New to weight training? Like most beginners, you’ve probably taken a look at some of the supplements available and figure some are worth a punt to help your gains… but which ones should you choose?
In fear of losing most of our readers I will keep this first point short – do you even need supplements? For a lot of beginners, the answer is no. This is because beginners tend to over-estimate the ability of supplements to help them pack on muscle or reduce body fat, when in fact it is 95% training and diet. The other 5% is the cherry on the cake, but if you haven’t sorted out your dietary intake (which provides the energy for training and the building blocks for muscle growth) there is little point in looking at supplements to help you. They are called supplements for a reason!
Assuming your diet and training is up to scratch, let’s take a look at some supplements which are useful for beginners:
Creatine is an ideal and popular choice for most trainers. Creatine monohydrate is relatively cheap and effective, so it’s not going to break the bank. A condensed summary of creatine is as follows; creatine replenishes the energy stores in the muscle which is responsible for muscle contractions, therefore leading to an increased performance in the gym1. Creatine will also draw more water into the muscle which has in turn makes the muscle appear fuller.
After a loading phase of around 10g per day for a week, the maintenance phase consists of 3-5g daily. With 250g (50*5g servings) of creatine monohydrate available under £5, it is easy to see why creatine is so popular!
Although maltodextrin is classed as a complex carbohydrate, it acts anything but. Absorbed quicker than sugar, maltodextrin is a carbohydrate which is effective when you require a rapid uptake of carbohydrates. For a weight trainer this is particularly helpful post workout when quick replenishment of glycogen stores is desired. Mixing 30-40g of maltodextrin with whey in water (and creatine monohydrate if purchased) as a post workout drink is an effective choice.
Like creatine, maltodextrin can be bought very cheaply. 1kg is available for under £4.
Protein shakes are probably the most well-known supplement and most associated with weight training. There are a number of protein powders available, and it is whey protein which is probably best suited for a beginner.
Whey protein is quickly digested so is ideal post workout, as mentioned above. 20-40g of whey in water (with maltodextrin) is an excellent choice.
Compared to the previous two suggestions whey protein will cost somewhat more. Unflavoured whey concentrate can be bought for under £15 per kilo and unflavoured whey isolate for under £20. Isolate is the superior product, with a higher level of protein and lower levels of fat and lactose, but for most we would advise buying whey concentrate because we do not believe the slightly better nutritional profile is worth the extra priced paid for the majority of trainers. However, if you are lactose intolerant or money is less of a concern, your choice will be isolate.
Branded flavoured powders (which tend to be a blend of isolate and concentrate) are a little more expensive at £45-60 per 2.2kg tub.