And we’re back for more of 6 Common Supplements and How They Work.
For those of you just tuning in, Part I covered Protein, BCAAs, and Fish Oil. Here in Part II we will look at Creatine, Pre-Workouts, and Multivitamins.
Disclaimer: If you don’t have sound nutrition habits, no supplement will save you. Nothing on this list is a magic pill for ditching the Dad-bod.
Also, keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate ANY supplements. No one checks them for quality or even to make sure they contain the stuff listed on the label. Supplements are the freakin’ wild west of exercise nutrition.
If your goal is fat loss, use any of this info in conjunction with my free Fat Loss Cheat Sheet for a two-pronged attack on body fat.
And now, for the exciting conclusion of 6 Common Supplements and How They Work!!
I’ve seen some batshit crazy stories about creatine. My all-time favorite was in High School when I heard a rumor that a kid from another school took a bunch of creatine and started growing extra bones. I’ve heard heard it described as a steroid and a chemical stimulant. All of that is total garbage. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the last 15 years of study there have been zero negative side effects when the product was used as recommended (or even in the ballpark). In fact, Vitamin C has more negative potential side-effects from overuse than creatine. Extreme overuse of creatine has resulted in some liver/kidney issues in some cases. Keep in mind, that is also a result of taking too much of any vitamin or mineral. No amount of creatine affects your hormones, and it is definitely not a steroid.
Creatine is produced naturally in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas at a rate of 1 or 2 g per day. It can also be found in red meat.
Creatine provides energy for your Creatine-Phosphate System (also called the Phosphagen System). This is your primary energy source for power movements and provides energy for 1-12 seconds, as in maximum contraction of muscles for speed or power.
To sum up the science: The Phosphagen System runs on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is an adenosine molecule attached to 3 phosphate molecules. Breaking one of the bonds to a phosphate molecule creates energy, and leaves adenosine diphosphate (ADP – adenosine with 2 phosphates). Creatine floats around with a phosphate molecule attached to it. This is why creatine is sometimes referred to as Phosphocreatine (PCr). Creatine gives its phosphate to ADP making it ATP once more, and it can be used for energy again.
Creatine is usually used in cycles, with a week long loading phase where the athlete takes 2000mg per day, then backs off to 750-1000mg. Precision Nutrition recommends taking in 3-5g of creatine per day, including the 2g you produce on your own. Though, some recent research has shown positive effects with as little as 200mg per day and no loading phase. Research has shown that supplementing with creatine helps increase the intramuscular creatine pool.
There are two types of creatine supplement. Creatine Monohydrate is the most common form of creatine supplement. Monohydrate has a low absorption rate (some as low as 3% over a 90 minute period) because its pH makes for poor solubility during digestion. Creatine HCl is the other form of creatine supplement and has already been engineered to have a more acidic pH to aid in solubility and higher absorption rates.
Recommendations: Really any Creatine Monohydrate is going to work just fine. Again, I like the DotFit products. There is a powder and caplet version. Which one you use is personal preference. PEScience has a good set of creatine monohydrate products too.
For Creatine HCl supplements, I’ve been using Con-Cret HCl which is an insanely soluble powder. Seriously, if I put it in a cup and turn the sink on full blast, I don’t even have to stir it.
Pre-workouts are the most subjective supp on the list. Picking the one for you will depend on what kind of feeling you want before you hit the gym. Personally, I like to feel tingly and wired – like if I don’t lift I won’t sleep for a week. Some folks like a milder buzz that improves focus and keeps their energy consistent for an hour. You have to experiment with brands to find the right fit for you.
That being said, there are several common ingredients to pre-workouts. The first being caffeine. It’ll be within the first 5 ingredients. Every. Single. Time. You will usually see taurine, creatine, beta-alanine, and niacin (with is Vitamin B3 and is responsible for the tingling feeling when it kicks in), and usually an amino acid blend.
Pre-workouts are non-essential. Most folks would do fine do have a cup of coffee and some BCAAs. However, if you like pre-workouts (I sure do) there’s nothing wrong with using them.
Temporary psycho intensity is cool, just don’t replace actual motivation with a caffeine rush. Remember your reason for pursuing your goals. Don’t intentionally get jacked up on caffeine and have no choice but to work it off.
Recommendation: I have used Jack3d, MyPre (from MyProtein), and Pump Fuel Insanity with great results. You may want something less intense, so shop around and see what you like. If you don’t like the jittery, tingly feeling like your spidey-sense is going off – find a pre-workout without Niacin (B3).
I don’t like most veggies. I eat them because they are good for me and that is it. So I supplement with a multi to make sure my distaste for leafy green things doesn’t keep me from getting the nutrients I need.
I’m not alone. The modern diet falls short again with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Folks just don’t eat enough veggies to accommodate their daily micronutrient needs. The tricky part is, each person has different vitamin deficiencies based on their diet, lifestyle (example: I live in Seattle where there is no sun, so I don’t get much Vitamin D organically), and through genetic factors that can affect absorption of micronutrients.
There are 2 kinds of vitamin: water soluble and fat soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are the fat soluble variety. If you’re on a low fat diet, you may have trouble absorbing these vitamins.
Vitamins work mostly as coenzymes for carrying out cell functions. While vitamins can technically be synthesized in the body, the process can’t keep up with our daily need for vitamins.
So you gotta eat ‘em.
Most multivitamins also contain a mineral blend. Minerals are broken into 2 camps as well: macrominerals (daily need greater than 100mg) and microminerals (daily need less than 15mg).
Don’t let the macro/micro prefix fool you. All of these minerals are important, you just need different quantities of them. There are 5 macrominerals: calcium, phosphorous, and the electrolytes (sodium chloride, magnesium, and potassium). There are 9 microminerals – the most recognizable are iron and zinc.
Deficiencies in any vitamins and minerals can lead to a vast array of serious health concerns, ranging from increased likelihood of diseases to uncomfortable symptoms like weakness, fatigue, anemia, depression, and everything inbetween.
This doesn’t mean go nuts and start popping multivitamins like candy. There are also toxicity (too much) levels to micronutrients with equally (and sometimes more) dangerous outcomes.
Everything in moderation.
Recommendation: Again, I like the DotFit brand Active MV. Thorne and Genuine Health brand multivitamins are also good.
There you have it: the only 6 supplements worth your money. There are some situations where specific needs require additional supplementation. However, for the average person this is plenty and you probably don’t even need all 6 of these.
If your goal with these supplements is fat loss, check out my free Fat Loss Cheat Sheet bundle that’ll help you get a jumpstart on your fat loss journey.
If you have any questions regarding the supps on this list, or are a science geek (like me) and would like more in depth info, don’t be shy! Hit me up on Facebook or Instagram and ask as many questions as you want.