Just about every guy who works out has an ambitious goal in mind when they start pumping iron – get swole, get jacked, get ripped, get shredded. But to even get close to achieving those physique goals, a few things need to be in order.
You’ll need a proper workout routine, whether it’s to finally see your six-pack, or to get a bigger chest or legs. You’ll need a proper diet regimen that fits your body. Low-carb, low-fat, keto, Mediterranean, and more.
However, if you’re really hitting the gym and lifting heavy weights that frequently, what you may need is proper supplementation. Remember, supplements aren’t meant to replace food, they’re meant to be taken in addition to your regular diet for a little extra boost.
So what should you actually be taking? Here’s a list of essential pre-workout and post-workout bodybuilding supplements that may just give you that kick to get you closer to your goals.
So what is beta-alanine? It’s found in several pre-workout supplements and is considered a non-essential amino acid. Non-essential amino acids don’t mean they’re not important, they just come from external sources instead being produced in the body.
According to a study in the journal Nutrients, “[d]uring moderate to high-intensity exercise, hydrogen ions (H+) begin to accumulate leading to a drop in intramuscular pH and ultimately influencing muscle performance”. What beta-alanine helps to do is to prevent these ions from building up too quickly, which lets you last a little longer during your workouts.
People who consume products containing beta-alanine also report a mild tingling sensation in their fingers sometimes, which may help give you that stimulation to go harder.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Amino acids are what make up protein, and there are three that are referred to as the branched chained version – leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Taking BCAAs have been shown to help prevent muscle fibres breaking down too quickly, and encourages growth by stimulating protein synthesis.
In a 2010 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, participants that took 100mg of BCAAs per kg of body weight felt significantly less muscle soreness after a high-volume squat protocol. Taking these as a pre-workout, post-workout, or even intra-workout (during workout) supplement definitely helps.
Caffeine is a no-brainer for most people. Many pre-workout supplements will contain caffeine as it helps make you feel more alert and energetic so you can push yourself further during workouts. If you prefer to get your caffeine from other sources, coffee and green tea are great choices
Creatine is often found in supplement form as creatine monohydrate. It’s naturally found in our own muscle cells, but can also be consumed by eating meat.
Loading up on creatine has been found to help with maintaining energy levels over a prolonged exercise period, even as far as showing 5-15 percent greater strength gains with consistent use. It also helps with blood flow and decreased muscle soreness and inflammation.
Fish oil is a popular supplement that many people, even those who don’t work out, take. Its benefits are well-known, such as protecting against inflammation and joint pain, so it can help you not feel as much of the aches and pains you feel after a particularly intense workout session.
Glutamine is another non-essential amino acid, but it performs a very important task – it aids in recovery by removing excess ammonia which builds up during exercise. While most people may not require glutamine, others who go through some intense workouts may benefit from taking it to have faster recovery.
Nitric Oxide (NO)
Nitric oxide may sound familiar, but don’t mistake it for nitrous oxide which is sometimes used in cars.
This is normally taken as a pre-workout supplement as it’s been found to help encourage increased blood flow by relaxing certain smooth muscles, allowing more blood to be pushed into and out of your muscles and providing a greater pump. This may ultimately lead to better performance and strength gains.
Whey protein is another popular supplement you’ve probably seen every guy and girl take. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair which is why you need plenty of it when you work out.
Whey protein is derived from milk and is a great source of protein before, during, and after a workout, depending on the type of protein you take. This could be in concentrate form or isolate form, which is considered purer and digests faster. There’s also casein, another form of it, that is a slow-digesting version that some take as a late night snack.
By Gilbert Wong, Men’s Health Content Producer