At the grand old age of 21, supplement shops are my new Hamleys. I feel the same excitement I did 15 years ago at the thought of a school disco. Am I sad? Maybe. Am I embarrassed? Not at all. The anticipation felt at the thought of acquiring a carefully selected box of Quest Bars or a brand new tub of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey is just another perk of the increasingly rewarding fitness journey I have embarked upon. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by those knowledgeable enough to advise me on which supplements I should and, more importantly, shouldn’t be taking. However, many women I speak to are still wary of their effects. Myths abound. There is a suggestion that supplements such as protein powders and amino acids will make us ‘bulk’. The truth is that many actually have the total opposite effect and can be crucial allies towards achieving the best results. The Internet has been bombarded with articles as to why one protein powder is better than the other, so it is only human nature to be a little sceptical about competing sciences. This results in many of us totally omitting these supplements from our diets. Only within the last year have I begun to use protein powders to help with building lean muscle and recovery. At first, I was also worried about the extra calories, debating whether or not I needed one and not the other. I am happy to confess that I have never personally had a problem with not eating enough! However a friend of mine encouraged me to try Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey and see if I noticed any difference. Around this time I had begun strength training, as opposed to repetitive lightweight circuits. I started to allocate a day to each muscle group, increasing the weights with which I had previously trained to challenge my body. I know what you may be thinking. Weightlifting teamed with the consumption of protein is a recipe for a Miss Universe build. You are wrong. I actually began to appear leaner than ever before. My once ‘Twiggy-like’ arms became the proud owners of previously hidden muscle. First time buyers are often pointed in the direction of ‘Whey Protein’. The term “whey” refers to milk serum, which is the liquid by-product produced during the curdling of milk. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids vital for muscle repair and improving fitness. It is an easily digested fast release protein that delivers essential goodness to your muscles and is ideal for post-workout. Optimum Nutrition-sponsored athlete, Zanna Van Dijk, considers ON Gold Standard Whey her number one supplement. She explained ‘it is the most versatile supplement and can be used in cooking as well as drinks.’ Zanna’s perfect pins and washboard abs are an inspiration to anyone wanting to achieve a toned physique. Her Instagram page @blondehealth is one sure to encourage anyone to jump aboard the healthy bandwagon. As a professional athlete she must ensure she is fuelling her body correctly. She explained, ‘I take Whey protein post-workout most of the time. However, I also take it throughout the day to keep my protein levels high’.
Let’s be honest, we all suffer from ‘rumble tums’ during the day and most of us have a sweet tooth too, so why not keep those cravings at bay with something that is actually good for you, rather than being riddled with guilt after surrendering to a doughnut. ON Gold Standard Whey Protein comes in a variety of flavours, including ‘Chocolate Mint’ and ‘Rocky Road’, so you’re sure to find one that answers your hunger. I promise you, a doughnut is far more likely to increase weight on the hips than a nutritious protein shake. There are all kinds of supplement that can aid in the search for the perfect bikini body. Women should not be afraid of them. It is now (thankfully!!) considered ‘sexy’ to have a bit of muscle. The inspirational figures plastered across the pages of Hello and OK show toned, lean physiques as opposed to boney fragile looking frames. Women are finally being encouraged to be healthy rather than ‘thin’. Supplements are a key factor when trying to attain the new ‘must have’ figures. A personal favourite of mine is Casein. Similar to Whey, it is most commonly found in a powder form. Its slight difference is a slow release protein and because it can provide a sustained rate of amino acid uptake over a longer period of time, it makes for the perfect ‘before bedtime’ treat. ON Gold Standard 100% Casein contains just 3g of carbs and 0.5 grams of fat, while still enriching the body with 24g of pure micellar protein. And once again it comes in flavours to tantalise ever taste-bud. Who knew we could do so much good to our bodies while deep in a peaceful sleep?
Casein was in Zanna’s top 3 supplements alongside the all-time favourite whey and one I am yet to purchase BCCA’s. BCCA’s come in either powder or tablet form, helping to top up your daily intake of amino acids. They help to repair and rebuild muscles damaged during exercise. ON stock both varieties of BCCA’s making them easily digestible with your preferred liquid. Pre-workout is another area to consider, especially if you suffer from tiredness or lack of motivation. It is something I am constantly researching to see whether or not it would benefit me. It is used to improve physical performance, delay the onset of fatigue and improve concentration. Containing 160mg of caffeine it is basically a mass energy boost that allows the body can be pushed to the max. ON Platinum Pre is the much-anticipated new release from the world’s most recognized supplement company. Zanna says, ‘if I am particularly tired or unmotivated I will take one scoop of pre-workout and it does the trick!’ If it helps to achieve a body such as hers on even the darkest days, surely it is one to consider? In the business of improving women’s health, vitamins are also important. When I think of vitamins, I think of the gummy orange sweet-like chews I was fed as a child, and, hey, thanks to a little weight training and a dose or two of protein I have grown up big and strong. So should we take a trip back to childhood? If it did us good back then, surely it can do us no harm now, can it? Zanna shared the secrets of her vitamin intake, ‘I recommend that everyone takes good quality fish oils, a multi-vitamin and vitamin D. If you are on the birth control pill I also recommend zinc, if you weight train I suggest magnesium’. It is all very well having the body of your dreams, but if you haven’t got the glow to match it your hard work will have been wasted. Fish oils, most commonly digested in capsule form, feed your body with endless benefits. They have been proved to slow the body’s aging process, lengthening telomeres that often shorten with age, and also help with fat burn, preserving lean muscle and boosting brain power and memory. Who would have thought that popping these pills could enrich you with both beauty and brains? Fish oils are easily incorporated into our diet as they are found in a multitude of foods, not only fatty fish but also nuts and seeds. Vitamin D is another favourite of mine and one that is often disregarded. In the past few years, studies have shown that a lack of the vitamin may be the primary culprit in depression, heart disease, pregnancy problems, birth defects, multiple sclerosis, skin and other cancers. Many of us do not get enough of this power-packed nutrient and it can help improve feelings of overall wellbeing. Unfortunately Vitamin D is not present in many foods and, because of the dangers of UV rays to skin cancer, it is unwise to source it from the sun. It is however easily purchased in both health and supplement shops. Cardiff Sports and Nutrition stock a range of the Pure Pharma products including both Omega and Vitamin D capsules. If this is a lot of information to take in, Cardiff Sports Nutrition is also a hub for some of the most competent, well-informed fitness professionals, and they will be happy to answer any further questions you have about supplements for women. Supplements are not something we should be afraid of. ‘Protein has been too readily associated with male body builders for too long, and women do not have the muscle-building capacities that men have anyway,’ says Zanna. ‘ Supplementing with products like protein will actually help you to achieve a lean and toned physique as well as support your training so your body is fit, healthy and strong.’ Zanna’s own experiences are the source of her advice, and will hopefully encourage you to take a trip down to visit the CSN team or just browse their website. I promise, you will not look back. I haven’t. Hannah Tyldesley