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I get a lot of questions about supplements: What do I think about this one? Does this one really help you lose weight? I’m pregnant (or nursing)—can I drink this dietary supplement? Can I take this one if I have {health condition}? And so on…So I figured the time to talk about this is now!

First of all, what is a supplement? I turned to the experts at the FDA for this one:

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet. A “dietary ingredient” may be one, or any combination, of the following substances: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract.

So now that we’re all on the same page, and to keep things easy, I’m going to refer to all of these simply as Supplements.

Now to the nitty-gritty. I’m sure those of you who’ve asked me about supplements haven’t been too excited when I’ve answered something like, “Please consult with your healthcare team before taking any dietary supplement.” I know—you wanted to know what I think, or if you should take that particular supplement, or if it would help you with this or that. You wanted THE answer, and I don’t blame you. We’re bombarded on a daily basis with info about supplements that claim to be able to do magical things for us, or we’ve had a friend or family member who’s had great success with a particular supplement so they preach it from the mountaintops, and since we all want to be healthier and feel better (and maybe have those muscles that “he/she” has), we take these supplements blindly, hoping they will perform their magic on us and help us reach our goals!

Here are the reasons I always give this supplement disclaimer (and they’re pretty darn important!):

  1. Supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like prescription drugs are, so you never really know if a supplement is safe, or if it actually contains the ingredients the label says it does in the amount stated, or even if those ingredients are pure.
  2. Supplements can interact with other supplements and/or prescription medications in a dangerous way.
  3. The science backing up a particular supplement might not really be true science, or might not have undergone the correct testing.
  4. Manufacturers don’t have to go through any processes to prove their supplements do what they say they’ll do or disclose any side effects (even when they know they exist).
  5. Some supplements can be dangerous if you have a known or unknown health condition.
  6. What works for one person might not work for another, or might even be downright dangerous based on #2 and/or #5 above.
  7. Your healthcare team knows your health history, any health issues you have, and any medications and/or other supplements you’re already taking.

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Now…the two questions I’ve been asked a lot since I first shared my competition prep (aka “booty building”) journey: “Heidi, what are you doing to build your butt?” And, “How are you getting ready for your competition?” Well, while the entire journey could be a book in and of itself, here’s a bit of it for you, relating to supplements at least: I was making great progress towards reaching my goals through a ton of hard work and more food than I’m used to eating (my coaches have had me eating up to 2700 calories a day!), but I felt like my gains were slowing down after a while. I figured my body was simply adapting to my new way of eating and training. After a lot of research, consultation with my amazing coaches (who I LOVE because they advocate the healthy way to achieve my goals), and a lot of thought, I chose to start taking some supplements that have been tested, tried, and proven by some of the world’s best athletes. Trust me when I say I was hesitant to start taking anything! I’ve always been of the train of thought, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and “Play one card at a time…not your whole hand at once!” So to me, the thought of taking a supplement or pre-workout only made me laugh! For real…I teased Chris all the time for his reliance on his “pre” for a good workout!!! LOL. And the only supplements I’ve ever taken are a multivitamin and fish oil for overall health. That’s it. So this was a huge decision for me, especially since I feel like a lot of so-called supplements on the market are incredibly low quality and are really just a waste of money. It was also a big decision for me because I knew I’d have to eat my words and apologize for all of my teasing toward Chris for his supplement obsession—ha!!

A bit of sciency stuff first so you can better understand my decision. The supplements I take are made up of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs have some incredibly important roles and functions in our bodies—including building and repairing muscles. And since building muscle is at the heart of my goals right now, supplementing with some BCAAs seemed the way to go. Here’s some great info on BCAAs:

  • BCAAs can treat some diseases, prevent fatigue, and improve concentration, as well as improve exercise performance, help keep protein from breaking down during exercise, and help muscles retain more protein.
  • BCAAs can also help increase glucose levels, which can help make your workouts more effective.

“Yes, please!” to all of the above! ☺

Curious as to what I’m supplementing all my hard work with? Here you go:

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  1. Metabolic Nutrition Tri-Pep : Loaded with amino acids and other vitamins and minerals, stimulates protein synthesis, and increases performance, muscle cell volume, and mental focus. It surprisingly tastes really good too! I drink this a few times a day with meals…ensuring to take before and after my workouts.
  2. Evogen EVP : Loaded with BCAAs, helps with recovery and amino acid concentrations in the blood, increases glycogen levels and protein absorption, limits muscle tissue breakdown, and helps increase endurance, strength, and muscle size. I take this once a day at the same time I take the RSP (below).
  3. RSP AgmaGen : Contains Agmatine Sulfate , increases the oxygen supply to the muscles for max workout capacity, helps support a healthy immune system and combat free radicals, increases workout endurance and recovery, and helps with muscle build, recovery, and repair.

So, the million $$ question: Are these supplements working for me? It’s only been two weeks, but I do feel like I am making some good, solid muscle gains. However, I have changed up my training and my nutrition just a bit since my last competition, so it’s hard to tell if these gains are due to the supplements, the training and nutrition, or a bit of both. But as with anything, consistency and trusting in the process are the keys. So for now, I am simply listening to the pros and trusting the process. And I promise—there will be a follow up post to come!

Before I close, I do want to address one more thing that I think many women might be thinking as they read this, or even thinking about supplements. By taking these, you won’t “blow up” as I used to think and have heard other girls fear as well. Women seem to have this phobia of “getting big,” and I was one of them back in the day! What I didn’t realize was that by increasing the size, strength, and capacity of my muscles, my body would be more efficient at burning fat, and my jeans would actually look better! 😉 As for the number on the scale—yes, as your muscles grow, the number will rise, but why do we need to let the number on the scale stop us from health, happiness, and our best body yet? Why is it so hard for us to truly grasp that muscle weighs more than fat and just because someone may weigh 100 lbs doesn’t mean they are fit. But please trust me when I say I have in no way, shape, or form “blown up” since taking these. I actually feel leaner and denser muscles.

Time to get back to my kiddos, but here are some general takeaways from this fire hose full of information:

  • Do your own research, chat with your healthcare team, look to professionals who advocate healthy habits and practices, and then do what is best for YOU!
  • Supplements are not a “magic” pill. They can be a supplement to a great nutrition plan and regular exercise to help you reach your goals.
  • If you’re not sure about a certain supplement, or if it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is. I say better to be safe than sorry—don’t take it.
  • Remember—the “proof is in the pudding.” Look to those who have similar goals to yours who have done it the healthy way. Ask what they did, and then follow suit! That has been my recipe for success. 🙂

Xoxo,

Heidi

Want to learn more? Here are some lists of dietary supplements, including uses, dosages, effectiveness, and drug interactions. But PLEASE talk to your healthcare team first (am I sounding like a broken record yet?):

Want to learn even more? Check out these sites: