Sensational Supplements: Do We Really Need Them To Achieve Our Fitness Goals?

Recently I've been doing a lot more exercise and I'm really starting to really enjoy it. I've always wondered if I needed supplements to achieve my desired outcome, which for me is weight loss and muscle growth. I have personally bought a lot of different products to try, and have also been researching less expensive ways to get everything I have previously bought.

Now let's first talk about what you need when it comes to supplements and products. The first thing to bear in mind is that you don't actually need anything extra at all. Eating the right foods, sleeping the right amount and exercising sensibly is enough for most people to achieve their desired goals. However supplements and products may help you improve on your workout performance, suppress your appetite, increase your metabolism, encourage muscle growth. They can also do things like increase fat oxidation (fat burners), reduce stress hormones and decrease the absorption of carbohydrates and fats in your diet. depending on your desired outcome. These kinds of products may help support these functions but again they are not essential. When buying my products I was very careful, ensuring that the site I purchased from was reputable. I know everyone has heard horror stories when it comes to buying these kinds of things online; while there are rules and regulations to try and keep fake products off the market, if the seller is not legitimate then what's in the products might not be what you expect.

Improve Your Sleep Habits
How you can improve naturally on your workout performance is making sure you are getting enough sleep. Depending on your age, gender and health conditions, the amount of sleep varies for every individual. I know I need around 8.5 hours to feel sane and have energy throughout the day- I also take a nap when I can before a workout which naturally gives me a lot of energy, enhancing my workout performance. However, if unfortunately you are the type of person who takes a nap and cannot sleep at night, avoid this completely as going into a deep sleep at night is important to balance your hormones and repair your body. The amount of time you take for a nap is important to gain the desired benefit which is having more energy, it's important not to sleep too much which is tempting when you've finally dozed off. Finally on this topic a key point about getting a good amount of sleep is sleep hygiene. What is meant by this term is what you do before bed. Playing on your phone late at night, eating junk food and talking about something that has been stressing you out late at night may cause you have difficulty falling asleep. I tend to avoid stressful topics late at night, having something light for dinner, take a hot bath, have some time relaxing, reading a novel, no phone or ipad in bed and put on my dimming light called Lumie bodyclock.

Work on Your Diet
You can improve on a workout performance by eating a healthy varied diet. I hate the word diet as it automatically makes me remember to times where I was hungy, grumpy and no energy due to being on a new FAD diet. So for the purpose of this topic I will call a diet a healthy eating plan. A healthy eating plan suggest that this should be a long term, feasible plan. You should incorporate healthy vegetables, 1-2 fruits per day, healthy proteins and complex carbohydrates. How much you eat depends on you and would be calculated by your Body Mass Index BMI. I started off using a app called MyFitnessPal as it does all the hard work for you. This app calculated your desired goals and how much protein, carbohydrates and fat you require. It also looks at your vital micronutrients/ vitamins and suggest how much you need per day. I used this app for a number of months but no longer need to use it as I have a rough idea of how much I need to eat. Every now and then I use this to check I am guessing correctly. I also make sure that I am not hungry when working out so I have the energy to have a good workout. Sometimes I have a some fruit for carbohydrates and some protein a hour before my workout. Finally, your water intake will improve your workout performance as your muscles love being hydrated. Your muscles move more fluidly when hydrated which means less work when exercising. How much water you need is debatable. Most experts say 8 glasses but have no idea where this information came from, and if you do your research there's no firm evidence to support this number. I drink as much water as I can as my desired goal is weight loss but be careful as too much fluids can be dangerous.

Supplements to Try
If you're already doing the above and feel that you want to give your body and workouts a boost, here are some safe and legal supplements that you could try. 

Caffeine is absorbed through the stomach and into the intestines. This usually takes around 45 minutes to start feeling the effects. Caffeine increases heart rate, increases blood flow to your muscles and increases the amount of energy you have. This gives you more energy to work harder and makes some people feel like they have more strength. Caffeine can be inexpensive and a good workout performance enhancer. Also, it increases metabolism which I will talk more about in another post. However, caffeine does have its downside, some people can't tolerate it as its makes them feel anxious, have palpations and makes them feel queasy. Don't use caffeine products without consulting with your doctor first, some pre-workout products as some are known for high amounts of caffeine in them which could cause adverse effects in some people.  I currently have a product called Grenade (£44.99) which has high amount of caffeine, I have been advised to stop this after 6 weeks and too not use it again until after 3 months. This is the advice I have been given for me, you might be different so do check with a professional.

Branch-chain Amino Acids BCAA's
Exercising has been linked to increased serotonin levels, which makes us feel fatigued. BCAA's have been linked to increase serotonin levels enhancing workout performance. Some studies suggest that BCAA's increase the blood oxygen levels, which enhance workout performance as the muscle have more oxygen to work harder.

Creatine itself work similar to the Amino Acids mentioned above. Creatine phosphate is found in the human body which naturally increase muscle stores. Creatine helps make the glycogen (fuel for the body) more available and therefore increase the performance of exercise. I'm currently using a product by PEScience called high volume (£32), which has creatine in the product.

Beta-Alanine also works like an Amino Acid as mentioned above. Beta-Alanine increases carnosine levels which increase muscle buffering capacity, in other words increasing strength. However, Beta-Alanine can cause a tingling sensation like pins and needles, which may be annoying while trying to workout. Amino-Acids are brilliant in repairing muscles after a workout which I will go into more detail in another post. Currently I am PEScience protein powder (£48.95) peanut-butter cup flavor and eating high protein foods to gain my Amino-Acids. I believe you can gain the essential Amino-acids from foods however I enjoy sometime sweet in my diet so love protein powders. I know some protein powders have added sweeteners, which studies suggest aren't great for you. However I will be personally be using them until I reach my goal weight- read up on this to make an informed decision if they're right for you. 

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