Perhaps even more important is achieving and maintaining the proper chemistry in your system, to counteract the natural acidity created by your physical training. Read on for an explanation of how to take best advantage of dietary supplements to get buff.
What is this magic muscle building supplement?
Greens. That’s right… plain old, unglamorous greens! They may not sport flashy names like creatine, beta-alanine, arginine or glutamine, but greens are tough to beat when it comes to effectiveness in helping you keep an ideal muscle building balance in your system.
What’s the big deal with greens in my diet?
There are several reasons why greens need to be a part of your dietary regimen if you’re on a muscle building campaign. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and in some cases, Omega-3 fats. That alone is enough reason to ensure your diet includes hefty portions of greens each day, even if you’re not engaged in rigorous training.
But if you’re on an aggressive muscle building program, there are other even more important reasons to “eat your greens”. When you work out, your body undergoes catabolic changes, which leaves your system in an acidic state. This contributes to aggravated inflammation, so neutralizing that acidity is very important. In fact, just neutralizing it isn’t enough… you need to force your system into an alkaline state in order to maximize the benefits of your workout.
That’s why it’s always a great idea to follow a strenuous training session with a big green salad. Your body is at its most acidic right after your workout, and inflammation is already taking hold. Pushing your system into an alkaline state is important to help build muscle and burn fat, and the antioxidants present in many greens will help combat that inflammation.
The vitamin-rich nature of many greens makes them a very effective supplement for other reasons, too. Greens contain very little carbohydrate, and what little is there digests very slowly. That equates to very little impact on your blood glucose level, so the carbohydrate count can be considered negligible.
Many greens are also loaded with vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps regulate blood clotting, may be a key regulator of inflammation (including chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis), reduces calcium in arterial plaques, may help prevent diabetes and helps protect bones from osteoporosis.
The phytonutrients present in many greens make a number of contributions, too. They act as anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, anti-virals, anti-bacterials and aid in the repair of cellular damage.
In short, they’re nature’s own wonder-drug for those of us that are working to burn fat and build muscle.
So how should I get my greens intake?
You can get these benefits by making yourself a big fresh salad of greens, by cooking them or via various supplement powders. Cooking is fine, as long as you make good use of the nutrients that are shed during the cooking process. The water used to boil greens will be flooded with vitamins and minerals, so don’t just pour that down the drain!
Powders, of course, are convenient, especially when you’re pressed for time. And they can be added to protein drinks or flavored to meet your tastes. But a fresh salad is pretty quick to mix up, too, and can be might tasty. And greens drinks needn’t be muddy, greenish concoctions with little to offer the palate. In fact, there are several greens drinks on the market that are pleasant and flavorful, while giving you a superdose of probiotics (those are the good bacteria that we all need to have in our systems).
One of the ways that antioxidants play such an important role is that they help stabilize free radicals in our systems. Free radicals can overload our immune system, making us more vulnerable to illness and slowing our tissues’ recovery from our workouts.
Antioxidants can donate an electron to the free radical molecules, stabilizing them and neutralizing their negative impact on our system, including inflammation caused by our workout and aggravated by the free radicals.
Are there any risks to supplementing greens in my diet?
While natural greens have a lot to offer, it isn’t always a simple matter of stopping by the local market to stock up. The produce in most large markets comes from large commercial producers. If the soil in which they were grown isn’t badly depleted, then it will often have been augmented by artificial means.
That means chemicals may be present in the produce you buy, and in many instances, the plants may be genetically engineered for a higher yield. What the effects of those unnatural additives could be on your body is anyone’s guess. But it’s certainly safe to assume they’re not nearly as healthy for you as they are for the plants.
Most areas have at least one decent organic market, which is often the best way to know that you’re not buying veggies pumped full of chemicals. Failing that, you can try a local farmer’s market. Those greens may or may not be organic, though, so just ask… the smaller operations often will be organic.
If you purchase powder supplements, this usually isn’t an issue, as most supplement manufacturers use organic produce in their products. Either way, though, you’re better off knowing what you’re putting into your system.
How can I make my own greens shake?
If you’re not a big fan of salads and don’t want to buy powdered greens supplement, you can make some very tasty shakes and get much of the same benefit. For instance, here’s a simple base recipe:
- 2 cups organic chopped fresh greens such as spinach or kale, thick stems removed
- 1 mango, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup original or unsweetened rice-milk
- 1 banana
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons organic soy protein powder
- Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Of course, you can get inventive and experiment with other fruits for different flavors. Berries are always a good choice and you can get a wide variety of tastes with them. Finely ground nuts make a tasty addition, as well.
The important thing is, however you decide to take them, don’t forget how important your greens are to your muscle building training. Neither your physical training nor your diet can get you where you want to be, without the other.