Supplements are an interesting thing. A lot of people tend to just buy whatever companies are producing, while thinking to themselves that they are going to see results in the very near future. I used to be in the same boat. Back when I started working out, I wanted to see immediate results in the form of lean muscle mass and strength. To accomplish this, I’d go to online stores and just buy whatever items got five-star reviews.
Oh boy, did I waste a lot of money.
To prevent you from doing the same, I’m going to be listing a couple of supplements that I definitely recommend in order to see increased results. As usual, keep in mind that there is NO such thing as a magic pill. You are never going to gain 30 lbs of lean muscle within a month. It’s just not possible achieve those goals without resorting to steroids, which I’m not a big fan of, to say the least.
First of all, let’s talk about protein. Proteins are the building blocks for the body. Muscles especially need a lot of protein in order to recover from your training sessions. By recovering, your muscles will grow stronger.
Bottom line: protein is important for muscle growth.
So how much protein should you consume on a daily base? That answer depends on who you ask. I live by the philosophy that the daily protein intake should be around 0.75 grams per pound of body weight. For example, I weigh around 165 lbs (+/- 75 kg). My daily protein intake therefore is somewhere around 120-125 grams per day.
There are quite a few days on which I find it difficult to keep my protein intake up to par. It is for this reason that I use a whey protein powder. I make myself a shake 2 to 3 times a day, which gives me between 70 and 75 grams of protein in total.
This gives me some space when it comes to eating. Whey protein is easy, effective, cheap, and it contains all the building blocks my muscles need. I pick up a new flavor every month, so that it doesn’t get too stale and thus a chore to drink my shakes.
It is of course important to note, that it is required to have your normal diet up to par, meaning that these protein shakes should NEVER make up the bulk of what you’re eating during the day. Sure, I’ve said before that I view whey protein as a food, rather than a supplement. However, it is more of a supplementing food.
I’m sure you all knew this one was coming. Creatine is an interesting compound that is involved in muscular energy supply. Your own body actually makes a small quantity every day, depending on your eating habits. Vegetarians for example, have a lower amount of creatine in the body, and thus taking it as a supplement can greatly affect their training routines.
Creatine is meant for people that work out a lot and want to build some muscle mass. And boy does it deliver. In my personal experience, creatine greatly increases explosive power. On more than one occasion, it allowed me to push out those 2 extra reps that I otherwise couldn’t.
Creatine keeps water in the muscles. As a result, you’ll start noticing an increase in muscle mass within a few weeks. Keep in mind that a lot of this mass is water. This water helps to eliminate lactic acid (a metabolite of glucose), and thus your muscles will recover faster.
What does creatine actually do?
Well, here’s where we dive into the scientific side of nutrition and supplements for a bit. When you eat, the body breaks down your foods into usable compounds. Carbohydrates and sugars are the fuel of the body and thus very important when it comes to the energy supply. These compounds are converted into glucose, which gets converted into a compound called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As the name states, its molecular structure contains three phosphate groups. ATP can now be directly used by the body to generate energy. When ATP is used, it splits into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and a single phosphate group.
This is where creatine comes in.
Remember when I said that creatine is also important for muscular energy supply? The body converts creatine into creatine phosphate (also called phosphocreatine) through the creatine-kinase enzyme. Creatine phosphate can than transfer its phosphate group to ADP, to become ATP once again. This ATP can than be reused by your body and thus cause an increase in energy to push out that final rep. Don’t worry if this is a tad too scientific for you. The only thing you should remember is that creatine refuels your body’s fuel, so to speak.
So… Why should you actually take creatine if your body produces it on its own?
Well, in order to really notice an actual effect by creatine, it is generally recommended that you start each cycle by taking about 0.15 grams of creatine per pound of body weight. Let’s take an athlete who weighs about 180 lbs. If we take the recommended amount of creatine, this athlete should take 27 grams of creatine every day.
And what does that mean? Well, a pound of beef contains around 1.8 grams of creatine. This means that said athlete would have to eat half a cow in order to meet their creatine needs. As you might have noticed, this simply isn’t realistic.
These quantities however, only need to be taken for short amounts of time, say a week. Taking a high dose of creatine for the duration of a week is called ‘loading’. You basically pump your body full of creatine to the point that it’s saturated. After this one week, you will lower the dose to around 0.015 grams per pound of body weight for the duration of 4-6 weeks, which is how long it takes for the amount of creatine to normalize again. It is useless to keep the dose as high as in week 1, as your body will saturate at some point.
Now, the more creatine you take, the less your body will produce. This is one of the reasons that it’s recommended that you use it in cycles.
So for example:
- Week 1: 0.15 grams per pound of body weight
- Week 2-7: 0.015 grams per pound of body weight
- Week 8: No creatine supplement intake
- Week 9: 0.15 grams per pound of body weight
So, is it safe to use than?
Yes. Creatine-monohydrate, which is the most common form of creatine, has been tested time and time again. Any healthy athlete can use creatine, even long term.
There has been some discussion though, stating that creatine might be harmful to your kidneys. These statements however, are derived from short studies done with one or a few human test subjects. There is no consecutive proof that creatine is harmful to the kidneys.
If you’re not sure about your own condition, please make sure to visit your physician, as I am by no means a medical specialist. All I can say is that taking creatine works for me, as well as literal millions of athletes.
This was actually one of the first products I bought back when I started working out, as I’ve always struggled to put on some mass. Gaining weight and muscle mass was my main goal. It is for this group that weight gainers are meant. If you’re set on losing some weight and/or fat, I would recommend you to steer clear of weight gainers.
To start things off with the macro nutrients. Most of the weight gainers contain up to 300 grams of carbs and 25-50 grams of protein per serving, which can lead up to a whopping 1,000 calories or more.
So, what does a weight gainer do?
Well, it’s very simple. It gives your body some excess calories that contain a lot of macro nutrients that your body can use. Therefore, your calorie intake will become higher than your base metabolic rate, leading to an increase in weight.
That’s literally it.
Now for me, it worked wonders. I was able to put on a pound every 3 days. So if you struggle with gaining weight and mass like I did, then a weight gainer might be for you. It’s not necessary to combine a weight gainer with whey protein, as both of them are high in protein. Also, don’t forget that a weight gainer is a supplement, and thus should never be your sole calorie intake during the day. A healthy and varied food intake is required!
When you’re asking a lot from your body, it’s important to keep it in good shape. Vitamins are very important to do so. Vitamin C for example strengthens the immune system. Together with vitamins D and K, calcium and magnesium, it keeps your bones healthy. I could go on and on about the benefits, but the bottom line is that vitamins, as well as minerals, are extremely important.
I personally use a multivitamin every day to ensure that my body gets enough of them. It’s important to note that vitamins should be taken in the morning during a meal and with a glass of water. Most vitamins are fat soluble and the water just helps you swallow the pill.
Taking multivitamins does NOT mean you can eat whatever you want because you’ve had your vitamins for the day. Vitamins, as well as any other supplement, do not replace your food. I should also note that the product I use is specifically for men. This is because men and women need different levels of different vitamins. The brand that I use luckily also offers a multivitamin for women.
Always remember to take the recommended dosage written on the box! If you take any prescription medicines, I think you should ask your doctor whether it’s safe to take multivitamins, just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Now for me personally, this is where it ends. Protein, creatine, vitamins. In my humble opinion, that’s all you need (as far as supplements go) in order to become stronger and gain muscle mass. Even if you want to lose fat, I highly recommend taking one or more supplements to help you achieve your goals. It can make it easier to achieve your goals.
There is no miraculous pill that will instantly get you the results you want. Supplements should be used when your normal diet is in check and when you work out.
So I’m curious. Was this article useful to you? Did you like to read about the science behind creatine? Are you using any supplements to aid you towards your goals? Let me know in the comments below!