Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's All This About Supplements?

This week I have bombarded you all with information - and today will be no exception.  Today, I want to share my recently discovered knowledge about supplements.

I must post this disclaimer - just to protect myself:  If you are unsure about supplements, or selecting the correct supplements, please speak to a professional.  I am NOT a professional.  I will share the information that has been passed on to me - but that in no way, shape or form means that what works for me will work for you.  A professional such as doctor, personal trainer or nutritionist will be able to provide you more information for the types of supplements that are recommended for your nutritional needs. 

OK, before I attended bootcamp, supplements were not something I considered or knew much about.  I thought supplements were strictly for the athletically elite - not really a healthy living product.  I also thought supplements were pills - something I refuse to put into my body.  I was wrong on both accounts.

So, what are supplements?  Well, supplements come in many shapes and forms.  The only supplements I am going to talk about today are protein and meal-replacements supplements.  Now, don't get all excited...meal replacement shakes aren't the same as some of the fad diets that have you drink 2 shakes a day and then eat a sensible dinner - supplemental shakes are different.  Supplements can be used up to 3 times a day, but that's about it.  You should still be eating three "regular" meals each day.  There are supplements designed for all aspects of weight loss, body toning, overall health of joints and bones.  Knowing which supplements you need will ultimately depend on your nutritional goals.  If you just want to eat healthier, but are at a healthy weight - then you may opt for basic supplements to use as one of your meals.  Many people don't use supplements - and that's totally fine too.  If you are trying to lose weight, then the supplements I use will be great for you to use.  You don't have to use supplements to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle.  They are completely a personal choice - and you should never feel like you have to use supplements to achieve your nutritional goals.  I am going to share information ONLY about the supplements that I use.  There are THOUSANDS of supplements available, so it's worth looking into before you jump into a decision to use them.

Being that I started out with shakes - that seems to be a good place to start.  Meal replacement shakes are designed to provide the right amount of nutrition to satisfy the requirement of a meal.  They should have the plenty of protein, a sensible amounts of carbs, a small amount of fat, vitamins, and that's about it.  Shakes should NOT be loaded with sugar.  This is also one area where you may want to pay attention to the amount of calories that are included.  Most shakes offer a "lite" version that are lower in calories and sugar - and are a better choice if you are trying to lose weight.  What do I use?  I use Myoplex Lite shakes made by EAS.  They are about $7 at Wal-Mart for 4 shakes and come in Chocolate Fudge and French Vanilla flavors.  They are packed with 20g of protein, 20g of carbs, 2g of fat, and each shake is 170 calories.  They taste good, too, which is always a bonus.  Now, I do have to mention that there is a consumer report stating that EAS products (mainly the Myoplex shakes) contain high levels of bad stuff...such as arsenic.  After reading the reports, myself, the levels were read after consuming 3 shakes - which is higher than EAS recommends to drink.  The levels were also detected in several other supplements.  I only drink one shake a day, and the levels that one shake has is WAY below the level of concern.  The report stated that consuming 1-2 shakes a day (as EAS recommends) does not pose any threat.  Wow, I'm just full of disclaimers today, but I had to throw that in for Bob - he's not a fan of the EAS products, and I don't need him riding me after reading this.  Like I said, I drink one shake a day - and not every day - usually about 5 days a week.  I use a shake as one of my "in between" meals, usually between breakfast and lunch. 

Another version of meal replacement supplements are protein bars.  These bars, again, come in many varieties.  I used to use the Zone Meal bars; however I was given a recipe for my own protein bars - and so I opt to make my own instead of spending the money on the bars.  Which ever you chose to use, if any at all, are up to you.  Be sure to follow the same guidelines as the shakes - check the protein, carbs, fats, sugars, and calories.  I will post the recipe for the homemade bars at the end of the post.

The benefits of using shakes and bars really comes down to convenience.  It's very possible to live a very healthy lifestyle without ever consuming a supplement.  I really like them because the shakes and bars are great "on the go" options.  They don't require any preparation (unless you're making the bars yourself, but that only requires prepping once a week) and can be grabbed as you're walking out the door.  Again, I have to stress that they should not be used more than 2-3 times a day.  If I'm going to be home all day, then I will usually only use one or the other - usually after I've worked out.  If I have a busy day scheduled, then I will use a shake and a bar for my "in between" breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner.  I don't use more than that.  There are other meals that are pretty quick to make such as apples with peanut butter or fat-free cottage cheese and crackers.  Both are just as good as a supplement. 

There is one other supplement that I use, and that's whey protein powder.  The best thing about the powder is that you can add it to foods to add an extra kick of protein.  You can also use the powder to make your own shakes and protein bars.  That means, if you're on a tight budget - you can opt to just buy the powder and prepare your own shakes by adding fruit and milk or use it in the bars that I will give you the recipe for in a moment.  I buy the huge tub of Body Fortress whey protein, vanilla flavored, that you can get at Wal-Mart for about $16.  It's a 2lb tub, and lasts a long time.  What I like about the powder is the ability to use it for so many things.  I add 1/2 a scoop to my oatmeal for breakfast and add a scoop to fat-free pudding to make a great dessert.  There are so many options when it comes to using the powder, especially to foods that are higher in carbs and lacking the protein. 

