Basic Supplements – Which fitness supplements you really need
The fitness and bodybuilding industry is mired with a plethora of supplements that promise you extraordinary muscle gains. It seems like new supplements are being churned out everyday, each and every one of them claiming to be the next big thing in helping you attain your ideal physique.
The purpose of this article is to help you determine which supplements you really need to consume if you are serious about your fitness and bodybuilding goals. In other words, the supplements recommended here are the ones that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and they have been rigorously tested for their safety on your health–only well-researched and scientifically proven supplements will make it on this article.
The list of supplements on this article will be divided into two categories: supplements that are critical for attaining your goals, and important supplements that are not as critical for building muscle, but effective nevertheless especially if you consider the health benefits they confer. Keep in mind that this list is not the be-all-end-all of workout supplements. Supplements that do not make this list can of course very well work, all this article is doing is to point you in the right direction, so that you know the basics of scientifically proven supplements in the fitness industry.
This is a general overview of Creatine. For more information, go to our Creatine page.
What it is:
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Creatine can be found in some foods–mostly meat, eggs, and fish. Creatine supplementation confers neuroprotective and cardioprotective benefits, among others. It is often used by athletes to increase both power output and lean mass.
Why it is critical:
- Despite being available in natural food products, it is hard for us to obtain the effective amount of Creatine needed for it to be truly effective, which is touted to be 3-5 grams/day. This is where supplementation comes in.
- Creatine is incredibly cheap, much cheaper than other important supplements such as whey protein and BCAAs.
- Creatine has been thoroughly researched, and its benefits have been well proven throughout the years.
1.2. Whey Protein
This is a general overview of Whey Protein. For more information, go to our Whey Protein page.
What it is:
Whey protein is one of the two proteins found in milk, with the other being Casein Protein. When a coagulant (usually renin) is added to milk, the curds (casein) and whey separate. Whey protein is the water-soluble part of milk.
Whey is used as a protein supplement. It is very useful for hitting targeted daily protein goals. Whey is absorbed faster than other forms of protein, which means it also increases muscle protein synthesis used to break a fasted state.
Why it is critical:
- Protein is the building block of muscle, meaning without protein our body will not have the necessary resources to build muscle.
- Like creatine, protein is found in the food we consume. However, for muscle-building purposes, it is recommended to consume at least 0.8 g of protein per kg of of our bodyweight, or 0.36 g per pound of bodyweight. This is where the practicality and convenience of consuming whey protein comes in, to ensure you meet your daily needs.
- Whey protein is also relatively cheap compared to other supplements, especially if you consider its importance.
1.3. Branched Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA
This is a general overview of BCAA. For more information, go to our BCAA page.
What it is: Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) refers to three amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine.
BCAA supplementation, for people with low dietary protein intake, can promote muscle protein synthesis and increase muscle growth over time. It can also be used to prevent fatigue in novice athletes.
Leucine plays an important role in muscle protein synthesis, while isoleucine induces glucose uptake into cells. Further research is needed to determine valine’s role in a BCAA supplement. Supplementing BCAAs prevents a serum decline in BCAAs, which occurs during exercise. A serum decline would normally cause a tryptophan influx into the brain, followed by serotonin production, which causes fatigue.
Why it is critical:
- Muscle protein synthesis and fatigue prevention
- Many Protein supplements out there already contain BCAAs! This means that by consuming your whey protein, provided that you select one which supplies you with BCAA, you won’t need to spend more money on it.
This is a general overview of Pre-workouts. For more information, go to our Pre-workouts page.
What it is:
Pre-workout supplements are designed to support increased energy, focus, and endurance in the gym. The primary ingredient of pre-workout supplements is caffeine, which is present in virtually all pre-workout supplements. Other ingredients may include creatine monohydrate, BCAAs, beta-alanine, and some form of vasodilators such as L-arginine or L-citrulline, whose function is to improve blood flow.
Pre-workouts are largely optional, but they do offer some benefits that may be very enticing for certain individuals. Namely, pre-workouts can give you that mental boost to push through and give it your all during your workouts (or even help you get to the gym in the first place). While this may seem trivial, pre-workouts can make the difference when you are low on energy after a day of hard work, or when you couldn’t quite get that 7-8 hours of sleep the night before.
