Looking around at a lot of trends around the gym, one would conclude that slim and trim is in. Six packs have replaced power, strength and size. If your goal is more performance-based – namely to be a better football player – then you must shift gears and cater your training, diet and supplementation to fit those goals on the field. Six-pack be damned – you need to get big, strong and powerful without sacrificing performance.
At this point in American sports (at any level) the term supplement is no longer a foreign word as it was years ago. Many players are ingesting all sorts of powders and pills to get the edge. Many follow what the coach says or fellow players do and blindly take products they can’t even pronounce let alone know what they specifically do.
Below is a list of key supplements, what they do and when to take them to help reach optimal performance in training and on the field.
A quality weight-gainer
Why did I say quality? Look for a weight-gainer product from a reputable company that is loaded with not only protein and carbs, but also a good amount of vitamins and minerals. Normal dosages include around 30 or so grams of protein and can have 100 grams of carbs or more. If weight gain is your goal to sustain all of that hard training then a weight-gainer (with a sound solid food eating plan) is a must.
When you need it: When simply increasing calories the best times for a flood of calories would be as an intermediate feeding between breakfast and lunch and then again after training/practice.
Touted as the holy grail of the supplement world creatine monohydrate has been clinically proven in countless tests to increase strength, power, muscle endurance, speed recovery between bouts and even help enhance cardiovascular performance. It is a must if you want to gain serious muscle and strength for football.
When you need it: Pre and post workout aim for 3 to 5 grams each. Don’t worry about loading phases; research has concluded the same results were observed after 30 days with and without a loading phase.
You may find it difficult to get in enough green vegetables due to prep time, scheduling, convenience or your downright distaste for them. On the other hand getting in enough of the green stuff is imperative regarding combating the acid pool being created in your body due to the high protein intake. In supplement form, greens can combat the acidic environment and get your pH levels balanced so you can recover, grow and gain.
When you need it: Any time you can’t get in vegetables during a meal on the run and/or take in large amounts of protein.
If you find yourself participating in two-a-days and practicing in extreme heat among other conditions then a multivitamin/mineral is essential in replenishing your body of vital micronutrients so it can function properly and increase performance on a daily basis. Think of this supplement as insurance to correct any deficiencies from intense training, skipped meals, stress and other abnormal occurrences that take you away from your regular schedule of meals.
When you need it: Take a quality multivitamin/mineral at the end of the day with your last meal. This way while you sleep your body has the right building material to help repair and grow.
Arginine is used as the main ingredient in most nitric oxide (NO) products and it has some unique abilities. It can help increase blood flow by acting as a vasodilator during activity and shuttle critical nutrients and other ergogenic supplements to be utilized for increased performance. This combined with caffeine (which is also found in many NO products) has the potential to create a synergistic effect for even better results.
When you need it: 30 minutes prior to training and immediately after training without caffeine. Aim for a dose recommended by the supplement manufacturer.
Fish oil is not only beneficial for the fitness fanatics out there but also can be of great value to the gridiron athlete. The countless benefits of these essential fatty acids (EFAs) include heart health, joint health, weight management, improved circulation, increased brain function, energy production, support the nervous system and much more. Not only will this help on the field, but also in the weight room enabling athletes to improve recovery and perform better.
When you need it: Fish oil is safe to take on a daily basis so normally 2 to 4 grams 2 or 3 times per day is best for most athletes.
|Supplement||When and How Much|
|Weight gainer||Find a quality product with 20-30 grams of protein and at least 40 grams of carbs per serving|
|Creatine||3-5 grams pre and post workout and 3-5 grams with your first meal on non training days|
|Greens||Follow the recommended manufacturer’s dosage|
|Multivitamin/mineral||Find a product with 100% of most of the vital micronutrients taken at night|
|Arginine||1-2 grams pre workout|
|Fish Oil||2-4 grams 2-3 times per day preferably with meals|
I have read that you have to do a “loading” phase when using creatine. Is this true and if so, how much?
Initially it was recommended that you load up to 20 grams per day on creatine for a week and then continue on a “maintenance” dose for weeks thereafter. However, research uncovered that simply starting with a maintenance dose of 3-5 grams pre and post workout elicited the same gains at the end of numerous studies. This will not only save money in the long run but also will give your digestive system a sigh of relief!
I eat a pretty balanced diet. Does someone like me need a multivitamin/mineral supplement?
In a word: Yes. Even some of the most balanced diets will require a little “insurance” in the form of a multivitamin/mineral supplement when undergoing intense bouts of training most days of the week. Also, your balanced diet may not always be balanced due to changes in schedules, high stress periods at work and/or life changes resulting in burdens on diet regularity.
Can’t I get fish oil from fish instead of supplement form?
Absolutely! However, the whole idea behind supplements is twofold. One is adding additional nutrients to an existing diet and two, getting in vital nutrients when it seems otherwise impractical. It can be a bit impractical to eat fish several times per day not to mention prepping, packing and carrying it wherever you go.
A quality fish oil supplement is a great way to circumvent the logistical frustration and get in those essential fats. This of course is not to say you can ditch eating and benefitting from eating fish, it is just a convenient option for those that have a tough time eating enough fish or on a diet.
What is the difference between taking the arginine amino acid separately and other nitric oxide (NO) products?
Arginine is the active ingredient in NO products. Now, many manufacturers will add in other blends of supplements to “help” with arginine’s effects such as caffeine, creatine and other proprietary blends. But arginine triggers more No production to subsequently create more vasodilatation for blood flow to muscle. This normally results in greater pumps during training and transportation of vital nutrients.