To supp or not to supp, a sportsman’s dilemma springs eternal. Science-backed answers to the common gym quandary are more of the grey than black-and-white kind: many bodybuilders use supplements to maximize workout effects, but this still doesn’t mean that every gym-loving Jane and Joe should reach for a powdery or pill-shaped muscle mass leg-up. For bulk-minded lifters who like their gym sessions tough, long, and frequent, dietary supplements can be a welcome addition to the training agenda, as they can prevent tissue breakdown, enhance muscle repair, and reduce post-workout recovery. Unfortunately, while some supplements are blessings in a bottle, others are just cleverly advertized fool’s gold, so knowing the difference can save you a decent amount of cash, sweat, and disappointment. Here are four tried-and-tested supplements which you can turn to when your nutrition and workout plans fail to produce desired results.
- Caffeine Pills
If gym fatigue is your everyday reality, caffeine pills can provide a quick energy boost. Caffeine pills have twofold benefits: they can increase on-bar focus and stamina, and help prevent post-workout muscle soreness. According to recent studies, endurance sportsmen who use caffeine tablets can improve performance by 3.3-17%, while strength athletes can dial up their game by up to 20% on the caffeine pill. Sprinters and weightlifters who regularly use caffeine supps also report massive performance improvements (6.5% and 9.5% gains, respectively), and most of them also say that caffeine can lower perceived exhaustion by as many as 6%.
After years of research, scientists have finally reached a consensus: creatine boosts muscle strength, reduces post-training recovery, and increases muscle responsiveness in high-intensity anaerobic training. The level of creatine prosphate in the muscles is directly linked to weight per lift and total short-term maximum power repetitions. On top of that, creatine can also enhance cognitive function and glucose metabolism, increase bone density, promote fracture healing, and curb oxidative stress.
- Whey protein
Whey is the most popular muscle-building protein powder out there, and its recognized benefits include increased muscle size and strength, lower risk of muscle inflammation, reduced hunger, speedier weight loss, and shorter post-training recovery. Whey protein digests relatively fast, so you can use it in both pre- and post-workout liquid snacks. Other boons you get in from a whey-streaked smoothie are seamless immune function, improved antioxidant defenses and glucose metabolism, as well as reduced risk of cancer.
- Multivitamin and mineral complexes
Your mom was right: you need to eat spinach if you want to grow muscles like Popeye. Vitamins and minerals are responsible for glitch-free immune function and increased resistance to viruses and infections, both of which are extremely important for hardcore gym fans who do not want to miss trainings over a seasonal cold. Still, if you are eating your fruit and veggie ratios like a good boy scout, you can use pill-shaped vits only in peak flu seasons.
Before you join the supp queue, be aware that protein powders, fat burners, BCAAs, and vitamin and mineral complexes are just that – dietary supplements, not a replacement for meals or a substitute for increased workout intensity. Muscles are built on complex carbs, protein, sweat, and appropriate training programs, not magical quick fixes in a bottle. If your diet and exercise sessions are fine-tuned for optimal gym performance, supplements are not really necessary – but if your muscle mass percentage is stagnating even with a carefully devised top-to-bottom meal plan and workout consistency, a trip to the supp store may help nudge it up in the right direction.