greens, etc. And not only that, there are a bunch of different brands. Which can then bring up a lot of questions…What are they? What to take? When to take them? Do they work? It can be a bit of a nightmare. So today I wanted to give you a few pros and cons of these fitness supplements, let you know if they work and leave you with a few reputable brands.

What are Fitness Supplements?

The definition of supplement is “something that completes or enhances something else when added to it.” Therefore fitness supplements are intended to be added to a training program to help enhance the effects. They can increase muscle size, increase recovery time, enhance workouts etc. There is a lot of research behind these compounds and what they do within our bodies, but there can always be more. Make sure before you start taking any supplements you know all of the information about them and what it can do within your body, and take a look at your diet to ensure you aren’t going to be getting “too much”.  There is so much more to learn about these supplements before making an informed decision to use them. Mind you, these are all totally legal and you can take them at your own risk.

vital proteins

Popular Fitness Supplements

If you are familiar with supplements, you know that there are mixed feelings about them. Some people take them daily and see real results, while others find them to be unnecessary and refrain from using them.

Creatine Monohydrate:

“an amino acid compound formed in protein metabolism and present in much living tissue. It is involved in the supply of energy for muscular contraction.”

Creatine supplementation pulls water from your body into your muscle cells to increase protein synthesis. It can also be taken prior to exercise for a boost in energy. Creatine supplement pros and cons are all over the board.  a lot of research has been done; some say it is beneficial and some say we just pee it out. A few pros of creatine that are widely talked about include increasing protein synthesis, increasing power output (more weight moved), and muscle recovery. Common cons of creatine include causing abdominal cramping, diarrhea/constipation, weight gain due to water retention and even restlessness.  

Dosage: finding the right dosage for creatine is tricky. A lot of professionals tend to use “cycling” when taking creatine to make sure it is being utilized properly by the muscles and not just wasted. Here is a great calculator to find the correct dosage for you.

Pre-workout:

“a compound/mixture taken prior to exercise to aid in performance.”

Pre-workout is widely known in the fitness industry, and every company/compound is different. The idea of pre-workout is to give you an energy boost, enhance muscle contraction, and vasodilate your muscles to allow for more blood flow. There are a lot of pros and cons of pre-workout because of the different ingredients and combinations companies can create. Some have more stimulus’ than others, which are going to leave you itchy and jittery. There are some pre-workouts without caffeine that just include the compounds to increase performance. Just make sure to read your labels so you know what you are getting!

What to look for: caffeine (for energy), beta-alanine (delay muscle fatigue), electrolytes (replenish), l-arginine (vasodilator), and amino acids (recovery and performance)

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA):

“A branchedchain amino acid (BCAA) is an amino acid having aliphatic side-chains with a branch (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms). Among the proteinogenic amino acids, there are three BCAAs: leucine, isoleucine and valine.”

BCAAs are typically taken post workout as a recovery drink. This is because they have been proven to increase protein synthesis, reduce protein breakdown, and prevent fatigue.

Amino acids vs branched chain amino acids: amino acids are either essential or non-essential. Meaning they are either sourced in the body or need to come from outside sources. There are only 3 branched chain amino acids are used in supplementation because they are fast-acting and can be metabolized by skeletal muscle directly.

L-Glutamine:

“a hydrophilic amino acid that is a constituent of most proteins.”

L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the bloodstream, it makes up about 3-35% of the nitrogen in our blood.

Benefits: Glutamine pros include gut health, levels blood sugar, promotes muscle building, balances mucus production, and helps with memory/focus.

L-Arginine:

“an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. “

In addition to building protein, l-arginine also releases nitric oxide into the body that is therefore used to open blood vessels and aid in circulatory conditions. When used as a supplement, the “pump” or massive blood flow to the muscle is what people are after.

L-arginine pros and cons include; pros [reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar, heal wounds, alleviate anxiety], cons [gout, bloating, abdominal pain, allergies, low blood pressure]. With any supplement you must weigh the pros and cons before deciding to take it. We get a lot of this supplement in our diet from red meat, fish and eggs, so adding more as a supplement could potentially cause your body to have “too much” and start causing problems.

Beta-Alanine:

“Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid. The body uses it to produce carnosine, which helps improve exercise performance..”

Once beta-alanine produces carnosine, it follows a series of events: glucose is broke down and used as fuel, lactate is produced (H+ ions), muscles become more acidic (pH levels of the muscles decrease), acid in the muscles blocks glucose and fatigue starts to set in, and finally carnosine acts as a buffer against the acid, reducing it and allowing the muscles to work longer before fully fatiguing. The benefit of this is being able to workout harder, and longer before the body gives in.

Beta-alanine pros and cons include; pros [muscle endurance, increased time to exhaustion, boost immune system], there are no real cons to taking beta alanine. It could cause tingling of the skin, but that is the only known side effect.

Whey Protein:

Whey protein is a mixture of globular proteins isolated from whey, the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production.”

Whey protein has been used for supplementation for years. This is because individuals have a hard time hitting their allotted daily protein goal with just food. It is also used strategically before and after workouts to help with muscle recovery and prevent muscle loss.

Daily Amount: It is recommended that adults consume 0.7-1.0g/kg of lean body mass of protein per day.

Pros and Cons of Fitness Supplements

Research says supplements are beneficial, and then research says they aren’t proven to help much at all. So, it is up to you to make your own decisions about whether or not you’re going to take supplements.

PROS:

Increased muscle mass

• Increased strength

• Increased protein synthesis

• Increased bloodflow

• Increased muscle recovery

• More stamina

• Enhanced performance

• Fat loss

CONS:

• Kidney damage

• GI problems

• Insomnia

•  Headaches

•  Liver damage

• Nutrient Deficiencies

Reputable Supplement brands

These days we all want the cheapest product. We price check everywhere and always pick the less expensive option. Well, when its a whole food/ingredient that is fine. But, in the supplement world, you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap, you get cheap. And when it comes to supplements, you do not want cheap. Here are a few supplement companies that I trust and find their products to include little to no additives or fillers. And are also all-natural!

Legion Athletics

Garden of Life

Ground Based Nutrition

Arbonne

Vital Proteins

Rari Nutrition

Vega

1st Phorm

Personally, I take very few supplements. I use protein powder here and there, gainful or vital proteins, I take pre-workout every now and then, legion, and I take a glutamine and greens every morning to promote gut health.

I want to remind you that these are SUPPLEMENTS. There are meant to SUPPLEMENT your current nutrition regime, not take the place of it. That means you shouldn’t be taking chemical compounds that you can otherwise get from food, or relying on these supplements to get you results. Supplements should be 5% of your diet!

I hope this gives you some idea of what these popular supplements are, their pros and cons, and some companies to look into! I am always trying to spread knowledge, and research, on topics I get asked a lot about. It is important to me that you guys have a place to go for valuable and trustworthy information!

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