Hey Coach! With So Many Supplements Available, Which Ones Should I Take?

vitamin supplement in glass water with dumbell

Supplements play a big role in the training community. We see them everywhere, wondering if it isn’t the miracle that could help us get past that plateau, or lose the extra weight QUICKLY. Supplements do work, but you have to be careful with your expectations. After all, supplements are supplementing a good nutrition, not replacing it. You should also be mindful of the ingredients and marketing scams! I will not discuss protein powder as I do not see it as a supplement per se, but more like a tool to reach your protein requirements. Below is a brief overview of what I consider the most important and predominant supplements available on the market today.

 

Vitamins and Friends

 

Multivitamin

 

A “cheap” multivitamin is a must for everyone regardless of their goals. The thought behind that is you cannot properly grow without adequate micronutrient intake. Chances are you will be deficient in one area or another while eating real food, so taking a multi takes care of this for you. Be careful not to take too much though, as it isn’t true that you will eliminate all the vitamins you take in excess; Fat-soluble vitamin will get stored in the liver and fatty tissue and can cause you more harm them good taken in big doses.

 

Recommended: Any kind. (For men try iron-free as we do not eliminate iron like women do)

 

Greens

 

A green supplement can be a good idea since it will most likely contain fiber as opposed to multivitamin in the form of a pill. It will be much more expensive though, and if you already eat a lot of fibrous green vegetables and fruit, can be superfluous.

 

Recommended: Green+

 

Specific vitamin supplementation

 

Some people will like to take their vitamins separately from others. This kind of supplementation should be made on a trainee-to-trainee basis. For instance, people living in the north would most likely supplement with vitamin D, as opposed to people living in sunny environments. Older people would probably supplement with calcium as they age. Below is a list of the most important ones and when/why you should take them. Again, unless specifically noted, I do not recommend individual vitamin supplements for the majority of people.

 

  • Vitamin C: Antioxidant, improve iron absorption, developing collagen.

  • Vitamin D: Increase calcium uptake, helps immune system, regulates glucose tolerance.

  • Vitamin E: Most powerful antioxidant, lessen inflammation.

  • Vitamin B12: Helps form steroid hormones

  • Calcium: Regulates muscle contraction/hormone secretion/impulse transmission, forms teeth and bones.

  • Magnesium: Assists with carbohydrate and fat metabolism, supports protein synthesis, helps absorption of minerals.

  • Zinc: Helps with growth, diet usually low in zinc.

 

Pre workout

 

This is the place where the supplement industry makes the most money. It seems like every week there is a new pre workout formula hitting the market. Promises of getting you pumped, jacked and focused for the big workout are seen on every one of them. The truth is that most of these are a combination of the same ingredients, and you can “build your own” for much cheaper than their nice tub full of nice scientific words. Caffeine, taurine, creatine, l-arginine, AAKG and citrulline malate are all typical ingredients included in your pre-workout supplements. Do they work? Unless you have a strong tolerance to their substance, yes they do. Can you get alternatives for cheaper? For instance, if you react well to caffeine and are looking just to get more focused and have higher energy, you could use something like 100-200mg of caffeine 30 minutes before your workout and expect to have the same results. If you like the pump you get, taking a small dose of arginine (AAKG) and beta-alanine will do much of the same. Pre-workout supplements should be cycled, as you will build tolerance to the product in the long run. Do not underestimate the effect of placebo as well.

 

Recommended: Build your own, otherwise BSN No-Xplode and USPlabs Jack3d

 

Intra-Workout

 

I like to keep a constant flow of amino acid to help with recovery. For this, you could definitely benefit from either drinking a protein shake, or sipping on a rich carbohydrate drink filled with BCAA. I personally like to wait until my training is done since I don’t like the “stomach full of liquid” feeling, but if I am doing more than 60 minutes of continuous workout, I will usually have something ready. Any kind of supplements providing you with BCAA would work here.

 

Recommended: Depending on your post-workout drink, you should aim for 40-60g of carbs per hour of exercise and 10-15g of BCAA.

 

Post-Workout

 

Recovery begins as soon as you finish your last rep. The old adage to eat high GI carbs post workout has been debunked, but you should still focus on eating carbohydrate mixed with protein. You could buy pre-made post workout drink from your supplement store, but these are again much more expensive than doing your own. Do not eat fruits as they are made of fructose, which will not replenish your glycogen stores (the energy in the muscle).

 

Recommended: Oatmeal or maltodextrin and protein powder.

 

tape measure supplements pill

 

Specific cut stack

 

  • Omega 3’s

  • Caffeine

  • BCAA

  • CLA

 

 

Specific bulk stack

 

  • Creatine

  • Arginine

 

 

Miscellaneous

 

  • Some people like to take magnesium and zinc before bed. Melatonin also helps with deeper REM.

  • Illegal supplements are everywhere. Depending on your country/state, some items may be illegal for you. Normally, the following will be banned: Androgenic/Anabolic Steroids including but not limited to: Testosterone (not to be confused with testosterone booster, which is legal), methandrostenolone, nandrolone and pro-hormones. Human growth hormone (HGH). Peptides hormones. Masking agents.

  • Glutamine: Not enough scientific data to provide factual results. If your diet is sound you would not beneficiate from glutamine supplementation.

 

Top “everyday” stack

 

  • Multivitamin

  • Omega 3’s

  • BCAA

  • Good and proper nutrition.

 

 

Remember that supplements will only help you support your training and diet. It does NOT replace hard work.

 

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