As a mom who is trying to juggle a writing career as well as a busy household, I work hard to keep my health and fitness at the top of my to-do list. I feel that being healthy is important because it makes me a role model for my kids. Unfortunately, writing is a sedentary occupation so I make sure I keep my regular workout routine just that, regular. I hit the gym around the same time every day like I am crossing off an item from my list of things to get done that day. You may do the same thing but there may be another area you may be overlooking. Supplements.
In previous posts, I’ve discussed how I got fit by eating clean and what inspired me to get fit in the first place. That was really only part of it. I also set out to find the right supplements to go along with my new eating and workout plans. This was my husband’s “area of expertise” (he reads a shitload Muscle and Fitness magazines as well as scours reviews online of what the top supplements are) so I grudgingly turned to him for some advice. At first, I was skeptical and thought supplements were only for bodybuilders, you know the ones with cartoon sized muscles and bulging veins. Blech.
But I learned that supplements were helpful in getting over plateaus as well as providing nutrients I wasn’t getting from food. I’m talking the basics here, nothing fancy and nothing that is going to grow hair on your chest.
Here are some things I take daily:
This is my best friend. Sad but true. Protein gets me out of diet trouble like a great chat on the phone does for a troubled soul. Protein is the key to building muscle and there is quite a variety out there. You can get pea protein, hemp, soy, whey…the list goes on and on. They all have their benefits but the one you choose depends on you. Do your research and make sure you know what you are getting. The best advice I can give you is to make sure it is a quality powder from a reputable company. I’m currently using a brand called Cytosport 100% Whey, which comes in a 6 lb bag for $47 at my local Costco. Amazon sells the same size bag for $65.
It will last you quite a while and is a good product. I recommend vanilla so that you can use it in many ways.
After working out, it is very important to get 20-30 grams into your system as soon as you can. I usually head home right after my workouts and throw one down my gullet before I do anything else. If I plan on running an errand or two rather than heading home, I make sure I put a heaping scoop in my empty shaker, then fill it with water at the gym after my workout. Why is it important to drink it right immediately after, you ask? Because your body has just broken down your muscles (imagine tiny tears in your muscle fibers) and you need to get those muscles repaired. That is how muscle is built. It’s actually rebuilt.
A quality protein, one low in sugar and carbs but high in BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acids), immediately following a workout gets the protein synthesis process started quicker and your body ready for the next workout. If you are interested in the science behind it, read this article.
I also use protein powder to curb my late night cravings. When I feel like snacking or I’m hungry because I’ve stayed up too late (i.e. this frigging blog post), I mix a heaping scoop in about 6 oz of cold water and chug it. It fills me up and gives my body a source of fuel throughout the night to keep my metabolism running.
Vanilla can get a bit drab after a while so here are some tricks I use to keep the protein shakes from getting repetitive.
- Add cinnamon and pumpkin pie seasoning. One of my faves!
- Add PB2 (powdered peanut butter-85% less fat than regular peanut butter) and a dab of sugar free chocolate syrup. I shop at Hy-Vee and they carry both items in their Natural Food section.
- Replace half of your water in your shaker with orange G2. It tastes like an orange creamsicle! I would not kid. Okay, I do kid a lot but not about this. I know it sounds like a weird combo but it’s good.
My goal was (and is) to eat at least one gram of protein per pound of my body weight in a day. I have upped that because my body composition requires more in order to put on and keep muscle. Your body may respond differently but I am fighting genetics AND age but the 1:1 ratio is a good place to start. You can adjust that number depending on how your body reacts to your diet. Having protein powder on hand is going to help you take your body to the next level. I promise.
Of course, eating natural sources is ideal but if you are keeping track of protein grams on your handy dandy meal tracker, you can see that you would have to eat five 5 oz. chicken breasts in a day to hit 125 grams of protein. Or about 20 eggs. One egg contains 6 grams of protein but that would be 100 grams of fat then too. If you take out the yolk, you are down to 4 grams so now you have to have about 30 egg whites. Have you ever tried to choke down egg whites? It is exactly that. Choke, gag, choke. I always have two egg yolks when I eat egg whites, otherwise I can barely look at my plate.
This can come from fish or flaxseed, but again, research shows that the biggest benefit comes from its main components, DHA and EPA that can only come from fish. If you are a strict vegetarian, you will get some benefits from ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) that comes from flaxseed but the benefits just aren’t as great. DHA and EPA are Omega-3 fatty acid that aid in cardiovascular health, brain function, mood enhancement, and reduces inflammation-think Alzheimer’s, depression, heart attack, arthritis, asthma, joint pain, etc. Ironically, this seems like a no-brainer.
I also take this supplement because I don’t want to eat mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, or sturgeon. These are some of the fish with the highest amounts of Omega-3. I occasionally eat salmon but I don’t really love it and it’s expensive. I do eat tuna but I have to be careful of high levels of mercury. Light tuna carries far less levels of mercury than albacore but rather than risk it, I take an Omega-3 supplement. One I LOVE is from Vitacost that smells like strawberries rather than fish. Again, no joke.
I like my women’s multi-vitamin because it gives me calcium, Vitamin D, iron, and all the other things I might miss out on from my diet. Even though I eat healthy and clean most of the time, I take this one just to make sure I’ve covered my bases.
*One thing to note is that I take many of my supplements at night before bed, along with my protein shake. You don’t the gross burpies like you do if you take them during the day. *shivers* It will feel like you are a terminally ill patient taking a pile of meds, but take them during the day once, and you will choose “pile of meds” method after that. The burpies are that bad.
Okay, I have Part 2 coming up Friday but until then, let me know what you are thinking!
- Do supplements scare you?
- Have you tried them before? If so, which ones? Any success?
- What are your fitness/health goals? To get toned? Lower your body fat? Maybe fit in a pair of jeans that don’t make you look like you have sausage links for legs? Yeah, me too.