Ahh supplements. Supplements are possibly the flagship products of the multi-million dollar fitness industry with the top sellers being Whey Protein, Preworkouts, Amino Acids and Creatine to name a few.
But with so many products on the market, which ones should we really take notice of and what are the important things to know? Well as ever, your friendly neighbourhood Personal Trainer is here to lend a hand.
First and Foremost
Fire and foremost there are a few things I want to make clear before we get into the nitty gritty.
- You DO NOT NEED supplements to get good results. Yes they can help, but you positively do not NEED them. Guess how many supplements I take? None. That’s right, absolutely none.
- Supplements are unregulated. The trials and checks they go through are pretty lax, as is the marketing information they put out there, so don’t always believe what the adverts say.
- The fitness industry should not be as big as it is. If the general population were educated in the right way then the amount of supplements being bought would drastically decrease.
- Supplements will NEVER replace a good diet.
Now this all might be coming over as a bit negative, but it’s important to highlight these things. Now, let’s look into which supplements can be used as a force for good (If used correctly):
Protein Powders – Protein Powders are what most people think of when the subject of fitness supplements comes up. Protein Powder comes in different forms, Whey, Casein, Soy, Pea etc and they all do one very clear and simple thing – they get more protein into your body. I personally get all my protein from food, but protein powders are a good thing to have for convenience purposes.
Creatine – Creatine is most heavily researched supplement out there and is a good thing to take if you want to build muscle. Creatine helps draw water into the muscle cells making a better environment for them to grow and without getting into the science of it too much, helps replenish the energy system we use when lifting weights faster so we are typically stronger when taking Creatine
Multivitamins – While it is important to eat micronutrient rich foods like fruits and vegetables, Multivitamins are a good way for getting all the essential vitamins into your body. A lack of a certain vitamin or mineral can have a negative impact on health and performance, so if you feel that you aren’t getting enough micronutrients from your foods then supplementing them may be the way to go.
Fish Oils – Fish Oils can be taken to improve our health by supporting healthy cholesterol levels and supporting bone/joint health. They can improve the ratio of HDLs and LDL (High Density Lipids and Low Density Lipids) to improve our overall cholesterol levels. Even if you are still in your youth, it is important to look after your body as lifting heavy weights so regularly can naturally take its toll on the joints.
Preworkouts – If you’re feeling tired and lethargic before a workout, then a preworkout can be helpful at times. If your diet is good and you are feeding yourself with enough calories then you should be ok without it, but if you are in a calorie deficit then it might be worth a shot.
Now let’s look at the supplements which aren’t so great
Testosterone Boosters – T-Boosters are designed to naturally increase your testosterone levels for a short period of time due to the fact that testosterone is the key hormone for building muscle. These come in different supplements such as D-Aspartic Acid, Tribulus Terrestris and ZMA. There are conflicting studies on whether these supplements actually do increase testosterone in the first place, but when you combine that with the proven scientific fact that increasing testosterone in such small amounts has no effect on gaining additional muscle there really isn’t much point in spending your hard earned cash on these products. Without getting too scientific, the only way that increasing testosterone can positively effect muscle gains is through anabolic steroids which we absolutely DO NOT recommend.
BCAAs – BCAAs or Branched Chain Amino Acids are a way of getting more amino acids into your body. The main amino acid that we should take note of is leucine, which is the key player in muscle building, however if you are consuming enough protein from animal sources then your leucine amounts should be covered.While a very popular supplement, there are many skeptics as too how effective BCAAs really are for muscle growth. If you are willing to part with the extra cash, then taking BCAAs won’t do you any harm, but there are serious doubts if it is worth the money and they are only really going to benefit you if you are trying to cut body fat and retain muscle at the same time. For these reasons, BCAAs can be known as one of the most overrated supplements out there.
Most Mixed Formula Products – A lot of supplement companies will come out with a ‘brand new formula’ for a completely amazing product that will give you muscle gains like you’ve never experienced before. In truth, the labels aren’t telling the whole story, the new ingredients they’ve added are either useless or not in enough amount to make a difference and they are ripping you off. That’s not to say all of them are bad though, but just be careful.
There are a whole host of other supplements that I could ramble on about, but believe it or not I do actually train people so should get back to focusing on them.
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