“Well, while there’s some value to taking multivitamins, the human body can only absorb so much. What you’re buying here are the ingredients for very expensive urine.”
An amazing quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Yeah, so what if he’s a fictional character on the hilarious show The Big Bang Theory?
Because Sheldon has summed up supplements in one quote, better than many people do in a lifetime… including a lot of people in the nutrition industry…
Alright, before we hop into my favorite sports nutrition supplements lets first let’s cover a little background info on nutrition supplements as an industry.
Do you NEED to Take Supplements?
Alright let’s move on.
OH, not a good enough answer for you? Well good, I get that. You’re smart and want to know why.
The first, and kinda, obvious answer is if you are eating a healthy, varied nutrition plan with all the meats, greens and other whole food goodness out there you are probably getting MOST of your nutrient NEEDS.
Does that mean you wouldn’t benefit from supplements… of course not.
But that benefit would be minimal.
Will supplements Change my Results?
I know all these incredibly ominous, vague answers.
ALL of my clients that currently get AWESOME results take very few supplements.
The truth is supplements CAN help, IF you are not getting enough nutrients through proper diet.
Now, that doesn’t mean they all help.
Hell, most of them don’t do anything worthwhile at all.
Just A few Facts
In 2012, the nutrition supplement industry made over $30 billion, yeah BILLION with a B.
But our latest stats on adulthood obesity are saying that over 35% of US adults are now considered obese.
So, we are buying more nutritional supplements than EVER, yet obesity is still climbing exponentially.
Things aren’t adding up there, even though the supplement industry would have you think otherwise.
Here is my tip of the day:
There isn’t a supplement, pill or powder that will produce the results you want.
Why Are Supplements So Prevalent Then?
Did you NOT see the BILLION dollar amount up there for supplements sold that we tend to get from every day diet???
Supplements have their place but most of the supplements on the market today are garbage and don’t even contain most of what the label says they should.
And when companies can hit record sales every year by selling the general public a bunch of snake oil remedies to lose weight FAST, don’t expect any shortage of companies telling you their supplements are the shit and marking it up 150%, or more.
Obviously, I’m irritated by the industry but I can tell you with absolute certainty that even though there are SOOOOOOO many terrible supplements on the market we can STILL find supplement “gems” that do what they say and will work .
Alright, I have four favorite supplements that I will talk about today. Protein, Creatine, Caffeine and Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs).
These four are my absolute favorites when it comes to Sports Nutrition Supplements.
They are my Justice League, My Avengers, they get in there get the job done and get out.
Ok enough talk about super heroes, let’s break these guys down.
Protein supplements are BY FAR one of the most popular supplements that are purchased.
And it’s no question why.
Proteins are the building blocks for muscle.
YOU MUST HAVE PROTEIN IN YOUR DIET.
This is one supplement recommendation that EVERY single trainer makes to a client.
The reason we all hop on this bandwagon isn’t because we are all meatheads that love to walk around chugging chocolaty drinks.
It has been studied over, and over, and over again that if we take in a high protein/carbohydrate meal or shake right after we workout our muscles are primed to recover and uptake protein more efficiently during this time.
So, don’t go hungry after a workout.
How Much Protein Should You Have?
If you are physically active, which if you are reading this, I fully expect you to be, you should be having 0.8 grams to 1 gram per pound of body weight of total protein EACH DAY.
This means if you weigh 150 pounds you should be eating, or drinking, up to 120-150 grams of protein per day.
As a post workout meal or shake if you get about 20-30 grams of protein post workout you are sitting pretty dang well.
Ways You Can Get Your Protein
I generally recommend that my clients get a protein supplement mainly for the convenience of it.
It’s easy to carry around a small container of protein powder (or a protein bar), it’s easy as a quick snack, can be an easy breakfast on the run and it is definitely much easier to take your protein powder to the gym so that you can have a shake right after your done working out.
I mean you can totally take your grilled chicken breast to the gym, but that sounds pretty awful…
Here are my recommendations for protein supplements.
Creatine is the MOST studied supplement IN THE WORLD.
Creatine has spent more time getting picked apart in a laboratory than Wolverine in the Weapon X trials.
(Sorry for all the superhero comments, I’m pretty pumped to go see the new Deadpool movie this week…)
If you are an athlete and are not taking creatine something is wrong.
Creatine is widely used in sports performance because of its role in energy metabolism, creatine is used in our bodies when doing very HIGH energy exercises such as weight training, jumping, or sprinting.
Those of us who weight train love creatine for the simple fact that it makes us look PUMPED. Creatine actually increases muscle cell volume by increasing the water volume within the muscle cells.
By the way if you are taking creatine you need to be drinking plenty of water.
And guess what? Creatine is even showing promising data for assisting with post workout recovery!
Anything, I can do to be LESS sore is a plus…
Creatine doesn’t do a whole for you though if you are an endurance athlete, which is not surprising because you don’t use the same energy systems when running versus weight training.
How Much Creatine Should You Have?
You don’t need much creatine to have elevated levels and to get positive effects of the supplement.
A daily amount of between 3 to 5 grams, total, is enough to get the benefits.
And just like protein if you are eating enough meat you will get more than enough creatine to get positive benefits.
Actually a 3 ounce piece of steak can have up to 0.4 grams of creatine in it.
