Kaneda wrote: He uses things like an energy mix pre workout and I was wondering if anyone knows of a collated list of what products are vegan across the whole range of weird and wonderful stuff the bodybuilding shops sell?
Surprisingly, most will actually be OK, although perhaps the best thing you can do is read the ingredients and google the ingredients... perhaps ideally not just to work out whether they're vegan, but also what the positives and negatives are and how much, which, when and if, you want to be putting these things into your body. There are some real upsides, some real downsides, some things are more useful for some training objectives than others, some are not even sports legal (DMAA - so called "geranium extract" in a lot of pre work out formulas is banned in sport), and then there is a LOT of marketing hype.
The biggest non-vegan offenders are whey, colostrom, gelatin capsules, Vitamin D3, Fish oil (DHA), glucosamine and carmine red coloring. There are vegan sources or alternatives for all of these. Some things containing stearic acid or stearates may possibly be non-vegan also. The amino acid compounds that are the main active ingredients in most brand name supplements are invariably manufactured by chemical and bacterial processes in a lab, because it's far cheaper and more effective than trying to get them out of animal products anyway.
Personally, I now prefer buying amino acids, pea protein and rice protein and mixing myself: greater control, cheaper and probably better quality. If you go this route, you will need to (a) buy some strong artificial flavouring like that in the pre mixed products OR (b) mix with some strongly flavoured food/drink ingredients OR (c) completely suspend your taste perception for a minute when you take the aminos.
Summary by ingredients (some may also interact with any medications you are on, so consult your doctor if applicable):Aspartate
used to bind many minerals, e.g. in ZMA (Zinc Magnesium Aspartate) is as in aspartic acid. It is very widely occurring in plants (L-Aspartic acid, that is - DAA is something else, see below). Plants can convert aspartic to lysine, which is very useful. Animals, like humans, cannot. They have to consume lysine. Zinc is hard to get really good quantities for exercise from a vegan diet, and Magnesium is hard from most people's diets but maybe slightly easier than average on a vegan diet, particularly if you eat plenty of seaweed, whole seeds and greens. ZMA
is a therefore a good supplement. The optimum timing for this is widely believed to be a dose before sleep, and/or smaller doses spread through the day.Creatine
is a non-essential amino acid not found at all in a vegan diet, or significant quantities in most omni diets, especially after cooking. Our bodies can synthesize some. Vegan creatine stores (in muscle biopsies) without supplementation can tend to reach 2g/kg muscle mass, non-vegans up to 3g/kg muscle mass, supplemented vegans or non-vegans 5g/kg muscle mass. The recommended dosages should be quite adequate. Creatine supplements are used by almost all body builders and many athletes. May be bad for endurance athletes. Perhaps best taken after training with carbs (ideally high GI carbs) and protein, and before bed. I don't like the idea of it in the pre workout products at all (not to say it's not good there for some people). Can cause a little extra water retention (a trade off) and possibly some nausea and dehydration symptoms for some, if taken before exercise. Newer forms like Creatine Ethyl Ester or at least micronised may have slightly less side effects than original creatine monohydrate. Creatine helps your muscles perform more intensely for relatively short periods of time, which may also improve body building results. Maybe even the water retention improves body building too, although it's a downside for athletes.Taurine
is a non-essential amino acid that's fairly abundant in the body (usually not bound to protein) and possibly especially so in fast twitch muscle fibre. It is not found in non-vegan foods. Synthesis in the body is absolutely adequate for health, but maybe not quite for optimal muscle performance. Taurine supplements are in just about every popular energy drink in the supermarket.Arginine
Various forms, are arguably a good pre workout supplement due to nitric oxide production delaying fatigue and allowing longer intense energy production. AAKG is considered the gold standard, agmatine sulphate is very potent, arginine ethyl ester (AEE) is probably better than L-arginine. The logic for including several forms is different rates of release and perhaps better total up-take. More natural (and more expensive) alternatives are beetroot juice, nopal fruit / prickly pear and possibly very large quantities of spinach or chard. Most pre workout supps are primarily arginine and caffeine
