Supplements ‘n Stuff
It’s not likely many of you have included dietary or performance supplements on your Christmas lists. Santa generally sticks with toys, I think, but you never know if he’ll make exceptions for dedicated athletes and martial artists. But maybe it’s a better time to ask for that new gi you’ve been jonesing for or a pair of FatGripz to improve your hand strength?
It can be tough to decide whether to use supplements or not. I’ve been asked by several students lately about what they should try. Some are interested in creatine, caffeine, and other pre-workout staples. Others have been interested in trying thermogenics to help cut weight.
I’m not an expert on these products, but my basic philosophy is this: anything that helps you keep your diet clean will, in turn, increase your performance. I eat as many whole and raw foods as possible; only when I don’t have good access to these foods do I mix a powder or swallow a pill. When I’m eating a well-rounded diet rich in nutrients, I find my performance is at its best. I feel better inside and outside of the gym. Sure, this evidence is anecdotal, but leading research shows that eating well improves overall health, and that’s the real prize, isn’t it?
Some products I use more than others; some I may chose nearly every day and others if I’m short on sleep or super stressed. Both of these scenarios weaken the immune system and inhibit athletic performance. Still, I try to avoid anything I wouldn’t normally find in REAL FOOD. If it’s not natural or isn’t derived from natural sources, I try to avoid it.
With that said, I plan to violate just about everything I preach during the next week. It’s the holidays, and I will be on the See Food Diet. These supplements should help balance things out while I overindulge, but I will use them from time to time throughout the year as I start up some New Year’s resolutions as well.
My Favorite Flavors
Here’s one I take almost every day. Fish oil is beneficial if you don’t eat a lot of sea food. The omega-3 fatty acids are a powerful antioxident and help heart health. Most Americans are extremely omega-3 deficient, so a supplement may be a good option. Try to find a “burpless” formula if you really hate the taste of fish. I find most are pretty agreeable with my stomach.
I take glucosamine during periods of extra-hard training or when I suffer a strain or sprain to a joint. When I first started jiu-jitsu, this was a regular occurrence. Anyone new to the “gentle art” can attest to the learning curve one needs to survive during the first few months training. Almost without exception, every white belt pushes too hard, and, as a consequence, gets injured. I found glucosamine very useful while I nursed my elbows, knees, ankles, and shoulders back to health each time I got carried away on the mats.
Ginseng is great for the immune system, gives you energy and mental clarity, and helps physical performance. I enjoy it most in tea, but the pills are helpful too. I like to take this instead of echinacea because it’s easier on the kidneys and has benefits beyond preventing a runny nose. I’ve been taking it for the past month or so to avoid getting sick during the holiday season. I like to mix ginseng powder into almond milk or yerbe matte as a recovery/energy drink.
For me, probiotics are the new kids on the block. I started taking them every day about two weeks ago after one of my training partners started raving about them. I bought a lower potency than what he recommended (two for one sale) to try them out. So far, I notice they’ve worked as advertised: they aid digestion and help out the immune system. My pseudo-scientific test has shown they are especially beneficial to people with lactose intolerance, as I avoid yogurt due to this condition. They also help to break down lactic acid and inflammation–two benefits particularly useful to someone that trains hard and regularly.
Last but not least, I mix myself a Trader Joe’s Green Drink at least once a day. Featured on this blog many times, it’s a holdover from my experiments with Randy Couture’s akaline diet and Timothy Feriss’s slow-carb diet. Both show that lowering the body’s pH helps to break down lactic acid and to reduce soreness after training. I eat as much raw vegetables as possible, but this supplement helps when I miss a serving or if I just need an alkaline boost. Try it with almond milk for extra benefits.
I love eating healthy food, but I enjoy the occasional serving(s) of fudge, pie, and candy during the holidays. I’ll supplement my diet to ensure my body gets what it needs, and I’ll carry out supplementation as needed when I get back to my normal training diet full of whole grains, raw grains, and lean meats. Moderation is a major factor for good health, and the same mindset applies to “good” food as it does to “bad” food. Don’t take more supplements than you need because you’ll be wasting your money and possibly ruining your long-term health.
What special additions do you include in your diet? Do you have any preferred brands? I’m currently taking the items pictured, but I am most loyal to the Green Drink. Any suggestions?