Thursday, 7 January 2010

Supplement ABC Part 1

Having had a few questions sent her way regarding supplementation, Gym Ninja has decided to blog about the wonders of Sports Supplements. She shall cover such basics as:
  • What do they do?
  • How do you choose what to take?
  • When should you take them? 
  • Are all supplements created equal?
  • Where the f*ck should you keep them as you're kind of pushed for space and that cupboard over there is full of pans whilst that drawer is where you keep all your used plastic carrier bags....?
And so on......
Essentially Gym Ninja shall be keeping things very very simple today, as it is easy to get overwhelmed by the huge choice of supplements, let alone brands.  Your ABC if you like?

OK, so let us assume you are either new to exercise, or have been working out for some time yet never dipped your toe in as much as a protein shake. Why should you consider taking them? After all, aren't they for elite athletes/sports people/men? Not for someone like you surely? Not for someone who keeps all their old supermarket carrier bags in a drawer to re-use as bin liners.


Sorry to shout at you all. Hope you didn't spill your cuppa? Gym Ninja is shouting as she doesn't want you to fall into thinking that supplements are ONLY for sports people simply because they come with the word 'sport' in front of them a lot of the time. She doesn't want you thinking they are JUST for elite athletes because that is who you see advertising them. Nor does she want you thinking they are ONLY for men because there are photos of big muscular guys on the literature.  Nope. Anyone who partakes in a regular exercise regime can benefit from them. So now we know that means YOU, let us move on to the next stage....

What do they do?
Well, they do all manner of things. What are you looking for?
See? Confusing maze of Witch Doctor/Medicine Man style capsules and powders and liquids and pills...
Now there are things that burn fat, things that give you an energy boost, things that help repair and build muscle, help with endurance, support the immune system....AHHHR! TOO many choices for us to begin with. So..back to basics Ninjarettes!

Before we begin, let GN remind you that the 'clue is in the name'.
This means it is something 'in addition' to something else.  It is not your magic bullet or your short cut. You CANNOT expect to see any decent effects from your supplements of choice if you do not have the foundations in place.  What are the foundations? Gym Ninja reads minds now, as she knew you'd ask that.
OK, so you need to ensure your foundations are in place and by this, GN means that you have a healthy balanced 'clean' diet. Wholesome foods, a balance of carbs, proteins, fats and vitamins and minerals cooked healthily and in their nearest as possible to natural state. Plenty of fruit and veg. This means turn a blind eye to the majority of stuff Mums Go To Iceland For, processed nonsense, fast foods etc.  You are what you eat! Once that is sorted, ensure you eat regularly. No starving yourself all day then binging at night. For help go to the Maximuscle site for ideas on food plans and when and what you should be eating (think there is a clicky box to the right lower down that shows 'food plan' or something-that'll help you).
Plan your workout regime. What are you trying to achieve? Set goals. Change the workout every 4-6 weeks to keep the body changing. Combine cardio with strength training and stretching.  Write your training times in your diary and stick to it.
This is your foundation. Only when this is in mostly (we are all human!) in place then start to tinker with supplementation....

OK, so if you take just one thing, take protein. Protein makes a difference. A difference you can see and feel. Protein contains Amino Acids, and BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) Essentially, to keep it simple, your body needs protein to recover from training sessions & to maintain and/or build (depending on your workout plan and goals) the muscle you have. It's like giving your body the materials it needs to build (if it were a builder). Of course, you can get it from foods such as meats, dairy products, beans but the protein shakes are a lot more convenient to carry around than chilled meat and dairy!  If you do not consume enough protein, especially if you are watching your calorie intake, then your body becomes like a 'cannibal', and starts to look elsewhere for it's protein to use as energy to fuel your workouts etc.... Do you know what IS protein? Your muscles, so your body starts to use your muscles and effectively 'eats' them. Nom Nom Nom!  Think flat, shapeless muscles, plus a reduced metabolism as you now have less muscle mass (muscle mass increases the metabolism). Basically you're kind of wasting all that work you put in at the gym!  So, quaff a quality protein shake within say 30 mins of finishing your workout and you'll help yourself and start seeing improvements. Ladies-it won't make you HUGE! It will start giving your muscles the boost they need and you should feel better, start seeing results and even your hair and nails (made of protein you see) will start to show their appreciation too by being strong and glossy. PS...if you are still doubting, theng o look in the mirror. Think about the work you put in.
Men: Are you happy with what you see? Are you lifting weights yet not really seeing any gains?
Ladies: Are you lifting weights and not seeing a change? Are you maybe just a cardio queen yet the more you do the squishier your body seems to get?
Good-coz that means you need some protein.
So off you pop and buy some. Nothing fancy. Best get a Whey protein. Most of them are. Make sure it's decent quality as some are just full of nonsense and give you wind. We all know Gym Ninja's brand of choice is Maximuscle. They test EVERYTHING to ISO standards to prove what is on the label is in the tub and WORKS.  Choose from Promax, Maxi-Milk (for on the go pre-mixed), or Progain and  Cyclone if a guy & wanting a bit more muscle. Other good brands are EAS, MuscleTec, Met-Rx, CNP, Biotest, BSN...

