Oh the billion dollar industry of supplements, selling hopes and dreams in the form of magic pills and powders.
Unfortunately, those dreams are pretty quickly shattered when you realise you bought a fancy sounding powder and the only thing leaner is your bank account.
No need to worry! There are actually some supplements out there that have undeniable proof, through in-depth scientific studies, that they actually do what they say on the package!
In this post you will see 5 of these beauties.
Whether you are cutting, bulking, training for performance or just trying to be healthy, these supplements should make up your 'base stack'.
What are supplements?
They are substituents of your diet in which you may not get enough of from your usual diet. They are used to 'supplement' your normal food intake to increase and/or optimise the intake of certain compounds, leading to improved results.
Keyword here. Supplement.
They SUPPLEMENT your normal food intake. There is no magic. Your food intake still accounts for the huge majority of your results. By simply taking some supplements you do not guarantee results. You guarantee results by eating primarily whole foods in a calorie deficit while training (like this). The supplements OPTIMISE your results.
The ultimate supplement to your training. Your body will use creatine as an energy source before burning any others (carbs or fat). This means that it will help you knock out those last few reps before failure.
Creatine has strong evidence that it:
- Improves muscular output
- Improves short-term endurance
Together, both of these are important. If you can push a little bit harder for a little bit longer each training session, those extra bits will add up as the sessions go on.
Knees sore? How about your elbows? Fish oil has been successfully used to alleviate joint pain. It fights off inflammation in the body and help your joints recover from the stressors of life.
Fish oil is primarily made up of two separate omega-3 fatty acids: EPA and DHA. So ensure your fish oil contains both.
In more detail, these fatty acids help with leptin signalling in the brain, reducing inflammation, enhancing mood and reducing disease risk factor.
Caffeine, everyone's favourite, actually has several beneficial effects on your health.
It is more just a stimulant which wakes you up in the morning, it is also a fat burner.
When ingested, caffeine causes adrenaline and dopamine to be released, which improves mood, induces euphoria, and increases excitability. However, after prolonged supplementation, these effects fade and only the ability to ward off sleep remains (sadface).
Caffeine has two distinct effects that contribute to its fat burning properties. Caffeine consumption has a thermogenic effect, which means it increases heat production. Prolonged consumption of caffeine also has a lipolytic effect, which means caffeine causes triglycerides to release fatty acids, which can then be used as fuel by the body.
If you already get enough caffeine through coffee or tea then you don't need to supplement here.
The importance of multivitamins is that they cover your bases to protect you against any deficiencies in your micronutrients.
In essence, they are a nutritional 'safety net'.
Deficiencies in your body can have harmful, sometimes severe, effects. You will find that some multivitamins are geared towards certain deficiencies (based on your age/gender etc.) to optimise what they can do for you.
They can be even more important if you are dieting or cutting out particular food groups for any reason as you may not reach the recommended daily dose of vitamins through your food intake.
The inclusion of a simple multivitamin is cost effective and will keep you in top shape health-wise.
Within your body Vitamin D is used in a massive amount of metabolic processes and one of the most common to be deficient in.
Insufficient levels of Vitamin D in the body can compromise the immune system and , as it is an important precursor to hormones, has been linked to seasonal depression and other mood alterations.
Your body produces it naturally when in contact with direct sunlight but if you don’t get at least an hour of quality sun a day it’s definitely worth looking into.
Special: Protein powder
Special? It's special because I don't count it as a supplement. The reason it is so popular is that many people see it as a special powder which will make them huge. It is not.
Protein powder is, most of the time, not necessary if you are consuming a lot of protein through your normal diet. Click here to see why protein is so important!
Most protein powders are whey protein which is made from milk. It is just the protein from milk filtered out, meaning you can get the benefits of a protein serving without having to drink a litre of milk at a time.
It is not much different to the protein you find in other sources such as poultry, eggs or seafood (there may be slight differences in bioavailability).
Most of the time I include protein powder in any recommendations because higher protein diets are highly correlated with improved body composition (meaning lower body fat and higher lean muscle mass) and most people just don't eat enough.
For optimal results, you're looking for around 2+ grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a woman weighing 65kg, that means 130 grams of protein per day would be best. A protein shake a day just makes it easier to reach that target.
Supplements do not guarantee results (although some of them will say they do!).
But these 5 (or 6) above have been proven, through years of pretty rigorous testing, that they actually will help you in what they claim to do.
If you are looking to make the most of your time in the gym, get the best results from your diet or just looking to improve your health supplementing with each of the above will give you unique benefits and an extra edge in your progress. Add this to my quick start guide and you will be set up for everlasting glory.