After college, I started to have dedicated ‘gym time,’ but I never really knew how to diet or take supplements. I ate pizza and ice cream, went to the gym and killed weights, never knew what supplements to take or take any at all, and would have laughed in your face if you told me that I needed to sleep more for recovery. As I became increasingly dedicated to lifting, I decided that I wanted to start training for competitive bodybuilding. The first week I lifted like a bodybuilder, I truly gained an understanding of why proper supplementation is important. I was so unbelievably sore that I wasn’t sure if I was cut out for this sport. It hurt to stand, it hurt to sit, it hurt to get up, it hurt to sit down and I’m pretty sure I remember experiencing pain when trying to breath. Thankfully that first week soreness never returned because I was taught and researched how supplements can be used to compliment what is done in the gym. Fast forward three years and I’m practically a supplement guru. I now have my favorite and essential supplements that I am never without. There’s a strong possibility that they may even be present while on vacation. Here are some of my favorites, absolute must-have’s and a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way…
Before starting any supplements, it is important to know if your body can properly absorb them. I was super guilty of underestimating the importance of intestinal health. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I used to have this chronic bloat or bulge in my lower abdomen that would never go away, no matter how lean I was. I thought it was just the anatomy of my body and I had to suck it in a little more than the girl next to me. It wasn’t until I started to use fiber and probiotics that I realized just how unhealthy I was being. Did you know that most people walk around with excess waste lining their intestines? The reason why I brought that disgusting fact to light is to stress the importance of taking probiotic daily and fiber periodically. Intestinal gut flora health makes sure your body will properly process all the food you eat, as well as the supplementation, without excess waste clogging and lining your intestines. Being able to properly absorb the supplements and nutrients from your food is essential to producing results from the gym. Make sure that you pick a fiber that isn’t too harsh on the intestinal lining and you will learn from experience the frequency that your body needs to have a cleanse. A safe rule of thumb to follow is to cleanse for ten days, once per quarter. Once you have cleansed your digestive tract, a daily probiotic will help keep your gut flora in balance and healthy. While probiotics will be your priciest supplement on the list, they are #1 for a reason.
#2 Health & Wellness Formula
You can’t train if you’re sick. Another daily general necessity is a high-quality health and wellness formula. Although, we try to eat as best as we can by counting macros, eating our servings of fruits, veggies, healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates, there are still some gaps in our daily nutrition. Food is not as nutritious as it once was – most of the time your vegetables are about six to eight weeks old before they arrive on your dinner plate. A quality health and wellness product will fulfill the nutritional needs of vitamins and minerals for your body, which your food is possibly not delivering that day. My absolute must have is omega 3s. Fish oil is the one supplement that no matter how broke bodybuilding made me, I made sure to always buy. Think of this supplement as brain food. Omega’s are also for heart health, the skin, joints, etc. It is an essential part of my supplementation taken daily for overall health and well-being, inside and out. Find a high quality fish oil that has the proper ratio 1.5:1 EPH:DHA ratio.
#3 Branched Chain Amino Acids
What I failed to realize when I started to train for bodybuilding was that muscle hypertrophy didn’t happen in the gym. Lifting tears down muscle tissue, while recovery is what produces muscle growth and the overall athletic look I was going for. At the very least, a BCAA, or a branched chain amino acid, should be used to aid in recovery and is a supplement to be taken ALL the time. The great part about this supplement is that it comes in powder form, such as Breach or Breach Ballistic, you can put it in your water jug all day long. The added flavor to the gallon of water I’m trying to guzzle down was a bonus and helped me protect my muscle gains from dieting. To me this supplement was a god send. Faster recovery meant I could use the toilet without worrying how I was going to sit down after leg day!
Most women hear creatine and think this is a supplement meant for men. This couldn’t be more WRONG. Creatine has recovery properties and is used for muscle growth in women as well. I highly recommend this supplement to women that are trying to put on muscle mass, you know, during Bulking Season! Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in your body within muscle tissue and is present in red meat that you eat. Although not a core essential supplement, I have found this to be very beneficial to women who struggle with putting on mass. If there’s more room in the budget one month, this would be the supplement to get. I’ve found that when taking creatine, like Tango, is most effective when taken pre-workout and before bed. I’ve found the best results at those times, but play with it and see what works best for you. When there’s more money to spend on supplements, think more RECOVERY.
Of course, we’d all love the buy out the shelves in the supplement store, but budgets get in the way of this dream. When push comes to shove, these are the minimum supplements I would have in my cabinet. Health, wellness and recovery are most important at the end of the day!
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