So just like my other threads, I figured (well, it was more requested, lol) it would be beneficial to have a thread to discuss supplementation. The focus of this thread will be on the science and utilization of supplementation, more so, than what everyone is taking. The primary focus of this thread is to provide basic education and sources of information to enable a user to make a more informed decisions and to be able to have these discussion, if they feel necessary, with their health care provide or nutritionist.
Before someone starts to supplement, you should ask yourself, why do you need to supplement? Do you have a deficiency in your blood work? Have you evaluated your diet (calorie level, macro split, timing, types of foods)? Have you evaluated your training (frequency, intensity, weight/rep range)? In general, Eric Helms puts it in perspective with the below picture:
If you have already worked to address all the major areas noted above and still feel like you would benefit from supplementation, there are a variety of supplements that can enhance
your overall performance and help support you achieve your goals. I would like to further emphasize enhance, because I feel its a disservice to yourself and the hard work you have put in, to suggest that supplements are the reason for your success.
Overall, Shredded by Science with Eric Helms, has a good video on the subject, which is a good place to start. It is a few years old, so I will add additional supplements that aren't discussed.
I will definitely state, that I am no way an authority on this topic, but I do want to create a place that would allow us to discuss the efficacy and use of supplements. And as with all my other threads, I will continue to update them as updated recommendations and science is discovered. To help organize this thread, I will categorize the sections.
Performance and Muscle building
Probably the most notable and well-studied supplement on the market. To quote Examine.com
"Creatine is a molecule produced in the body. It stores high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine releases energy to aid cellular function during stress. This effect causes strength increases after creatine supplementation, and can also benefit the brain, bones, muscles, and liver. Most of the benefits of creatine are a result of this mechanism."
Essentially, Creatine increases intracellular water storage, which can allow for increased improvements in performance.
Dosing: 3 to 5g daily
Loading: While one does not have to load, it can help you determine if you are a responder. Generally, a person would see the full benefit within a week or two. Loading will allow those results in 4 or 5 days. You would have to ask yourself if a week is worth the additional cost of loading.
"Beta-alanine is the building block of carnosine, a molecule that helps buffer acid in muscles, increasing physical performance in the 60–240-second range. Beta-alanine can aid lean-mass gain."
Overall, researchers found that beta-alanine supplementation resulted in a minor but statistically significant improvement in endurance (2.85%) when the exercise duration was between 60 and 240s (the duration you see in supersetting) and/or following programs with little rest between sets, higher loads of volume or programs like cross-fit. Beta-Alanine tends to improve exercise lasting less than a minute or greater than three minutes in duration, the magnitude was very small and was not statistically significant. So depending on how your workout is designed, it may be worth taking. If taken in conjunction with Creatine Monohydrate, there may be an effect to improve overall performance for both low rep and high rep programs.
Dosing: 2 to 5g.
To no surprise, caffeine is a stimulatory anti-sleep compound extracted from coffee beans or synthesized in a laboratory. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and it can be used to improve physical strength and endurance. It is classified as a nootropic because it sensitizes neurons and provides mental stimulation. Caffeine’s main mechanism concerns antagonizing adenosine receptors. Adenosine causes sedation and relaxation when it acts upon its receptors, located in the brain. Caffeine prevents this action and causes alertness and wakefulness. This inhibition of adenosine can influence the dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and adrenaline systems.
It should be noted, that habitual caffeine usage can lead to a tolerance, so it is best to cycle on and off of caffeine or limit use to around workouts.
Dosage: 4-6mg/kg of bw.
General health and wellness
L-Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid, that is turned into L-arginine in the kidneys after supplementation. This means that L-citriulline is a more effective method of increasing L-arginine levels in the body. L-Citrulline is used as a sports performance and cardiovascular health supplement. L-Citrulline supplementation results in reduced fatigue and improved endurance for both aerobic and anaerobic prolonged exercise.
Overall, the research does indicate that there seems to be a benefit if properly dosed: in one study conducted with resistance-trained men, supplementing with 8 grams of L-citrulline before their chest workouts increased the number of reps they could do by 52%. It also significantly decreased post-workout muscle soreness. In another study, 6 grams of L-citrulline per day increased cellular energy production (ATP) during exercise by 34%, which increases your capacity for physical output and intensity.
Dosage: 6 to 8g
Note: recommended to take about an hour prior to exercise (slightly different than the recommendations regarding creatine and beta-alanine).
Fish oil is a common term used to refer to two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fats are usually found in fish, animal products and phytoplankton. Fish oil is recommended as a source of these omega-3 fats as they are the cheapest and most common source of them. Fish oil works primarily through eicosanoids, which are signalling molecules. A proper ratio of omega 3:6 fatty acids will influence which eicosanoids are released in response to stress.
Dietary sources of DHA and EPA are fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, and shellfish, such as mussels, oysters and crabs. Some nuts, seeds and vegetable oils contain another omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
There's strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels. There also appears to be a slight improvement in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol, although an increase in levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol also was observed .
It should be noted that there is a conflicting evidence of whehter or not the improvements in metabolic markers actually reduce the chances of cardiovascular events. In one of the largest meta-analyses to data , there does not seem to be sufficient evidence to support the reduction in cardiovascular events.
Dosage: 250mg of combined DHA/EPA with general recommendations at 1000mg.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient. It is one of the 24 micronutrients critical for human survival. The sun is the major natural source of the nutrient, but vitamin D is also found naturally in fish and eggs. It is also added to dairy products.
Supplemental vitamin D is associated with a wide range of benefits, including increased cognition, immune health, bone health and well-being. Supplementation can also reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. People deficient in vitamin D may also experience increased testosterone levels after supplementation.
Most people are not deficient in vitamin D, but they do not have an optimal level of vitamin D either. Due to the many health benefits of vitamin D, supplementation is encouraged if optimal levels are not present in the body.
Below is a summary of vitamin D levels :
ng/mL* <12: Associated with vitamin D deficiency, leading to rickets in infants and children and osteomalacia in adults
ng/mL* 12 to <20: Generally considered inadequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals
ng/mL* ≥20 Generally considered adequate for bone and overall health in healthy individuals
ng/mL* >50: Emerging evidence links potential adverse effects to suchhigh levels, particularly >150 nmol/L (>60 ng/mL)
Research shows that insufficient vitamin D levels increases the risk of many types of disease, including osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis and even the flu, but in this article we’re going to focus on the positive.
Thus, it’s not surprising that research has demonstrated that supplementation with adequate amounts of vitamin D improves heart health in various ways:
- It reduces triglycerides in the blood, which are a type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease if your levels become too high
- It improves blood pressure and blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels
- It improves function of the endothelium, which is a thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels
- It improves your cholesterol profile
- Research shows that a vitamin D deficiency nearly doubles your risk of reaching a “pre-diabetic” level of insulin resistance and ultimately progressing to type II diabetes.
- Research shows that insufficient vitamin D levels dramatically increases the risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and non-Alzheimer’s dementia
- Having low levels of vitamin D drastically increases the risk of developing various forms of cancer, including those of the breast, thyroid, and bladder.
- Immune cells rely on vitamin D to regulate how they respond to threats in the body, first by attacking and destroying, followed by “cleaning up” and returning to a state of dormant readiness.
The research is clear: maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D has a profound effect on heart and circulatory health, brain health, improves insulins sensitivity and helps maintain a good immune system. Needless to say, this is one supplement that should be considered taking to improve and/or maintain overall good health.
Dosage: The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D is currently set at 400-800IU/day, but this is too low for adults. The safe upper limit in the United States and Canada is 4,000IU/day. Research suggests that the true safe upper limit is 10,000IU/day. For moderate supplementation, a 1,000-2,000IU dose of vitamin D3 is sufficient to meet the needs of most of the population. This is the lowest effective dose range. Higher doses, based on body weight, are in the range of 20-80IU/kg daily.
Feel free to discuss the benefits of any other proven supplement.