As most of you know, I come from a triathlon/multisport background (this bodybuilding thing is all very new to me!) I also write for triathlon magazines (with my journalism hat on). Given that triathlon is a “kit-heavy” sport, with no end of gadgets and gizmos to coo over and spend out on, you might think I was immune to overspending on sports stuff, after all these years.
I’m 11 weeks out (?!*@!) from my first figure/bodybuilding show and my supplement cupboard has become —> a supplement hamper has become —> a supplement….area. Perhaps it’s because there’s not a great deal else to buy for bodybuilding, other than food (and I do enjoy that!) and – eventually – what I’ll wear on stage (I haven’t got that far yet). But I’ve gone a bit spendy on the ol’ supps. Would you like a tour?
(Disclaimer: some of these are free samples picked up at the IFBB Grand Prix, some are freebies (thank you Sci-MX, myprotein) and many are BOGOFs. I do shop around, honest! Even so, it’s a bit embarrassing….)
1) Protein powders
Perhaps the most cliched bodybuilding food, but far from just hype. Training like I am, and trying to build/retain the amount of muscle I am, I need a lot of protein – far more than most people. And it’s hard to get it all in through real foods. (I do eat real foods! In fact the amount of real foods I eat is the reason the fridge door currently won’t quite shut properly…and there’s a cool bag full of veg in the kitchen).
So, protein powders are a handy way (whey? hahahahaaaa. erm…) to get extra protein in. Plus, they taste yum! They’ve come a long way from the days when they were chalky and tasteless. I add them to oatmeal, make smoothies/shakes with them, bake with them and make fake icecream with them (so so good).
Why so many? Last week, this would have been a sorry photo – I was down to just two tubs (the horror!) But then I saw a BOGOF on chocolate orange flavour, and then a sports-supplement client of mine offered me a contradeal. So what you’re seeing here is an unusually large amount of different protein powders, I promise! There are so many tasty flavours out there that I wanted to try lots!
I can’t be bothered to list everything in the pics but if you spot a label you’re interested in knowing more about, please leave a comment and I will elaborate.
One of these by the way is casein, rather than whey. Casein protein is absorbed much more slowly than whey, so it’s great to have before bed. Which is exactly what I do: make a pudding out of it. Yum! (again) You can also get vegan and vegetarian sources of protein powders (hemp, pea, etc).
Branch chain amino acids. I’m sure my biochemist husband would be able to explain our need for BCAAs far better than I can, but he’s currently doing a MTB race with this chap, so you’ll have to make do with me.
Proteins, as we know, are made up of amino acids. BCAAs are naturally occurring in the body and represent over 30% of our muscle mass. We really need them to support muscle growth, never more so than when we’re training really hard and dieting down at the same time – as I have slowly started to do. So I take BCAAs to prevent losing my hard-earned muscles, to speed up recovery between training sessions and to stop me feeling knackered.
What you see here is BCAAs in capsule form from Sci-Mx and also powder form, for mixing into a drink, from Scivation (Xtend). One of my bloggy pals told me Xtend had forever ruined plain water for her…and I fear I am going down the same sorry route. However, after my contest prep is over I’ll just have to live with it, for the sake of my wallet! For now, though….*sip* 🙂
Stuff you mix into water to take before/during training to give you a bit of a boost. I’ve reviewed the Sci-MX one you see there already – here. There are lots of preworkout supplements out there, most with caffeine, guarana, taurine etc as stimulants, and then with amino acids to help recovery and buffer lactic acid, etc.
I’ve tried a few (I got lots of samples at the IFBB Grand Prix) and some are most definitely stronger than others – whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you! I do get on with the Sci-MX one, hence why I’ve stuck with it. I don’t use these products before every training session, partly because I don’t want to get into the habit, partly because the more I use them the more I’ll get used to them and partly because I don’t always want the effect. (Also partly so they’ll last longer!) However, on days when I’m really dragging, or I have a very tough session to do, they are great.
L-glut is an amino acid found in some of the foods we eat but, because the body needs it so much – particularly when training hard and trying to recover quickly – I supplement my diet with it. Amongst its jobs are preventing muscle breakdown (catabolism) and helping immune function. It’s just a powder (this one’s flavourless) which I take with water or mix into a shake or whatever really.
Perhaps the most researched supplement out there, creatine is another substance which is naturally-occurring in the body but which needs topping up when you’re training really hard with weights. Our bodies make and use creatine to supply energy to our muscles and, ultimately, to top up muscle’s most valued energy source (ATP). It can boost the rate at which you grow lean mass and can help you lift more weight and train harder. Definitely one to take during bodybuilding training.
Fat doesn’t make you fat (but you knew that….promise?) On the contrary. Which is why I pour a good 20ml of Udo’s Choice oil over my food every single day. Everyone needs the correct amount of essential fatty acids (hence the name ‘essential’…) and I want to make sure I’m getting the right amount, even as start cutting my diet back approaching my show. I’d rather cut carbohydrates by a little than lose out on fats – they’re more important to the body (IMO). EFAs have also been reported to help recovery between training sessions and I’m down with that. (I also use coconut oil – for cooking, since you can’t heat Udo’s oil.)
I love cooking (and eating!) and experimenting in the kitchen to see how I can make recipes (particularly baked goods) “bodybuilder friendly”. My coach Kat Millar has some of the recipes we’ve ‘refined’ together on her blog here. Anyway, it’s handy to be able to add flavour and sweetness without sugar. Hence the sugar-free syrups (great in baking, coffee, oats, smoothies) and flavour drops (there are various brands out there).
I’ve reviewed a few of these already – you can do a search by product name or by ‘review’ – but if there’s anything you’d like to know more about, just tell me in the comments.
And, with that, I’m going to go and make myself a really complicated protein shake with 7,345 ingredients in. 😉 Not really. I’m going to have an iced coffee and think about taking the dog for a walk once it’s a bit cooler.
Do you take supplements or sports nutrition? What, when, why, where and how? What’s your fave?
Aaaaand…can anyone’s supplements cupboard/box/space rival mine? 😉