First, set some fitness goals.
The supplements you take and the food you eat should obviously go hand-in-hand with the workouts you are doing to help fulfill your goals. Period.
With that being said, there is a good chance these supplements will cover most people’s goals and should therefore be included your daily routine/regimen.
A large part of the supplement industry is built on deception. This is not a good thing for guys trying them out for the first time.
There are so many companies offering a wide variety of products, all of which claim to have made a BETTER VERSION. It’s deceptive, and you have to know some basics before entering any supplement store.
So here is the gameplan: find a company that is trustworthy and stick with them.
You may pay a little bit more than your friends, but you know it works. There is a lot of value in results. Some companies with great products include Cytosport, Rivalus, MusclePharm, AllMax and Dymatize. I’m sure many of you have a bigger list, but I like to make sure the products are clean and effective.
Now onto the products that work. This is by no-means an exhaustive list, but will provide plenty of options for a well-rounded supplement protocol.
This is a no-brainer for a few reasons.
1. Protein ingested immediately post-workout is very important for increasing muscle-protein synthesis; that is the creation of new muscle mass.
2. Anyone looking to improve their body composition must understand they need a steady dose of protein throughout the day. This can come from a variety of sources, but a good protein powder is a great weapon to ensure you can get your servings even when your outside of your routine.
Whey protein, whey protein isolate, casein protein, and a vegetarian source like brown rice protein are all good choices for purchase.
If you have been trying to get huge, then you probably already get your fair share of creatine. If not, you probably think it is somehow illegal, or makes you bloated. The term ‘water weight’ gets thrown around quite a bit, without much evidence to support it. The truth is creatine is very beneficial for increasing high-intensity work capacity, muscle hypertrophy, and lately has been shown to be extremely beneficial for your cognitive health.
All the while, myths about cramping, bloating, or water retention have been refuted in the research. It is cheap and flavourless, so just drop 10g a day in one of your workout beverages and you are good to go!
BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)
BCAAs might be the favourite supplement for people who train regularly. It has a long list of benefits, including decreasing ratings of perceived exertion (difficulty/fatigue of the workout), increased muscle protein synthesis, decreased muscle breakdown, preservation of glutamine levels, and symptoms of DOMS. It has been shown effective before the workout, during the workout, and after the workout as well. While I don’t suggest replacing a protein shake after your workout, the consumption of BCAAs around your workout could make the post-workout shake redundant. If you aren’t looking to add a significant amount of lean mass, BCAAs may be your top priority.
This is the general blanket pick. There are so many factors which affect the level of your micro-nutrients, and the last thing you want is to have your progress stunted because of a deficiency. Take a vitamin-mineral complex that ensures you have a good variety of nutrients regardless of your diet, but don’t believe you can eat garbage because of a convenient once-a-day multivitamin.
A similar concept as creatine, beta-alanine just uses a slightly different mechanism to produce it’s effect. When ingested, beta-alanine is converted to carnosine, a compound that is used by your body to protect against a drop in pH. Specifically, carnosine buffers hydrogen ions, keeping the environment in your muscles from becoming acidic and functionality becoming impaired.
This means when you are operating anaerobically (typically between 30 seconds and 3 minutes of strenuous exercise) taking beta-alanine will help delay fatigue and increase work capacity. Beta-alanine has also been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, so again provides the double whammy. Combining beta-alanine and creatine does not cause a conflict of any sorts. In fact, it’s encouraged! It’s a bit harder to find beta-alanine alone but it is found in many pre-workout mixes.
Should you drink coffee? Should you avoid it? Here is the deal. Get some caffeine in you and reap the benefits. Tea, coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout cocktails, and anhydrous caffeine pills are all great ways to get some juice in your system. The truth is, it is one of the best supplements out there for improving performance. Increases in performance of endurance exercises, as well as strength-power work, repeat sprint performance, agility, reactive times, and game day performance are all found in the literature.
Don’t avoid caffeine because you think it’s wrong. It might be wrong if you need a constant supply to get through your day, but using it to enhance your workouts is ideal! Anywhere from 200mg to 400mg should provide a great jolt to your lifts, and allow you to complete a few extra sets or reps.
The moral of the story is that as long as you become educated, you can use nutritional supplements to your advantage to help your performance and reach your goals. There are many products designed to maximize your physiology or mentality, so don’t be afraid to try some out!
It’s About Getting Better!
Cory Kennedy, MSc, BPhe, CSCS, CISSN