Ok guys, I’ve had two shots of espresso with two more on the way. I thought I might as well let you guys in on part 2 of the supplements that work. Ironically, espresso leads me into the first one: caffeine.
Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug IN THE WORLD! It is legal and unregulated in most parts of the world and naturally produced in many plants, hence the coffee bean reference. Caffeine blocks receptors in the central nervous system that would otherwise cause drowsiness and stimulates various portions of the autonomic nervous system. These two effects result in making you feel like you can accomplish anything that day and then running to the bathroom thirty minutes later.
Caffeine typically is one of the main ingredients in many pre-workouts. This is due to its effect of increasing performance in many areas. Caffeine has been shown to improve anaerobic capacity (short, intense exercise= “Fran”), power output, aerobic capacity (longer workouts= 5k run), reaction time, rate of perceived exertion, wakefulness, and many other factors. In fact, many pre-workouts will advertise a laundry list of proprietary blends, natural herbs, and groundbreaking new “performance enhancing supplements’, only to pack it full of caffeine to make the user feel as if everything is working. This is also very common in fat burning/ weight loss supplements. There is no doubt caffeine can be very beneficial, but must be used with caution. As mentioned early, caffeine can stimulate portions of the autonomic nervous system leading to increased heart rate, anxiety, and colonic emptying. Those with heart problems or high blood pressure should use caution when taking caffeine. These effects are dependent on the tolerance of the user as well. Prolonged use of caffeine can build up a tolerance, leading to a need for increased dosage to experience the effects. Caffeine can also have devastating effects on sleep. For this reason, I recommend caffeine intake to be limited to the mornings and early afternoons, but everyone will have different limits.
Fish oil is the second supplement that works. The main factor in this is the omega 3 fatty acid content. There are many oils and seeds that contain high doses of omega 3 fatty acids, but fish oil is the most common. When considering fish oil, we are mainly concerned with the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are typically found in fish, animal products, and seeds. However, the typical diet nowadays contains a high amount of omega 6 fatty acids (think of them as the evil step-child). The ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s can have a profound impact on the body. Ideally, there should be a ratio of 1:1, but with the increased levels of omega 6s in the diet, omega 3 typically must be supplemented to equalize the ratio. This 1:1 ratio can have several effects including lowering blood pressure, lipid levels, risk for plaque buildup, risk of diabtes, triglycerides, and inflammation levels. For this reason, I recommend everyone take some omega 3 supplement, whether you are focused on performance or not. It is important to look at EPA+DHA quantity when deciding which supplement and how much to use. The recommended daily dosage ranges from 1-6g, with 2-4 being the most common. Spreading the dosage out through the day can help minimize any fishy burp taste.
The next supplement I recommend is vitamin D. I will start off by stating there has been a lot of speculation lately about the proper measurement of vitamin D in the body so I will keep this one brief. Vitamin D is made naturally in the body using sunlight and cholesterol, and it also found in many foods. There are many forms of vitamin D, but the one we will focus on is vitamin D3, as it is the most useful. While many people are not deficient in vitamin D, they do not have optimal levels. Vitamin D has been associated with increased cognition, immune health, bone health, testosterone levels, and decreased risk for various diseases. Due to its overall effect of greater wellbeing, vitamin D supplementation is recommended for almost everyone. The minimal dose is 2,000IU per day, while the maximum is set at 4,000IU per day.
I am only going to mention the last supplements. Protein and carbohydrate supplementation have proven beneficial performance effects, but, for many people, should not be the focus. Protein and carbs should be accounted for with whole foods in the diet before supplementing them should be considered. Many more gains will be seen if the diet is perfected first. However, those that have dialed in their macronutrient levels can see enhanced performance and recovery by using protein and carbohydrates at the appropriate times. I will dive into this topic in the coming weeks if there is interest.
So there you have it. I have laid out a list of supplements that will help stay healthy and increase your performance. This list is by no means all inclusive, but contains the products with the most time and research backing them. Next week I will dive into some of the commonly used supplements that do not work or have common misconceptions. As always, feel free to comment and ask questions. Do your own research and let me know if there is a topic you would like me to address. Until next week, stay hungry my friends.