- Whey and casein protein--adequate protein is absolutely needed by your body to maintain muscle mass
- Fish oil--anti-inflammatory properties
- Multivitamin and/or multimineral--complementary to your diet and as insurance for good nutrition
- Workout drink (e.g., protein plus carbs, BCAAs)--supports muscle strength and size as well as fat loss and performance
- r-alpha lipoic acid--increases insulin sensitivity
- Tyrosine--may reduce central nervous system (CNS) fatigue
- Caffeine--increases CNS output
- Sodium bicarbonate--increases blood pH by buffering hydrogen ion buildup to lessen lactic acid burn
- Beta alanine--enhances workout recovery
- Creatine--increases ATP amount for quick energy and strength
- Green tea extract containing EGCG--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- CLA--increases metabolic rate during weight loss
- Valerian root--may increase sleep quality
- PS--may increase sleep quality
What are some of the most recommended supplements you should take to support a particular fitness goal or when you're deficient in certain micronutrients?
The following is a listing beginning with the more essential supplements:
This particular blog does NOT pertain to middle-aged men or older who may require testosterone supplementation due to low blood levels of the hormone. It is well known that natural testosterone levels decrease with age. Rather, I want to focus on the worrisome trend of young men in their twenties and thirties opting for testosterone supplementation. Why should this be of concern? Because in most cases these young men do NOT need testosterone supplementation.
The real issue is the supplement industry marketing test supplement products as anabolic boosters (remnants of "energy" supps come to mind for those who feel they need an energy boost) as the means to build muscle mass. My question is why take any supplemental testosterone when there's no clinical evidence that you're deficient in this hormone. Have you taken a blood test to verify that your testosterone level is low? If not, then why would you consider taking a supplement that has unwanted side effects? It makes no sense to me.
More concerning is the possibility that your natural test levels will be compromised from taking the supps and as a result, testicular shrinkage may occur (your testicles produce most of the testosterone in your body). You might as well inject yourself with steroids while you're at it. Do you see my point? Taking artificial hormones is not something to be trifled with as the side effects can be very undesirable. In other words, the risks will undoubtedly outweigh the benefits. Let me count the ways: infertility due to low sperm count, liver problems, male breast growth, increased male pattern baldness, possible harm to prostate health, increased risk of blood clots, congestive heart failure, and worsening of urinary symptoms (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2013).
There are legitimate reasons for low T. Lifestyle is primarily the reason why many men are low in test. Regular exercise is known to boost test along with having enough saturated fat (i.e., lean red meat, egg yolks, etc.) and certain micronutrients (e.g., zinc, magnesium, etc.) within the diet. Endurance training (e.g., marathon running) can compromise test levels as well as overtraining (i.e., high intensity level, lack of recovery time, etc.). Lack of sleep, daily stress, medication usage, as well as overindulgence in alcohol may also lower testosterone levels.
BOTTOM LINE: Testosterone supplements are being oversold to consumers who, for the most part, should NOT be taking them. Simply exercising will boost your natural testosterone level. So instead of relying on potentially dangerous supplements, you should get adequate exercise, eat healthier foods, reduce medication usage if possible, and lose bodyweight (there is a correlation between obesity and lower testosterone levels in men).
Here are the worst foods you should avoid eating before you hit the pillow:
So what are some foods that you should eat before going to sleep?
You may be surprised to learn that sleeping pills, in many cases, work not because of the ingredients within the pills, but rather because you believe they will work. This is commonly referred as the placebo effect. If you think or believe that a pill will do what it is supposed to do, then chances are it will. A recent study published in BMJ investigated the efficacy of several popular sleep drugs including Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata. The researchers concluded that the drugs worked as advertised for many people but that even more people who took a placebo pill also experienced positive benefits. There are some risks when taking sleep aids including the potential for addiction and certain side effects including memory loss, daytime sleepiness and increased risk of falls. Health problems usually arise when people take the drugs far longer than they are commonly prescribed. Also, in many instances, these drugs are overprescribed.
BOTTOM LINE: If you truly have insomnia (i.e., unable to get to sleep for several nights in a row), then taking sleeping pills may be warranted. Just be sure to follow the label recommendations for dosage amount and duration of usage.
Your lifestyle is the predominant factor affecting your hormone levels. In other words, if you live a mostly sedentary existence, your testosterone level will most likely be lower than someone who exercises regularly. Thus, exercise is a natural way to boost your testosterone level.
Here are some lifestyle-related factors that affect your testosterone level:
Solution: Get 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
Solution: Maintain a healthy bodyweight. See elsewhere within this blog for tips.
