Dietary Supplements for the Martial Artist - New article

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Ad McG, Feb 8, 2005.

  1. Ad McG

    Ad McG Troll-killer Supporter

    Dietary Supplements for the Martial Artist
    by Adam McGuigan

    The supplement industry is big business these days, and you have probably seen the adverts everywhere for this, that and the other that “instantly gets you more muscular and more ripped.” The hardest choice to make is often what to get.

    There is a plethora of rubbish circulating the market from the latest fat loss pill to the latest uber-weight gain formula, and there are also some excellent supplements that are well worth your hard earned cash. However, before you get into all this you need to ask yourself this: Do I need supplements? If you are training martial arts 2+ times a week and especially if you are using resistance training and cardio, then the answer is probably yes. Working out once a week is not enough for you to spend money on supplements. If you are fairly serious about training and want to promote optimum work output, growth, recovery, injury prevention, fat loss and immune system efficiency then supplementation could be a very good idea.

    It is difficult to obtain the right quantity and ratio of nutrients from natural food alone, and supplements are just that – they are supplementary to a good diet. Supplementing a bad diet is asking for trouble. Before you take supplements, you should have a reasonably clean diet and drink plenty of water.

    What you should ask yourself when you want to buy supplements:

    1. Will this be useful to me? How so?
    2. What are current user reviews like? Bear in mind that some users are idiots and have no clue what they are talking about and probably shouldn’t even be using supplements.
    3. Are there any ingredients that I wouldn’t want to take? Some people wish to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame. It’s a personal choice, but be careful.
    4. Is it good value for money? Will it be amazing but last a week? Do I want to compromise quality for value?

    It’s all well and good asking these questions, but the average martial artist wouldn’t be able to answer them properly without a lot of research into the relevant subjects. If you stick to the following guidelines then you can’t go far wrong. Supplements I would highly recommend, in order:

    1. Multi-vitamin & mineral.
    Essential, even if you aren’t exercising very much. Don’t buy the “million tablets for a quid” bottles – shell out a little more and get a good quality one that the body can actually use.

    2. Protein powder
    High training load = increased need for protein. Whey protein has an advantage over natural protein in foods like chicken and beef because it is more biologically available ie. It is more available for uptake into the body.

    Take in a shake and some high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates ( – try bananas or dextrose tablets) ASAP after a training session and eat a couple of hours later. You should see a marked increase in recovery. There is a “window of opportunity” for around 2 hours after a workout where insulin sensitivity is much higher. This can be taken advantage of as the high-GI carbs cause a temporary spike in insulin and the highly available amino acids from the shake can be taken up into the muscles more efficiently to aid repair and growth. This is especially important after using weights which can be very taxing.

    There are also meal replacement shakes, which constitute a whole meal in a shake. A good one should include plenty of protein, low-GI carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and various vitamins and minerals. Beware – there are many crash weight gainers, Meal Replacement Powders (MRP) etc. that are pretty expensive but consist of mostly sugars. Avoid like the plague. Also, remember an MRP is still a supplement and only if you are eating 5-7 times a day should one of your meals be an MRP.

    There are many powders on the market and it is up to you to decide which one you want to use. Reputable brands include EAS, Biotest, Dymatize and Reflex who all make excellent protein powders at reasonable prices. Bear in mind that you usually get what you pay for when it comes to whey. MRP bars are also available and once again – beware the sugar content.

    3. Creatine
    This increases anaerobic output, increases recovery, and what’s more – it is totally natural. It is an especially good supplement if you are a vegetarian, as red meat is a major source of creatine.

    Ignore all the reported problems with taking creatine. If you take it properly and don’t overdose… sorry, I meant “load”, then you will have no problems. “Loading” as described on the tub is there to make more money for the supplement company. Taking 3-5g a day should be sufficient for anyone – water uptake is also minimal this way. Pure creatine monohydrate powder is generally the best source as it is cheap and very effective. Other combinations simply aren’t worth shelling out for as results are very similar. Taking creatine with your post-workout shake is ideal as it is absorbed more effectively when the insulin spike occurs. Aside from that, it is preferable to take it in a warm drink to make sure it dissolves – tea and coffee are perfect. The studies which showed caffeine negating the effects of creatine were using very high doses and should be ignored. A juice such as grape juice is also a great medium but avoid drinks like orange juice which have high acidity. I prefer to use creapure creatine monohydrate as it is free from impurities that I definitely would not want to be ingesting.

