The fitness world is full of a lot of gimmicks and promises because, let’s face it, working out is hard work, and if there’s one thing human history has shown us, it’s that humans love a good shortcut. The truth is, there’s no real replacement for good old-fashioned hard work. When it comes to fitness, “hard work” means getting into the gym, banging weights around, laying down miles, not eating trash, and making the effort to cut fat and make gains.
That said, it’s not all bullshit. Our granddaddies (and mammies) got their strength from eating good and lifting big, but you bet your ass if they had the science and technology we have today, they’d have explored the world of supplements, too.
But in a space occupied heavily by nonsense wonder drugs and placebos, how are you supposed to tell the difference between useful supplements and nonsense? It’s difficult, to be honest, but the trick is to not buy into the magic pills or simple “programs” that make it seem like you won’t have to work hard to get the results you want. Look for the products that aren’t trying to sell you something that sounds too good to be true. In the fitness world – and every other world – if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
I’m not going to turn this into a brand-loyal buying guide for all the best supplements. At the end of the day, there’re literally thousands of options out there for you to consider, and there’s no point in me muddying up your water with my own opinions. Instead, we’re going to explore a couple tried-and-true supplements whose effectiveness you can bet your bottom dollar on.
So, without further ado, here are seven workout supplements that actually work:
When it comes to the whole “magic pill” aspect of workout supplements, creatine is about as close as it gets without being a load of bullshit. Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid that occurs in all of us. In its synthesized form, creatine is a performance-enhancing substance that helps boost the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which helps in muscle repair and growth under stress.
Essentially, creatine gives bursts of energy and helps with muscle repair during your workout, to help you run a little faster, put up one or two more reps, and push your muscles to perform their best. People have conducted literally hundreds of clinical studies on the stuff, and while results definitely vary from person to person and study to study, the facts are clear: this stuff works.
It comes in a lot of forms; powder, liquid, solids, etc. It’s also found in smaller doses in things like meat, fish, and eggs, but it’s obviously better and more useful in a concentrated powder.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are awesome because they don’t just help you during your workout, but also after. In fact, they shine brightest in the post-workout stages. BCAAs are a mix of three vital amino acids – leucine, isoleucine and valine – that are essential to muscle repair and recovery. Their whole job is to help your muscles recover faster after a hard workout, which means you spend less days off from being sore and feeling beat to shit, and more time in the gym putting up the heavy stuff.
It even goes a lot deeper than that. Aside from helping muscles repair themselves, these amino acids also help provide much-needed energy in the gym, but also curb the production of certain hormones that actually work against your body’s attempts to build muscles – most notably, cortisol.
The trick about BCAAs is that you really have to remember to keep taking them throughout the day. Literally, you have to be eating these things in the morning, at night, before, during and after your workout, etc., in order to get the best results from them. Luckily, BCAA powders aren’t necessarily that pricey, so keeping them in your diet won’t be too hard on your wallet.
I don’t really understand why, but it seems the more people I talk to about fish oil and its benefits, the more people I encounter who don’t really see it as necessary. The truth is, fish oil isn’t snake oil, and its benefits are absolutely real.
Fish oil contains a super high amount of Omega 3 oils, which is a natural anti-inflammatory that can really mean the difference between running a mile or being able to lay down five. It will help ease joint and muscle soreness, and is vital to the recovery process.
Hell, even if you’re not in the gym or training for that half marathon you’ve been eyeing up, fish oil is excellent for your lungs, blood circulation and heart health.
The largest issue people have is finding a reputable brand that isn’t cut with a bunch of other useless ingredients, but they’re definitely out there. Any way you slice it, this stuff is critical to your workout regimen.