Before I embarked on this sugar free journey I was a bit of a SUPP Bandit! If you have no idea what SUPP means, its cool kid atheltic hero talk for Supplement (thats me by the way). I would spend more money then I like to admit on these workout helpers and to be honest I could never tell if they actually worked or if they had that placebo affect. Actually I can say my post work out did help by combatting muscle soreness because I noticed it when I didn't take it.. I think? Okay I have no idea but I convinced my brain that it was working, so hopefully it passed on the message to my body. My routine before I went to bed was to have my prework out ready in a shot glass, a shaker of intra in the fridge mixed with water, a shaker of post in the fridge mixed with water and my protein shake powder in the shaker ready for me to get home.
I would start my day at usually 4am with my pre workout shot. My pre work out of choice would change depending on recommendations from my Trainer and people at the supplement shop. I would religiously take it every morning. 1 scoop in a shot glass with 10ml of water and down the hatch it went. Obviously I would put some salt on my wrist and cut up some lemon and lick the salt, have the shot of pre work out and then suck on the lemon. Ok that may be a lie. I would then sip on my intra work out whilst exercising. Straight after exercising I would consume as quickly as possible (always in the car driving home) my post work out drink. I would then get home and have my protein shake for breakfast. My husband used to tell me I was wasting my money and that I could get the same benefits out of plants/fruit/vegetables without all the chemical sweeteners and other things in there. He was genuinely concerned that what I was putting in my body to help me, could be doing more damage. I didn't believe him!! I mean how could people who walk around like they are carrying invisible shopping bags in their arms and have necks that kinda look like they morphed into their shoulders be wrong. Don't even get me started on how anyone who tans themselves to look like they rolled in dorito crumbs would sell me something thats not legit. (ok im stereotyping... you get the point).
Since I started the no sugar thing, my eyes and ears feel like they are suddenly open for the first time in my life. For once I'm not buying into all the hype and following the crowd. I've started researching things and the answers really aren't that simple. I'm a little overwhelmend at the "one size fits all" approach in the market hype for supplements. I know there are different variations of products, but how can some Arnold Swarzenger clone, have the same needs as someone who is 30kg over weight or someone who is extremely unfit. The truth be told the majority of these prework out drinks, are for well bodybuilders or people who are athletes. Not someone like me who is just training to get fit or lose weight. Don't get me wrong, there are probably amazing pre work outs that do wonders for those competing etc but are they worth the money for someone like me. I decided to get my research hat on. So for the last 2 and a bit weeks I have read and read and read!! What I have found, is that caffeine has been shown to boost metabolism (possibly up to 20%) when taken prior to a workout. The key thing here is you don’t need a lot. A small amount of caffeine 60-120 mg is enough to provide an energy boost and serve as a metabolic activator without over-stimulating the adrenals. This would make coffee, quite possibly one of the simplest, cheapest, and most effective pre-workout strategies for the combination of energy, lean muscle protection, and fat burning. I am going to put it out there and some of you will probably want to slap me through the screens.. but I have never had a cup of coffee in my life. LEGIT NO SH*T... I remember as a kid tasting some of mums and thinking it tasted like satans bottom and I just never felt the urge to go back and try it again... There I said it, my dirty little secret is out!!
I wanted to research what might be beneficial for all exercisers prior to a vigorous weight training workout.
From what I can gather is that from a support standpoint with lean muscle (whether you want to cut up, lean up, or get more muscular) one of the most effective strategies is to take a small amount of whey protein (15-20 grams) prior to your workout. From what I can gather, the benefits of whey protein is the body has the ability to break down some of these amino acids and convert them to glucose for energy (through a process called gluconeogenesis) if needed during vigorous exercise. But that’s also a subject for someone with a Science Degree....
I then tried to find information about wanting more energy to get through a workout or to increase fat loss because that was the only reason I took pre work out. Apparently you can pull from glycogen reserves to fuel your workout, and if extra energy is needed the amino acids from whey protein will be readily available for the liver to convert to glucose.
All my research points to training on an empty stomach/semi fasting state with the exception being using a small amount of whey protein prior to training. Apparently training while semi fasting is beneficial for several reasons including the body not being sapped for energy for digestion, improved post-workout protein synthesis, and others. But it is important to know that this does take some getting used to. I also found that they recommend only training sessions under 60min should be done in this state.
Quite simply one of the cheapest, and most effective pre-workout strategies for the combination of energy, lean muscle protection, and fat burning would be a cup of coffee a half hour or so before training and scoop of whey protein and water right before.
So what about my Intra workouts? Once again unless Im competing on the National Body Building Circuit this product is not going to do anything for me that a pre or post work out wouldn't (my coffee and whey protein). Someone like me does not need the benefits that intra workout supps claim to supply.
Well thats what the internet said anyway. I decided to test the reliabilty of my research by talking to two people. 1 a doctor and the other a staff member from my local Supp Shop.
I went into my Local Supp Shop first and asked the guy who looked like he could bench press me with his pinkie finger if someone like me, who is just looking to tone, get fit and maybe add some muscle, needed to jump onboard the pre, intra and post workout train. His answer was YES YES YES!!
