Why Use Supplements?

I’ve used supplements for as long as I can remember.  It started off as a simple multivitamin, and as my interest in sports and fitness grew it turned into pre, post, and peri-workout products.  Nobody needs to take supplements, provided their nutritional intake from food is comprehensive and sufficient for their needs; however, in this busy world of urgency people are increasingly skipping meals because they claim to simply not have the time.  In fact, two thirds of people have admitted to eating badly because they are too busy to prepare nutritious food, and three quarters have skipped meals entirely.  It’s no wonder then, that people often turn to supplements to fill that nutritional gap.

To maximise the effects of your workout or exercise, it is essential that you get your pre, peri, and post workout nutrition right.

Pre-Workout

You need to be in the right frame of mind to workout or exercise with aggression and commitment, unfortunately this means you do not want to be flooded with serotonin.  This is the neurotransmitter that’s derived from tryptophan.  It rewards you for having done a good job and prepares you for rest and recovery; not the frame of mind you want to be in before a workout.  When you consume carbohydrates, it can block the passage of other amino acids to the brain allowing tryptophan to be the dominant presence, increasing serotonin production.  This is why consuming carbohydrates within two hours of exercise can lead to a feeling of sluggishness and lethargy, yes you have the stored energy to perform for longer, but you don’t have the mental acuity to use it effectively.  Instead, my body performs better when it’s swamped with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in the motivational component of reward motivated behaviour.  Essentially the anticipation of a reward can help increase the production of dopamine.  So if serotonin is the pleasure, then dopamine is the desire, and when you’re working out or exercising, it’s better to be full of desire rather than pleasure.  A precursor of dopamine is phenylalanine, an essential amino acid which can be found in most animal products like eggs, chicken, beef, and liver, but can also be found in soya beans too.

Peri-Workout

Peri or intra-workout supplements, help to maintain adequate insulin levels in order to protect muscle mass.  If peri-workout insulin is low, glucagon can rob muscles of amino acids in order to convert them to glucose.  While muscles need glycogen to work, they also require amino acids, and it has been suggested that the need for amino acids increases by up to 500% (Tipton, et al).  A simple combination of amino acids and glucose or dextrose can help prolong your physical exertion, protect your muscle mass, and set the body up perfectly for building new muscle.

Post-Workout

It may surprise you to find out that post workout nutrition is actually coming under fire within the sports nutrition world.  The window of opportunity is slowly being debunked in favour of total nutritional intake over the course of the entire day.  Within some circles it has been concluded that what you take before and during your workout is far more important to achieving your goals than what you consume afterwards.  That said, I’m still a fan, and from personal experience I tend to get quicker results by taking a post workout shake, but I no longer rush to get it down within seconds of the last rep being completed.  I’ll finish, shower, then at some point between half an hour and an hour and half afterwards I’ll have my post-workout nutrition.  I supplement because I just simply do not have an appetite to eat real food within 4 or so hours of working out.  A shake gives me my macro and micro nutrients without the need to chew.  The old research suggests that you should consume carbs and protein on a ratio of 4:1 and those carbs should be as simple as possible.  This would spike insulin and force the nutrients into the muscle cells and stop cortisol production forcing your body into an anabolic state.  While this is all true, if you have nailed your pre and peri-workout nutrition, this is not needed.  If you have a particularly high body fat percentage, you do not need a large amount of carbs immediately after your workout, because over the course of the day, you will replenish your depleted glycogen (provided you worked hard enough during to significantly deplete them).  If you have had amino acids as part of your peri-workout, you only need around 20-30g of protein post workout.

Herbalife24

I’ve often criticised Herbalife, not its products, more the sales tactics of some of its multi-level marketing practitioners.  I had never tried its products, so couldn’t criticise them, but when you read about results like this, you have to consider the bigger picture of what they have to offer: dietary structure, simplicity, and minimal fuss.  This is essentially what busy people are after; they don’t need to prepare four or five freshly cooked meals a day, nor do they have to calorie count, they can simply eat a bar or have a shake several times a day.  Herbalife24 is the Herbalife range designed specifically with the performance athlete in mind.  Its seven product range claims to have surpassed industry standards of pre, peri, and post-workout nutrition and can be customised to meet their daily needs based on activity levels and training demands.

I was offered the chance to sample some of the Herbalife24 range, and having looked at the available products, the two that stood out for me were Prolong for my peri-workout and Rebuild Strength for post-workout.  In hindsight, I wish I’d picked Prepare as well for a pre-workout to complete the nutritional trilogy.  As a drug tested individual, it is reassuring to know that all the products are tested for banned substances, and are informed sport registered.

