The supplements industry is saturated with products all ‘guaranteeing’ to give you the instant gains and visible results that you crave – all at a cost! So how can you choose the right supplements wisely, and without breaking the bank?
Know What You’re Buying
The trick is to opt for the highest quality products from brands that you know and trust. Stick to the basics that will benefit all bodybuilders. If you are interested in trying a new product or something that you’ve received a tip on, do ensure that it supports your goals and always seek medical advice.
Read the Ingredients
The first point about trusting your brand and reading the ingredients is key; there are plenty of dubious supplements on the market which are essentially just filler, sugar and additives. Learn to read your labels carefully and read reviews from other users.
Choose the ‘Five Big Ones’
Here are five great products which should form the basis of your supplements cupboard.
#1 Protein Powder
Choose a good quality whey protein, and possibly a casein version for overnight use. These products are not magic by any means, but they do help you to take in extra protein when you are struggling to eat enough during the day. Take for post-workout nutrition, primarily to feed those muscles, and give them the broad spectrum of nutrients needed for repair and growth. Isolate varieties cost more, but are purer and more effectively absorbed by the body.
Concentrates are less expensive and are ideal for those experimenting with protein powder supplementation for the first time. However, they can cause digestive issues. Try experimenting with whey isolates, or egg, soya or even pea protein varieties if you experience problems.
#2 A Multivitamin
This is essential for bodybuilders, to ensure you are taking in sufficient vitamins and minerals, thus protecting against deficiencies. Buy a good quality multivitamin product from a brand that you trust.
#3 Fish Oil
This will help you to repair those muscles after training and provide essential fatty acids to support your body’s natural functions. Liquid and pill varieties are available, and many bodybuilders say that a good quality fish oil also helps with their recovery.
This is naturally found in the human body and provides energy for explosive movements. Creatine can help bodybuilders to train intensively for longer periods and assists with recovery.
These are sometimes found in protein powders, but need to be present in sufficient amounts to make a difference. Alternatively, invest in some BCAAs to help repair muscle tissues after training.
Remember the Role of Food
Of course, supplements are all well and good, but the clue is in their name; they should be adding the extra ‘icing’ to your diet. Make sure you are eating 7 or so meals a day with adequate protein at each, and choosing carbohydrate and fat levels according to your training goals.
Eat plenty of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, eggs, fish and drink plenty of water. Avoid sugars, which hold water and will make you appear puffy and less defined. Some bodybuilders will also adopt advanced strategies such as carb cycling around their training and competing schedule. When correctly managed, these can be powerful tools.