A Beginner's Guide to Bodybuilding Supplements
Bodybuilding supplements (or sports supplements) are products taken by athletes or by those looking to improve their physique. You can use them to:- Build muscle
- Lose bodyfat
- Improve sports performance
- Improve overall health
- Improve your sense of well being
...and much, much more. It's a huge area, and at Bodybuilding Warehouse you can find something to help with your goals. This "Beginner's guide to bodybuilding supplements" should help you decide what supplements are best for you, and what to take to reach your personal goals.
Categories of Sports Supplement
This list is not definitive, and there's always new products coming to market that none of us ever expected! For example, relaxation supplements and sexual performance supplements are both new categories that have only been developed recently, and have taken off in a big way. Whilst most people buy sports supplements to improve the way their body looks, there's always ways to improve how you feel and live too!
Basic Categories Include -
- Protein Shakes
- Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
- Meal Replacements (MRPs)
- Male Support
- Creatine Supplements
- Thermogenic Fat burners
- Natural Test Boosters
Protein powder is the most basic bodybuilding supplement available. It should be the first port of call for anyone looking to gain weight or put on muscle. Protein powders often contain whey protein, micellar casein, soy protein, egg protein or various blends of the above.
Protein powder is usually best used:- Immediately post workout (2 scoops or 60g's for men, and 1 scoop or 30g's for women)
- First thing upon waking (guidelines as above)
- At other times of the day when a protein rich meal would be time consuming or inconvenient
A high intake of protein will help provide your body with the nutrients and calories it needs to grow and repair muscle tissue.
Types of Protein -
- Whey Protein - the most commonly used type of protein in protein powders. It is absorbed by the body very quickly and easily and is ideal for post-workout. One of the best and best value on the market is Bodybuilding Warehouse Premium Whey.
- Casein Protein - the richest in glutamine, an amino acid that aids in recovery, and the slowest to digest, making it ideal for pre-bed (in order to avoid overnight muscle catabolism).
- Soy Protein - contains all essential amino acids, and a great alternative for vegetarians or vegans.
- Egg Protein - a lactose and dairy-free protein powder that has a medium speed digestion rate, and offers high levels of the essential amino acid lysine.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs):
Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle, and protein is composed of strings of various amino acids. There are three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs)- Leucine
BCAAs are metabolised in the muscle and have both an anabolic (muscle building) and an anti-catabolic (muscle sparing) effect on it. By supplementing with BCAAs at key times (e.g. post-workout, pre-workout, and intra-workout) you're likely to both build more muscle, and avoid muscle catabolism. Muscle catabolism is when your body catabolises (essentially burns) your own muscle to fuel energy needs - it can happen especially over long duration, high-intensity workouts, and avoiding it will lead to more muscle and improved strength over the long term!
Several good BCAA products include Pure iBCAA 8:1:1, Performance Prime, and Gaspari SizeOn Max Performance. Both of these are designed to improve exercise endurance at the same time as improve muscle growth, and spare muscle loss during your workout.
Glutamine is the most common and predominant amino acid in the human body and supplementing with it is useful because levels are depleted during hard exercise or times of excessive stress. Bodybuilders should supplement with glutamine, as a lack of glutamine can lead to muscle tissue degeneration and a weakening of the immune system. There are studies that suggest glutamine has helped long distance runners by raising their T-helper / suppressor cell ratio. It can also be useful in recovery between workouts and for a general feeling of wellness.
Essential Fatty Acids:
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are essential nutrients in your diet, especially as a hard training bodybuilder. Bodybuilders, especially while cutting, can counter-intuitively improve fat loss by increasing their EFA intake. Essential Fatty Acids are found in some foods like salmon, trout and mackerel and as fish fats cannot be made in the body. You can also supplement with them – which for many people, is the most convenient way of increasing their daily intake. A good diet in addition to supplementation is the best way to ensure a healthy intake of these useful fats.
Meal Replacement Products:
Meal replacement products (MRP’s) contain everything a bodybuilder could want in a nutritious meal - they are high in protein, with moderate amounts of carbohydrates (carbs) and packed full of the most essential vitamins and minerals. They are ideal if you are going miss a meal or have a busy lifestyle, and usually found in pre-packaged powders that mix well with water or milk. Protein bars may also be used as MRP’s if you prefer a solid rather than liquid meal.
Most of the MRPs on the market today use whey protein, calcium caseinate, micellar casein, soy protein or egg albumin as their main source of protein. MRPs usually get their carbohydrates from maltodextrin, oats, barley, brown rice or wheat flour. They sometimes add in addition essential fatty acids from flax oil powder.
Creatine monohydrate, additional amino acids, glutamine peptides, L-glutamine, calcium alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG), lactoferrin, conjugated linoleic acid and medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are also added to many MRPs as they are deemed beneficial to bodybuilders and help aid recovery and muscle gains.
Check out our male support section here - Male Support
For more information on OTC PCT, check out our OTC PCT supplements here - OTC PCT Supplements
Creatine is a natural occurring organic acid that supplies muscle with short bursts of energy, perfect for lifting weights. This is done through a process called creatine prosphate replenishment of ATP.
Research shows that creatine actually increases a person’s strength, energy and muscle mass whilst at the same time reducing recovery times between sessions. Also, according to recent research creatine can improve brain function and reducing mental fatigue as well.
Unlike many performance enhancing drugs, creatine is found naturally in red meat as well as some fish like tuna and salmon. This makes it imposable to ban in competitive sports and still available to the dedicated trainer!
There are many forms of creatine from creatine monohydrate to creatine ethyl ester, magnesium creatine chelate, creatine gluconate and more. Although all creatine have the same purpose, there are differences between them like the dosage required and uptake levels. Whilst some users may benefit most from creatine monohydrate, other users may find they make better gains using creatine gluconate, magnesium creatine chelate or one of the more advanced creatine blends to hit the market in recent years.
Thermogenic Fat Burners:
Thermogenic is a supplement that increases your metabolic rate, increasing body temperature and the rate the body burns fat (even at rest).
Until very recently many thermogenics contained ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin – this was known as the "ECA stack" - however the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of ephedrine as a fat loss remedy in the USA, and supply of these fat burners dried up shortly after. Nowadays, ephedrine is often replaced with bitter orange extract or citrus aurantium instead to provide the same stimulant kick, legally. This new combination has been shown to be very effective.
Natural Test Boosters:
Natural Test boosters are synthetic chemicals or herbs that’s supplement companies claim can increase total testosterone and / or "free" testosterone levels. Common ingredients include:- ZMA (a combination of, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6)
- Tribulus terrestris (often referred to as "trib")
- Divanil (or DVTHF)
- Forskolin (or "Forslean")
Each of these ingredients aims to raise test production (often via suppression of estrogen) or increase the levels of "free" (active testosterone used for muscle building) in the body by binding to SHBG (sex hormone binding globules) in the body.
The best time to use natural testosterone boosters is during post cycle therapy (OTC PCT), or in men above the age of 25 years old when natural testosterone production tends to decrease and the body will respond best to a boost.