A Beginner’s Buying Guide to Supplements
Before we get to finding the right supplement for you, you may be wondering why people supplement to begin with. Let’s talk about that.
We can start by finding common ground between the beginner fitness enthusiast and the accomplished athlete or how about the training program based on lifting heavy weights vs. the one with dancercise on Thursday nights?
The answer is that regardless of when you started or how you do it, your fitness journey – and the blood, sweat and tears behind it – is fuelled by the common end goal: Getting Results.
Simply put, supplements can magnify the results of diet and exercise, bringing you faster and greater progress towards your fitness goals.
Benefit #1: Feeding Hungry Muscles
When you exercise, your body and muscles demand more. Supplementation can help fill nutritional gaps so that you can reap more of what you sow.
Benefit #2: Maximizing Every Workout
Supplements can give you the advantage of increased energy, strength and accelerated recovery, helping you push your workouts, and your body, even further.
Benefit #3: For When Life Has Its Own Plans
There are countless ways life tries to thwart your efforts. Luckily, supplements are designed to be convenient. They can replace a meal, give you on-the-go nutrients or even support weight loss.
So, it’s easy to see why supplements are an irresistible proposition for anyone building their ideal physique, from the weekend warriors to the pro bodybuilders.
But the golden question remains, ‘which supplements should I take? Which supplements are right for my goals?’
Let’s face it, it can be difficult to sift through the world of fitness fads, here-today-but-gone-tomorrow supplement companies and hearsay claims.
And that’s why we created this guide. We’ll help match the supplement to your goal, whether that’s muscle building, weight loss or performance. Plus, we’ll make supplement recommendations based on reviews, science and what the pros are using.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ #1: I want to build muscle. What supplement is best?
Protein remains the holy grail of muscle building. After all, protein is made up of amino acids which are quite literally the building blocks of muscle.
Feeding your body enough protein keeps it in an anabolic state (read: building, repairing and growing muscle).
Protein supplements are a practical way of getting how much you need. After all, one scoop of protein powder is roughly equivalent to 4 to 5 large eggs (not to mention just a fraction of the fat and carbs).
Now, what happens when your muscles don’t get enough protein, you ask?
Great question, the answer is that you fall into a catabolic state (read: your body cannibalizes hard-earned muscle for energy). Yeah, we wouldn’t want that either.
Now that we know protein supplements build muscle, how do you pick which one?
..Spoiler Alert: Not All Proteins Are Created Equal.
When you’re spending $$ on protein, here’s how to get the best bang for your buck:
- Bioavailability – Bioavailability is a measure of how well your body absorbs the protein. Peanuts, for example, have a bioavailability of 43, whereas whey protein supplements can score well over 100, allowing your body to get more of the good stuff from less.
- Purity – Let’s say you have a purity percentage of 80%, this means that for every 100g of the product you’re consuming, after the filtration of fat, carbs and other naturally occurring ingredients, you’re left with 80g of protein. Whey concentrates fall within this 80% purity, while whey isolates have a higher, 90% purity, giving you a higher protein ratio!
- Branched Chain Amino Acids – BCAAs (namely, Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine) have been studied time and time again. The findings? BCAAs play a huge role in protein synthesis (read: the process of your body actually building protein). The best proteins are generous in their servings of BCAAs, and a higher leucine ratio is proven to be more effective.
- Absorption – If you’re looking for fast absorption, whey peptides do a fantastic job at that. On the other hand, a casein protein releases protein over an 8-hour period – a great choice for those looking for a meal replacement or a little before-bed snack that keeps feeding muscles while you sleep!
And there you have it, a protein muscle building crash course! Now that you know what the best looks like, allow us to make a few recommendations.
For Fast-Absorbing, Premium Post-Workout Protein:
Rated 4.3 out of 5 stars on Walmart.com, 100% Whey Protein Plus is a definite fan favorite.
This is your ultimate go-to for muscle building with 64g of ultra-pure protein and 14.8g of BCAAs per 2 scoops. Better yet, the whey it delivers rates 104 in bioavailability. Score!
P.S. Here’s what Rob Gronkowski, All-Pro Tight End, had to say about it:
“100% Whey Protein Plus helps me perform at a higher level and recover faster.”
For Slow-Release or Nighttime Protein:
Testimonial from the Six Star® website:
“I drink this every night before bed. It tastes good, mixes easily, and gives me peace of mind knowing that I’ll be getting some protein to my muscles throughout the night.”
Casein Protein, by Six Star®, digests slowly to give you the benefit of prolonged BCAA delivery to keep your hungry muscles satisfied! AND, it’s enhanced with an added ingredient that’s clinically shown to build more muscle and strength – how’s that for something to sleep on?
For a Vegan, Plant-Based Protein:
Where do delicious taste, plant-based protein and antioxidants intersect? Plant-Based Protein Smoothie contains 15g of dairy-free protein as well as 22 vitamins & minerals and 6g of fiber for more benefits! What doesn’t it have? No gluten. No cholesterol. So you can feel good about it, whether you’re vegan or not!
FAQ #2: What supplement can help me lose weight while fueling my workouts?
When people talk about “getting lean”, what they’re saying is that they want to gain lean muscle while getting lean. Similarly, the goal can be to increase muscle while getting lean. I mean, can you blame them?
So, what supplement can help you get beach ready?
- A hybrid pre-workout!
Here’s how a hybrid pre-workout can give you dual benefits:
We call it winning at the losing game.
- Energy and focus for better workouts: It’s easy to follow why a pre-workout that gives you energy and focus will lead to more intense workouts. But, here’s where it gets interesting- while you’re building that muscle, not only will it give you the appearance of being lean, you’ll also find that for every pound of muscle built, your body will actually burn more calories, especially during your workouts. Double win.
Pro tip: Want a one-of-a-kind sensory experience during your workout? Try a pre-workout with this combination of ingredients: beta-alanine, choline, L-tyrosine and caffeine.
- Weight loss ingredient: Having the extra edge of a weight loss ingredient in your pre-workout is like getting an extra nudge towards your goals – always. A good hybrid formula that promotes weight loss and performance is a gift that’s hard to refuse. In fact, average weight loss with key ingredient (200mg of C. canephora robusta bean extract standardized to 45% chlorogenic acids) was 10.95 lbs. in a 60-day study with a low-calorie diet, and 3.7 lbs. in a separate 8-week study with a calorie-reduced diet and moderate exercise.
C. canephora robusta is essentially premium coffee beans that have not been roasted, leading to a high chlorogenic acid. The ingredient continues to gain popularity because of its ability to promote weight loss.
OK, but it’s a tall order to combine energy, focus AND weight loss, right?
Maybe, but here’s one product that does it right:
For weight loss and workout intensity:
Rated 4.5 stars (out of 5) on Walmart.com, Pre-Workout Explosion Ripped gives you a pretty generous serving of C. canephora robusta at 400mg.
Beyond that, you continue to get your usual pre-workout benefits: energy, so you can push harder and break a sweat (or, you know, drench your t-shirt in sweat, whatever), plus enhanced focus and an incredible sensory effect.
FAQ #3: What supplement can help me build strength?
You know this already, but we think it’s worth mentioning again, especially here.
With all supplements, you want to go for the ones that have credibility. A bit of history and scientific study go a long way in separating the fads from the ones that actually work.
With that said, strength builders, rejoice!
Creatine gained popularity in the 90s as a strength builder. Twenty plus years later, it’s still going strong as one of the most widely used supplements for strength building.
Pro tip: Creatine monohydrate is the best-studied form of creatine, having accumulated hundreds of research studies and articles that vouch for its effectiveness.
Here’s how your body uses creatine to build strength:
- The source of energy for all cells throughout your body is a little something called ATP (adenosine triphosphate)
- When you work out, your body uses up that ATP.
