Brief overview of Ergogenic Aids / Supplements
What is an Ergogenic aid?
In the fitness industry the most popular form of ergogenic aids are in the form of supplements. However, ergogenic aids are not only just supplements. By definition an ergogenic aid is any substance that enhances performance. It can be physiological, biomechanical, psychological, pharmacological, or nutritional.
Ergo = work
Genic = to generate
For this article we are going to focus on supplements which are classified as Nutritional Ergogenic Aids.
The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is continuing to grow year after year. When looking to purchase supplements a few things need to be considered. One, supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means there is no governing body that has to “approve” the supplement before it is marketed. Secondly, not all supplements sold on the shelves produce results. Supplement labels can be very misleading therefore it is important for the consumer to research a product before they make a purchase. Lastly, not all supplement companies are created equal. Not only should consumers do research on a specific compound but on the company as well. Sometimes it makes sense to spend a little more money on your supplements to ensure you are getting the highest quality available. Put it this way, what is the sense in saving a couple dollars when the company that made the supplement you purchased uses low quality ingredients and cannot meet label claims? Quality over quantity!
Here is a list of what I typically recommend to my athletes when selecting supplements.
*Here is your personal Hunt Fitness Supplement Guide
– Essential supplements (For all athletes – general health/body composition)
- Multi Vitamin – Cover all of your micronutrient bases! Its best to try and meet all of your micronutrient needs through food but having a multivitamin is a good way to ensure you are not deficient in one micronutrient. I’m not a huge advocate of the expensive “sports performance” multi vitamins. In my opinion this is one area where you can afford to be stingy. Just go to Wall-Mart or an online supplement store and get a cheap one a day multi vitamin and call it a day. For most of you that will be more than sufficient. The only objection to that is an extremely hard training athlete and/or bodybuilder getting ready for a contest that will need to take into account a greater micronutrient demand. Again that can be accomplished through food or getting a higher quality multivitamin supplement. I prefer the former.
- Protein Powder – Protein powder is great for meeting your daily protein requirement and should be included in your diet. Despite what you all may think there is nothing all that special about drinking protein shakes. It is just highly concentrated, highly bio available protein. The biggest benefit gained from including a protein powder in your diet is convenience. However, it should be used in conjunction with a good diet that is based on high quality whole food protein sources. I personally recommend a whey protein powder due to the high BCAA content and especially leucine for the muscle protein syntheses benefits. I recommend looking for a product that has a blend of whey concentrate, isolate and hydroslate. All three forms have their benefits. Most high quality protein powders on the market have a blend of all three forms of whey.
- Healthy Fat – This category can be considered both a supplement and food similarly to protein powder. Everyone has heard about the benefits of mono and poly unsaturated fats and supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids. They are essential nutrients that are involved in numerous physiological processes within the body. I recommend getting a high quality omega 3 supplement as well as a healthy fat oil source such as macadamia nut oil to add some healthy fats to your diet.
– Next step (Recovery and Muscle Building)
- BCAAs – During workout nutrition, BCAAs are basically low calorie muscle food! Take 5-10g BCAAs during your workout. They help increase muscle protein synthesis as well as aid in recovery. Great overall supplement.
- Creatine Monohydrate– Great supplement for building strength and muscle. Take 3-5g daily, it can be all at once or split up over two doses such as pre and post workout on training days. Creatine monohydrate is the most scientifically researched and backed form of creatine available. The biggest benefit of creatine monohydrate is the fact that it is cheaper than any other form of creatine plus has been shown to be more effective. There is no better value than creatine monohydrate.
- Pre Workout Supplement– When looking for a pre workout supplement look for a product that has stimulants such as caffeine to get you energized along with muscle builders beta alanine and creatine. If you are getting a 3-5g dose of creatine from your pre workout you do not need to supplement with extra creatine. However, most pre workout formulas do not have a substantial amount of creatine in them. Another thing to look for in a pre workout is Arginine or Arginine AKG. Arginine and N.O is what the product category was built around but there is not a lot of research to support its muscle building benefits. If a form of Arginine is included in your pre workout product of choice great but if not I wouldn’t worry about it.
– Fat loss
- Stimulant Fat Burner – A stimulant based fat burner works by up regulating your metabolic rate causing your body to burn more calories. They are not magic; you need to be on a calorie restricted diet along with a training plan conducive to fat loss for these to work. Look for a product that contains caffeine, yohimbe, green tea, or even small doses of ephedrine.
- Carnitine- Carnitine is a compound that is a combination of the amino acids lysine and methionine. It works as a fat burner by transporting fatty acids into the mitochondria of the cell where it can be used for energy. Carnitine provides muscle building benefits as well and is a great overall supplement. For extreme fat loss stack a thermogenic stimulant fat burner with Carnitine.
(Not Recommended) Fat Blockers- Fat blockers such as Chitosan work by binding to fat in the digestive track and not allowing them to be digested. In theory it allows one to consume high fat foods without them being absorbed into the body. I am not a proponent of this for a couple of different reasons. For one, I would rather just monitor my fat intake and provide my body with the healthy fat it needs and when it’s time for a cheat meal just eat a cheat meal and not worry about it. Secondly, there are some nasty side effects associated with these products such as anal leakage…need I say more.
– Vitamin C, Vitamin D, MCTs
The take home message when it comes to supplementation is to do your homework! Supplement companies want to try and sell you so it is your job to know what works!
Until next time
“One Dream, One Reality”