One of the most common questions people ask is in relation to supplements. Many have heard that the supplement industry is not regulated, and false claims abound. Because of this, the companies who promote their products are difficult to trust. Will this product really help my joints, or is that just marketing fluff? Does protein powder actually affect muscle growth? Are pre-workouts safe? These are all great questions, and this post will break down what supplements you should use, as well as buying guidelines.
Additionally, supplement recommendations are best broken down by athlete type. The everyday athlete who is working out to get in shape and be healthier, and the competitive athlete who wants to improve their performance. The goals are different, so are the supplements that are needed for those goals.
Everyday athletes who's main focus is not performance in a sport should be using supplements to support their overall health. In order to accomplish that goal, these are the top three supplements to include in your day.
Most people severely under-eat protein, mainly due to the official dietary guidelines being far too low. You should be eating 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. For a 150 pound female, this means you will need at least 120 grams of protein per day. Protein powder consumed after your daily workout or as a mid-afternoon snack helps you get there easier.
The most common omega 3 on the market is fish oil. However, if you are vegan you can look to algae for an omega 3 or you can use turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. The reason omega 3's are important is that it reduces inflammation in your body which helps your joints feel better and improve the function of your blood vessels - slightly important.
There are many opinions on multivitamins - do they work, are they bioavailable, do you just pee out all the nutrients? The verdict is still very out, but for the busy, everyday athlete who might struggle to get all the nutrients they need a multivitamin provides a nice buffer.
Best Brand: BodyLogic
If you're a competitive athlete, your main focus is on performance. Additionally, it is likely that you are already eating enough protein and consuming fruits and vegetables with your meals. Your needs are different, and so are your supplement needs.
Creatine is the most studied supplement of all time. There are no known side effects. Anecdotally, people can have adverse reactions like bloating, but this is an exceptionally small percentage of the population. Creatine allows you to work harder for longer. It is literally a performance enhancer. Additionally, there are now links to long term cognitive benefits with creatine.
Best Brands: there is no differentiating between brands of creatine monohydrate. Don't get sold here by flashy marketing. Optimum Nutrition is a safe bet.
Much like creatine, caffeine is a legal performance enhancer. The amount of discomfort you feel is actually lowered when caffeine is in your system. Your attention levels go up, making any skill easier to do well. Both of these effects are magnified when you do not regularly consume a bunch of caffeine, so if you have a competition coming up, consider doing a quick break away from caffeine in order to feel the best effects.
Best Brands: Look to the next section for pre-workout with caffeine. For caffeine on its own, coffee is your best bet as it is not only high in caffeine but is also one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the American diet.
Beta alanine is often found in pre-workout mixes as it enhances muscle endurance during intense exercise. If you have never taken beta alanine before, it is likely that you will feel a tingling sensation in your body after drinking it for the first few times. That is a histamine response and is expected - don't be worried by it. If you care about performance, include this supplement in your life.
Best Brands: Beta alanine is most easily consumed in a pre-workout mix. I like Red Leaf Nutrition's pre workout because it has lower caffeine than most, and doesn't have any proprietary blends. Just easy to understand ingredients you can actually pronounce.