- As a by-product (of phosphate), that ATP turns into ADP (adenosine diphosphate).
- Creatine transforms the ADP back into ATP, keeping your body well-stocked for energy and recovery.
So, now that you know the relationship between your body and creatine, let’s chat a bit about its use.
Reaching the saturation point with creatine.
To experience the full benefits of supplementing with creatine, you want to get to a place called the point of saturation. True to its name, this is when your body is getting enough creatine to saturate your muscle cells.
There are two ways of saturating your cells with creatine:
- The 30-day process. Supplementing with 3g to 5g of creatine per day should get you to your saturation point within about 30 days. It takes patience, but the results come, as they say, slow and steady.
- The 5-day process. If you prefer, you can expedite the process to 5 days. During the so-called loading phase, you supplement 5g of creatine, 4 times a day for 20g of daily consumption. You do this for 5 days in a row. This process is then followed by the maintenance phase. This is when you’ve reached the saturation point and maintain that place with your regular 3g to 6g of creatine, daily.
There you have it, your know-how and how-to on creatine.
Ready for the recommendation on a creatine supplement?
With a 4.4 out of 5 stars rating on Amazon.com, 100% Creatine is a straight-shooting formula made up of 100% ultra-pure creatine monohydrate – nothing more, nothing less. This means that every serving gives your muscles 5g of creatine, with no fillers or additives.
Can it be so simple? Apparently, it is.
FAQ #4: Which fitness supplements will work with my lifestyle?
We started off this guide talking about convenience and practicality being two major benefits for supplementation in the first place. And that is true. All of the supplements mentioned here do some neat things- like concentrating the nutrients of multiple food servings into a single scoop. (C’mon, admit it, that’s pretty cool.)
But there are a few supplements that work especially well for your lifestyle.
Build a day-to-day that inspires fit living:
Proteins you can mix. Do you like smoothies? Baked goods? Ice cream? Perfect, the good news is that you’ll love this: You can add an unflavoured protein supplement to anything, making it easy to get your daily protein requirements. Imagine, a protein-infused tropical smoothie, low-carb quiche, or gingerbread cookies! The world (or kitchen, rather) is your oyster.
Pro tip: Picking a protein that’s low in fat can help keep your recipes clean!
Amino Acids for energy and recovery. Amino acids – particularly BCAAs – help aid recovery and can help you leap over that hurdle and right back into whatever you were leaping over before (tire? bench? skipping rope?). Earlier, we talked about BCAAs being the building blocks of protein. Giving your body enough can be the difference between mid-recovery tired to post-recovery energized.
Pro tip: Out of the BCAAs, leucine is the superstar. Ratios with more leucine show that the supplement is committed to quality.
With that said, what supplements do we think work well with a fitness lifestyle?
For a protein you can use in recipes:
Walmart.com rates Unflavored 100% Whey Protein Plus 4.6 stars with raving reviews from customers. For good reason, too. With no artificial sweeteners or colors, it works well with any recipe. Plus, just one scoop packs a punch with 20g of protein.
For amino acids on the go:
Since we’re talking lifestyle here, let’s start with the fact that this one has best-in-class taste (it’s seriously delicious). Aminos + Energy is one of the few supplements out there that can be used before your workout, during your training, or any time of the day. After all, there’s never a bad time to have 5g of aminos with a 2:1:1 BCAA ratio, is there?
We hope you enjoyed this training supplement guide.
Our goal was to provide you with the foundational knowledge to set you up for a successful fitness journey.
We know that there’s a lot here. So, to recap, here’s a quick chart that matches the training goal with the supplement:
|Build Muscle||Whey Protein, Casein Protein, Plant-Based Protein|
|Lose Weight||Hybrid Pre-Workout with Weight Loss Ingredient|
|Increase Performance (Strength)||Creatine|
|Fitness-Friendly Lifestyle||Unflavored Whey Protein and Amino Acids|
We look forward to supporting you in your training.
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