When it comes to supplements, many people often believe that they can be the be all and end all when it comes to reaching their goals. Adequate nutrition and training are very important factors for reaching your goals but it doesn't mean you need to take supplements to reach these goals. Supplements should be used to aid your progress and help give you the maximum chances of reaching your goals. For example, if you're aiming to eat 180g of protein per day unless you split this up into 4-5 protein filled meals it is quite difficult to consume that much protein without being wasteful and consuming a large portion of it in one sitting therefore something like a protein shake can be useful to have as a quick on the go protein hit.
Creatine is arguably the most researched and effective supplement on the market, it has been proven to increase power in movements which thus can lead to increased strength and muscle gains.
Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise.
There is also a number of studies that show it helps to increase muscle mass, it has been shown to raise levels of IGF-1 which is an important hormone when it comes to building muscle. To add to this, creatine also increases water retention in the muscles which is important since 70% of our muscles are made up of water.
It is an all round incredible supplement and for us the most effective supplement on the market.
Protein powders are sometimes considered to be the thing that builds muscle and this illusion of you will struggle to build muscle without protein shakes still seems to cloud the fitness industry. Protein is the building blocks of our muscles, by consuming protein we allow for repair and recovery in the muscle cells which therefore can lead to hypertrophy over time.
Consuming protein powders will not be the reason you build muscle, consuming enough protein will be the reason you gain muscle. As a rule of thumb 1g of protein per lb or bodyweight should be plenty.
Protein shakes can be very useful for the fact that they allow a protein hit on the go or when you don't have time to cook, they are a quick, easy and low calorie (most of the time). If you are consuming enough protein from food alone then protein shakes are not necessary to reach your fitness goals, however for most people they will struggle to eat enough protein without using some sort of protein supplement, whether that's in the form of high protein foods/snacks or shakes.
Multivitamin / Fish Oil
A controversial supplement as some people believe that these can be unnecessary for every day lifters however, we would argue that this would only be the case with poor quality multivitamins and fish oil supplements. We've kept these together as even though they do different things we didn't want to make them seperate items on this list.
A good multivitamin will offer a wide range of all vitamins that we need for our body to function effectively and efficiently. The reason we go to the gym and train is to stay in shape and look after our bodies, as a result, your diet should follow this. Getting in enough vitamins and minerals throughout the day is important if you want to achieve peak results. A multivitamin should be used to supplement the extra vitamins that we do not get through regular food consumption. To get in all your daily required amounts of vitamins is quite a task when some of these are only in impractical food sources or if you are allergic/ don't eat particular foods / food groups for other reasons.
Fish Oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for your health. If you don’t eat a lot of oily fish, taking a fish oil supplement could help you get enough omega-3 fatty acids.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1–2 portions of fish per week. This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish provide many health benefits, including protection against a number of diseases.
It's important to get these in as most people will struggle to get enough of these in through their normal diet therefore a fish oil supplement can help make up for this.
Other omega-3 fatty acids benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce trigylcerides
- Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
- Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm
- Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
- Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease
The next couple of supplements we are going to list are by in no means essential or vital to muscle growth, none are essential but some have more of an influence on your results, many of these are preference.
Pre workout supplements have been popular for years, we've tried various different pre workouts and feel we can comment on them and their effectiveness. The main thing that most pre workouts are going to give you is energy, this will be through caffeine, many pre workouts will have upwards of 100mg of caffeine which is quite a substantial amount. For reference a double espresso has about 80mg of caffeine.
Other than that a good pre workout will have a number of vitamins and other supplements that can be used to enhance your workout. The main ones being, a form of creatine, a form of Nitrous Oxide booster for increased blood delivery and therefore pump, some may have beta alanine which can increase exercise capacity and reduce fatigue along side a number of other ingredients.
Pre workouts are often seen as advantageous because they will have a source of a multiple number of supplements that can aid recovery and endurance. However, some of these ingredients will be at a smaller dose than recommended to keep serving sizes down.
Pre workouts are great if you feel you need a bit of energy before a big workout or just enjoy using them for their other added benefits. A word of warning, you may want to avoid using these late at night as the high dosage of caffeine will probably leave you tossing and turning at night.
BCAA's stands for branched-chain amino acids, amino acids are the building blocks of protein and therefore muscle. There is 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential and 3 of these essential amino acids are the branched chain amino acids called, leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are arguably the most important amino acids and when it comes to supplementation the only ones that really matter.
Benefits of BCAA's are:
- Increase Muscle Growth.
- Decrease Muscle Soreness. Some research suggests BCAAs can help decrease muscle soreness after a workout.
- Reduce Exercise Fatigue.
- Prevent Muscle Wasting.
Many bodybuilders will swear by BCAA's being essential for any lifter, we believe they do provide some benefits however, the extent to which they make a difference is small. If you've got the spare cash and want to maximise results then BCAA's are a great option to drink during or after your workout.
We hope this has been useful to everyone and shines some light on supplements and how much impact they actually make when it comes to seeing results. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you're consistently training and consistently staying on top of your nutrition, no supplement or magic workout is going to help you see drastic results. Unfortunately when it comes to getting fit, gaining muscle or gaining strength it is just a case of consistency over time which will allow you to see great results.