Supplements: our philosophy
What do you really need in terms of supplements? And what are the right products within each category?
The below are the supplements that I currently use or have used in the past. My general ethos is to minimise the number of supplements I use. Each supplement must have a specific purpose. I only go for more expensive brands where quality is really a determining factor. You’ve heard it before but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate: supplements are supplemental… duh! They do not and cannot replace a sound nutritional strategy and balanced lifestyle.
If you are adding new supplements, what I suggest is that you add only a small number at a time and treat each as an experiment. Do you feel any different after 4-6 weeks? With most of these, you should be able to notice the difference. If you don’t, it might be that you are a “non-responder” and your money would be better spent elsewhere. Also, remember to always cycle off occasionally. It can’t hurt. I will even occasionally cycle off kale. True story. Though I will never cycle off coffee. Because coffee.
Ok this has to be number 1. I’m not going to waste your time explaining the benefits of protein. If you need to be convinced that protein is important, I can’t help you. I will say that protein supplementation should represent only a small fraction of your daily protein intake. Less than 20-25%. If you are a guy and eat 200g per day, this means 40-50g (normally two scoops) and if you are a woman and eat 125g this means roughly 25-30g (1-1.5 scoops normally). To put it simply, don’t have more than 1 instance of protein supplementation per day. For me this is post-workout. That’s it. If you have a protein smoothie for breakfast, you are shit out of luck post-workout.
Real food is always better. You should save your supplemental protein intake for either (1) Post or pre workout, where ease of digestion and appetite may be a factor or (2) those occasions where it is a choice between a protein supplement or no protein whatsoever.
I recommend vegan protein powder. Nowadays, these supplements can offer a full amino acid profile and adequate amounts of the amino acids thought to be most linked to protein synthesis (muscle repair). Vegan protein, normally made from brown rice, peas, hemp and the like also tends to be easier on the digestive system. Whey protein (from milk) can cause inflammation and it is very hard to be sure you are getting protein from good quality, ethically sourced milk.
My personal favourite is SunWarrior Organic Vegan Protein Blend
For a slightly more expensive, rice-based protein try PurePharma’s PR3
As you all know, post-workout is the best time to consume carbohydrate. At this time, sugars and complex carbs will replenish glycogen depletion in the muscles helping them recover and rebuild more effectively. I pretty much always use a post-workout supplement to get some carbohydrate and protein after training. One general point on post-workout nutrition is that you don’t need to break the bank with these. Typical carb sources (waxy maize starch, maltodextrin, dextrose, virago, blended oats) are all cheap as is whey protein. You don’t need anything fancy here.
But it is worth saying that if you have a protein powder like the above you could easily combine a scoop of that blended with banana and / or oats to achieve the same effect. You could also easily get some separate carb source like Vitargo or, if you wanna watch the pennies, a combination of Dextrose and Maltodextrin to add to your protein. Just stick to these principles:
(1) Keep a 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.A typical guy might want 40-50g of carbs post-workout which would mean 20-25g of protein. A typical woman might want 30-40g of carbohydrate which would mean 15-20g of protein. Base your protein level around what carbs you have. So if you just have a banana, which might get you 30g of carbs, stick to 15g of protein.
(2) Limit fats as much as possible. No peanut butter in those post-workout shakes please! The point is to have your muscles absorb the available glucose as fast as possible while your insulin levels are spiked. Don’t mess that up by slowing digestion with fats.
Having said that, it can be easier to leave all this effort aside and just use a dedicated post-workout supplement. I do this myself.
I use BulkPowders Complete Recovery Mixed Berry flavour but note that this contains whey
For a vegan alternative, try the BulkPowders Vegan Gainer
The most well-researched performance enhancing supplement on the market besides caffeine and I know you are all crushing espressos so…
What I find interesting about this supplement is that not only has it been shown to increase performance in power-based, high-intensity / short-duration efforts but there is also a body of research pointing towards its potential role in aiding cognition, helping depression and potentially helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. So if you want to be able to lift heavier, more often and get a little smarter, this could be the supplement for you! What is more, It’s cheap as hell! Take 5g per day. You could do this forever, but it’s always good practice to cycle off occasionally.
Here is the budget BulkPowders option. Do the maths here. £10.99 for 1kg where a daily serving is 5g. That’s 200 servings for £11. Ain’t bad is it?
You could also try the slightly more expensive Creapure from BulkPowders
VITAMIN AND MINERAL SUPPLEMENTS
My approach to vitamins and mineral is much the same as my approach to other supplements. There needs to be a specific reason I am taking that particular vitamin or mineral. Multivits are ok, but I think you should be able to cover most of your general needs through food. Besides you can’t get enough trace minerals in those pills. They would have to be much, much larger to do that.
Here are the vitamin and mineral supplements I take:
PurePharma Vitamin D3 because we get no sun-light and D3 is hard to come by via food. We are all deficient in this vitamin according to research.
PurePharma M3: Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B6 because it aids sleep and sleep is absolutely crucial to recovery and cognitive performance. Magnesium is also involved in lots of metabolic processes so supplementation can help recovery.
Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil act as anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories providing some protection against diseases associated with these things. Your brain contains a lot of DHA (one of the omega 3 fats) so there is some evidence to suggest that fish oil can look after your brain health too.
I use PurePharma O3
PROBIOTICS & PREBIOTICS
A lot of problems can be traced back to a poorly functioning digestive system, from depression to weight gain. Your digestive tract controls what goes into the blood stream and what is kept out. You want the right things in and the wrong things kept away from your blood! This is where pre- and pro-biotics can help. These provide bacteria for your gut to aid digestion. If you haven’t tried this, I would highly recommend you do!
Here is the PurePharma Synbiotics
And I also like the OptiBac product:
That pretty much covers it. There are other things you might want to try but the above are the supplements that I think everyone could benefit from trying. If you haven’t ever tried one of the above, I would recommend that you do. Just see if it adds anything for you. Nothing is sacred when it comes to supplements. What works for you, works for you. What doesn’t, doesn’t. And remember that food is your fundamental supplement. “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” and all that.
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