It is one hundred percent true that an athlete can become a great athlete by eating quality food, training hard and getting proper rest alone without using any supplements. And we all know it is not uncommon to go into any supplement store and see skinny pencil neck kids walk in and ask, “How do I get huge?” Or “How do I gain weight?” They seem to think that the secret lies in a bottle of powder or pills. Clearly that is a ridiculous notion. However, if there is a supplement that can be taken to further increase an athletes performance than it should be considered. A supplement is just that of course, a supplement to an already good nutrition plan. Although they are few, I feel that there are some proven supplements that can be of benefit to an athletes performance.
The definition of an ergonenic aid is any external influence that can be shown to help improve an athletes performance. Supplements certainly fall in the category of ergogenic aids. However ,these supplements can directly and indirectly increase performance. For instance caffeine may directly increase the central nervous system there by increasing performance. Or glucosamine might help strength and lubricate joints, thus preventing injury, and thereby indirectly improve performance. Both types of supplements are considered ergogenic aid.
There are millions of supplements and even more people out there willing to buy them. However here is a very real truth, there is probably less than 1 percent of supplements that actually do anything for increasing performance. The truth is that most top level athletes, as they increase in there career cut out the crap and get more and more down to the basics. Most people have a limited amount of recourses, making it crucial to find the things that actually work. A persons dollars need to be maximized with the best possible supplements. The following supplements are a few that through a combination of science and real world application have been proven to work.
1. Creatine Monohydrate- Creatine is the king of supplements. There is no supplement that has been more studied or more proven to work than creatine monohydrate. Creatine aids in strength gain, muscle gain, increased work capacity, increased recovery ability, decrease in fat, and even has been shown to improve heart and brain health. Not in a kind of, could possibly work way, but in an absolutely has been proven over and over again to work way. On a personal note, anytime I take creatine monhydrate, I put on 5-10 pounds of good weight and my strength goes up for sure. Notice that I said Creatine Monohydrate, not Krea-ethyl-methyl-alkalyteapshphotase. Yes I made that up, but there are other imposters out there that are simply not proven to work, and are a way to steal your money. Only Creatine Monohydrate is what you should be after. Some do a loading phase of 20 grams a day for a week, some don’t, but either one has been proven to work about the same. Studies show that there is a slight benefit to taking it post training as opposed to any other time. Personally I believe the optimal way is to take it both before and after training. I do 5 grams before and 5 grams after. Early claims of the danger and side effects of creatine were more than over stated, they were down right wrong. Creatine is very safe to use. The benefits of creatine increase when combined with a hi glycemic carbohydrate, and even more benefit is shown when a protein is added to the mix as well. Creatine can be a good tool in the arsenal when trying to burn fat without compromising strength. One of the best things about it is that is cheap. Its no problem to find a good pure creatine monohydrate powder for 10-30 bucks, that will last you a good while.
2. Fish Oil-Some may consider fish oil more of a food than a supplement, but for the sake of this article I will consider it a supplement. Many diets that are popular today tout the benefits of fish oil, and it seems they are right in doing so. In the PNE diet plan, (also known as the Performance Nutrition Encyclopedia plan) we support this whole heartedly and agree that the benefits of fish oil are numerous. This benefit comes from the fact that fish oil is loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids especially DHA and EPA. Most modern diets, especially American diets) are very low in Omega 3s and very high in omega 6’s. Some of the most important benefits of omega 3’s for strength athletes include improved blood flow and reduced inflammation. Clearly decreasing inflammation in any athlete is of the upmost importance. Inflammation decreases health, recovery, causes injury, and hinders overall performance so the benefits of omega 3’s are obvious in this regard. The increased blood flow and improvement in cardiac function is a benefit for anybody but especially athletes. Other benefits include, mood enhancement and brain function, (countries who consume the most omega 3’s have next to no depression within there society), improved immune system, and preventing cancer. My personal choice for fish oil is cod liver oil in non pill form, straight out of the bottle. Try to find the purest form of fish oil you can and see the benefits Omega 3’s make!
3. Pre mid and post workout protein and carb mix- So many people buy protein but they don’t actually take it at the most crucial time. The most crucial time is centered around training. Some people have argued against this, by saying that if you had a meal in you already digesting, why is it so urgent to get carbs and protein in before and after your training? The answer is two fold. First, because many studies show that it is significantly more beneficial to protein synthesis than just a meal. 2. These shakes should be liquid, and include a hi glycemic carb, and whey protein, allowing for the fastest possible digestion. Protein synthesis is how the body repairs and rebuilds muscle. The optimal way to increase this is to take in a carb/protein shake 10-30 minutes before training, studies show taking this shake pre training further improves protein synthesis, more than the post shake alone. Then sipping on another carb protein shake throughout training this keeps energy levels high, decreases perceived exertion during training, blocks cortisol, and further improves protein synthesis. Finish this all off with another shake immediately post workout. There is about an hour window to optimize the protein synthesis after training and preferentially within the first 30 minutes, making the post training shake the most important. Will it kill you if you don’t get these post training liquid carbs and protein centered around this time? No. Can you still make gains without them? Yes. Can you make optimal progress without them? No. Recovering from training in order to rebuild and get stronger/bigger/perform better, is the point of training itself. Start optimizing that with a pre, mid, and post workout protein/carb shake.
So there you have it. Three great supplements for any strength athlete. Don’t see your favorite N.O. pre workout mix on here? Sorry to disappoint. Make a point to get back to the basics with supplements. Don’t be fooled by shiny packaging and ads in bodybuilding magazines. There are a few supplements that really do work to help improve performance. I have given you 3 that are tried and true in both real world application and scientific research. Look for more info on which supplements do and don’t work in the Performance Nutrition Encyclopedia, coming out on September 24th on JTSstrength.com!
Josh Thigpen is one of the top professional strongmen in America and is a 3 time ESPN Worlds strongest man competitor. His career has spanned 11 years with 7 as a pro. He has competed in over 50 competitions in countries all over the world. Josh is the author of the revolutionary training system The Cube Method for Strongman. In addition to this Josh is owner and CEO of Conquest Nutrition, a sports supplement company. Josh is a sought after public speaker where he has used his athletic platform to speak to over a million people world wide with an inspiring message.Website, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter