NASM CNC Chapter 13: Supplements

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Find the position that supplementation takes in the hierarchy of programming.
    • Discuss the role of supplementation for the achievement of various goals.
    • Discuss how the strength of evidence affects the popular supplements.
    • Determine how to be effective with clients when looking at the pros and the cons of using supplements.

    Introduction to Dietary Supplements

    The general population already uses a lot of supplements, especially so in the athlete and exercising populations. It is important for us to look into the validity and the safety of these supplements, as not all supplements are created equal. There is a lot of misinformation regarding supplementation. 

    Prevalence of Use

    Around half of the general population is thought to be using some form of supplementation at the moment. The most common supplement is going to be multivitamin and mineral formulas. When looking at older adults, we see the percentage climb to around 63% of them using supplements. And then when we see people going to various health clubs, this population is around 84$ taking some form of supplementation.  

    An ergogenic aid is something that is going to improve your physical or your mental performance in some way.

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as it relates to supplements and nutrition is this:

    First priority is getting the right amount of daily energy needs that meet the goals and demands of activity.

    The second thing to look for is that your daily protein needs are met for your wanted outcome.

    The third thing is that we have tailored the carbs and fat based upon the preferences and needs for energy of the client so they may excel in both training and in competition.

    Fourth, we should meet micronutrient needs based upon the needs based on any nutritional gaps that may exist.

    The last thing to do is to use a proper supplement to support your body composition, your training, and optimal performance.

    Regulation of Dietary Supplements

    We should look at the current laws that regulate the supplement industry. 

    The manufacturers of these goods must adopt the current good manufacturing practices. These are going to be the guidelines and the standards that they must follow. They have to make accurate claims on their labels and are not allowed to market them as preventors of any disease. 

    The FDA actually performs random inspections on an annual basis in order to ensure the companies are doing as they should. 

    Guidelines for Supplement Selection

    The approach of being evidence-based includes the evaluation of safety and effectiveness based upon the strength of research and the population that is studied, the potency of the supplement’s formula, the included dosages and their ingredient forms, and if the supplement or any ingredients are legal or not. Once the supplement goes through the right testing, it is good to go.

    Strength of Research

    One of the biggest variants when it comes to supplements is going to be their level of evidence that backs them. There are many supplements that promise one thing and then you never know if it really works, unless you look at what kind of evidence they have. 

    The most credible sources are going to be the national institute of health’s office of dietary supplements, the micronutrient information center of the Linus Pauling institute, and then there are some other big name reputable sources to be found.

    Dosages, Ingredient Form, and Study Populations

    In addition to the level of research for the supplements, we also have to look at the formula that makes up the product. This includes the amount of, and the form of, the ingredients. 

    The use of well-designed clinical trials are used for the study populations. These include a control group, human subjects, controlled variables, randomization of the supplement and the placebo, and measurement of any relevant outcomes. 

    Independent Testing

    This is going to look to the quality, the label accuracy, purity concerns, and the supplement’s disintegration. This is done through third parties usually. 

    Dietary Patterns to Optimize Health

    Many of the food choices are not exactly what is recommended by the USDA, and this means that people may miss out on the things that their body needs. Hence, the use of supplementation can become quite welcomed. 

    Multivitamin and Mineral Supplements

    The right amounts of essential micronutrients are needed for proper growth and development, longevity, and also our metabolism. Low consumption of these micronutrients will see negative results like poor moods, less focus, a smaller attention span, general body fatigue, and a lowered ability to use our immune system.

    The proper use of these supplements have been shown to fill the nutrient gaps that may present themselves. 

    We should look for multivitamins that contain everything shown in the figure “what your multivitamin should contain”.

    Supplements for Muscle Gain and Recovery

    There are many dietary supplements that are marketed for the enhancement of muscle mass, strength, losing weight, optimal athletic performance, and also recovery from hard exercise sessions. 

    The strongest evidence we see is from only three things. These are protein, creatine, and essential amino acids.

