If you’re serious about changing your physique, you know you need to train and eat in the right manner to build new lean muscle mass while burning unwanted fat. But training hard can deplete your body of vitamins, nutrients and other compounds essential for muscle gain and fat loss. Even with the best diet possible, it can be incredibly tough to get all these vital elements – and that’s where supplements come in.
The 6 Best Supplements
These are the supplements almost every expert and study agree should be in your fitness plan. Click the links (in alphabetical order) to look at each one in depth, including pros, cons and dosing strategy.
- BCAAs – Your body needs sufficient quantities of all amino acids in order to maximise muscle growth. Of these, the three branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are most vital. BCAAs are a great source of protein for those who are dieting and counting calories.
- Creatine – One of the safest and most-researched supps available, creatine is vital for aiding short bursts of muscle contraction and explosive power. Great for weight training and strength sports, it is best taken after a session alongside a carbohydrate source.
- Fish Oil – Omega 3 fatty acids are integral to our general health and provide benefits in a number of areas, such as cognitive function, fat burning and hormonal output. Many of us struggle to get enough oily fish in our diet so supplementing with a fish oil supp is one way around this.
- Greens – Similarly to fish oil, you can (and should) obtain all the vital nutrients you need from a diet rich in leafy greens, but if your diet is lacking in that regard, a greens powder can make up the shortfall. As a rule of thumb, ensure your chosen greens powder contains adequate amounts of fibre, antioxidants, digestive enzymes and wheatgrasses.
- Vitamin D – In northern climates that don’t experience a great deal of sunlight during the winter, your vitamin D levels can drop dangerously low. Testosterone output, bone density, energy production and overall mood can suffer. After years of petitioning, UK public health bodies last year finally advised on its supplementation. Heed their words.
- Whey Protein – Whey is rich in the BCAAs that repair sore muscles and trigger growth. What makes it a particularly useful supp is its high quantity of leucine (the most potent amino acid) and rapid digestion. It’s ideal pre or post-workout, and can be combined with casein for a meal replacement.
3 Supplements To Help You Look And Feel Younger
Age creeps up on us all. Little twinges become aches and pains and maintaining muscle mass while keep the belly at bay becomes a war of attrition against Old Father Time. But the battle isn’t over yet, and adding these three supplements to your diet – so long as you continue to eat well, exercise intelligently and get good-quality sleep – can give your body a better chance of staying fighting fit for longer.
Glucosamine For Stronger Joints
Glucosamine is an amino sugar and a major component of cartilage, which is the stuff that absorbs the shock to your joints when you run, lift or do plyometric drills like box jumps. As you age your cartilage starts to lose the elasticity that protects your joints and so becomes less effective at doing its job. Taking glucosamine, which is typically made from shellfish, can reinforce cartilage by stimulating the cells to produce proteoglycans, which can improve joint function and mobility. Aim for three daily doses of 500mg.
Glutamine To Add Muscle Faster
Glutamine is an amino acid that studies suggest minimises the breakdown of muscle tissues during strenuous exercise as well as improving muscle synthesis, which is the assimilation of the protein you eat into new tissue. Having adequate levels has also been linked to improved brain and gut health. You should already get enough of this compound from your diet, but it can be worth taking a supplement if you’re under a lot of stress or training harder than normal.
Greens Supplement For Better Overall Health
Make sure you eat as many servings of fresh veg as possible every day – then try adding a greens supplement to fill any nutritional gaps you may have missed. Most powders contain multiple servings of veggies along with other highly beneficial compounds you’d be loath to eat in their natural forms (think algae and grasses). You can drink it straight – if you have no sense of taste – or blend it into a breakfast shake or smoothie.
Trainers’ Top Supplements
We went to three top coaches to find out which supplements they swear by
Vitamin D keeps my bones healthy and my immune system fighting fit
“I only take a small amount of supplements as I try to get as much as I can from food – but I always take vitamin D. I know my body takes a pounding from the crazily stupid number of miles I run [Hughes has run 53 marathons in 53 days] but this vit helps regulate absorption of calcium for healthy bones and supports my immune system to help me recover quicker.” – Amy Hughes, endurance athlete, blogger and charity record breaker (amyhughes53.co.uk)
Fish oils keep my mind sharp and my body prepared to build muscle
“Omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils help with hormone production – including testosterone, which is vital if you want to build lean muscle – and it’s also been shown to increase cognitive function. People generally lack quality fat intake but are reluctant to eat oily fish like mackerel, so that’s another good reason to take omega 3 supplements.” – Ben Mudge, PT and fitness model (benmudge.com)
Whey protein shakes help me maintain lean muscle when I’m on the go
“If you’re trying to lose weight it’s often difficult to find a meal on the road that’s high in protein but low in carbohydrates or fats, which is where 20-30g of whey between feeds goes a long way. It helps boost your protein intake for fast recovery, curbs hunger and helps you avoid any unnecessary calories so you can enjoy a big, wholefood meal at other sittings.” – Andrew Tracey, functional fitness specialist (wayofthenomad.co.uk)