In the world of health and fitness, supplements come and supplements go. But there are a few nutritional supplements that have withstood the test of time and have proven themselves to be worthy of inclusion in a well-rounded supplement routine. They may not be fancy or trendy or new and exciting, but supplements like whey protein, creatine, BCAAs and more can make a big impact in helping you reach your fitness and physique goals.
Here are five seriously helpful, time-honored supplements that absolutely deserve their spot in your supplement stash.
Bars and powders containing whey protein are ubiquitous for good reason. Whey protein is readily available, easily digestible (provided you don’t have any sort of dairy intolerance) and brings with it a host of health benefits that could help you reach your goals.
According to Men’s Fitness, incorporating whey protein, like that in Performance Inspired Nutrition’s Performance Whey powder, Ripped Whey Protein powder and Inspired Bars, could help you preserve lean muscle while you shed fat. The magazine cites a 12-week study conducted by researchers in Minnesota who reduced the daily caloric intake of their study subjects by 500 calories. Researchers then provided some of the study participants with whey protein and gave the rest an isocaloric mix beverage. Those who were given whey lost a significantly greater amount of body fat to the tune of 6.1 percent and better preserved their muscles.
Another reference cited in the Men’s Fitness article showed the power of whey protein in helping you make some serious gains. A study from researchers at Baylor University in Waco, Texas gave 14 grams of whey and casein protein and 6 grams of free amino acids to men performing resistance training over a 10-week period. Other participants undergoing the resistance training were given a 20 gram placebo. The key here is that the whey was consumed one hour before and after exercise. The group given the whey showed greater increases in fat-free mass and muscle strength compared to those receiving the placebo.
Need more reasons to incorporate whey protein products into your supplement routine? How about it’s amazing ability to reduce hunger? An Australian study found that obese men who consumed a beverage containing 50 grams of whey protein showed significantly reduced levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin for up to four hours after. Or how about its stress-busting qualities? Participants in a study conducted in the Netherlands who consumed whey protein powder experienced fewer symptoms of depression and seemed to be in a better mood when subjected to experimental stress, likely due to changes in the brain’s serotonin level. When you’re stressed, back away from the Snickers bar and down some whey protein.
It used to be that creatine got somewhat of a bad rap. But you can forget what you thought you knew about the supplement and remember this: a creatine supplement is going to give your muscles more energy. It’s as simple as that.
Of course the reasons why creatine provides your muscles with so much extra energy is a bit more complicated. Basically, according to BodyBuilding.com, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule in your cells, is made up of a nucleotide bonded to three phosphate groups. When one of those phosphate groups breaks free of the ATP molecule, a whole lot of energy is freed up with it. That energy is used to fuel chemical reactions in your cells and creatine helps that process happen by releasing the energy stored as ATP.
This means good things for your workouts. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking an oral creatine supplement increases the amount of creatine in your muscles (duh) which regenerates your ATP, giving you more energy to work with. It’s great for short duration, intense repetitive exercise, like weight lifting.
If you’re not already, you’ve got to incorporate fish oil into your supplement routine. It’s such an easy way to gain so many of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, especially if you’re not getting them regularly from your diet. BodyBuilding.com says there are few supplements on the market that can match the benefits of fish oil, and it’s easy to see why. It can support healthy cholesterol, help you maintain strong bones and even boost your mood.
Even if your cholesterol is already within the healthy range, a fish oil supplement can help to keep it there. BodyBuilding.com says that adding three to six grams of fish oil to your diet every day can promote healthy ratios of HDL (the healthy cholesterol) and LDL (the not-so-good cholesterol). It can also keep your levels of triacylglycerol, the main constituent of body fat, within a healthy range.
Fish oil supplements keep your bones healthy, too, especially in women who no longer have standard estrogen and progesterone hormone levels as a result of menopause. Studies have found, according to BodyBuilding.com, that those who take in higher levels of the fatty acids found in fish oil supplements along with enough calcium may have healthier, stronger bones.
Feeling stressed? Fish oil can help with that too. Taking a fish oil supplement helps to support the levels of serotonin, the “feel good hormone,” in the brain. The effects of serotonin can often set in after a carb-heavy meal, making you feel relaxed and peaceful. That link can trigger carb cravings when you’re stressed. When you’re supplementing your serotonin with fish oil, you’re less likely to be tempted to turn to fettucini alfredo when you’re having a rough day.
Caffeine is one of those supplements to be consumed with caution. Too much and you could see all sorts of nasty side effects like heartburn, restlessness, dehydration and stomach ulcers. Don’t stress too much, though. Your morning cup of coffee or a supplement packing a little bit of caffeine isn’t going to push you over the edge. On the contrary, moderate caffeine supplementation can help push your workouts to a higher level.
According to BodyBuilding.com, there are a ton of athletic advantages to caffeine. Endurance athletes can expect improved performance by an average of 3.3 percent. Strength and power sports performance is boosted up to 20 percent. Weightlifters improve performance on average 9.5 percent with caffeine supplementation and sprinters improve by an average of 6.5 percent. Basically, whoever you are and whatever you do, you can benefit from a bit of caffeine.
Ripped Whey Protein packs just the right amount of caffeine derived from green tea in combination with whey protein and a thermogenic complex to make sure you’re getting the most from your workouts.
Branched chain amino acids are absolutely essential in your body. They fuel cellular growth and keep your body going. Your body can’t produce BCAA fuel on its own however. Supplementation with leucine, isoleucine and valine can fill in the gaps you could be missing and fuel bigger and stronger muscles.
You can get BCAAs from high-protein foods, but your body can feel their benefits best through a supplement. BCAA supplements require no digestion, so they bypass your liver and work their way directly into your bloodstream. BCAAs can help reduce muscle fatigue and, according to a paper from the Huntington College of Health Sciences, they can provide between a 3 and 18 percent increase in energy, depending on the length and intensity of your workout.