There are a lot of different supplements on the market these days, it is hard to know which ones are worth bothering with. I take supplements daily, so will go through what I use and recommend and explain why.
One of the most important things to get on to if you are weight training would be a good lean protein. There are several different kinds of protein on the market so something that has a blend of different proteins I think is the best value for money especially when you are just starting out. I use Genetix Nutrition lean whey every day. (You can get this from Nutrition Warehouse) Lean Whey has a combination of WPI (whey protein isolate – fast release protein), WPC (whey protein concentrate – medium release) and casein (slow release protein) so this is a great protein to have any time. Straight after a work out a fast release protein is beneficial. Before bed casein is best because it breaks down slowly, therefore supplying the body with a steady rate of amino acids while you sleep. Instead of having to get a load of different proteins you can get one that does it all. It tastes great even with just water and comes in 4 flavours. I also use Giant Sports peanut butter chocolate protein – I think the name says it all! Instead of using shakes you can get protein from other sources – lean meats, eggs, tofu, beans etc I have to hit a decent amount each day so a shake makes this a lot easier!
Each day I also take a multi-vitamin, a probiotic (inner health plus), fish oil and Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM. Lifting heavy puts extra pressure on joints so the Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM helps prevent damage to joints and helps renew cartilage in the body.
Fish oil has a lot of health benefits so this would have to be one of the most important ones for me. From reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, to reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers there have been several studies done on the benefits of Omega-3 fats. Fats are also necessary for fat loss/control and can also help with brain function.
A multi-vitamin is a good way to get in extra vitamins and minerals without having to take several different pills or supplements. Certain vitamins are better for different things (e.g. vitamin c for your immune system) but I think a multi-vitamin is a good all rounder.
And a probiotic helps regulate inner/digestive health. I started taking these last year and have noticed a difference. If you get enough probiotics in your diet then extra supplements aren’t necessarily required (yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and certain other foods contain probiotics/healthy bacteria).
Out of the above supplements I would say lean protein, and fish oil would be my top two. But it doesn’t stop there! The more you get involved with weight training the more supplements there are that will help with your training and recovery.
I use Genetix Nutrition Revive daily (a branch chain amino acid formula) during weight training, and also sip on this in between meals. BCAAs are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) essential meaning our body cannot produce these on its own (you must get these from your diet - foods containing protein also contain BCAAs). BCAAs help with energy production during exercise, and prevent the breakdown of muscle cells. BCAAs from supplements as opposed to foods get straight in to the blood stream and muscles. The more BCAAs you have in your muscles the more they will be used for energy and therefore prevent muscle break down. There’s more to it than just that, but that’s just a simple explanation of how they work. I am a fan, and Revive comes in some pretty good flavours too.
I have also recently started using Genetix Nutrition Glycoload during my workouts. This is a complex carbohydrate so absorbs quickly. Carbohydrates are important for energy, and restoring your muscles glycogen stores which deplete during exercise. By having a continuous supply of fast releasing carbohydrates during a weight session this ensures your energy levels are high, and carbs also help muscle growth. I have noticed a big difference since I started using this and if you can spare some carbs to use during a work out then I recommend doing so! I find it helps keep my energy levels up, I feel energised throughout my whole work out.
Pre workouts – if I train before work in the mornings then I just have a coffee shot as my pre workout. For me, 5am is too early for anything too strong, as I don’t want to be crashing at lunchtime with half a day at work still left to go. I find a short black to be a good natural pre workout, and I drink coffee every day normally. Caffeine is a natural painkiller, it is also good for stimulating metabolism and has other health benefits (when consumed in moderation of course).
If I am going to have an especially hard session and am training later in the day then I do like to take a pre work out. I find that it helps keep me focused, and provides extra energy, although with my new found love of intra workout carbs a pre workout as well may not be necessary. Some pre workouts also contain fat burners so you can kill two birds with one stone by having something like this, and the extra fat burning ingredients usually make for an extra energy boost. As a rule I like pre workouts, the stronger the better, but you do need to cycle off them to ensure they remain effective.
Post workout – one of my absolute favourite supplements is Genetix Nutrition Full Force. This stuff is amazing. It’s a post workout recovery formula and has everything your body needs straight after a good weights session. Protein, carbs, creatine, amino acids (essential and non-essential) vitamins, minerals – everything you need for recovery and muscle growth. Plus the new chocolate flavour is seriously good.
Creatine – this is something I use daily. Some people cycle it, and use it for (example) 3 days on, 3 days off. I simply have one serve each day. Creatine helps with muscle recovery, and has been proven to increase muscle size, strength and endurance, and it can also prevent muscle break down. I usually add this to a protein shake, or BCAAs. Creatine is also found in foods like beef and fish, it can break down when it is heated/cooked though.
Glutamine – this is a non-essential amino acid, good for muscle recovery and can help with muscle soreness after a work out. I have this, but don’t take it daily anymore. If I am particularly sore or have had a big work out then I will use it.
Magnesium – this is great for muscle recovery. I use Bioceuticals Ultramuscleze magnesium formula. I used to use this on every training day, but haven’t been using it lately as I haven’t really needed to, plus I’ve got enough other stuff I take at the moment! If you get extremely sore after working out then this definitely helps!
ZMA – another good one for recovery and contains zinc and magnesium. I buy this in capsules (Genetix Nutrition) and it really helps with muscle soreness, recovery and can also help with sleep. Take them at night about half an hour before bed, I find these do help a lot with recovery and will take them after an especially hard work out and/or if I am noticeably sore.
One other thing I use is a sleep formula. Sleep is very important, it’s when your body repairs and grows. I’ve had trouble sleeping for years and find this really helps. I still wake up during the night, but at least feel like I have had a good nights sleep come morning. Muscle Pharm Bullet Proof is good although I have heard its being discontinued. Currently I am using Dorian Yates GH Blast. If you struggle to get proper nights sleep then I definitely recommend giving this stuff a go.
If you are just starting out and getting in to weight training then I would recommend a lean protein to start with. Fish oil and a multi-vitamin would also be on my list for beginners.
For anyone that has been weight training for a while and wants to increase this, I would suggest adding BCAAs, a proper post workout supplement, and also something for recovery (ZMA and/or a magnesium formula).
And for those harry hard outs who love lifting all day every day, if you aren’t already get in to the intra workout carbs! Highly recommend it!