He told me that a pre workout is absolutely necessary and that it must be taken every single day, even when I'm not going to train.. even on my birthday (quote!!) I asked him why it was necessary and he told me that in a nut shell it will enhance my performance. It will give me that edge, to run faster, work harder, have more energy, push out that last rep. He compared it to my body being a lamp and having a cord being plugged into an electrical outlet. Without the pre work out everything looks like it is doing what it is meant to do. However once the power is turned on (the prework out) a light comes on and finally the lamp is doing its job... He lost me at lamp to be honest, only because he pointed to a fan when he said it. I then told him about the quitting sugar journey and what could he offer me sugar free wise. This excited him greatly as lots of them had 0gms of sugar but on inspection of the container an arsenal of sweetners. I told him that I was also trying to cut out chemical sweetners and he then proceeded to tell me that these types of sweetners are barely traceable in the product and in limited amounts which is why they are only listed in the ingredients and not in the label showing the content of them (sugar 5gm, carb 2gm etc). I didn't say anything.
Next I hit him up about the intra and once again he said that it would really help push me through my work out whilst promoting extra fat burning, muscle gains and endurance gains. I then asked him, wasn't that the job of the pre work out ??However he told me intra pushes it up to the next level.
Then before I could even ask him about the post work out, he was pushing one into my hands. This was apparently the holy grail of post work outs that he swears by. It aids in recovery, extends fat burning, feeds your muscles to repair and nourish. I asked him that even if i'm not training out big time, will it still assist. He told me that my body needs all the help it can to recover quickly, so I can train again the next day and the next. A post workout will help reduce muscle fatigue and soreness. This was the only one he had me sold on, because he was very passionate and even drew me a picture of a what i think was my muscle getting nutrients sent to it.. (it kinda looked like a sex ed pic with sperm going to the egg...)
I then asked him if I could achieve the same results with fruits, vitamins, diet and his response was a flat out NO. I couldn't recreate what my body needs without the assistance of science. I left with a free shaker, a handful of samples and an urge to go get a tan...
I then spoke to my Doctor. I actually went to see him for a check up because I could feel myself getting sick and decided to pick his brain and get my monies worth, since he told me I was fine after 2.5sec
This is what I got.
He basically described a Supp shop as being a candy store for big kids with muscles. Everything you see around you looks enticing but most health focused people dont need it. Kinda like the vitamin business apparently (his exact words). He then told me that those who would benefit from these supplements would be those with a perfomance focused approach like competitive athletes or those on a dedicated mass gain protocol, but he would not recommend any for long term consumption. In a nutshell or $80 later, he basically said that most health focused people (like me) don't need supplements especially if I am ontop of my nutrition, my sleep and my exercise. He then talked about the artificial sweeteners, colours and preservatives that these products are labelled with that can cause complications. He then mentioned about the high amounts of added fructose (my ears pricked up, you have no idea ha!!). He said this will contribute to gut symptoms such as discomfort, bloating and crazy bowl habits (oh I can vouch for that one!!) I asked him about Caffeine as a supplement and he said it has its benefits but should be used sparingly. In high doses, it will cause anxiety and sleep disturbance. He pushed the message that if your diet, recovery and lifestyle is in balance, you shouldn't need it. He basically said that solid sessions in the gym result from adequate sleep and a good diet with varied natural sources of protein (for muscle gain goals) and carbs to match your energy output. I asked him about the whey protein and he said it could be useful if I had a busy, intense lifestyle that caused me to skip meals or if you were into strength training . He said it is also known to cause gut problems. He suggested some whole food sources instead (that for some reason I can't remember..I think he said Greek Yoghurt...)
So there you go!!
There is so much literature for and against the whole Supps thing, so I guess it is up to you whether you feel the hype about Supps is real or not. When I was taking them I felt like I was on top of my game and I was taking them religiously. Always upping to the next level of pre workout to give myself that bigger kick and to me it was working. But in saying that I don't drink coffee and my caffeine intake was pretty much at nil other than a pre work out drink.
From a sugar free perspective I'm OUT! Im not going to take them due to the chemical sweeteners that I have now gotten rid of from my diet. If I can't make myself have a glass of coke zero due to the artificial sweeteners (and trust me I have nearly given in twice now) I'm not going to make an exception for pre work outs.
I am still unsure about the whey protein powder. My husband has purchased a plant based one, which I wouldn't mind trying, but I don't know if its completely necessary because I'm not in hardcore training mode, whereas he is riding 100's of kms a week.
More research on that one is needed I guess.
I found this link from the IQS site that talks about what to eat when your training for something big if you've quit sugar and an article (that is sponsored by the whey product they are writing about) that looks at whey proteins.
This is another each to their own I guess, just like fruit. If you are willing to do the research, find "clean" supplement products that suit your needs and you feel it gives you that boost. Then go for it! I hope this sheds some light or at least gave you something to read!!
Happy Friday everyone!!!