Fat Burners (aka Thermogenics)
You've heard of these no? the 'quick fix' everyone thinks they can just pop and the fat melts away effortlessly?  Not so straight-forward people! These work in a number of ways, and again all are not created equal nor do they suit everyone. What works on one person may not make a blind bit of difference on someone else. But more importantly on Thermogenics than ANY other supplement is that these are only beneficial IF your eating and exercise regimes are spot on. If you're still cramming junk down your mouth, skipping workouts, binging on booze, going more than 4 hours without eating etc then you're wasting your cash. Thermogenics are useful if you have everything on track and need that last boost. They often increase your body temperature and boost your metabolism. A lot have green tea extracts and caffeine in them as these have been proved as helpful for fat burning. Some people report side effects like palpitations, headaches, insomnia (especially if you pop them too close to bed time), stomach pains, anxiety...especially those who are caffeine sensitive! Benefits include increased energy boost enabling you to train harder, improved concentration, decreased appetite in some.  Ideally if you are starting out then don't bother with these just yet. Get your basics like protein and your diet and exercise sorted first ok? Good brands are Maximuscle Thermabol, Isatori Lean System 7, Muscletech Hydroxycut (NOT for everyone! GN's eyes puffed up taking this!), Nutrex Lipo 6X, and Cytogenix Xenadrine.

Now you'll have heard of this??
 'I'm gonna take creatine and grow heeeruge!' Says the guy at the gym.  Hmm. Again, everything works ONLY if you get your foundations in place. Health clean diet and regular structured exercise regime. THEN and only then supplements. Creatine is found naturally in the body and used as a rapid energy system provider. Sudden bursts of effort such as a sudden 5 second flat out sprint to catch the bus, are fuelled by the CP System (creatine) as opposed to your running for 20 mins which is fuelled by the Aerobic system (mostly). So ever wondered why you have to stop after about 10 seconds of all-out sprinting or heaving stuff around? Because creatine depletes rapidly and your body has to then build the stores back again.  So if you need that extra boost to push yourself hard at the gym, then consider this. People wanting to increase muscular gains should take creatine (for a couple of months then take a month off  it before taking it again, or the body gets lazy and stops producing it's own stash) as you can push harder and lift heavier, causing greater muscular development. Creatine is also useful for endurance too, at a lower dosage. So if you want a bit more energy for those long runs or that hour long spin class, perhaps try this? Side effects can be bloating, water retention and in some stomach cramps. Good makes are Maximuscle Creatamax.. or any of the aforementioned companies really....pretty much a basic creatine powder is all you need though so no need to pay extra for a super dooper version-try them all and se what suits your body and purse best.

OK...Gym Ninja is getting tired of typing now. She has done 30 mins skipping at home as she is still trapped in her house due to treacherous roads. Now she needs to go lift some weights OK?

Part 2 of supplements tomorrow.

Did you all sign up for the freebie 1 day Fitness First Gym pass yet?  The link is on the right hand side if you're interested. Not that any of us  can DRIVE anywhere right now, but you  may as well show willing eh?

Gym Ninja x

Would you rather your key snap off in your frozen front door lock OR the front door itself swell and jam shut in the cold?