As a nutrition coach, you will absolutely be asked about dietary supplements. Unfortunately, the media in our society, along with companies looking to make a “quick buck,” have promoted supplements in a manner that make them seem to be the quickest fix. Obviously we know this not to be true, but this doesn’t change the fact that you WILL be asked about them, and therefore you need to be able to intelligently speak about them. Make sure you only speak to your comfort level – this chapter is brief by design as we feel that your focus as a coach should revolve far more about food and lifestyle changes.
In the book “Macros Explained,” a classification of: essential, recommended, or optional was used to describe the advice for a specific supplement. We will use the same structure for the purposes of this text:
Essential – great for all clients, geared toward health and longevity and may have a performance enhancing benefit
Recommended – proven to be effective for health and longevity, but can also likely be obtained through high quality foods
Optional – scientifically proven to have a positive effect, but the cost/benefit ratio must be determined by the client
Dosing: Fish oil dosing is more about the quantity of EPA/DHA than it is the total dose of fish oil. For that reason, regardless of the product you are using, aim for a dose of .25g EPA/DHA per 10lbs of bodyweight.
While vitamin D is fat soluble, meaning we will not simply excrete excess, we do want to maximize our levels safely. For this reason, supplementing with vitamin D is recommended for all individuals.
Dosing: Medically you will see doses prescribed as high as 50,000 international units. As a nutrition coach that is not performing blood work, you need to err on the side of caution when prescribing fat soluble vitamins. We have found 2000-5000 units daily to be a safe, effective dose.
Dosing: A high quality probiotic supplement will contain 5 billion CFU or more, and will be multi-strain. Take 1 serving twice daily (am and pm).
Dosing: Magnesium comes in several chelates, but research has shown that magnesium aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride are absorbed more completely and are more bioavailable than magnesium oxide or sulfate. Females should take 300mg and males should take 400mg with dinner or the last meal.
Dosing: 500mg-2000mg taken each night has proven to be a safe effective dose. If stomach irritation is noticed, ensure you are taking a non-acidic, buffered form of Vitamin C.
Dosing: 5g taken 4 times daily seems to have the best effect to improve GI health.
While there are a small number of “non responders,” studies have repeatedly shown creatine to be effective when looking at the effects of supplementation on overall strength levels (1RM and number of reps at a given weight).
Dosing: Creatine works on saturation in the muscle, and should be taken daily. While there may be some dose dependent effects, best results will be seen with longer term consumption. 3-5g taken pre or post workout is advised.
BCAA supplementation can also reduce the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and increase the time to exhaustion (TTE). This happens because BCAA compete with another amino acid, tryptophan, for entry into the brain. Tryptophan can be converted to serotonin, and during intense exercise when serotonin levels rise it will increase the perception of fatigue, thereby reducing your output. By supplementing with BCAA, the amount of tryptophan entering the brain is reduced, allowing you to push harder, longer.
Finally, in a caloric deficit, it is important to understand that valine and isoleucine are considered glucogenic – meaning that if needed they can convert to glucose for immediate energy during training.
Dosing: 7-15g taken about 20 minutes prior to training and sipped on during training seems to have the best response. In times of severe caloric restriction, an additional serving away from training is advised.
HMB is also a substrate for cholesterol synthesis, which allows for the maintenance of cell integrity.
Dosing: Unfortunately, we have seen the dose required for efficacy to be much higher than what is often prescribed by supplement companies. Most products will advise 1-3g daily, with an effective dose being 6-8g daily. If a client has the disposable income, HMB seems to be very promising.
We are beginning to see ingredients from nootropic supplements appear in other sports products like pre-workouts, but the combination has no peer reviewed evidence to accurately speak to any efficacy.
Dosing: Will vary by product.
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