In 2012, Forbes recorded the supplement industry’s net revenue at US $32 billion and expected it to rise to US $60 billion by the year 2021. Gym goers have flocked to nutrition stores looking to gain the edge in their pursuit for the “ideal body”. However, nutrition stores can be an extremely daunting and expensive place for anyone new to the scene and with little knowledge. They will try to market you all types of suspicious forms of powders and liquids you’ve never heard of. So if you’re a new lifter, casual lifter looking to get serious or a seasoned lifter and need some tips, read on.
The first rule of supplements is they are just that, supplements, they are meant to be used with a well-balanced diet and proper exercise plan. There’s no doubt about it, supplements definitely will help you achieve and even exceed your goals; however, it all stems from a solid diet and exercise plan for without these, you will not see results.
Protein powders are the staple of any good lifters supplementation. No matter what skill level or how serious you are, a good protein powder is essential. There are three main types of protein powders: whey protein isolate/concentrate (WPI/WPC), WPI mass gainers and casein protein.
Whey proteins are the most common form of powders and are naturally sourced formulas containing amino acids, which make up different proteins, and subsequently muscle. It is the purest form of protein available and designed for quick digestion, taking up to 30 minutes after a workout, as your body is looking for nutrients. A post workout shake feeds your muscles the nutrition it needs and will aid in recovery, size and strength. WPI has a higher percentage of pure protein than WPC, so opt for a WPI if given the choice. You can purchase good quality WPI’s usually for $1-$2 per serving.
Massgainer proteins are formed from a WPI base and act in an almost identical way. The difference here is these are for people who struggle to put on any significant size due to a high metabolism. Massgainers usually have more protein per serving along with added fast digesting carbohydrates, to give your body extra fuel. Stay away from these if you have a hard time losing weight as you’ll find yourself packing on more fat than muscle. Keep an eye on sugar content as manufacturers add sugar to raise the carbs – aim for under 30g sugar.
Casein protein is a much more slow digesting protein than whey. It is usually taken before bed to help muscles repair overnight and I would only recommend this to the most serious of lifters.
There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding creatine. However it is one of the most studied supplements out there and proven to be completely safe. Put simply, creatine does two things: it increases the amount of ATP (the body’s form of energy) your body can generate and the water retention in muscles, allowing for greater protein synthesis. Creatine’s benefits occur from prolonged use and not a one-off. Five grams daily is sufficient. It’s also on the cheaper side, so I recommend this to all lifters.
Pre-workouts have had some bad press recently with some varieties being discontinued due to banned substances. However, pre-workout supplements, when used properly, can be safe and effective. Most pre-workouts promise increased energy, focus, strength and endurance. They contain specific performance enhancing amino acids and a stimulant (usually caffeine) to make sure you leave nothing in the tank. The main issue is caffeine content which ranges from 200-400mg (a typical coffee contains around 110mg). Continued abuse of caffeine burns out your adrenal glands and will leave you feeling constantly depleted and lethargic and can even weaken your immune system in extreme cases. If you cycle your pre-workout (I use 3 weeks on, 1 week off) you can let your adrenal glands recharge and are unlikely to suffer adverse side effects. There are also non-stimulant varieties of pre-workout. I would recommend this to only serious lifters, looking for the extra edge to take their training to the next level.
These are to be taken throughout the workout and most often used by athletes to keep their metabolism ticking over during intense training to avoid going into a catabolic state (when your energy levels are so depleted your body will start looking to your muscles and fat stores for extra energy). They’re made from Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), which are what make up your muscles and also increase recovery. As with pre-workout, this is for serious lifters doing intense training 5-7 times per week.
Ultimately however, use whatever routine works best for your body and your goals and make sure you keep your health a priority. Happy gymming!