What Supplements Should I Take When Working Out?
Are you looking to get more out of your workouts and see results?
Choosing the right supplements can give you an extra boost to help you reach your fitness goals faster, whether that's getting toned, building strength, or improving your endurance. But with so many options on the market, how do you determine which ones are really effective?
In this post, we’ll break down the top supplements for fitness and explain when and how you should take them. Whether you’re just starting your journey or are a seasoned athlete, you’ll learn everything you need to optimize your supplementation routine and power up your workouts.
Let’s dig in and check out the right supplements to help you get the most effective workouts and achieve the toned look you’ve been aiming for!
All Day Benefits
Creatine is a highly researched supplement renowned for enhancing muscle mass and strength. By boosting the body's adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, it provides essential energy for muscle contractions. The most common form is creatine monohydrate, best taken at 3-5 grams per day, every day for optimal results. Look for micronized creatine powders for easy dissolution and easy integration into your routine.
Pre-workout supplements offer a boost in energy and enhance performance during intense workouts. They typically contain ingredients like caffeine and citrulline, ingredients that can increase blood flow and aid in body fat loss. To maximize their benefits, take these supplements 20-30 minutes before your workout to experience improved energy levels, endurance, strength, and muscle pumps. Remember to stay properly hydrated while using pre-workout supplements for the best results.
L-citrulline is an amino acid that turns into L-arginine and nitric oxide, boosting blood flow to working muscles. Pre-workout supplements with L-citrulline can enhance exercise performance, endurance, and muscle pumps. As a vasodilator, it widens blood vessels, improving nutrient delivery and clearing ammonia and lactic acid buildup. Take 3-6 grams of L-citrulline or L-citrulline malate (2:1 ratio) 30 minutes before training for reduced fatigue and improved workouts. The benefits are noticeable right away
It turns out, your favorite way to start the day is also an incredibly helpful pre-workout supplement. Caffeine, a key ingredient in pre-workout supplements, acts as a stimulant, enhancing energy, mental focus, and exercise performance. It also aids in fat-burning by mobilizing fatty acids. Start with 200-400 mg, adjusting for sensitivity, as excessive intake can lead to jitteriness. Cycle off caffeine every 4-6 weeks to prevent tolerance buildup.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that combines with histidine to form carnosine in muscles. This helps reduce lactic acid buildup that causes the burning sensation during intense exercise. Supplementing with 2-5 grams in pre-workout formulas boosts muscle carnosine levels by up to 80%. Expect a temporary tingling sensation called paresthesia, which is normal. To minimize this effect, spread your dosage throughout the day.
Taking supplements after training helps replenish nutrients, refuel muscles, and maximize recovery. The post-workout window is key for muscle growth. Your muscles are primed to absorb nutrients rapidly after a tough workout.
The branched-chain amino acids, commonly abbreviated as BCAAs, are essential for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and aiding in recovery after exercise. The three BCAAs - leucine, isoleucine, and valine - make up about one-third of the amino acids found in muscle protein. BCAA supplements reduce muscle soreness post-exercise, with leucine being particularly important for stimulating protein synthesis. Go for a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Consume 5-10 grams before, during, and/or after workouts.
Note: Some BCAAs, like our BCAA w/Collagen, contain vitamin C. While naturally helping to provide an immunity boost during your gym session, some research has also shown that taking vitamin C during a workout can reduce cell damage that can happen while exercising.
After your workout, it's essential to replenish muscle glycogen, which is depleted during training. Aiming for 0.5-1 gram of carbs per pound of body weight within 2 hours post-workout is ideal. Great carb sources include fruit, potatoes, rice, quinoa, oats, and sweet potatoes (which are actually good to also have before your workout). Maximize recovery, fat loss, and lean muscle growth by having your most substantial carb meal shortly after your training session. Check out our collection of energy supplements for more options.
Whey protein powder is a top choice for athletes looking to build lean muscle mass. Derived from milk, it's a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids to boost muscle growth. Studies confirm its effectiveness when taken before or after workouts. The two primary varieties of whey protein are concentrate and isolate. The latter is best for post-workout recovery due to rapid absorption. Go for high-quality whey from grass-fed cows with low added sugars.
If you're looking for better dietary supplements or trying to avoid dairy, plant-based protein powders are a great choice. Options like pea, rice, hemp, and soy protein offer a complete amino acid profile ideal for building muscle. Plant proteins digest more slowly than whey, so they may be better suited as a pre-workout option. Those sensitive to soy should opt for pea or rice protein. When choosing a plant-based protein, look for organic, non-GMO sources without extra fillers or additives. Combining different plant proteins can help optimize amino acid intake for the best results.
Common Workout Supplement FAQs
How much protein do I need daily?
The recommended protein intake for building muscle is 0.5-1.0 grams per pound of body weight per day. This ensures your body has enough amino acids available to support muscle protein synthesis. Spread your protein intake out over 4-5 smaller meals rather than one large dose. Good protein sources include whey, chicken, fish, eggs, beef, dairy, and plant proteins like peas or rice.
When should I take creatine?
The daily recommended dose of 5 grams of creatine can be taken at any time of day. This is enough to saturate your muscles to support energy and strength during training. Just be consistent with timing for best results.
Are protein shakes necessary?
Protein shakes are not completely necessary but can be a convenient way to meet your daily protein needs, especially if you struggle to eat enough protein-rich whole foods. Getting enough protein can also help you stay fuller for longer, which can help reduce weight gain. Whey protein shakes offer a fast-digesting source of amino acids to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. However, food sources of protein like chicken, fish, beef, eggs, and dairy provide additional nutrients not found in shakes. Try to get most of your protein from whole foods and use shakes as needed to supplement around workouts or fill any gaps in your daily target.
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