There are a lot of different training supplements on the market and it can be difficult to decide which is right for you. As a general rule, you should try to avoid relying too heavily on supplements and always get your nutrients from food first. However, if you feel like you want or need a little boost in your training, then supplements can be a great way to do this. We explore the top 5 training supplements for beginners who are just becoming more serious about their training and are hoping to see more results.
It is a fact our muscles need protein in order to repair and grow stronger. Whey protein is a complete protein source and contains all 9 essential amino acids. Protein is particularly useful when ingested just after a workout because it helps to stimulate protein synthesis and facilitate recovery. Many people worry that whey protein will make them bulky or that it is like taking steroids, but whey protein is just a dried isolated milk powder.
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in meat and fish as well as being naturally produced by the body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine is converted to creatine phosphate, which we use for energy during high-intensity, short duration exercise, such as sprinting or heavy weight lifting. Creatine supplements can be bought in various forms, from flavoured powders to pills and are taken in order to enhance the body's ability to create energy and increase muscle mass. The increased energy from creatine enables users to lift more in the gym and, therefore, create more muscle mass. Creatine also gives the illusion of weight gain and larger muscles due to increased water retention, this is because water is drawn into the muscles along with creatine, causing the muscles to appear larger and creating a weight gain of anywhere up to 3lbs. Creatine could be used if you want more energy in your workouts and to gain an increase in muscle mass, although it is important to remember that creatine can be sourced from diet alone, and so as with whey protein, supplementation is more for convenience as an easier and faster acting source.
BCAA stands for branched chain amino acids. These are composed of 3 of our 9 essential amino acids, essential because our bodies do not produce them naturally and, therefore, they have to be sourced through diet. BCAAs are made up of Valine, Leucine and Isoleucine. The most popular usage for BCAA supplementation is to improve exercise performance and prevent going catabolic (muscle breakdown). This supplement is another way to increase your protein intake and therefore improve muscle repair and recovery.
Supplementing your training with caffeine is thought to increase energy, decrease fatigue and lower your perception of pain. When we are training, our bodies are constantly sourcing the energy to give the exercise our all. This energy comes in the form of glycogen, your body's stored form of carbohydrate. Caffeine slows down the speed at which we use up all our glycogen stores by promoting the use of fat as fuel. Fat is far more abundant than glycogen and what caffeine does is mobilise the body's fat stores to encourage working muscles to save glycogen and use fat as an alternative.
Read more about the effects of caffeine on training.
Fish oils are taken to boost your intake of Omega three fatty acids and are used as a treatment for a variety of health issues including heart disease, ADHD, anxiety, depression, high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. When it comes to training, this supplement has been found to be particularly useful for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant purposes. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce DOMS and speed up the recovery process. There is also evidence to show that when combined with BCAAs and carbohydrates, fish oils can increase the rate of protein synthesis, leading to greater gains in muscle mass. As fish oils are such a widely used supplement, there is a lot of choice on the market and some tablets come in cheaper for a reason. Be sure to check the labels to look for impurities and check the dosage, you should be looking for at least 1000 mg.
Remember, training supplements should only be used in addition to a healthy and balanced diet and should not be used as a meal replacement.