Steak for the win again…
Ways To Get Your Creatine
You are able to get plenty of creatine from meats like beef, pork, poultry and fish (so, pretty much MOST meats).
If you want you are able to supplement your nutrition plan with some creatine as well.
I generally don’t recommend creatine until I have a client, or athlete, that is working out about 5 days per week. And they are doing some very physically demanding, high intensity workouts.
So, if you are still on 3 days a week of exercises I would wait on this supplement until you start bumping up the weights, intensity and time in the gym.
The nice thing about creatine though is it’s pretty cheap, and this is the brand I keep in my cabinet.
FINAL NOTE ON CREATINE: DO NOT take creatine if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or if you have kidney problems.
Oh Man, have I been waiting to talk about this guy!
I love caffeine, the benefits are OUTSTANDING.
My single best motivator is a damn big cup of coffee, and I have a feeling it’s the same for most of you too.
Caffeine is simply one of the MOST used drugs in the WORLD (I feel like I have gotten to use the phrase “in the WORLD” a lot in this post and it be accurate).
And it’s no question why, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant (which means enough of it jacks us up for our day, our workout or even my research session on caffeine…).
Caffeine is used DAILY by runners, lifters, and all other athletes spanning MANY, if not all, sports.
So not only does caffeine jack us up for whatever we are doing but it also has been shown to increase power production in high intensity resistance training sessions (AWESOME).
Oh yeah, and it even increases fat oxidation when running so runners get a legit benefit from this one (kinda awesome, if running is your gig).
And here is why this is so impressive, where many supplements show SMALL or INDISTINGUISHABLE changes during exercise, caffeine shows SIGNIFICANT changes in performance during exercise.
In a study on endurance athletes and the use of caffeine, it was found that athletes on a caffeine supplement had an average 21-minute improvement than the control group without the supplement.
96 minutes to exhaustion for caffeine supplement group; 75 minutes to exhaustion from control group.
That’s a HUGE difference. No sarcasm here, that’s legitimately awesome.
How Much Caffeine Can You Have?
Like up to 400 milligrams for adults. That’s about 4 cups of coffee, not your Starbucks crap, but real coffee.
Ways To Get Your Caffeine
Unlike other supplements food doesn’t really have caffeine in it. And the food that does have SOME caffeine only has small amounts.
So the BEST ways to get caffeine are through coffee, tea, and caffeine pills.
The not great ways to get caffeine are through Starbucks coffees, energy drinks (which I love), and pre-workout energy supplements (again, which I love).
Now even though I currently use a pre-workout supplement I tend to not recommend them just because they aren’t necessary.
If you can get your caffeine from another source and are happy with it, then do that (unless it’s Starbucks mochas).
But just to give you a glimpse of my pre-workout this is the one I use.
BRANCHED-CHAIN AMINO ACIDS
Although, not as interesting as caffeine, BCAAs are still a supplement worth talking about when it comes to athletic performance.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Why is that important?
Mainly because I see people downing BCAA drinks like it’s the wonder drug of the century. Yet most people don’t even know what they are… including some trainers…
Ok we know what BCAAs are what do they do?
BCAAs are important when it comes to energy use, muscle recovery and tissue repair.
So, protein can actually be broken down into amino acids and used as energy, not great source of energy but a source none the less.
And when we use these amino acids for energy we are primarily burning through those BCAAs above (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), there are some others we use but mostly just BCAAs.
Long story short, by using BCAAs for energy we get rid of ammonia in our system, which is toxic, and is actually associated with muscle fatigue.
Take home point: BCAAs can reduce fatigue when taken before exercise.
How Much BCAAs Can You Have?
You only need about 5-10 grams when supplementing with BCAAs to get all the benefits.
How To Get Your BCAAs
Our bodies actually don’t make BCAAs, and yes they are essential. But you can ABSOLUTELY get enough of your BCAAs from ANY protein you eat.
So, if you have a solid protein content in your daily diet you are probably fine without a supplement.
Many athletes DO take a supplement though because there is emerging research to show that BCAAs prevent muscle loss and increase muscle gain.
I’d recommend not worrying about buying up this supplement until more DEFINITIVE research pops up, that being said I use a BCAA supplement during my workouts.
And this is what I use.
Ok guys those are my top Sports Nutrition Supplements.
And there are SOOOOO many that I haven’t even talked about yet, so this is just a scratching the surface look at supplements.
BUT these are the four that show the MOST RELIABLE results in sports performance based on studies that have been done.
When considering a supplement to purchase never believe the claims of even the BEST supplements. True blue research is the best way to know if what you are taking is a honest to goodness supplement.
Unfortunately most supplements are sold as snake oil remedies RATHER than being sold as a way to increase your incredible results with an awesome meal plan and workout routine.
SO find a great workout routine that YOU love, get on a meal plan that fits YOUR goals and after you have begun to master those start to introduce supplemental vitamins into your daily life.
There is no supplement that can replace a great diet and workout regimen.
If you enjoyed this post and are interested in more nutrition or supplement information you can check out these posts. Your Guide to Purchasing Protein Powder and The Essentials to Building Great Muscle
Also, if you haven’t already, please go check out my Bonus Section where I give you access to all of my FREE ebook, plus workouts, guided nutrition, exercise demo videos, and other great tools and resources to start making positive changes today.
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Thanks and Talk Soon,
Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.