Safe, Legal, Effective – The Three Part Test for Baseball Supplements
Basic disclaimer: what follows is how we think about supplementation for our trainees. Don’t take anything without consulting your physician. We are not doctors and do not play them on the internet.
There’s a lot of information out there regarding both legal and illegal supplements for sports-related performance. Today, we’ll focus on legal supplements that can make a solid impact on your performance on the diamond and in the weight room. Supplements that I recommend are almost always going to fit the following categories:
- Are demonstrably better than consuming the source material (typically food)
- Are cost-effective and affordable for the average person
- Have a decent amount of scientific backing to them
Believe it or not, this eliminates about 95% of the products on the market. I’ll now take a quick aside to mention that you should never purchase a “NO Explode” type supplement that claim to increase nitric oxide levels in the body or provide a major “pump.” I won’t even link to various products, because I don’t want you to accidentally purchase them after reading their snake oil-like claims.
Nitric Oxide “boosters” or energy-type drinks that fall into this category are pushed hard by GNC employees who have no idea what proper nutrition or supplementation is for the average person, much less an athlete looking for an edge.
Eric Cressey said it best in Maximum Strength:
“…natural arginine levels far exceed anything you can take in pill form (without GI distress) to stimulate NO production… these supplements are marketed with claims that they increase muscle size and strength… there is absolutely no scientific basis for these claims. In fact, arginine supplementation has been shown to mute the growth hormone response to resistance training, so it can actually limit mass and strength gains than to augment them.”
Don’t buy them. Period. I hope that’s clear enough.
Supplements that Pass the Test
Creatine monohydrate is a very cheap and effective supplement to help increase general strength and explosive power. It is a cell volumizer that will make your muscles retain more water and has been shown to increase one-rep max (1RM) performance compared to placebo, in addition to other physical exercise benefits. Taking creatine monohydrate will lead to short-term scale weight gain, but this should be ignored as it represents greater water retention and not fat gain. (Source: Journal of Athletic Training)
There are other creatine-based products on the market, such as creatine ethyl ester (CEE). CEE was once thought to be superior to creatine monohydrate, but as Mike Spillane, M.S. Ed noted in his research paper…
This study examined how a seven week supplementation regimen with CEE affected body composition, muscle mass and performance, whole body creatine retention, as well physiological and molecular adaptations, associated with creatine uptake in nonresistance-trained males following a resistance-training program. Results demonstrated that CEE did not show any additional benefit to increases in muscle strength/performance or a significant increase in total muscle creatine when compared to creatine monohydrate or placebo.
(Source: The Effects of Creatine Ethyl Ester Supplementation Combined with Resistance Training on Body Composition, Muscle Mass and Performance, and Intramuscular Creatine Uptake in Males)
As such, I recommend a cheap source of creatine monohydrate, such as this 1200g tub of Optimum Nutrition creatine monohydrate for $25.99 + shipping. Don’t worry about a “loading phase,” either – take 3-5g/day with water. If you can be bothered to do it, take half in the morning and half at night, though it really doesn’t matter.
For those counting, if you took 5g/day after purchasing this tub, you’d have a 240 day supply. Assuming you paid $30 including shipping for this tub, it would cost you 12.5 cents/day to supplement creatine.
Fish Oil – EPA/DHA Supplements
Actually, everyone should be supplementing EPA/DHA if they don’t eat salmon (or other fatty fish high in Omega-3 oils) regularly. It has a litany of health benefits, not the least of which are:
- Reduction of inflammation (the major one that helps sports-related performance and recovery)
- Reduction of high blood pressure
- Reduces blood triglyceride levels
- Helps prevent cardiovascular diseases
And that’s only a few reasons that EPA/DHA supplementation is good! You can read more about it at the U.S. National Library of Medicine if you care to, or check out the articles on Wikipedia for more source materials.
At any rate, supplementing 1-2 grams of EPA/DHA per day should show significant benefits in your life – especially with the reduction of inflammation, which greatly helps to aid recovery in athletes. Remember, though, that while fish oil capsules are often sold in 1000 mg sizes, they only contain 300 mg of DHA + EPA. That means taking 3-6 capsules per day, which isn’t too difficult. Take 2 with every meal and you’ll be fine.
Again, don’t spend a lot of money on these products (like BioTest’s Flameout product – good, but needlessly expensive). You can get them cheap on Amazon, like this bottle of 400 softgels that provides 300 mg of EPA + DHA per capsule at just $17.74 with free shipping (orders over $25).
Ah yes, protein shakes.
Most people think that protein shakes are disgusting and taste like chalk. Well, I’m here to tell you that they don’t! Some companies actually make decent-tasting ones, though this should not be confused with the idea that they taste good. They don’t. They’re just tolerable.
Brand actually matters quite a bit here, and in my experience, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard is a solid choice for your protein shakes. They have a great macro breakdown – low in fat and carbs – and have a tolerable taste with a wide variety of flavors. My personal favorite is the Double Rich Chocolate, though many people swear by the standard Vanilla flavoring. You can check out various sizes and flavors, and it all ships free from Amazon.
I recommend reconstituting the protein mix with milk if you’re going for a post-workout shake, as the carbs and fat from milk mix well with the fast-acting whey protein in the bucket and provide for a solid base. It also makes it taste a lot better.
Remember, protein shakes are not meant to replace food – they are only meant to supplement a good diet with a clean and easy to digest source of protein to help you gain or maintain lean body mass. Additionally, these protein shakes will provide amino acid profiles that are high in arginine, glutamine (and precursors), and various other Essential Amino Acids, Conditionally Essential Amino Acids, and Nonessential Amino Acids – so don’t bother buying additional L-Glutamine to supplement your diet if you’re drinking two protein shakes a day already. You can, however, dump your creatine into your protein shakes and consume it all at once.
A Generic Multivitamin
Most people out there are deficient in some vitamin or mineral due to the poor dietary habits the average American has. That being said, it’s probably not a big deal, and cleaning up your diet first and foremost is the best thing you can do regarding vitamin and mineral balances. However, a generic multivitamin will cost you basically nothing ($18 for a bottle of 500) and will shore up any deficiencies you might have.
What it won’t do is what Hector M. Gomez Ludena said it did in his Amazon review:
After 30 days using them you feel much more energy. I take 3 per day due to my physical activity and it really helps me a lot.
Really? Did this guy have scurvy or something?
Anyway, take one with dinner and you’ll be fine. If you feel especially frisky, you can take two (like I do). But again, it’s not that big of a deal.
There’s many other supplements out there that I can talk about that definitely positively impact the sports athlete, but I wanted to put together a short primer on basic supplements for the average athlete. Remember, there’s no replacement for a good diet, so get that nailed down first (we’ll talk about diets later). Stick to something that is low in carbs and has good fat and protein ratios. The Zone Diet is a great place to start, and avoiding processed carbs as much as possible is also always a good rule of thumb.
At the end of the day, diet and supplementation are nothing without a great training plan. If you’re looking to add velocity to your arm or pitch better, we have a program for you.
Not sure which one is right? Schedule a call and we’ll find a program that fits.