Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Do you need to supplement?


Anyone pumping iron to build a firm and muscled body has to eat right. Two large sized banana shakes, 10 egg whites, two roast chickens, a bowl of sprouted chanas , 12 rotis , two servings of rice, two bowls of lentils and three servings of green vegetables…. this is roughly what your daily diet chart would look like! All of us know the connection between food and muscles. Working out and eating the right food helps break down your muscles to make way for new, bigger ones. You may feel overwhelmed by the amount of food needed by your body to facilitate this process, but there are many who go a step further and supplement their diet with powders, pills and drinks to get results even quicker. While steroid- based products should be completely avoided, there are various other supplements which can help you to bulk up. It's important to know which kind are right for your purpose.

First and foremost, there is no law governing the fitness supplements in the market. These products are marketed as dietary supplements rather than medicines which is why they don't come under any drug regulation law. There is little or no uniformity among the products either. " Most supplements are imported from other countries. Duplicates are common and you never know what you are ingesting. Steroids are mixed into some for faster results, which are harmful in the long run. The best strategy is to buy only good brands from reputed stores," says Dr Pratip Mandal, consultant sports medicine, Moolchand Medcity.

Products containing creatine, whey powder, amino acids and caffeine are the most popular bodybuilding supplements available in the market. Creatine is an amino acid- based compound produced naturally in the human body. While red meat and fish contain a good amount of creatine, milk has a minimal amount. " Intake of creatine leads to reduction in muscle fatigue which means improved work capacity and you can lift heavy weights for longer period of time. All this leads to better muscle growth," says Sanehshwaran Reddy, centre manager, Elemention Gym, Gurgaon. But there are risks associated with creatine too. Potential short- term risks include cramps and dehydration.

There are reports that long term use of creatine can lead to kidney problems, hypertension, stomach cramps, and muscle cramps, but research on the matter is still inconclusive. Another popular supplement is whey, a natural by- product of the cheese- making process comprising about 20 percent of milk proteins. The benefits of whey protein include increased muscle growth and physical performance, weight management, healthy aging and improved wound healing.

Besides creatine and whey powder, there are various caffeine- based stimulants. The main aim of these supplements is to give your body a kick so that you feel energetic and your performance improves. However, many energy drinks contain higher amounts of caffeine, sugar and other substances which can have adverse effects like faster heartbeat, nervousness, impaired sleep and nausea.

So, what's the final take on supplements? " People who eat a normal diet generally don't need nutritional supplements, even if they exercise vigorously," says Dr Mandal.


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