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Which supplements should I be using?

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For beginners in the gym and experienced trainees alike, the world of supplements can get pretty baffling. There’s quite a lot going on in the aisles of every fitness and health food store, after all. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re not really “giving it 100%” unless you’ve got a supplement stack in some corner of your home reaching from floor to ceiling.

But while there may be some special niche benefit to a lot of what’s out there, it’s a safe bet that you don’t need more than these proven basics to get a solid result.

 

Whey Protein Shakes

 

Whey is a fast absorbing form of protein derived from milk, which means that it’s the perfect supplement to use after completing a heavy session of resistance training.

Why? Well, it’s a known scientific fact that muscle protein synthesis is boosted significantly after completing a resistance workout[1]– meaning that getting a post-workout dose of protein is important to get the most out of your gym efforts.

Of course, whey is also useful for helping you to meet your daily protein requirements without having to rely entirely on whole food. If you’re a busy person, this could be a godsend.

 

Creatine Monohydrate

 

Creatine is second only to whey protein in the overall ranking of supplement popularity – and for good reason, too. The stuff actually does what it says on the tin, and helps you to lift heavier weights, for longer, in the gym, by allowing your body to store more of the energy source known as ATP. That’s if you believe the numerous studies which have been done on the stuff in any case.[2]

The benefits of creatine take a while to develop – you’ll need to supplement with it daily, likely for several weeks before you reach “saturation point,” but if you stick with it, you’ll find it was worth the wait.

 

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)

 

“BCAA’s” refer to three amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are associated with muscle protein synthesis and glucose uptake into cells.

BCAAs are primarily taken to promote muscle growth and reduce fatigue, and studies suggest they get the job done, even helping to reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) as a bonus.[3]

If you eat a high protein diet (particularly one heavy in meat or eggs) of around 1-1.5g per kg of bodyweight, you should be getting all the BCAAs you need. If not, it may well be worth your time to begin supplementing.

 

Multivitamins

 

It’s common practice for serious fitness enthusiasts to add a good multivitamin to their supplement regimen, and for many of us, a good, well-rounded multivitamin can make all the difference between performing at the peak of our potential in the gym (and being healthy overall) or not.

Multivitamins sometimes get a bit of a bad rap. It’s true that you need to be cautious about taking too much of certain vitamins and minerals (too much selenium, for example, can cause hair loss and worse), and it’s true that the best option is always to get nutrients from whole foods where possible.

The fact is, though, that deficiencies in key nutrients are overwhelmingly common even in the developed world, and can wreak havoc on our health. Unless you are committed to a well-balanced, varied, whole food diet, you should add a comprehensive multivitamin to your shopping list.

A zinc deficiency, for instance, is well known to be associated with reduced testosterone levels[4], as is a vitamin D deficiency[5] or a selenium one. And that’s just scratching the surface.

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8563679

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18974721

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712348/

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