is a non-essential amino acid that helps in intense energy production (the ATP cycle). Good pre workout supplement also (usually with various forms of arginine). It is found in trace quantities in melon rind/cucumber peel, but I doubt you could get enough that way to have a useful effect. The Malate
usually binding Citrulline is as in malic acid
and antioxidant found in apples and sorrel, and also helpful.Caffeine
(also xanthine, tri-methyl-xanthine, tetra-methyl-xanthine, gotu kola extract, guarana, cacao, green tea, coffee) is a legal and sports legal addictive stimulant drug, which you can get in the supermarket anyway. Positive and negative mental effects are widely known and it is proven to slightly boost exercise performance, metabolism and weight loss. It's in a huge percentage of supplements, especially pre work out and weight loss supps. For me, the negatives out-weigh the positives and I've decided to get off caffeine entirely. DMAA
is a similar drug, popular in pre workout supplements but not sports legal
! Some risks are accentuated and others reduced compared to caffeine. It is likely to be banned soon for over the counter sale in some countries e.g. Australia. ephedrine
should not legally be in supplements, but are sometimes detected in questionable brand name mixed products, and are not particularly safe. They used to dominate the weight loss industry, as they were one of the few products that was absolutely effective for this. Sinephrine / bitter orange extract / citrus aurantium
is a related compound, currently sports legal and slightly safer, but risky if you can't control a very small dose of it. Fucoxanthin
found in some seaweeds, particularly wakame, is a less extreme but probably slightly effective contributor to helping you metabolize fats. No downside that I'm aware of!!Sesamin
(sesame seed lignans/fibre) are sold as a natural hormone regulator for athletes and body builders, and this may indirectly help fat loss a little bit in the context of a good nutritional and training program. Personally, I think eating whole sesame seeds or tahini is a better go.Carnitine
(a non-essential amino) and Methionine
(an essential amino acid) are sometimes used for weight loss aids to help you burn fat. Arguably, for peak athletic performance this is counter-productive compared to burning carbs, but if you have fat that you need to burn.... You can get plenty of Met from food (e.g. rice, oats, sesame). Carnitine is virtually absent from vegan diets, but you can get a little bit from tempeh, and you can take the supplement. B Vitamins
are also useful for this, but not safe or necessary to over-do. You can get them in energy drinks, nutritional yeast, other fortified foods and supplements in your supermarket, chemist or health food store. Most, but IIRC not all, B complex supplements are vegan. Carnisone
is a rubbish supplement, designed to mimic and imagined effect of meat to help with energy production. It is broken down in the gut and produces no scientifically verifiable benefit. Beta alanine
, by contrast, is effective, widely used by body builders but not quite as widely by athletes. It will help the body synthesise more carnisone in muscles, however the tingling sensation / effect on the nervous system could be in issue if health or controlled athletic performance are higher on your agenda than body building. I skip this one!ATP
adenosine tri-phosphate is heavily used by the muscles in intense energy production. It used to be a popular supplement and is still in some pre-workout products but oral intake is extremely unlikely to have any effect at all on available ATP for use in the body. The molecules are simply too large to be absorbed that way. Ribose
is a type of carbohydrate produced (usually from glucose) in the body. It doesn't exist in your diet unless you supplement. Controlled trials have shown it is beneficial for some medical conditions, and for athletic effects (again primarily, intense 10min window type effects), 3x5g per day seems promising. Lower doses (IIRC 4g p.d.) showed no athletic benefit. I think the upper limit for safe long term use is generally considered to be about 20-25g p.d, so not a huge range of margin for error.D Aspartic Acid
is the only D form (rather than L form) amino acid found in animals including humans, but not widely consumed in any human food based diet. No D form aminos are typically found in plants. It can increase hormone activity in your body, but possibly without good control, so it's not at all clear this is a good thing. Many body-builders use it, often together with aromatase inhibitors and other hormone modifiers. DAA is technically sports legal, however the associated hormone modifier drugs are, I'm pretty sure, all banned, and probably rightly so. If you take it without these, results could vary widely and one possible result for both men and women is ultra estrogenic effects like sensitive breasts and extra chest and ass fat. Tyrosine
