I went through a phase of spending at least £40 a month on BCAA’s and a tub of protein powder. Just like everyone else I felt I was doing the right thing to get the most out of my training, to avoid muscle wastage, and optimise muscle growth. Even now I am still taking protein powder mixed with pistachio milk occasionally.
If I am honest with myself and analyse my muscle growth during the years that I have supplemented my diet with protein powder and or BCAA’s the change has been minimal. You could argue that they have helped my recovery or had some impact, BUT you could also argue my recovery or any other benefits have occurred because I know more about diet and nutrition and eat better, or because I perform more foam rolling or mobility work.
What does the research tell us…
Save your money.
Not literally. But when you delve a little deeper it is clear that it isn’t entirely necessary to purchase all these different supplements. As mentioned in my last post, Creatine is the only supplement that has the potential to increase your power output and help those gainz. Beta-alanine is also proven to be beneficial to performance, BUT only for a very specific time period and intensity.
Why we don’t need…
Protein Powder: As you probably already know, we already obtain protein from animal produce, nuts, and legumes. What you may not know is how much we actually need…
…1.8g/kg body weight per day.
According to research this is sufficient irrespective of your calorie deficit/surplus, and or training goals and intensity.
For me, as an 80kg male, I would therefore require 144g of protein a day.
I can easily achieve this with the following; A breakfast of 3 eggs and 3 rashers of bacon, a large chicken breast included in my lunch, and a steak at dinner time.
However, I must admit I like using protein powder because you can buy it in chocolate flavour. You can’t buy a chocolate tasting chicken. It is nice to be able to make a chocolate tasting protein packed coffee, snack, or dessert. But plain and simply protein powder isn’t necessary.
BCAA’s (in fact all amino acids)
These are also taken to aid protein synthesis, reduce fatigue, and accelerate recovery. As with protein they are found in abundance in animal produce. In fact if you meet the daily requirements for protein (see above) then there is absolutely no need to supplement with BCAA’s. For example, it is recommended that you ingest 3g of Leucine post exercise to aid recovery. This is easily achieved without supplementation as one chicken breast alone contains this amount of Leucine.
I personally have never used this and knew little of it. However, when doing some research I came across this supplement, and it was touted as a testosterone booster. According to research, yes it does increase testosterone, BUT very very temporarily AND not long enough to support or enhance training.
Zinc and Magnesium
Many marketers will have you believe that these both increase testosterone. Quite simply, they don’t. Again, if you meet your daily protein requirements you are easily going to meet your body’s needs for Zinc. In fact you will surpass them. Magnesium may be harder to obtain through your diet with spinach being one of the best sources. So you may need to track your nutrition and check this. If you are looking to increase your Zinc and Magnesium then you will be happy to hear (I know I was) that dark chocolate is a good source of both.
One way to track whether you have any deficiencies or should consider supplementation is to track your nutrition through the myfitnesspal app. If you can increase your intake of certain whole foods (real food) to meet your daily requirements of protein as well as all the other various macro and micronutrients then this is far better for you than ingesting man-made supplements. I am also aware that some people have medical conditions or dietary choices that mean supplementation is required cannot be avoided.
What are your experiences with supplements? May be something has worked for you. I would love to hear what has worked or not worked for you. Share your tips and thoughts. Or if you have a friend that you think would benefit from this read, share it with them.