Fat burners, pre-workouts, BCAA’s, creatine, protein powder; there are a whole host of gym supplements available to us. According to a study by Zion Market Research, the global sports nutrition industry sold $28.37 billion worth of supplements in 2016. And that’s expected to rise to over $45 billion by 2022.
Let’s take a study based view and find out which supplements are worth their price tag, and which aren’t (time to upset some ‘gym bro’s’).
These wildly named powders are marketed to enhance performance in the gym. With names such as ‘Rage’ and ‘Grenade’ they sound like they pack a right punch. I’ve even come across one literally called ‘cocaine’ (god knows how that made it to market).
They contain a mystery blend of ingredients ranging from caffeine to creatine. Exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist, Jordan Moon, accepts that they “increase blood flow, heart rate and make your skin tingle”. But he also states that “none of these things makes you bigger, stronger or faster”.
Caffeine is one of the cheapest and only proven beneficial ingredients within pre-workouts. Many studies have proved its benefits to physical performance, both weight based and cardiovascular. However, nothing else within pre workouts has any real scientific backing. As people tend to consume too much in one go, many can have side effects such as heart palpitations and dizziness. Personally, I’d recommend saving your money and sticking to coffee!
The idea behind these apparent ‘magic pills’ is to speed up your metabolism and suppress your appetite. They are generally made up of things like caffeine (seems to be a trend here), green tea extract and garcinia etc. All are based on increasing the thermogenic effect within your body. The problem here is people expect to see results just by taking fat burners alone.
Science does suggest that there are very small benefits when taken alongside a proper diet and workout routine. However, there are common side effects such as headaches, dizziness and gastrointestinal issues to name a few. After weighing up the cost and potential side effects against the very minimal potential benefits, I wouldn’t recommend them.
Creatine has a decent amount of scientific proof to make it worth taking and is probably the most researched supplement available. It is a natural compound found within our bodies that is used for short bursts of power as it is a fuel source for our energy system. More of it is needed when exercising, hence why it is beneficial to supplement with it. It improves the quality of our sessions because it enhances recovery and increases energy levels.
It has also been shown to improve brain health, bone density and help fight against sarcopenia (muscle wasting). Creatine monohydrate is the most widely used form. However, if you’re willing to spend a little more, I’d go for a micronized creatine such as Myprotein’s creapure. Creapure has a better absorption rate and doesn’t cause bloating like monohydrate can.
From my experience, most of us don’t get a sufficient amount of protein in our diets. Especially people who exercise, as the need for it increases to help repair muscle tissue. Recommended guidelines for physically active people are between 1.6g – 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight. A quality protein powder is a great way of busting your levels up.
They can be consumed at any time of the day (not just when walking out of the gym). Most of your protein should come from proper food though. Protein powder is called a supplement for a reason! I would recommend Myprotein’s impact whey protein range (stick to a natural flavour). Try The Protein Works’ vegan range if you’re avoiding dairy!
Alarm bells should be ringing If your supplement says ‘proprietary blend’ on the labelling. This fancy term basically means that specific amounts of individual ingredients don’t have to be listed. This is a cost saving term that allows companies to reel off a whole host of fancy ingredients, but the expensive ones are often only present in trace levels.
Be aware that most of the benefits these supplements claim to offer generally come with little evidence. If they do, realise these ‘studies’ are often funded by the companies themselves!
I’m always amazed by how many people take supplements with no real understanding of what’s in them, or what they do. I feel we assume that these products are a ‘must have’ when trying to improve our body shape due to the aggressive manner in which they are marketed. When nearly all have no scientific backing.
Even those that have some supporting evidence should be taken with a pinch of salt, like green tea and caffeine. Taking everything into account, they probably make up less than 1% of where your overall change comes from. The vast majority of your body change actually comes from having an understanding of your calorie and protein numbers, and calculating them specifically to your body and goals, alongside a solid, progressive workout routine.
The only two you should consider taking are protein powders and creatine. If you want to see a real change, click on the membership page and become an online or gym floor client.
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All the love,
Sam Jones Fitness