is an amino acid found in many foods but not in quite the same concentrations as the supplement doses, supposed to enhance mental focus, mood and mental control. It may be a placebo effect, but I feel a real difference when taking it. As with anything, I would suggest sticking with moderate doses.Tryptophan
is not widely used as a supplement but sometimes rumoured to be a deficiency in vegan diets. I believe if you get plenty of legumes in your diet, there should be no problem at all. It helps with sleep hormones, and if you feel it benefits you, the most effective thing may be to consume legumes with a little bit of carbs before sleeping.Branched chain amino acids leucine, isoluecine and valine
are used for muscle growth, and added to some protein powder brands. If you want to build a little bit or a lot of muscle, adding some may be a good idea, unless your protein intake is ridiculously high. I just buy a mixed BCAA supp. for this. Glutamine
is found in pea protein and wheat, etc. but adding some may help with faster recovery. It is a conditionally essential amino acid, i.e. we don't normally need it to survive, but may do if subject to extreme physical stress.Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
is widely but not extremely widely used to probably marginally reduce the body's tendency to adiposity (fat storage) vs lean muscle mass. The jury may still be out on the positive or negative overall health effects, but at typical doses of 3g p.d. they are probably not very great either way. CLA is really a very optional supplement. It is a major bug bear of mine, however, that there are so many brands, all advertising to be made from safflower or sunflower oil (vegan!) but almost all only available in gelatin capsules. You can get vegan CLA caps made by Deva nutrition if you want them. Omega 3s
. Flax oil (significant quantities) are still used/recommended by some body builders, usually in addition to fish oil, which is obviously non-vegan. The theory (which appear sound) is that more omega3s and less omega6s reduces your tendency to all types of inflammation, and promotes heart health and brain health, among other areas, along with possibly reducing tendency to fat storage, since your body may adjust to more reliable availability of the types of fats it needs. There are other equally good vegan sources of ALA (the type of omega3 in flax), e.g. hemp seeds, chia seeds, inca peanut, and reducing omega6s in your diet may have just as much positive effect. If in doubt
about particular joint issues, mental performance/speed/focus/reactions, general inflammation or heart health, I would suggest: (1) Take an algae based DHA supplement
- the vegan, and probably superior, alternative to fish oil (2) Get some ALA also AND (3) swap out any omega6 oils (corn, sunflower, soy, etc.) as much as possible for saturated, monounsaturated or canola. Glucosamine
is very popular for joint health, although effectiveness is slightly controversial. Almost always produced from ground up shell-fish but can be produced from corn (google vegan glucosamine). I don't think eating corn will give you a significant supply. I would suggest if you have a twinge, and try other sensible things too, then it's probably prudent to give the vegan glucosamine a go, but if in doubt, skip it. Proline
is an amino acid that is used in ligament tissue, so if you have joint issues or do very heavy lifting or a lot of explosive movements (especially for your knees) it could be a good idea to supplement a little bit. This also goes with Lysine
, an essential amino acid that is not widely taken as a nutritional supplement by non-vegans, but possibly should be by vegan athletes! Lysine is an essential amino acid, much more abundant in animal proteins than in plant proteins, although not synthesized by animals. It is the amino that vegan diets are most likely to be deficient in, the one that's most important for recovery, very important for immune health, used to form healthy skin and ligaments, and probably most needed by athletes compared to the general population. Choice of protein (e.g. legumes are high) may impact your lysine intake, but a supplement is in my view a very good idea, and they are available.
A mixed Essential Amino Acid (EAA) supplement may be absorbed slightly more readily than proteins, so adding in a little bit is not essential if you do have a good range of protein in your diet, but not necessarily a bad idea.Anthocyanins
from bright red fruit (eg. cherries, pomegranate, acai, goji berries, tamarillo (?), strawberries, rasperries) are also a very good protective antioxidant for joint health. This is not a supplement as such (at least I'm not aware of anthocyanin supplements) however could be a good idea to bear in mind and include some in what you eat, if applicable.