Simpy put, caffeine is the most effective and potent legal performance-enhancing aid available. Put that cup of joe to work for you by consuming it before training to improve concentration and reaction time. It will literally make harder work feel easier and heavy weights feel lighter by activating the release of neurotransmitters and increase your motor firing rate which normally decreases when fatigued - it affects the brains perception of how hard you are working.
Caffeine is good, but being addiction at any level is not healthy. If you're not a caffeine-user or you're trying to break an old habit, then don't fall off the wagon now - there are supplemental alternatives that can help you such as L-tyrosine, green tea extract, or acetyl l-carnitine (ALCAR)
Coach K's Recommendation: You don’t need much: 1-1.5 mg/pound body weight should get you where you want to be. For reference, an 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 80-100 mg of caffeine
2. ZMA (Magnesium & Zinc)
Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, and energy metabolism. It's the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is redistributed throughout the body when you start exercising. Nuts, seeds, spinach, and certain whole grains are all good dietary sources of magnesium but supplementing will ensure your levels are up to par. Performance-wise, magnesium increases red blood cell production, supports energy production, muscle contractions, and removal of waste products produced my intense training. Being deficient in magnesium can inihibit protein synthesis which rebuilds tissue, and fights inflammation.
Now onto zinc - all aspects of health and wellness can be improved by getting enough zinc in your diet. It is found in every tissue of the body as a powerful antioxidant helping to prevent cancer, and is directly involved in achieving and maintaining optimal hormone levels. Your body doesn't readily store zinc so maintaining a consistent intake is required to maintain the levels your body needs, which is necessary for favorable energy levels and body composition. Low zinc levels lead to an altered sense of taste which leads to a stronger sweet tooth - not to mention low energy, poor immunity, and slow wound healing. When you begin exercising, blood levels of zinc and magnesium are depleted. Adequate stores of both of these minerals are needed to sustain optimal performance.
Coach K’s Recommendation: 500mg/day magnesium and 30mg zinc/day (avoid the oxide version of both)
Creatine has been extensively researched and no, it does not cause dehydration, muscle cramps, etc. What it has been proven to do is produce significant improvement in sports that require high levels of strength and power. Several creatine supplementation studies have shown body mass gains averaging two to four pounds or more in one week. Some of this initial weight gain due to an increase in cell water inside the muscles, but that is the first step in the anabolic process of muscle building. This, combined with greater strength and power, and higher intensity workouts, leads to more muscle. Your body naturally produces creatine in the liver and kidneys at a rate of about two grams a day and bbout 95 percent of that is stored in the muscles, heart, and other body cells. Inside muscle cells, creatine serves as a tiny energy supply, enough for several seconds of action. Thus it works best when fast bursts of activity are required. Supplementing with creatine replenishes your cellular reserves of ATP, which is the fuel that provides the power for muscular contractions. With more ATP around, your muscles can do more work.
Coach K’s recommendation: Don't fall for the fancy creatine hydro-citrate-megabomb pills with the flashy labels. Go with 5g/day in the form of creatine monohydrate powder, its the most researched, tried, and true form.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D could be considered the most underrated vitamin on the planet. Deficiency is widespread despite research showing again and again that you are more likely to be overweight, have less muscle mass, and be at higher risk for a laundry list of diseases – and despite its easily combated with a single a capsule a day! Now from an athletic performance standpoint, it is so effective that when levels are optimal it is considered a natural performance-enhancing substance, this is due to the fact that it positively effects testosterone/ estrogen production, and enables more efficient and powerful muscle contractions. Optimized Vitamin D level = enhanced body composition and performance.
Coach K’s Recommendation: 4,000IUs/day
Currently the USDA recommends that a healthy adult consume 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, which, for a normal adult, can be reached by focusing on consuming more things like beans, oats, nuts, seeds, skin-on sweet potatoes, apples, pears, berries, plums, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. But lets face it... we're not normal. An athlete will need a higher calorie intake and will have to consume about 20 serving of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to reach their daily recommended amount. Hence my recommendation of supplementing their intake with a psyllium-based fiber supplement like sugar-free Metamucil. Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of sugars and carbohydrates, (which reduces insulin spikes and allows effective glucose metabolism) reduces bad cholesterol and triglycerides, assists in bowel regularity, and reduces the risk of health issues like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and colon cancer. Fiber is a must for every health-conscious person, especially athletes looking to get all the nutrients they can from their food.
Coach K’s Recommendation: 5g upon waking and 5g before bed
6. Omega-3 Fish Oil
I consider this the most important and versatile supplement on this list. Omega–3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot produce them; therefore, they must be ingested via diet or supplementation. Omega-3 Fish oils offer numerous health benefits and performance-enhancing effects, such as increasing muscle growth , improving strength and physical performance, reducing exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness, combating negative immune effects of intensive training, strengthening bones, and improving heart and lung function
These babies help build muscle by decreasing the muscle-eating stress hormone cortisol, and increasing protein synthesis. They also enhance body composition by decreasing inflammation, speeding detoxification, and increasing insulin sensitivity (click here for more on insulin)
Supplementing with fish oil will also help balance out your damaging omega-3/6 ratio found in those consuming a common trans fat and omega-6 rich Western diet. A distorted 3-6 ratio keeps your body in a constant environment promoting inflammation. When Omega-3 fish oil is ingested, your body will use it to build the outside fat layer that protects our cells to fight inflammation.
Coach K’s Recommendation: 4g EPA-DHA/ day
7. Protein/ Carbohydrate Powder
This is one of the simplest ways that you can retool your body naturally for more lean muscle and less fat. Immediately following your training session, gulp down a quick liquid carb-protein drink to jump-start the muscle-building process and boost your energy levels. Postworkout is the time your body is best able to use these nutrients for muscle firming and fat burning and make a difference in your training and your results. The faster muscles can recover, repair and grow, the quicker you benefit with greater training results, day after day. You’ll notice the difference in how you feel and how perform.
Coach K's Recommendation: Start out down this postworkout nutrition path by mixing a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast, or any other similar meal replacement powder, with eight ounces of skim milk, one medium banana, and one tablespoon of peanut butter, and blend it up. One serving gives you 414 calories, 17 grams of protein, 70 grams of carbohydrate, and 10 grams of fat.
8. Dihydrogen Monoxide
Now that I have your attention... thats just a fancy name for water. No it's not technically a supplement, but good ol' h2o is too important not to be mentioned! How much water did you drink today? If you can't answer that question, then I'd venture to say that its not enough, and you're handcuffing your potential. Think about this: your blood is 82% water, your muscles and brain are 75% water, and your lungs are 90% water. The main purpose of water for athletes is to maintain cellular hydration, in turn increasing muscular endurance and performance. Water has the ability to rid your body of toxins through dilution and flushing of your cells and aiding in the overall digestion process. It also acts as a cooling agent to keep your internal temperature in check. Remember, to maximize performance you must not allow your cells to enter a dehydrated state.
Coach K's Recommendation: At a MINIMUM you should be consuming 64oz (1/2 gallon) every non-training day and 128oz (1 gallon) every training day. For athletes, get in 128oz every day regardless of training.
(You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.)