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Fitness

Let’s Talk About Supps, Baby

Supplements help me achieve my fitness goals and I’m a big believer in their effectiveness. 

When I first started working out again (like, on a daily or almost-daily basis), I didn’t use any supplements. My fitness goals last September were pretty singular: weigh less (seriously, just take up less space in the world, generally – that’s all I wanted to do). Now that I’m at a weight where I feel fit and healthy, my goals have significantly changed…while I still wanna lose another 10 pounds or so, these days I’m a lot more concerned with building muscle tone, keeping my muscles healthy and improving what I refer to as my ‘workout volume.’

In order to accomplish these goals, I’ve turned to supplements to, well, supplement my daily trips to the gym and my overall diet strategy. I use three primary supplements, and in this blog post, I’m going to tell y’all which ones I use, when I use them and what they do for me.

Pre-Workout:

Pre-workout is, generally, a flavored powder that you mix with water and drink about half an hour before you work out. Most of these products, including the Cellucor one I use, contain some combo of caffeine and beta-alanine, which are designed to flood your body with energy before a hard workout. The idea is that these types of products give you the lil’ boost you need to improve your workout volume, i.e., lift more and lift heavier.

Which one do I use?

I use ‘Cellucor C4 Ripped Pre-Workout’ powder before my workouts, and I’m diggin’ the ‘Icy Blue Razz’ flavor at the moment, though, fair warning: this brand’s flavors are all very, very sweet. I like the ‘Ripped’ C4 as opposed to the original because it doesn’t contain Creatine, which naturally occurs in the body and certain foods and helps to power your muscles throughout the day. Creatine supplements are generally used for bulking up, so I like to use a pre-workout that doesn’t have any.

When do I use it?

I use pre-workout before particularly tough weight-based workouts, and whenever I’m feeling super lazy and need an extra boost to get my a** to the gym. I mix it at my house about 15 minutes before I leave for the gym, and I drink half at home and half on the way to the gym. I don’t use it every day, and I don’t use it before a strictly cardio workout.

What’s it do for me?

Pre-workout is the only supplement I use that actually makes me feel different when I drink it. Beta-alanine is known for making your body tingle a bit (kind of like the feeling you get from a really strong cup of coffee), and whenever I use it, I am definitely bouncing around the gym a bit more. It makes me feel a little jittery, and it perks me up when I need a boost. I feel like it gives me a shot of energy that helps me lift a bit heavier and/or push through some extra sets.

*I also take a tablet of Green Tea Extract in the morning, before I work out. It’s not really a workout supplement, per se, but it’s a natural source of caffeine, it’s been shown to help reduce BMI and body fat, and I never miss a pill!

BCAA’s/Glutamine:

Similar to pre-workout, BCAAs/Glutamine typically come in powder form and get mixed into water for drinking before, during and/or after a workout. BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids, for the science savvy folks out there) are amino acids that your body doesn’t produce on its own, but studies have shown that they’re really helpful when it comes to developing muscle mass.  Glutamine, on the other hand, is an amino acid that your body does produce on its own (the most common one, in fact), and it’s responsible for about two-thirds of the make-up of your skeletal muscle. Basically, these guys are responsible for helping your muscles grow; taken together, they help to transport nitrogen to your muscles (a good thing) and they allow you to burn fat without burning muscle mass (an even better thing!).

Which one do I use?

I use BodyTech products for both BCAA’s and Glutamine. I actually use a combo BCAA/Glutamine product (pictured) that I put in my post-workout protein drink (which I’ll discuss in a sec, below) and another intra-workout ‘Critical Aminos’ product that I sip during my workouts. The combo product is unflavored so FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, if you’re going to have it on it’s own, mix it with flavored water because its horribly bitter, but the intra-workout product comes in a few different flavors and is completely fine to drink mixed with plain ol’ water. I’m using the Strawberry Lemonade flavor at the minute – it’s not bad!

When do I use it?

As I mentioned, I use the products at different times: I use the combo product after my workout, mixed with my protein drink, and I use the intra-workout product as my hydration/performance drink while I’m working out. Typically, I sip on the intra-workout product between weight sets and I don’t usually finish the entire 6-8 ounce drink unless I’m doing a workout that gets me really good and sweaty.

What’s it do for me?

There’s no palpable feeling associated with drinking these products, unlike the pre-workout, but I still see a benefit when I look in the mirror and I notice that, when I’m lifting weights, I actually feel a lil’ boost of energy after a few sets that I didn’t use to get when I hit the gym. I like to think these products are keeping my muscles oxygenated, which allows me to push through tough workouts without compromising my muscle’s health.

Protein:

Fast-digesting whey protein is, without a doubt, my favorite workout supplement, both based on taste (seriously, noms) and results. Whey protein, when taken in the correct dosage (no more than 25g/serving) is a highly effective way to maintain muscle health and stimulate muscle growth. Whey protein is the liquid paElite 100% Whey Proteinrt of milk that separates during the cheese-making process. It sounds weird that this would be a beneficial workout supplement, I know, but it performs a critical function: remember those amino acids we were talking about before? Well, whey protein isolate (which is lactose free and gluten free, natch) is positively loaded with ’em, so your muscles are gonna derive a huge benefit in terms of growth and overall health when you supplement your workouts with a protein like this one.

Which one do I use?

I use Dymatize brand whey protein isolate and, lemme tell y’all now, the Peanut Butter flavor is a gift from above. Seriously, it’s like drinking a delicious dessert after my workouts and I genuinely look forward to having it every day. I mix mine with half water and half soy milk (and a scoop of that combo BCAA/Glutamine product I was talking about, above), and it’s absolute perfection. Oh, and it’s only 120 calories per serving, so you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying it.

When do I use it?

I drink this directly after my workout. I prep it before I leave for the gym so that it can sit in the fridge and get nice and cold while I work out. I drink it right when I get home.

What’s it do for me?

Protein is the supplement that I stuck with most religiously when I started using fitness aides, and I saw results almost immediately, so I know that it worked/works for me. I have much more muscle definition now than I did before I incorporated it into my routine, and I attribute any semblance of abs and triceps to my daily protein shake. Seriously, I can’t recommend this stuff enough.

…………………………………………

Overall, I’ve loved the results I’ve seen from incorporating supplements into my diet and fitness routine. I don’t mind the few extra minutes that it takes me every day to prepare and drink the products – I genuinely feel like it’s 100% worth the time. The most important thing with supplements, in my opinion, is to do your research and make decisions about products based on your fitness goals, dietary needs and comfort with ingredients. These products work for me, and are proven to be effective, but everyone’s body is different, and there’s no universally-perfect way to supplement your diet and fitness routine. There’s so much literature out there about supplements of all shapes and sizes, so this is by no means an exhaustive narrative – just an insight into what works for me at the moment.

To that end, I’m always researching ways to make my workouts more productive and effective, and I’ll be sure to update this post when/if my routines or fitness goals change!

Happy lifting!

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