I know this, and I also know I'm part of the reason for it. That's why I want to teach people how to achieve such expectations in a healthy and positive manner.
So instead of telling you guys to chill out and appreciate your physique for w hat it is, as I know if someone told me that it would go in one ear and straight out the other, I'm going to help educate you on how to gain a competitive edge in a safe and healthy way.
First thing is first - to make anything long term and sustainable, you have to think about how it could possibly be sustainable for the long term. Nutrition will determine this. It is where you're going to get, in my educated opinion, 50% of your results. 40% will then come from your training and 10% from supplementation. This is where you start. It is your foundation to physique success and health and therefore actual happiness in yourself. Spend the most time getting this right and you're half way there.
Of course your training is so close to equally important as nutrition, but that's for an another discussion.
I grew up in the sunny Gold Coast of Australia, where every man and their dog trained and obsessed about their physique, it was pretty much bred into me. I took a key interest in nutrition, training and of course supplementation; everything that was going to give me the best results for the least amount of work. I worked for the largest supplement company in the world, GNC, as a sports specialist for 4 years. It wasn't really work at all, I loved every second of that place, reading every book on nutrition, supplementation, ingredient labels and picking my naturopath boss' brains... one of them so happening to be Amanda (yep, that's how we met, she was my boss, ahoy!), so this coupled with studying human biology and physiology in university, my nutrition courses and my obsession with knowing how everything works and interacts with the body, meant that I built a solid understanding of what's needed to get that physique edge.
So here is what I take on the daily for a competitive edge and why:
1. High dose B-vitamin complex
Hands down one the most important things you can take. Period. But for God sake don't buy that shitty low dose grocery store brand; they wouldn't even fuel an ant! B-vitamins cannot be stored in the body and need to be continuously absorbed through diet. It has so many benefits including energy, fat metabolism, brain health, gastro intestinal health, liver detoxification and general health. One key thing to know when taking this supplement; some people can feel sick taking a high dose B-vitamin complex (or multivitamin) on an empty stomach as it stimulates digestive secretions. Take it after food for best absorption and to help prevent this.
Before you even ask, no, it won't kill you. It's one of the most researched supplements in the world and every explosive, power and strength athlete in the world can significantly benefit from it. It helps to recycle ATP, which is what your muscles use as energy for instant, short, explosive and powerful muscle contraction. This allows for better recovery between sets, increased possible reps within a set, and subsequently increased potential muscle stimulus (work), meaning greater muscle growth potential. It increases intracellular water retention and glycogen storage in the muscle, which increases muscular recovery and strength, increases protein synthesis, so that more of that good protein you eat gets turn into muscle mass, and to top it all off, has even been shown recently to reduce a hormone called myostatin that actually limits your body from growing too much muscle for its size and frame. If you're not already running out the door the get this stuff, then I don't know what you're waiting for!
If there's two things that are most essential to your health and potential to grow muscle and burn body fat, it's your sleep quality and digestive health. This beaut kills two birds with one stone. Zinc, magnesium aspartate (ZMA) is a combination of zinc and magnesium, obviously, but also vitamin B6 or pyridoxine.
- Zinc is extremely important in boosting your immune system, increasing testosterone, wound healing (including muscle, skin and even your digestive system) and for assisting in bile production to help breakdown the fats in your food for absorption.
- Magnesium - where to even begin! Magnesium is an electrolyte that is extremely important in the electrical signalling pathways from your brain to every single tiny centimeter of your body, meaning it helps with power output, coordination, reaction time and anything that requires the messaging of information to and from your brain. But that's just the start. Magnesium is a muscle and CNS relaxant, meaning it will help you fall asleep easier and have a better quality of sleep! Considering sleep is so important for physical and mental performance, your moods, attitude and health, this can only result in better training, recovery and muscle growth.
- Vitamin B6 helps with fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and stimulates phase one of detoxification - and if you didn't already know, removing toxins out of the blood is one of the most important aspects of remaining healthy.
This one has to be common sense by now, everyone knows they should take omega-3 supplementation, but why?
- Balance omega-6 dietary intake - so many foods, especially grains, nuts, oils and meats, are high in omega-6 which are inflammatory promoting. Inflammation in short duration is healthy for repair, however long term inflammation is extremely damaging to the body, and guess what, creating small micro tears from training causes inflammation!
- Digestive health - omega-3 helps to line the stomach and increase absorption as well as repair damaged cells, and as you know from my previous article on digestive health for muscle gains (click here to read in another window), this is extremely important to get your digestive system working like a race car engine!
- Cellular health - cells are the reason you're alive, and their health is the reason why you're either a strong, efficient and fit machine, or constantly, tired, weak and in poor health! Your cells have what's called 'membranes' that allow nutrients in and out of the cell. A cell membrane that is stiff and tough from the lack of fatty acids in the diet or from too much saturated fat (note: there is a healthy amount of saturated fat however), can prevent vital nutrients from entering the cell, including muscle cells! We want as many good nutrients to enter the muscle cell to promote anabolism. Therefore introduce an omega-3 supplement and start eating more omega-3 rich foods to balance the high omega-6 foods you're eating.
This is the most abundant amino acid in the skeletal muscle and significantly boosts muscle recovery. That sore, tender feeling you experience the next couple of days after training, especially the one that makes you look like a baby giraffe after leg day, that's called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and is partially due to the tears you create in your muscle tissue from training. This helps, and I take as much of it as I need; 10-20g in divided doses throughout the day. That's not all it's good for however, it also helps to heal gastro intestinal cells that absorb nutrients and thus boosts your immune system and potential for muscles to receive the necessary nutrients to grow! Start to see a trend here? Healthy body, better muscle growth and lower body fat potential!
I can't even begin to explain just how much this has personally helped me and many of our clients. This helps to combat one of the roots to illness, disease, food cravings, fat storage issues (especially below the belly button) and lack of muscle growth, it's the S word... stress. Stress wreaks havoc on your body, fat loss goals and muscle growth potential. It's a silent road block to your physique goals that so many people aren't aware of, but we're changing that.
Stress increases adrenal production and adrenal production consequently increases cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that breaks down energy supplies to be burnt as fuel. All well and good when you're running away from a tiger in the jungle, or doing a boss session in the gym, but not so good at practically any other time! This herb is an adaptogenic that helps your body cope with stress to reduce adrenaline production and subsequently cortisol production. This results in greater fat loss potential, reduced food cravings (especially sugar), greater muscle gain potential, greater mental performance, better moods and overall better health! Take this and learn to mellow out a bit more, and you won't even have to stress about your physique!
7. Ginkgo Biloba
I take this more for it's mental function and memory boosting effects, but it also benefits your training significantly! It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and helps to thin the blood, like a healthy form of aspirin, which results in greater concentration, mental alertness, blood oxygenation and most importantly, better pumps! Increasing all of these will allow you to stress the muscle more during training and force more nutrients into the cells to promote anabolism and recovery.
Supplements aren't going to help make up for a bad diet and poor training, but they can certainly help make achieving and maintaining your goals easier! There's literally thousands of supplements available that will help you reach all sorts of goals; these are the ones I use continuously based on research and personal trials for what worked best for me. Be smart, try different supplements for yourself and see what works best for you and your goals. Of course, always be careful when starting a new supplement to ensure it doesn't negatively react with you or any medication/other supplements you may already be on. Check with your doctor or health care practitioner before starting.