What Supplements Can Help You to Become Stronger, Faster and More Muscular?
Look in any fitness magazine and you will be bombarded with advertisements for supplements making claims to give you more energy, make you stronger or help you put on lean body mass.
The fact is, no supplement can replace:
- An evidenced based exercise program
- A balanced diet, with an emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods
- Adequate rest and recovery
I. An evidenced based exercise program- The NASM OPT Model
OPT is the acronym for Optimum Performance Training. It is an evidence based training model that integrates all forms of training:
• Core training
• Balance training
• Reactive training (power)
• Speed, agility, quickness
By following the OPT model, a person can systematically progress towards any goal, be it general conditioning, weight loss, strength and muscles gain or performance. They can also achieve optimum levels of physiologic, physical and performance adaptations.
OPT is divided into 3 building blocks and 5 phases:
Block 1: Stabilization (phase 1- stabilization endurance): The focus is on endurance, joint stability, flexibility, postural control and neuromuscular efficiency
Block 2: Strength (phase 2-stabilization strength; phase 3- hypertrophy and phase-4- maximum strength): The emphasis is to maintain stabilization endurance, while increasing strength. This block can be progressed to include increasing muscles size (hypertrophy) and/or maximal strength (lifting heavy loads).
Block 3: Power (Phase 5-power): The power phase focuses on the rate of force production, i.e. how quickly a muscle can generate force. Power training is also known as plyometrics. There is a quick powerful movement involving an eccentric contraction, followed immediately by an explosive concentric contraction.
How to use the OPT Model
Designing an individualized, systematic, integrated fitness program is accomplished by having an understanding of an individual’s goals, needs and abilities.
This is done through a comprehensive fitness assessment, which is comprised of both subjective and objective information.
Subjective information includes: general medical history, occupation, lifestyle and personal information.
Objective information includes: physiologic assessments, body composition testing, cardiorespiratory assessments, static and dynamic postural assessments and performance assessments.
|Building Block/OPT Phase||Adaptation||Intensity/Tempo||Method of Progression||Reps||Sets||Rest period|
|Stabilization/Phase 1||-Endurance-Stability||40-70% *1RM4/2/1 Tempo||Proprioception (controlled stability)||12-25||2-3||0s-90s|
|Strength/Phase 2, 3, 4||-Strength endurance-Hypertrophy
|***Volume**** Load||1-12||3-6||45s-5 min|
**Tempo– The speed at which each repetition is performed. The first number is the eccentric contraction (lengthening); the second number is the isometric contraction (dynamic stabilization); the third number is the concentric contraction (shortening).
***Volume – Amount of training performed within a specific time period
****Load – Amount of weight
II. A balanced diet, with an emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods
People are always looking for that “magic pill”. What if I told you that every time you eat, you could be on the road to becoming stronger, faster, more muscular or leaner and that your food could be that “magic pill”?
When you exercise, there is tissue damage and inflammation. It is through the repair process that your body makes adaptation and progression towards your goals.
One of the primary factors affecting your ability to heal is your diet. The key nutrients for optimum healing are:
- Unprocessed Carbohydrates– vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils
- Proteins– eggs, yogurt, fish, poultry, grass fed beef, wild game and soy
- Fats– extra virgin olive oil, omega 3’s (fish, flax and walnuts), coconut oil, raw nuts and seeds
- Vitamins and minerals (as found in the foods above)
- Phytonutrients (pigmented plant based chemicals with anti-inflammatory and other health benefits).
The power of color:
Phytonutrients are substances in plants which promote health in three important ways:
(1)Acting as powerful antioxidants
(2) Reducing inflammation
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage our cells, leading to heart disease, cancer, cataracts, premature aging and a variety of other conditions.
Antioxidants have the power to dramatically decrease the damage caused by free radicals in our bodies, thereby decreasing our risk for disease.
Many bright red fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, cranberries, tomatoes, cherries, red peppers, red grapes, beets, red onions and pomegranates contain phytochemicals such as anthocyanins, lycopenes and/or carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, pumpkins, squash, apricots, bananas, oranges, mangoes and cantaloupe all contain carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants. Other orange-yellow foods offer additional healing properties, such as yellow corn (good for eye health) and turmeric (effective for treating and/or preventing inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and cancer).
Green vegetables, especially spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress and green tea are packed with chlorophyll, beta-carotene and/or lutein, all powerful antioxidants. These foods are also good for skin health and most contain significant amounts of fiber, which is important for heart and digestive health, reducing cholesterol and preventing colon cancer.
Black berries, blueberries, concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums and red wine all contain anthocyanins, another heavy-hitting antioxidant that guards against heart disease and cancer, and helps to lower cholesterol.
Cocoa, coffee and tea contain high concentrations of antioxidants with numerous benefits.
Spices and herbs also have potent anti-inflammatory properties, e.g. Cinnamon, pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, garlic, onion, ginger.
Sample Meal Plan:
- 3-4 oz salmon
- ½ cup slow-cooked oatmeal with ¼ cup blueberries and cinnamon
- 1 tbsp raw almonds
- Green tea, water or coffee
- Plain Greek Style yogurt with berries and ¼ cup raw nuts
- 4-6 oz Tuna or poultry
- Romaine, arugula or spinach salad (dress with lemon juice, olive oil and dill)
- Green tea or water
- Carrots, celery, red pepper with hummus or guacamole
- 6-8 oz filet of sole, cod or snapper
- 8 stir fried Brussels sprouts with garlic
- Romaine, arugula or spinach salad with raw walnuts, carrots and radishes ( dress with olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and ½ tsp honey or maple syrup)
- SMOOTHIE: (Fresh fruit, almond or coconut milk, whey protein powder-15-20 g, 1 tbsp. flaxseed oil)
III. Adequate rest and recovery
Exercise results in muscle tissue breakdown, the depletion of energy stores and fluid loss. Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to breakdown.
Sleep Deprivation is another factor that can hinder sports performance by resulting in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, decrease activity of human growth hormone and decrease glycogen synthesis.
There is also a link between sleep deprivation, decreased aerobic endurance and increased ratings of perceived exertion.
What Supplements can help you to become stronger, faster and more muscular?
My emphasis is on whole foods, evidence based exercise, stress management and adequate rest and recovery. If you have mastered these, then you can consider the following supplements, which are supported by research as being efficacious cost-effective ergogenic supplements:
- Whey Protein (to meet extra protein needs)
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Beta Alanine
- Multiple Vitamin/Mineral (with iron for menstruating females)
- Fish Oil
Remember, balancing exercise, diet, hydration, rest and recovery is the key to becoming stronger, faster and more muscular.