Many of my articles refer to different supplements that can be used to help progress your fitness and achieve your nutritional goals. Here is a play-by-play, basic breakdown of three common supplements, explaining what they are used for and what to look for when choosing each product.
Breakdown: Protein comes in many forms, the most common being Whey Protein. Whey protein is a by-product of dairy production that is either sold as a concentrate or isolate product. Whey concentrate has a higher concentration of carbohydrates and fats and may include protein from many different sources (egg, milk protein, etc.). Whey isolate is much leaner, consisting of 90% or more Whey protein.
Uses: Whey isolate is utilized in the body very quickly and is best used as a workout/sports recovery supplement. Whey concentrate is utilized in the body much more slowly and is better suited for snacks or meal replacements throughout the day. Both forms can be taken to provide amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to the body. Amino acids are then used to build and repair soft tissue in the body, specifically, muscle tissue.
Product looks: When choosing a protein powder, always look for whey-based products, unless you are unable to use these based on health issues. Whey has been proven to be the most bioavailable protein supplement to the body, making it more effective than other sources of protein. Also look for low temperature processed protein. Low temperature processing (under 108˚) preserves the quality and structure of the protein, protecting its bioavailability. Finally, look to see that the product is 100% hydrolyzed. Hydrolyzed means that enzymes have been added to predigest the protein powder, decreasing the time required to be utilized in the body.
Breakdown: Pre-workout is a stimulant based supplement used to increase athletic performance. Pre-workouts will often include many different caffeine sources, beta-alanine, creatine and nootropic mixes.
Uses: Pre-workout is strictly used for performance enhancement. Caffeine has been proven to increase athletic performance. Beta-alanine acts as a lactic acid buffer, preventing muscle burn out. Creatine increases muscle swelling by attracting water and increasing muscle energy turnover (ATP production). Nootropic mixes are used to increase focus under stress such as workouts or athletics.
Product looks: When choosing a pre-workout, pay attention to the stimulant doses. Although, each person reacts differently, extremely high caffeine doses (300mg+) are common among pre-workout supplements. These high caffeine doses can cause anxiety, jitteriness and energy crashes post-workout. Also look for efficacious doses of beta-alanine and creatine. This would include 4-6g of beta-alanine and 5g of creatine. Finally, as in any powder, be sure to always purchase low temperature processed products.
Breakdown: Fat burning products are designed to assist in long term weight loss goals. Fat burners are stimulant-based products, providing energy boosts similar to pre-workout supplements. Fat burners are also known as “thermogenics” due to the increased internal temperature produced by their ingredients. Fat burners are still supplements and are only effective when used to supplement a healthy lifestyle.
Uses: Fat burners assist in weight loss by providing ingredients that increase metabolism, create appetite suppression and increase fat cell release into the blood stream where they can be metabolized (burned as fuel).
Product looks: When choosing a fat burner, be aware of the stimulant doses. Often times these products are stuffed full of stimulants to make you “feel their effects.” Do not mistake the excessive stimulant dose as fat burning. Also, when choosing a fat burning product, look for gel capsule based pills. Gel capsules allow your body to breakdown the pill efficiently during digestion compared to pressed tablets.