SUPPLEMENTING FOR STRENGTH AND PERFORMANCE!
A lot of people are always looking for supplements to help them build muscle or burn fat, but what about the supplements that help you perform better in the gym? If you can boost strength and performance then you will put yourself in a position to build more muscle mass and achieve greater fat loss!
First, you have to understand that nutrition and rest will do far more for strength and performance than any supplement could ever do. So it is important that you have consumed enough calories in the proper macronutrient ratio, and have gotten enough sleep prior to your workout! I have always found that higher carbohydrate containing meals the night before, and morning of, a workout will help with muscle glycogen storage. This is stored energy within the muscle that can be used for weight lifting! Secondly, fats are the most dense source of energy there is, so adding some almond butter or olive oil to those meals is a great way to fuel up for the following training session! Protein does play a role in performance, but I like to view protein as something that is more for rebuilding the muscle, instead of something that is used for performance. Lastly, making sure you are hydrated, and even adding some sodium into your pre-workout meal will help hydrate the muscle and improve performance! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk supplements!
CREATINE, BETA-ALANINE, AND PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS
Creatine is, hands down, one of the most proven performance enhancing supplements that there is. Creatine will allow the muscle to perform harder for longer. This means that you will be able to lift a heavier weight for more reps while using creatine! The most common form of creatine is creatine monohydrate and I’ve always suggested taking 5g of creatine monohydrate prior to hitting the gym. There are other theories suggesting a “loading phase” of creatine, and/or taking the creatine with a carbohydrate supplement. Both of these theories work, but I’ve also found that I still get the desired effect of increased performance by simply taking 5g pre-workout and not having to worry about it! Some are concerned about the water retention that is often found with creatine supplementation. This is something that actually helps increase strength and performance regarding weight lifting. If you are dieting to lose fat or look a certain way, then you might not like this. However, if you want ultimate performance then the strength gained will far outweigh the amount of water weight that you may carry from supplementing with creatine monohydrate.
Beta-Alanine is a supplement that has a lot of evidence showing improvements in endurance training. This makes this supplement a great addition for anybody who does any sort of endurance or athletic type of training alongside weightlifting. The good thing for weight lifters is that beta-alanine can still improve strength and endurance with weightlifting. If you can squeeze out another couple reps on an exercise because of beta-alanine supplementation, then you are able to push your body further than you could without it! We all know that if nutrition and rest are in line with your goals, then lifting a heavier weight for more reps will only lead to greater increases in muscle mass and strength. The most common dosing for Beta-alanine is anywhere from 1.5g-3g per day, taken spaced out or all at once pre-workout (if you don’t mind getting itchy and tingly!)
Lastly, pre-workouts are arguably one of the greatest things you can use to increase performance for the short period of time that you are in the gym or performing any sort of athletic competition. A lot of pre-workouts come with creatine and beta-alanine as part of a blend, along with some sore of “pump” blend, which incorporates nitric oxide boosting ingredients. These blends are what help the muscle perform harder in the gym, but where pre-workouts shine is in their energy blend. These blends will stimulate the mind to push the body harder than one might without the energy. The upside is that you will be primed, energized, and ready to crush your workout! The downside is that some products contain too many stimulants for some. This can lead to increased heart rate, shortness of breath, dizziness, and even nausea for some people. If you are over-stimulated then performance will suffer. It is important to find a pre-workout that has a stimulant blend that agrees with your body and mind. If you can find a pre-workout that contains an active dose of creatine, beta-alanine, and a good stimulant blend, then it’s a solid product to add for increasing strength and performance!
VITAMIN D AND CARBOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTS
There has been a lot of talk about vitamin D and how most people are deficient. We synthesize vitamin D from sunshine as well as get a significant amount of it from dairy in our diet. I believe that people spend a lot more time indoors compared to what we used to do, and this may be one reason why many are deficient in vitamin D. People deficient in vitamin D can have weaker bones, lower testosterone, slower muscle recovery time, weaker immune systems, and possibly store body fat easier. Supplementing several times per week with 1000-2000iu vitamin D should be enough to keep vitamin D levels within range, and your body performing optimally. I want you to understand that vitamin D is a fat soluable vitamin, so you can take too much of it. I wouldn’t exceed the recommended dosing in this article without speaking with your doctor.
Carbohydrate supplements such as “Karbolyn”, “Maltodextrin”, “Dextrose”, “Waxy Maize”, and “Vitargo” are great sources of energy that can be consumed before, and even during your workout! If gasoline is fuel for your car, then consider these supplements as fuel for your muscle. The benefit of these specific supplements is that they digest quickly. This means that you can consume them before, and during, your workout so that the muscle is getting energy as it is burning energy! The amount one will use is determined based on their body type and goals. Some people only require 15-20g during a workout, while others consume 50g+ during their workout. It all depends on the person, but if you find that you are losing a pump and getting weaker by the end of your training session, then you might want to look into adding a carbohydrate supplement to increase performance and stamina throughout the whole workout!
These are simple, cheap, and effective supplements that can definitely help you improve your strength and performance in the gym. If you’ve reached a plateau or have been struggling lately, then I highly suggest giving one, or all, of these a shot and see if it makes a difference!
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Let’s get better together!