    4. Fish oils and flaxseed oil
    These oils contain essential fatty acids. Your body cannot assimilate these from other fats and they must be consumed – specifically EPA and DHA, the “omega-3s” you probably keep hearing of everywhere (Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids are fairly commonplace in the average western diet and are usually not lacking). They have a whole range of effects which many major fitness authorities becoming increasingly aware of including but not limited to lowering blood triglyceride levels, increasing HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), increasing joint mobility, restricting inflammation (key for any athlete) and increasing neural efficiency. What I’m saying is if you take in the right amount of essential fatty acids (EFA), you will get increased concentration, strength, recovery, fine motor skill, mobility and less chance of a heart attack - not bad! Flaxseed oil can be used in cooking and fish oils are obtained from properly-prepared fish, but not everyone can take these in every day. I think everyone can agree that these supplements are very good value for money and a reputable branded bottle can be picked up in any good health food shop for a reasonable price.

    Cod liver oil is a supplement mainly used for joint health, but there isn’t really enough EPA and DHA content to warrant using it on it’s own unless you take it in the form of the oil and not capsules – much less convenient and also pretty disgusting! Flaxseed oil and fish oil concentrate capsules are widely available, cheap and contain plenty of EPA and DHA. Salmon oil is especially good quality - it gives a broader range of fats and more EPA and DHA than other supplements but can be more expensive than the alternatives. As with protein, you get what you pay for.

    I read a great quote on the forum that read “Protein powder works, creatine works – not a lot else works”. In my opinion, this is fairly accurate. There aren’t many other supplements that the average or even more advanced martial artist could make use of, unless they wanted to become horrible steroid-injecting monsters. I’m not even going to discuss the use of steroids here – if you want that, go to a bodybuilding website.

    Some other useful supplements:

    Fat burners are a subject that is commonly brought up on the health and fitness forum. Only if you eat a VERY clean diet, take in around a gallon of water a day and do cardio at least 3 times a week would I say that a fat burner would be worth the money. They can be very expensive, and many simply don’t work. As with all supplements, shop around, check out the reviews by the experts and check out the ingredients.

    ZMA is another supplement that can be very useful for the martial artist who does a fair amount of weight training or finds it hard to sleep. Generic brands are generally as good as the more expensive versions, and try to stick to the ones that only contain magnesium, zinc and B6. Some formulas include things like tribulus or various vitamins but why complicate things?

    Glutamine is another supplement that many people get very good results from. Glutamine is an amino acid that is far more abundant in the muscles than any other. Supplementation can increase recovery and growth as stores are depleted during exercise. It also has a beneficial effect on the immune system and can help to prevent illness through overtraining.

    Glucosamine and chondroitin are two supplements that are fairly closely related and can be found combined (although chondroitin can give problems to those who can’t eat shellfish). The two are very commonly used for joint protection and combat against arthritis and are often very effective. Glucosamine is an excellent supplement for anyone with joint problems.

    That about wraps it up. If I haven’t included anything, it’s because I don’t consider it to be very valuable. If you have any more questions, search the Health and Fitness forum for any current topics or create a new thread for discussion. I hope this article clears a few things up.

    Some excellent websites: – Some great reviews – Cheap! – home of Biotest, honest, excellent products that are cheap because they cut out the middle man (for those in the US) - A recent discovery of mine. Very cheap, very high quality because they don't believe in ripping people off and marketing. You can create custom formulas! DEFINITELY check this out if you are in the UK!

    Thanks to Knight Errant and especially Yoda for editing :D

    Feel free to discuss this thread, after a while it will be placed in the swanky new Health and Fitness Resource section. Enjoy :D
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2005
  2. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    Crackin' stuff Gromit :D
  3. evilkingston

    evilkingston 필요악

    yes, very interesting + usefull...
  4. Ad McG

    Ad McG Troll-killer Supporter

    More cheese? :D
  5. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    Wensleydale? :D
  6. MattN

    MattN Valued Member

    great work, man
  7. Origami Itto

    Origami Itto Walking Paths

    Great post, one question though: are all fish oils containing EPA and DHA good for joints? From what you mention i understand that it's not just cod liver oil that improves joint health but any fish oil, CLO just happens to be the most popular (but not most effective), is that right?
  8. Ghost Frog

    Ghost Frog New Member

    Nice article, Ads. Could you also include some links with this article to places that have useful reviews of the supplements you mention, if you haven't already? Cheers.
  9. Nick K

    Nick K Sometimes a Valued Member

    Hold on..I'm taking notes. Great post.
  10. Ghost Frog

    Ghost Frog New Member

    Also Adam, is this information still valid if I just want to get more toned?

