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A Useful Supplementation Guide for Women

Many people (even the media) try to purport the idea the supplement industry is geared at men and that only men should be using supplements to reach their goals. This is easily one of the biggest stereotypes out there. Supplements are not made by gender and neither do they have better effects on men than they do for women. Proper supplementation is just as useful for women as it is for men. If you are a lady who is considering using supplements for the first time or you have just been working your way through shelves trying to figure out what works then pay close attention to this article. As a newbie to supplements, it would be extremely wise to slowly build on what is generally easy for the body to handle, allowing your body to adjust before adding to your selected stack. 

Let us have a look at 5 basic supplements that will help set up a solid foundation for your supplementation selection is future: 

#1 Whey Protein

Protein is an essential element of all fitness endeavours. Of course, you can eat chicken, steak and other sources of protein-dense whole foods, but if you're not supplementing with a good whey protein powder, you are slow tracking your way on your fitness road (especially as a woman trying build some curves). After an intense workout, getting a good amount of fast-digesting protein to your muscles as soon as you can will boost your protein synthesis and, therefore, muscle growth. According to a study conducted at Baylor University (Waco, Texas) and published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in 2006, consuming a good dose of whey protein after working out spurs the greatest increases in lean muscle mass. Therefore, your first port of call for muscles and humps would be a good whey protein powder.

How and when?

We recommend that you take 20-30g of whey post-workout. Make sure you get a decent brand with a great tasting flavour to give you something to look forward to after a gruelling session. 

#2 Creatine

Contrary to popular stigmatisation, this ever-popular supplement is one of the most important components in supplementation strategies and should definitely be on the list of your new go-to supplementation plan. Creatine is produced naturally by muscles (in BOTH men and women) and has been shown in countless amounts of studies to promote significantly gains in strength, muscle, and performance capabilities in highly intensive physical exercises. Richard Kreider, PhD, in a February 2003 study on the effects of creatine and exercise published in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry noted this effect in groups of both men and women without side effects to either gender. Creatine also increases endurance and helps create the pump that makes your muscles look so full at the end of a workout. So ladies, there is no reason to fear creatine. It will not make you butch or brutish. Instead, it will help you recover faster and train harder.

How and when?

Creatine has been shown to yield the best results when taken post-workout. A dose of 5g (and no more) is the most optimal for maximum benefit and zero side effects. Mix this in with your post-workout whey protein shake. 

#3 ZMA

No, this is a not supplement geared only for men. Bear with me for a second before you skip over this one. Zinc, Magnesium and Aspartate in this combination will do wonders for muscle growing endeavours. Now you might be thinking that you can (if not already) get zinc and magnesium in a daily multivitamin. This may be the case but the dose in a multivitamin is nowhere near the amount that you will need to reap the benefits. The most definitive study on ZMAs to date, published in the October 2000 issue of the Journal of Exercise Physiology, found that subjects who took the supplement experienced higher levels of two muscle-boosting hormones: testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Now I know that many women might be thinking that an increase in testosterone levels is a big red flag and will make you look like a man. Not true! The amount of testosterone boosted by a ZMA supplement is not detrimental in any way to a woman’s femininity (so no, you will not get a beard or deeper voice. This is not a steroid after all. Not even close). If anything, you will feel more energised, stronger, and slightly boost your muscle-building goals without any unwanted side effects. Keep in mind, that these are natural ingredients found in your foods, so they are actually useful and beneficial to your goals.

How and when?

Best taken before bed, taking two capsules of standardized ZMA will deliver 20 mg of zinc and 300 mg of magnesium and enough aspartate so have the three work in combination for maximum benefit.

#4 Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

The three essential amino acids in one tub (the amino acids that cannot be produced by the body and, therefore, must be ingested) that have a similar molecular makeup and are taken together for optimal effect. Of the three (isoleucine, leucine, and valine), leucine is the star when it comes to muscle building due to the fact that it both increases production of the anabolic insulin hormone and boosts protein synthesis. Taking a standard BCAA will provide you with all 3 amino acids and they are easily converted to glucose, which spares muscle glycogen and amino acid stores, giving you an extra surge of energy when you are working out. I know a large amount of female fitness fanatics who choose to live vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and it seems to be a choice that is more prevalent amongst women than men. These dietary lifestyles lack the necessary amounts of leucine that the body needs to recover and grow. So, adding a BCAA to your supplement stack if you are vegan lady is absolutely vital.

How and when?

We recommend taking a dose of 2-3g of BCAA pre- and post-workout. After a week or two of this dose, slowly increase your intake to 5g of BCAA per serving. 

How should you start?

You can choose to start with just the whey protein and gradually work your way down the list as time goes on and as you become more comfortable with adding supplementation to your daily intake. See how you and your body feels and then start taking it up a notch. Start with smaller doses and after a week or 2 move to the recommended dose. If something does not sit well with your body, leave it out. Alternatively, use the above to see if any (or all) of these supplements align with your goals and just pick the ones you need or that you feel will help you.

If you are ready to dive right in, then taking all four at the recommended doses is an excellent way to gain a massive jump on your fitness boosting progress.