Sports Supplement FAQs Reading
Diet and nutrition advice, Supplements, Laboratory tests
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Sports Supplement FAQs
Can't I get all the nutrition I need from my daily diet?
Yes, if you really watch what you eat. Having said that, you'll sometimes find that getting the optimum amount of certain substances for your training means eating a lot. For instance, getting the amount of creatine many trainers recommend would mean eating an awful lot of beef. Use supplements to fill the gaps in your diet, but don't rely on them to counteract bad eating habits.
Do I need to take supplements on the days I'm not training?
Yes. You get stronger as you recover from exercise, so making sure you're getting enough nutrients on your rest days is essential.
Should I be waking up in the middle of the night to take supplements?
Almost definitely not. You might have heard about bodybuilders getting up at 3am to neck a quick shake, but as soon as you're awake for more than three seconds you disrupt the production of melatonin, which is one of the most important hormones in building muscle. You're better off having some nice slow-digesting protein, such as raw nuts, cottage cheese or a casein shake, before bed.
Are they safe?
Since sports supplements are technically classified as food, they aren't subject to the same strict manufacturing, safety testing or labelling as licensed medicines so there's no guarantee that they're living up to their claims. The EU is currently looking into the situation with a view to introducing stricter guidelines but in the meantime it's up to individual manufacturers to maintain the quality of their own products. Look for supplements that are ISO17025 certified, which means they've been subjected to rigorous checks during their production.
Can I fail a drugs test from taking supplements?
Maybe. If you're a serious enough sportsman to be tested, you need to be careful. A survey from an International Olympic Committee-accredited laboratory in Cologne looked for steroids in 634 supplements and found that 15 per cent of them contained substances that would cause a failed drug test, although none contained steroids. If you're concerned, consult a registered nutritionist or dietician before taking supplements.
If I take the right combination of things, can I get ripped without working out?
Sadly, no. Anybody who tells you that a magic formula can give you massive biceps and sculpted abs is fibbing. Eat right, train hard, tailor your supplement use to your goals and choose well-researched and tested products, and you'll see the results you want.
The glossary below includes many of the terms you'll encounter while reading about supplements.
Anabolism: 'Anabolic' processes build up organs
and tissues, using smaller molecules to create larger ones. Anabolic
steroids, for instance, increase protein synthesis in cells - although
you'll see a lot of supplements that promise similar results without
the side effects.
Catabolism: This is
basically the breaking down of large molecules into smaller ones to
produce energy. Products such as glutamine and antioxidants are said to
reduce the rate of catabolism, meaning that you'll recover from
labelled hydrophilic dissolve easily in water or blood. Normal
creatine, for instance, is lipophilic, but you need to dilute it a
Lipophilic: Lipophilic substances
pass through cell membranes easily, meaning they're absorbed quickly.
Some expensive brands of creatine are more lipophilic than plain
monohydrate, which they claim makes them more effective.
lifters refer to a 'loading' phase of supplement use, in which they'll
take large amounts of them to build up stores in their body. This isn't
always possible, however - if you take too much creatine or protein at
once, for instance, your body just excretes it. Stick with the dose on
Ion exchange: This basically
means your protein has been separated via electrical charge, which is
slightly cheaper than microfiltration. It means you'll lose some amino
acids, but it also filters out a lot of fat and lactose.
Micro filtration: 'Cross
flow microfiltered' protein uses a very fine membrane to filter
proteins, leaving helpful amino acids intact, filtering out fat and
leaving immune-boosting components untouched. On the downside, this
tends to be a bit more expensive than ion-exchange-filtered protein.
If you want more information about specific supplements, click the links below:
Lesser known supplements