2.2. Casein Protein
This is a general overview of Casein Protein. For more information, go to our Casein Protein page.
What it is:
Casein proteins are commonly found in mammalian milk, making up 80% of the proteins in cow’s milk and between 20% and 45% of the proteins in human milk. As a food source, casein supplies amino acids, carbohydrates, and the two inorganic elements calcium and phosphorus. When a coagulant (usually renin) is added to milk, the curds (casein) and whey separate.
While both casein and whey proteins supply us with protein, the main difference between them is timing. Whey protein is absorbed faster than other types of protein into the body, making it ideal to be consumed after training to repair your damaged muscles. Casein, however, has the ability to provide your bloodstream with a slow and steady flow of amino acids that could last for hours. Thus consuming casein before bedtime will ensure that your body will not run out of their muscle building resources anytime soon while you are asleep. You can also read this article to find out more about the best ways to utilize whey and casein protein.
2.3. Multivitamin and Minerals
This is a general overview of Multivitamin and Minerals. For more information, go to our Multivitamin and Minerals page.
What it is:
A multivitamin is a preparation intended to be a dietary supplement with vitamins, dietary minerals, and other nutritional elements. Such preparations are available in the form of tablets, capsules, pastilles, powders, liquids, and injectable formulations.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements are not critical in the sense that they are not purely bodybuilding supplements. They do not directly target muscle growth the way creatine or whey protein do. However, vitamins and minerals are critical to support the cellular conditions under which performance and muscle growth can occur.
While certain vitamins such as Vitamin-C, A, and E are thought to be of greater importance for immune function, it is the synergistic effect of all key vitamins and minerals taken in a specific ratio that will support the best results in health and subsequent tissue growth and function. Certainly eating fruits and vegetables go a long way towards achieving this balance. However, today’s soil conditions, various pollutants, and the over processing of foods make it harder for us to get all the required nutrition through our daily food consumption alone.
2.4. Omega-3 Fish Oil
This is a general overview of Omega-3 Fish Oil. For more information, go to our Omega-3 Fish Oil page.
What it is:
The health benefits of consuming Omega-3 Fish Oil have been well documented. Omega-3 fatty acids support blood circulation to allow nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates to reach muscle and exert their effects. Moreover, they also assist in fat loss through maximizing metabolic rate and helping to form a foundation from which thermogenesis can occur. Fish oil supplements can also curb stiffness and joint pain, as well as boosting the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. Other health benefits of Omega-3 fish oil include, but are not limited to, alleviating or relieving health problems such as depression, asthma, ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease/dementia.
While omega-3 fish oil can be attained from cold-water fish such as salmon and mackarel, it is much easier to fulfill your needs through supplement consumption. This is due to the fact that we need not worry about contamination from sea products, as well as the purity and quantity of the fish oil provided they came from a trustworthy producer.
2.5. Joint recovery
This is a general overview of Joint recovery. For more information, go to our Joint recovery page.
What it is:
While Omega-3 Fish Oil and Vitamin C already play a role in ensuring the lubrication and health of your joints, those of you who can afford it should consider investing in specialized joint recovery products. The health of your joints are especially important when you consider the strain you put them under when you are taxing your body and muscle during those intense weight training sessions.
Typically, important ingredients found in joint recovery products will include glucosamine, calcium, MSM, and chondroitin.
As previously stated, it is important to know which supplements really works so that you are not duped into buying things you don’t really need. If you are under a tight budget, it is highly recommended to simply get yourself high quality Creatine as well as whey protein that contains BCAAs in them. You can still get quality products for cheap, as long as you know which brands to watch out for.
If you have a little bit more cash to splurge, then the other five important supplements will be my next picks. The order of importance will depend on each individual. If you feel like it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym after work, you will be wise to invest in pre-workouts. On the other hand, if you feel nagging joint paint, then you know that it is the area you want to fix first and foremost.
For other supplements not mentioned here, my advise would be to approach them with caution, and only buy them when there is enough scientific research to back up their merit.