I get more questions about supplements than I get about anything else related to fitness.
What supplements should I take? Should I use water or milk in the protein shake? Is creatine safe? Will this pre-workout make me stronger?
I could've kept going but I think I've made my point; people just don't know a lot about supplements. As a trainer it is not within my scope to recommend supplements or products to people but I can educate people about them. In this post I will break down exactly what each of the most popular types of supplements do, what they don't do, and when they are most effectively taken.
Protein is probably the most widely used supplement on the market. The protein that you consume in protein shakes (like the brands above) are milk based proteins. There are two different types of milk based proteins: Casein and Whey. Whey is the more commonly used type of protein and it is the faster digesting of the two. Casein is slower digesting but stays in the body longer. Some brands are better than others as far as dosage but a general serving of protein is about 25 grams. You can use either milk or water when mixing your protein but keep in mind that using milk adds additional calories to your shake. Although people supplement protein at all different times of the day, it has been shown that casein is better taken at night because of it's slow digesting nature. Whey is better taken post workout because it is faster digesting.
Pre-workouts are a drink that you consume prior to working out (thanks captain obvious). The key thing to know about pre-workouts is that they are glorified energy drinks. If you are using a pre-workout for anything other than an energy boost you are wasting your money. Sure there are some ingredients to help increase your heart rate and increase vasodilation of your blood vessels but the main purpose of pre-workouts is energy. This is especially true with the way that the supplement industry is today. Most ingredients are way under-dosed and companies just throw a bunch of caffeine and beta-alanine in there so you can feel like "it's working." You are not going to get "results" from a pre-workout drink. They are for energy.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are another supplement that I get a lot of questions about. Amino Acids are what make up proteins in the body. The thought is that by taking amino acids you are increasing the muscle building and recovery agents in your body which will, in turn, result in increased muscle growth. BCAAs are also know to provide an energy boost and several brands even include caffeine in their BCAA product. I personally don't think that BCAAs are that necessary as a high protein diet will contain more than enough amino acids in it already. If you are going to take a BCAA supplement, ones with a 2:1:1 L-Leucine: L-Isoleucine: L-Valine ratio are generally recommended.
Creatine is by far the most studied and researched supplement on the market. There are two common types that you will see in a supplement store: Creatine Hydrochloride (HCl) and Creatine Monohydrate. Almost all of the studies done on creatine have been done on creatine monohydrate and it is generally the cheaper type out of the two. They both help increase muscle mass, strength, and energy. There is no need to cycle creatine like you would a steroid or other performance enhancing drug. You can take it every day and it is not a drug or steroid, its an amino acid. There have been significant results shown with taking it before or after workouts so it is a matter of preference when it comes to timing. A normal serving for monohydrate is 5 grams daily and for HCl 1-2 grams daily is commonly recommended.
In addition to giving some free advertising to the supplement brands in the pictures, we now understand what each supplement does and when to use it. It is important to note that NOTHING replaces a good diet. You do not need supplements. They are meant to be added to an already healthy diet and they are not meant to be a substitute for one. No supplement can take the place of good nutrition.
Disclaimer: I am not recommending the use of any of the following supplement products or promoting any particular brand. The purpose of this post is strictly informational.
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