To Take or Not To Take?
Many people consider their fitness supplements an important part of their lives. Some keep it as simple as a multivitamin to make sure there are no gaps in their diets, while others ingest a bevy of different substances for various reasons. Take for example, Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek and self-titled “human guinea pig”. Ferriss is very enthusiastic about nootropics, or smart drugs, memory enhancers, neuro-enhancers, cognitive enhancers, intelligence enhancers, etc. They are drugs, supplements or even foods that improve mental function.
It’s always interesting to read about what other people deem important enough to supplement in their lives everyday. And while everyone is different, there are many similarities among the hundreds of individual routines. It’s important to note that while one supplement may work wonders for one person, it may do nothing for another. A great resource for an overview of many supplements is examine.com. It pools together many scientific studies on a particular supplement in question and displays them categorized by strength of study and significance of results.
Here’s a quick overview of the fitness supplements I take everyday, plus a few I take sparingly or hear work very well for others.
A basic staple in anyone’s routine should be a multivitamin. It’s hard to keep track of your vitamin and mineral intake and you can easily become deficient in one if or more if left unnoticed. There are a variety of different multivitamins available on the market. I look for one with added minerals as well; it’s more important than ever to supplement minerals on a keto diet. A mineral deficiency can lead to a keto flu no matter how long you’ve been in ketosis.
From a previous post:
“The fat inside your cells will become replaced with water as a placeholder when losing weight. For this reason, many people experience water retention while in ketosis; their cells are storing water, instead of fat. They do this in case of dehydration. Drinking more water during water retention can help combat it! Your body will let go of that emergency water it has been storing when it sees water is flowing freely. To figure out how much water you need to be drinking, try this hydration calculator!
The one drawback of drinking a lot of water is the electrolytes it can flush out with it. You will be peeing a lot! The more water you’re drinking, the better, until you start to expel more electrolytes than you’re ingesting. Many people on keto can become deficient in magnesium, potassium, sodium, calcium, phosphorus or chloride, to name a few.”
I take a multivitamin every morning on an empty stomach.
Possibly the most recognizable workout supplements are whey protein powders. Whey is a complete protein found in milk, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. It also contains the highest known levels of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) of any natural food source, which are extremely important for any kind of exercise.
Studies show promising results in terms of increasing muscle synthesis as the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of muscle. As for the BCAA’s, I wanted to make a quick note. I do not take BCAA’s as a separate supplement as my diet is high enough in protein. BCAA are found in all protein sources, whether it’s food or powder. The only time I do take BCAA’s (and I only supplement one of the three of them- leucine, 5g before working out) is if I’m working out in a fasted state. The leucine is used to improve muscle protein synthesis and prevents muscle loss during strenuous and fasted activity. The reason for taking leucine alone is to keep insulin levels in check. Protein powder will break your fast and spike insulin levels, preventing the fat oxidation that you want.
I take 50g of Isopure Protein Powder dissolved in almond milk or water after my workouts. This includes all three BCAA’s. Isopure is a great protein powder with 0 carbs (at least the Vanilla flavor has no carbs, the others may have 1 or 2 grams of carbs per scoop). If I’m working out first thing in the morning or in a fasted state, I take 5g of leucine dissolved in water or coffee.
Check out our favorite low carb protein powders and see which one is right for you!
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements among fitness fans. It comes in powder form, either in capsules or bulk bags, is tasteless and very effective. Creatine is a naturally occurring molecule in our bodies and is used to help synthesize ATP during times of exercise. Creatine is not a direct energizer (think: caffeine or energy drinks), it helps your body create more energy during your workouts for you to lift heavier or push out 1 more rep.
It’s very well researched and has no known risks. According to examine.com, the following are strong studies with significant results.
I take 5g of creatine monohydrate everyday. I dissolve 1 teaspoon in 16.9 oz. of water (or a coffee with leucine if fasting) usually right before working out. Many people complain about the bloating that may come with taking creatine, but I have surprisingly found that it doesn’t bloat me at all. For the first day or two, I did however feel a little nausea (also a common and temporary side effect), but that went away very quickly.
Many people also report higher mental clarity and focus when they’ve taken creatine (working out or not!)
L-Theanine is most people’s first foray into the world of nootropics (aside from caffeine). L-Theanine is a naturally occurring amino acid with benefits that include mental relaxation, reduced stress, improved working memory, enhanced learning and increased alpha brain wave activity. It’s very often used in conjunction with caffeine because it has been shown to reduce the jitteriness caused by caffeine. The two go hand-in-hand in the nootropics community.
L-Theanine interacts with the neurochemistry of the brain and promotes states of deep relaxation and balance.
It’s available in pill form and bulk powders. I’ve taken 200mg at a time but have found 400mg works best for me. I’ve only ever taken it in pill form but bulk powders are much less expensive (I’m wondering how well it’ll work dissolved in Bulletproof coffee). I do find that when I take it with coffee, I feel less jittery and more calm and focused.
Other Popular Fitness Supplements
The supplements listed below are very popular supplements in the fitness community that I’ve tried but don’t take everyday because I haven’t found them to be quite so effective.
Caffeine – possibly the most effective workout supplement, especially for energy and focus. It’s often overlooked because of it’s every day use but it’s the main ingredient in most pre-workout supplements! Caffeine can be used for fitness in the form of coffee, a formulated pre-workout, such as ON Gold Standard Pre-Workout, or caffeine pills. The dosage ranges per person depending on your tolerance and should be closely monitored. I usually take anywhere from 150mg-200mg of caffeine before working out (usually in the form of a Bulletproof Coffee or a delicious Cold Brew Coffee). The easiest way to try it out for yourself is to pick up a coffee on your way to the gym and enjoy it before working out!
MCT Oil – Medium chain triglyceride oil is used for a quick boost of energy and seems to have an effect on fat oxidation. For this reason, people have increased their consumption of coconut oil (it’s 65% MCT oil) in hopes for fat loss. Coconut oil is also great to cook with and use topically for dry skin.
Beta Alanine – Beta-alanine has been shown to enhance muscular endurance. Its supplementation can also improve moderate to high intensity cardiovascular exercise performance. I haven’t tried this supplement yet but I intend to in the coming months.
Fish Oil – Fish Oil is a very well researched supplement whose effects range from arthritis and depression relief to weight loss. Some people also say it helps with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS, the soreness in your muscles 24-48 hours after working out).
That’s about it for the supplements I regularly take. If you’ve got some supplements you love and benefit from, let us know what they are and how they help! We’d love to hear from you!
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