Female-Friendly Supplements

JYM_Training_Image_FemaleFriendlySupplementsI’m a firm believer that a woman should train the same, eat the same and supplement the same as a man.

Of course, there are caveats to every rule (for example, I don’t recommend Alpha JYM for females), but generally speaking, you should be training, dieting and supplementing for the goal at hand, NOT your sex. Women who follow my programs (including the diet and supplement plans), such as Super Shredded 8, Super-Man and HIIT 100, get stronger, leaner, more muscular and sexier than ever because they’re focused on the goal.

So it may surprise you that I’d write a female-focused article on supplements.

I do believe that women who want to build more lean muscle and strength should be using ingredients like whey and casein protein, BCAAs, creatine, beta-alanine, betaine and carnitine. And yes, women can get all of these in Pro JYM, Pre JYM and Post JYM. But the fact is, there are certain supplements that provide women an advantage that they don’t for men. And some supplements you may think are just for men also boast similar benefits for women.

That said, the following five supplements can help women build more lean muscle and strength, boost brain function and mood, increase energy levels, ease PMS symptoms, and even enhance sexual satisfaction. Did I get your attention yet, ladies?

Female-Friendly Supplement #1: Arginine/Citrulline

This non-essential amino acid is readily converted in the body to nitric oxide (NO), and it also increases growth hormone levels. By increasing NO levels, it relaxes blood vessels to deliver more blood flow to, ahem, important body parts. While arginine is often thought of as mainly a man’s supplement for bigger muscle pumps during workouts and better erections in the bedroom, it can also provide a similar sexual boost to women. Stanford University researchers reported that in females between the ages of 22-73 who had low sex drive, 60% reported an improved overall sex life after taking an arginine-based supplement for four weeks.

Bottom line: Getting blood flow below the belt can improve sexual function in both males and females.

Supplemental Source: Pre JYM includes an optimal 6-gram dose of Cirtulline Malate. This is actually a better option than simply taking arginine, as cirtulline is absorbed better than arginine and leads to higher blood levels of arginine. For more on citrulline vs. arginine, read this article.

Female-Friendly Supplement #2: Caffeine

Caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant, thanks to the fact that it exists naturally in coffee beans and tea leaves. While we all could use a little “wake-me-up” first thing in the morning, or boost before the gym, caffeine offers benefits beyond its stimulating properties – it’s one of the most studied ergogenic aids and has been shown to be effective for booting muscle strength, muscle endurance and mental focus. Specifically for women is caffeine’s ability to suppress the cognitive decline that occurs with aging, as discovered in a 2010 study in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease that showed no such protective effect of caffeine for men. This study lends further support to a 2007 study by French researchers showing a similar neuroprotective benefit of caffeine in women.

Moreoever, a 2011 study from Harvard that tracked women for almost 20 years suggested that women who consumed the highest caffeine levels (mainly from coffee or tea) were 20% less likely to become depressed as those who consumed little to no caffeine. An earlier published study from Harvard also found a slight association between caffeine consumption and a reduced risk of breast cancer. This may be due to caffeine’s ability to reduce estrogen levels, as discovered by the National Institutes of Health, possibly through higher sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels.

Supplemental Source: Pre JYM contains 300mg of caffeine, and Shred JYM provides 200mg. Both of these amounts fall into my recommended beneficial range of 100mg-300mg. Take Pre JYM 1-2 times a day and Shred JYM 2-3 times a day also falls under my dosing recommendations. For more on caffeine, specifically how to take Shred JYM and Pre JYM together, read this article.

As for when to take caffeine, pre-workout is the best time, but you can also take Pre JYM any other time of day you want (aside from right before you go to bed, since it may be hard to fall asleep after having just taken caffeine). While coffee may be a fine way to get your morning pick-me-up and provide some health benefits, it’s caffeine in supplement form (mainly caffeine anhydrous) that has been found to provide the best performance benefits.

Female-Friendly Supplement #3: Calcium

This mineral is needed for numerous functions in the body, from bone health to muscle contractions. And while this one seems like a no-brainer, since every woman is drilled to get in plenty of calcium for healthy bones from an early age, I’m not actually suggesting it just for bone health. Fat loss? Sure, there may be an association between calcium intake and body fat levels, but both bone health and body fat are two benefits that men can also derive from calcium.

The distinct reason I suggest calcium to women is for benefits that a man will not get: reduced PMS symptoms. Several studies have reported an inverse relationship between calcium intake and PMS symptoms – in other words, the higher the calcium intake, the less the PMS symptoms. One study from Iranian researchers reported that women suffering from PMS that took 500mg of calcium twice a day for three months had a significant reduction in fatigue, appetite changes and depression compared to those who got a placebo. An earlier study found that women taking 300 mg of calcium four times a day for PMS had significantly reduced bloating, depression, pain, mood swings and food cravings, as compared to those taking a placebo. Several other studies on calcium supplementation have shown similar results.

Supplemental Source: Every woman should consume 1,000mg-1,200mg of calcium per day from food and supplements regardless of PMS symptoms (or lack thereof). Your best bet is to take it in at least two divided doses of no more than 400mg-600 mg each for enhanced absorption of calcium. One scoop of my blended protein powder Pro JYM contains 400mg of calcium, so three scoops of Pro JYM per day fully covers your calcium intake needs

Also, there’s some evidence that shows calcium from dairy – such as the 400mg of it in Pro JYM from the milk used to make the whey, casein and milk protein – provides better benefits than supplemental forms of calcium like calcium carbonate. If you need to supplement your diet with a calcium supplement, consider using the calcium citrate form, which may be better absorbed than other types of calcium supplements.

