First of all, supplements aren’t necessary to get great results. You can do just fine without taking any. This was one of the reasons I was hesitant to write this article. But the fact is some supplements can make the process of transforming your body a lot easier. In this article I’m going to answer the question, do supplements work?
And the answer is yes but only a few. In this article, you’ll learn a minimalists guide to supplements where I go deep into the reasoning behind the 3 best supplements. The ones that give you the biggest bang for your buck. My goal for you after reading this article is for you to never be confused about which supplement you should buy ever again. And so that you can focus your time and money on supplements that actually work.
Do Supplements Work? Yes Here Are 3 Best Of The Best Supplements
I’m going to first list the best supplements. Because there are many supplements out there and only a small percentage of them are useful and that’s why they’re only 3 which I feel like can really make a difference. These supplements are:
- Protein powders
- Fish oils
Supplement 1 – Protein Powder
Protein powder is great. Whether your goal is fat loss, maintaining your current physique, or bulking up. Eating enough protein is vital. And if you’re spending a lot of money buying meat. You could actually save some cash by getting a bag of casein, whey or any other protein powder that you enjoy. It’s also extremely handy to have, and a shake can be made and drank in a matter of seconds. Let’s get onto the 2 best protein powders worthy of your money.
Casein Protein – A Worthy Supplement
This is a great all-purpose and slow-digesting protein powder that will help keep you satiated for hours. It’s also a complete protein which means a protein that contains all essential amino acids (these amino acids are valine, leucine and isoleucine to state a few). Casein comes from milk and it tastes great and is easily digested. Protein powder can go well in a shake or with oats, cottage cheese, or Greek yoghurt.
Whey Protein – A Worthy Supplement
Whey protein is a faster-digesting protein that contains more of the amino acid leucine. It tastes great and plays the same role as the casein protein. But if I had a choice between casein and whey protein I’d choose casein as an all-purpose protein powder. But if you have the option between both of the protein powders I’d have whey protein before and after your workouts. And casein before going to bed. So that you get a steady flow of amino acids into your bloodstream to help with muscle retention and protein synthesis.
Although you could just have whey protein.
What matters the most is that you hit your total daily protein intake.
Vegan Protein Powders – Pea Protein And Rice Protein Powders – Do Supplements Work?
A mix of Rice protein and pea protein is a common vegan protein powder. This is referred to as vegans whey because it has a similar amino acid profile to whey protein. This is due to the fact that it’s high in the amino acid leucine. This makes it a faster-digesting protein source.
Regarding just pea protein and rice protein and other vegan protein options such as hemp protein. They can all come in handy but they won’t be as effective for muscle building purposes compared to a mix of rice and pea protein would be. This is because your body needs all of the essential amino acids. And if you don’t make sure that you’re getting all of these essential amino acids through your diet. You will be at a muscle-building disadvantage. that’s why building muscle and losing fat as a vegan requires a bit more diligence as opposed to vegetarians and meat-eaters. The reason why it’s so important to get all essential amino acids is that your body can’t create them by itself. They need to come from your diet.
Casein, whey and egg protein to state a few are all complete proteins containing all essential amino acids such as:
histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Supplement 2 – Creatine – Do Supplements Work?
Creatine is one of the best and well-researched supplements money can buy.
This is because when you lift heavy weights ( and your goal as a natural weight lifter should be to get as strong as you can) the first few reps of each set you use the Creatine phosphate (CP) energy system.
The Creatine phosphate system can only last up to 3 seconds and then you use your anaerobic energy system.
But Creatine can also help with your anaerobic and endurance energy systems.
By helping you get more reps before reaching muscular failure.
Most people don’t consume enough Creatine.
And as you can see by the graphic. It’s hard to get enough Creatine from your food.
Unless you’re having a diet consisting of lots of meat, fish and eggs (40-50% of your diet from foods like these). Which for most isn’t feasible.
Or necessary because Creatine monohydrate is actually one of the cheaper supplements.
If you take 5 grams daily, you train hard ( getting stronger) and eat in a calorie surplus. Over time you will make even more progress than you would if you hadn’t consumed enough Creatine.
This is a great supplement.
But make sure you have your nutrition, training and recovery in good order before taking supplements.
Study Showing the many benefits such as increased fat free mass, and increased strength linked below. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
Do Supplements Work? -The Best And Cheapest Source Of Creatine – Supplement With Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is the powdery source of creatine that you take in a small scoop. If you have 1 scoop of creatine daily. This equates to 5 grams of creatine. You don’t need to overthink the supplementation of creatine. You just take 5 grams daily and you should be good to go.
