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The Need-To-Know when Supplementing for Strength & Performance

Before I {JUMP} in, I just want you to think about how many supplements you currently take to improve your performance or strength..

And would you say your diet is on point?

See the thing is, supplements are supposed to be an addition to a diet that is already nourishing you; the supplement then simply gives you a boost in a specific area that you may be lacking in.

I’m not saying this just so you actually, physically eat better food or so you’ll learn about making a diet healthy; it’s about the fact that your body can only absorb something if it needs it (or it will just reject it completely), and the rate at which it absorbs it is dependent on the level of nourishment you have prior to it entering your body.

So it’s very important that you don’t look at the supplement as a fix for your diet, you must get your diet on track first, then (and only if you require it) you start introducing the supplement.

^^^you should probably read that again^^^

Now, did you already know that?

This is why I wrote this up, to teach the important stuff that you didn’t already know, and then even more importantly, to help you identify what you need to do to actually nourish your body; because there isn’t a template that works for everybody.

But I’ve come across, researched and tested a few things regarding the optimal nutrition for absorption of specific supplements and that’s a big part of what I’ll be covering here, alongside the importance of each macronutrient, knowing which micronutrients to take in and whether you actually NEED a supplement.

Strength vs Power

To start off, I want to discuss with you what strength and performance actually means.

When it comes to strength, there are 2 categories that people are looking at, each with their own sub-categories – the categories are Muscular Strength and Power.

The 2 Types of Strength

Muscular strength is defined as the amount of STATIC force you can apply against a resistance; in other words how much weight you can move without momentum. This could be represented by me putting a load of weight on a bar and seeing if I can squat it. Now when we look at the 2 sub-categories, we learn to distinguish the 2 ways of representing strength:

Maximal Strength would be the difference between guy (or girl) A squatting 100kg and guy B squatting 120kg – guy B has a better maximal strength because he can lift more weight than guy A.

Relative strength is where we add an extra factor in there – bodyweight. If I told you that guy A weighed 50kg and guy B weighed 80kg, things change. Because now we can see that guy A was lifting 2x his bodyweight whereas as guy B was lifting just 1.5x his bodyweight – therefore guy A has better relative strength as his strength, relative to his weight, was greater.

Make sense?

This is why we must understand your goals; when you say you want to be strong, which do you mean? See, these guys, for what they’re training for, would have different nutritional requirements.

But before we get sidetracked, we should discuss the other category: Power.

The 2 Types of Power

Power is the amount of force you can generate when you combine speed with strength; like leaping onto a platform. Now, power can also be divided into 2 sub-categories and these are

Explosive Power is where you use the stretch-shortening cycle – moving in the opposite direction to then explode in counter movement – to generate a large amount of force; like a spring or an elastic band.

Example: Squat-jumping onto a box

Dynamic Power is where, opposed to counter movement, you use momentum in the same direction as you want the force to go.

Example: Running and jumping onto a box

Macronutrients

So, the types of strength & power have now been discussed; let’s talk about macronutrients and how they affect performance and strength.

Macronutrients are the nutrients that contain calories (A.K.A energy) – these are fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

When looking at increasing maximal strength, you need to ensure that you’re training in a caloric surplus – meaning you take in more calories than you burn, this way your body has excess calories that will keep it in an anabolic state where muscle can grow.

In the same way that you don’t want an excessive deficit when trying to just lose fat, you don’t want an excessive surplus when you’re trying to put on muscle mass.

Fats

The best foods to help get lots of calories in without overeating are fats. This is because they have 9 calories per gram, so you don’t have to eat as many in order to fulfill your calorific need. But fats can’t stand alone as they can’t be used for high demand or anaerobic exercise; and that’s dismissing the fact that your body needs sugar to fuel your brain and protein to repair muscle and help optimise all bodily functions.

Carbohydrates

So we need to make sure that you get your share of carbs, as these will provide the necessary:

1) Sugars to fuel the high-demand exercise you’ll be doing; and

2) Starch to repair glycogen storage (stored sugar) and promote muscle gain (particularly hypertrophy where your muscle increases in size).

Because carbohydrates are so essential to performance, you’ll need to make sure that you load up on these before you hit your required caloric intake from just fats.

Proteins

The other important component is protein. Now protein is essential for improvement because it repairs muscle after it has trained, and not just repair, but repair stronger. The protein will respond to the demand the muscle has just been put under and repair the muscle appropriately ready for when it happens again.

When in reference to performance and growth, BCAA (which means branched chain amino acids) are the guys you want. BCAA are essential amino acids because your body can’t produce them, therefore you must obtain them from diet. What makes them so special compared to the other EAA (essential amino acids) is that they can be broken down within the muscle, as oppose to the liver. This means that your body can use them instantly for muscle growth as oppose to fuel, which is what we just ate the fats and carbs for, right? So we make sure that these are a good contribution to your diet and have their rightful place in your caloric intake.

Putting the Science into Practice

To make it nice and easy for you to follow, I’ll give a rough system that usually does the trick.

To work out your carb requirements, work out what 35-50% of your calories look like in carbs. So if you need 3000calories per day, and 50% comes from carbs, you have 1500calories from carbs and divide that by 4 (which is the amount of calories per gram of carbs) and you get 375g of carbohydrates per day. Now, to decide whether you go towards 35% or 50%, just either go on whether you like carbs more than fats or proteins, OR try one and see how your body reacts; if it isn’t working then just switch it up.

