If you're a serious athlete, you apply due diligence when it comes to researching and selecting the sports nutrition supplements you add to you dietary regimen. You keep up with recent, reputable science and trends in the field. You read supplement labels. And, of course, you combine supplementation with a clean diet and high-intensity exercise.
Sometimes though, the right supplement in the right regimen isn't the complete story. If you suspect that you're not quite getting all the expected benefits from your supplement investment, you could be making one of these common mistakes:
Your Daily Protein Timing Is All Wrong
When it comes to protein intake, consistency is more important than sheer quantity. (Quality, of course, also takes precedence over quantity, but that’s another story.) In terms of sheer gram weight of protein required to maintain muscle mass, the consensus wisdom suggests that a 180-lb active male requires about 140 grams per day. No problem, right? Well, before you start heaping your dinner plate with lamb chops, realize that your body can only assimilate about 25 to 35 grams of protein at one meal. The rest of it? Some of it may be converted to glucose for fuel, but the majority will be excreted as waste.
A single 30-gram serving of protein will trigger a surge of protein synthesis that will last approximately three hours. During this time, your body is in a positive protein balance ideal for repairing and growing muscle tissue damaged during exercise. After that, a negative protein balance ensues, protein synthesis lags and muscle breakdown ramps up. It is these protein gaps, caused by irregular protein timing, that essentially negate any physique benefits you might accrue from your workout regimen.
So, what constitutes a 30-gram serving of protein? Well, a single serving of a high-quality whey protein supplement, obviously. Also five large hardboiled eggs, a 4-oz serving of 95% lean ground beef, 4 ounces of chicken breast or seven slices of bacon. As you can see, not all that much. You don't have to gorge like a T-Rex to maintain your anabolic motor. The key is to keep the protein servings modest and consistent throughout the day, while combining them with the servings of low-glycemic carbs, healthy fats, and fiber you need to maintain optimum wellness.
The crucial protein windows of opportunity that people most often miss occur at the beginning and end of the day. In the morning, an energy bar and a cup of coffee aren't going to cut it. If you don't have time to prepare some bacon and scrambled eggs, this is an ideal time to mix up a protein shake or grab a premium protein bar to go. Combine that with a handful of trail mix or a bowl of oats and you're good to go. At night, when you're on the brink of an eight-hour fast, another protein shake composed of a good slow-absorbing protein (think casein or milk protein isolate) will keep you on the muscle-building path. As for the rest of the day, if you're eating three proper meals, then pre-workout protein supplementation isn't all that important. Post-workout, however, a fast-absorbing protein like whey isolate or hydrolyzed whey is essential for ensuring protein synthesis exceeds breakdown, resulting in net gains in muscle mass.
You’re Getting Microdosed on Essential Ingredients
We say this all the time here and it bears repeating: An outrageous bargain on a supplement is rarely a bargain for your physique or performance potential. You see this most commonly in protein products. How does such-and-such manufacturer manage to sell their mega-popular protein at such a low price? Sales volume, they say! Well maybe, but mostly no. On the one (easily discernible) level, they’re cheating you on quality, with cheap whey concentrates and even lesser proteins featured at the top of the ingredients list. But they’re cheating you in a more insidious way, too.
In the case of protein, many unscrupulous manufacturers resort to a process called protein spiking to shortchange you on true bioactive ingredients. Protein spiking entails measuring the nitrogen content of lesser ingredients (such as glycine, taurine, low-quality creatine, or even the simple sugar maltodextrin) and using that deceptive figure to stand in for whey protein content. The result is that independent third-party measurements of best-selling proteins show huge discrepancies between the amounts of total protein cited on Supplement Facts panels and actual content in the jug. A protein formula boasting 40 grams per serving of whey protein might have less than half that amount.
And then, too, there's even more blatant deception. A recent independent study initiated to determine if broad selections of supplements actually contained the dosages of compounds indicated in the packaging arrived at a disturbing conclusion. Less than half the products in the investigation, conducted by the New York Attorney General, passed the test.
What to do in the face of this trickery? Seek out a reputable manufacturer that has a long, established track record of formulating and marketing the highest-quality supplements. Avoid the fly-by-night companies that are here today, gone tomorrow, and all to common in the sports nutrition industry. An untarnished reputation is a hard-earned asset in any industry, and increasingly rare in this field. Stick with what works.
You’re Storing Your Supplements Incorrectly
Where do you keep your supplements? Do you kid them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight? Or do you keep them in your car or an especially humid place? Recent research like this study conducted at Purdue University suggests that powdered or crystalline water-soluble compounds can be susceptible to changes in heat and humidity even if you keep the lids on tight. Powders stored outside or in high-humidity locations can partially dissolve (or deliquesce) when exposed to extreme heat (as in a closed car during summer) or humidity, which can lead to clumping or hardening of the compound. Fat-soluble compounds like Vitamin D or Omega-3's that are manufactured in gelcap form can also oxidize in high-temperature conditions. Finally, never remove the desiccant packets included in tablet supplements, as they are present to absorb moisture.
You’re Starving Your Body for Carbs Post-Workout
By and large, people associate carbs, particularly high-glycemic carbs, with fat gain. There's a lot to be said for emphasizing protein and high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs at the expense of high-glycemic carbs in meals throughout your day. However, there is one time of day when high-glycemic carb intake is absolutely indicated and that is immediately post-workout. When you engage in high-intensity exercise, the fuel you're burning is glycogen. Even a relatively brief workout of little more than 30 minutes can deplete glycogen stores by as much as 40%. Replenishing those glycogen levels with a fast-uptake carb like dextrose or maltodextrin increases muscle cell volume by pulling water into the cell, which can facilitate muscle growth and strength increase after a productive workout.
