Try These Four Supplements to Boost Your Genius in the Gym
Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD
Not only should you think before you speak, but it’s also a good idea to think before you train. Boosting the production of brain chemicals and neurotransmitters is one good way to improve focus and support better workouts. Many of these supplements boost chemicals that directly support your ability to lift longer or more intensely. M&P recommends including these supplements in your regimen, especially before workouts.
* Choline: This water-soluble nutrient is also an important precursor to acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter primarily responsible for signalling muscle contractions and a number of other processes in your brain. Choline also helps maintain cell membrane integrity throughout the body. Supplementing choline not only helps boost memory, but it also improves the force of your muscle contractions. Putting it another way: supplementing choline helps you remember how many more reps you were able to perform.
* Huperzine A: Huperzine A is an ACh-esterase inhibitor that has been shown to boost memory. In other words, huperzine A helps protect the ACh you have in your brain once this chemical has been produced. This makes huperzine A a great companion to choline, and supplementing them together before workouts will help keep your body and brain humming while you train.
* Phosphatidylserine: This naturally occurring phospholipid plays an important role in neuronal growth. The supplemental form of phosphatidylserine (PS) can cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to directly affect production of ACh, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These crucial brain chemicals play roles in memory, focus and learning, and cumulatively they help support better workouts and recovery.
* Theanine: This amino acid, found in green tea, has been shown to improve mood and boost mental performance, especially when taken with caffeine where it acts synergistically. In addition, theanine also supports growth hormone release and boosts release of GABA, an important inhibitory neurotransmitter. Theanine has the dual effect of promoting better workouts and improving the quality of your sleep.
For best results, you not only have to train your body, but you also need to train your brain. Taking these supplements will boost the brain chemicals that help you get the most from your workouts and from your day.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Chromium is a mineral that our bodies require in trace amounts to function optimally. Taking supplemental chromium provides benefits for general health and for those who train intensely. One of chromium’s primary benefits is its ability to regulate insulin release, helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Over time this helps promote insulin sensitivity, meaning your body responds well to its insulin release. Those who are less healthy encounter insulin resistance, which leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and multiple other health problems. For training athletes, chromium supplementation helps insulin optimize muscle glycogen levels and decrease body fat storage. For best results take up to 200 mcg per day split over 2 or 3 smaller doses.
Creatine + Beta-Alanine
Combining two supplements often has more than an additive effect. When you put creatine and beta-alanine together, TMZ might tell you that you get “beta-tine“ or “cre-alanine.” M&P, however, explains the important benefits of pairing this super couple.
Beta alanine is an amino acid that helps improve your workouts. It does so by combining in the body with histidine to boost carnosine in muscle tissue. Research shows that muscles with higher levels of carnosine have increased strength and endurance. In the body, creatine is synthesized from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, and when you supplement it your muscles saturate with creatine, meaning they have the raw materials to generate more rapid energy via the ATP cycle. In addition, creatine pulls more fluids and nutrients into muscle tissue for better muscle pumps, strength and recovery.
Recent research shows that pairing beta-alanine and creatine in your pre-workout shake provides greater benefits than taking either alone, making this a super couple of supplements to get in before training when you want super results.
Hoffman J. R., et al. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int. J. Sport Nutr.Exerc. Metab. 2006; 16:430-46.
Back in the late ‘90s, the term “prohormone” took on a negative connotation when Mark McGwire revealed that he was using androstenedione, a prohormone supplement, while he was suspected of using steroids. McGwire never admitted to steroid use nor did he deny it, sparing himself the perjury fate of many of his peers. One of the fallouts of this was that prohormones fell into disfavour, forever associated with illegal steroid use.
But prohormones are supplemental and naturally occurring substances that provide the raw materials or precursors our bodies need to make crucial hormones. Many of these are necessary for health and functioning, and some are also beneficial for supporting muscle growth and secondary sex characteristics. Many legal products today contain prohormones that help boost testosterone, growth hormone and IGF-1, among other hormones. When your goal is to boost muscle mass through supplementation of legal prohormones, just make sure that they’re allowed by the athletic associations you compete within, and follow labelling directions for best result.
All The Energy You Need
Try these supplements to fuel your workouts in four different ways.
When it comes to fueling your car, you’re really conscious about how much gas you have in the tank. But you probably don’t think much about the level of oil until the warning light comes on, or about the level of water in your radiator. But these are all types of “fuel” that your car can’t run without. The same is true when it comes to your body: You need different forms of energy if you want to perform in top gear at the gym. Here are four supplements you should try for fully-fueled workouts:
* Caffeine anhydrous: This supplements effects on the central nervous system effects are immediately noticeable when you take it. You feel jazzed up, and your heart beats a little faster. Caffeine is well-studied, and the benefits are pretty amazing. First, caffeine boosts strength, allowing you to lift more weight. Next, caffeine helps you feel less pain from your efforts, allowing you to push through this limiting factor. Finally, caffeine provides fuel by encouraging your body to release stored fat that it then uses to fuel workouts.
* Creatine nitrate: Perhaps the most popular sports supplement of all time, creatine delivers results that are nearly as instantly recognizable as those of caffeine. When you take creatine, your muscles engorge with blood and other nutrients. These muscle pumps are motivating, helping you complete more reps. But creatine’s real fuel comes from its ability to donate phosphate to your adenosine triphosphate (ATP) cycle. This leads to nearly immediate energy that allows your muscles to contract more intensely for better workouts and results. Creatine nitrate is (as you likely guessed) creatine bound to nitrate, and this compound gives you all the benefits of creatine supplementation, but is more soluble in water.
* Citrus aurantium: Also known as bitter orange or synephrine, this supplement is a key fat mobilizer. It works by stimulating the receptors on your fat cells to release stored fat so that you can burn it as energy. Not only does it power you through challenging workouts but it does so as it reduces body fat. In addition, Citrus aurantium also increases your metabolic rate, the number of calories you naturally burn per day. So, not only does it provide you with more energy, but it uses up a source you want to reduce.
* Arginine AKG: Arginine is an amino acid that readily converts in the body to nitric oxide (NO). This gas molecule allows blood vessels to relax so that they deliver more blood, oxygen and nutrients to your muscles while you’re training them. This tri-fold form of energy is crucial for helping you maximize your workouts. Afterwards, arginine AKG helps support recovery by continuing to deliver these nutrients to your tired muscles. In addition arginine AKG has been reported to decrease perceived exertion during increases in workload.
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Pycnogenol helps regulate insulin
Pycnogenol is a powerful antioxidant that comes from French maritime pine bark. It’s long been touted for its ability to fight the damage caused by free radicals. In addition, Pycnogenol helps reduce inflammation caused by stressors such as intense workouts or pathogens.
Recent research points out other benefits of Pycnogenol supplementation. It may regulate insulin function, helping to reduce blood glucose and leading to better results from workouts. In addition, it prevents fat cells from accumulating more fat and encourages additional fat breakdown within cells. This is all great news for both athletic and sedentary people.