At F5, we recommend all of our students and clients get the majority of their nutrition from solid food; as in the type of sustenance that doesn’t fit in a bottle and can’t be consumed via straw. But that, we admit, isn’t always possible. It’s an unfortunate fact of our lives that we don’t always have time to cook or even place an order for solid food and this is when, even for the novice gym goer pre and post workout supplements have a place. Coach Daniel wakes at 4:30 am every morning, and the thought of doing anything save slump on the couch and nurse a steaming cup of black coffee is slightly ridiculous. But the body demands nutrition, and being busy (or lazy) is no excuse to voluntarily succumb to malnutrition. Coach Roxy with her many gym duties sometimes can’t take a break to get lunch after a workout so a scoop of BCAA’s will hold her over until the next meal. When real food is not at hand, supplements are superior to accidental fasting.
Coach Daniel begins every day with two servings of good quality protein powder. We recommend SFH whey protein, as it’s grass-fed and superior quality makes it a good choice, but if you are very dairy sensitive you can do an egg white protein. Jay Robb’s and MRM both make a good quality one. Just make sure your protein is not sweetened with artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Stevia is a good natural sweeter that superior brands use. For a period over the summer, Daniel experimented with morning fasting, and the results were grim: muscle loss without any fat loss. He then abandoned the morning fasting policy and started on the protein shakes. Within two months, his body fat had gone down while my muscle mass went up. We know that some of our morning students regularly train on empty stomachs for fear of vomiting during that last grueling set of pad work, but we would recommend they at least try a single serving of MRM whey or egg protein powder or BCAA’s before class to see if their performance improves.
As always we recommend testing a supplement by noting your individual reaction. Many people are egg or dairy sensitive, so make sure you listen to your body to see if you notice any adverse reactions like bloating, gas, headaches, post nasal drip etc.
BCAA’s are among the nine essential amino acids for humans: isoleucine, leucine, and valine. The combination of these three essential amino acids make up approximately 1/3 of skeletal muscle in the human body, and play an important role in protein synthesis. Basically, they are responsible for promoting muscle growth and repair and they help prevent muscle breakdown during workouts. But BCAA’s also have added benefits that many of you don’t know about. BCAA’s can curb hunger and cravings as well as give you energy, which is why Roxy recommends a powdered BCAA protocol to clients trying to lose body fat and to fighters who are cutting weight. Make an appointment for your nutritional counseling session if you are interested in getting recommended supplement dosages for your individual program.
All protein powders contain BCCA’s but you can also get powdered BCAA’s by themselves without the calories or protein content. This is helpful for those that want the benefits of BCCA’s but may be dairy and egg sensitive or don’t want the extra protein and calories because they already get enough from food.
Protein powders or BCAA supplements are also handy when we have somewhere to be immediately after class or a personal training session. High intensity exercises cranks up your metabolism, and failure to give your body what it needs (i.e. carbohydrates and, especially, protein) may lead to irritability and fatigue. In other words, you’ll be a pain in the ass and your recovery will suffer. Studies abound on the ideal amount of time to consume a post-workout meal and the ideal protein to carbohydrate ratio without a clear scientific consensus. In my experience, it’s best not to starve yourself for too long following a Muay Thai, Kettlebell, or Fighter Fit class, and a 3:1 or 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio seems to work well for most, but it doesn’t need to be that exact to get benefits. We recommend a scoop of protein with with water and a banana or coconut water as a quick post workout snack following an intense workout. Make sure you get a balanced meal in you at some point later, as this will help your goals and recovery too. You should not try to live off supplements. Remember supplements are not made to replace meals, they are an addition to your healthy diet.
Protein supplements are also useful for simply adding more of a much-needed essential amino acids. Students and clients focusing on muscle mass or strength gains are in almost constant need of protein, and there may be times during the day when it is inconvenient or impractical to make a quick meat run. So for trainees who already eat plenty of solid food (meaning 3 solid meals a day with at least 30 grams protein from fish, meat, eggs, or poultry), adding a daily dose of these protein supplements can assist in getting further nutrition without the time and cost of an entire meal.
Real food should be first priority. But during those times when it just doesn’t seem possible, it okay to break from the Real Food guideline and give your body a boost it needs. In this modern age you have to pick your battles and at the end of the day none of us are perfect.
– Roxy Richardson FDN, ACE CPT, SFG II & Daniel Davis-Williams NSCA CPT, CSCS