I am a strong believer that if you’re eating a healthy balanced diet and training sensibly then you will get everything you need from your diet.
In VERY short terms:
Carbohydrates are not the devil and are actually vital to fuelling your body to train. These should be consumed in the form of complex carbs like brown rice and sweet potato. NOT white bread sarnies and chips, or everyone’s favourite crisp sandwich.
Protein is needed to repair and build your muscles and can be found in things like eggs and lean meats like turkey and chicken. Funny how those are the things I mention yet I’m vegan…. Most Vegan protein sources are also high in carbs e.g chickpeas so if I’m on a low carb week in competition prep, getting a high enough protein intake with minimal carbs is difficult.
Fats. Oh no not the F word! Healthy fats are essential for energy especially when working aerobically- e.g going on a long run. So fried mars bars- NO, Avocado YES!
Amino acids– in short these are the building blocks of protein. So these in your diet are going to help you recover quicker and build that muscle. Different Amino Acids come from different foods for example arginine can be found in chickpeas, but glutamine can be found in meat, dairy, eggs, spinach, cabbage, nuts and beans. This is another reason why a varied diet is key! There are 20 amino acids used by the human body with only 9 of them being essential for humans. These essential amino acids cannot be formed by us so need to be supplied externally via our diet.
Creatine phosphate is stored in our muscles and used to produce something in our bodies called ATP. This our main energy currency within the body. When we are doing short, explosive movements/exercises it is the creatine phosphate in our muscles that replenishes the energy that has just been used in that movement. To a lot of people I’m sure this sounds like a load of jargon, and for most people you will get ample amounts of Creatine through your diet so needn’t worry yourself. It can be found in meat and fish so for regular training there is not need for creatine supplementation. However, if you’re a veggie or vegan like me and want to be able to train hard and heavy and your muscles replenish your energy stores enough in rest periods, creatine supplementation may be wise. Unfortunately creatine isn’t something that is found in a veggie/vegan diet so for someone like me who is actively trying to build lots of muscle, aiming to up weights very regularly in the gym, creatine supplementation is key to help.
So what supplements do I use?
At the moment I’m mainly using The Protein Works Soy Protein Isolate.
A lot of dietary vegan protein sources are also high in carbohydrates like chickpeas, pulses, beans etc so if I am aiming to up my protein intake to help my muscles build and recover, I’ll use soy protein. There are many other vegan protein supplements like brown rice protein or pea protein but Soy is my personal preference.
I use Precision Engineered BCAA powder to get those all important amino acids in.
With the level of training I do causing small tears in my muscle fibres, it is important to be consuming amino acids to help build new muscle fibres and recover faster in order to train again sooner. With Amino Acids being the building blocks of protein, it also ups my protein intake.
I am currently using The Protein Works Creatine Gluconate
Like I said earlier, creatine isn’t found in vegan diets so it is important for me to supplement in order to help my energy system out and get the most from my training. Why gluconate? The gluconate factor helps transport the creatine to the muscle cells where it is needed rather than most of it staying in your stomach not utilised like creatine monohydate for example. Why would I buy something that I can’t utilise properly?
Glutamine is another of those amino acids I mentioned earlier. It prevents muscle break down. ‘Glutamine also increases your ability to secrete Human Growth Hormone, which helps metabolize body fat and support new muscle growth.’ (Bodybuilding.com)
Glutamine has also been shown to support your immune system, so when training unbelievable amounts on top of working and studying it’s vital to keep my immune system in tip top condition to make me less susceptible to illness.
So there we go. Supplementation is the key word here. I don’t replace anything in my diet with these products, you would NEVER find me having a ‘meal replacement shake’ I love eating too much. Also like it says in the name, these products should SUPPLEMENT a healthy balanced diet, NOT replace things.
If I wasn’t training how I am, for what I’m training for, I wouldn’t supplement so heavy if at all. Don’t get caught up in ‘I go to the gym so I HAVE to use supplements’ most of the time if you take the time to look at your diet, you can get what you need from just that. Abs are made in the kitchen right?! So don’t throw your money at a protein shake and expect all the results in the world instantly if you haven’t taken the time to look at and make any necessary changes to how your fuelling and replenishing your body with your food.
Now, I could have gone into all of this MUCH deeper because I love to geek out on this stuff but that’s just me!
p.s nope, I don’t take steroids.