New to bodybuilding? Read on for our pick of the best supplements…

Bodybuilding supplementsIf you are new to the whole bodybuilding scene, then the sheer volume of supplements out there can be a little daunting and confusing at first glance.

We have put together this guide which outlines some of the key products to help you get the best from your workouts, and what to look out for before you spend your hard earned cash.

Pre-Workout Supplements

Don’t be mistaken when it comes to Pre-Workout supplements, they are not designed to replace proper pre-workout nutrition; it is still of vital importance that you have a good supply of carbs and protein in the hour or two before you visit the gym in order to give your body the fuel it needs to workout. Run on empty and your body will turn to its most valuable resource for energy; your muscle tissue, and no one wants that.

quotePre-Workouts should be taken about 30 minutes before you hit the gym; they are designed to give you that extra boost of energy and focus, helping you motivate yourself to do the best damn workout you can possibly muster.

The best Pre-Workouts are caffeine or L-arginine based, and you should experience a noticeable increase in energy without any dizziness or nausea.

Post-Workout supplements

Post-Workout supplements and nutrition are even more important to your regime since your body continues to ‘work’ long after you’ve left the gym. Post-Workout supplements are designed to:

  • Support muscle repair
  • Optimise protein synthesis
  • Replenish energy reserves

You want to supply your body with everything it needs to recover in those first few hours so that you don’t lay waste to the hard work you just put in.

The best Post-Workout supplements will contain a good balance of protein, carbs, all important amino acids, and vitamins. These will most likely come in the form of a shake, as opposed to pills, but you can get Post-Workouts pills to boost those amino acids and help your muscles recover.

Testosterone Boosters (T-Boosters)

testosterone-boostersTestosterone Boosters are there to help you build mass; Testosterone is an androgenic hormone that sends messages throughout your muscles to grow, grow, grow! It can boost performance and strength endurance and is particularly helpful when you reach the dreaded plateau.

Be careful to cycle your T-Boosters and give your body a break. Use them when you want to bulk and hang back when you want to shred.

Look out for T-Boosters that eliminate DHT and inhibit 5-AR, the common myth is that you want to reduce this all important hormone in order to elevate Testosterone, but DHT is more potent than Testosterone alone and is as vital to your workout as Testosterone itself.

quoteThere are countless websites online which sell natural test boosters, and a few have some great guides worth reading. One that is worth checking out can be found here, there are plenty of reviews and guides which make this a great place to start if you are in the market for a testosterone supplement.

Fat Burners

Whether you’re in the gym because you want to lose weight, or because you want to become the next Mr Universe, Fat Burners have their place in the body building supplements market if you want to convert fat cells into lean muscle. They are otherwise referred to as ‘Thermogenics’ and will literally melt fat and allow your body to use it for fuel.

Look for one with a good mix of actual fat-burning ingredients, rather than one just bulked out with caffeine and stimulants. These types of Thermogenics work well, but are better when combined with other things like L-Carnitine and Raspberry Ketones, which work with protein hormones and amino acids to convert fat into energy, rather than just give you a massive buzz.

One of the best stores for this has to be Bodybuilding.com – their range is pretty extensive, however the products are listed in order of effectiveness and popularity.

Protein

Protein supplementsProtein is the most valuable supplement you can take as part of your workout regime. If you take absolutely nothing else to boost your training, make sure you get your fill of Protein. Muscles are Protein sponges, it literally fuels them in order for them to function and repair properly.

There are two types of Protein that help muscles build and repair – Whey and Casein. Both are necessary, although many people believe Whey is the only real source of Protein you need.

In reality, a mix of the two is best. Whey is absorbed more quickly, so provides a good burst of energy to muscles in need of recovery, whereas Casein is absorbed more slowly, much more like slow burning Carbs.

You can buy either on its own, or good quality mixes of the two from absolutely any health food shop, body building site, or fitness supplier; it is the Holy Grail of muscle building, but don’t overdo it; experts recommend 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day for anyone training.

Should you take Creatine – do the benefits outweigh the side effects?

The benefits of creatineOn most, if not all, supplement provider sites, Creatine will have its very own dedicated section. This is because Creatine as a supplement is popular; enormously popular. It is a well known and widely used product among body builders and athletes alike. The main reason for this is that Creatine promotes endurance, energy, and builds muscle mass.

All of this is scientifically proven, however there are still many people who are reluctant to step down this particular path for fear of the myths and rumours that surround it. So, here are the facts on Creatine as a body building supplement, the whys and wherefores, the ‘scoop’ if you will.

What is Creatine and what are the benefits?

Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids that supply energy to all cells within the body, particularly muscle cells.

It is found in high protein foods such as red meat and fish, and is produced entirely naturally. Your body uses Creatine as a fuel source during workouts, supplementing your natural Creatine supplies gives you enough of an energy boost to train harder, for longer.

But that’s not the only benefit of this supplement, creatine also:

  • Hydrates muscles cells, which promotes Protein Synthesis, and as we all know, Protein Synthesis is exactly what we want in order to grow muscle tissue.
  • Forces muscles to hold more water making them appear bigger.
  • Helps the body train longer and harder before fatigue sets in.
  • May help encourage protein synthesis.

