Supplement Heirachy of Importance

Written by  Adam Kitchen
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Without a doubt, the most frequent and sometimes monotonous question I get asked in my line of work is "What supplement should I take?", before any slight implication as to what that individuals specific goals are. Straight away, you can see the problem here. Not everybody thinks in a goal orientated manner. Hypothetically, the guy who wants to build a lot of muscle mass will obviously need to be browsing a different spectrum of supplements to the lady who wants to solely burn bodyfat and improve mobility. However, when it comes to the foundational components that make up any solid training and nutritional regimen, they're staggeringly similar - and practically identical.

Thus, the objective of this article is to provide an objective perspective on basic supplementation for the beginner right through to the advanced.

It's no secret that supplements aren't a necessity to reach your goals. Yet despite this, it's also blatantly obvious that athletes, in general, should be adhering to make up for deficiencies in their diets or to combat the effects of training; regardless of the intensity used. I'd say around 95% of elite athletes use supplementation to reach their goals, and if that doesn't give the words "supplements" credibility, I don't know what will. The common discrepancy is that the word supplement is instantly associated with the category "esoterica" on the paradigm of priority (see table 1) which many may have had poor experiences with. But overlooking the basics and going straight to the exotic looking things is silly, which I'll explain more thoroughly in context throughout the article.

*Table 1: Courtesy of Lyle McDonald's 2 part article on Supplementation

Despite what you may have initially thought, esoterica are the least important category of the paradigm after the most thoroughly researched scientific products. This isn't to say that the Esoterica category of supplements is useless, it's just that the products falling into this part of the pyramid are only work to their potential once you have adherence to basic training and nutritional principles.

With that being cleared, this article will focus solely on the products that everybody and anybody can have some physiological benefit from: General Use Supplements. I will cover Performance Supplements and Esoterica Supplements at a later date.

General Use Supplements

General use supplements are components that can fill the gaps in any potential deficiencies in your current nutritional regime. After all, your dietary habits are the foundation for success. If you can't show adherence to solid nutritional principles, then unfortunately, you aren't going to get very far and construct any substantial longevity towards your health and goals. So, our number #1 objective / priority when using supplements should be exactly that: to improve our overall health and well being, and to provide a necessary foundational base towards achieving our physical or aesthetic goals, whatever the endeavour. If you think there's any other way around this then you're sadly mistaken. Additional testosterone or exotic hormones won't cover a deficiency in the nutrients that need to be in place for them to take action.

Protein Powders

Protein Powders have been a popular mainstream form of supplementation for decades now. Most are safe, cost efficient and effective to use. But why should you use them?

Without dragging this out into a science textbook, here are just a few of the crucial roles protein plays in your body: it repairs and builds muscle tissue, strengthens immune system, supports a healthy metabolism, assists greatly in fat loss, etc. We'll cut it short there for convenience, but just know that it's not just an essential nutrient for survival, it's also involved in nearly every important function  in the human body. Protein Powders simply offer convenience, ease of use and flexibility that an individual may not always have when consuming whole foods.

It's not only evident that protein is the most important macronutrient for the majority of athletes - especially those in physical sports / endeavours - but it's also grossly overlooked by the general public as well in modern societies diet. It has long been argued by nutritional experts and health enthusiasts that even the RDA value's that you see recommended on the back of common nutritional foods, are terribly ignorant of an idealistic protein intake and need to be revolutionised to fulfill the health needs of the general public. Thus, it goes without saying, you, as an athlete or an individual looking to transform your physique or improve performance, need additional protein in your diet - & if you can't get the necessary amount from whole foods (which is often difficult for most), then protein powders are an extremely effective method of achieving optimal intake.

Now we've established that every form of athlete or individual looking to transform their physique needs above average requirements of protein to the static human, let's take a brief look at some various forms of protein and how they may be applicable to your goals.

Whey Protein

You've probably heard of whey protein several times before and it has an almost unparalleled reputation amongst gym users as the most outstanding form of protein to supplement into your diet. This is because it yields an extremely high biological value - meaning it gets utilised very effectively in the body for important processes. Whey is high in potent amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that constitute towards building muscle mass such as the Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's). It is also rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and known to trigger a process called protein synthesis, which is a fancy way of saying the process of which cells build protein. Thus, it has earned a reputation as a "fast acting protein", and is typically recommend to consume pre or post-workout for maximum effects.

pdreflex-instantwhey

Reflex's Instant Whey has earned a stellar reputation as an industry leader in the field of protein formulation.

See more best-selling whey protein formula's here.

Casein Protein

Whilst whey has a stellar reputation as being fast acting, casein is the exact polar opposite in the sense that it offers great benefits as a "slow" digesting protein. Why would you want a slow digesting protein though? Well, the human body is unable to store excess amino acids unlike carbohydrates or fats, so slow digesting proteins have their uses. Liquid form typically takes around 7-8 hours per serving to fully digest, so they make for great use alongside meals or pre-bed to prevent a process known as catabolism (muscle wastage). Casein protein is also high in crucial amino acids and renowned as a great source of protein.

