So there you are, at the gym, and everyone around you is talking about the latest supplement. From what they are drinking pre-workout to the best ways to recover.
Some are swallowing down pills like they’re fighting off some life-threatening disease and you’re not even sure if what they are taking is legal. Some supplements are designed to boost your performance.
Other supplements are made to suck money out of your wallet.
How do you know which is which and what you should focus on?
We’ve got the answers for you right here.
Let’s Talk About The Best Workout Supplements
Before getting into the best kind of supplements and what each may potentially do for you, supplements are not a magic pill, powder or drink. You can’t just take a supplement and expect to build muscle, shed fat and boost performance.
Supplements do just as the name suggests: supplement.
These items help improve what you do at the gym and throughout the day, but if you’re just taking the products without putting in the effort, you’re not going to see the results. If you have no plans on being serious with your workouts, you might as well save your money with the supplements, as everything you take will be pointless.
So keep it up at the gym and with your workouts.
Only then will you see the benefits of your supplemented workout sessions.
Protein…It’s What’s For Dinner
If there is one supplement everyone should turn to, it is protein.
Even for those people who are not looking at bulking up, protein is a must.
Protein helps muscles recover and build the damaged muscle tissue back up. Even if the goal is to drop weight and obtain a toned look, there is a protein for that.
The best protein powder for women & men may vary slightly as well.
And then if you’re someone looking to pack on muscle size, it’s nearly impossible to eat enough protein from actual food every day to do this (unless you’re eating a full rotisserie chicken every single meal and snack). With that said, there are so many different kinds of protein supplements out there.
Which is right for you?
Let’s first look at the animal versus plant protein debate. If you are a vegetarian or vegan and want protein, you’ll turn to plant-based protein. There are solid arguments for cutting meat out of the diet, or at the very least, cutting non-organic meat out of the diet. If you’ve ever gone on this kind of a diet before, chances are you felt great after a few days.
However, is there really a difference in proteins?
The short answer is yes.
You see, protein is made up of different amino acids (we’ll get to amino acids later). Vegetable-based proteins don’t have the same number of amino acids as animal based. So your body will digest and use animal-based proteins more efficiently based on the added amino acids (University of Arizona, 2003). That doesn’t mean vegetable based protein powders are bad, it just means most animal-based are more effective.
So if you’re not against animal-based proteins, go with a protein powder derived from animal proteins (including milk).
Whey Protein is the most obvious choice.
You can find it everywhere and it’s likely the least expensive option. It’s also nice when you want to build muscle size as you can easily add 30 to 60 grams of protein with just a scoop or two. You’ll want to check the ingredients for sugar and sodium amounts, as you don’t want to drastically increase the intake (especially sodium, as most of these products are limited in sugar amounts). We won’t get into brands as there are so many different brands out there, most of which are more or less the same. You can find both Whey isolates and whey concentrates and both are also considered the best tasting protein powder.
Whey isolates are quick absorbing.
Whey isolates are more expensive, but good if you want a low carb diet and something that gives you faster energy.
On the other side, casein protein is a slower absorbing protein that is absorbed throughout the course of several hours. This is good if you struggle feeling full after a meal. It’s also a nice option for protein to take right before bed as it gives your body additional protein to build while it recovers.
Soy protein is what you should consider if you are vegetarian. It’s also good if you have higher cholesterol. It helps improve your thyroid hormone output as well, which boosts metabolic rates. It’s not a great option if you want to build mass, nor is it good to take before bed (you’ll probably wake up with excessive gas or a bloated stomach), but during the day, it’s a solid option.
Milk and egg proteins are old school proteins.
These have some of the best amino acid profiles, which helps build lean muscle mass.
Whey delivers a higher protein to calorie option, but these are more natural.
However, if you are vegan, vegetarian or just want to avoid milk intake, these are not a great option, and you might have to look into something like pea protein isolate.
Additionally, skip these before nighttime, as you’ll have the same problems as you would with soy (upset stomach and gas).
On top of all of this, you can find certain protein powders that include probiotics. This is healthy bacteria that improve digestion. If you suffer digestive issues, consider picking up a protein powder that includes probiotics.
Just be warned though, most of these powders do not mix completely, so you will have a bit of a curdling effect.
Creatine (as a supplement) first hit the market big about a decade ago (although it has been around for longer).
Outside of protein, creatine is probably one of the most talked about supplements at the gym.
You probably also have heard people swear by creatine, yet if you came up through high school (or first started hitting gyms) a decade or so ago, you may have heard some people say to avoid it, as it might cause health problems. The fact of the matter is, creatine is a perfectly safe supplement for two reasons. First, there are no studies that indicate creatine to have any long-term adverse effects on the body. Second, the body naturally produces creatine.
Your body uses different kinds of energy to perform different kinds of athletic movements.
Fast twitch muscle fibers are used for explosive movements, such as weightlifting. These muscle fibers give you instant energy, but the energy levels are depleted quickly. This is where creatine comes in. Creatine helps restore this lost energy. So, where you may have failed at eight reps, you may be able to squeeze off another rep or two.
It is within these added reps where you put additional strain on muscle tissue, which in turn increases muscle fiber tears and allows you to both improve strength and size.
Now, there are some short-term potential side effects with creatine.
For starters, you will increase water retention. In fact, depending on dosage, you can see up to five pounds of water retention with creatine. This water retention does go within the muscles, but to help avoid excessive retention amounts, make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. You also should avoid taking creatine right before bed as some counts of restlessness have been reported.
Beyond this, creatine is a must supplement and helps make an excellent one-two punch when combined with protein (Examine, 2016).
Branch Chain Amino Acids
Remember how we referenced amino acids earlier?
Well, we’ll cover it completely now and why it is important to stock up on your Branch Chain Amino Acids.
This supplement helps boost not only your muscle density, but it is used as a post-working drink as it improves your recovery rate. While there are a number of different amino acids, your muscles only metabolize valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These particular amino acids help construct new proteins after a workout.
For vegetarians, looking for supplements, it is even more important to add BCAAs to the supplement list.
This is because BCAAs are naturally obtained through lean protein and meat. Because these amino acids are not found in plant-based protein, the body misses out on it. This, in turn, may result in the body not achieve optimal performance, nor will the body fully develop its muscular system.
If you look through the proteins you purchase, you may find that some do include BCAAs.
This helps with the absorption of the protein and improves recovery on its own. Now, protein powder is focused more specifically on protein, so it may not have the optimal level of BCAAs you’re looking for (most people purchase protein based on the protein to calorie rate), so pumping up BCAAs at the expense of higher calories within the protein powder is not a top priority. That is why you need to consider BCAAS as a post-workout supplement.
You may look at this and scoff a bit. It’s not a “supplement,” so why include it?
Well, it’s that important. There is a host of reasons why you need to include a multi-vitamin in your everyday workout supplement regimen. Chances are you are not getting enough of one (if not several) key vitamins and minerals, each of which play an important role in how your body performs.
So make sure you pick up a multi-vitamin!
Pre Workout Supplements
If you walk down the supplement section in your grocery store, you’re going to find all sorts of pre-workout supplements.
You’ll also want something with an ingredient called arginine.There are a few different ingredients to consider. First, look for something with nitric oxide. This improves circulation in the blood, which helps deliver more protein and energy to your body. This way, you can recover faster during your workout. When in your body along with creatine, you’ll really see solid improvements in strength and size.
This particular ingredient helps regulate the levels of salt in your body (this way your body won’t retain as much water). It should also contain some caffeine, although if it doesn’t you can always go with a cup of coffee on your way to the gym (just avoid anything with cream and sugar).
Maybe – Maybe Not – Fat Burner
This one is kind of a hit or miss. It’s also one of those supplements that chain supplement stores (we won’t name names, but you can probably figure it out) like to oversell shoppers who don’t know what they are doing. After all, the term “fat burner” sounds great and is often referred to as the on of the best cutting supplements, especially if you’re just hitting the gym for the first time in a little bit, and so store clerks try to sell you something you don’t need.
So here’s the deal with fat burners. First, you can’t just take one then plop yourself down on the couch and watch a Breaking Bad marathon. It’s not going to do anything for you if you’re not moving. Second, take a long, hard look in the mirror.
Do you really need to burn extra fat?
If you just go to the gym and put in your time will you obtain the look you’re going for?
If you have a few extra pounds and you are dedicated to hitting the gym, then, by all means, add the fat burner. The thermogenic supplement will help some stubborn fat tissues dissolve into the bloodstream as a source of energy. This supplement actually increases your internal body temperature, so you basically melt fat away. Just watch out, as these products usually come with a good amount of caffeine.
You don’t want to have this, your pre-workout supplement and a can of Red Bull going through your system at once, as your heart rate will elevate to possibly unhealthy levels.
And despite what those chain supplement stores tell you, do not double-up on fat burners. Always follow the recommended dosage. Clerks telling you to double-up are just wanting you to come back and buy more products faster.
There are some great supplements out there that can help you obtain your body goals this year. However, as the name indicates, these only aid your own workouts. You need to put in the time and effort to see true results.
For the best in supplements and muscle building additions to your diet, make sure to check out the selection of quality products here at Gym Junkies.