This weekend, I am fortunate enough to be a representative for Natural Muscle Magazine at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic (ASC). The ASC Bodybuilding and Fitness Weekend in Columbus, OH represents one of the biggest gatherings of health and fitness minded people in the world! The weekend includes men’s and woman’s bodybuilding competitions, as well as fitness and figure competitions, with the winner of the men’s bodybuilding contest taking home a brand new Hummer and a $100,000 to boot! This in and of itself is exciting enough, but only scratches the surface of what the ASC has to offer. Powerlifting, martial arts, gymnastics, and strongman competitions are among the many events held during the ASC weekend. It is also a great place to see and meet many of the top bodybuilding and fitness names in the industry. The governator himself even makes an appearance every year.
While all of this is great, the real reason over 100,000 people attend the Arnold Classic is for the expo! The Arnold Classic expo features health and fitness related companies with everything from home workout equipment to personal wellness products to massage chairs. (If I only had enough money to get one of those things. They are incredible!) However, always leading the way at the expo are the supplement companies. Rows and rows of supplement companies line the Columbus Convention Center, all promoting their latest and greatest products. I am always amazed at the number of new supplement companies at the expo that I have never even heard of, and also how the representatives for each company are absolutely sure that their products are the best on the market.
There are some supplement companies that are outstanding at producing high quality products, but it seems that ALL supplements companies are great at marketing their products. This makes it difficult for the consumer to tell the difference between a product that is supported by scientific studies and proven to be effective, and a product that is nothing more than a marketing ploy designed to make a quick buck. So, what is one to do when deciding which products to use in the confusing world of nutritional supplements?
For starters, do some research on the company offering the supplement. If you have heard of the company and they are well-established then this is a good start. However, I don’t believe that all well-known companies are necessarily producing the best products, nor do I believe that none of the smaller, less-known companies are producing high quality products because some of them do. If you get a chance to go to the Arnold Classic expo or another fitness expo, go around to the different booths and talk to the people with the supplement companies. You can get a feel for the character of the people with the different companies just by doing this. Most of the companies give out free samples, so this is a good opportunity to try the products out and see if you even like the taste before you invest in them. Ask the companies if their products are supported by scientific research, and if they say yes then ask to see the research.
Next, look at the product itself. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is! I am amazed at some of the crazy things that companies try to sell, and do sell because people are so desperate to lose weight or build muscle. Don’t buy a product based on marketing techniques designed to play on your emotions. Stick to products that are proven to be effective from a reputable company and you can rest assured that your money is being well spent. Here are what I consider to be the top five nutritional supplements for building a lean muscular physique. You won’t find anything fancy on my list, but you will find products that have been proven with science and in the real world to provide positive results.
1. High Quality Meal Replacement
We all know that in order to achieve maximum muscle-building and fat-burning results we need to eat at least 5-6 small meals throughout the day. However, most of us simply do not have the time to cook this many meals. This is why meal replacements are such a great product. They can be used as a nutritious and convenient meal at any time of the day. I like to mix mine into a pudding with about 8 ounces of water. Just don’t use meal replacements for all of your meals as they cannot replace the nutrients found in whole food.
2. High Quality Multi -Vitamin
Weight training and intense exercise requires a lot of vitamins and minerals, which is difficult to get from regular food alone. Supplementing with a quality multi vitamin/mineral is a very good idea to make sure your body is getting everything it needs to function and recover properly. Don’t skimp on your multivitamin by taking the cheap supermarket brand. It is worth investing in a multi designed for the hard-training athlete. I use Multi-Pro 32-X by AST Sports Science.
3. Whey Protein Isolate
Whey protein isolate is absorbed and digested very rapidly by the body, and should be used before and after your weight training sessions. Mix whey protein isolate with a high glycemic carbohydrate, such as dextrose, for an awesome muscle-building and recovery combination.
This is one nutritional supplement that has stood the test of time, while many others have come and gone. Creatine is so popular for one reason; because it works! Taking creatine after your workouts with your whey isolate and dextrose combination is an outstanding muscle-building strategy.
L-Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in muscle cells. It has many benefits, including maintaining and restoring muscle glycogen levels during and after workouts, increasing growth hormone, increasing muscle cell volume, and improving the immune system.
I believe that these five supplements should be the core of your supplementation program. Other supplements can definitely help you reach your goals faster, but I feel that these 5 are the essentials. Remember, that your supplements are only going to be effective if you are following an intelligent training and nutritional plan! This is a very important, but often forgotten point. There are no “magic pills” in a bottle that will instantly and effortlessly allow you to build your ultimate physique; however, an intelligent supplementation strategy can provide the extra edge to take your training and your physique to a higher level!