You may have noticed that the supplements tend to focus on protein.  That's because it's very easy to find carbs...they're in pretty much everything.  The only other source of protein as good is meat - and who really wants to eat a portion of meat 6 times a day?  That may sound great, but do you have the money or time to prepare meat that many times a day?  I love meat, but I sure couldn't handle eating it six times a day.  On top of that, eating meat six times a day would really add up on the fat grams scale - not so good.  My supplements help me get my protein in a sweeter way - something I'm all about.  If I get a chocolaty craving, the chocolate fudge shakes helps without interfering with my goals. 

What are the health benefits?  I touched a lot on the convenience factor, but didn't really mention much about the health benefit.  The supplements add extra protein to my diet - but why do I need to add so much?  Well, I want strong muscles.  The protein helps my body repair and build my muscles.  Each time I break down my muscles during a work-out, my body fixes the damage and then makes the muscles bigger each time.  The protein is what does this.  The stronger my muscles become, the faster I blast fat.  Bigger muscles equals less fat - now we're talking!!  You can't really ask for a better benefit than that!

Lastly, there is one other supplement that your body DOES need at least 6 times a day.  It should be added to every meal, and more.  The best thing, it's totally free!!  That would be water.  I know, I know, water isn't a supplement - but it is very important to your health, so I figured this would be a great place to throw it in.  If there was a rule book for living healthy, the first rule would be: DRINK LOTS OF WATER!  Every single diet plan, doctor, nutritionist, and trainer will tell you that water is vital to a healthy body - and they're right.  It really is the easiest thing any person can do, yet it seems to be the one people find most difficult.  If you think that your body is getting enough fluid because you drink coffee, soda, or tea all day - you are very sadly mistaken.  Your actually dehydrating your body by drinking those things.  You need water to hydrate, and caffeine reverses the effect.  Now, I'm one person that thinks there's nothing wrong with a cup or two of coffee each morning, a diet soda occasionally, I even opt for diet citrus tea once in a blue moon - but when I drink these things, I know that my body needs twice as much water to reverse the dehydrating effects.  During the summer months, especially if you're working out, you should try to drink about 100ozs of water a day.  I know, that's a lot of water - and I will admit that some days I only manage to get in about 80 - but shoot for that amount if you can.  The easiest way to get your water is to add water to every meal.  You can drink a cup before and after a meal, or you can do what I do and just drink 16ozs of water after each meal.  16ozs of water with six meals a day gives you 96ozs of water!!  That doesn't include the 24ozs of water I usually guzzle down while I'm working out - so you can see that it can be a lot easier than you think to get the water in. 

Drinking a lot of water doesn't just hydrate you - which is the most important aspect.  Drinking plenty of water, especially with each meal, will help keep you fuller longer.  It will also flush your body of wastes - it's a natural, daily detox for your system.  I know that my body is getting plenty of water each day by the amount of time I spend using the bathroom, and the amount of sweat I produce...ewww, right??  WRONG!!  Going to the bathroom and sweating are the ways that the water gets rid of the waste.  I know that when I work out, I want to sweat.  The sweat shows me that I'm working hard.  The more water I drink, the more I the better I feel about my work-outs.  Don't let the easiest thing to do be the hardest for you to accomplish.  So, you don't like just drinking plain water? Well, not a problem.  There are things you can do to help, if you really just can't stand drinking plain water.  Try adding a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to your water.  Lemon helps with the detox process, so it's a great additive for your water.  Not a fan of lemon?  OK, look for the zero calorie water flavorings you can buy.  Just make sure they don't contain caffeine and aren't loaded with sugar - or you'll just defy the purpose.  Crystal Lite is a great water flavoring - and comes in great flavors.  There's really no excuses, you should be able to drink plenty of water.

I think that's about it for today.  Again, if you have questions please post them.  If I can't answer them, I'm lucky enough to know some great professionals that can - and will be happy to find the answers for you. 

Here's the recipe for the homemade protein bars, they are super yummy - so you should give them a try.  I have to thank my Jillian for this recipe - definitely a keeper.

No-Bake Protein Bars
  • 2 cups of oats (I use old fashioned oats)
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 4 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
Line a small square pan with wax paper.  Be sure to prepare the pan first, as the mixture will need to be placed on the pan immediately.  Mix together ingredients - start by mixing dry ingredients, then add peanut butter, and then add water.  Spread mixture onto pan, using a spatula.  Place pan in freezer for 30 minutes.  Cut into 16 squares. Individually wrap each square using wax paper or Ziploc bags and store in the fridge. 


Tomorrow, we move away from the "how tos" and focus on motivation and dedication.  I will share some of my stories of how I overcome some common obstacles, and how I motivate myself every day to continue.

Till next time.  ;)

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