Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Supplement or Not to Supplement

Recently, i've been pondering the role of nutrition supplements in my quest to get lighter and run faster. My wife turned me onto drinking Muscle Milk Light after workouts, but as tasty as it is, there are a few too many mysterious ingredients in it, making me nervous because it violates Michael Pollian’s second Food Rule ("Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.")

So i'm wondering: what, if anything, do you supplement before or after workouts? Do you go the protein route, or do something else? Do you go liquid or powder or both (mixing shakes with the powder)? Is there a good source of information on the subject that you know about?


  1. Back in the day when I used to lift, I was pretty serious about supplements. Most significantly, protein. Although I tried to get as much as possible from natural sources (gigantic burritos for much, large steaks for dinner, post-workout milkshakes with innumerable egg yolks), that wasn't enough to hit my nutritional target, so powdered shakes were also part of my regime.

    With time and work, I was able to put on 15-20 pounds of mostly muscle. Now, how much would I have gained if I had followed a normal diet? I have no idea. The ridiculous amount of protein may, or may not, have played a role.

    Since these days I am pretty much just running, protein no longer feels as important. I'll drink chocolate milk after a long run, but that's about it.

  2. i used to swear by the combination of accelerade during workouts (of an hour or more) and endurox post-workout. they used a patented ratio of 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein, which they believe lends to better muscle recovery. i bought in and using the products made me a believer.

    since getting rid of dairy, however, i am no longer relying on whey proteins in my recovery drink. i now use vega sport... and it certainly doesn't taste as good as the endurox, but it seems to work just as well.

    the key to recovery drinks is ensuring you get it down within 60 minutes of finishing your workout. it's also not worth the calories (if you're looking to stay light) to drink one unless you're exercising for more than 60 minutes, or vigorously for more than 45.

    on longer workouts (half-marathon distance, or 50+ miles on the bike) i also use gu shots to take in calories, get energy on the move. i think they are absolutely the easiest way to get energy fast when you're burning tons of calories, and they don't disagree with my stomach like whole foods do during a hard workout.

    i'm still looking for a replacement for in-run hydration... gatorade works well for hour long workouts, but when i go any further than that, i like to have something with a bit of protein in it. i don't want to do a gu shot for a brick (bike/run) because i don't want the calories, but i do like to have *something* with some carb/protein mix to take in while hydrating me. accelerade, like endurox, has whey protein in it... i'm hoping to find a replacement that uses plant-based proteins.

  3. I get what y'all are saying and am taking steps to add more protein to my diet, particularly after running. But are there any other general things you take or have considered for general health? For instance, I've heard that taking Fish Oil supplements is good for losing weight and for your joints. I haven't (yet) doe any research into non-protein supplements and I suspect there's some good stuff out there.

  4. I can't say as there are any I use, or have thought about using. Id be interested in hearing about what works for others, though as someone who has been working to change his diet, I'll probably just keep focusing on my food intake for the while.

  5. a few things in my diet that serve to improve overall health that could be considered supplements.

    first there is the morning smoothie, which, in addition to the aforementioned plant-based protein, contains flax seed oil (extremely good for omega 3s, about 50% more than fish oil).

    the virtues of flax seed oil, as touted, run the gamut. i don't know which of these are actually true, but i do know i feel much better, on a whole, when i take it than when i don't:

    - Research shows low incidence of breast cancer and colon cancer in populations that have high amounts of lignan in their diet. Flax is 100 times richer in lignan than most whole grains.

    - Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids help lower cholesterol and blood triglycerides, and prevent clots in arteries, which may result in strokes, heart attacks and thromboses.

    - Helps protect the body against high blood pressure, inflammation, water retention, sticky platelets and lowered immune function.

    - Shortens recovery time for fatigued muscles after exertion.

    - Increases the body's production of energy and also increases stamina.

    - Accelerates the healing of sprains and bruises.

    - Eases weight loss in people afflicted with obesity.

    - Stimulates brown fat cells and increases the metabolic rate making it easier to burn off fat

    additionally, i just started taking a multi-vitamin (rainbow light, men's one). i've only been taking it for a week or two and i don't have much to report on it yet and i haven't noticed any effect from taking it yet.

    mostly, i try to get anything i would get in a supplement through whole foods. lots of blueberries, bananas, tofu and tempeh, loads of things you wouldn't actively seek out but can "hide" in a meal, or that are just plain good (like your favorite grain, quinoa).