  11. Colucci

    Colucci My buddies call me Chris.

    Okay that's it, next time I'm in town I'm buying you a Guiness. Fantastic article, something I could see being at T-Nation (if there were a few more curse words, and some pictures of mostly nude chicks). Great job, bro. :D
  12. DAT

    DAT Valued Member

    Two quick questions;

    1. I always thought the window to nourish your muscles after a workout was much smaller/shorter than two hours, I thought it was closer to 20 minutes after your last exertion? If that is correct, should you then take some protein after weight lifting and before your cardio? Or does that window include your post weight cardio and stretching? In other words does the window begin after your "entire" workout & stretching is completed or after the resistance portion of your workout?

    2. I'm a non-insulin type II diabetic. I take a couple of pills a day and watch what I eat. There is a total absence of training info for diabetics. Maybe someone has some info on diabetic exercise resources? I would like some more info on post workout carb intake and its corollation to the GI? As diabetics we are told to stay away from "spiking". Does this mean I'm out of luck or do you feel there is still a way for me to benefit from post workout carb loading?
    Concerning post workout protein, I'd appreciate your input. Right now I do a couple of scoups of soy protein for breakfast (in soy milk, banana and/or berries) on my martial arts days and whey right after my weight training days for more immediate benefit. I have been advised that soy protein is better for an all day benefit (slowly absorbed) while whey hits your muscles hard and fast (quickly absorbed) and is better for that window after weight training. Do you agree? Thanks.
  13. MattN

    MattN Valued Member

    Theres some soy threads around here.
    Cassein is the slower one
    Whey is better for post workout because it makes it into the window

    I have no idea about your questions
  14. Ad McG

    Ad McG Troll-killer Supporter

    You liked it huh? :D

    Well, 2 hours is around the length of time that insulin sensitivity is significantly different from the norm. The earlier the better really, immediately after a workout is ideal. The longer you wait, the more insulin sensitivity drops. I would say taking half a serving of your post-workout drink of choice after weight training and the rest after cardio would be a pretty good idea. Personally I don't like doing heavy cardio on the same day as resistance training but I understand that some people do it that way. I would say that as soon as you finish your main exertion, try and take in your shake. One practical idea - why not drink the shake as you are stretching? :D

    In all honesty, I'm no expert on diabetes, especially training for diabetics. As you are supposed to try and avoid spikes, I would suspect that the case would be the same here and you should avoid the simple carbs. I would definitely advise supplementing with protein before and during your workout to maximise the available aminos in your blood while you are training.

    Here is a book I found on a quick google search that may be of use to you:

    Incidentally, if you do choose to buy this book please buy it using the MAP Amazon link! You will be buying the book and contributing to the running of MAP at the same time. Magic :D

    Soy protein is fairly slow to digest and is complete protein, but some people are not big fans of it. I am sitting on the fence on this one really, but erring towards the side of not using it. I have heard good and some pretty bad things so I'm staying away. Do a search for soy protein on this forum and see what you come up with :D Micellar casein is the slowest digesting protein and is abundant in these protein powders:

    I agree that whey is the best protein for post-workout, pure whey isolate being the best quality with a good 80% concentrate coming a close second.

    Hope that helps :D
  15. DAT

    DAT Valued Member

    Thanks Adam great stuff.
  16. DAT

    DAT Valued Member

    Adam, how do you buy those books by using the MAP pathway?
  17. Ad McG

    Ad McG Troll-killer Supporter

  18. blessed_samurai

    blessed_samurai Valued Member

    Kuddos to you for covering ZMA; I think it's an often overlooked supplement that can aid in ones gains.
  19. Colucci

    Colucci My buddies call me Chris.

    You know, it's funny. I just started taking ZMA again, after a few months without it. The first week, I didn't see any difference, but after that, sleep was much deeper, and I awoke actually able to (almost wanting to) get out of bed at 6:30. It's definitely an underrated supplement for recovery.
  20. Warmachine

    Warmachine New Member

    Does anyone know if OPTIMUM NUTRITION is a good supplement company???

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