    Creatine Monohydrate

    This supplement is synthesized in the kidneys and liver from amino acids. This is going to mainly be store in the muscle tissues. Its role is for regenerating ATP, and it does so quicker than any other molecule. It is used in the ATP – PC system. 

    Supplementing with creatine monohydrate is done in order to increase the amount of creatine that we store in our bodies. This is done through a loading cycle or through just taking a certain amount daily. 

    One side-effect is that you gain weight due to the retention of water. It is a generally safe supplement to take when following the guidelines, and it does work. 


    This is obviously going to be used for the gain of muscle weight and recovering from workout due to the many times we have talked about protein and its use in the body. Supplementing with protein powder is often done so that athletes can make sure they reach their recommendations and they optimize their muscle growth and even loss of fat. 


    Whey is a protein type typically used in the powders. It is rich in EAAs and it has the highest leucine content compared to the animal sources. It mixes easily with water and we happen to absorb it rather quick.

    Casein Protein

    It is a complete protein, but it does not contain as much leucine and is insoluble in acids. it therefore has a slower absorption time to the body. It is still a somewhat popular protein to have in many powders.

    Plant Protein

    These are now growing in popularity. They come from sources such as soy, peas, rice, and some others. It is however inferior to whey protein in most ways, and also inferior to casein. 

    Essential Amino Acids

    These are the Building blocks for our muscle tissue and other body proteins, and three of them are the most abundant amino acids in the body. Greater muscle synthesis occurs with the ingestion of leucine alone, the others aid this also. These are oftentimes taken in conjunction with the protein powders. 


    This is a by-product of leucine and the main indicator of muscle protein synthesis. It has been shown to have some significant research backing its ability to lead to muscle mass gains over time.

    Supplements for Fat Loss

    Since the rate of overweight and obesity has gone up so much, many people have sought supplements to help with weight loss. 

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    These may often be advertised as fat burners, due to their increases in our metabolism. These essentially cause us to burn more calories throughout the day. 


    This is naturally occurring, and it stimulates the nervous system. It has been shown to increase daily energy expenditure, decrease the energy intake levels, reduced the amount of perceived effort from activity, and improve energy levels in general. 

    Starch/Fat Blockers and Other Common Weight Loss Supplements

    Many ingredients have been found to decrease the absorption of macronutrients and their calorie content. This in turn promotes weight loss.

    Meal Replacement Formulas

    Many people have been using protein-rich shake formulas as effective strategies to reduce caloric intake and support weight loss and maintenance. It has been proven to reduce weight in those that are obese or overweight and use them enough. 

    Performance Enhancing Supplements

    Dietary supplements are sometimes aimed to enhance exercise performance. The ability for these supplements to increase the tolerance of intense training may lead people to a greater capacity for work and improvements in strength, power, and endurance. Some of these have some credibility to them, but there are many out there that simply have no evidence to support them or they are banned. 

    Creatine Monohydrate

    As discussed before, this is supported in hundreds of studies as a way to increase strength and the amount of muscle gain achieved. It is performance enhancing in the sense that it enhances our ATP – PC system greatly. It increases the reserves of creatine in our body, and thus, allows us to work harder. 


    Also previously discussed, and one of the biggest supplements used in the world, it is often used for exercises as a form of pre-workout drink. It stimulates our nervous system and increases energy and many other aforementioned things. 

    Beta Alanine

    This is a non-essential amino acid that is naturally present in the meats of animals and it is also made in the liver. It combines with some other existing amino acids and forms carnosine. This essentially is to be used for decreasing the level of fatigue that occurs during high intensity exercise sessions through the buffering of the drop in pH.

    Sodium Bicarbonate

    This is known as baking powder. It can aid in the buffering of acidity of the blood due to producing hydrogen ions during sustained strenuous work. 

    NASM CNC Chapter 13: Supplements 1
    NASM CNC Chapter 13: Supplements 2
    NASM CNC Chapter 13: Supplements 3

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