It is absolutely necessary to know what's in your powder. Some have extra nutrients added to them that can be very effective, but a thorough understanding of what you want from your training, and your supplements is required to ensure you're not taking the wrong things and slowing your progress. Don't just go off "Bro Science" and take a look here.
So far the nutrients covered here are:
3. Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
4. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's)
If "Steak Night" is your thing, then you're not going to be a stranger to Creatine. Uncooked animal meats contain healthy amounts of it, cooking unfortunately de-natures it which is why the rarer you go, the more nutritious it is. While meat is a good source of it, it still doesn't equate to enough if you are actively trying to take it for your training regime.
Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is one of our body's forms of stored energy, everything we eat needs to be converted into some sort of energy to be stored and dished out. ATP energy is used predominantly when using short, high intensity bouts of exercise. Creatine helps with the regeneration of ATP, which is why it is an excellent friend for the gym. When you're lifting weights, you're instantaneous ATP gets exhausted, that's when Creatine steps in and helps you squeeze out those last few reps.
Creatine is an excellent edition to your supplements if you are wanting to build muscle, it prevents them fatiguing, allowing you to push them harder. It is found in many different forms but plenty of studies have proved that they don't work any better or worse than the preferred and simplest form "Creatine Monohydrate".
The reason that Creatine is found in a lot of protein shakes is because studies have shown that Creatine absorption is near twice as much with protein and carbohydrates than on its own.
Creatine is not something you can just take before your next work out, then BAM, "you're looking swole bro!". It's it something that needs to be drip fed into your muscles through time, it will take around 4-6 weeks of daily intake to fully saturate your muscles. A daily dosage of 3-6g is recommended for best results.
Beta-Alanine is similar to Creatine as it prevents your muscles fatiguing, but that's where the similarities end. Beta-Alanine is no where near as researched as Creatine. Where Creatine gives a helping hand to our ATP levels to help us push out that last set, Beta-Alanine absorbs up what makes our muscles ache.
When we train and we are pushing our muscles to the max our bodies switch over to using a form of energy called "Anaerobic" (without oxygen) energy. This is the ATP energy mentioned in the last column. A side effect of our body's using this type of energy is that it produces a lot of waste, in the form of lactic acid. This breaks down into hydrogen ions and lactate. These by-products upset your muscle's ph balance, this is the pain that is experienced when pushing hard.
Beta-Alanine, when consumed is converted into a compound within our muscles called Carnosine. Carnosine is a godsend to our muscles. It helps absorb the pain inducing lactic acid which has the effect of making us feel fatigued later during our training. This, like Creatine, allows us to push our muscles even harder.
Beta-Alanine has a strange side effect, some people love it, some people hate it. This is why is should be reserved for more intermediate trainers as opposed to beginners. It gives a tingling sensation in your peripheries (hands, feet, face etc.), this sensation is completely normal and your body will accustom to it over time. The recommended dosing for Beta-Alanine is between 3-5g per day. To try and buffer the tingling you can try to split the doses and take then at different times of the day. A healthy dose is usually found in pre-workout drinks.
Trans-fats have no place on this website, or you would think not. What a lot of people don't know is that there are 2 types of trans-fats. The natural forms (good fats), which make up between 2-5% of the fat in animal and dairy products. And the unnatural forms (bad fats) which make up a lot of the food that we crave after a night out on the town.
CLA is short for Conjugated Linoleic Acid, this is one of the naturally occurring trans-fats as mentioned earlier. It is a fatty acid similar to omega-6, it has recently gained huge popularity in the fitness industry for its ability to assist with weight loss as well as benefiting your skin. Hence why it is found in a lot of diet products out today. CLA is naturally occurring in animal foods and dairy products, unfortunately due to less and less products nowadays being grass-fed, only in small amounts. Which is why supplementation being necessary to really reap the benefits of it.
So how can consuming a fat help me lose fat you ask? Well, CLA in effect tells our bodies that we don't need any more fat intake, and that we should burn the stores we already have. It does this by increasing our levels of satiety (the feeling of being full reducing our urge for unwanted food). Not only does it do this, but it also prevents the production of additional fats within our bodies.
Don't just lose fat but spice up your complexion too, CLA is starting to appear in a lot of skincare products because of its ability to help the skin retain moisture.
Recommended doses of this stuff changes but 2-4g per day will greatly assist you on your way to your health goals.
Essential Amino Acids (EAA's) are a group of amino acids that cannot be produced by our bodies, they are named "essential" as they are completely required by our bodies. This means that we must obtain these aminos through our diets. A special group of 3 aminos within these EAA's are termed the Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's), this is due to their chemical makeup, they have a superior ability to promote Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) e.g. muscle growth.
