30th Jul 2013
With such a vast array of bodybuilding supplements available to buy it can be baffling and confusing to know which supplements are worth buying. The marketing of the supplements do little to educate and often leave many disappointed when the product fails to live up to the hype. Our bodybuilding supplement guide explores which supplements are most effective and worth buying.
From the outset we must have something of a disclaimer: on their own, any supplement (with the exception of some hormonal “supplements” which are in fact designer steroids or compounds which convert into steroids within the body) will do little. To develop muscle tissue you need an ample supply of nutrients which are obtained in the most part from your diet. Therefore, supplements are useful additions, assuming your training and diet are up to scratch.
With that little sermon out the way, let’s take a look at which supplements are worth a look in:
Although the term “protein shakes” is bandied around a lot, it cover a wide range of possible supplements. You can buy whey protein (concentrate or isolate), casein protein, egg protein, soy protein, and many others!
Whey protein, probably the most popular protein product, comes in two main forms – whey concentrate and whey isolate. Whey concentrate is usually 75-80% protein per 100g, and contains a low level of fat and carbohydrates. The more expensive option is whey isolate, which has a higher percentage of protein per 100g and contains even lower levels of fat and lactose compared with whey concentrate.
As you may have guessed, whey isolate is considered the superior product out of the two, but it isn’t necessarily the better purchase. The difference between whey concentrate and isolate is minimal; so much that we don’t really deem it of any real life importance for the vast majority of bodybuilders and gym-goers. Concentrate would therefore be the better choice due to its cheaper price. This is a different story if you’re lactose intolerant, however, in which case you will opt for isolate.
Also remember that the qualities of all whey products are not universal. When seeking out a product be sure to check its protein levels and signs of quality. Well respected brands such as Reflex Nutrition and MyProtein are worth a look.
Whey protein is digested rapidly and is therefore ideal post workout.
Casein protein is digested slowly and is therefore ideal for times when a more steady and staggered release of amino acids is preferred, such as before bed or a long shift at work. An alternative to casein is milk protein, which is around 80% casein and 20% whey protein, and therefore exhibits a similar delayed digestion.
Pea, rice and soy protein powders are available alternatives to the dairy based powders on the market. They contain complete proteins and are often fortified with specific amino acids which may be lacking naturally. These protein powders are more specialised so you would be best searching for a bulk powder supplier instead of one of the common brands. Bulk Powders and MyProtein are popular choices.
Most you would have heard of creatine monohydrate, that’s if you’re not already using it! Creatine is widely used by bodybuiders, power lifters, athletes and sportspeople.
Supplementing with creatine monohydrate can increase the amount of creatine phosphate which is stored within the muscle. This matters because creatine phosphate replenishes ADP to ATP, and it is ATP which provides the short term energy for muscle contractions. This can help athletes with short and explosive moves, and those who weight train who may benefit with an extra rep or two.
From a bodybuilding standpoint, the performance aspect of creatine monohydrate may not seem highly compelling, but it is also for a different reason as to why creatine is popular in bodybuilding. Creatine stored in the muscle also causes water to be drawn into the muscle, which has the effect of making muscles appear fuller.
A loading phase of 8-10g per day for several days is usually advised beginning a creatine monohydrate course. This is then dropped down to a maintenance phase of 2-3g daily. We would advise opting for plain creatine monohydrate over the more exotic options offered by many leading brands which claim to have “advanced creatine transportation systems” to improve uptake (and often come with a much higher price tag).
Due to the increasing rate if obesity in western societies, coupled with the intense body image culture, there has been a big raise in demand for fat burning supplements. The high level of competition has led to marketing and promotion which we would advise our readers to break away from and instead focus on what’s in the formulas and how they may aid you.
Effective fat burners or weight control supplements tend to work in one of two ways; either through thermogenesis which results in the user’s core temperature raising slightly and therefore causing them to burn additional calories, or appetite suppressors which work inversely – they try to limit the user’s calorie intake.
Ephedra has long been one of the most effective and popular fat burning supplements, acting as a great thermogenic. It is one of the three components of the famous ECA stack many bodybuilders take (Ephedra, Caffeine and Aspirin).
Mostly popular with beginners and hardgainers who wish to pack size onto their frames, weight gainers are a great choice for those needing to increase their calorie intake. They are also effective for bodybuilders going through a bulking phase and require a high level of calories.
Weight gainers vary considerably. Some contain cheap protein blends, maltodextrin and little in the way of additional nutrients. These tend to be the products which claim to have a ridiculously high number of calories per serving (~1000kcals!). On the other end of the spectrum we have high grade weight gainers which have a good balanced blend of proteins, a complex carbohydrate source such as activated barley, and a host of nutrients which aid with overall well-being.
The budget weight gainers which do contain the likes of maltodextrin as its carbohydrate source should not necessarily be avoided. Hard gainers who struggle to put on weight and have a fast metabolism may find these products best suited their needed. They’ll want to shop around for the products with a decent level of quality, but the use of fast acting carbohydrates and lower grade protein blends should not necessarily be a deterrent.
For others, the better quality weight gainers would be worth the extra money.
We encourage you to seek the advice of a health professional before embarking on any fitness program or diet. Articles about performance enhancing drugs are for informational purposes only and are not intended to encourage or promote the use of such substances. These substances should only ever be used under the advice and supervision of a qualified and licensed physician.