What supplements are actually effective?

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Supplements are everywhere. You can not pick up a health magazine without seeing adverts telling you how you need to buy their supplements to get big and strong and lean. I’ll let you into a secret, most supplements do not work and the ones that do won’t make or break your progress. Only once you can successfully the other principles should you start worrying about using supplements. I have a blog post titled “Everything you need to know about nutrition” where I discuss these principles in more detail so read that if you are unsure on any of the priorities that I list. Before you start using supplements you should already be eating the right amount of calories for your goals, eating the right amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients and timing your meals effectively. Once you have these principles set in place, then we can start to talk about the 2-3% benefits you might be able to see with supplements. As a final point before I start this article, it is important that you consult a doctor before taking any of these supplements to discuss whether it is safe for you to take them.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is probably the most widely used supplement and for good reason. It has a ton of research backing its effectiveness. Whey is a liquid byproduct in the production of cheese and whey protein is made by removing certain proteins from this liquid. Whey protein is a very fast digesting protein and is therefore perfect to consume around your workouts. My general recommendation would be to consume around 25-60g of whey protein post-workout depending on what your daily protein intake is. You may be confused about what whey protein is the best to get but a simple, low fat, low carb whey protein is normally the best option. Other types (like whey isolate) may be slightly more effective but not enough to be worth spending the extra money on.

Casein Protein

Casein protein is the other type of protein found in milk. Unlike whey, casein is extremely slow digesting. It is the perfect protein source if you are not going to eat for a long period of time. I advise consuming between 25-60g of casein protein either before bed or when you will not be eating for longer than around 5 hours. Again, your dose will depend on your daily protein intake.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is another supplement that has been proven numerous times to be effective. We produce creatine in our bodies and creatine can also be found in our food (in red meat mainly). Creatine is required for the supply on energy when we do extremely high intensity activity. Creatine supplementation will increase performance of these intense bursts of activity (as you would expect) as well as increased strength in strength training populations and gains in lean body mass, mainly through increased training volumes. The effects won’t be massive but are significant. The dosage I recommend is 5-10g every day depending on bodyweight. This is probably higher than what you need but since creatine is fairly cheap it is better to be on the safe. My last point on creatine is to not mess around with any other form of creatine other than creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is the most researched form of creatine and so far has been proven to be the most effective.

Caffeine

Caffeine is another highly researched supplement (are you noticing a trend here). Caffeine is a stimulant meaning that it increases activity of the central nervous system. This makes caffeine the perfect pre workout supplement. Caffeine has been shown to reduce fatigue, improves concentration, motor concentration and will improve performance in aerobic and anaerobic activities. It will also increase your metabolic rate which makes it a good supplement for weight loss. Dosages will depend on an individual’s tolerance, body weight and the effect desired. I recommend starting at around 1.5 mg of caffeine per kg of body mass and increasing the dosage if needed. For the average person, this is the equivalent of a fairly weak coffee. There are a few side effects of caffeine that need to be considered. Although the lethal dose of caffeine is the equivalent of 50-100 cups of coffee, there are definitely some side effects that come with chronic consumption of caffeine. Caffeine can produce withdrawal symptoms if an individual stops consuming any after taking it in regularly. You can also become tolerant to the the effects of caffeine and for this reason I advise keeping caffeine on low end and increasing slowly over time before taking time to resensitise to its effects. I would also advise against consuming caffeine in the evenings as some people do experience disrupted sleep.

Other supplements

The supplements I have listed so far have been proven to be the most effective so far for body composition. There are some supplements, however, that may be beneficial for health or for performance. Multivitamins and fish oils can be useful if you are not eating a lot of fruit and veg or any fish but if you are sticking to the other nutritional priorities and eat a healthy balanced diet then they are probably unnecessary. Beta alanine is another supplement found in a lot of pre workout shakes but is one that will have very little impact on body composition or strength. If you take around 2-5g of beta alanine a day then you will see an increase in your performance in the 60-240 second range so if you are training for anaerobic performance in that range then it may be worth considering.
Any other supplement either does not have enough research to say for sure it is effective or has simply not been shown at all to be effective. Either way, if you are looking for the extra 2-3% increase in body composition or performance that supplements can give you then these are the ones to go with.

Speak to you guys again soon.

Albie

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