• Supplements for Strength Athletes

      Written by: Mike Tuchscherer & Sol Orwell

      Sol Orwell of Examine.com has put together a list of some supplements that can be useful for Iron Sport athletes like us. This information comes from their newly released Supplement Reference Guide that you can get on Examine.com. The conclusions here are based on actual science and not supplement industry hype. For more information about how the information was compiled, I encourage you to visit Examine.com.
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      Supplements with direct strength benefits

      Creatine supplementation has been proven to enhance power output in instances where ATP or glycogen would be used as energy, such as during very high intensity exercise.

      Caffeine supplementation has also been shown to greatly enhance power output. Unlike creatine, caffeine cannot be taken daily while providing consistent benefits. Instead, high doses (300-400mg) should be taken infrequently, since caffeine tolerance negates its beneficial effects on power output. Ideally, caffeine should be used by people not accustomed to it, and only once a week to prevent tolerance.

      Alpha-GPC has the potential to be a powerful strength supplement. There is preliminary evidence to support Alpha-GPC’s acute increase on power output. This power comes from Alpha-GPC’s ability to donate choline to the body, in order to produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which mediates muscle contraction.

      Supplements that directly benefit training

      Nitric oxide boosters are a promising but overhyped supplement. Successfully increasing the levels of nitric oxide in the body increases the efficiency of muscle cells and improves overall work capacity during aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Power output, however, is not increased. The “first generation” of nitric oxide boosters were based off of L-arginine, but they are readily being replaced by those that can successfully donate nitrate (from beetroot, for example). Newer generations have been shown to be more effective than the first. Agmatine is another option under investigation.

      Beta-alanine increases the performance of activities in the 60-240 second range. Beta-alanine reduces acid buildup, which plays a minor role in muscle fatigue. Preliminary evidence suggests beta-alanine may also increase muscle hypertrophy, but the reasons for this is are unclear.

      Supplements with indirect benefits to training

      Fish oil and Cissus Quadrangularis are popular options for reducing joint pain and inflammation. Both supplements are understudied when it comes to supplementation and athletics, but fish oil has been shown to reduce pain in athletes, while cissus quadrangularis has been shown to significantly reduce joint pain caused by excessive exercise.

      Supplements with health benefits

      The vast majority of health benefits from supplements are secondary to diet and exercise. Certain supplements offer ways to alleviate deficiencies that cannot be solved through an improved diet.

      Zinc and Magnesium are both found in food. Assessing your diet for these nutrients is a great way to determine whether supplementation could help reduce health issues.

      Vitamin D and Vitamin K both have optimum levels that are difficult to reach through diet alone, and thus are often supplemented.

      Pycnogenol and Grape Seed Extract have been found to increase blood flow in the body. Regular exercise and nitric oxide supplements will also facilitate blood flow, so determining this parameter of health is important before taking additional supplements. Pycnogenol has also been found to reduce joint pain in people with osteoarthritis and even improve cases of venous insufficiency.
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      If you keep up with Sol or Examine.com current events, then you know they have recently expanded their editorial team to a large degree, adding a medical doctor, two PhD's, and a doctor of pharmacy. In light of the recent additions, Examine.com is now offering $10 off their
      Supplement Reference Guide (through Friday, November 8, 2013 at midnight EST).

      In case you don't already know, the
      Supplement Reference Guide is a massive ebook developed and put together by the folks at Examine.com. It allows you to search by supplement and by goal. So say your goal is to reduce increase Power Output. You go to the guide and click "Power Output". Instantly you jump to the section of the book where all supplements that have been studied for muscle soreness are listed, as well as the level of evidence, what effect the evidence suggests, and other relevant information. If you were to look up power output, you'd see Creatine at the top of the list. You can also search by supplement, so again using Creatine as an example, you could find out all the effects Creatine has that have been studied.

      The work that Examine.com has done has been an extremely positive thing for the Iron Sports community. We all know that supplement companies in general hype a lot of stuff and a lot of it doesn't work. Examine has made it easier for regular people to get access to unbiased information about supplementation. That ultimately makes our supplementation more effective and saves us money too. Who wouldn't want to have
      a friend that helped you do that?

      Comments 11 Comments
      1. dliebster's Avatar
        dliebster -
        Hi, is there any research on Cissus Quadrangularis' method of relieving pain? I dont want to mask any tendon pain and have it become more damaged because I'm less in tune with its health. But if it works by enhancing the healing process via something like increased blood flow to the tissue, that would be awesome!

      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        I'm not an expert, but I went to Examine.com and searched for it. Here's the link: http://examine.com/supplements/Cissus+quadrangularis/

        I'll admit I didn't take the time to read the entire article. But if you scroll down you can quickly see there is 1 study that shows a notable decrease in pain levels. Examine gives this a "D" level of evidence, probably due to the fact that there is only one study on it and the type of study it was. That just means that subsequent research might refute the earlier claims. I know that doesn't speak to the method, but maybe it's in the text of the article somewhere.

        Hope that helps.
      1. Ricky's Avatar
        Ricky -
        Good to visit these links and i have read wonderful articles about supplements for strength. Thanks for the wonderful sharing. I think everyone should read these articles by visiting these sites.
      1. dallasreilly's Avatar
        dallasreilly -
        Mike, are there any [peer reviewed] studies on the 2nd gen nitric oxide supps? I know that evidence with arginine was spotty at best and their benefits seem to have come mostly from incorporating creatine and caffeine. I had read a short article that had collected results from the peer reviewed studies on the 1st gen boosters and it basically destroyed any chance of their ability to promote NO in the body...even so half of the comments refused to believe it due to anecdotal experiences.
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        Dallas, I honestly have no idea. That's not something I've dug into. Sorry. I would be interested to know what you find out though.
      1. Mike Tuchscherer's Avatar
        Mike Tuchscherer -
        Ricky, what did you like about the article? Has it changed anything for how you use supplements?
      1. Luke_Addington's Avatar
        Luke_Addington -
        I started taking 1,000mg of Cissus Quadrangularis twice daily about a week ago to hopefully help with the ligament and tendon damage in my knee. I'll report back in 3-6 months with my findings.
      1. Mehrad's Avatar
        Mehrad -
        Simple but informative read, thank you for sharing. Out of the list, I have been using creatine monohydrate, fish oils, caffeine and vitamin d3 alongside my regular multivitamin. From experience I feel they definitely help towards my training in regards to performance and recovery in between sessions. I've been interested in supplementing with nootropics for a while now though due to claims of being beneficial for improving memory, cognitive health and mood. I might try alpha GPC in the near future.
      1. Luke_Addington's Avatar
        Luke_Addington -
        I doubt anyone is still following this thread, but after 6 months of taking Cissus Quadrangularis I didn't really notice any difference. I decided to continue taking it as I was told that it can take longer than 6 months for there to be real improvement.

        After taking it for a year I feel pretty confident reporting that it hasn't had any noticeable effect for me. Maybe you need to take it for years before there's a noticeable difference - my observations and feelings are that it is ineffective.
      1. PolarBear's Avatar
        PolarBear -
        A few years ago I was taking Cissus for more than 2 months and than stopped because of no effects whatsoever. I can clearly observe the difference when I take ZMA or vitamins, but for me Cissus is like homeopathy ;-)
      1. Razephon's Avatar
        Razephon -
        I used to supplement with Cissus for a while to help alleviate elbow tendinitis, but it had no noticeable effect.