Hello from Ives & Christy
Our desire is that the ula and us blog inspires, educates, and provides practical tips and tricks to help you conquer your individual summits.
Christy and I have received lots of questions about what supplements we use when we workout. The answer isn’t simple. It really depends on the activity. When I am training for endurance (marathons, triathlons, or other long run/cycle days), I fuel differently than for every day work outs. This is primarily because the caloric expenditure, coupled with loss of fluids and electrolytes is vastly different when you go on a 15+ mile run or 25+ mile bike ride. What I chose to focus on in this post pertains more to the everyday athlete. I broke it down into pre-workout, during the workout, and post-workout.
Natural is always what we prefer.
But there are a few products and brands we use consistently.
The only pre-workout we stand behind consistently is coffee. Yes, the OG supplement.
Coffee contains caffeine in its purest form. If you look at most of the brightly packaged pre-workout supplements, you will see that in addition to the laundry list of vitamins/minerals they all tend to contain caffeine as the stimulant. Typically, caffeine in these energy drinks or gels is artificially synthesized. Since we both enjoy the taste of coffee and prefer to not consume all the other ingredients and fillers --coffee is our go-to pre-workout. But let’s dive deeper into the proposed benefits of caffeine and exercise.
When I first started my literature search for caffeine and exercise, I kept reading about it’s ergogenic benefits. Not going to lie, I had to look up what ergogenic meant. The definition is, “intended to enhance physical performance, stamina, or recovery.” Caffeine has been associated with successful performance by improving alertness, energy, and concentration. Studies have found that caffeine (both as coffee and anhydrous caffeine) can improve performance during resistance exercise, as well as cardiovascular exercise. The caveat is that caffeine in an energy drink, gel, chew, or powder is a defined quantity, whereas the quantity of caffeine in coffee varies based on the brew.
For example, a 16 oz cold brew has about 200 mg caffeine, an 8 oz drip coffee contains anywhere from 65-120 mg caffeine, and surprisingly a 2 oz espresso has ~60-100 mg caffeine per serving. So you may require different quantities of various coffees to experience the same effect. Doppio espresso please!
On the opposite note, caffeine also has anxiogenic effects and can lead to insomnia, which could lead to negative consequences for some athletes. Like all drugs or supplements, the impact is going to vary from one individual to the next. So don’t jump on the coffee bandwagon if it doesn’t sit well with you or your goals. If you don’t love coffee, a caffeinated tea is another natural option or maybe you do end up going for one of the packaged pre-workouts.
Christy is a fan of cold brew with non-dairy milk. I am an equal opportunist of cold brew and hot coffee --especially a fan of a yummy French Press on a chilly morning or a cortado if I’m feeling fancy AF.
DURING MY WORKOUT
Okay we could write entire blog posts on supplementing nutrition during various types of workouts. We actually have shared a bit about the importance of replenishing glycogen stores post endurance races previously. Here we want to talk about supplementation during a standard high intensity work out (insert group fitness class or hour of cardio). To be honest, your fuel prior to working out and after are more important than during that quick burst. There are a lot of articles that share opinions on how various supplements such as BCAAs, Glutathione, Cystine, Citrulline,, etc. improve athletic performance, reduce muscle soreness, or enhance muscle development. Here are the facts, there is no high quality research to support the effectiveness of these supplements or their claims. BCAAs are probably the best known supplement or one you have heard of previously. BCAAs or branched chain amino acids are not synthesized by the body so we do have to ingest them through animal proteins (red meat, dairy) or the right mix of plant-based legumes/nuts/seeds. Amino acids are needed for protein synthesis post exercise; however, as noted above there is no good evidence supporting the over-the-counter supplement to repair muscle damage. If you don’t eat an animal protein diet or struggle to get the appropriate nutrition in, then BCAAs may be a good supplement to consider investing in. But if you eat animal proteins it’s a bigger bang for your buck to get the nutrient from natural sources such as chicken breast compared with synthesized powders/pills.
We will add that the caffeine you consumed pre-workout --that’s going to help you out during the training. It’s thought that there is no perceived benefit of more than 200 mg caffeine prior to activity and studies have supported doses anywhere from 1-6 mg/kg of caffeine ingested an hour before the exercise. So we will continue to stick to our coffee.
