Walk around a health food store, and you will see a plethora of workout supplements that claim to do the impossible, or at least to help you to up your workout results. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of hot air being blown around, and if it sounds too good to be true, it is. But your gym and health food store make millions off your beliefs if you believe a product works.
Now tame your expectations. There is no miracle supplement, but the good news is that there are some that do promote results. There are some that can help you to build more muscle and work out more effectively or be less sore after workouts. It’s the small stuff that counts.
Bodybuilders have been taking all sorts of creatine for years. But if you haven’t heard, many have also suffered the
creatine bloat.It works with water to protect and enhance your muscles, aiding your recovery, and not just for serious bodybuilders. For weekend warriors, or according to a recent study, elderly people who want to be in better shape, it could work wonders. An analysis of 10 studies on older adults found that those following a strength training program gained 3 extra pounds of muscle over 3 months when they were using creatine.
Creatine helps with short bursts of energy, and ultimately, you lift heavier weights, do more reps, and therefore get better results. It won’t do everything for you. But it helps you to complete the work that you need to build more muscle.
Betaine is typically found in whole grains and spinach. Men who took this supplement as part of a 6 week program were able to gain more muscle and reduce body fat percentage. The placebo group in a 2013 study didn’t see any differences. Betaine increases protein synthesis, and this builds muscle after difficult workouts. As you can see here, exercise is still required.
Fish oil has been touted for its heart health and cholesterol balancing benefits, and it may also have some real muscle and fitness building benefits to boot. A study in the American Journal Clinical of Nutrition found that overweight subjects taking a daily omega-3 fish oil supplement lost more than the placebo group. As Roussell describes it,
When that research first came out, people talked a lot about fish oil being a weight loss supplement, but that’s not quite what’s going on. The exercise regimens in the study were heart-rate based, so the subjects had to hit certain heart rate targets during their sessions. The fish oil artificially lowered their heart rate, so they needed to work harder to hit their targets – and thus burned more calories and lost more weight.
Definitely not the fitness supplement or weight loss supplement most think of. However, if you think about it, anything that inspires you to work harder is going to inspire you to burn more calories. The heart health benefits are just icing on the cake when you think about it that way.
Quercetin comes with incredibly powerful antioxidant benefits, fighting inflammation and harmful free radicals. It can also aid in healthy oxygen delivery to your muscles, which could lengthen your workouts. This means more calorie burning and better results. An analysis of 11 studies in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that it had a small, but measurable impact on exercise performance.
Of course, there are other protein supplements, and I don’t discourage plant based supplements for protein. However, the large majority of the research has focused on whey protein. A lot of this could be applied to protein supplements with the right amounts of protein in general. This said, protein feeds the muscles and reduces soreness while also rebuilding muscle. Not bad, and yes, protein is an essential nutrient your body needs.
When it comes to the comparison though, some researchers do believe that whey protein is superior. Seltzer explains,
Whey protein is more rapidly absorbed by the body compared to other forms of protein, and it creates more of an insulin response. Insulin is an anabolic (muscle building) hormone. Exercise inherently breaks muscle down. But whey protein will help reverse that and allow for faster recovery.Regardless of what kind of protein you choose, make sure it has higher amounts of protein, and be careful of those that have high doses of carbs.
It seems like the thing that gets you up and going in the morning, and especially if you’re running a morning workout, guess what’s a great motivator. That said, it’s not just for those of us who are not morning people. Seltzer says,
When taken before exercise, we know that caffeine helps improve performance and power output, decreases symptoms of fatigue, helps you work longer and stronger, and acts as a mental focusing agent.
The difference between getting up and going for your workout at any time of day and not going is huge. However, at any time, if you need that extra boost, caffeine can get you moving. This of course assumes that you don’t have heart problems or other medical issues that would cause more problems for you when taking caffeine.