If you’re just getting into strength training, you’re probably spending quite a bit of time researching supplements. Now, some may argue that supplements aren’t necessary. This is true if you’re tracking your macronutrients like crazy and know for sure that you’re getting enough protein, vitamin D, fish oil, etc. in your diet. But, for many people just starting out, that’s not the case.
Supplements are helpful. But, they don’t do the work for you. So, it’s important to keep this in mind while reading all those “sweet nothings” you’ll come across in supplement ads. Here’re my top five strength training supplements for women and men.
I cannot stress protein enough. In fact, that’s why I put it first. If you are strength training, you should be taking a protein supplement. Period.
According to BodyBuilding.com, you should aim to get around 20-40 grams of protein post-workout to keep your rate of muscle protein synthesis (the process that allows your muscles to grow bigger and stronger) elevated.
Try to find a whey (or plant-based) protein that’s fast-digesting. This will allow the body to quickly absorb and utilize its amino acids to rebuild and repair your muscles. The sooner you get the protein in after your workout, the better.
For some, caffeine can be as simple as a cup of coffee. But, oftentimes fitness enthusiasts thirst for something a little stronger, like a pre-workout, to get through tough training sessions.
Not only will caffeine give you a boost of energy, it’ll also reduce feelings of fatigue by blocking specific receptors located throughout the body, according to BodyBuilding.com. For best results, take your pre-workout about 30 minutes before you get to the gym. That way, you won’t be halfway through your training session and still waiting for it to kick in.
Creatine is probably the most controversial supplement on the market. But, there’s a reason why it’s in the top five. Creatine is primal for strength, or as they say in the fitness community, “making gains.”
Creatine supplementation works by increasing the availability of creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr) within the muscle, helping to maintain energy during high-intensity exercise, like strength training. Increasing the availability of phosphocreatine may help speed up recovery between sets, according to BodyBuilding.com.
Branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) are essential for easing muscle soreness and speeding up the recovery process for the muscles that are damaged during resistance training.
According to BodyBuilding.com, BCAAs ( typically a combination of L-Leucine, L-IsoLeucine and L-Valine) play a critical role in muscle development because they are metabolized in the muscle rather than the liver. Because BCAAs are metabolized in the muscle, they can be used for building new proteins or for energy.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) helps you to build muscle and burn fat. It’s known as the “body sculptor” among some athletes because it does just that. Some claim that it “tells their fat where to go.”
According to BodyBuilding.com, “CLA supplementation has shown to improve the lean mass to body fat ratio, decreasing fat deposition, especially on the abdomen, and enhancing muscle growth. CLA reduces body fat by enhancing insulin sensitivity so that fatty acids and glucose can pass through muscle cell membranes and away from fat tissue. This results in an improved muscle to fat ratio.”
CLA is also known to lower insulin resistance, enhance the immune system and contain cancer-fighting properties. It can also be consumed through foods like beef, lamb and whole milk.