The majority of humans will benefit from a diverse, whole foods diet and a well-rounded exercise routine. One could hope that is enough to perform at your absolute best. That will make up 90% of your fitness and performance. However, there are plenty of humans pushing the limits of what has never been done before physically and mentally. There’s a population that has found “sufficient” to be the baseline, and they want to perform at their peak potential. The population that would like to take it to the next level, safely, with long term effects and health still at the forefront of their goals.
All sorts of supplements have come and gone. There have been plenty that get pulled for banned substances, and even causing liver failure in some rare cases. We are not talking about those. We are going to talk about certain supplements that have been studied for decades that have been studied and proven to add benefit to physical performance.
There has been, and will always be an ongoing search for the next golden secret to fitness. I’ve been lucky enough to work with professional athletes, and I’ve seen their nutrition program, as well as their supplement program. When I opened the training book, I was beyond curious to find the elusive hidden secrets to success just glowing from the page, but it was not there. Get your training in, work hard, good nutrition, sleep, hydration, and a few supplements that have been for rigorously tested and proven to help, not harm. I was honestly a bit bummed, as I was unable to find any secrets! However it was also, gratifying, knowing that the true results come from the basics. If those basics are covered and done well, there are some options that could help you push the limit of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your goals are to decrease body fat, increase lean mass, run faster, lift heavier, jump higher, etc. Use discretion, and remember, none of these are a replacement for all of the foundational components of fitness.
- Protein- Ideally, we get it all from our food. However, in the real world, some don’t have time to eat enough protein. The protein powders are quick, easy, portable, you can make it on the spot, and if you get creative, you can make it taste absolutely DELICIOUS. There are lots of different options, even for vegetarians and vegans. Chocolate almond milk, 1 scoop, and a banana, or some triple berry blend?!? Many will even blend in some greens to get their phyto nutrient levels up for the day. (cup of spinach, etc.) What protein to go with? There’s a ton of options. Do a bit of research and find one that has been tested for banned substances if possible. Other major factor is the flavor. Nobody needs five pounds of a flavor that made you gag on the first swig.
- Creatine Monohydrate- If you’re still scared of this one, you need to do some googling. As long as you stay hydrated and use it properly, you will be fine. It’s a naturally occurring fuel source, found in food. However most will not eat enough to fully saturate their capacity. It not only provides more ATP (energy) into the muscle, which prolongs the capacity to move before failure, it acts as a buffer against lactic acid. Meaning the burn doesn’t set in for a couple extra reps. Therefore, you moved more than you normally would. Now the adaptation stimulus will respond to those extra reps. Double whammy. That is a win. Only setback? Well, it is similar to when you eat a ton of carbs, you hold more water. But without the caloric gorging that comes with carb loading. For some athletes the extra 3-5 lbs is detrimental, but for most, it is worth the benefits. Use the 5g a day for 30 days loading phase and STAY HYDRATED or prepare for some pretty uncomfortable muscle cramping.
- Probiotics. If you haven’t heard about these, please listen up. There’s an entire biome going on in your gut that dictates what kind of food you crave right now. That same biome is responsible for how you feel, your immune system, and many other health factors. The more good bacteria you have in there the more your immune system thrives and functions at its peak performance. Those heavy antibiotics you took for that sinus infection just wiped out most of that biome. Build it back up.
- Vitamin D. The benefits of this vitamin include battling depression, increased bone density, increased cardiovascular health, boosted immunity, decreased risk of colon cancer, and many others. If you’re deficient in this vitamin, you can’t absorb calcium, so osteoporosis becomes more of a possibility down the road. Ideally, you get outside and run through the sunshine. However, for most people in the winter, especially in the north, they can be very deficient in levels of vitamin D. Get a test done at your doctor’s office and see what you could use. It can do wonders. Consider this: Actual sunlight in the summer can provide all you need in just 15 minutes a day a couple times a week. That’s the bare minimum.
- Multi-vitamin. Again, if we all ate salmon, with a perfect salad, then snacked on 14 various nuts, seeds and other health foods day after day, we wouldn’t need these. It just so happens that we are humans, and creating a diet that covers/exceeds 100% of your Daily Value in every Micronutrient is exhausting and will make your head spin. I’ve tried. It’s not realistic. That’s where the multivitamin comes in. If you’re levels are deficient, it can help shore those up. If they’re sufficient, most of the micronutrients are water soluble, so your body will level those out for you. In any case, there can be missing nutrients like Vitamin K, Magnesium, B,C,E, and anti-oxidants that have been proven to help with a myriad of functions like cardiovascular endurance, calcium absorption, tissue repair, etc. Why cut yourself short?
Do your research. Find what’s best for you and your goals. Remember, supplements are not regulated by the FDA and make sure you check with your physician before taking anything.