Get the scoop on which supplements can boost your workouts and information on smoking cessation products

Q: Dr. Myers, I’d like to quit smoking. What’s the best smoking cessation product available?

A: Congratulations on taking such an important step in caring for your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you will start experiencing the health benefits of quitting in as little as 20 minutes, and you’ll notice other positive changes in your body in the next hours, days, months and years. By stopping smoking, you will lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke, among other conditions.

No single product can guarantee that you will successfully quit smoking. There are, however, a number of prescription and non-prescription products that can help with the process. For instance, there are several over-the-counter options known as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Types of NRTs include gum, patch, lozenge, inhaler or spray. Most experts agree that each has similar effectiveness; how well they work for you depends mostly on your smoking triggers.

If you crave cigarettes all day, for example, a patch is a good option. A nicotine gum, lozenge or spray may work well if your cravings come throughout the day. If inhaling smoke is something you miss, an inhaler may be a good option. Perhaps you will find that a combination of products a patch and gum, for instance is more effective. Dosages in products vary widely (and the dose matters considerably), so be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before using any NRTs.

There are also many behavioral techniques that can help complement the supplements you take. One idea is to maintain a smoking journal. A couple of weeks prior to your stop date, write down the time that you smoke each cigarette. This will help you recognize your problematic times of the day so you can focus more energy on quitting during those times. Continue the journal after your stop date. Every time you feel an urge to smoke, write down the time of day and what feelings you are experiencing. Learn while you go.

 

Q: Dr. Myers, what supplements should I take before and after a workout?

A:There are a few key nutrients that can assist any athlete’s performance when taken before and after a workout. Lets first look at why I recommend supplementation, and then I’ll suggest specific nutrients to take.

Pre-workout supplementation is designed to do three things. First, it increases your capacity for exercise. For example, it can help you do more weight repetitions, run longer or cycle farther. Second, it improves blood flow, which helps deliver the oxygen and nutrients exercising muscles demand. Third, it actually supports recovery post-exercise – yes, what you take before helps after.

There are some excellent pre-workout nutrient options. The first is creatine, which helps supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle cells. Creatine increases the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the energy source for your cells.

Next, add L-arginine and L-citrulline. These two amino acids may help the body to naturally produce nitric oxide (NO). NO is a short-lived gas that dilates the blood vessels (a process known as vasodilation), enhancing blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to exercising muscles. Increased blood flow also helps remove lactic acid, which can contribute to post-workout soreness.

Finally, if you are looking for intensity and extra focus, caffeine is a consideration. Many studies have confirmed the efficacy of caffeine in boosting performance.

Working in conjunction with a pre-workout supplement, a post-workout nutritional combination can aid faster recovery, improved muscle growth and overall improvement in response to exercise. There are four nutrients I recommend to promote these benefits: protein, carbohydrates, creatine (yes, both pre- and post-workout) and glutamine, which may aid in protein synthesis for muscle recovery and regrowth post-exercise.

Dr. Andrew Myers is an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of The New Heart Health and the Health Is Wealth series.