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Pandemic Supplement Essentials

Crazy times are among us, living through a global pandemic with so many changes happening, the majority of us in Australia, at times having stayed at home with limited access to gym facilities. Because of this, it's likely we have gone back to the basics with our training and possibly with our supplements too.

Wondering what the best bang for buck supplements are? The essentials? There are so many different supplements added to the market each year and sometimes it can be overwhelming to know what will contribute to your goals. This article will help point people back in the right direction when shopping for the essential supplements. Whatever your goals are, whether it's to build muscle, lose body fat, increase training performance, or just to optimise overall well-being, these supplements mentioned below have been tried and tested to help you achieve them.

Protein Powder

I'm sure most of us currently have protein powder somewhere in our pantries, and rightfully so. Although do you ever wonder if it's still worth restocking once it's run out? Well, here's a little refresher as to why protein powder is at the top of this list. Protein is an essential macronutrient needed for so many functions in the body. It is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein that help repair, maintain, and build muscle in our bodies. Dietary protein can be sourced from foods like meat, poultry, dairy, nuts, legumes, specific plants, and vegetables. Whatever your goals are, meeting your daily protein requirements is crucial for maximising your results. Now to clear some things in the air, you can essentially consume all your protein from whole foods (yes, it is a good habit to do so), although preparing and eating multiple protein servings a day can be a struggle for some.

This is where protein powder shines as an essential supplement. Now it doesn't have any magic benefits over food, although if anything, protein powder is essentially a powdered version of food. Here are some reasons as to why taking a protein powder is a great option for many:

  • consuming a protein shake is a convenient way to increase daily protein intake with minimal preparation
  • protein powder is available in many different forms like whey/dairy, plant/vegetable, egg, collagen, and other protein-based sources catering to a wide variety of people's needs (vegans, vegetarians, or those lactose sensitive)
  • majority of protein powders (not including mass gainers or carbohydrate blended protein powders) are very lean providing up to 35g of protein per scoop with minimal carbohydrates and fats
  • whey protein sourced from dairy is packed with essential amino acids and is very bioavailable meaning it is well utilised by the body
  • protein powder is versatile and can be added to recipes like smoothies, oats, pancakes, and more
  • protein powder is great value for money ranging from anywhere between $1 - $3 per serving depending on the brand and type.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is arguably the most researched, tested, and proven supplement available, period. Bold statement, right? Let's dive into why this is so. Firstly, our muscles rely on the primary energy carrier in the body, ATP (Adenosine 5'-triphosphate) to produce force and contractions. Now, to keep ATP refuelled our bodies need creatine which is a molecule primarily made in the liver and kidneys that plays an important role in regenerating ATP stores. Creatine can also be found in certain foods like red meat and fish although kilos of these foods must be consumed daily to provide the right amount needed. This is not feasible hence why supplementing with creatine is the best and most efficient way to increase ATP stores in the body.

There are many forms of creatine on the market, although creatine monohydrate has been proven to be the king of the bunch. Here are some reasons why taking creatine should be considered by anyone serious about maximising results:

  • it has been proven to increase muscular strength and power output during resistance exercise which in turn helps to build more muscle
  • creatine monohydrate boosts anaerobic performance like sprinting and any movements involving short bouts of energy like Olympic lifting/powerlifting
  • it reduces recovery time between sets due to faster replenishment of ATP allowing for more training volume
  • creatine monohydrate will help maintain strength and hard earnt muscle during a calorie deficit, therefore, supporting fat loss goals
  • creatine monohydrate is very affordable costing as little as 20 cents per usual 5g serving.

Fish Oil

Want to invest in your overall health, well-being, and longevity? Then look no further than this next essential health supplement. Fish oil contains highly valuable omega-3 fatty acids (EPA & DHA) that provides a long list of benefits. If you're already eating fatty fish multiple times a week, then you're most likely in the safe zone. Although the typical Western diet only provides 10%-20% of the correct amount of omega 3 fatty acids.

Most people have heard about fish oil but aren't fully aware of how good it is for our health and in my opinion, it is an underrated supplement. Here are some eye-opening reasons why I highly recommend consuming fish oil daily.

  • Fish oil improves heart health by raising the levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL) and lowering triglyceride levels (fat found in your blood)
  • reduces inflammation in the body
  • moderates blood pressure
  • improves brain health and assists in improving overall cognitive function
  • reduces age-related mental decline, preventing the onset of certain psychological disorders, and even lowering levels of anxiety and depression
  • improves bone health, boost immune system function, enhance skin health, improve vision, and increase circulation

Wait, there's more. Along with these valuable health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids can also have a positive effect on your ability to build muscle, burn fat and perform at your full potential. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to:

  • increase protein synthesis, the process in our bodies that create protein molecules needed for muscle recovery and growth
  • counteract muscle breakdown by lowering cortisol levels
  • decrease muscle soreness and promote recovery
  • improve fatty acid oxidation, the process by which fats are broken down to produce energy
  • improve insulin sensitivity, helping the body use carbohydrates more effectively, reducing blood sugar • relieve inflammatory joint pain for improved training longevity.

Multi-vitamin or Greens Powder

I'm sure most of us are aware of the benefits of vitamins and minerals for our health but let's be honest, are we eating enough fruit and vegetables every single day? According to Nutrition Australia, adults are recommended to consume 6 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day. For some of us, this may not be easily achieved for various reasons.

Fruit and veg contain micronutrients important for so many intricate processes in the body. In fact, being deficient in even a single micronutrient can literally affect thousands of biological processes related to overall health, body composition and even exercise performance. More so, athletes or those who exercise frequently typically have higher vitamin and mineral requirements compared to those who are less active. Getting nutrients from whole foods is always best but if you struggle to meet the recommended fruit and veg daily intake then a multivitamin or a greens powder is a convenient and cost-effective way to ensure you are not missing out on the benefits of micronutrients.

Bottom Line

To maximise any health and fitness goals, it is important to have a solid foundation from proper nutrition, training, and recovery. As outlined in this article, there are certain supplements backed up by research that can complement and assist a majority of health and fitness needs. The supplement market is flooded with so many options but if I could only choose a handful right now, the essentials, those mentioned in this article would be my pick.

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