Here is an overview of some common supplements you’ll find on the market.
PROTEIN (RATING = A+)
Protein powders aren’t magic, regardless of what the labels may tell you. For the most part they give you another option, instead of the usual meat, to get a good dose of quality protein, in an easy and efficient manner (and often without the extra calories from fat and carbohydrate). Use them for recovery post-workout, as a snack, or as a meat replacement at meals to keep your protein intake high. Why? We know that high protein diets are great for burning body fat and building muscle.
CREATINE (RATING = A+)
Creatine is one of the most extensively researched supplements on the market. It also happens to be one of the cheapest (hooray for that). Creatine is responsible for reloading the spring that gives us the energy for explosive movement; think kicking, punching, sprinting, and lifting weights.It occurs naturally in the food we eat, and we use it every day, the pity is that most humans store less than a full tank. Supplementing with creatine increases that storage tank, meaning you’ve got more creatine to reload your explosive energy spring. What does this mean? Higher maximal output for a longer period of time. Or in other words, a heavier weight for more reps and more sets!Take ½ to 1 tsp of creatine monohydrate every day.
BCAA’S (RATING = B-)
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Three of them in particular seem particularly good at building muscle, they are the Branched Chain Amino Acids. Given muscle is often broken down during exercise and/or fasting as an energy source, it is theorised that by consuming these BCAAs during exercise we can prevent such breakdown and therefore preserve muscle tissue.Research looking at markers of muscle breakdown and muscle synthesis when consuming BCAAs seems to confirm this theory. However, when we look at the use of BCAAs and its impact on muscle growth over a period of time, we see no significant difference between BCAA users and non-BCAA users. So should you use it? Ultimately it’s up to you. The jury is still out on BCAAs, so it comes down to whether or not you value the possible benefits.
FAT BURNERSCAFFEINE AND GREEN TEA EXTRACT (RATING = B), L-CARNITINE (RATING = C)
Typical fat burning ingredients include green tea extract, caffeine, and carnitine. There is some evidence to suggest the former two of these ingredients work well together to increase energy expenditure. Although it should be noted, the increase is mild at best. Green tea and caffeine won’t counteract a diet that still contains too many calories. L-Carnitine however has very limited evidence to suggest it will aid fat loss (except perhaps for those following a vegetarian diet). It is worth noting though, that Acetyl L-Carnitine may have cognitive benefits. So if you’re going to use L-Carnitine, opt for the Acetyl variety.
MEAL REPLACEMENT SHAKES (RATING = ANYWHERE FROM D TO A+)
The goal of meal replacement shakes is, as the name suggests, to replace a meal. Replacing 2 to 3 meals with a shake is far from optimal when looking at long term adherence. However, having a meal replacement shake as an option for when you’re busy, or simply need to tie yourself over between meals, can be a great option.Look for shakes with around 20-40g of protein, and 10-25g carbohydrate that isn’t just sugar. There are several “whey and oats” blends on the market that work well here. Another option is to just consume a piece of fruit with a protein shake, or to make your own protein smoothies at home.