Creatine is extremely cheap. At Roughly £8-10 for 500 grams this will last you 100 days 10 pence per day. if you’re currently not getting enough creatine. Then you literally can’t afford to not take it. Its that cheap.
Supplement 3 – Omega 3 Fish Oils
Omega 3 fish oils consist of:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
It can be extremely difficult to get enough of these vital nutrients in your diet alone. This is because your body can’t produce them so you need to consume them through your diet or supplementation. They are also called essential fatty acids because of this. To get enough omega 3’s in your diet you need to be consuming at least a couple servings of a fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, sardines, heron or mackerel per week.
You can also get omega 3’s to a lesser extent from free-range eggs, grass-fed meat and other sources. But nowhere near the amount compared to fish oil supplementation. It makes sense to get a good amount of your protein from foods like these. But buying free-range products can be quite expensive for some. So supplementing with fish oils can provide many benefits to your health, recovery and workout performance and your wallet because they’re not too expensive. The Benefits of getting enough fish oils include:
Improved mood and cognitive performance
Increased muscle building/hypertrophy (if an effective training protocol is used)
Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
Improved fat loss and reduced triglycerides (as long as you’re doing the fundamentals, You need to be in a calorie deficit first and foremost)
So How Much Omega 3’s Should You Be Consuming?
If you just want to tick the box for a base-level amount of omega 3’s then studies show you should strive for a total intake of 0.5 EPA and DHA combined. But they can be even more beneficial if you consume 1.5-3 grams of fish oils per day.
So What Does This Look Like In Application?
When buying your omega 3 fish oils its good to check the nutrition label and understand the amount of omega 3s included in the product. One of the most popular methods of omega 3 consumption is through soft gels. The average soft gel consists of 300mg of omega 3’s. And remember you need to hit a minimum of 500mg per day so it makes sense to have 2-3 soft gels to hit your base-level amount of omega 3’s to produce notable benefits.
Although you could certainly have more omega 3’s for even more benefits. But the key is to hit base the base level amount that your body needs. Because remember your body can’t produce these omega 3 fatty acids. So a minimum of 2 soft gels is adequate.
Worthy Mentions – Do Supplements Work?
Supplementation can be quite a controversial topic but the 3 supplements above are the ones I believe to be worthy of your time and money. I also believe that you should be objective about many things (especially about supplements that you put in your body) and this is why I believe the 3 above to be the 3 best evidence-based supplements. And if you use them while consistently taking care of the fundamentals, think energy balance, progressive overload and sleep you’d reach your fitness goals a bit faster.
But there are a couple other supplements that I believe that help me and are probably already helping you without you even knowing it.
Caffeine – The Supplement You’re Already Taking
Research shows that caffeine can slightly increase workout performance. Caffeine comes in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and other forms. If you’re a big coffee drinker like me. You’ll have an easy time getting enough caffeine to increase your workout performance.
Caffeine has a bigger positive impact on endurance training compared to strength training although it definetely helps both to a certain extent. But because the human body adapts, after a certain period you get used to having a certain amount of caffeine and after a while, higher than normal caffeine intake becomes the norm and benefits are reduced.
I think it makes sense to have high days and low days with caffeine. For instance, studies show that performance-enhancing benefits are seen at the 3-6 mg per kg of body mass, so for me, a good amount of caffeine to have on my training days would be 225 mg – 450 mg of caffeine ( because I’m 75kg). One cup of coffee is roughly 95 mg of caffeine. So to reach the upper limit would be roughly 4.5 coffees per day or 4 cups of coffee and a cup of tea.
For your non-training days, you can have 1 cup of coffee or tea or alternatively you can have none.
Caffeine can also be sold in pills. If you’re not a fan of coffee this can be a decent alternative. Caffeine used to be sold in powder form and in (some places still is).
But because of instances like this where 2 students were accidentally given the equivalent of 300 cups of coffee each, this led to them barely surviving. https://www.studyinternational.com/news/british-university-sorry-after-accidentally-giving-students-300-coffee-cups-worth-of-caffeine/
For an extremely in depth article on caffeine. Read the article below.
