Whatever reason YOU started lifting (get stronger, build muscle, lose fat, etc), by now you're likely seeing supplements promoted left and right as “must-haves.” While it may not be that serious, there's a time and place for everything, including supplementation. Supps can complete a diet that is perhaps lacking in some departments (vitamins, minerals, etc.), give you more energy, recover faster, or simply give you an edge in your training. Whether you take preworkout faithfully or are completely new to the world of supplements, there are general supps that can help anyone. Let's review the top 10 supplements for building muscle, and make sure you get your money's worth at the local vitamin store.
Whey Protein– Great for recovery and repair of muscle tissue. You can get whey protein in the form of a powder or a bar, but it's best to consume in shake form to hit the blood stream fast. Chug a post-workout whey protein shake as soon as possible (30-60 min) after a workout.
Branched Chain Amino Acids – Also referred to as BCAA's, this supplement allows your body to workout longer, as it delays the time it takes to reach exhaustion. It also helps reduce the amount of damage done to the muscles, as well as increasing speed of recovery. Sip BCAA's throughout your workout for best results.
Creatine – Our bodies naturally produce creatine, but supplementation can help further increase the effect and function. Use of creatine increases shorter bursts of energy and helps boost recovery between back-to-back exercises. Take creatine as part of a pre-workout drink.
Caffeine – Hands down the most common stimulant, caffeine helps delay the onset of fatigue, improves endurance and makes you feel more alert. Because of this, you may work very hard but don't realize how much you're exerting yourself, allowing you to work extra hard. Caffeine is best taken 1/2-1 hour before a workout.
Green Energy – Green energy, or green tea, can help enhance the muscle's ability to recover. Green energy also contains antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and destroy free-radicals that cause harm to the body. If you are stimulant-sensitive, take green tea earlier in the day.
Nitrates – If you've ever experience a workout pump, that's largely due to your blood filling out your muscles as a result of them being worked. This is referred to as vascular response. Taking nitrates such as arginine, beet root extract and citrulline will help vasodilation and secretion of growth hormone. These ingredients are often found in pre-workout drinks.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – If you're looking to reduce the amount of damage the muscle tissue undergoes as a result of exercise, Omega-3's can help. DOMS, delayed-onset muscle soreness, has been shown to reduce when Omega-3's are regularly taken. Take some Omega-3's with your morning vitamins.
Carnitine – Much like Omega-3's, carnitine also helps reduce DOMS. Additionally, carnitine helps reduce inflammation and the amount and severity of muscle damage. Take carnitine before or after your workout to enhance muscle growth, performance and recovery.
Beta-Alanine – If you're wanting something to reduce the amount of fatigue you're feeling throughout your workouts, this may be the supplement for you. Beta-alanine also reduces muscle fatigue. This ingredient is often found in pre-workouts or can be added to one that doesn't contain it.
Ginger Root – Experiencing some level of pain after a workout kinda comes with the territory. By taking ginger root, you can help reduce the amount of pain you experience in the 24-hour window after exercising. Inflammation reduction is a large part of how ginger root keeps muscle soreness at a minimum. It is best taken at interspersed intervals throughout the day.
In addition to following a structured, progressive workout routine, the use of supplements can help improve your performance and perhaps even help take it to the next level. While there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of supplements out there, it can make it very confusing to figure out which ones are best for you and worth the investment. If you're an advanced lifter, looking to enhance performance in the gym, feed your muscles properly, and reduce the amount of damage/soreness you feel — you may want to give a few of these top ten supplements a try.
As with anything in life, some things work for some people but not for others. Never feel obligated to take EVERY supplement listed. Remember that supps are meant to supplement what you're doing in the gym (and the kitchen!), not replace it. So make sure your eating and workouts are already on point before even concerning yourself with supplementation. Then, add a supplement to see how it helps.