Prolong

On paper, this is the perfect mix of carbohydrates and proteins to sustain insulin levels during the workout as well as providing sufficient amino acids to protect muscle mass as well as provide an enduring effect similar to ATP.  It has a chalky taste, not quite as citrus like as I was expecting, but after two or three workouts I had acquired a liking for it.  It mixes with 500ml of water for a full hour’s workout, but I would start sipping it about 10 minutes before beginning the workout.  Time your pre-workout nutrition effectively too, I felt quite bloated for a couple of my workouts trying to take this in as well, but once I got my balance right it was very effective.  Most of the carbohydrates are derived from maltodextrin, an artifically created polysaccharide produced from starch by partial hydrolysis.  It is cheap to make and just as easily metabolised as glucose, but I’d much rather see a more up to date chemical being used such as a low-molecular-weight carbohydrate better known as Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (HBCD).  It combines maltodextrin with fructose, and while the scary nature of fructose is still rife within the fitness industry, research has suggested that combining the different types of carbohydrate during exercise can increase carbohydrate adaption.  This essentially means that more carbohydrates can reach the muscles during a workout.

Bottom line: I like it.  Could it be better?  Yes, but it would mean increasing the price.

Rebuild Strength

Herbalife24 Review

There are a couple of things that you need to look for when choosing supplements, especially protein specific shakes, and unfortunately Rebuild Strength seems to be guilty of protein spiking.  The current method of measuring the amount of protein in a supplement is quantifying the amount of nitrogen in a supplement and then correlating that to a protein content.  Because powdered protein is so expensive to manufacture these days, companies “spike” the supplements with amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) in order to increase the amount of nitrogen without actually increasing the protein value.  Rebuild has a significant number of added amino acids, so I would be surprised if the 25g per portion is accurate.  That said, if you were to use skimmed milk to mix with it, you would benefit massively from the variation of whey and casein protein for a much longer and sustained period of protein synthesis.  I’ve tried dozens of post-workout shakes, and this is by far the tastiest.  It tastes of real chocolate, is thick and creamy, and goes down a treat.

Conclusion

Annoyingly, Prolong comes in a tub with 15 servings per container while Rebuild Strength comes in a tub with 20 servings per container, so you’d need to buy four tubs of Prolong for every three tubs of Rebuild Strength.  I’m sure there is a logical reason for the mismatch, but I can’t see it right now.

I’ve only tried two of the Herbalife24 range, but so far I’m impressed.  They are reasonable quality for the price you pay; they could be significantly better, but it usually comes with a hefty price tag as a result.  I’m disappointed with the apparent spiking, but I understand why it’s been done.

SIXPAD

I’ve talked about body image issues in men, and I have crippling insecurities over my body, so you won’t see me with my body out sporting the SIXPAD Abs Fit and Body Fit.  SIXPAD is an electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) training system, that you can use anywhere and at any time.  Christiano Ronaldo assisted in the development of the product, and a significant number of sports personalities have got behind it.  It comes in two parts: Abs Fit which is the bit that sits on the abs and has six ‘fingers’ to cover the whole muscle area; and Body Fit which has two fingers and can be used on the upper arms, upper legs, and waist.  It has 15 intensity levels and should be used cautiously, building up the intensity gradually and safely.  Going straight to Level 15 could cause you a lot of discomfort or injury.

The SIXPAD Abs Fit didn’t sit very well on my skin, even with brand new fresh gel pads, but the belt that comes with it fits comfortably and ensures a secure contact for effective stimulation.  The only issue with wearing the belt is that it hinders your access to the control panel at the front.  I managed to work up to Level 15, but fatigue sets in quickly so I wouldn’t recommend doing it daily.  Level 10 every day was sustainable for me, or Level 15 every other day.  I definitely felt a difference in muscle hardness after 4 weeks, and despite no change in body fat levels, the abs became slightly more visible demonstrating growth.  What I’m not convinced on is the functionality development.  Does the EMS enhance and improve the functionality of the rectus abdominis; external and internal obliques; and transversus abdominis?  I just don’t know.  What I do know, is that a strong set of abdominals can lead to significant back pain if you don’t work the multifidus and erector spinae of the back in equal measure.  Because of the proximity of the spine, you are advised not to use the Body Fit on it, so you have to return to normal back extensions or dorsal raises to get the balance.  That isn’t the only limitation of pairing either.  The instructions give no detail on using the Body Fit on the hamstrings, calves, triceps, shoulders, or chest; hardly the full body workout.  What I have found the Body Fit useful for, is relieving muscle pain as a result of doing resistance training.  After a hard leg workout, using the Body Fit on my quadriceps significantly improved my recovery time.  Using it on my biceps improved my recovery time between curling sessions too.

I do like the SIXPAD product, I just wish it could be developed for use on more body parts than it currently is.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free tub of Prolong and Rebuild Strength, as well as one SIXPAD Abs Fit and one SIXPAD Body Fit in exchange for this review.  All views are my own.

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