Next up is protein. Now, to encourage muscle growth, you want to average about 1.6g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight – again, just tweak this as appropriate for your body, diet and goals. I’ll use myself as an example: I weigh 67kg so (1.6 x 67 = 107) I need to get in 107g of protein daily.

All that’s left now is fat. As I mentioned a little while ago, there are 9calories per gram of fat. So now you know how many calories you’re getting from your carbs and proteins, we use this knowledge to figure out exactly how many grams of fat you need.

There is your calorie and macro intake; that’s the basic stuff that ensures you improve, but now we look into optimising the improvement with the use of, if necessary, supplements.

Now don’t mistake what I’m saying and think that all you need is carbs, fats and proteins; it is extremely important that you get a widely varied intake of veg, seeds, legumes and fruits that will supply your body with all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to perform at its best.

Supplements

With that point made, let’s move onto supplements.

To avoid this becoming a day-long talk, I’m going to discuss with you specifically the popular supplements used for strength & physical performance – protein, creatine and pre-workouts.

Protein would be the most common/obvious so I’ll start there.

Protein Powder

Protein supplements are unmistakably beneficial to anyone who doesn’t get enough protein in through the diet – but how many people take protein supplements without having the first clue about how much protein their body needs and how much they’re already getting from their diet? Lots. That’s how many.

The best proteins for muscular development are those that are solely protein – sounds obvious but you’ll be surprised how many of these companies bulk their protein powders with all sorts of other junk, and the other side is that this requires a lot of processing which costs more and loses a lot of additional health benefits. If you’re clever enough with your kitchen mastery, you’ll be best off with unflavoured powder which will help to promote the concept of one ingredient food. With regards to the form of protein and level of processing it has been through, you’ll want to try whey and if you don’t get on with it then explore a little across the range. And in terms of processing, you have to whey up what’s most important – get it? Whey? Aha.. oh dear..

The least processed form is concentrate, where the whey still has its natural 3-d form; this means that you get the additional health benefits of the peptides still bonded with the protein.

The next level of processing is isolate, where this 3-d structure is broken and a lot of these additional health benefits are lost. But as a result you get rid of the carbs and fats and get a more isolated powder that is almost all protein and therefore is better for muscular development.

Finally, to take it a step further, hydrolysed isolate is an even more isolated protein that almost entirely rids the powder of peptides and the health benefits they bring; but once again, you get even closer to having a powder that is solely protein. It’s quicker absorbed and less likely to cause an allergic reaction, but you’ll also want to consider the cost of the additional processing.

Now you’re informed, the choice is officially yours on what you truly want.

Creatine

Let’s move onto creatine. Creatine, for those of you that don’t know, is proven to aid the body’s recovery process and ultimately accelerate muscle and strength gain to develop a better performance output. What makes this an effective supplement is the fact that it is lacking in our diets, usually due to the fears media has created around red meat. Creatine naturally occurs in the body, but only at a maintenance level to help muscles contract and keep your body producing energy, once you move into high intensity or high demand exercise, your body then needs to produce more, fast; this is when creatine monohydrate comes in as a supplement. Quite simply, the more creatine you have, the more backup resources you have for any high intensity exercise. If you don’t need the extra creatine, your body will reject it and get rid of it; same goes for if your body isn’t nourished, it has more important things to deal with and will ignore the unnecessary processing and focus on fixing the malnourishment. Within common sense, there is no adverse effect of overloading with creatine, but your body would benefit from filling itself on other, more essential nutrients instead. The best way to know if you’re in need of creatine is to take in more (through foods with high levels of creatine or by supplementation) and pay close attention to the changes in your body and physical performance during training.

I recently went through a 30-day creatine phase to test how my body responded to the supplement and I will be posting it up in an article about the Physical, Physiological and Psychological effects it had on my body.

Pre-workouts

Finally, last on our list, is pre-workout. Pre workout can vary quite a bit, as essentially all you’re doing is giving your body a stimulant that will accelerate your metabolism or increase your insulin levels. Even if you’re not supplementing your body with a pre-workout formula, you should definitely be doing something with your diet to prepare yourself for what’s coming. What you don’t want to forget, is that a pre-workout supplement is not there just to give you a buzz and make you feel more ready to perform; it should have some way of delivering nutrients to the working muscles.

There are loads of pre-workouts out there that make you feel on top of the world but, when you measure up your performance compared to normal, there’s no real change. To avoid these supplements, you should look for one that has at least a few of these ingredients:

B-Vitamins, BCAA, Betaine, Beta-Alanine, Carnitine, Creatine, Glutamine, Rhodiola Rosea, Taurine and Tyrosine

Get a pre-workout with at least a few of these, check the effect it has on your performance and then you can decide if it’s worthwhile for you.

I personally don’t use pre-workout supplements, as my diet already compliments my workouts and also, with the intensity of my training, I don’t want place too much stress on my nervous system by adding a stimulant to my body – but I’ve had time to learn about my body and I know how far I can push it and how it reacts to certain stimulants.

Conclusion

All of these supplements have been proven to improve performance for people with diets that permit them, but the best way to find out if it’s for you is to buy the best product out there and see how your body reacts: record the changes it has on your performance, your recovery, your endurance and your mood.

If you’d like any extra information on any of the supplements or ingredients, or even products I would recommend, then make sure you comment on this blog or send me an Email.

I hope you all got some value from this and I appreciate you all taking the time to listen to me and my babbling brain.

Remember, I try to give you the content that YOU want so please send in a request and I’ll deliver what I know.

As always, if you enjoyed the content, please like the post on Facebook and share with everyone that you know will benefit!

Thanks Muchly,

Sam

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