By Amy Lewis
Photos By ChiChi Ubiña
At 40, I started a journey on how to maximize my workouts, build lean muscle and strengthen my whole body. At first, it began with caffeinated products. I read that drinking a black coffee during your workouts will give you that added boost. It did. I moved on to tart cherry juice because it was supposed to help with lactic acid build up and so on. This sparked my curiosity. What else was I missing? I wanted to think about it more scientifically.
First, it’s best to agree that every person is different. What works for me may not be the same recipe for everyone else. I exercise a lot and need more of some things to build muscle and promote muscle recovery. However, whatever your goals are, it always feels fantastic to do something good for your body. Sometimes, mentally, just the act of going to the vitamin store with a plan and starting a regimen can be very empowering and inspiring.
I’d like to focus on just a few supplements and minerals. There are so many to choose from; however, you may not need all of them. The few I have researched, and take are because I want to unearth my inner athlete. With that being said, it’s always a good idea to talk to a health practitioner before embarking.
If you are an endurance athlete and have prolonged periods of exercise, one of my favorites is Branded-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s). Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to promote proteins. Our body will use amino acids to make proteins that help in the breakdown of food. When BCAA’s are taken before or during a workout, it will help with muscle endurance and as added fuel. To change the body, lose weight and build muscle you will need to push the limit every single time. BCAA’s helped me with this. Post workout is not ideal to take them. Carbohydrates and protein are your best bet for post muscle recovery. The body can get most of its amino acids from food in the form of soy and animal proteins. Actually, most healthy foods have amino acids which is a great reason to follow a healthy diet with complete proteins. Like any performance supplements, they can never take the place of a healthy diet.
Another supplement I recently began to incorporate is magnesium. Bodyweight and how much you exercise, will determine how much to take. Magnesium can help dispose of the lactic acid build up that occurs during strenuous exercise. It can improve muscle function and reduce fatigue. One other benefit of magnesium is an improvement in sleep, as it relaxes muscles. Like most supplements, timing is essential. However, I will admit I take mine in the morning with breakfast. I have to prep for a long day, I need to check the box. Studies say it is best to take half after workout and half before bed. Whether or not you are an avid exerciser, this mineral is great to incorporate in your healthy eating diet, i.e., leafy greens. salmon, legumes, etc.
Lastly, I researched B-vitamins. I started taking these vitamins every morning after reading that female athletes are more likely to have a deficiency in B-vitamins as we naturally tend to eat less than male athletes. B-vitamins can help repair muscle tissue and can help convert proteins and carbs into energy. Deficiency leads to muscle deterioration, fatigue, exhaustion, etc. Like magnesium I take B-vitamins in the morning with breakfast. However, it’s always best to take with a meal.
Supplements can serve an excellent purpose for any male and female avid exerciser. First and foremost, everyone’s focus should be to get most of your vitamins and minerals from food and follow a healthy diet. The few supplements above are what helped me kick start changes in my own performance and muscle growth. As each year goes by, I’m excited to educate and experiment with what will help promote strength, performance, and energy level. And let’s be honest vanity has a lot to do with it. My goals are always to look and feel great. This is such an important part of living your best life at any age. Consult your health practitioner, come up with a workout plan and consider how supplements can help. I promise great results.