Beta-Alanine – The Supplement That Gives You The Tingles
Without delving too deep on this supplement. Simply put beta-alanine is an amino acid. Your body combines this amino acid with one of the essential amino acid’s called l – histidine. Your body then uses these two amino acids to make a compound that is named carnosine. Carnosine plays many roles in the body But most importantly carnosine helps counteract fatigue and increases the number of reps you can get before you become fatigued. Your muscles become more acidic the more fatigued you get ( this is also referred to as lactic acid) and the more fatigued you get the harder it is for your muscles to keep on contracting. The absolute main way carnosine helps with this is, it simply reduces acidity in your muscles. And this translates into more reps without you fatiguing and more total progressive overload.
An effective dose of beta-alanine is 2-5 mg per day. Beta-alanine is found in many pre-workout supplements and accounts for that tingling sensation that you feel. When taking them.
3 Unnecessary Supplements – Do Supplements Work?
Within the last couple of years, I’ve come to realise how much of a shit show the supplement industry actually is. And although there are a few good supplements. There are some that I don’t believe to be effective or even necessary when you look at the facts. Specifically Branch chain amino acids, meal replacement shakes, and detox teas.
So now you know of the few supplements that are worth your time. And that the answer to do supplements work? Is a resounding yes. These 3 supplements that I’m about to elaborate on are a complete wast of money.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’S)
Branch chain amino acids consist of 3 of the essential amino acids, leucine, valine, and isoleucine. There’s no doubt about it your body needs to get these amino acids, specifically from foods like meat, eggs, protein powder etc.
But if you currently eat a good diet including complete proteins ( the aforementioned foods) then you will most likely be getting all the protein you need. If you track your calories and protein on an app like my fitness pal then you should be aiming for 0.8 -1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 200 Pound Male, this would be roughly 160- 240 grams of protein.
And if you’re consistently hitting your protein target. Then you won’t get any extra benefits from supplementing with BCAA’s for the most part.
So my advice is to just hit your protein intake every day because BCAA’s are probably just burning a hole in your wallet. And are unnecessary if you’re doing the fundamentals consistently. And if you’re taking BCAA’s without hitting your protein intake. You’re putting the cart before the horse.
One Benefit To BCAAS
They do have one benefit though. They can help with fasted training. Because when you train with weights while fasting. ( a prolonged time without food/ liquid calories think when you wake up in the morning and you’ve gone hours without food) They can help mitigate muscle breakdown when in this fasted state. But you don’t necessarily need BCAA’s a scoop of whey protein mixed with water before fasted training can be adequate.
Detox teas don’t make you lose fat. A calorie deficit does. So if you’re not in a calorie deficit and eating the same amount of calories as you burn (maintenance) or more calories than you burn ( a calorie surplus) then drinking detox teas is going to do nothing at all for you. Apart from leave you frustrated by the lack of progress.
A calorie deficit is made by adjusting the number of calories you consume. So that you eat fewer calories than your body burns. Not sure how many calories you need to eat to lose fat? Check out my ultimate fat loss guide below.
Meal Replacement Shakes
The way I see it humans were meant to eat proper whole foods think a diet similar to the paleo diet.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would of drank to stay hydrated and ate to stay full. There’s a reason we have teeth. To chew our food.
Furthermore, if your goal is fat loss. Then meal replacement shakes may hinder your progress rather than benefit it.
The fact is liquid calories are not as filling as eating your calories.
Think a big salad with a lean protein source and maybe some potatoes. Compared with a small meal replacement shake consisting of similar calories.
Which one do you think will give you the biggest bang for your buck?
The salad with the lean protein source and potatoes will be the most filling to a much greater extent.
My advice to you is to eat proper whole foods and don’t be swayed by fads.
Further Resources – Do Supplments Work?
There are a couple of very good resources that will help you even further differentiate the good supplements from the bad.
Examine.com is a great resource and gives you a precise definition on a whole host of supplements with the research-backed behind them. The link is below.
The Bottom Line On Do Supplements Work?
- Supplementation is supplementary and the synonyms of supplement are additional and extra. They aren’t necessary. You can do just Fine without ever touching a supplement at all. But they do help. Personally, the supplement that helps me the most is protein powders. Because the benefits of protein are extremely great. And it can be hard to get enough of it every day.
- Develop an understanding of the aforementioned supplements so that you can differentiate the good from the bad. Read the further resources part of this article. Don’t be fooled. The supplement industry can be shady.
- Focus on the big rocks/ fundamentals first. Things like energy balance, good nutrition, sleep and progressive overload. These are the 20% that will give you 80% of the results.
I hope I’ve answered the question do supplements work? effectively. If you have any additional questions on supplements or anything comment below or let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.