CREATINE MONOHYDRATE.

Creatine is one of the most thoroughly researched supplements there are. It is a naturally occurring organic compound which we get through meat and fish in the diet but in very small amounts. There are NO harmful effects of supplementing creatine, if you read anything to the contrary it's completely incorrect.

When you lift heavy weights or perform high intensity bursts of exercise you use an energy source called ATP. It gets broken down and needs to be replenished quickly. Creatine is stored in your muscle cells and is involved in the replenishment process. If we rely on our diet we are probably missing out on having a full creatine store therefore it's best to supplement it.

Creatine supplementation has been proven to improve strength, to help with recovery from high intensity training that has short rest times, to help with training quality in general, and has shown benefits for endurance type events also. It helps endurance athletes by increasing glycogen stores. This basically means you have more space in your muscular fuel tank.

Supplementation will be of great benefit to vegetarians as the main source of it in dietary terms is through meat.

It’s important to note that there are non-responders to creatine, and that tangible differences aren’t apparent – you won’t add 10kg to a lift after taking it for a few weeks etc. …but it’s cheap and it has been proven to work so there's no reason to not take it. If you train regularly and want to maximise your progress then taking it is a no brainer in my book.

Here are some other reported benefits.

Improved cognitive function – 5g/day of creatine showed a significant increase on both working memory and intelligence (Rae et al. 2007)

Sleep deprivation and performance – study showed creatine supplementation group has less decline in performance after sleep deprivation (McMorris et al 2006).

Keep in mind that creatine degrades in water – that’s the reason you don’t see it included in off the shelf pre-workouts or shakes.

Don’t put it in with your protein or a shake ‘to have later’. Also it’s solubility in water is also relatively poor, so you’ll probably need to stir it if you’re using powder and not tablets. Make sure it doesn't get left at the bottom of the glass!

What to take, when to take it, and what dose.

You'll see some people recommend 'loading' creatine. This means taking 4x5 gram servings per day. Your muscle tissue needs to get saturated with creatine for the benefits to occur hence the idea of loading. 20 gram doses per day means muscle tissue will be fully saturated in about a week.

I recommend people try and take a 5 gram dose every single day. The loading period is a bit longer but remembering to take 4 doses of creatine a day isn't practical for a lot of my clients, and taking a 20 gram dose can cause stomach upset.

Take 5 grams daily at any time of the day that suits you.

BETA ALANINE.


Beta-alanine is a buffer of hydrogen ions which basically means it delays the onset of the burning feeling you feel in your muscles once you perform high intensity exercise past 90 seconds. This is a brilliant option if you train competitively. It's not going to elicit huge gains for fat loss or muscle growth, it will just help squeeze out progress at high intensities.

Again, like creatine it is quite difficult to measure how effective it is in the context of overall good nutrition and a solid training program but if you train for a living or play a sport it can be the difference between a win and a loss.

I have taken it and prescribed it to clients with positive results as long as all the other factors such as nutrition, sleep and training were also taken care of.

The common side effect of taking beta-alanine is parasthesia which is a tingling of the skin. This can feel quite uncomfortable if you’re not used to it so think about spreading the dose out across the day to avoid it if necessary.

What to take, when to take it, and what dose.

This is another one which needs to saturate muscle tissue (carnosine levels) so it takes time to happen. The problem with the parasthesia is it can be uncomfortable taking the recommended 4-6 gram dosage. If this is the case stick to 1.5 grams per day.

4 weeks of 4-6 grams then 1.5 grams per day.

OR

1,5 grams per day.

CAFFEINE.


Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant which affects the central nervous system. It is available through food, tea, coffee, energy drinks and tablet form.

It has been shown to reduce reaction time, increase alertness and decision making (particularly in a sleep deprived state), increase muscular endurance and endurance performance, and it has also been shown to be an appetite suppressant.

It gets absorbed into the system within 45 minutes so the timing is important if you are looking to boost performance. Keep in mind it has a half-life of 4-6 hours – this means 4-6 hours after consuming it 50% of the dose is still in your system. This is a consideration when it comes to sleep so generally you should only really consuming caffeine in the first half of the day.

A lot of supplements (mostly pre-workout) are sold with caffeine as an ingredient. The supplement will make great claims to be an amazing pre-workout with some new found ingredient which will maximise your gains. Generally these things just have some stuff in there that doesn’t really do anything + some caffeine, and it’s actually the caffeine providing the boost.

Lastly, but importantly, keep in mind that caffeine can cause anxiety and panic attacks in people prone to anything like that. I have made the move to decaf! These performance supplements are always the LAST thing you look at. Get your food, sleep, hydration and everything else right first.

What to take, when to take it, and what dose.

Tablet form/through liquid (coffee/pre-workout/energy drink). For performance it is recommended to take caffeine 60 minutes before the event or important training session.

For people like us who train generally having a coffee an hour before training may help with performance.

For athletes who make a living the dosage for performance is 2-6 mg per kg of body weight, but be careful that the maximum recommended daily dose is 400 mg (around 4 cups of coffee) so I'd be aiming for the lower end starting out.