Solution: Become more active by walking briskly at least 20 minutes daily and performing some strength training exercises 2 to 3 days per week.
Solution: Reduce your work hours to less than 10 hours daily and spend at least 2 hours daily doing something you like (e.g., reading, listening to music, playing games, etc.).
Studies have established a link between sleep quantity and performance level in any skill-based sport. It is the central nervous system (CNS) and in particular, the brain, that's intimately associated with control of the body and athletic performance. The body and mind need rest to recover from the fatigue brought on by intense training. Sleep provides the opportunity for the body and mind to recharge from hard training.
Cognitive and physiological impairment inevitably results when the CNS is fatigued. Brain scans have indicated that lack of sleep affects blood flow within the brain. The lack of blood within the brain can affect cognitive and physical performance. Cognitive impairment is characterized by an inability to focus, memory loss, increased anxiety, decreased reaction time, decreased motivation, irritability, and emotional instability. Physiological impairment is characterized by physical exhaustion, increased susceptibility to infections, fatigue and decreased speed and power.
Catabolic hormones (e.g., epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol) are emitted due to sleep deprivation, inhibiting muscle growth. On the other hand, anabolic hormones (e.g., testosterone, human growth hormone) are released when adequate sleep has occurred, enhancing muscle growth. Performance potential is therefore predicated on sleep quality and quantity.
Here are some tips to get better quality sleep:
What I've found with the majority of my clients is that they're not getting enough sleep. It becomes very apparent when, for instance, a client feels sluggish and yawns during the exercise session (!). Not giving your body and mind the needed recovery time via sleep is a recipe for disaster in terms of losing body weight. In fact, I would go so far to say that the time working out in the gym is virtually wasted if there is a lack of sleep. In essence, sleep is what the body and mind need to recover from the day's events and to feel refreshed and more energized upon waking up.
Getting adequate sleep (e.g., 7 to 8 hours) is just as important as nutrition and exercise in staying healthy and fit. There is a growing body of research that indicates that lack of sleep is a contributing factor for the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our country. Hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and cortisol are affected by sleep quality and quantity. Not surprisingly, all of these hormones are also involved in governing appetite. Thus, there is a correlation between lack of sleep and increased appetite. In other words, inadequate sleep makes you feel more hungry, especially for high-fat, high-calorie foods during the evening.
What can you do to increase the amount of sleep you're getting? Start by watching less television at night and restrict the amount of time spent on the computer.
Need more reasons to get more sleep at night? Here's eight benefits of getting more shut-eye:
When you lose bodyfat a whole multitude of positive healthy outcomes takes place including:
BOTTOM LINE: Exercise and a healthy diet can resolve many chronic conditions plaguing humans today. Instead of reaching for quick-fix medications which may have side-effects, reach for a dumbbell and eat your broccoli.
Should you take sleeping pills or night time pain relievers if you're having trouble getting to sleep?
Recent research from the online journal BMJ Open has found that prescription sleeping pills (e.g., Ambien, Restoril, Lunesta, Sonata, Halcion) as well as over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers (e.g., Tylenol PM) may cause an increased risk of death. The risk of dying over a 2.5-year period was four times higher for those taking sleeping pills. The more frequent the usage, the greater the risk of premature death. The sleeping pills do not directly cause death but may increase the risk of death due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e., accidental falls, auto accidents, etc.). The indicators of possible health problems (i.e., heart disease, cancer) may be hidden when taking sleeping pills regularly. OTC pain relievers contain acetaminophen, which when consumed in high doses over time may increase the risk of liver damage.
If you feel it necessary to take sleeping pills, be sure to take them for a relatively short period of time (i.e., 3 to 4 days)--the drugs are not recommended for long-term usage. Generally, sleeping pills are not recommended for chronic insomnia as the drug loses its effectiveness over time. Try to make it a habit of getting to bed at about the same time each night and avoid physical exercise in the evening. By the way, there is some evidence to support that regular exercise (when performed earlier in the day) does promote a better night's sleep. People who exercise regularly are less likely to have trouble falling asleep.
Bottom line: Sleeping pills have limited effectiveness, have potential side-effects, and long-term safety is unknown. If you do decide to take sleeping pills, be sure to take the smallest dose needed. Avoid mixing alcohol with sleeping pills. Avoid driving the morning after taking sleeping pills.
If you find it difficult to sleep during most nights you may be suffering from a sleep disorder called insomnia. If you can answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may have insomnia: