Supplements can be an effective addition to any fitness regimen, but it is important to remember that their effectiveness is capped and that proper research is imperative to cut through the marketing BS that companies will attempt to sell you. In this post, I will be discussing 5 of the most popular supplements and my personal rating of each from 1 to 10. Whey protein will not be included in this post because it is technically food and not a supplement.
Creatine monohydrate: 10/10
Creatine Monohydrate is far and away the number one supplement you can buy. Not only is it extremely affordable and thoroughly studied, it is very effective at building lean muscle mass in the body and maintaining energy during intense workouts. Creatine is also very important because it is almost impossible to get an effective dose from a normal diet without supplementing. When buying Creatine, make sure you buy Creatine Monohydrate, any other types are more often than not gimmicks.
Multivitamins are another great supplement to add to your regimen. They can provide much-needed nutrients that are sometimes difficult to get with whole foods. Although multivitamins can be a good addition to your fitness routine, they are NOT alternatives to fruits and vegetables, and if you have an excellent diet you most likely do not need a multivitamin supplement. It is important to always get your fruits and vegetables before thinking about taking a multivitamin. Once again, when buying multivitamins make sure to have the due diligence to find products that use proper ingredients without charging an exorbitant amount.
Fish Oil (Omega 3's): 9/10
Fish Oil supplements are another effective supplement if your diet has very little fish or no fish at all. There is a long list of potential benefits that have not been fully proved, which includes benefits such as improved joint and bone health, improved heart health, and help with high blood pressure. With that being said, I recommend Fish Oil supplements (or any omega 3 supplement) because it is a healthy fatty acid that is cheap to acquire, and fish is usually difficult food to include in your diet.
Pre-workout supplements: 7/10
Pre-workout supplements are an extremely popular supplement used today, but they are also potentially the most dangerous supplement currently on the market. With such a wide variety of ingredients in different products, I will discuss the 3 ingredients you should look for in pre-workouts. First of all, never buy a pre-workout supplement that you don't know what's in it. Stay away from proprietary blends that allow a company to include ingredients without disclosing them. With that, the 3 ingredients you should look for in a good pre-workout supplement are caffeine, beta alanine and Vitamin B (6 or 12). Caffeine provides energy to the body and should be dosed at 300 or fewer milligrams. Beta Alanine reduces muscle fatigue during workouts and should be dosed at 3-5 grams. Last, Vitamin B supports blood flow which allows for a great "pump" during a workout and should be taken 25-50 milligrams for Vitamin B6 and 50-100 micrograms for B12.
Branch Chain Amino Acids: 4/10
Branch Chain Amino Acids are a relatively new supplement to achieve mainstream use in the fitness community due to their supposed intra-workout benefits. BCAA's have been cited to increase muscle mass when taken during a workout, but there have not been any reliable studies to show this. However, BCAA's have been proven to be effective when taken during fasted training. Fasted training allows for accelerated fat loss, but it also may increase muscle breakdown, which is bad. BCAA's also are relatively expensive when compared to other, superior (in my opinion) supplements. So, I do not recommend taking BCAA's unless you primarily exercise in a fasted state or want to try them out and see if they benefit you.