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Centr Team

Bulking or shredding? This is your supplement guide

Centr Team

Whether you’re looking to bulk up or cut fat while maintaining muscle, the Centr approach always puts real food first.

We’ve loaded up your meal plan and snacks with plenty of protein to ensure you’re getting what you need to pump up your muscle gains.

But you’ll no doubt hear fellow lifters reeling off lists of supplements they’re taking to get stronger and bigger, faster. You may even be under the impression that a range of supplemental powders and pills is an integral part of a cutting diet.

While there are some supplements that may give you a boost, they are by no means essential to achieving muscle growth.

Can I get all my nutrients from supplements?

Not a great idea! If you want to build or maintain muscle, getting your nutrition right with good food should be your top priority. This is especially true for beginners.

You should only consider using supplements once you have optimized your training and nutrition. Once those elements are locked down, if you’re looking for an edge, supplements may help.

First, let’s look at the supplement you’re most likely to use: protein.

Protein powder

Because getting adequate protein to support muscle growth through ‘real food’ can make you feel like you’re constantly eating, protein powder is a convenient option – and is already a staple in your Centr smoothies and snacks.

Protein is made up of a variety of essential amino acids, so higher-quality protein powders are those that are high in these amino acids – in particular leucine. Proteins that contain all the essential amino acids are often referred to as “complete”.

Product choices available in stores and online can be overwhelming, so here’s a breakdown of different forms of protein powder:

Whey: Made from milk and the most common variety of protein powder, whey is also the gold standard when it comes to quality, digestion, and absorption. Whey protein isolate (WPI) contains minimal fat or lactose. Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is a little higher in fat and lactose, but this will make little difference to most people – the quality of protein is the same.

Casein: Also made from milk and of similar quality to whey protein. Casein is slower to digest and absorb, making it a good option for snacks or smoothies before bed.

Pea: High in a range of essential amino acids, including leucine, pea protein is easily digested and a good option for vegans and those with egg or dairy allergies.

Hemp: Easily digested and vegan-friendly, with a good variety of amino acids – but limited in one, lysine.

Brown rice: Inexpensive, but too low in lysine to be considered a ‘complete’ protein. Combining rice with pea protein can provide a good variety of amino acids.

Soy: High-quality protein, however, there is an ongoing debate over the impact of soy products on hormones. You can find out more about the current research on soy products here.

Real food rules when you’re building muscle, but supplements like protein powder can give you a boost.

Other supplements

Remember, these supplements are not essential, and using them is highly individual – not everyone will see the same (if any) benefits. It always comes down to how you feel and what works best for you.

Collagen: Collagen is a structural protein that holds your body together, providing stability to your joints and bones. Collagen supplements are sourced from animal bones, skin and connective tissue. Nutrition expert Angie Asche recommends consuming collagen with vitamin C to support synthesis.

Creatine: Creatine is a compound that occurs naturally in the body, with the majority stored in your muscles as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine helps provide energy for short, high-intensity exercise.

Supplementation with creatine has been shown to enhance sprint performance, maximal strength and power, and have positive effects on lean muscle mass. While creatine is found naturally in several animal products like meat and fish, vegan and vegetarian diets lack this compound, so may benefit most from supplementation.

Before supplementing with creatine, we recommend speaking with a sports dietitian to see if it’s right for you and find the safest and most effective product.

Pre-workouts: These supplements claim to give you energy to power through a workout. While ingredients differ between brands, the main energy-boosting element in most is caffeine – that’s an expensive way to get your coffee fix!

Some also find pre-workouts have negative effects, for instance, Luke has tried them but they made him feel “too edgy”, so he sticks with his morning coffee.

If you’re a beginner especially, we recommend focusing on getting your fuel and hydration right first to give you the boost you need to train.

Beta-alanine: This amino acid is commonly used as a “buffer” against acid build-up in muscles during high-intensity exercise, allowing more work to be done. In this way, it may improve performance and training volume and therefore lead to increased muscle mass.

BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids): There are three BCAAs – leucine, isoleucine and valine. Leucine is an important amino acid for muscle protein synthesis, and BCAAs may have benefits to reduce fatigue during training.

However, if your pre and post-workout nutrition is balanced and contains a high-quality protein source, you shouldn’t need to add a BCAA supplement.

If you are using a whey or protein powder made from a blend of different plant proteins, it is likely to be high in BCAAs already. Individual plant protein powders, such as hemp, will not be as rich in BCAAs.

Glutamine: Glutamine is often used by athletes to support immune function and muscle recovery during periods of heavy training, so may have benefits for your overall health as your training load increases.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for muscle contraction, strength, and growth. It helps in the regulation of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are critical for muscle contraction. Adequate levels of vitamin D can improve muscle efficiency and performance.

It can be tricky to get from food sources, particularly if you are eating in a deficit for Power Shred. For that reason, Angie suggests a supplement can be beneficial.

Probiotics: Good gut health is helpful for muscle growth as a healthy gut is better at absorbing nutrients. So if you want to get the most out of your protein, you need to pay attention to your gut health.

While eating a high-fiber diet is great for naturally helping gut health, you could also consider a probiotic supplement.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 supplementation may help to reduce systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as reducing DOMS. That can make it a beneficial supplement if you’re building muscle or shredding. Vegans and vegetarians should look for an algae-based supplement.

Looking for recovery supplements?

You’re not just looking for an edge on the workout mat, but when you step off it, too.

Check out Angie’s essential recovery supplements guide for an expert breakdown of what you need and what you don’t.

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