Supplements are a common source of confusion in the health and fitness industry. Supplement companies brand them as essential, whilst lots of professionally trained specialists say they’re not required. However, it’s commonly agreed that supplements give your body and mind a little boost to perform at a higher level. So if you are someone that wants to perform optimally in the gym, these are the supplements you need to know about, and our product recommendations.
ReviewPre-workout typically contains high doses of caffeine and a combination of nutrients, including creatine monohydrate, amino acids, B vitamins and electrolytes. This combination of supplements results in increased energy levels, performance, strength and decreased muscle and mental fatigue. However, it can cause an itchy skin feeling, anxiety and a dangerously high heart rate, so be careful what you choose and how frequently you take it.
Some people are less able to absorb all the nutrients - or certain nutrients - from their food efficiently and so often experience bloating, constipation or stomach pain as it is not properly digested. Digestive enzymes are small proteins that act on specific molecules within foods to break them down. You can take these supplements before eating a meal to help improve digestion.
Digestive enzymes typically contain one of or all of these enzymes naturally occurring in the pancreas: amylase (to break down starches), lipase (to break down fats) and protease/peptidases (to break down protein).
Being able to properly absorb all the nutrients in your food will maximize the benefits of consuming it. So if you’re often bloated and bail on your workout because of it, it sounds like you need digestive enzymes.
Protein powder has been popularized more in the last few years by the fitness industry who claim the more protein you eat the more muscle you will build, which obviously is not true. However there is never smoke without fire - research shows again and again that protein is the key macronutrient in muscle building and maintaining your everyday health and muscle functioning.
Minerals like magnesium, sodium and potassium have amazing benefits on performance. We all need these minerals to survive, they play a role in everything from building strong bones to optimal nerve functioning. Minerals are easily consumed from the food and water we consume but are just as easily lost in urine, defecation and most significantly through sweating.
Even without doing exercise and physically sweating the average person loses 0.5 to 1 litre of water just from breathing. So for those who do exercise, you can imagine how much water is lost and as a result, how many minerals are lost that need replenishing imminently.
Magnesium is essential for recovery and plays the important role of metabolizing nutrients into energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Magnesium is required for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, protein synthesis as well as supporting the functioning of the immune system. One sign of magnesium deficiency is fatigue and muscle cramps, which seriously impacts exercise performance.
Sodium is an essential nutrient, too much and you have issues but too little and you have more issues. Like magnesium it prevents muscle cramps, absorbs muscle fluids and maintains fluid balance within the body.
Potassium supports the conversion of carbohydrates into energy and helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure. It is present in fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. For optimal sports performance and recovery, it is essential to replenish these minerals after sweating through water or supplementation.
Beta alanine is a non-essential amino acid that produces carnosine which is then stored in your skeletal muscles. Carnosine reduces lactic acid accumulation in your muscles during exercise which leads to enhanced performance and improved overall health. Naturally beta-alanine levels are fairly low in the body which limits the production of carnosine which means a larger lactic acid build up, muscle fatigue and weakness and a longer recovery time.
The amino acids arginine and citrulline play an integral role in the body’s metabolism and utilization of protein and are essential for the maintenance of muscle tissue. Arginine forms nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels to improve circulation. Citrulline aids the elimination of ammonia, which is produced by the body during physical exertion and is toxic to the body, this then improves recovery post-exercise.
So why consume these supplements together? Any excess citrulline consumed is converted to arginine, helping to enhance nitric oxide levels better than arginine can alone. These supplements are probably the least essential for sports performance.
Creatine is one of the most well researched supplements out there, and for good reason - it really does work. Creatine is an amino acid supplement advertised in the fitness industry to those who want to increase energy levels, build muscle mass, lose body fat and improve performance. That may sound like some far-fetched health claims, but it’s worth the hype. A study found that supplementing with even low doses (0.3g) of creatine increases energy levels and makes you more resistant to fatigue.
This happens because creatine works as an energy shuttle. Creatine facilitates the transportation of high energy phosphate from muscle cell mitochondria to myofibrils. This means that energy is more bioavailable to the muscles, particularly during exercise. ATP is a key molecule used by your cells for energy and basic functionality, which is broken down during exercise to produce energy. Creatine helps to form new ATP so that you recover quicker and have sustained energy.
This naturally occurring amino acid is one of the most common supplements typically in the form of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) but also available alone. The amino acid plays a crucial role in the production of energy by transporting fatty acids into your cells mitochondria. For your body to produce sufficient amounts to maximize the benefits for optimal performance and brain function, you should consume it with vitamin C and/or reach for supplementation.
Aiding mitochondrial function and energy production is the main role of l-carnitine, but recent studies have also linked the substance to aiding weight loss by way of increasing fat burning capacity.
Betaine anhydrous is a vitamin derived from choline. It is used for treating high blood homocysteine levels, liver disease, depression, osteoarthritis, congestive heart failure (CHF), and obesity; for boosting the immune system; and for improving athletic performance. It has also been suggested to be lipotropic, meaning it supports fat loss by promoting the oxidation of lipids. It has also been linked to increased appetite, improved digestive efficiency, and building lean mass.
HMB needed by the body to protect and repair muscle tissue. It is thought to do this by slowing muscle protein breakdown and increasing protein synthesis, and by preserving the structural integrity of your muscle cells.
When you experience DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) from training frequently and intensely, your body requires more HMB. Despite being a fairly new supplement on the scene, research has shown it improves exercise performance by supporting muscle cell repair and adaptation. It has been shown to accelerate strength and muscle mass gains in strength athletes, and improve endurance performance in cyclists and runners.
MCT oil is a middle chain triglyceride derived from coconut oil. It is a pure saturated fat that acts as an instant source of energy. It has been shown in studies to increase cognitive functioning, reduce lactate build up, helps your body use fat stores for energy and promotes weight loss. There are so many benefits to MCT oil it’s insane, it is one of the most recommended supplements with zero side effects. Pour a spoon in your coffee in the morning and feel yourself going into ‘Limitless’ mode.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about gym supplements! If you want to reach your fitness goals quickly, follow these tips and purchase these products to upgrade your performance and feel better than ever.