With this article you have the complete guide to understanding what supplements should be used for. Click here to read about Phase 1 food supplements; and Phase 2 supplements. Read about Phase 3 supplements below.
Here are the highlights of the supplement guide of the UK based Awesome Supplements blog.
The final group is phase 3 products. These are only likely to benefit specific people, as opposed to phase 1 which would be great for anyone and phase 2 which are ideal for almost all gym-goers. These supplements will only be relevant for those with really specific goals.
Firstly, let’s discuss prolonged performance.
When you are exercising continuously for over an hour at a time, one problem that you risk facing is ‘hitting the wall’ – literally running out of fuel. You may face the same issue if you exercise intensely multiple times in the same day in quick succession. This is an acute situation where your body’s stored glucose is depleting so you fatigue extremely quickly. It’s best avoided by slowly drip feeding a multiple-transporter carbohydrate into your system. Carbohydrates need to be ‘transported’ into your blood from your digestive system after you consume them. The problem is if you only consume one kind of carbohydrate (say, glucose) you effectively limit the rate at which it can be absorbed because there is too much traffic.
Opting to combine glucose-based carbohydrates with fructose-based ones increases the rate at which carbohydrates can be absorbed, which doesn’t matter at all in day to day life but can make a huge difference when you need those carbohydrates right now. As such, a mixed intra-workout carbohydrate product is absolutely perfect for those who are performing continuously for over an hour, or for those who are doing something multiple times a day, such as someone doing high intensity and functional training for a competition or just having a hard training day. As a super cheap supplement, it really is a no-brainer.
For the more typical exerciser – the gym-goer looking to get stronger and build muscle – there are various substances that can be taken beforehand to improve some aspect of your training. Glycerine based products can, for example, hyper-hydrate you allowing you to get better muscle pumps, and they may also increase aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance. Similarly, betaine can increase work capacity and may help improve muscle size, while certain substances like Vitacholine (choline bitartrate) may improve endurance for maximal effort exercise. Overall the combination of these, such as you’d find in pre-workout can have a small but meaningful effect on your ability to perform at your best during a typical gym session, making it a great investment for those looking to squeeze the last few percentage points out of their workouts. This is especially the case for those training through exhaustion, such as high intensity and functional training athletes.
Finally, due to the extremely tough training sessions and competition situations faced by those with really specific and lofty goals, the importance of training performance is matched only by the importance of proper recovery from each session. After all, training hard and dominating the gym/track/field is useless if you can only do it once. Post workout protein shake supplementation is not necessary, but can certainly help speed up recovery, especially if you’re not going to eat for a while (someone looking to perform optimally and optimize body composition wants to aim for an intake of protein every 4-5 hours, so if you haven’t eaten for a while, and won’t for a while after the gym, a shake might be really helpful, only eating when convenient later).
The final thing you may wish to consider is the more experimental products that are not so well researched but could be an interesting idea nonetheless. Transdermal (through the skin) magnesium application has been used for decades for muscle recovery in the form of Epsom salt baths and, more recently, high concentration magnesium oil that’s rubbed directly onto the muscles. The theory here is that magnesium is necessary for proper muscle contractions and is thus depleted during hard exercise. It of course needs to be replaced, and the best way to replace it is to do so directly to the areas used in training, as opposed to simply taking an oral supplement that needs to pass through the digestive tract. In this way the oils/bath salts work like a cream, seeping in through the pores and being transported to the local blood flow. While the research into this area is rudimentary to say the least, for generations users of magnesium oil have sworn by its ability to attenuate soreness and cramping.
Supplements are tools. This means that you don’t only need to find the ones that work, you need to find the right ones for the job – a sledgehammer and a screwdriver both ‘work’ but there’s certainly a better choice when you’re hanging a picture on your wall. Every athlete and non-athlete alike has different needs, goals and dietary shortfalls.
Don’t look at this guide as levels – it’s not that you need to master Phase 1 before you can move on to Phase 2 – but rather look at it as a hierarchy of priorities. Look to Phase 1 and decide if you need something, then Phase 2, then Phase 3, moving up in specificity as you go and keeping in line with your goals.