If you are new to lifting and want to start on the path to supplements, then this will make your life a lot easier!
In my last article, I wrote about the important role that Informed Sport play in all supplements for athletes and the reassurance given by a product having their stamp on it.
Another thing that is common on all pages relating to supplements is what and when to use them (It's something I get asked a lot!).
I will pass on all the knowledge of what I have learned from my years in the field and read about in scientific papers, and condense it into the following article. But first, the crux of everything you need to know about supplementation in any form for any goal.
You Need To Start With Your Diet!
Not many of you will want to hear this and a fair few of you will be going “well duh!”. However, it is how your diet is used that you may want to re-evaluate, before I introduce you to the 3phase system.
Before we get onto this system you have to make sure your diet is as good as you can get it.
Supplementation, by definition, is all about adding to your pre-existing diet to achieve your goal. Therefore if your diet is 90% there, then supplementation is right for you. If your diet is 100% then chances are you don’t need supplementation and you are very lucky!
If your nutrition is not on point, then look elsewhere before thinking about supplementation. I would recommend taking a look at Renaissance Periodisation.
So the 3phase system is nothing new, but it is present knowledge in an easy to understand format. You should place emphasis on each of the phases relevant to its impact to your health and not your goal.
Do not move onto the next phase until you have spent some time sorting out and getting used to the one you are currently on. The figure below gives you an idea as to how you should prioritise it.
Figure 1: blue = 50% phase 1. Orange=30% phase 2. Grey =20% phase 3
Daily non-goal supplements (least impact to your goal, and most impact to your health). These should be things you generally need, e.g. multi-vitamins and fish oil. They should be things you take when you are not training just to help with your day-to-day function.
If you are working out to any extent and watching what you eat you will definitively need a minimum of these two. If you can get a multi-mineral supplement as well (or perhaps one included in your multi-vitamin tablet(s)) then all the better.
Daily goal supporting supplements (moderate impact to your goal and health). This is anything specific to helping keep your body healthy while working out, however they also can be taken on days off.
Examples are: Vitamin D, Magnesium and Vitamin B complex because these can be used during either muscle gain or fat loss. Included into this are then things like protein powder, Creatine or fat loss supplements. The reason this is phase 2 and not phase 1 is that you should not need these for your day to day life. However, if you job is to be an athlete then some of these could be in your phase 1.
Workout specific supplements (least impact to your health but most impact to your workout). You should only be taking these around your workout. Examples are: BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids), Glutamine, simple carb powders and anything elce you want to help with your workout.
I personally take a pre-workout to help with my energy levels around my training session.
Timing here is often discussed the most. I think “when should I take this pre, intra or post workout?” is one of the most Googled things in the fitness industry. The simple truth is, that this is up to you and your body.
Figure 2: within each of the sections in phase 1 this is the breakdown in relation to its effects on improving each area. Note that no area should be put at risk for another!
I find that pre-workout, and while I am working out, taking BCAA’s, simple carbs and glutamine is perfect for me. That way they are working in my body, helping me to recover, before I have even finished working out! This is because I have an issue with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Take It All In
You cannot make anything work if you don’t take supplements into account of your daily calorie intake. Especially when you are talking about carbs and protein powders.
Figure3: taking it all in to your diet and not just bolting it on the side!
If you don’t include supplements in your calorie count or in your diet and simply bolt it on to the side, like a lot of people do, then you can see significant changes (more fat rather than muscle gain or less radical weight loss).
As I said at the beginning, none of this is new, so you shouldn’t be surprised or amazed by this. However, hopefully this should build upon your knowledge or at least re-affirm what you already know.