The fitness world is full of a lot of gimmicks and promises because working out is hard work, and if there’s one thing human history has shown us, it’s that humans love a good shortcut. The truth is, there’s no real replacement for hard work. When it comes to fitness, “hard work” means getting into the gym, lifting weights, laying down miles, not eating trash, and making the effort to cut fat and make gains.
Whether your goal is to increase strength, decrease body fat or improve overall performance, adding supplements to your daily regimen can give you that extra edge. But with thousands of products on the market, choosing the ones that are right for you can be overwhelming. Below is a list of workout supplements that actually work...
Creatine is a natural substance our body uses to produce energy. The body turns creatine into phosphocreatine, which is stored in the muscles. Creatine supplementation works by increasing its availability in the muscle. This helps to maintain energy during high-intensity exercise such as lifting weights, circuit workouts and interval runs. Increasing the availability of phosphocreatine may also help speed up recovery between sets.
Long-term creatine supplementation appears to enhance the quality of resistance training, generally leading to 5-15% greater gains in strength and performance.
2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
BCAAs are awesome because they don’t just help you during your workout, but also after. In fact, they work best in the post-workout stages. BCAAs are a mix of three vital amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – that are essential to muscle repair and recovery. Their whole job is to help your muscles recover faster after a hard workout, which means you spend less days off from being sore and feeling beat to shit, and more time in the gym putting up the heavy stuff. Aside from helping muscles repair themselves, these amino acids also help provide much-needed energy in the gym, but also curb the production of certain hormones that actually work against your body’s attempts to build muscles – most notably, cortisol.
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, key players in the muscle recovery process. Intense resistance training can cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, leading to muscle damage and inflammation. While some inflammation is desirable, too much can delay recovery.
Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce muscle soreness after exercise and speed up the recovery process, getting you ready for your next session with the weights.
Glutamine is another amino acid that’s produced naturally by the body, and can be drawn out of muscles during intensely stressful situations. Workouts are stressful. On the whole, glutamine helps maintain muscle mass. So, if your glutamine levels are depleting during a stressful workout, and glutamine is essential to muscle mass, it’s absolutely vital that you get as much glutamine back into you’re your body as possible following a workout.
The more glutamine you get back in your body, and the faster you get it there, the more muscle you keep on.
5. Whey Protein Powder
When you’re looking for a good protein powder, look to make sure it’s whey protein. Whey protein is one of the most tried and true supplements because it contains a higher level of Leucine (remember that amino acid from the BCAAs?), which you now know is directly responsible for muscle protein synthesis (AKA growth).
As a base line, look for something that’s lower in calories, has very few ingredients, and is high in whey protein (anything in the 25 gram+ range per serving), and you won’t go wrong. Stay away from protein with sugar and all the other added nonsense.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that protein shakes are supplemental to your daily intake. Your primary source of protein should come from actual food.
If you are trying to cut fat and lose weight, cutting back on your carbs is normal. But if you’re trying to pack on muscle and keep burning fat long after the workout is over, you should be ingesting simple carbohydrates twice a day: once as soon as you wake up, and once right after a workout.
Once your workout is over, your body’s glycogen and glucose levels are completely trashed. Once that happens, your body secretes cortisol, and begins eating away at all that valuable muscle you just spent time and energy making. Ingesting simple carbs (sugars) helps raise your body’s glucose level, prevents cortisol from being secreted, and helps save that muscle tissue you’re working so hard to pack on.
Carbohydrates in the form of supplements help cut out all the extra crap that you’d normally get from ingesting it in food. You could eat a bunch of simple carbs in different foods, but having a supplement helps regulate your carb intake perfectly, giving you everything you need to keep that muscle where it belongs.
Zinc is one of the most common minerals that many athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weightlifters are missing in their diet, so they're missing out on a host of muscle benefits. For example, zinc increases muscle strength and performance, is involved with protein synthesis -- which also helps with muscle size and strength -- and can help maintain or increase testosterone levels for even further muscle development. When combined with a workout routine, this essential mineral may be the missing step to your muscle-gaining goals.
Zinc also helps enzymes such as carbonic anhydrase and carboxypeptidase, which remove carbon dioxide your body produce through normal metabolic processes. Zinc also helps maintain healthy levels of testosterone, especially in men.
Magnesium is an essential building block for hundreds of chemical processes in the body. Your muscles’ ability to contract and relax is highly dependent on how much magnesium your body is getting.
Other things affected by magnesium include:
· Nerve function
· Cardiac activity
· Blood pressure regulation
· Hormonal interactions
· Bone health
· Synthesis of proteins, fats and nucleic acids
The list goes on. The bottom line is that magnesium is the multi-tasking mineral your body needs and is probably not getting enough of. Perhaps the most high-profile process that magnesium is used for is metabolizing nutrients and turning them into energy. Magnesium activates enzymes, which help produce something called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
Why is ATP important? ATP plays a crucial role in the metabolic process. When your body breaks down ATP, your muscles use the energy that is released. The more you exercise and the harder you exercise, the faster your body burns up the energy released from breaking down ATP.
If you’re not getting enough magnesium, it can result in low energy levels and problems with muscle function. Supplements make it much easier to get the necessary nutrients to build muscle and can even give you an advantage and enhance your training when taken right and combined with a good diet.
A serial entrepreneur and former financial advisor, Jean Titus discovered his purpose and passion through the heartache of losing loved ones far too early. He lives his mantra – “We rise by lifting others” – daily as a life coach and Personal Trainer. Jean brings a simplicity and practicality to his work, helping clients draw on their strengths to realize the one thing money can’t buy – good health and wellness. Follow him on Instagram and his fitness journey!