Many people are adding supplements to their routine, but not everyone knows when is the best time to start adding them. Supplements are a great way to get more of the protein, vitamins and minerals that you need into your diet. Many people will take supplements as part of their workout routine to make sure they're getting enough nutrients for muscle growth and recovery.
But adding supplements can be confusing! This blog post will help you understand what the best supplements for beginners are and how much you should be looking for in products.
Why Do Beginners Need Supplements In The First Place?
To clarify this question, it needs to be appreciated that supplements fall broadly into two groups- food based and non-food based supplements.
Food based supplements are those that can be obtained from food items and are usually more complete in their nutrient makeup. Food based supplements include those like protein powders and shakes, multi-nutrient powders, and vitamins and minerals. Even creatine can be considered food based since you can get it from eating foods.
Non-food based supplements are those that are not obtained (or not easily) from food items and have a more limited nutrient makeup. These include sports nutrition products like pre-workout formulas, post-workout formulas, and various creatine salts that have been synthetically modified (yes, it can technically be classified as both),
The need for food based supplements arises because most people do not eat the ideal diet to support their health and fitness goals. The modern lifestyle has made it difficult to get all the nutrients we need from our food choices alone due to increased processed food consumption, reliance on fast foods, eating out at restaurants more often than cooking meals at home, and many other reasons. In fact, a recent study showed that over 60% of Americans surveyed were deficient in at least one essential vitamin or mineral!
This is where food based supplements can help fill in the gaps and support your health and fitness goals. They provide a more complete range of nutrients than what you would get from diet alone, helping to ensure that your body has everything it needs to function optimally.
Non-food based ones have a more specific application and do not directly have an impact on your nutritional status.
When Should You Start Taking Supplements?
Depending on your particular goals, supplements should remain just that- a supplement to your diet, not a replacement for it. If you are consuming an ideal amount of nutritious food that is rich in all the essential nutrients required by the body, then there would be no need to take food- based supplements at all!
However, if you find yourself struggling to get enough calories from nutritious foods every day or have trouble meeting your daily nutrient intake goals through food alone, this is where supplementation can help boost up your nutrient intake.
So, with that in mind it bears repeating that supplements should only be turned to when your diet is on point, and you need to start optimizing and elevating performance.
If you're looking for a timeline, after 3 months of consistent training is probably a good point to give them a try. This will also help thin the pack as not everyone will even commit to workout out for three months consistently.
What Kind Of Supplements Should Beginners Take?
If you are just starting out with taking supplements as part of your workout routine, it is best to begin with food-based supplements. These are the most complete and provide a range of essential nutrients that your body needs.
These are a good place to start, as they contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial plant compounds. They can be added to smoothies or shakes for an easy way to get all of your daily nutrients in one go. These are sometimes referred to as meal replacement or whole food powders since they are basically meals ready to go.
Another great option for beginners is protein powder. Protein is essential for muscle mass gain and repair, so it is important to make sure you are getting enough if you are lifting weights regularly. There are many different types of protein powder on the market, so you can find one that suits your taste and budget.
In general, whey protein is considered the gold standard of protein powders. It is the most popular and widely used type of protein powder, as it has high biological value (the number of amino acids that your body can actually use) and it digests easily.
If you are lactose intolerant or vegan/vegetarian, plant-based proteins like pea, hemp seed, brown rice, soy, quinoa might be a better option for you. These will digest slower than whey but they do offer some unique health benefits not seen in other types of protein powders. For example: Soy contains genistein which helps stabilize blood sugar levels to prevent spikes after eating; Hemp seeds contain omega fatty acids - good fats that promote heart health! And quinoa is an antioxidant which might help reduce the risk of cancer.
Also, you can take fish oil or flaxseed oil to get your omega-fatty acids in addition to protein powder (like whey) for muscle building and repair benefits. As with any food based supplement, always be sure that it is low in added sugar and artificial additives.
Creatine is naturally found in the body and plays a role in your energy metabolism. It can be supplemented during weight training to help produce extra reps or increase workout volume, as well as increasing fat burning for faster post-workout recovery (due to increased collagen production).
But when it comes down to it, there is scarcely any supplement that can deliver the results that creatine can on muscle growth and strength. It is especially good at improving short duration, high-intensity exercises performance.
For these reasons, creatine supplementation is a popular choice for athletes and bodybuilders, although its numerous benefits trickle down into all sports disciplines.
To use, a loading dose of about 20 grams per day is recommended for the first five days, followed by a maintenance dose of around two to five grams per day. Again, it is important to find a quality brand that does not contain any fillers or artificial ingredients.
Expect rapid increase in weight, initially as a result of water retention in the muscles. However, if you stick with it for a longer period of time, your body will eventually adjust and retain less water when supplementing with creatine supplements.
