We all know that exercise is good for us and as increasing numbers of people flock to the gym, yoga or spin class, many of them are also running to the health food store eager to find a safe and natural way to do everything from increase energy and muscle mass to decrease body fat and recovery time. While there are several substances that have been proven to improve our health and aid our exercise regimen, many of the products available today are nothing more than empty promises in an attractive bottle. Indeed most natural health supplement companies spend more on marketing and packaging than they do on the ingredients!
When choosing a natural or herbal supplement the most important factors to consider are quality, potency, absorbability and evidence of that supplements efficacy. While many nutrients may be have been proven in a lab to aid different facets of our health and wellness, these nutrients, which are most often in an isolated chemical form, may not be absorbable and usable by the body. To try and make up for this, supplement manufacturers will often increase the sheer amount of nutrients, sometimes a 1000 fold, to levels where these nutrients can actually be dangerous to our health.
The best and most easily absorbable nutrients are found in whole foods and super foods that contain the necessary bio chemicals and elements that allow our bodies to assimilate them at an efficient rate. A healthy, well balanced diet rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and good fats and oils is the foundation of any successful exercise program.
Assuming we’re eating right and avoiding processed junk food there are substances, some of which have been used for centuries, that can dramatically improve energy, shorten muscle recovery time, increase muscle mass and promote weight loss.
Shilajit, a black gooey mineral complex once the strength and conditioning secret weapon of Soviet Olympic athletes and now the anti-aging and libido enhancing secret weapon of the Hollywood elite, is an effective herbal supplement with a plethora of uses in exercise and body building. Shilajit is thought to be made up of plant matter trapped in the rocky cliffs of the Himalaya mountain range millions of years ago. It is prized in India for its potent regenerative powers and for increasing strength. Pure and genuine shilajit, which is rare and difficult to find, produces immense and sustained energy, which, as has been proven in several major studies at Russian universities, can improve workload (weight x repetition) by as much as 29%. It has also been shown to decrease muscle recovery time by as much as 50%. It gets better! Shilajit also burns fat while at the same time increasing muscle mass, a property every body builder will find irresistible. There are several companies marketing shilajit but be cautious as many of these products are in fact extracts from ordinary dirt and not the rare and precious substance found in remote high altitude regions of the Himalayas. For maximum benefits, ensure that you purchase pure and authentic shilajit of Himalayan origin. Most of the powders and extracts are reported to be of questionable quality and efficacy while the genuine black gooey tar like substance, although expensive, is extremely effective.
Chlorella, single cell algae, naturally contains a wide range of vitamins, minerals, is made up of 60% protein and contains all essential amino acids. Like authentic shilajit, it is a whole food so this means that those nutrients have a high absorption rate in the body. It is also the highest source of naturally occurring chlorophyll on the planet. The cleansing action of chlorophyll helps to minimize muscle stiffness and inflammation while nucleic acids of a component called Chlorella Growth Factor help to build and repair muscle fibers. Chlorella is also a source of natural calcium and magnesium which are necessary for muscle and nerve function and help to prevent cramps and muscle fatigue.
Muira Puama, a shrub native to the Amazon rainforest, is mainly known for its aphrodisiac properties but has been shown to increase natural levels of testosterone. Testosterone is needed for exercises such as running and weight lifting, thus activities that require strength and endurance and is also needed to build lean muscle mass. Muira Puama is also reported to treat exhaustion and to promote nervous system function.
As with all herbs and supplements, ensure that you purchase from a reputable company that offers high quality, high potency products and can provide details of source and efficacy.
Always consult a health care professional before taking any supplements no matter if you buy natural herbal supplements or synthetic supplements made in the labs of the pharmaceutical industry.