With the UKs biggest fitness expo just behind us, I have decided to discuss supplementation and how to choose and use it for optimal results. Anybody who went would agree that the Bodypower Expo was bigger than ever. They exhibited loads of products and everywhere you looked, there were different stands representing different brands but how do you compare one from the next? How do you choose the right products or brands for you? With so many on the market, it can be confusing – whey protein, casein protein, isolate, blends, all-in-ones, bars, cookies, flapjacks, pre-workout powder, energy gels, isotonic drinks – the list is endless, so choose carefully. I am sponsored by Genetic Supplements so I am obviously biased as I love their products and use many of them throughout my prep but I will do my best to remain impartial.
Here are some pointers to consider to help you gain a more thorough understanding of dietary supplementation…
1. Supplements are just that. They are there to supplement your already clean, solid diet plan made up of real food. You are meticulous about what you put in your body when it comes to food, reading and calculating all the nutritional information, so why don’t you inspect the labels of supplements as closely? Just because they are touted by popular, successful fitness competitors or athletes (including myself!), that doesn’t mean you should take their word for it. Give them a whirl for yourself, monitor how your physique reacts to them and make an effort to look at the nutritional content. Many products contain harmful chemicals and sweeteners which could be having an adverse effect on your body.
2. All types of protein powder has a place within a diet plan and that’s probably why it can be so confusing. Isolate whey is usually a better quality, purer, more easily digestible version of regular whey so is favoured by many. However regular whey can be just as effective when combined with natural sources of dietary protein. Casein or blend proteins are usually used before bed to aid muscle retention whilst sleeping as they are absorbed at a slower rate. I always think a blend protein is a vital addition as it contains different types – whey, egg and casein – to ensure muscles are fed both immediately and over the next few hours, so can be consumed first thing in the morning, last thing at night and some favour it as a beneficial post-workout protein source. What I would say about protein powders is be mindful of their ingredients as many people don’t look past the macronutrient breakdown. Keep an eye out for nasties such as aspartame and acesulfame potassium (or acesulfame K), and of course, sugar. These could be limiting fat loss by dramatically spiking insulin every time they are consumed. Natural sweeteners such as stevia are a better option.
3. Protein bars, cookies and flapjacks are also hugely popular within the supplement industry. In all honesty, I am not a huge fan of these myself. Sure, they are great ‘fillers’, useful to eat on the go, taste great AND they have a high protein content but it’s difficult to find products that aren’t full of rubbish. Many have just as much sugar as protein! Having said this, I do think companies are producing better protein treats – better quality and using more natural ingredients. There are only a handful of bars that I would eat personally, instead I choose to make my own flapjacks or cookies if I am craving something sweet. It’s much more satisfying when you can see all the ingredients that go into them. So, don’t be fooled because it says it is high in protein – look beyond this and if you’re not happy, just get your bake on!
4. Quality over quantity. This is something that is crucial for me, especially during competition prep. I have tried many many different products over the years- starting with the cheapest and most basic all the way up to the more expensive. Looking beyond the brand, I think you can tell a good protein powder by how it looks, how it blends and how it tastes. A softer, purer looking powder which blends easily and doesn’t taste overly artificial or sweet makes the cut for me. You have to wonder why some protein is so cheap and it’s usually because it is of a poorer quality and has spent less time in the factory being produced and blended. I am not saying, however, that all the expensive proteins are the best quality because this might not be the case at all. Again, it’s a case of studying those nutrition labels and giving different products a try – you will soon know which one works for you.
5. Moving beyond protein powders and bars, there are many supplements which could aid results in the gym whether you’re looking to get stronger, fitter, build muscle or lose fat. In my opinion, the rest of your stash should include a good multivitamin for general health, vitamin C to keep the immune system strong, vitamin D3 for optimal muscular function, a form of creatine for energy, L-glutamine for recovery, fish oils for anti-inflammatory properties and ZMA to boost testosterone and aid recovery. Goal-depending, there are many other products which could be hugely beneficial!
Don’t overlook supplementation when it comes to achieving your goals but do ensure you follow a good solid diet first and simply use the supplements to, well….supplement.
If anyone is interested in the supplements I take, you can see them all here – www.geneticsupplements.co.uk. They offer a great range and I use all of the above from their range. I think everyone is quite aware of my little obsession with Muscle Mousse too!