To further promote calcium absorption, also take each calcium dose with about 500-2,000 IU of vitamin D3. In fact, recent studies from the University of Massachusetts suggest that vitamin D intake is associated with fewer PMS symptoms, although this is may be due to higher calcium uptake.

Female-Friendly Supplement #4: DHEA

DHEA (short for dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced naturally in the body of both males and females mainly by the adrenal glands, as well as the gonads, the gastrointestinal tract and even the brain. DHEA is the most prevalent hormone circulating in the body, as it gets converted into about 20 different hormones, with the two main end products being testosterone and estrogen. DHEA is usually thought of as a male hormone, yet women can experience similar benefits from DHEA supplements, including better energy, greater brain function and mood, increased strength and muscle mass, and enhanced fat loss. This is due to an increase in testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-I levels (IGF-I) in women, which was shown in two separate studies using 100 mg of DHEA per day from the University of California, San Diego, and the Tel Aviv University (Israel). The Israeli scientists reported that this led to an increase in female subjects’ sexual arousal and cognition. Although both studies used older postmenopausal women, similar results should be expected in younger women, as DHEA levels begin to drop after 25 years of age. Since testosterone and IGF-I are important for muscle strength and hypertrophy, supplementing with DHEA may be a safe way to naturally boost you testosterone and IGF-I levels slightly without adverse effects and only benefits.

Supplemental Source: Supplement with 100 mg of DHEA daily with meals.

Female-Friendly Supplement #5: Iron

Iron is a mineral that’s a part of numerous proteins and enzymes important for good health. In addition, as a component of red blood cells, it helps deliver oxygen to our cells. Intense training lowers iron levels, and this may effect women more than men. Studies confirm that numerous female athletes are iron deficient, which leads to a reduction in performance, increased fatigue, decreased cognitive function and impaired immune function. This appears to be due to an increase in hepcidin (a hormone produced by the liver that inhibits iron absorption) with exercise. French researchers recently found that in almost 200 women between the ages 18-53 who complained of fatigue, those taking 80mg of iron daily for 12 weeks had a 50% reduction in fatigue. Army researchers also reported that women taking 100 mg of iron during 8 weeks of basic training had higher scores for cognitive performance and faster times in a two-mile run test.

Supplemental Source: Because iron toxicity can occur if you’re not iron deficient, you should consider asking your doctor for a serum ferritin test to measure your iron status. If you’re low, taking 30mg-100 mg daily without food can help, depending on how low you are. My multivitamin Vita JYM provides 18mg of iron, which will cover many women who train. If you find you’re deficient and are using Vita JYM (and you really should for numerous other reasons as well), but sure to account for that 18mg in your daily total of supplemental iron to make sure you’re not getting too much iron.

Since exercise decreases iron absorption, take iron supplements several hours before exercise if you train later in the day, or several hours after exercise if you train early.

References:

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Ghanbari, Z., et al. Effects of calcium supplement therapy in women with premenstrual syndrome. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Jun;48(2):124-9.

Thys-Jacobs, S., et al. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Premenstrual Syndrome Study Group. Am J Obstet Gynecol . 1998;179:444-452.

Alvir, J. M. and Thys-Jacobs, S. Premenstrual and menstrual symptom clusters and response to calcium treatment. Psychopharmacol Bull . 1991;27:145-148.

Thys-Jacobs, S., et al. Calcium supplementation in premenstrual syndrome: a randomized crossover trial. J Gen Intern Med . 1989;4:183-189.

Bertone-Johnson, E. R., et al. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Jun 13;165(11):1246-52.

Bertone-Johnson, E. R., et al. Dietary vitamin D intake, 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 levels and premenstrual syndrome in a college-aged population. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Jul;121(1-2):434-7.

Santos, C., et al. Caffeine intake is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline: a cohort study from Portugal. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S175-85.

Ritchie, K., et al. The neuroprotective effects of caffeine: a prospective population study (the Three City Study). Neurology. 2007 Aug 7;69(6):536-45.

Lucas, M., et al. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Sep 26;171(17):1571-8.

Ganmaa, D., et al. Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of breast cancer: a 22-year follow-up. nt J Cancer. 2008 May 1;122(9):2071-6.

Schliep, K. C., et al. Caffeinated beverage intake and reproductive hormones among premenopausal women in the BioCycle Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Feb;95(2):488-97.

Nagata, C., et al. Association of coffee, green tea, and caffeine intakes with serum concentrations of estradiol and sex hormone-binding globulin in premenopausal Japanese women. Nutr Cancer. 1998;30(1):21-4.

Morales, A. J., et al. The effect of six months treatment with a 100 mg daily dose of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on circulating sex steroids, body composition and muscle strength in age-advanced men and women. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1998 Oct;49(4):421-32.

Bloch, M., et al. The use of dehydroepiandrosterone in the treatment of hypoactive sexual desire disorder: A report of gender differences.Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. In press, 2012.

Latunde-Dada, G. O., et al. Iron metabolism in athletes- achieving a gold standard. Eur J Haematol. In press, 2012 .

McClung, J. P., et al. Iron status and the female athlete. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2012 Jun;26(2-3):124-6.

McClung, J. P., et al. Longitudinal decrements in iron status during military training in female soldiers. Br J Nutr. 2009 Aug;102(4):605-9.

Vaucher, P., et al. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2012 Aug 7;184(11):1247-54.

McClung, J. P., et al. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of iron supplementation in female soldiers during military training: effects on iron status, physical performance, and mood. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):124-31.