Staple supplements for your goals
For just about any health and fitness related goal, we’ve got your supplement needs covered. Here are the top supplements we recommend as staples for three of the goals we see most often.
GOAL 1: GAIN LEAN MUSCLE
Wanting to gain lean muscle and create a more toned physique is one of the most common reasons for people to add supplements to their routine. Alongside consistent progressive overload training to challenge the muscles and a healthy balanced diet there are three main supplements that we recommend to complement your efforts towards a goal of gaining lean muscle.
Creatine assists in building additional muscle mass by increasing your exercise capacity (how hard you can train and how long you can maintain training intensity), which allows you to work your muscles harder and create greater damage to the muscle fibres. During recovery and repair, this translates to increased muscle gain.
Creatine has a long track record for both efficacy and safety and is easy to take. Creatine monohydrate is typically taken in powder form and has the most research backing. A 5-7 day loading phase of 20g of creatine per day (spread across 4 doses) to saturate the muscles is followed by maintenance of 5g per day. Creatine HCL is also popular, as it has an increased solubility and has been associated with fewer side effects such as bloating. Creatine HCL requires a smaller daily dose without the initial loading phase and is also available in tablet form.
Similar to the way creatine provides support for increased exercise capacity, a good pre-workout is key if gaining lean muscle is one of your top priorities. Pre-workouts are designed to increase your energy and enhance the quality of your workouts so that you get more from your training and therefore greater muscle growth. Pre-workouts typically contain ingredients that: boost your energy and help you feel more motivated to train; increase your endurance and stamina so you can train harder, for longer; elevate your mental clarity and focus so you stay totally engaged on the training task at hand; and help put you in a good mood so you enjoy being in the gym!
Choose a pre-workout according to your stimulant tolerance (low, moderate, or extreme stim) or opt for stimulant free/pump formulas to increase blood flow and nutrient delivery to muscles for endurance and performance support without any caffeine.
- Whey Protein Concentrate
Top quality muscle growth also depends on providing your muscles with the right fuel to support recovery and repair, and whey protein concentrate is the ideal staple supplement to provide this recovery foundation. Whey protein concentrate powders typically supply 20-25g of protein per serving with a small amount of carbohydrate and fat and are both cost effective and convenient. Whey protein has a complete amino acid profile to ensure that your muscles receive all the building blocks they need for repair and growth, and it is digested quickly to provide your body with rapid access to this fuel post-training.
Consume a simple whey protein shake within 30 minutes of finishing your workout for muscle recovery, and use between meals either alone or as part of a smoothie for a satiating, high protein snack to help meet your daily protein needs.
GOAL 2: LOSE WEIGHT
Losing weight can feel tough but adding in a few staple supplements alongside maintaining a calorie deficit with a healthy diet and exercise can make it that little bit easier. Here are our favourite supplement workhorses for supporting weight loss goals.
- Fat Burners (Thermogenic Formulas)
Fat burners are formulas that contain thermogenic ingredients to aid in your ability to burn body fat. They work in a combination of ways including increasing your energy levels to help you feel more motivated to exercise, improving your mood, boosting your metabolic rate so you burn calories faster even at rest, and assisting with appetite reduction to make it easier to stay in a caloric deficit.
Most fat burners contain some caffeine as caffeine has known thermogenic properties, however non-stimulant formulas are also available. Take your fat burner on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or use it as a pre-workout supplement prior to training.
L-carnitine is a typical inclusion as one of the foundational ingredients in fat burner formulas, but it is also a great supplement to take on its own to support weight loss efforts particularly if you are looking for something that is stimulant free. L-carnitine aids in your body’s ability to burn fat by assisting with the mobilization of fatty acids into the mitochondria of your cells where they can be converted to and utilized as fuel in the form of ATP (the energy currency your body uses to power muscle contractions and almost all other processes). It is available in powder, capsule, and liquid forms which makes it easy to find one that suits your routine best!
- Whey Protein Isolate
When you’re keeping a strict eye on your macros or overall nutritional intake in a weight loss context, whey protein isolate is considered the “cleanest” form of whey protein to support your recovery and repair post-workout or to supplement your daily protein intake. Whey protein isolate has undergone additional processing which makes it higher in protein and lower in carbohydrate and fat than whey protein concentrate. Most whey protein isolates boast around 25g or more of protein per serving with as little as 1g or less of fat and sugar. Whey protein isolate is also the fastest digesting of the milk-based proteins, which makes it ideal to kickstart your muscle recovery after training. Use whey protein isolate as a shake post-workout or as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack to keep your muscles fuelled and hunger at bay without adding additional carbohydrate and calories.
GOAL 3: BUILD SIZE
Building significant muscle mass and adding size is another goal that we see often, and it can take some serious dedication to nutrition and training. Staying in a caloric surplus is critical, alongside consistent weight training that challenges your muscles for maximal growth. We also recommend adding the following supplements to your arsenal to help you get there that little bit faster!
As outlined above, creatine is the number one supplement you can take to elevate your capacity to train at a high intensity, and it has research-backed support for increasing muscle growth. An absolute essential for adding mass.
Pre-workout has also been discussed above for its contribution to your training quality and therefore to maximising your muscle growth. Choose the one with the right stimulant level for your tolerance (or non-stim) and push harder towards your muscle gain goals with every workout.
- Whey protein concentrate
A convenient source of high-quality protein is important for meeting your recovery and repair needs when you’re training hard to add size. See our summary of whey protein concentrate above for why it’s a top supplement recommendation when you’re aiming to build muscle mass.
- Test boosters
Testosterone has a known impact on your ability to gain muscle mass, and test booster formulas can help to increase your natural testosterone levels to support this process. Some of the most common ingredients that are found in test boosting formulas to promote natural testosterone production include Vitamin D3, Zinc, Magnesium, D-Aspartic Acid (DAA), Diindolylmethane (DIM), and Tribulus. In addition to increasing your ability to put on lean muscle mass, higher testosterone levels may also assist in physical performance, helping to improve your training and really maximising your anabolic results.
- Mass gainer
Mass gainers are a high calorie, high protein supplement that also contain high levels of carbohydrates to make it easier to significantly up your calorie intake in a way that is nutritionally beneficial (rather than turning to less healthy “junk” calories). Some mass gainer formulas are also fortified with vitamins and minerals to improve their nutritional profile or contain additional size-supporting ingredients such as creatine.
For those who have trouble putting on weight, mass gainers can be an invaluable bulking tool – they are convenient and easy to consume as a shake without having to ingest huge amounts of additional food to meet your calorie needs. They can be taken any time during the day for a calorie boost or as a meal replacement when short on time, but for serious weight gain goals they may be particularly beneficial after your last meal in the evening so they are adding to your overall daily calorie intake and providing muscle fuel prior to sleep, rather than replacing any calories you would typically eat earlier in the day.
So, there you have it! Here’s a simple formula to break down the supplements you need to support your goals:
LEAN MUSCLE = Creatine + Pre-Workout + Whey Protein Concentrate
WEIGHT LOSS = Fat Burner + L-Carnitine + Whey Protein Isolate
MUSCLE MASS/BULK = Creatine + Test Booster + Pre-Workout + Whey Protein Concentrate + Mass Gainer