Supplements come in a variety of forms, from creatine to protein powder athletes of all abilities may find themselves turning to supplements to enhance their performance, recovery, and results.
But with such a wide range of supplements available which ones do we go for? The answer? It depends. Here is everything you need to know about the most common supplements so you can make your own decisions:
1. Protein powder
Starting off with the most common, we have protein! Protein comes in a variety of flavours and slight variations, all of which are taken to achieve one simple goal: to “supplement” our protein intake.
Why would someone want to do this? Protein is essential for the growth and repair of muscle fibres. Although for most peoples fitness goals their protein can easily be satisfied through their meals, protein supplements are still a great option. Ideal for just before bed, post-workout, and/or as a snack throughout the day.
- Allows athletes to reach their protein requirements
- Can be a used as a substitute for a post-workout poor appetite
- It is convenient
- Cost (Can sometimes be of excellent value through offers, or sponsorships)
- Not always necessary: Most people reach their protein requirements without supplementation
- Little to no evidence to support a significant benefit of the supplement
- Consuming too much protein over a sustained period of time can develop health problems
- May not include exactly what is advertised. (Always buy from established seller, and check the label)
- Cost (High quality protein supplements can cost)
Pre-workout is one of the newer supplements to hit the market. Athletes may be tempted to take a pre-workout shake in order to increase their energy levels to train harder for longer. Sounds good right? So what is the problem? Well the truth is pre-workout blends range in mysterious ingredients. Some containing caffeine, gurana and/or creatine. All of which have their own pros and cons.
The truth is pre-workout can work, for some people it will give them a boost in energy, allowing them to train harder for longer. However. The more you take it, the more you need to experience that energy surge you did the first time. This is a problem as the more you consume, the more mysterious ingredients you consume along with it.
Finally from my own personal experience, I believe that many pre-workout supplements have somewhat of a ‘placebo effect’. Rather than having an actual benefit to your health.
- Can provide boost of energy, to allow them to train for longer at a higher intensity.
- Some blends include essential vitamins
- Improves concentration due to the caffeine
- Can work anaerobically for longer (without oxygen)
- Some of the ‘mysterious ingredients’ as previously mentioned can be artificial and bad for your body.
- People react differently, some people may become overstimulated.
- Ingredients in the pre-workout can cause dehydration.
Tips for taking pre-workout:
- Time it right: Pre-workout is most effective when consumed within 20-30 minutes before a workout. This gives your system time to digest it and for the ingredients to take effect.
- Re-hydrate yourself: As previously mentioned pre-workout has a tendency to dehydrate you, to combat this consume plenty of fluids during your workout.
- Read the label carefully: as you know already pre-workout can contain all sorts of things, just check the ingredients for anything that may not agree with you.
3. Amino Acids
Amino acids are probably one of the most underused supplements by the average athlete. Why? Who knows. Amino acids are known to reduce muscle soreness, improve fat burning, reduce the breakdown of muscle cells, and enhance energy levels.
Just like most other supplements what your paying for is the convenience. The actual amino acids can easily be gained through proper diet. Although once again our diet doesn’t go perfectly everyday, and therefore the convenience of supplements help us out.
- You will have more energy as the increased amount of amino acids in the body improves the performance of energy systems.
- Amino acids promote protein synthesis which improves muscle growth over time.
- Known to reduce muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Reduce fatigue in endurance activities
- Vitiman B is used to metabolise the amino acids. Therefore a vast intake of amino acids can cause reduced vitamin B levels which is responsible for managing your mood.
- Could possibly lead to reduced serotonin levels (Feel good hormone released from exercise)
- Are NOT a supplement for meal replacement or high quality protein
Tips on taking amino acids:
- Hands down one of the most simple supplements to take: Simply mix them with your water (if in powder form) and consume the water as you usually would throughout the workout.
- Try not to overdo it: Read the recommended amount and stick to it, as it may begin to have health implications. (especially on your mood)
Creatine is another fairly new supplement. Although I do believe that creatine is worth taking…For a specific athlete. Creatine is used in our ATP PC energy system. This alactic energy lasts for up to a minute. However with increased creatine stores to burn this can last a lot longer. Therefore creatine is ideal for heavy lifting. Low reps. And/or any exercise that includes short bursts of pace and power.
- Increases muscle strength and size
- Enhances recovery
- Improve short bursts of pace
- Allows you to work at a high intensity for longer
- Improves the healing of bones
- Creatine can cause bloating
- Can be harmful to kidneys and liver
- Can cause cramp (muscle spasms)
Tips on taking creatine:
- Take it throughout the day: Unlike some other supplements it’s not a good idea to consume your daily limit in one sitting. Instead take small amounts a few times throughout the day.
- Read the label: It’s important to read the label and go off the recommended amount, atleast until you can see how your body reacts to a new substance.
In conclusion supplements are excellent when used properly. Don’t be tempted to be on multiple supplements at a time though as this can have health implications. Personally I would limit it down to using two differently supplements at anyone time. And always read the label! Fancy trying your hand on some new supplements? Give this code a go to grab yourself a 25% discount @Myprotein.
Think I missed something important? Let me know down in the comments!