Once one has been body building for about 3 months, the desire to “take things to the next level” sets in.  Where is this “next level” I say looking toward the sky?   Despite my ignorance, it just seems like the right thing to do. Right?  So I begin seeking the next level like a squirrel looking for her nuts.  Since I’ve been doing things well with the vegan nutrition (getting tons of vegan protein every day) and working out hard and getting adequate rest, what more could I do?  ”Add some synthetic amino acids that come in powder form and are praised by really huge muscle people in the magazines,” you say.  OK, it wasn’t you, it was my monkey mind.  So, I have decided to research them a bit and try the ones that are vegan and seem to be safe and see what they do to me.  I am going to share my experience with you here, but I HIGHLY recommend that you do your own research before trying anything for yourself. I am also sharing info on natural supplements.  Enjoy!

VEGA

If you’ve ever read this blog before, I’m sure you’ve noticed that I use Vega Sport Protein powder in my smoothies every morning and every night. This is a very benign synthetic conglomeration of vegan proteins from peas, hemp, brown rice, maca and some enzymes. It was created by the super-endurance athlete Brendan Brazier.  I have read his “Thrive!” books and was so impressed that I immediately ordered some Vega Sport Protein from amazon and have been using it every since. I sometimes use the Vega Whole Food Optimizer too, but have recently cut back since the probiotics in the formula seem to upset my stomach.  I have come to the conclusion that I do not need probiotics every day (unless I become a heavy drinker or start doing something every day that hurts my intestinal flora and, thus, creates a need for me to ingest probiotics to help restore bacteria that were harmed in there).  A healthy person who eats well (and doesn’t drink much alcohol) should be maintaining a healthy intestinal flora naturally and any added probiotics just seems to throw things off. But I am keeping the Whole Food Optimizer around for special occasions…

SPIRUTEIN

This is the best tasting protein powder out there.  It also has a lot of vitamins.  That’s why I’ve just started using it. I am adding a scoop to my smoothie that contains the good stuff (Vega).  It’s not organic and it’s not that high in protein.  But it’s vegan and it tastes damn good and it’s got a lot of vitamins.  I have never felt the need to take vitamins before but since I’ve been working out so hard almost every night for the past 3 months, I  am starting to feel a little worn.  So I am giving myself a little boost.  I don’t think that synthetic vitamins are very good for you because they tax the filter organs (liver, gall bladder, kidneys) while not being absorbed very well into the body long term.  I prefer to get nutrients from food and herbal teas.  But for a temporary boost, I think synthetic vitamins can work. So, I’m giving the yummy Spirutein a spin while I figure out how to increase my vitamin intake naturally (for instance, I may add more sprouts to my diet).

L-GLUTAMINE

I also recently discussed the addition of the amino acid L-Glutamine to my smoothies and have been doing so ever since (“Rest Is Important Too” blog entry of April 3rd).  I have noticed feeling a little less fatigued the day after my workouts since I’ve started taking it. So far so good. I will let you know if that changes or if I read anything about it that changes my mind. Read about glutamine for yourself on Wikipedia, here’s the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutamine

CREATINE

Most body builders swear by taking creatine before and during work outs.  It is an amino acid that helps the muscles regenerate ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which increases energy to muscles and reduces recovery time.  It also plumps up the cells by making them retain water.  Since muscles are 70% water, this makes your muscles appear larger and also hydrates them.  The down side is, you guessed it ladies, you may appear bloated in the abdomen area as well.  As creatures who retain water monthly (and tend to dislike it), we women would never have created a supplement that does this. Having said that, I have noticed that when I take creatine before a workout I tend to lift more weight and do more reps. I have also made the mistake of taking it the week before my period and really regretted it.  So I’m only going to put it in my water bottle before I go to the gym for the first 2 weeks of my cycle from now on.  Read about creatine for yourself on Wikipedia, here’s the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatine

NITRIC OXIDE

I have also experimented a few times with nitric oxide (a.k.a. “N.O.-Xplode”).  It was created by the same scientist who created the creatine supplement. It works similarly to how creatine works in that it plumps up the muscle.  Except that nitric oxide plumps up the area between cells instead of the area inside the cell.  I have noticed a huge plumping of my calf muscles when I experimented with this stuff for the first time.  But the plump dissipated after a few days (despite the promise by manufacturers that that won’t happen).  This is a new supplement that just came on the market recently and I don’t think that enough is known about it or the side effects, so I am going to save it for special occasions (like competition maybe).  Also, beware that caffeine is a hidden ingredient in the regular formula.  Get the caffeine free version if you are caffeine sensitive like me. (I had a crazy, jittery sleepless night, wondering if my central nervous system was damaged or something from all my working out before I found out that I had ingested caffeine in my nitric oxide experimentation). Read about nitric oxide for yourself on Wikipedia, here’s the link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitric_oxide