The short and sweet answer... everyone is going to differ on what they want to do or think they should do to fuel up after a sweat. I don’t consistently reach for the same food after a good sweat. My recovery fuel also depends on the time of day I workout. More often than not, I complete fasted workouts that take place first thing in the morning, after coffee (of course). So my go-to when I need a quick fix of carb:fat:protein is a smoothie loaded with quality protein powder. Again, I don’t drink a meal replacement smoothie daily. I like chewing my food when I can, but I do love the refreshing sip of a smoothie and if I am sipping my nutrition I want quality ingredients.
I have tried SO MANY protein powders...I mean seriously have you walked down the supplement aisle at your local grocery store or even perused Amazon? It is overwhelming. But through taste tests over the years, I found two brands that work best for my digestion and taste buds. Ironically, I asked Christy which protein powders she uses and it’s the same --twinning. I will preface this by saying I am not a vegan and can digest animal/dairy protein well, hence the products I stand behind are a collagen whey protein and a bone broth protein. You can do your own taste tests and find what works best for you!
We are not sponsored by these companies, but I believe in sharing products I love.
Chances are you heard about Vital Proteins through an influencer previously. I am not claiming to share ground-breaking products, but the hype is real and I am here for it. They have a variety of products and so far I have tried a handful.
Another reason I love Vital Proteins is that you can “Subscribe & Save” on their website and get 25% off your order. Last bonus --their mission statement aligns with our goal to “Eat wholesome, damn good food.” Vital Proteins sources their protein from pasture-raised cows and wild-caught fish. They believe in high quality ingredients to fuel your adventure.
More recently I got turned on to Ancient Nutrition through fellow Seattle blogger and endurance athlete Morgan Jaldon. If you haven’t checked her out, please do -- over 50 marathons under her belt and such an inspiration in the running community. Not to mention, she is beyond kind and all about supporting other athletes. So of course she left a care package for me after a group fitness class I taught and inside were a few of the single serve bone broth protein packets. Hooked and have been using the chocolate flavor in Christy’s Cookie Dough Protein Bites recently. Ancient Nutrition also believes in high quality ingredients and combines principles from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Herbalism with modern-day science to create a product to fuel your body. Thus far I have only used the Chocolate and Vanilla Bone Broth Protein, so I cannot speak for the other products they sell. I will add that their protein is from non-GMO, pasture-raised, cage-free and cruelty-free sources oh and they also have a 15% off your order “Subscribe & Save”offer.
That covers pre-workout, during workout, and post-workout, but then there is just everyday life.
Since I am currently expecting and Christy is still in post-partum transitions, we both take a prenatal vitamin. Yes, you should get most of your nutrients through diet. But when you are pregnant, your body requires more folate, calcium, and iron. A prenatal is what your doctor will recommend. As a pharmacist, it is important for me to share that I am very picky about the brands of supplements I ingest. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA the way drugs are. Very few supplements accurately contain what they portray on the label. What you want to do is look for over-the-counter products that have a stamp of “GMP” aka good manufacturing practices or a clean label product. I have personally been taking Smarty Pants Gummies because I wanted a prenatal vitamin that didn’t just contain “folic acid”, but had the formulation of methylfolate. Added bonus they taste great and do not contain artificial colors, sweeteners, nor preservatives. Smarty Pants are also free of dairy, egg, peanuts, soy, gluten, wheat, and are non-GMO.
If you don’t think you are drinking enough water daily, maybe your water needs a lil fizzy upgrade? I mentioned above that I am a big fan of Nuun and it’s even better because this electrolyte supplement brand is local to Seattle. They were the first company to separate electrolyte supplementation from carbohydrates and are all about staying hydrated and active. We can totally get behind that. Nuun has a variety of flavors and categories so you can find the right hydration enhancer for your lifestyle. Products target rest, immunity, sports and can even give you that caffeine boost you need. I cannot remember the last time I went a day without having at least one of my servings of water without Nuun.
If you stuck with me and read through the above information, thank you! I wanted to speak to this topic because I feel that lots of people feel they NEED to spend a lot of money on fancy supplements to look or feel a certain way. You do not. You should eat real, wholesome, damn good food and get most of your nutrition there. Not in a pill or powder.
The key is to hydrate adequately and fuel your body properly. If you need a pre-workout pick me up, good old fashioned caffeine is the “cleanest” option. If you want to boost your protein intake, then find the protein supplement that works for you. If you aren’t drinking enough water or sweat profusely (like me), an electrolyte- enhancing supplement like Nuun may work for you.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong supplement or way to supplement your diet.
We recommend that you read and research the products you are putting into your body.
Conquer Your Summit,