As a fitness professional and enthusiast, I understand the desire to optimize one’s results in sports and or at the gym. Supplements are great assets, but you must know they won’t work unless you do! Ergogenic aids (supplements) are meant to enhance the work that is already being put forth. The prefix Ergo literally means” work” and the suffix genic means “production.” Therefore, it can be said that supplements are meant to increase the body’s ability to produce work. There are multiple types of ergogenic aids and they each serve different purposes, but overall most serve to improve endurance, focus, recovery, speed, and or strength.
Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, whether it be weight loss or muscle gain, there are dietary supplements that could help you reach your fitness goals quicker (as long as you’re putting in the work, of course). When my female clients ask for my input on what supplements they should be taking, my answer is always one or more of the following: protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine monohydrate, and pre-workout. Here’s why…
Whether you’re looking to lose or gain weight, protein will be your best pal. Protein is a macronutrient made up of chemical building blocks known as amino acids. Protein is present in all bodily cells and has various functions throughout our bodies, including balancing pH; transporting and storing nutrients; balancing fluid; causing biochemical reactions (think digestion); providing structure & energy; and assisting with muscle recovery. From a fitness perspective, protein supplementation is mainly used to augment muscle size and recovery by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Because protein helps build muscle and more muscle increases your base metabolic rate (amount of energy/calories used while at rest), it can help with body recomposition. And while protein can be obtained from the food we eat, a higher protein intake can sometimes be difficult to obtain from diet alone, especially when you’re always on the go. For this reason, (high quality) protein powders are a great asset.
Similarly to protein, BCAAs are also used to augment muscle size and recovery through muscle protein synthesis. However, unlike protein, which contains all 20 amino acids (both essential and nonessential), BCAAs only contain 3 of the 9 essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. This should not be of much concern, however, given that leucine is considered the most important amino acid for building muscle mass. BCAAs also have a lower caloric content than most protein powders, which makes them great for those on a calorie deficit. Last but not least, because of their chemical structure, BCAAs are also more readily available as energy than protein. Because of this, many people drink BCAAs during their workout.
Although there are various forms, creatine monohydrate is the most researched form of creatine. It is a compound made in the liver and kidneys from 3 amino acids: methionine, arginine, and glycine. The mechanism by which creatine works is quite complex, but it does so by increasing our ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy. Studies have shown creatine facilitates muscle growth and weight gain; increases strength and power; and promotes endurance. If muscle growth and increasing overall strength are your primary fitness goals, then a creatine monohydrate supplement might be worth investing in.
Last but not least, my personal holy grail: pre-workout. Pre-workout supplements often contain a proprietary blend of ingredients, including caffeine. They are often taken about a half hour prior to exercise in order to increase energy levels and focus, as well as delay muscle fatigue. Caffeine is the active ingredient that makes this all possible. It works by increasing the effects of serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and catecholamines, all of which contribute to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). For example, dopamine blocks the receptors in the brain that are responsible for signaling the body to sleep while adrenaline (a catecholamine) signals the heart to beat faster, which ultimately increases blood flow (rich in oxygen) to the muscles. Additionally, it signals the liver to release stored glucose to be used as energy during intense bouts of exercise. Having that said, pre-workout may come in the form of canned drinks, capsules, or even chews, but the most popular form is powder. If you find yourself struggling to get your workout in the early morning (as is the case with me) or after a long shift at work, you might want to look into purchasing a pre-workout in the form of your choice.
And that brings us to the end… I truly hope you’ve found this information helpful! If you have any questions relating to fitness/exercise, please don’t hesitate to reach out via IG or email. I don’t claim to be an expert because I am not one, but I’m always learning and I’m happy to share information (whether it be from research or personal experience) with you all!