In the strength training world there is a lot of supplements that claim to get you bigger, stronger and faster. For the vast majority, most supplements sold do not have any affect on performance at all and are laden with fillers. Supplements are a billion dollar industry and they prey on peoples desperation to become better athletes. They bottle it up with a shiny label and put some unnatural weightlifter or famous athlete endorsing it so that they can trick you into believing that it works. I can tell you that these men endorsing the product didn't get that way from the products with their face on them. Most people will waste their money on virtually anything. This is the ONLY page you will ever have to look at again when deciding on supplements. I have only included supplements that are known to be effective and safe when used as recommended. The list at the bottom might be surprisingly short but the other gazillion supplements that companies have out there either were shown to have no effect, mixed results, or little understanding on muscle building and performance. For the people who claim that supplements that are not listed increased their performance I would say that the placebo effect was the real enhancer.
Protein Powders The only macronutrient that can synthesize muscle is protein. If you are involved in intense resistance training or endurance you are going to need more protein than the average man. We can get our protein sources from Animals and animal products but it is difficult to get the required amount for us athletes. I am a little guy at 5'2 so I can get my protein from diet alone. But if you are a bigger athlete, workouts are very intense, an aging athlete, and/or do not have the time to get protein in the diet then powders will be the best choice for you. Remember most professionals recommend any where from 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Not only is protein important in muscle building but it also aids in recovery, prevents muscle from breaking down during exercise, prevents muscle loss when losing weight and increases strength.
Creatine and Beta - Alanine Creatine monohydrate is shown to increases performance in high intensity exercise such as sprinting and resistance training. The gain in muscle mass and strength is most likely due to the ability for the body to work harder during exercise, thus promoting greater adaptation and growth. Creatine is believed to help in the re-synthesis of phosphocreatine, which acts as energy for anaerobic activity. Creatine has been highly studied and is considered safe.
Beta - Alanine gets absorbed by the muscles where it is synthesized by carnosine. Carnosine is important in anaerobic exercises such as strength training and sprinting. Taking BA supplements have been shown to improve carnosine levels which reduces fatigue in strength training and high intensity exercises, thus promoting a higher capacity for working out and the potential for growing muscle. BA is generally safe when taken within the normal limits
I categorized the two supplements together because when you combine CM and BA it can increase high intensity performance, reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass better than taking CM by itself.
EAA and BCAA Essential amino acids are the chemical compounds found in complete protein sources such as meats, dairy, and protein powders. These 9 amino acids are called essential because the body cannot make them naturally and must be obtained through the diet. I included Branch Chain Amino Acids with the EAA's because they make up three of the 9 aminos and are considered most important at synthesizing muscle growth. However all EEA's need to be consumed to get maximum efficiency and health. Taking EEA's after a workout has shown improvements in protein synthesis, glycogen synthesis and aids in recovery. The controversial decision lies in whether or not it is necessary to take these supplements if you are consuming adequate protein in the diet.
Caffeine The best pre – workout supplement to take before a workout is caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and works by increasing circulating epinephrine hormones; which increases heart rate, respiratory rate, blood flow, fat breakdown, and blood sugar. It is believed that the increase in epinephrine recruits a greater amount of fatty acids from fat. The increase in circulating fatty acids is used by the body while the utilization of muscle glycogen is reduced. Simply put, the body uses more energy from fat than it does from muscles, which can improve endurance. To make an impact on performance, studies show that caffeine intake has to be at moderate levels of 200mg – 400mg (3mg/kg – 6mg/kg) and takes about an hour to hit the system. I suggest ingesting no more than 200mg because it is safe and adequate to get the job done. The downside is that over time, like all substances, the body grows a tolerance to it. The effects of caffeine in pill form (anhydrous) enhances endurance and high intensity exercises (soccer, field hockey) in conditioned athletes.
These are the specific brands that I personally recommend. Check them out!