Supplement sales have exploded and there now seems to be a pill for everything. Fat burners, muscle builders, weight loss aids and mood enhancers all promise to help improve your overall life or physical appearance. This ‘solution in a bottle’ mentality is dangerous because many of these products are more marketing hype than functional. Being able to differentiate between what works and what doesn’t can help you reach your goals faster and healthier while saving you money.
1. Multivitamin. If you are not getting all your vitamins and minerals from a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a multivitamin can help you out. Vitamins and minerals play an important role in energy production. If your diet lacks certain nutrients, your body will not efficiently utilize the energy you give it. If you are not getting the nutrients from your food, taking a multivitamin will help fill the gaps in your diet.
2. Protein. To build muscle, you need a diet high in protein. Getting protein from a good source can sometimes be difficult. Most foods that are high in protein are also high in saturated or bad fats. A protein powder supplement can provide around 30 grams per serving and contains almost no fat. They come in flavors that taste great and are easy to drink when mixed with milk or even water.
3. Caffeine. Caffeine can be used as a substitute for sugar to give you an energy filled workout. If you are trying to lose weight, taking in extra calories from sport drinks for extra energy during exercise can be counterproductive. Instead, you can drink a cup of coffee (no sugar) which will give you calorie free energy. The effects of caffeine will be greater in those who do not already drink coffee on a regular basis.
4. Creatine. The only form of energy that your muscles can use is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Whether you eat carbohydrates, fat or proteins, they will all get converted to ATP before your muscles can utilize the energy. Each ATP molecule contains 3 phosphates. Whenever you flex a muscle, a phosphate is removed from the ATP molecule and energy is harnessed from the chemical reaction. Your body is good at recycling these phosphates and they eventually get reattached to make new ATP molecules. Creatine can help boost your performance by providing your muscles with an abundant source of phosphates. Creatine has been shown to increase lean body mass which means more muscle for you.
5. BCAAs. Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) have been shown to reduce muscle breakdown at the end of your workout. After you exercise for long periods of time, your muscles start to breakdown, you go into a catabolic state. As you can imagine, catabolic states are not good for your muscle building goals. Taking BCAAs before a rigorous workout can help prevent this. BCAAs are often used by those looking to reduce body fat while preserving muscle mass.
The Bottom Line
Remember that supplements are not designed to replace a healthy lifestyle, they are only designed to help. None of the supplements outlined above will do anything if you don’t practice healthy habits such as eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis.