Updated: Jan 21, 2019
David Arcemant, BS, CSCS
How to use ANY Supplement
Before we get into any type of supplements that have been researched, we need to first realize that they are exactly what they are called: supplements. They are not secret codes to achieving your fitness goals. If nutrition, rest, and your training program is inadequate, supplements will likely not do anything for you. Therefore, you need to make sure all other things are addressed before even considering supplementation. With that said, let's get into the top researched supplements that you should look for.
Creatine (most notably recommended as Creatine Monohydrate) is a concentrated supplement of the amino acid...well, creatine. You see, the body already uses this acid in regenerating Adenosine Triphosphate (aka ATP) within a cell. ATP is then used to create energy in contracting and relaxing muscle cells (Sarcomeres). Therefore, once ATP runs out of the cell, high exciting contractions (such as lifting a heavy load or jumping high) cannot be performed at peak power. Furthermore, Creatine helps in water retention in the muscle cell. This is important because it keeps muscles hydrated and full for when they are needed. This is why you may gain a few pounds upon starting intake of creatine.
Rumor has had it that creatine is hard on the kidneys. However, this has been disproven many times over!
When taking creatine, it is recommended to take 3-5 grams/day with a protein mix or juice.
Beta Alinine is next on the list. After reaching ATP-CP metabolic processes (Which usually only last a few seconds), the next metabolic system to be used up is the Glycolytic process. This phase lasts up to 2-3 minutes and is usually described as your "stamina." It is also the phase in which you feel more burning sensations in the muscle as it begins to create lactic acid.
Beta-Alanine therefore aids in this metabolic process by acting as a buffer to the pH change from the lactic acid buildup. This then enhances your ability to inch out a bit more during a long set or if you have a final push in performance.
This is also the supplement responsible for tingly sensations after consumption of a pre-workout. However, it is harmless and can go away after tolerance is built! Such as Creatine, 3-5 grams should be plenty for this supplement.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (or BCAAs) are 3 amino acids, Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Of these, Leucine is the main driver of muscle protein synthesis. In fact, these three are solely responsible for about 80% of skeletal muscle protein synthesis. However, what is interesting about these is that if you eat plenty of complete proteins throughout the day (mostly animal and dairy), you have already ingested plenty of these and may not need these at all. If you find yourself not eating enough animal proteins though, it is recommended to take some BCAAs to aid in proper protein synthesis. 5 grams is great for a serving!
Other Supplements to Mention
While there is little research on these, here are few other supplements to mention
Whey Protein- This is a bit of gray because while it is technically a supplement, the macronutrient protein is a must for proper nutrition. Furthermore, Whey protein typically has enough BCAAs in a serving as well, so by ingesting whey, you also get some good Amino Acids! Any good whey supplement should have at least 20g/serving.
HMB- Short for Beta-Hydroxy Beta-Methylbutyrate, this compound aids in keeping catabolism low and therefore keeping anabolism high. In lament terms, it keeps your gains up by restricting breakdown of muscles.
Glutamine- While it is a non-essential amino acid (meaning your body already makes it), this supplement is often looked for keeping muscles hydrated (similar to creatine). However, it is not part of the ATP-CP cycle, so it is not as effective.
Caffeine- An interesting stimulant indeed. Caffeine is very dose dependent and has been shown to improve performance if taken at a decent dose (not too much but enough to feel it).
Supplements with the Bells and Whistles
While we have broken down the top supplements to take, it may be a little too much to buy each supplement in bulk and create cocktails everyday. But have no fear! Because here are a few supplement bottles that have it all!
Discloser: I am not paid to provide these. These are strictly my recommendations based on my knowledge and experience.
Created by the renamed company Ouroboros, Singularity is a favorite of mine. With the option of having caffeine or not, each serving provides sufficient Creatine, Beta Alanine, and Citruline, a compound used also to buffer the cells for further metabolic processes. Best of all, it is at a nice price!
Barbell Medicine GainzZzRx
With 8g BCAA, 3.2g Beta-Alanine, and 2.5g Citriline, this is also a great supplement to try. Created by Dr. Jordan Feigenbaum, the doc that lifts, I would trust this supplement! You can even have the option to subscribe and receive regular orders at a discounted price.
With a good amount of BCAAs, high quality creatine, and 6g Crituline, Transparent Labs has a great preworkout for those that do not need caffeine mixed in (Hence the name "Stem-Free"). You can also buy this discounted when purchased with their other products (Such as their protein and carbohydrate mixes).
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