Is your goal to get bigger? Add more muscle? Lose body fat faster? Improve recovery? Get a more restful sleep? Aid your digestion? Boost your testosterone? Elevate your mood? These are just some of the goals that certain supplements can support.
However, supplements can be an absolute minefield and the topic confused me so much when I started training first. I would ask myself questions like – what’s the best supplement to use? Which one will make me bigger? Which one will make me stronger? Do they even work? Am I taking it right? And although there were some books and magazines on the topic, nobody in my GAA circle was really able to help me. I spent years researching, reading and looking into the best supplements to use to improve my performance and change my body composition and what I learnt was that most supplements are an incredible waste of money but the ones that do work are worth their weight in gold!
The Silver Bullet Supplements!
The biggest misconception in all of fitness (and the world in general) is the ‘take the pill and it will all be okay’ syndrome that can come with supplements. The truth is that supplements, especially if you choose the ones based around your individual goals, are amazing but they’re not a silver bullet!
Supplements supplement your diet. They are not magic!
There is no single supplement that will add 5kg of muscle to your body, ramp your testosterone to the next level or drop your body fat to lower double digits (female) or single digits (male) but they will help get you to that end goal faster if you get your nutrition dialled in first.
What supplements do you need?
I’ve mentioned on my GAA lean body podcast several times that 95% of your results will come from your diet and the remaining 5% will come from your supplement choices. Although 5% may not seem like a lot, would you rather leave your home the start of each day with your phone battery at 100% or at 95%? You tend to feel better knowing that your battery is at 100% before you take a single step out the front door.
When you add all the smaller things together, they become the bigger things. If you listened to the podcast with former Hurler of The Year and Kilkenny captain TJ Reid, you can see the mindset that’s required to become the very best at your sport.
I told TJ that was going to ‘outsmile’ him – after he hammered me in a metcon workout. This was the only thing I could beat him in!
Unless you get your nutrition in alignment with your specific goals, certain supplements just become expensive pee. However, if you are eating enough calories and consuming enough protein to add size or cycling your carbohydrate to lose body fat and get leaner ( check out Carb Cycling 101 For GAA Players and Sample HIIT Workout for more on this), there are certain supplements that can get you to your end goal faster. The first question you need to ask yourself is, what is your end goal?
Another misconception with supplements is that there are certain sports supplements for men and others for women. If you’ve read my first book ‘The Fitness Mindset’ – you may remember in the supplement section that I mention to never pick your supplements based off your gender, pick them based off your goals. If fat loss is your goal, then prioritise fat loss supplements. If muscle building is your goal, prioritise muscle building supplements. The only real exception is ‘testosterone boosting’ supplements, as this tends to skew more towards male specific problems. If low testosterone is something you struggle with, be sure to check out that full section in my second book ‘Leaner Stronger Faster’. In today’s blog, I’m going to focus on muscle building and fat loss primarily.
Muscle building supplements:
I spoke in last weeks blog post ‘how to build muscle and get faster for GAA’ about how to train and eat to build muscle. The supplements listed below can enhance the strategies from that post.
I am also going to put some of the ‘best practice’ dosages but I am not a doctor so always check with your health care professional before you start any new supplement regimen.
This is probably the king of supplements when it comes to improving recovery and building muscle. Its loaded with all the essential amino acids you need to repair which can support muscle growth.
How you take it is going to be down to your own personal lifestyle and goal. I have some of the players in my Lean Body Program use it as meal replacement during the day and others for post workout recovery, so its very versatile as a supplement. If you have an issue with dairy or lactose, consider a lactose free whey protein or a vegan alternative (hemp or rice powders are good substitutes).
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’S)
I’m always wary of adding this supplement to any list because based on your training program and goal, it can fall either side of the good/bad spectrum.