PdReflex-Micellar

Again, Reflex's Micellar Casein has an outstanding reputation for quality here.

Blended Proteins

For individuals thinking this is all too quickly sounding a bit too complex for their own ears (don't worry, I have a terrible habit of being ultra-specific) you may well wish to just look into a blend of proteins. These are basically protein powders which combine blends of various proteins; more often than not, casein and whey together, and often egg protein. The best of both worlds, so to speak. They have gained popularity due to their versatility and cost effectiveness they can often offer.

PdNutriSport-90

Nutrisport's 90+, a winning combination of whey & casein protein.

See more best-selling protein blends here.

As a wrap-up for this section, I should note that not everybody's goal with protein supplementation is ubiquitous across the board. Again, this article is just a generalised view on protein supplementation - it doesn't take into account the multitude of individuals who may be better off with a weight gainer, for example, to achieve their goals.

Multivitamin

As modern society becomes more and more dependant on fast food and unhealthy practices, we have an inevitable shortcoming on a healthy vitamin and mineral intake that is required for several important functions in the body. Popping a multivitamin is a simple way to resound that problem. Consider the fact that as we become more deficient in these area's of our diets over a prolonged period of time, common occurances such as a weakened immune system, more prevelance to disease & illness are all the more likely. From a health perspective, it's simply a nice reassurance.

I should also note that as most of you reading this are athletes involved in training, you need more than what the average person is recommended of typical RDA value's. Luckily, most sports nutrition multi-vits are already a step ahead in realising this so there's no need to panic.

pdcontrolledlabs-orangetriad

Controlled Labs Orange Triad is my favourite multi-vitamin as it contains additional goodies such as joint support, etc.

More great multivitamins this way, folks.

Fish Oils

It's not an exaggeration when I say this: everyone should be taking fish oils, unless they consume quality fish on a regular basis prevalent in the omega-3 fatty acids. The reason for this is that it's almost impossible to reach an efficient amount in the modern diet so supplementation is a simple way to rectify this problem. Further more, maintaining a healthy balance between omega-3: omega-6's is very important, and it appears that too much of the latter leads to a host of health complications.

What do fish oils do exactly? Pretty much everything is the answer. They promote fat oxidation, moderate inflammation, promote cardiovascular health, inhibit fat storage, improve brain function, prevent disease (do I really need to continue?) and the research is there in abundance. It quite simply is a necessity and whilst it's easy to negate the use of a multivitamin through a nutritious diet, unless you are keen on eating plenty of fish then you should probably be supplementing with fish oils.

A total intake of 3grams of EPA/DHA is usually what's recommended, and slightly more so for those in a calorie deficit.

pdreflex-omega3

Reflex's Omega 3 is a rich form of fish oil. Yea, I'm kind of a big Reflex fan, as you have probably guessed by now.

More fish oils and EFA formula's this way.

Calcium & Vitamin D 

These two come grouped together in this article as they're generally included together in a lot of formulations by general health companies.

We'll start with Calcium: Whilst calcium is generally easy to obtain through the general diet, it's recently came to the forefront of science how neglected it can be. Consequently, deficiencies in calcium often lead to poor bone health (especially those with high protein intake), and it's worth noting that it has supportive data to suggest it boosts testosterone and increases fat excretion (credit to Martin Berkhan for these studies).

The problem appears to that many athletes are now turning away from dairy consumption - an often brilliant form of calcium. Whilst some individuals may not respond well to dairy in terms of body composition, for the majority of us, dairy is a great source of calcium and protein. But for those who shun dairy, it may very well be worth supplementing with additional calcium if your multi-vitamin doesn't contain a sufficient amount.

Vitamin D is naturally obtained through exposure to sunlight. Sounds simple enough. But for those of us who live in colder climates, have indoor jobs, etc, problems start to occur with deficiencies. Research suggests that deficiencies lead to an abundance of health problems. Again, this isn't just something I'm recommending to athletes; this is a very serious issue that is imperative we rectify to improve longevity in our lives and general health. The following quote, courtesy of the Vitamin D Council, sums things up "nicely":

"Current research has implicated vitamin D deficiency as a major factor in the pathology of at least 17 varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, periodontal disease, and more.

Vitamin D's influence on key biological functions vital to one's health and well-being mandates that vitamin D no longer be ignored by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health."

Whilst calcium deficiencies can be rectified with a few simple dietary changes, Vitamin D remains hard to obtain. Hell, you'd have to drink 50 glasses of milk to receive an efficient amount daily. & whilst sunlight will rectify the problem for most individuals, for most of us, it's simply not an available option - so supplementation becomes necessary. P.S - I do not recommend sunbeds, despite some people's recommendations.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the "bread & butter" supplements that everyone can benefit from and in some cases should be taking. Whilst some aspects can be rectified with simple dietary changes, the simple solution for some in a modern diet may be supplementation.

As for performance supplements such as creatine, BCAA's, beta-alanine, etc. Well, they'll have to wait for a later date. Hope you all enjoyed the article.

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http://twitter.com/#!/adamkitchen1

Article Comments

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  • Comment Link Jamie maddock posted by

    Another top article. Keep up the good work.

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