Tag Archives: Supplements

Eating before a workout – what is best?

This question comes up often. There are some people who claim that you should never eat before you workout as that would counteract any fat loss that you are attempting to do, others say the opposite. Essentially, the science behind whether or not you should you should eat before you workout is inconclusive.

So, really then it becomes a personal decision. How do you feel early in the morning before you workout? Should you eat something to help you fuel through your workout and help you burn off those calories? Clearly, this is something you will have to discover through experimentation.

Should you eat before your workout?

The question of whether or not you should eat before a workout should be answered by how do you feel while you are working out? Basically, do you have the energy to get through your 1 hour in the gym or through a DVD that you are working through? If you don’t have enough to get through your workout then you absolutely should eat beforehand, doing otherwise will compromise your end results.

Now you could eat something light, like a protein bar or a protein shake to get something in your stomach. Those calories can then be used to help burn off whatever fat you are trying to get rid of, if you are weight training your metabolism should be operating at a higher level anyway. You see if you lift weights at all during your workout your body will burn more calories for a longer period of time, so anything you eat beforehand is going to be burned off.

What to take right before your workout?

What you eat before you workout could determine your performance while you are working out. Don’t eat anything particularly heavy or fattening. Avoiding fattening foods are what are going to help you not vomit if you should push yourself to your limits. Even a bowl of oatmeal is going to be fine as long as you give yourself enough time to start to digest this food.

Some people advocate taking their post workout drink before, during, and after they have worked out. That way you can get the necessary amino acids and other vital vitamins to help you recover from any intense session. The many studies conducted show that it can take anywhere from 60 minutes to 180 minutes for food to start to affect your bloodstream and start to be fully incorporated into your body.

Ultimately the decision is yours

Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer here. The question you should be asking is how you feel before your workout, during your workout, and after your workout if you should eat beforehand or not. That is why it is so very important to keep track of your daily intake of foods as well as your moods to adjust your course of action.

Some athletes even go as far as to test their blood sugar before they workout and on multiple times per day to see how their food is affecting their body. Doing this is a bit extreme and typically not recommended. You should really only perform routine blood tests on a quarterly or even bi-annual basis if you want to monitor how your body is reacting to any changes in diet or exercise. There are now several companies that are starting to offer blood testing services that can really help you improve your performance long term, and these tests should give you a better understanding if any supplements are actually helping you or not.

Common Supplement Ingredients and what they do

If you are into losing weight, gaining muscle, or just being overall fit in your life you are probably going to need some supplementation at some point. While many people do advocate clean eating from whole food sources, and this is something I endorse as well, there is simply going to be a need for some additional help regardless of how clean you are eating.

Basically, the food sources today are not as good as they were in the past due to pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful substances. As well many people, through a poor diet, have effectively killed their good bacteria in their lower intestine making the digestive tract not nearly as effective as it once was in the past.

So if you intend to perform at your absolute best then it is important to get an education of what you are putting into your body at a regular basis. With that knowledge you can be a far more educated consumer and avoid some of the scams that seem to occur regularly with many supplement companies.

Consuming a diet that will aid in helping your lower intestine obtain the good bacteria it needs should be one of the first priorities if you are intending to lose weight or just become healthier again. To do this would not take a whole lot of work just a lot of fiber and a regular consumption of bioactive foods.

Since I did mention that you should become educated in what you are eating below you find a listing of some of the more common ingredients you will find in many supplements. Some of the ingredients you may find have little to no scientific basis and are used more of a marketing ploy to get you to buy their powder or supplement.

Dextrose – This ingredient is basically sugar, and your body does produce this naturally. However, you should be careful the total amount of sugar you are taking in your diet each day. Too much sugar can cause metabolic imbalances and thereby put you at risk for type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Many medicines, supplements, and other food sources contain dextrose as an ingredient. It is easily absorbed in the body and is used to help many medicines become metabolized in the body.

Whey Protein Concentrate – Supplementing your body with extra protein is crucial in order to maintain and build muscle mass. Protein is what your body thrives on when you are in a catabolic or muscle tearing stage. If you don’t break your muscles down they cannot build back up. In order for you to build up your muscle, and become stronger, and bigger, you need various protein sources.

Since whey protein is derived from milk sources this should be avoided if you are lactose intolerant. Alternatively if you can find a protein source from either rice, or other grains then you should be able to absorb that supplement. Another reason why you may not want to take this supplement if it has this ingredient is because you are a vegan; this would conflict with any vegan lifestyle.

Natural Orange Flavors – This is a flavor enhancer, you may see it as other natural fruit flavors. It is perfectly safe and is supposed to cover up some of the more medicinal tasting ingredients and make the drink mixture more palatable.

While many articles bemoan the practice of using natural oils and flavorings the essence of these ingredients come from whole food sources. As long as you are not consuming an inordinate amount of anything flavored with these substances you should be just fine. It turns out that even orange juice; even those brands that claim freshly squeezed use natural flavor enhancements in order to maintain the flavor.

There is a lot of clinical evidence that does seem to support this ingredient is safe. Just think of the many millions of people who wake up each morning and have a glass of orange juice, they seem to be doing just fine.

Citric Acid – This is used to preserve the flavor of foods and drinks. If you are drinking a supplement, probably a pre-workout drink, then you will see this ingredient listed. For many years this has been used to help flavor and preserve food. Typically, you will see that this is a white powder in its most basic form, so if you are using any sort of powdered drink then this very well may be part of the base for that drink.