Try creatine monohydrate to start with, then eventually you might want to try the fancier versions such as creatine nitrate, hydrochloride, or ethyl ester.
Beta-alanine is a non essential amino acid that helps to increase muscle carnosine levels. Carnosine is important as it buffers the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles, which can lead to fatigue and decreased performance.
More precisely, they buffer intracellular pH levels to delay or reduce muscle fatigue during exercise. The accumulation of positively charged H+ (hydrogen) ions caused a drop in the pH within muscle cells, which cease to contract as the environment becomes more acidic.
Beta alanine acts as a sponge, soaking up these ions, and thereby delaying the onset of muscle breakdown and helping to decrease fatigue.
As with any supplement, it is important to do your research on beta-alanine before taking it. There can be some side effects such as tingling sensations and skin flushing which are generally harmless but can be a nuisance. Start off with a lower dose (500-800 mg) and work your way up slowly to see how your body reacts.
Many pre-workout supplements already contain beta-alanine, so you might not need to take it separately if you are using one of those. Just be sure to read the ingredients list!
Nitric Oxide Boosters
Nitric oxide boosters (sometimes just referred to as NO boosters), are an extremely popular class of pre-workout supplements. They work by increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the body, which dilates blood vessels and allows for more oxygen-rich blood to reach the working muscles.
This increased blood flow not only leads to better performance and endurance, but can also help with muscle tissue growth and fat loss due to the improved nutrient delivery.
Many athletes report feeling of the "pump" from using these supplements, which is a localized swelling of the muscles that leads to greater muscle volume and vascularity.
This pump can be very beneficial for bodybuilders looking to add mass or people interested in gaining strength with workouts involving less weight but more reps (such as hypertrophy training).
The pump is simply occlusion of blood within the working muscle. When the muscles are filled with blood, they can't get any more and that's when you feel the 'pump'. This might be good for helping super-saturate muscles under tension with nutrients.
Most effective NO boosters today contain citrulline malate, which is an amino acid that directly stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body.
Other ingredients are also common among NO boosters today to improve absorption and circulation. These include arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), L-arginine HCL, or agmatine sulfate.
Try to shoot for a supplement that contains citrulline as the primary ingredient and which supplies a dose of at least six grams per serving.
Caffeine is the most common ingredient found in pre-workout supplements and for good reason: it can improve focus, increase energy levels, and even help with fat loss in some cases!
Despite what you might think, caffeine doesn't just give you a jolt of instant energy. It actually helps the body to more efficiently use its energy stores, thereby delaying fatigue and helping you to push harder in your workouts.
Caffeine also has a thermogenic effect, meaning it can help increase calorie burning and subsequently weight loss.
Be careful with caffeine consumption however, as too much can lead to unwanted side effects such as jitters and anxiousness.
It's best to start with a dose of 200-300 mg and work up from there as needed (or according to the product directions).
If you don't like heavy caffeine loads or want something more natural, green tea extract might be better for you. It contains polyphenols that support health and less caffeine so you don't experience as much of a stimulatory boost.
Intra-workout supplements are a relatively new class of supplements although they themselves aren't anything new. It basically consists of fast digesting amino acids, glucose, and electrolytes that are meant to be taken during the workout itself.
This type of supplement is designed to help you maintain your energy levels and hydration status while working out, which can lead to better performance and reduced fatigue.
Dehydration to the extent of just 2% can have a drastic impact on performance, so it's important to stay hydrated during your workouts.
Many intra-workout supplements also contain creatine, which can help with strength and power production.
Look for a product that contains a blend of fast-digesting carbs (such as glucose or maltodextrin), electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium), and BCAAs. Try to find one that has a dosage of at least five grams per serving.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are the most important aminos for muscle growth and recovery. That's because they are directly responsible for stimulating protein synthesis in the muscles, thereby helping them to grow and repair after a tough workout.
Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine are the three amino acids found in BCAAs. They are all essential amino acids since they cannot be produced by the body.
The best time to take them is either during or immediately after your workout because this is when you need those aminos. They can also be beneficial before a workout as well, but not quite as much.
BCAAs themselves can help with energy levels since they're essentially broken down into glucose for fuel within the muscles, so that's another potential benefit. They also help preserve muscle tissue.
Look for a product containing at least four grams per serving of BCAAs (which will usually come from all three sources) in the ratio of two parts leucine and one part each of isoleucine and valine.
With so much to choose from, we are now optimistic that the field has been narrowed for you. All the products mentioned here are quality dietary supplements that will help you in reaching your fitness goals.
Remember to always consult with a physician before starting any new supplement regiment, and start slow when incorporating them into your routine.