When it comes to supplements companies will try to sell you everything they offer simply because it can make them a profit. But this issue becomes many of these supplements can inhibit the absorption and synthesis of other mineral, vitamins, or chemicals which are more beneficial to our elevated performance, or the supplements we are taking help one aspect of our training but hurt multiple others. Think of creatine for the ultra endurance runner, while creatine is phenomenal for high power bursts over short durations it also causes muscle to inflate, holding onto more water, and increasing muscle mass. Which overall may decrease their speed and endurance more than the immediate benefits of the supplements, essentially becoming a costly decrease to performance.
So we really need to target our individual needs and training requirements with our end goal in mind. For our Combat Arms Military Members, we have 2 main systems we need to prioritize. Strength and Endurance.
Strength training is the linchpin to the overall performance of combat arms military members, it is what allows them to carry a heavy ruck, patrol, utilize weapon systems, and to entrench positions. Without sufficient strength, all other physical qualities will be hindered, they will be prone to injuries, and their ability to perform their job will be significantly decreased. The strength training they focus on in training goes all through the strength continuum, from muscle endurance all the way to the highest power outputs but they will have an enhanced focus on two areas, Strength Endurance and Maximal Strength. Because of this they need a supplement which will aid their ability to train all facets of this strength continuum but have the highest effect on their two focal development points. Thankfully they don’t have the same weight and low muscle mass requirements of endurance athletes, so we can freely use one of the most effective supplements ever made, Creatine Monohydrate.
The benefit of creatine have been known about since 1912, and has been a staple of strength athletes for almost as long. This is because creatine plays a massive role in the recycling of ADP to ATP which is the molecule used to energize cells, Where it helps to increase muscle mass, muscle strength, power output on short duration runs and lifts, bone density and can even improve cognitive performance when there is insufficient concentrations of the molecule in the body. Overall its one of the most effective supplements any person can take so long as it is inline with their performance needs.
But the issue is not all creatine is created equal, and it seems every few years a new method of synthesizing creatine is found. For the purposes of athletes, I tend to tell them to stick to two main types of creatine. These are Creatine Monohydrate and Creapure. Both are similar forms of creatine with extremely high purities and the fewest side effects, but Creapure is a trademarked method of synthesis which ensures 99.99% purity, while regular creatine monohydrate is 99.9% pure. This synthesis method is normally twice as expensive, and potentially can increase performance more but not at significant levels. With this I don’t believe that you must pick the highest purity one, instead focus on what you can afford, what is available, and what you believe will be best based on your goals.
For an effective dose of Creatine Monohydrate, a pretty common range is 5-10g once per day, or you can use the formula of .1g/kg of bodyweight to find how much you should be taking. But feel free to check with your doctor to see what will provide the benefits you are seeking without causing any risks to your health.
Endurance is the other main physical quality that the combat arms military member must master in order to achieve peak on job performance. If you think about it sustainment always is an underlying quality required to perform the job. You never do 10, 10 second sprints then are done for the day. You are normally on your feet, moving, carrying, running, crawling, rucking, patrolling, for multiple hours every day, normally at slow but sustainable paces. Even during higher intensity bouts of activity such as bounding drills, the key is sustainability because the mission doesn’t stop once you finish bounding. So we need a supplement that will help us improve our capacity to sustain the workload, and increase how quickly we can accomplish the task. For this we have two monsters of supplements to help us, Caffeine and Beta Alanine.
Beta Alanine is a phenomenal dual purpose supplement because it helps with both muscle endurance and the endurance of moderate to high intensity activities. For the purposes of combat arms trades the boost in moderate to high intensity activities is extremely beneficial for things like bounding and sprinting where it acts as a buffer to your energy system. For strength training it is primarily beneficial to any strength endurance activities such as rucking or carrying items and can help increase with muscle hypertrophy when training in the gym due to the increased ability to prolong activity. It also has some benefits with weight loss due to a further ability to sustain activity, increase lean body mass, and an ability to reduce fatigue even on longer duration activities. As for downsides beta alanine can cause some tingling of the extremities, although this is harmless.
Caffeine on the other hand is a full spectrum boost to the body, helping with acute strength, power, anaerobic capacity and endurance, aerobic endurance and speed, body fat loss, training volume, wakefulness, pain tolerance, cognitive abilities, and reaction time. Basically it does everything. While it does help with strength and power it is normally limited to upper limit doses of around 500mg which for many individuals is an extremely high amount. For other benefits even moderate doses can provide benefits with many coming around the 100mg mark. Now with all these benefits it does have a major downside, caffeine’s effects are subjective to tolerance of the substance, which are influenced both by genetics and by its habitual use. Simply put the more you use it, the more you need to get the same effect. This is why its use should be dedicated to hard training days, times when you know you are in the field and will need the boost, and on testing days.
Now for dosing you will need to play around with both of these supplements to find your ideal dose but for beta-alanine most people find its performance benefits in the 2-6g per day range and can be take in broken up doses if you don’t want t experience the tingling. Caffeine on the other hand has a much greater range and can be more heavily influenced by tolerance, but it is normally recommended to keep between 3-6mg/kg of body weight per day.
For most people, supplements aren’t needed because they are simply there to help supplement our training. With most people finding more benefit from getting a good night sleep and eating balanced meals than from taking fist fulls of supplements everyday. But for the combat arms military member looking to squeeze out every last drop of performance from his training, supplements are a great tool to provide a minor boost to your performance. When used over a long enough period of time, higher quality adaptations will occur in the body and you will find your capabilities elevated to even higher peaks than if you were not taking them.
I’m going to finish this post off with a bonus supplement that this population should be using. I didn’t want to include it as a necessary supplement because it really doesn’t need supplementation especially if you have well balanced meals and there is even a debate on whether this should even be classified as supplement or simply a food. It is Whey Protein. Whey protein is a phenomenal product that provides all essential amino acids and help trigger muscle protein synthesis. Any person training for developing their bodies, sport, or career that requires muscle mass this can be a vital tool for maximizing results.
People consuming whey should try to stick to two main varieties, Whey Concentrate or Whey Isolate this is because they have great macro nutrient profiles with high protein, low fat, and low carbs, are quick in their delivery to the muscles, extremely easy to digest, and have sufficient protein to cause muscle protein synthesis to occur. Both have 22-28g of protein per 30g scoop and with more than enough leucine to help with building muscle. I will regularly recommend this to people who struggle getting enough lean protein into their diets every day, and as a post workout shake to hold them over until their next meal.