They are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These aminos aren't metabolised elsewhere in the body, so when they are consumed, they head directly to the muscles. Leucine in particular is special with regard to training. It essentially switches on our MPS, telling our bodies to start building muscle.
This is not just beneficial to people who want to build muscle mass, but to people who are dieting also. When we are reducing our calorie intake we enter into what is called a catabolic state, this is when your body turns to what it’s got on offer for fuel. It sees your fat stores as a last resort, which kicks off the process of Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB). So, you will effectively start losing muscle before you lose fat. Not what you want. As well as this the amount of (MPS) that is happening will reduce too because your energy intake is reduced, so the amount that your muscles are breaking down becomes higher than the amount you are building muscle. Some diets can affect our performance in the gym, we feel more tired and can't push a far as we normally could. This in turn leads to reduced MPS and more MPB.
BCAA's are excellent as they, like mentioned above, promote the body’s ability to build muscle. As well as this though they reduce the activity of the pathway that sends signals for breaking down the muscle for fuel. Less MPB means more fat loss. Also, you can expect to see improvement in your workouts as studies are starting to say that they may reduce the amount of fatigue and speed up recovery from exercise.
If supplementing BCAA's on their own then it's recommended around 5g per day in a 2:1:1 ratio (2-parts leucine, 1-part isoleucine & 1-part valine), before training and/or throughout the day
L-Carnitine is the natural, biologically active form of Carnitine. The most common forms we see in fitness are L-Carnitine and Acetyl-L-Carnitine. It is not actually an amino-acid but termed to be "amino-like". It is produced in small amounts by our bodies, enough for day to day function. It is stored throughout the body in our livers, kidneys, brain & muscles.
In our bodies, the cell that converts all the fuel (food, fat stores etc.) to energy is called the Mitochondria. The main purpose of L-Carnitine, in whatever form, is to shuttle our fat stores to the Mitochondria. There it is oxidised and converted into our best friend, Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).
So, this is where L-Carnitine can aid in fat loss. When we are training our body needs fuel from somewhere whether it be the from glucose or from fat, L-Carnitine makes your body's decision a lot easier as it facilitates in the transport of fat to the mitochondria. This means that your body preferably burns fat when working out and, in the hours afterwards. The more L-Carnitine in the muscles, the more effective it will be.
The brain is a huge powerhouse in our bodies, it is constantly ticking over burning calories in the process. Acetyl-L-Carnitine is part of the "Acetyl Group", which effectively means it can cross the "blood-brain" barrier. This means that it will assist your brain to preferably be burning fat over glucose as well. As well as this studies have shown that Acetyl-L-Carnitine can reduce the effect of age related cognitive decline, and that it also helps the regeneration of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your short-term memory).
The benefits don't just stop there, Carnitine supports blood flow to your muscles, this in turn means more nutrients and hormones directed that way. This is excellent for speeding up muscle recovery after training. If you've just thought to yourself "I need to be taking some of this god-like substance", then it is recommended to take 2g regularly (daily intake is not essential as just regular consumption facilitates good muscle carnitine absorption).now.
Glutamine is found in 2 common forms in fitness products, L-Glutamine and Glutamic Acid. Once again L-Glutamine is the natural, biologically active form of Glutamine, Glutamic Acid promotes the body's synthesis of Glutamine and is turned into L-Glutamine.
Glutamine is an amino acid, unlike your BCAA's it is a non-essential amino acid and it is readily available in our bodies. It counts for over 61% of our skeletal muscle. The reason it is so readily available in our bodies though is because it is heavily required by all sorts of bodily functions. It's not just housed in muscle, it circulates our blood also. Certain cells in our bodies specifically require Glutamine for energy. One key one being Lymphocyte, this is a white blood cell that plays a huge role in the function of our immune systems. It also assists in the circulation of nitrogen throughout our blood. Our brains use Glutamine for the development of neurotransmitters too.
Studies have shown that due to all this body's need for Glutamine, it can become "conditionally essential" in certain circumstances. If we have an illness our bloodstream requires more Glutamine to fight off the pathogens, similarly in response to dieting our immune systems take a hit, all this has the effect of requiring a lot more Glutamine than usual. It turns to our stores of readily available Glutamine in our skeletal muscle and begins to break it down for fuel (catabolism). Now, studiesare starting to show that working out intensely can deplete our blood Glutamine levels, having the effect of breaking down our muscles that we've just tried to build. As well as this it lowers our body’s immune system making us more at risk of infection.
Supplementation with Glutamine can be a great way of protection yourself from infection, not just after working out, but whilst dieting. It also stops your body's turning to your hard-earned muscles for fuel. Recommendation for L-Glutamine daily intake is anywhere from 10-15g, taken in 5g doses throughout the day. Look out if you are taking protein powders as well though because it is contained in a lot of these also.