So let's continue with an insight into the basics of supplements. The initial article covered protein powders and their different types and benefits. So whats next on the list?
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
If you don't eat fatty fish at least three times a week, you'll be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that's the case with about 80 percent of people. Since the brain is composed of 40 percent DHA, one of the omega-3s, a long-term lack may cause aberrations in brain neurotransmitter function, resulting in depression and aggression.
Omega-3s provide numerous health benefits. Recent studies show that middle-aged people who eat diets rich in omega-3 fats have a 75 percent decreased incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3s help prevent several types of cancer, including breast and prostate cancers.
They improve insulin sensitivity and make cellular membranes more pliable so that hormones can more efficiently interact with cellular receptors. Some studies suggest that a generous intake of omega-3, at least five grams daily, blunts body fat synthesis and reduces inflammation, which can help relieve sore joints and muscles.
Natural sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, flaxseeds and chia seeds. I personally take 10 grams of ground flaxseeds every day with my protein shake and sprinkle chia seeds on top of my porridge oats.
3. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is the number-one supplement for improving performance in the gym. Studies show that it can increase muscle mass, strength and exercise performance. Additionally, it provides a number of other health benefits, such as protecting against neurological disease. Some people believe that creatine is unsafe and has many side effects, but these are not supported by evidence. In fact, it is one of the world’s most tested supplements and has an outstanding safety profile
So what is creatine? Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids. Your body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine. About 95% of your body's creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in your brain, kidneys and liver. When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is often called the body's energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise. Creatine also alters several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength and recovery. So as you can see creatine is worthy of supplementation and I personally take 5 grams a day in my protein shake.
4. Vitamin D
As with most vitamins, if you’re getting enough vitamin D – from your diet and exposure to sunlight – you don’t need supplementation. Vitamin D helps to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies, which is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Normally it's made when the skin is exposed to sunlight – so we get plenty in spring and summer. But in autumn and winter, when sunlight is scarce, less of the vitamin is made and one in five people in the UK become deficient. Although vitamin D is contained in some food, it's difficult to get the recommended amount this way. The foods that contain vitamin D are oily fish, red meat, liver, and egg yolks. I personally take 12.5 micrograms a day in tablet form.
5. Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the human body. Nine of the 20 are considered essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. “Branched-chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAAs, which are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. The supplementation of these has been shown to assist with the increase in muscle growth and a decease in muscle soreness post workout. BCAA’s can also prevent muscle wasting or breakdown. This is essential if your injured and cant train for any reason. Supplementing with these will help you keep your hard earned muscle. Likewise if your practicing fasting and are delving into the world of 36 to 48 hour fasts. These can also assist in preventing muscle wastage whilst fasting. I personally take 5 grams of BCAA’s in my protein shake.
Glutamine is an important amino acid with many functions in the body. It is a building block of protein and critical part of the immune system. What’s more, glutamine has a special role in intestinal health. Your body naturally produces this amino acid, and it is also found in many foods such as eggs, beef, and skimmed milk. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and therefore considered essential. One of the most important functions of glutamine is its role in the immune system. It is a critical fuel source for immune cells, including white blood cells and certain intestinal cells. If the body’s need for glutamine is greater than its ability to produce it, your body may break down protein stores, such as muscle, to release more of this amino acid. Additionally, the function of the immune system can be compromised when insufficient amounts of glutamine are available. I personally take 5 grams of glutamine in my protein shake.
Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water. It is a type of cyanobacteria, which is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae. Just like plants, cyanobacteria can produce energy from sunlight via a process called photosynthesis. Spirulina is known as a nutrient-dense food as it is packed full of vitamins, including vitamins A, C, E and B vitamins, as well as a whole host of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. It is also high in protein containing 4 grams per 7 gram serving. Research suggests it can improve gut health, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and boosts metabolism. I personally take 5 grams of spirulina in my protein shake.
So as you can see I get all my daily supplementation into one protein shake. I find this the best all in one approach which is prepared quickly and easily.