All over social media, you see advertisements telling you “buy this” supplement or “buy that” supplement or “burn more fat with x product”. Supplements are a $32 BILLION a year company (shoutout to my Sports Nutrition class for making me know that statistic lol). And why is that? People, athletes and non, take supplements for many reasons… improve nutrition, convenience, deficiencies, weight loss, and as a whole, we lack the knowledge to make informed decisions about the supplements we put into our bodies.
Im going to preface this post by saying YOU DO NOT NEED SUPPLEMENTS. Yes, you read that right. You do not need them. Let me say that one more time to really get my point across… YOU DO NOT NEED SUPPLEMENTS. No pill or product will take the place of a great diet and training program. Taking a supplement will not counteract being lazy or eating like crap. No supplement is going to give you your “dream body” . Supplements are not magic. If a product sounds too good to be true then it probably is. They are meant as just that… to “supplement” your diet and training. If you are training and fueling your body appropriately with the right nutrition for your goals, then yes, supplements can help give you that little extra nudge to help push you over the edge.
Before i tell you what supplements i take, on and off prep, i went to use this as a moment to caution you about the use of supplements. Unlike food or drugs, supplements are NOT regulated. They do not have to be proven safe or effective before they are sold on the market. There is no guarantee that the product is pure or contains the ingredients it says it does, in the amounts that it says it does. So, how do we go about combating these risks? DO YOUR RESEARCH. Do your research before you go out and buy any supplement. Look for supplement companies/products that have been approved by a third party agencies such as Consumer Lab, NSP, and USP. Other resources such as”Informed Choice” and the USDA’s Supplement 411 can help you determine if a product/company is safe and reliable. Now is not the time to buy supplements because they are on sale or because everyone else is taking them. Supplements should be utilized on an individualized basis using products that are deemed safe and effective. Go check out the online resources i listed above before heading over to the nearest GNC or placing an order on bodybuilding.com.
With that being said, what products am i taking? On prep and off? If you are curious, continue reading below..
- Protein Powder. Taken year round. Is this a supplement or is it not? Eh, yes and no. I think of it more as a macro source but since it’s not technically “food” i shall deem it a supplement. In regards to protein powder, we have 2 types: Whey and Casein. Whey protein is a faster digesting protein and can be very beneficial post workout (to help with muscle protein synthesis). Casein is a slower digesting protein. I like protein powder because of it’s convenance factor. It is easy to store a scoop of protein, in a ziplock baggie, in your gym bag or purse- just add water and-bam you’re good to go. Quick and easy. I also like protein powder because it can really help curb my sweet tooth, especially while prepping for a competition. I like to make protein pancakes, protein waffles, protein ice cream, all excellent alternatives to those carb heavy foods that don’t necessarily fit my macros right now. Brands i like? Cellucor makes a great tasting whey protein and my favorite flavors are Molten Chocolate, Cor-fetti, and PB Marshmallow. I also like PEScience which is a whey/casein blend (GREAT for baking). My favorite flavors are Snickerdoodle and PB Cup.
- BCAAs. Taken year round. BCAA’s stand for branch chain amino acids aka the “building blocks of protein”. The 3 branch chain amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA’s help with muscle repair and recovery and help to maintain muscle while dieting on a deficit. You can drink them before a lift, during, or even after. Brands i like? I really like BPI Sports brand of amino acids. I have yet to find a flavor i didn’t like but the Snow Cone and Cherry Limeade are rather yummy.
- Creatine. Taken year round. I just recently started taking this supplement after learning about it in my Sports Nutrition class and my coach urging me to do so. Creatine is very well researched and can be very beneficial. Females do not need to be afraid to take creatine. No, it will not make you “manly” -our bodies produce creatine naturally anyways. Some of the benefits of creatine include enhance recovery, improve anaerobic capacity, which in turn helps to improve muscle strength and size over time. You may have heard that this product can cause water retention. I am on prep and still taking this product. As long as you are taking a quality product you shouldn’t have to worry about retaining water or looking watery. I, personally, have not noticed any water retention while I’ve been taking this product. Creatine comes in pill form as well as a free (powdered) form. I am currently taking the pill form but this is personal preference.
- Pre Workout.Taken as needed. Pre workout can help provide you with energy before a lift or cardio session. You have to be careful with the dosage especially if you sensitive to caffeine. I would recommend taking 1/2 a scoop to start out in order to assess your tolerance. If a pre workout contains beta-alanine: be aware, this can cause an itchy sensation lol some people like this feeling, some don’t. Brands i like? Cellulcor C4 has typically been my pre workout of choice. You can’t really go wrong with any of the flavors, right now my flavor of choice is Watermelon.
- High Volume. Taken year round. High volume helps you get a “pump” while lifting. This works by increasing blood flow to the muscles which helps make muscles look more full during your training. Increased blood flow to the muscles can be beneficial when it comes to hypertrophy. This supplement is by no means a necessity but can be helpful if you like the feeling of “a pump” while you lift. Brands i like? This product is PEScience. My favorite flavor is Cotton Candy. I have also taken a “pump” supplement by BPI Sports. Blueberry Lemon Freeze is my favorite flavor in that brand.
- Yohimbine. Taken during prep. I just recently started taking this product. This supplement is a stimulant that has been shown to help aid fat loss especially in a fasted state. It works by “increasing adrenaline levels in the body as well as inhibiting a regulatory process in fat cells which normally suppresses fat burning.” There can be negative side effects for those individuals with anxiety/bipolar disorders (Side note: If you have any preexisting medical conditions, you should ALWAYS ask a doctor or health care professional before you start taking any supplements) . Yohimbine is also known to increase cortisol production in the body which can affect weight loss. To negate some of the side effects sometimes caused by this product… i am taking the following supplement below.
- L-Theanine. Taken during prep. I am taking this product to help reduce the side effects from Yohimbine. Together, they work to expedite fat loss. L-Theanine is an amino acid that has relaxing effects and helps to “take the edge off” caffeine supplements.
Those are all of the supplements that i am currently taking on and off competition prep. Some other supplements you may want to consider would be a Multivitamin and a Probiotic. A multivitamin can be beneficial if you are dieting in a deficit and may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. A multivitamin can insure that you are getting those nutrients. A probiotic can help promote good digestive health and can help to regulate your bodily functions (I won’t go into details here). Dieting can lead to lower caloric intake which can mean lower fiber which can mean poor digestion…. If you have a problem with pooping (lol), this could be a supplement for you to consider.
So there you have it. You don’t NEED supplements-there is no such thing as a magic pill. But when paired with good training and nutrition, supplements may help give you that little extra boost to help reach your goals. Always do your research before taking any supplements to ensure they are safe, effective, and do what they say they will do.
What supplements do you take on a regular basis? During prep for a show? Have you had any particularly good or bad experiences with certain supplements? I would love to know! Comment below and let me know your thoughts!
Thanks for reading and keep checking back for more,