Post-workout carb supplementation can also trigger insulin secretion, which plays a key role in skeletal muscle protein synthesis by activating ribosomal activity and growth initiation factors within skeletal muscle. Elevated insulin levels may also slow down muscle protein breakdown by allowing the increased uptake of amino acids by muscle cells, keeping skeletal muscle in a state of positive protein balance in the critical interval directly after a training session. If you absolutely cannot countenance adding more total carbs to your diet, trying cutting carbs from your other meals and saving them for the crucial post-workout juncture.
You’re Taking an Old-School Pre-Workout
In the supplement world, some categories haven't changed all that much in the last decade or so. The best fitness-oriented multivitamins, joint-support products and mass builders of ten years ago are pretty much still state-of-the-art today. (Our ultra-rapid-action mass builder MyoZene remains the industry gold standard, and it's been transforming the physiques of athletes for a dozen years now.) Other categories, however, have undergone rapid evolution within just the last few years. Of those, the pre-workout category has been the most volatile. Pre-workout supplements scarcely existed ten years ago and the first products to emerge were little more than raw caffeine content linked to primitive muscle pump complexes. Some popular pre-workout products still haven't progressed much beyond this stage.
A select few products, however, have incorporated some very new and very exciting scientific research into their formulas. Take adenosine 5*-triphosphate disodium, for instance. ATP, which occurs naturally in the human body, is the molecular currency of intercellular energy transfer. Unfortunately, your body keeps very little ATP in reserve to accommodate the demands of intense physical activity. Because of this, scientists have been looking for ways of increasing ATP availability outside the cell via precisely timed dosing of ATP before workouts. The result is Peak ATP®, a patented form of ATP identical to actual human ATP, that has been linked in clinical studies to a whole host of performance and physique benefits. Peak ATP® has been associated with increases in muscle excitability (the muscle's ability to contract when stimulated), levels of intercellular calcium, blood flow, nutrient delivery, and waste removal. All of these outcomes are significant factors in supporting enhanced muscle endurance and postponement of fatigue. You can rest assured that a pre-workout technology that contains Peak ATP®, such as CellDyne's new VyoCore muscle performance enhancement formula, represents the cutting-edge of science in the category.
Other dynamic advances in the pre-workout category include new mechanisms for supporting carnosine levels in muscle tissue, which would help to postpone fatigue, as well as much more sophisticated and efficient components for facilitating muscle pump, muscular power, protein synthesis and recovery. Even the pre-workout's old standby, caffeine, has been upgraded for a new era, with the best performance enhancers forgoing raw caffeine anhydrous for PurCaf®, a 90% pure organic non-GMO-sourced caffeine designed to deliver a clean, powerful boost in energy, mental alertness and performance.
So here's the bottom line: if you've been supplementing with the same old mega-selling pre-workout formula for several years, the new generation of super-advanced pre-workout technologies are ready to take your workouts to an entirely new level.
You’re Doing Probiotics All Wrong
It seems like everyone's on the probiotic bandwagon lately as scientists are finding evidence that the health and variety of bacteria in our guts can have profound effects on every aspect of our health from physique to immunity to mental health. Notice that we said "variety" as well as health. There are more than 500 different strains of bacteria evolved to aid in digestion and extract nutrients from food. Specific types of bacteria feed on specific food sources. Americans tend to manifest plenty of the bacteria needed to digest meats and sugars, for instance, but tend to be lacking in bacterial strains adapted to process fruits and vegetables, complex carbs and fibers. Imbalances in our gut bacteria can have far-reaching effects including heightened risk of infections, inflammation, immune dysfunction or even diseases like diabetes and obesity.
Before you reach for an Activia yogurt or a bargain-brand pharmacy probiotic, however, you should know that many probiotic supplements contain only two common strains of bacteria, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, a bacteria that breaks down lactose or milk sugar. Better probiotic supplements contain a dozen or more beneficial strains of bacteria, including those adapted to extracting nutrients from different types of foods, producing enzymes that kill off bad bacteria, and facilitate hormone production. Keep in mind, too, that dosing yourself with probiotics crucial for digestion of fruit and vegetable fiber will do little good if you don't actually eat those foods. The new bacterial strains will simply depopulate again. Also remember that probiotic supplements contain live cultures of bacteria that are highly susceptible to heat and light. Store them accordingly and pay close attention to expiration dates.
You’re Dehydrating Your Muscle Gains Away
Is water a supplement? Not really, no. But without proper hydration, your cells can't function properly, making supplementation a moot point. A malfunctioning cell can't perform at a peak level and it certainly can't recover and repair properly. In a dehydrated state, your muscles have a harder time using fat for fuel, so they burn the limited amount of glycogen at their disposal at a faster rate. Your blood gets thicker, which reduces cardiovascular efficiency. Your concentration and focus decline sharply. And, of course, your risks of heat exhaustion and heat stroke rise sharply.
To offset dehydration, recognize that thirst is not a reliable indicator. By the time you're thirsty, your performance level is already crashing. You should hydrate before, during, and after exercise with a sports drink that contains an electrolyte complex. The best pre- and intra-workout performance-maximizing supplements contain osmolytic co-factors such as glycerol agents that keep athletes hyper-hydrated for extended periods of time, thereby prolonging endurance time and pump response and even lowering mean heart rate.
You’re Using Supplements to Offset Poor Diet or Lifestyle Choices
This can't be emphasized enough. No amount of supplementation is going to make up for a lack of dedication to a healthy lifestyle. There are no magic wands. You can't build an elite physique on a crumbling foundation of poor fundamentals. You need to eat clean, get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night, stimulate yourself mentally as well as physically, avoid all the usual tedious, time-sucking vices (whether its drink, drugs, video-game binging or steroids), and always be working toward clear and challenging goals. Overall wellness of mind and body is the straight path to your peak physique.
The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.