Updated: Jan 7
In the world of fitness, supplements are always promoted to have almost steroid-like effects that supposedly “enhance” your performance, help you lose fat, build muscle, etc. But what are supplements really? And, which are the products that are proven to work? In this article, let's shed some light on the most effective supplements you can add to your plan!
Stimulation & Recovery
When it comes to training, there are two primary things that happen: First, you go through your workout, where you engage your muscles and nervous system, along with many other bodily systems. After that period of stimulation, comes the recovery part, where all the components and systems that worked, recover and increase their working capacity.
Here are the most crucial things that happen during a workout
Muscle protein breakdown
During heavy workouts, we break down muscle protein, in a process called “muscle protein breakdown (MPD)”. After your training session is over, that same muscle protein starts recovering in a process called “muscle protein synthesis (MPS)”. When your rate of MPS is greater than the rate of MPD, you go through a successful recovery phase that results in greater strength and size of the musculature.
2. Creatine breakdown
The main energy molecule for the body during high-intensity activities is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). However, due to the fact that ATP stores are relatively limited, intense training quickly exhausts those reserves. To continue muscular activity, the body restores ATP by using the secondary muscle energy stores: Creatine. That is to say that creatine isn’t just a non-essential supplement, but a naturally synthesized compound which serves as an alternative energy source.
3. Nervous System Activity
High-intensity workouts highly engage not just the muscles, but the nervous system as well. A well-activated central nervous system would allow you to achieve a greater strength output. There are certain supplements you can use to improve the activity of your nervous system, so keep reading to learn more!
What is a Supplement, even?
Nowadays, supplements are advertised as magical products that can somehow compensate for the lack of discipline in your training and nutrition. However, supplements don’t work like magic... By definition, a supplement is a thing (nutritional or otherwise), added to something else in order to enhance or "complete" it. In other words, supplements are added to your already well established nutrition plan, to complete it - not to replace something that lacks in it.
The 3 Supplements Worth Taking
In the context of improving athletic output (strength, endurance, etc.) and recovery after that, there are a couple of supplements that are proven to work.
Protein and/or Amino Acid (BCAAs) Supplements
Contrary to popular belief, protein/BCAAs supplements contain pretty much the same elements as that in foods. However, in its powdered form, these are more isolated and can be digested more rapidly, due to the absence of other ingredients. They are also less filling, and lower in calories.
Protein/BCAAs supplements can be a viable tool to help you derive a solid dose of protein & amino acids quickly, at a time of need, such as after a workout. Even more so, a scoop of protein/BCAAs can grant the body and adequate source, at a moment when you don’t have the time for a full meal.
Additionally, there is another variation of protein supplements called “Casein” (as oppose to the more common and referred to "Whey"). In essence, casein is a protein that digests slowly and can be used before bedtime. Without a doubt, protein/BCAAs are one of the most viable supplements that will help you keep up the rate of muscle protein synthesis and thus, improve gains in the long term.
This second supplement on the list is one of the most researched and proven to work products out there in the fitness world. As we already mentioned, creatine is the body’s natural, secondary energy reserve. The best-known and proven to work form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which can be supplemented with just 5 grams a day.
This amount will help you saturate your muscles’ creatine reserves and thus, improve maximum strength, along with strength endurance. Looking to maximize your output and blast through your plateaus? Take some creatine.
There are days when you just DON’T feel like working out and we’ve all experienced that. Caffeine however is one of the best stimulants, proven to enhance and improve your athletic output, as well as mental clarity and focus. This ingredient is used in a variety of pre-workout boosters (creatine is often found in these as well), but can also be found in your everyday coffee or energy drinks.
Don’t forget though, caffeine is safe up to 300-400 mg per day (for most people) and needs some time to kick in, and then, time to get out of your system. When using caffeine, remember that it has a half-life of 12 hours - meaning half of the caffeine you ingest is still in your system 12 hour later. Keep this in mind when deciding when, or how much caffeine to take as it can effect your sleep. For this reason, it is recommended that you consume your caffeine ~30 minutes before a workout and not less than 6-12 hours before sleep (otherwise, sleeping pattern may be disrupted). Also, be aware some some are more sensitive to caffeine than other - so always start with less!
Remember, supplements are not the "magic sauce" they are often promoted to be, however, they can still be made a viable addition to your nutrition plan. As far as effectiveness goes, protein, creatine and caffeine are the 3 most potent supplements that any generally healthy personal can add to their nutrition plan All 3 of these supplements will improve your training output and recovery, leading to better gains overtime.
Interested in trying a safe, tested, and FDA certified facility line of supplements? Look to Lewis Performance Training: lewisperformancetraining.com/supplements. Use coupon code SPRING25 for 25% off your first order! And, feel free to reach out for questions about ANY type of supplement.