If you need the amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) to ramp up recovery, then BCAA’s can be the rocket launcher in your arsenal. On the other hand, if you are eating enough high quality complete protein (chicken, fish, beef etc.), or your training regimen isn’t particularly difficult then it just becomes expensive pee. If you are struggling to eat enough complete protein sources (meat and fish) or have a particularly hard training program (several pitch sessions a week, a game or two and a few gym workouts), then it’s worth considering as a supplement. Otherwise, just stick to food.
Although Beta alanine is one of my favourite supplements for buffering lactic acid and I have included in the muscle building section of my sports nutrition book Leaner Stronger Faster, creatine really is the powerhouse when it comes to adding size.
Its the most scientifically researched supplement on the planet and has proven time and time again its superiority in the supplement world. Creatine allows you to pull more water underneath the muscle to potentially move more weight (making you bigger or stronger assuming your nutrition is good). The general recommendation is 5-10g per day based on your body weight but it varies based on the type of creatine you are using so always follow the label for best results.
Muscle building: Lean Body Program
Fat loss supplement:
On the other end of the goal spectrum is fat loss and although your goals may fall somewhere in between, you want to get leaner, toned etc. (in this case, I suggest a combination approach), these are my personal favourites for fat loss.
Caffeine is a staple ingredient in many popular fat-burning and pre-workout supplements. It primarily helps you lose body fat in two ways:
1) By boosting your metabolism: Ingesting caffeine jump-starts the process of lipolysis, which is when your body releases free fatty acids into the bloodstream to be used for energy. In other words, caffeine boosts your metabolism and can help you burn fat.
2) By giving you an energy boost: If there’s one thing that everyone knows about coffee and caffeinated drinks or pills is that caffeine is a pretty strong stimulant. It increases alertness and wards off drowsiness temporarily, which means you can perform certain tasks more efficiently or for longer on caffeine.
This applies for physical tasks as well as mental tasks. This means a little shot of caffeine can give you the energy you need to give 100% during games or workouts. And giving 100% in the gym or on the pitch means you’ll get the results you want faster.
Dosage: If you don’t regularly ingest a lot of caffeine, a couple of hundred milligrams or a strong cup of black coffee will likely produce noticeable effects. You may want to start with 100mg to see how it goes and then up your intake to 200mg. You can then increase the dose by 50mg if you’re still not experiencing any effects. Do be careful not to overdo it as the side effects of a caffeine overdose can range from anxiety and insomnia to death.
Take it thirty minutes before your workout to release free fatty acids to be burnt while you train and to increase physical and mental alertness for games. However, be aware that caffeine has just over a five-hour half-life so if you take it too late at night, it can negatively affect your sleep. This means that if you consume 200mg of caffeine at 12pm, 100mg will still be in your system at 5pm.
Green tea extract and L-carnitine tartrate:
Personally I’m a big fan of both of these supplements as well. However, they really are the last piece of the puzzle when it comes fat loss. Also the dose varies greatly based on your body weight, your current goals etc. so I’m not going to go into specific details on how to use them but both are worth keeping both on your radar if you plateau at any stage or need to change up your supplements to give your body a new metabolic boost.
Fat Loss: Lean Body Program
Supplements work great but they don’t fix a bad diet!
I like to think of supplements like the painting on my house. The foundation has been built (nutrition), the walls and roof have been put in (training) and the paint (supplements) gives it that beautiful end look.
Supplements are like the painting for your house
As I mentioned earlier, the topic of supplements was such a minefield when I started out first and in 2019, its even more confusing as there are so many options. When it really comes down to it- there are only a few that you really need when it comes to enhancing your body composition or improving your recovery as a player. Everything else is a bit of a waste in my opinion.
GAA Lean Body Podcast: Episode 3 Everything You Need To Know About Supplements
Top Supplements for GAA Players Video (below):
Lean Body Program – Starting March 4th2019
My next Lean Body Program starts on March 4th. You can sign up and start straight away (but the tracking and Facebook group with me doesn’t start until the 4th of March) – However it is limited to 50 people so when it hits 50 people, the link closes.
For more information on this email Lean Body Program to firstname.lastname@example.org
with Lean Body Program as the email title.