Fort Berthold Diabetes Program

Workout rants from the desk of Sir Zachary Stewart

By Zachary Stewart(Mad Maxx)- Fitness Specialist

Every top 5 list for supplements will vary due to marketing, opinions, fads and hottest trends. This is a money-making industry and hands are out and ready to take your cash. Supplements remain unregulated and as a consumer should be approached with buyer-beware. Before handing over hard-earned cash for supplements, it’s recommended to research the products, talk to your doctor and track your own progress. Make an informed decision before purchasing and taking a bunch of supplements. Now that you are reading with an open mind, the following supplements are backed by scientific evidence and often asked about for improving fitness. 

 Honestly, we don’t require supplements to cut fat, build muscle, and enhance performance. In fact, we can obtain most of our essential nutrients from healthy food  to create the body we desire. Before you stop reading, a few supplements have shown promise with enhancing our fitness. Studies for more conclusive information are always ongoing. So as an old friend once told me, supplements are supplemental and shouldn’t be the main focus, get your needs from food. And that is supplement number one:  form your own decision. But this is an article about supplements  so I’ll tell you about some of my faves.

Creatine is supplement number two and is one of the most researched and widely used supplements to enhance muscle building and strength. It is responsible for supplying energy to cells within the body and keeping our cellular functions in balance. Creatine is naturally occurring in the body but is also found in foods like meat, dairy and eggs. The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reported creatine is “greater for changes in lean body mass following short-term creatine supplementation” and also that creatine “does not appear to be effective in improving running and swimming performance.”(1) An abstract published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry stated, “although not all studies report significant results, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that creatine supplementation appears to be a generally effective nutritional ergogenic aid for a variety of exercise tasks in a number of athletic and clinical populations.” (4)

Coming in hot at number three is fish oil or some call it omega threes. Fatty fish contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are both types of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats have  been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and now studies in  The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition are seeing neuromuscular improvement for endurance athletes with fish oil supplementation.  Another study conducted on female elite soccer players and reported by The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine revealed, “the study suggests that supplementation with DHA produced perceptual-motor benefits in female elite athletes and that DHA could be a beneficial supplement in sports where decision making and reaction time efficiency are of importance.”(5)

The next big boy on our list at number  four is BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids). The branch chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are leucine, isoleucine, and valine have an important role in protein synthesis and glucose uptake into our cells. These amino acids have important functions post-exercise and for overall muscle building and recovery.  BCAAs can be obtained by eating lean protein.. An abstract published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness stated “this observation suggests that BCAA supplementation may reduce the muscle damage associated with endurance exercise.”(6) Further research also indicated similar findings with the addition of “BCAA as a useful supplement for muscle recovery and immune regulation for sports events.”(3) 

Sliding in  at number five is Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has become a problem worldwide and is now negatively affecting people over a wide age spectrum, including athletes. Our bodies make vitamin D after our skin is exposed to sunlight. Dairy products also contain vitamin D. It’s essential to include a source of vitamin D daily to maintain optimal health and fitness. An abstract published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise states “vitamin D may improve athletic performance in vitamin D-deficient athletes” and “may also protect the athlete from several acute and chronic medical conditions.”(2) 

Our last but not least lil buddy is Caffeine. Caffeine is by no means  lil, it’s actually addicting and is typically one of the top ingredients for fat burning supplements, weight loss products, and performance enhancers. A great cup of black coffee can deliver a metabolism boost plus provide bonus antioxidants. More is not better, however, when it comes to caffeine. Proceed with caution before using this product. Reported  in a 2014 Harvard Health Publication, “not only is caffeine a brain stimulant … but it also blocks receptors giving you a surge of energy and potentially improving mental performance and slowing age-related mental decline.”(7) 

The takeaway from all this is: do your research before taking supplements! I personally don’t rely on supplements but I did in the beginning.  I encourage everyone to be responsible and form their own decisions. Also, remember to talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking any supplements.  For assistance with your fitness and nutrition goals, contact the Fort Berthold Diabetes Program at 701-627-7931. 

(1)Branch JD. (2003, January). International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition and Performance: A Meta analysis.
(2)Cannell JJ, Hollis BW, Sorenson MB, Taft TN, Anderson JJ. (2009, April 1). Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.  Athletic Performance and Vitamin D.  
(3)Coombes JS, McNaughton LR. (2000, april). Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. 
(4)Kreider RB. (2003, February 4). Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations.