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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Adding Nutritional Supplements to Your Diet and Workout

Most of us have specific goals in mind when it comes to an exercise program. We work hard to achieve these results day in and day out, but sometimes our bodies may need an extra push to get over that hump. Many people question the importance of adding supplements to a healthy diet and workout routine, as well they should.

ThinkstockPhotos-471775270.jpgWith so many different supplements flooding the shelves these days, it’s hard to know which ones will truly help you achieve your desired results. Although I agree that some supplements might not be necessary to include in your program, others could be beneficial to many individuals no matter what their fitness goals are.

Not a Substitute for Proper Nutrition

Before I go any further, I want to note that supplementation is simply an addition to your diet and exercise regime. These are not meant to replace a well-balanced whole-food diet; they are meant to be used in conjunction.

Most of the nutrients we need are already being produced by our own bodies to a certain extent, as well as existing in foods we eat daily. Some essential nutrients such as protein, creatine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are naturally produced in the body and can be found in meat products, including (but not limited to) red meat, fish, and ground turkey. These amounts are just large enough to support daily functioning, but may not be produced in large enough quantities to aid in dramatic physique enhancements. If you are looking to take your physique to the next level, supplementation might be just what you need.

Which Ones Should I Use?

Here are the top five supplements (in my opinion, and that of many top professionals) you could add to your exercise and diet program.

  1. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): BCAAs are essential nutrients that help the body slow down protein and muscle breakdown, which can aid in preventing muscle fatigue during intense workouts. It works by stimulating the building of protein in muscles, which in turn helps prevent muscle breakdown. I would not recommend using BCAAs when trying to gain muscle hypertrophy (or size), as muscle breakdown is essential for muscle growth. Instead, try a pre-workout or caffeinated drink before your workout for extra energy.
  2. Creatine: Creatine is an organic acid that is produced in the liver and helps supply energy to cells all over the body (especially muscle cells). People take creatine because it allows the body to produce more energy, and with more energy a person is able to increase the intensity of their workouts. Many athletes use creatine to improve their overall performance. It also helps aid in quicker muscle recovery after an intense workout.
  3. Protein: Your muscles need protein grow and recover from muscle breakdown caused by exercise. You can get plenty of protein in your diet; however protein shakes are generally lower in calories than a high-protein meal. They are also portable and more convenient that carrying around whole-food meals (here are some ideas for making your own). Two widely used proteins are whey and casein. Whey is a fast-digesting protein that aids in muscle recovery and muscle growth. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that creates a longer-lasting supply of muscle-building nutrients. Many experts recommend taking a mixture of the two proteins to ensure a release of amino acids into the blood for as long as possible, therefore aiding in lean muscle gain as well as body fat decline.
  4. Multi-vitamins: Multi-vitamins are essential to support the body’s everyday functioning. Your body needs a variety of complex nutrients for optimum efficiency and performance. Taking a high-potency multi-vitamin can ensure your body is getting those essential nutrients to support thousands of metabolic reactions. Here’s more information on the importance of a multi-vitamin for your health and fitness goals, including a list of the essential vitamins and minerals you need.
  5. Fish oil: Fish oil tablets are the most efficient way to get the purest and most concentrated dose of Omega-3s into your diet. Omega-3s have been proven to improve blood circulation, which in turn will allow nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates to reach muscles. Omega-3s also help with maximizing metabolic rate, which in turn helps with fat loss.

Dietary supplements can have many health benefits as well as many performance-based benefits. If you are not concerned with taking supplements for their potential performance enhancements, you should at least be taking supplements such as multi-vitamins and fish oil tablets for your general health. They can be an easy addition to your diet and exercise regimen that may have huge effects on your overall health. Add supplements on an as-needed basis after conducting a needs analysis, and implement one at a time.

If you have additional questions or concerns about supplementation, please stop by and ask any Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS or contact our Registered Dietitian, Angie Scheetz for more information.

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This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness nutrition fitness center protein muscle mass vitamins supplements

The Importance of a Maintenance Phase for Athlete Training

The NFL season is only three weeks old and injuries are running rampant through the league. Week after week, a star player is lost for multiple weeks, months, or possibly the whole season because of injuries that usually are the result of bad luck or possibly not being as physically prepared as they could have been. Hopefully your team, **knock on wood**, does not or will not have to deal with this at any point during their season. My team, my beloved Detroit Lions, look like a dumpster fire for reasons other than injuries.

The physicality of football increases every year. The players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger in training facilities across the country getting ready for that next season. Guys are always looking to take that next step during the offseason to ensure that they are a better player than they were the preceding year. Countless hours are spent in the gym and on the field trying to achieve this goal. Some training programs start the day after a season is over, whether it be after week 17 in the regular season or if your team wins the Super Bowl. It’s no secret that being a professional or collegiate athlete is a year-round commitment. 

Changing Training After the Season Begins

But what kind of training do players do after their season begins? Do they continue to train five or six days a week like they did in the offseason? Of course not. With large time commitments for practice, watching film, and simply resting, an athlete must shift their focus to making sure all of that hard work is not wasted over the course of the season. The most effective way to salvage the progress that you have made over the past five or six months is to enter a maintenance phase.

A maintenance phase is one phase or “macrocycle” (a large portion of a training year) that you should use during the start and duration of each athletic or competitive season. As mentioned before, this phase is used to preserve the strength, power, and muscle mass that was built in the many months prior to the season. 

What Does a Maintenance Phase Look Like?

Some characteristics of a maintenance phase include the following:

  • 2 (±1) workouts per week
  • 45 to 60-minute sessions
  • 2 (±1) sets per exercise. Main exercises should focus on strength, power (plyometrics, Olympic lifting, core lifts [bench, squat, deadlift]), and functional mobility.
  • Promoting overall health
As you can see, these phases don’t take much time, but could pay huge dividends throughout your season. The ultimate goal for many (if not all) sports, like the NFL, is to make the post-season. The teams that always seem to perform the best in those scenarios are the ones that are the healthiest or freshest. Continuing to lift throughout your competitive season will help you maintain the overall function of your body instead of gradually losing it throughout the season. As a wise man (Dr. Alan Mikesky) once said, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Impact on Future Seasons

Don’t underestimate the importance of a maintenance phase, due to the implications that it could have on subsequent seasons. Think about this scenario:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM has gone up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you stop lifting weights and focus on football. Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the first time. Your 1RM squat is back to 315 pounds. Your body had no reason to keep the neural drive of the muscles because you no longer required it to. You start your offseason conditioning program and increase your squat back up to 365 pounds and exceed those numbers by squatting 380. Once your sophomore season starts, you stop lifting weights once again. At the end of the season, your 1RM squat is back to 315. 

This is a vicious cycle that never allows for any solid progression. You start from square-one every year. Now think about the same scenario with a few changes:

Imagine you start training for your freshman year of college football squatting a maximum (1RM) of 315 pounds. After 4 months of preseason training, your 1RM goes up to 365 pounds. Once the season starts, you begin an in-season maintenance phase. You lift two days per week, making sure your squat loads are significant enough to maintain your 1RM (80-95%). Three months later when the season is finished, you hit the weight room for the beginning of your offseason training program. Your 1RM squat is 355. Although you dropped 10 pounds, it is not as significant as the 50-pound loss from the previous scenario. From your offseason program, your 1RM increases from 355 to 410. Once your sophomore season starts, you begin another in-season maintenance phase. At the end of the season, your 1RM has only dropped to 405. 

***

As you can see, progression of strength (and power with other lifts) has to be maintained year round. This goes for all athletes throughout their seasons. If they want to continue to improve, they must prevent the loss. It is as important of a cycle of training as any. Without a properly structured in-season maintenance phase, you will be starting from the same place every time you start a new offseason training program.

 

This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

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Topics: training weightlifting strength power professional athlete muscle mass

Foundations of a Strong, Healthy Body: Strength Building

ThinkstockPhotos-475675484You have finally achieved your goal of adding some lean muscle mass, so what now? Where do you go next? The next step I would take would be to train your body to use those newly developed muscles to their fullest potential. This increase in strength building can come from numerous sources, some of which you may have already experienced.

Strength improvements may be developed from different types of training and at different times in programs. Many of these improvements can be obtained through two modes: neurological adaptations and increases in muscle cross-sectional area (CSA; muscle size). 

Neurological Adaptations

Neurological adaptations can be noticed only days after starting a new training program, depending on your experience with resistance training. If you have no prior experience with it, the stimulus of a few sets of different resistance exercises over one or two days might give your body enough reason to improve its strength levels. But how could the body possibly get stronger in one or two training sessions? Did your muscles get any bigger? No. Your body (the brain, specifically) is becoming more efficient at firing those muscles you have used to meet the demands you have placed on them. 

Quick improvements, like those via neurological adaptations, will not always be achievable. Your brain/body will catch up to what you are doing eventually, which is why other modes of training are important. 

Increases in CSA

Another type of strength development is to increase the muscles’ cross-sectional area, or make the muscle bigger. This can be achieved by following my previous blog, which goes over muscular hypertrophy and different variables you need to control to get it. When a muscle becomes larger, it simply has the ability to create more force than it did when it was smaller. This will definitely lead to increases in your strength levels.

If you plan to follow the structure that I have laid out for you over this series of blogs (Cardio Workouts, Muscular Endurance, and Muscle Building), you are ready for that next step. You may have put on some lean muscle mass (hypertrophy), or you may not have. Regardless, you can still take your strength training to the next level. 

Strength improvement in this sense is almost a combination of the two modes of development I stated earlier, neurological adaptations and increases in muscle CSA. You have new muscle that you have worked hard to build, but now you need to train your body to get that muscle firing at optimal levels. Your new muscle needs that neurological adaptation. 

Recommended Workouts

True strength training is time consuming, so be ready for a lot of downtime between sets. When you start your program, try 2 to 3 sets with repetitions ranging from 1 to 5 (heavy weight!) on your core lifts (bench, squat, and deadlift). Add in a few more strength exercises after the first few weeks. 

Rest periods can vary; however, you want to have at least 2 to 5 minutes between sets. This is CRUCIAL for strength development. You want to make sure you are 100% rested or very close to it. This will allow your body to perform at the highest level during each set. The more you hit this high level, the easier it will become to fire those muscles, which increases strength levels. 

Get after it!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

 

Topics: workouts muscles strength muscle mass muscle building

Foundations of a Strong, Healthy Body: Muscle Building

ThinkstockPhotos-494559503-1Okay, so you’ve been successful in your first two phases of developing your new workout program. You have progressed in your cardiovascular exercises throughout the weeks and your muscles have been feeling more “in shape” from your high repetition, low-weight muscular endurance training. What now?

The next progression I would recommend would be to start training for muscular hypertrophy, or more simply put, muscle building. 

Getting Ripped Versus Getting Toned

Muscle building is a term that seems fantastic to some (guys) and horrific for others (ladies). Guys (depending on your age) have an affinity to building muscle on a higher level because of a little hormone called Testosterone. The higher levels in men will allow for more tissue development, while the lower levels in women will not. Training for hypertrophy in females will yield a more desirable “toned” look versus a large gain in mass.

Changing the Variables to Develop Muscle Mass

When you are training for an increase in lean muscle mass, you will need to tweak the variables that you used for muscular endurance. To recap, those variables included sets, repetitions, and rest periods. 

  • The sets you may perform can also start very low (1-2) if you are new to this type of training. As your experience increases, the amount of sets can double or even triple. 
  • The repetitions that you perform will also adjust. Instead of doing reps in the 15-20 range, they will be more in the 8-12 range. With the decrease in repetitions comes an increase in the resistance (weight) that you are using. You want to make sure that each set is performed with a weight that can be done no more than 12 times. 
  • Rest periods will also remain relatively low. 30 to 60 seconds of rest between sets is recommended. You will definitely “feel the burn” if you do it correctly.

The next blog in this series talks about how to activate your newly developed muscle tissue to increase your overall strength.

Get after it!

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, NIFS Athletic Performance Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: cardio muscles resistance endurance weightlifting muscle mass muscle building