Those that are allergic to orange juice or other fruit juices should avoid consuming this ingredient. There are alternatives, but not many. The whole supplementation industry uses this as one of its staple ingredients.

Carrageenan Gum – This ingredient helps to gel or make the other ingredients more stable, essentially this is a binder in any powdered drink. You can even find this on some of the shelves in the natural food stores; this is an alternative cooking ingredient for those that suffer from lower intestinal issues such as crones’ disease.

Currently this ingredient is one you can find globally, and that is not said often in any of the supplementation industry. Since this has undergone many years of clinical studies it is pretty safe to use and can be consumed on a regular basis by most people with little to no side effects.

Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine is a substance you will see in many supplements. In fact the monohydrate version is one that you can buy on its own and add to your own special blend in the morning or whenever you workout. The purpose of using Creatine is to help supply the body’s cells with energy from fat. Creatine occurs naturally in the body and is found often in the spinal cord as well as around many nerve endings.

The body does produce this naturally from our food and from various amino acids such as L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Most of the Creatine found in the body can be produced from natural whole food sources, particularly red meat or even poultry. If you are vegan however you may be lacking in these amino acids so it may be beneficial to add this supplement to your diet to ensure proper muscle growth.

Some precautions should be known before consuming this supplement. With continual usage you can get some kidney damage, and if you already have kidney damage then this should be avoided outright. Many times these adverse effects are caused by consuming 2 to 3 times the amount the body would normally absorb during the day. To avoid any long term effects then it would be advised to cycle the use of this supplement and also to keep watch on any blood work for elevated signs of liver or kidney damage.

Tartaric acid – You can find this ingredient in many supplements. Typically this is used to help with the overall flavor profile. In fact you can add this to wine if for some reason the fermentation has caused the wine to go flat in flavor for some reason. In combination with some of the other ingredients listed you can see that the biochemists use this as a balancing ingredient in order to make the drink or supplement better tasting.

Without the addition of this ingredient you may find that any supplement you take would be like drinking down a glass full of chalk or some sort or poor tasting vomit inducing powder.

Lecithin – This is used as an emulsifier or an ingredient that would cause any powdery drink to be fuller in flavor. Since this ingredient is fully metabolized it is very safe to use and consume and has been in many foods for several decades if not longer.

Magnesium Oxide – This is used commonly as an antacid so it may be used to help you actually tolerate some of the other ingredients in the supplement. There have been cases with several drinks that in the initial testing phases the resulting effects were so bad that medical attention had to be called. So, if you have a weak stomach this can be used to help you absorb some of the other ingredients without feeling so bloated and sick.

Lohan Fruit Extract – This is a natural flavor enhancer. Essentially it is supposed to help whatever supplement you have taste sweeter and become more palatable. Combined with some of the other ingredients this fruit extract aids in the overall digestion of the drink or supplement.

Stevia Extract – Stevia is a naturally occurring sugar substitute and its extract has been used to give a sweet flavor without adding extra calories. Since this is a naturally occurring supplement you may find that it is easily absorbed by the body and does not cause any adverse side effects, at least nothing of major concern.

Silicon Dioxide – This is a preservative ingredient. Basically it helps keep all of the other ingredients from drying out and becoming tasteless and useless. You could consider this to be sand, in fact it is called sand by many chemists and rightfully so. Perfectly safe to eat or drink and nothing to be worried about.

Acesulfame Potassium – This is a calorie free sweetener that has been used for many years. While some have claimed it can lead to cancer the evidence to support this is dubious at best for the moment. Having been on the market for 15 years the long term effects of this ingredient have yet to be discovered. Your body does not absorb this ingredient and it quickly excretes it out in the urine, but some claim that some of this remains in the cells of your colon and lower intestines.

Beta Alanine – It has been said that this can help you power through your workouts. The claim is that this will help you get more energy in order to perform better at high intensity exercises or routines. This is a naturally occurring amino acid that attaches to Histidine which is claimed to give your muscles more energy in order to perform better.

You will experience a tingling feeling, at least most experience this, and that is completely natural. In fact many pre-workout supplements have this ingredient; if they don’t, then you can buy it separately to give you that extra boost.

Creatine Nitrate – This is another version of creatine mentioned above. While some may claim that the nitrate version is better there is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. It very well could be a better version compared to the monohydrate version but there has not been any studies to tell one way or the other.

Arginine AKG – You will find arginine AKG along with creatine nitrate in many cases. The reason being is that this is claimed to help metabolize creatine nitrate. Again there is no proof of any benefit from using creatine nitrate or arginine akg so be wary of any claims of performance gains.

Niacin – This is a naturally occurring substance that our body needs. The benefit of consuming this ingredient is that it has been clinically proven to help lower cholesterol, at least the LDL. You may experience some flushing in the face and feel warm after you consume this substance. It’s not uncommon to experience some sweating roughly 45 minutes after you eat this supplement.

There are some types of niacin you can have that will not because you to sweat and be more flush in the face, and many times you will find that whatever supplement you have may use that version. After all you don’t want to continually explain to others why you may be sweating.

Just a brief list of some of the more common ingredients

The list above is just a brief list of some of the more common ingredients you will find in many supplements. Of course each one of these ingredients could merit an article on its own, and I may very well do that in the future. However, just keep in mind that you should only consume a supplement when you know you have your diet in check and you just want that extra boost.

Working out intensely can be exhausting for your body, which is why you should get enough rest and eat well. Doing otherwise will greatly hinder your results and thereby cause you to go back into your bad habits again and not experience any of the health benefits that a daily exercise habit can give you.