Different genders, body types, genetics, and activity levels have different nutritional needs. But general guidelines based on scientific understanding and averages can easily benefit anyone that chooses to follow them.
- Fish Oil
Not to be mistaken for your mother’s cod liver oil, which only contains the nutrient profile from the liver of one species of fish, fish oil is one of the most miraculous health supplements to be developed in the last decade. Fish oil, extracted from the skins of various fatty fish like tuna, salmon, cod, etc., contains significant amounts of high quality omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains vitamins like vitamins A and D, among other powerful nutrients. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered ‘good’ fats and support your body in many ways. They are vital to proper brain function and reduce bad cholesterol, which can cause heart problems. Fish oil consumed at doses of 3000-9000mg daily can also affect body composition positively by optimizing the fat-burning environment in your body.
- Protein Supplements
High-quality protein supplements pose no health risk at all. In India, there has been a history of local brands adding steroids and hormones to their products (anabolic steroids are, in fact, less expensive than whey protein), but with proper research, you can purchase from trusted brands without worry. Particularly in India diets where 1-2 eggs a day is, if at all, the maximum whole protein a vegetarian would consume, the average diet is quite protein deficient. This is a problem for gym-goers as resistance training creates micro-tears in muscle fibers, which requires lots of amino acids to be repaired. Hence, a protein supplement could be very useful. There are many kinds of proteins to choose from – Whey, casein (milk), egg, soy, plant proteins, and even animal proteins (beef protein powder is now a thing). However, for gym goers, it is much better to stick to whey, casein, egg or animal proteins as plant proteins are incomplete in their amino acid profiles, and soy proteins contain significant levels of estrogen, which could negatively affect the muscle building process. Whey is fast absorbing and is best after exercise when your muscles are craving nutrition. Casein is much slower to absorb but can be used at any time during the day.
- Fitness Multivitamin
In cases of malnutrition, multivitamins are administered to bring the body back into balance. However, in the case of gym-goers, multivitamins are required to supplement many critical micronutrients that daily resistance training causes the body to require more of. Buy a fitness multivitamin from a supplement company (and not ‘regular’ multivitamins from general health or medical companies) because their micronutrient profiles are optimized for the male gender and resistance training related needs rather than simply to combat malnourishment. It is also very important to choose an ‘iron free’ multivitamin as too much iron can cause health issues in the male body because our bodies have no natural mechanisms to excrete an excess of this mineral.
- Sleep Aid Products
Not to be confused with sleeping pills, which introduce chemicals into the body to induce sleep, sleep aid products are our surprise on this list. Daily life in the modern world is stressful, and excellent sleep always means better functioning and health (mental as well as physical). But, sleep is not always about how many hours of it you can manage; it is also about the quality of it. Deep and restful sleep for 5 hours is far better than 8 hours of disturbed sleep. Melatonin is the hormone in our body that regulates sleep and gives the ‘signal’ to our brain to fall asleep. Melatonin supplements can help induce a deeper sleep, or even act as a natural sleeping pill if you are not able to fall asleep when you want to. It is also used by travelers to quickly combat jet-lag and adjust their sleep cycle. 10-20mg of melatonin daily acts as a gentle and natural sleep aid, and, particularly for gym-goers that absolutely require deep sleep to destress and repair the body, muscles, and nervous system, it can be very useful. In recent years some other sleep aid products have become available with various ingredients to help the body sleep deeply and are worth looking into.
Contrary to some peoples’ belief, creatine is not a dangerous supplement, but for athletes that are involved in explosive physical activity (not aerobic, but anaerobic activities such as weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding) it can really assist in the growth and training process. The body uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate) as fuel for such activities (where oxygen is used for more aerobic exercise like jogging, etc.). In this process, ATP is converted to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) after it is used in the energy release process during explosive physical activity. Creatine allows your body to instantaneously convert some of the ADP back to ATP, essentially allowing you to add more weight and bust out more reps. It is the only natural supplement that can be considered almost steroidal in its results (even though the use of actual steroids is almost 100-200 times more powerful). Creatine is offered in various forms: monohydrate, HCL, ethyl ester, etc. All these forms are equally effective, but monohydrate, while by far the most inexpensive, causes stomach issues and bloating in many people, and so such people should use some other form of creatine.
Diet, exercise, and regularity are the 3 pillars of health, fitness, and other gym-related activities. But supplements can be powerful assistive tools. Using these 5 supplements will help you progress and achieve your goals more quickly.