COCONUT JUICE

By far, the best supplements you can add to your diet are the natural ones. And coconut juice (a.k.a. coconut water) is an essential natural supplement because sometimes water just isn’t enough.  Sometimes you work yourself so hard or you are stressed or you don’t get enough sleep or you drink alcohol, etc, etc, etc, and you get really dehydrated.  Sometimes your electrolytes get low and you can get really exhausted and weak.  That is why you need to drink coconut juice, nature’s sports drink.  It contains all the electrolytes your body needs to replenish itself without the corn syrup and weird artificial colors found in the typical “sports drinks” like Gatorade. Serious athletes know to avoid sugar like the plague (and especially high-glycemic garbage sweeteners like corn syrup) because they cause a huge spike in insulin.  Once insulin spikes, the body has to spike cortisone to bring the insulin back down and balance things out.  And if you are an athlete, you are creating plenty of cortisone for the body to have to deal with when you are exerting yourself.  You cannot afford to go wasting your precious cortisone on some stupid drink.  You need that cortisone to help your body deal with lactic acid and to repair muscle fibers, not to mention that you need it for normal immune system functioning.  If you use up all your cortisone on sugary stuff, you won’t have enough for recovery from your workout and immune system functioning and you will be highly susceptible to getting sick. And if you get sick, you will have to take a break in your training while you sit home with a runny nose and a sore throat or worse.  Who wants that?  Skip the sugary corn syrup and drink a coconut water.  Pictured is the brand I use.  As far as I’ve found, its the only organic one out there.  Also, the cans are far more hygenic than the cardboard containers that some coconut water/juices come in that tend to trap bacteria and end up smelling funny.

(*Pictured here is how I start and end my day, every day.  Along with my trusty high-protein smoothies, I always have a big glass of water and some herbal tea.)

WATER

Coconut water is a great supplement when needed, but plain old water is just plain essential all the time, all day long.  Of course you’ve heard that you should drink lots and lots of water.  If you haven’t heard that by now, I have to assume you’re not listening to anybody, and I wonder what’s wrong with you. (But I still love you).  I keep a container of water next to me at all times and I drink it all day long.  Muscles are 70% water, so they need lots of it.  Also, the immune system benefits greatly from having an easy method of removing toxins from the body all day long (when you pee a lot).

HERBAL TEA

I love herbal tea.  There is nothing more comforting or more healing on the planet than a nice cup of herbal tea.  It’s a hug in a mug.  It’s health in a warm and tasty form.  There are so many herbal teas out there, that if you research just a little bit, you can find one that cures almost any ailment in the world!  For instance, I drink a lot of mint tea to aid digestion (whether it be acid-belly or indigestion or nausea), it’s also super-refreshing served cold on a hot day.  Ginger tea is also good for digestion and delicious with a bit of soy milk and very warming.  Nettle tea is wonderful because it is a natural anti-histamine, so it’s great if you have a head cold or allergies.  Nettle tea is also great for reducing cramps and bleeding during your period.  It has a taste that reminds me of Earl Grey and it is really delicious with soy milk too (as most teas are).  I feel obligated to mention green tea since it has become so trendy, but I don’t drink it much.  It is high in caffeine and doesn’t have any more antioxidants than any other good herbal tea.  If you’re all about the antioxidants, you should know that Rooibos (a.k.a. Red Bush tea) is the highest in antioxidants and it is caffeine free and delicious.  Speaking of caffeine, which reminds me of my issues with insomnia, chamomile tea is the best natural remedy for insomnia in the world!  It works!  I drink it every night.  I get a blend of chamomile and lavender….yum.  Other good herbal teas to know about are milk thistle, which is wonderful for the liver (drink some to apologize to the liver after a night of too much wine, you’ll feel much better).  Also, roasted dandelion root tea is excellent for the liver because it caused the liver to release more bile.  That’s why it’s touted as a great detox tea.  Almost all of these teas are also mild diuretics, so they reduce bloating too, which is always nice!

 

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