Should I be taking it and is Creatine safe?

That all depends; if you are trying to lose weight, this particular supplement is probably not the way to go. If you are looking to bulk up and gain weight, then you probably should.

It’s impossible to say how much gain you will see from cycling Creatine into your normal routine, everybody is different and our bodies respond in different ways, but you will almost certainly see an improvement in performance during your training sessions.

What are the side effects of creatine supplementation?

This is the most misunderstood side of the Creatine debate. There have been plenty of talks over the years linking long term use to Kidney Damage, Liver Damage, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. But let’s look at the facts; there has been no actual clinical study that has ever proven the links to any of the above mentioned side effects.

quoteCreatine has been studied more than any other athletic or body building supplement and no research has ever been published stating that it is in any way unsafe.

Medical experts do advise anyone with Kidney problems to avoid taking Creatine due to anecdotal reports of its effects, but in people taking the correct dosage of the supplement to support training, no adverse reactions have ever been proven.

The key here is ‘the correct dosage’; as one medical expert stated, too much Creatine may cause  stomach cramps and diarrhoea, in exactly the same way as too much Vitamin C can cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

creatine-supplementsExtensive research has proven that supplementing Creatine by between 5 and 20 grams per day is perfectly safe, and as with anything else, it’s always recommended to cycle your supplements and give your body a break from them regularly. Typically this is 6-8 weeks on and 2 weeks off.

The only true and given side effect of Creatine use is the potential for muscle damage due to over exertion. For this very reason, Creatine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18, since the body is still growing and damage to the muscles and ligaments is viable concern.

Breaking through a weight loss plateau and why it happens

Ways to break the dreaded ‘Plateau’

woman with weight loss scalesEveryone gets them; beginners and experts alike, we all reach that horribly frustrating and thankless point that is known in the industry as ‘The Plateau’.

It starts with seeing less and less progress, less weight loss, or muscle gain, less of an ability to up our sets, our weights, our reps; it’s disheartening at best and at worst, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back and causes far too many people to give up on their goals.

What is the Plateau, and why does it happen?

Plateaus are what happen when, despite all our best efforts, we simply don’t seem to be seeing the same progress we have been for the past few months or weeks. They happen to just about everyone at some point, whether your trying to lose weight or tone up, build muscle or run that extra mile.

It happens for one of two reasons; either we’ve secretly begun to slack on either our diet or regime, and maybe just not realised, or simply because our bodies actually like change, and we find that we haven’t ‘mixed it up’ in a while, therefore we’ve adjusted and are actually in our new ‘comfort zone’.

Break your plateau with exercise

woman exercisingDo you remember when you started working out? The pain afterwards? The aches and stiffness that would sometimes last days after a particularly heavy workout? Those were good days.

Have you noticed that you don’t experience that aching any more? Particularly the next day? Your body has adjusted to your routine; it simply finds it too easy now. This is a good thing, it means we can move onto bigger and better things.

For plenty of people it means saying good-bye (at least for now) to a favoured regime or particular set-up they actually enjoy.

quoteBreaking a Plateau is far more about mind of matter than anything else. Once you’re willing to let go of doing something you’ve got used to doing, you can start something new and experience that glorious progress all over again.

So, where do you start? Take a good look at your routine; when was the last time you really changed it up? It’s time to make a change. Change your reps, change your sets, even if it means dropping some weight in order to hit that higher count, change something and push through the plateau.

Break the Plateau with Supplements

If you’ve been avoiding supplements in order to ‘do it naturally’, now might be the time to start. If you’re already using supplements, you may need take a look at what you’re using and try something new; some supplements simply don’t work for some people.

Let’s start with the basics;

  • Protein – Are you getting enough? Are you supplementing at the right time? Experts recommend the average person needs up to 0.7grams of Protein per lb of body weight per day.
  • Have you gained mass and not up’ed your Protein intake? You should also be taking a Protein supplement (such as a shake) in the hour after you’ve hit the gym, this is the time your muscles will make the most use of it.
  • Pre-workout supplements – These are excellent if you’re finding it hard to motivate yourself to push through the Plateau. They will give you the boost you need and allow you to push a little harder.
  • Fat-Burners – If you’re trying to lose weight, a fat-burner will help your body melt excess fat long after you’ve left the gym. Natural fat-burners can be an excellent choice if you’ve found your weight loss has hit a brick wall, they can help you shift an extra 3-5lbs a week, if you get hold of a good quality one that works.
  • Creatine – If it’s mass you’re after, Creatine is a good way to go. Contrary to what a lot of people think, Creatine is perfectly safe when taken correctly and has been subject to countless clinical trials over the years. It will boost your energy and endurance during a workout, and enhance protein synthesis within the muscle tissues so you build lean muscle much faster.

diet-planChange just one thing at a time

Getting your weight loss or bodybuilding back on track can be done, however just remember to change one thing at a time and track your progress over the next few days or over a week.

Usually hitting weights at a higher intensity, or if your dieting, reducing your calories that little bit further will do the trick. Just remember no pain no gain!