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Supplementation, hype or results?

By World Champion Ben Agboke


Nowadays supplements are used by just about every sportsperson you can think of: footballers, cyclists, tennis players, swimmers, martial artists, bodybuilders, track and field athletes and so on. They are even used by sedentary people yes those infamous couch potatoes.

Why has supplementation become so widespread? Well the answer is simple - health and performance. Unfortunately our foods are not as wholesome and nutritious as they were ten years ago. There are several reasons for this but one of the main reasons is the fact that much of the food we eat now is refined and processed. Consequently people now feel the need to supplement their diet with synthetically produced micro and macronutrients to maintain good health. The former refers to vitamins and minerals; the latter refers to protein and carbohydrate powders.

In the sporting world performance enhancement through the use of supplements is perhaps one of the main reasons for the exponential rise in the use of supplements over the years. It is almost impossible for one to excel in his/her chosen sport without the use of supplements.

Bodybuilding is a sport where nutrition is of paramount importance. Many bodybuilding pundits say that nutrition is even more important than the training. When you think about the fact that bodybuilders spend many more hours eating and digesting food than training, you can only agree. As a successful bodybuilder I know just how integral nutrition is to my bodybuilding regime.

Selecting the most effective supplements is a bodybuilder's nightmare. There have been many times in the past when I have woken up in the middle of the night screaming as a result of having a nightmare about going into a room filled with different LA Muscle supplements. Each supplement saying: "Have me, I'll make you really big and strong!" or "Have me and I'll make you shredded and vascular!"

Joking aside it really is like this for aspiring and even experienced successful bodybuilders - a nightmare! Although this 'nightmare' scenario is one which I'm sure you're all too familiar with, selecting the most effective supplements can be made less painful by taking into consideration the following:

  • Empirical supplements
  • Supplementation for the off-season
  • Pre-contest season supplementation

What the hell does he mean by 'Empirical supplements' I hear you say? Don't worry I can assure you that I have not gone insane yet. Basically the word 'empirical' means, 'derived from or relating to experiment and observation rather than theory'. In a nutshell supplements that definitely work, no hype just results. We have all at some point been guilty of buying supplements that have been purported to be amazing, fabulous, super potent and the rest of it (don't you just love hype based on 'weak' science). Anyway the point I'm making here is that there is a vast array of supplements on offer, some of which only work for a few individuals. There are however certain supplements that work (if used properly of course) for the majority of us. These are the ones I refer to as empirical supplements: Creatine; glutamate; whey protein; Vanadyl Sulphate; Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT); Chromium Picolinate; IGFAA; CLA; Methoxyisoflavone.

There are other empirical supplements but these are the ones that, for me, really stand out. Unfortunately though it is not as clear-cut as simply purchasing these supplements and thinking you're home and dry. For instance not all Creatine formulas, whey protein powders or GABAs are created equally. In other words the quality of supplements sold by some supplement companies is considerably better than others. This is something I have experienced first hand believe me!

Now the other important thing to take into account as regards to supplements is knowing which are best for building serious muscle mass and which are best for sculpting that mass. Off-season versus pre-contest supplementation is the issue here. To build muscle mass Creatine, Glutamate, Whey protein, GABA, MCTs, Methoxyisoflavone and Vanadyl Sulphate should be used. Glutamate is a powerful anticatabolic amino acid which when taken before and or after training prevents your body from breaking down muscle tissue (it's a strong immune system booster too). Since Glutamate is the most abundant amino acid in muscle tissue it gets used up during training and needs to be ingested daily to keep your body in a muscle building state provided you're consuming sufficient amounts of protein too.

The most important times to ingest whey protein are in the morning, after training and just before going to bed. Vanadyl Sulphate is a potent but safe muscle hormone mimicker that ensures important nutrients like amino acids and carbohydrates are shuttled to the muscle cells which is required for hypertrophy (the development of bigger muscles). Methoxyisoflavone and CLA are extremely potent anticatabolic supplements that potentiate the muscle building process. Simply put, if your body is using its amino acid resources to repair then building cannot occur. If however repair is being taken care of then your body will use aminos to build. GABA (Gamma amino butyric acid) is a very good natural growth hormone booster. Growth hormone promotes fat loss and the building of muscle. This product is best taken on an empty stomach just before going to bed as whilst you're asleep growth hormone secretions are potentially at their greatest. We all know that to build muscle you need to ingest more calories than you're expending. This is where MCTs come into their own, they are fats but with a difference. MCTs are known as 'fatless' fats as the body does not store them but uses them as energy. So you get the calories without the risk of fat storage, they can be taken at anytime during the day.

Now if you're getting ready for a bodybuilding competition or you just think it is about time you displayed that muscle mass of yours in all its hard glory then these are the supplements for you (some of these pre-contest supplements are also used for the off-season too): CLA; Cayenne; Chromium Picolinate; L-Carnitine; Creatine; Glutamate; LA GABA; Methoxyisoflavone; Whey Protein. Now simply put because your goal is now to lose fat and retain muscle you need good potent fat metabolisers and potent anticatabolic agents. CLA falls into both categories - it will help you to burn fat whilst aid in sparing muscle tissue. Cayenne, L-Carnitine and Chromium Picolinate are all good fat metabolisers which when taken together are extremely synergistic and therefore much more potent.

Creatine, IGFAA, Glutamate, Whey protein and Methoxyisoflavone are all strong anticatabolic supplements. When losing fat the number of calories you ingest should be less than the number you expend. This calorie deficit can quite easily cause one to lose muscle tissue as well. This is where such potent anticatabolic supplements as the ones I have mentioned are of paramount importance.

Before I conclude this article I would just like to add that the uptake and effectiveness of some of the empirical supplements I have talked about can be greatly improved. Creatine, Glutamate and Vanadyl Sulphate for instance can be potentiated when taken with simple carbs like dextrose or fructose and potent uptake agents like Taurine. Also, by cycling the use of certain supplements you can increase their effectiveness. For instance Creatine, Vanadyl Sulphate and GABA should be taken periodically. Creatine for example should not be used for longer than two months, after two months of use at least one month should be taken off. On the other hand there are supplements that can be used all year round - Glutamate and Whey protein are such supplements.

Remember, nutritional supplements are things that should only be taken in addition to, not instead of, the food you eat. The mainstay of any diet regimen should always be wholesome foods like poultry, fish, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruit, vegetables, water and so on. Supplements are effective at addressing the deficiencies in the modern day diet. Sportspersons obviously need to ingest more of the specialised supplements available beyond just vitamins and minerals. This is due to the more acute deficiencies that inevitably come about in sportspersons from the intense and arduous training we undergo. Good luck with your sporting goals, stay muscular but more importantly stay healthy.

Kind regards 'The Black Diamond' AKA Ben



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