Combined with hard training and smart nutrition; supplements can play a role in your muscle and strength building success. However, the amount of hype, talk and (mis)information that we see online and hear in the gym about supplements is not in proportion to how much of a role they truly play. Supplements are not “game changers” in any sense, they are no more than a small piece of a much broader puzzle. Nonetheless, small or not every piece is worth doing right.
Much like nutrition and training, there is no “one size fits all” approach to supplementation This list are my go-to’s for my specific goals and situation, however at minimum at least half of these will feature in nearly all of my clients supplement protocols.
Intra or Post Workout:
Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin. is a carbohydrate that combines being easily and readily absorbed by the body while still providing a gradual sustained release of energy without a spike in blood glucose or insulin levels, no ‘sugar crash’.
Whey Isolate. is a purer form of whey than the more common whey concentrate. Quality whey isolates tend to agree with my skin and stomach more so than cheaper proteins, as they will for most people. I use 1-2 scoops of whey intra or post workout, and as part of a whole-food blended smoothie later in the day.
EAA’s. Essential Amino Acids. I sip these intra-workout to reduce muscle breakdown and support the muscle recovery process as I’m training. Research shows that EAA’s are more effective at turning on muscle protein synthesis (the foundation of muscle building) than BCAA’s.
Creatine. One of the most researched supplements out there and so is backed by a huge body of scientific evidence proving it’s uses for strength and power but now even increasingly showing promise for cognition/brain function. Safe, legal, effective. Best used during training periods where strength gain is a main priority.
Mental and Physical Health:
Ashwagandha. This is a medicinal herb known to promote calmness. There is also some research suggesting it can cause mild increases in both strength and testosterone. Calm, strong, high testosterone. I’ll take all three.
Collagen. A component of joint cartilage its supplementation has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve joint health. I introduced collagen to my supplement regimen as part the rehabilitation process for my quad tendon rupture.
Vitamin D3. With the sun being our main source of vitamin D, most people don’t get enough of this power-house essential vitamin through natural daylight, I being no exception. Vitamin D supplementation has been shown to improve; cognition or brain power, immune and bone health, testosterone production and libido as well as insulin sensitivity. Adequate vitamin D also decreases the risk of of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. This Vitamin is not to be neglected and is especially important throughout the winter months as our exposure to daylight is at its lowest.
Omega 3. Supplementing with Omega 3 has a host of scientifically backed health outcomes including; reduced symptoms of depression and improved brain function, acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, and creates a reduction in triglycerides which in turn improves heart health and plays a role in body fat oxidation or ‘fat burning’. Omega 3 is one supplement that just about everyone can benefit from. More than just a ‘one a day’ capsule; a dose of 4-6g daily is recommended to see the most benefit.
Multivitamin. Honestly, I’m not even convinced you can fit that much bioavailable/useable micronutrients into a single pill. But 10/10 for the placebo affect.
Curcumin. Not only is his medicinal plant extract anti-inflammatory but it also increases cancer fighting anti oxidants, decreases symptoms of depression and anxiety, and plays a role in reducing LDL-cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure. I have been using curcumin as an ingredient in cooking and smoothies for many years, however I started to supplement with it specifically when I ruptured my quad tendon for it’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Gut and Digestive Health:
Glutamine. An amino acid that plays an important role in gut health, which is why I use it. As a side note, scientific evidence is lacking for glutamine being useful to build muscle outside of severe burn and trauma victims and is not recommended for this purpose.
Digestive enzymes. Digestive and gut health is essential for optimal function of body and mind. In a muscle building context, only the food you digest can be put to use towards new muscle. It is a good idea to support this process by consuming digestive enzymes especially during periods where food intake is on the higher end.
Unsure about what supplements may be right for you?
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To learn more about the research behind specific supplements I recommend :
For results and date on independent testing of supplement brands quality and purity I recommend: