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Low-Carb Lowdown (Part 1)

Supplements for Low-Carb Dieters

Using certain food supplements makes low-carb dieting easier, safer and more efficient.

• Potassium and magnesium. These minerals are particularly beneficial during the initial stages of a low-carb diet to prevent muscle weakness and fatigue. Aim for at least 450 milligrams of magnesium and 2,000 milligrams of potassium daily. An alternative is to take a well-balanced multimineral supplement that contains both minerals, plus calcium, another mineral often in short supply in people who follow low-carb diets. In fact, a daily vitamin-and-mineral supplement provides additional nutritional insurance.

• Fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil lower elevated blood triglycerides and lower insulin resistance. Some studies suggest that fish oil may also stimulate fat oxidation when combined with exercise. In addition, it significantly adds to the natural triglyceride-lowering effects of low-carb diets, as does aerobic exercise. Aim for a daily intake of five grams or more.

• Creatine. While meat, a staple of low-carb diets, is rich in creatine, it wouldn’t hurt to maximize muscle energy stores with a creatine supplement. That’s especially true for bodybuilders, who depend on the ATP-creatine energy system in muscle to fuel exercise. Taking creatine with a rapidly absorbed protein source, such as whey, removes the necessity of taking it with a simple carb that may trigger excess insulin release.

• Glutamine. Glutamine helps replenish glycogen stores in the body and can act as an alternative fuel source during a diet. Low-carb diets tend to promote the increased excretion of glutamine, about 25 percent above normal levels. Get five to 20 grams daily.

• L-carnitine. This amino acid product helps the body use fat as an energy source and may be particularly useful during low-carb diets. The goal is two to three grams daily in divided doses, with one dose taken 60 minutes prior to training.

• 5-HTP. It’s a precursor of serotonin, a brain chemical related to a craving for carbs. Taking 5-HTP may help prevent bingeing on sweets. The dose is 100 to 300 milligrams daily. Don’t take it prior to training, as it can cause drowsiness.

• Total milk protein. High protein intake is key to success during low-carb dieting. Milk protein is easily digested and low in carbs. A useful alternative is a milk protein-based meal-replacement product low in carbs (fewer than 25 grams of carbs per serving).

• Branched-chain amino acids. These are not required if you opt for a milk protein supplement. They’re useful for preventing muscle loss if you’re engaging in aerobic exercise while dieting. Taking five grams prior to training works well.

• Beta-alanine. Beta-alanine improves muscle endurance and prevents premature fatigue during training. Take three to six grams daily in divided doses.

• Protein-and-carb recovery drink. You can have one either before or after workouts without its adversely affecting the rate of fat loss. Taking it prior to training imparts a muscle-sparing, anabolic effect. Taking it after promotes glycogen synthesis and amino acid uptake into muscle for more efficient workout recovery.

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