OK, first let's get something straight here...
If you think that buying a shake or taking a few pills will all of a sudden make you huge, then you are mistaken.
No supplement will help you if you are not training and dieting correctly -- they will just give you very expensive urine. All aspects of your program have to be in order for you to get the maximum benefit from sports nutrition supplements. From my experience, supplements enhance your program by:
1. Adding an element of convenience: Using food supplements like Meal Replacement Powders and whey protein help to eliminate the common problem of 'not enough time', by providing you with an quick efficient way to get your required nutrients each day.
2. Increasing strength and decreasing recovery time: Using vitamin and amino acid supplements help to minimize the negative side effects of weight training and speed your recovery.
The Benefit of Convenience
There are many 'old school' trainers and bodybuilders who profess the uselessness of supplements. They are constantly preaching that they don't work, and that you don't need them. Well, to tell you the truth they are correct, somewhat. Remember that not too long ago there were no supplements. Bodybuilders built huge physiques without meal replacement powders, creatine or prohormones.
There was no such thing as exercise 'machines'. They used multi-jointed, compound free weight exercises that not only increased their muscular size, but also make them incredibly strong. So, if you look at that way it can be done and you don't need any supplements. However, the decision whether or not to use supplements should involve the consideration of other factors that may come into play when speaking of dieting today. The first of which is time.
Many people today just do not have the time to live, eat and breathe food. Very few people like to cook, and even fewer cook on a regular basis. When was the last time that you actually had six meals that you actually cooked yourself? Many of those who are against dietary supplements continue to preach that you should get all the nutrients that you need from your diet. 'Eat a balanced diet and you will get all the nutrition you need'. Well, 100 years ago that may have been true, but today this type of advice is questionable.
The fact is, most people's idea of a good meal is restaurant or (even worse) fast food. To ask someone to eat specific amounts of protein, fat and carbs seems like an impossible request considering that most people can't even get their minimum requirements of good fat or fiber. Experts will continue to spout 'eat a balanced diet,' while Americans feast on nutritionless fast food and sugar. Not only do our bodies have to deal with the ever-increasing external stresses of everyday life, they also have to combat nutrient-depleting, tissue damaging exercise.
If I did not have the option to supplement my diet with whey protein, I probably would not have gained as much weight as I have. Now, I'm not saying that the whey protein is why I gained weight, but it did help me a great deal.
I am usually very busy and I just don't have the time, nor the desire to eat six, planned whole food meals per day. Supplements like meal replacement powders and whey protein fill in this gap for me.
I typically have three real food meals and three protein supplement meals -- that makes up my required six meals each day. When I'm away from home, or not able to get an adequate meal, my MRP is always right there when I need it. It gives me a quantifiable amount of protein so that I can keep track of my nutrient intake. In my opinion, this is much better than just grabbing something and then trying to guess at how much protein, fat or carbs you just ate. Getting in all of your required meals and nutrient amounts is crucial to your success.
My mass diet requires a very high daily protein intake -- Over 300g per day. Just to give you an example of how much that is, here are some examples of what 300g of protein is equal to:
Tuna -- 50 oz of canned tuna (the average can is 6-8oz.), which is 1,750 calories and 25g of fat
Chicken -- 38 oz of chx breast (equals about seven 6oz breasts), which is 1,313 calories and 38g of saturated fat
Beef -- 43 oz of lean ground beef (about 2.7 pounds of meat), which is 3,214 calories and 215g of saturated fat
Eggs -- 50 large whole eggs, equals 3,750 calories and 250g of saturated fat
Egg whites -- 100 egg whites, equals 1,600 calories and almost no fat
Pure whey protein -- 15 scoops of EAS Precision Protein, equals 1,500 calories 7.5g of saturated fat
It is very possible to get this amount from eating whole foods only -- But it will take work. Also, as you can see from the above numbers, getting all of your protein from regular food will also bring a lot of unnecessary elements like extra saturated fat. Yes, our goal to gain mass is to eat a lot of calories (including fat), but your main fat intake should consist of unsaturated fats that are liquid at room temperature like olive oil, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil. Whey protein supplements will help to give you the extra protein without the fat.
Increased Strength and Decreased Recovery
In addition to a whey protein supplement, I recommend that everyone should be taking a multi-vitamin, plenty of vitamin C, and glutamine. Creatine can also be added if you are over 18.
Weight training increases the body's need for many minerals like magnesium and selenium. The multi-vitamin ensures that I am not deficient in any major essential vitamin or mineral. Deficiency symptoms include muscle weakness and suppression of the immune system, muscle cramping and fatigue.
I always take a multi-vitamin without iron, because grown men do not need additional iron. We get enough from our food. Men and postmenopausal women should never take iron supplements unless they have iron-deficiency anemia, which is only diagnosed by blood tests. The body has no way to eliminate excess iron except through blood loss. Women who menstruate are protected from iron overload, obviously. Iron is also an oxidizing agent that can cause damage to the heart and arteries, and is a major risk factor in arteriosclerosis.
Vitamin C essential to prevent free radical damage, which is accelerated after the heavy trauma of weight training. It is also essential in helping to repair connective tissue which helps decrease the amount of time you are sore. I train very heavy and extremely hard. When I train my legs, I am usually sore for about 5-6 days afterwards.
If I do not supplement my diet with vitamin C, I would normally be sore for almost 10 days! So, it really helps me to recover and get back to training. I typically take around 3,000mg in divided doses. That would equal quite a few oranges!
Glutamine is an amino acid that is produced by our bodies, but most of the time our bodies demand so much, that it can't create enough. I supplement my diet with glutamine to increase my levels of glutathione. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to combat the stresses of exercise trauma, and prevent muscle protein breakdown.
I especially believe that it helps prevent my body from breaking down my new muscle while I am asleep, so I never go to bed without taking it. I take about 15g per day (in divided doses), which would be impossible to get naturally.
Creatine's purpose is to supply our muscle with energy. It is also found in red meat, but you would have to eat an enormous amount of meat to get the same benefits as taking pure creatine powder. Everyone knows about creatine so I will not go into it here, but I do want to say that the major benefit from taking creatine is that it will increase your strength.
This will enable you to lift heavier weights, which will stimulate more muscle growth. Many people make a big fuss over the muscle volumizing effects of creatine, because if you stop taking it, you lose that extra fluid that creatine brings into your cells. So what! You certainly DO NOT lose the extra muscle creatine helped you to gain.
I can honestly say that I could not have built the body I have today without the convenience and enhancements supplements provide. I simply don't have the time or desire to do it any other way. This is a choice that you must decide for yourself. You will be spending your money on these products, so make sure that you know their place in your program.
Don't get caught up in product hype. Supplements will help, but they will NOT do the work for you.
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