As a coach, I get asked all the time about what supplements to take in order to “get bigger” or “make gains.” I always tell them that it isn’t a particular supplement that’s going to get you bigger, make gains or improve your athletic performance, it’s the hard work you put into your training that will improve those things.
Now I’m talking about natural, drug free training, not performance enhanced training with illicit and banned substances. Over the counter supplements that you can purchase online or at your local supplement store are great adjuncts to “supplement” your training and physique goals. However, they shouldn’t be relied on to reach those goals.
I don’t claim to be an expert and don’t have an MD or PhD behind my name. But as a coach and nutritional consultant, I do keep up with the latest research in both nutrition and training in order to improve my knowledge. From my own experience working with clients of different backgrounds, I usually have a few supplements that I recommend in order to improve their training and physique goals.
Best Supplements to Achieve Fitness Goals
1. Whey Protein
Protein is one of the most well studied ergogenic supplements available for athletes to improve lean muscle accretion. There are a lot of different brands out on the market, but when I buy protein, I usually check to see what’s on sale first. Then, of those that are on sale, I usually recommend clients look at the nutritional values and ingredients. I tell clients to shy away from proteins that have too many ingredients listed on their packaging and make sure nutrient values are appropriate. As far as whether I pick an isolate, concentrate, or both, again, I see what’s on sale and critique those first But to me, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s an isolate or concentrate. Either would work! They’re just assimilated within the body a little differently.
2. Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine has many scientifically proven benefits when used in conjunction with a sound resistance training program. There are many forms of Creatine out there, but studies have shown that nothing beats plain old Creatine Monohydrate.
Don’t get suckered by locker room science to purchase those other novel forms of Creatine. They just don’t work as well as the old standby. The reason for all the different variants of Creatine Monohydrate was hope that altering the chemical properties of it would lead to increased intestinal absorption. Which in turn would lead to increased Creatine stores above that which the monohydrate version was capable of. Save your money and go for the monohydrate version.
3. BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
The three amino acids that make up BCAA’s are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Out of the three, Leucine is the main muscle building bcaa. Together, they are the building blocks of protein and can serve as an energy source for skeletal muscle.
There are numerous studies that suggest BCAA’s role is in reducing muscle damage, enhancing recovery from exhaustive exercise, and decreasing central fatigue. Many protein powders already include BCAA’s in their formulation, but supplementing with extra BCAA’s wouldn’t hurt. It actually creates a positive nitrogen balance and assisting with anabolism. But if you are getting adequate protein intake from meats, chicken, eggs, and fish, I do not recommend supplementing with extra BCAA’s in your diet.
So there you have it! It’s no surprise! My top three OTC supplements I recommend to help you improve your training and physique. They have a wealth of studies behind them. All other supplements might have some benefit, but do your research and see what best fits you and your needs.