What Supplements Should I Take For My Goals?

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The fitness industry is bursting with hundreds of different sports supplements, each claiming to be the best on the market, and the only thing separating you from being truly elite. However, among the myriad of options it can be a truly dizzying task to choose the “right” one.

Will supplement X actually make you bigger, stronger, and faster? Or is it supplement Y?! How can you possibly tell without spending hundreds of dollars in vain?!

Related: Top 50 Best-Selling Bodybuilding Supplements

As great as it would be to pursue all athletic traits at once, unfortunately, you have to pick one or two of those goals and stick to them. Otherwise, you’ll endlessly spin your wheels getting pretty good at most of these traits, but never truly excelling at one (or two). Sort of a “jack of all trades, but a king of none” if you know what I mean.

That’s where this guide comes in. I’m here to discuss choosing the right supplements for your goals.

All that being said, let’s take a look at some of the most common archetypes of the athletic population and pick a few choice ingredients to help truly maximize the time spent training for maximum gains.

A Word About Creatine Monohydrate

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But first…

Before we go into supplemental specialization, we’re going to recommend one supplement for all individuals, regardless of your chosen path of athletic excellence. You can probably guess what it is, as it’s the most popular, and most successful, ingredient of all-time: creatine monohydrate.

That’s right, no matter what your preference for training, creatine should be a part of your supplementation regimen. It covers all areas of fitness, and has been proven countless times to improve:

  • Lean mass gains [1][2]
  • Power & strength [3][4]
  • Endurance [5]
  • Muscle soreness & recovery [6][7]

We could go on and on and on about creatine’s multitude of benefits and uses, but suffice it to say, if you’re doing anything remotely athletic, you should be using creatine. Keep it simple and go with the only proven version, monohydrate, at 5g per day each and every day, and you’ll be set!

Now, that that’s out of the way, let’s get into some specialties

Supplements for the Endurance Athlete

Endurance athletes need to maintain peak levels of performance for hours, and hours, on end. To accomplish this, we need to zero in on those specific ingredients that allow these athletes to channel their inner Energizer Bunny, and keep going, and going, and going…

Beta Alanine

Starting off with the king of all endurance boosters, is none other than Beta Alanine. This e binds to histidine in the body and forms carnosine, a powerful intracellular buffer that removes lactic acid accumulation. [8]

A’s buffering capabilities offset the burning sensation allowing you to really go the distance in your workouts. Not only will your endurance levels be improved, but you’ll also see notice big improvements in time to exhaustion, strength, and power. [9][10][11]

The clinical dose is 3.2g, but often times that’s too tingle inducing for many, bordering on irritating. To circumvent this issue, split the doses into 2g pre and post workout, or any other times during the day that are most convenient.

B-Vitamins

B-Vitamins are a family of vitamins the body requires for energy production and the formation of red blood cells. They are water-soluble meaning, your body doesn’t store extra, as it does with Vitamins A, D, E, & K, meaning you have to “use it or lose it” in regards to water-soluble vitamins.

As you can imagine, endurance athletes sweat profusely during competition and training and will rapidly deplete levels of this crucial vitamin. Therefore, to prevent any decline in performance during your marathon-length events, it’s imperative to supplement with these before, during, and after your training or competition.

Sodium Phosphate

Similar to our previous ingredient, electrolytes are another commodity endurance athletes burn through during their preparation. The most prominent of these is sodium. Copious amounts of this vital mineral are excreted by the body when we sweat.

Electrolytes play a critical role in muscle contraction as well as hydration levels. In fact, as little as a 2% drop in hydration has been shown to negatively impact athletic performance and lead to cramping as well as impaired CNS function. [12]

Additionally, supplementing with sodium phosphate has been shown to increase aerobic capacity and time to exhaustion. [13][14] On top of that, other research noted improvements in endurance via increases in maximal oxygen uptake and ventilatory threshold. [15][16]

Supplements for the Powerlifter

Powerlifting is all about getting strong, aesthetics be damned! Based on this, we’re primarily interested in those that have been shown to really bump up and individual’s strength and power numbers.

Betaine

Betaine, a.k.a. trimethylglycine (TMG), fell by the wayside for much of the early 2000s, but has seen a tremendous resurgence within the past year and a half. And for good reason. This derivative of choline has been shown numerous times to:

  • Increase strength & power output [17]
  • Improve endurance [18]
  • Support creatine production in the body [19]
  • Elevate muscle protein synthesis [20]

ElevATP®

MTS Ruckus

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One of the newest ingredients to hit the market is elevATP®, a patented combination of “ancient peat” (fossilized plants) and apple extracts developed by FutureCeuticals. elevATP® enhances the body’s production of ATP, which helps increase overall energy without the use of stimulants. It’s also featured in one of MTS Nutrition’s newest products, Ruckus.

The early research on elevATP showed great promise, as a single 150mg dose significantly elevated “intracellular ATP in blood cells. [21][22][23] As you know, ATP is the coenzyme used by each and every cell to produce energy to do work. The faster your ATP stores replenish, the faster you recover and can accomplish more work in less time!

Extra ATP levels are great and all, but what about performance?!

A recent study on elevATP® found the extract significantly increased 1RM squat and deadlift scores in strength. [24] Just what an aspiring powerlifter is looking for!

Joint Support Formula

This may be an unconventional supplement to include, but when you consider the bone-crushing loads powerlifters subject themselves to, it becomes very obvious. Joints take a beating like no other component of the body, especially when training in ultra-low rep ranges.

Ideally, look for a product such as MTS Machine Motion which includes anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), and joint support ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Cissus, and Glucosamine.

Using a quality joint formula ensures a long and happy life of pain-free lifting!

Supplements for the Bodybuilder

Bodybuilders are typically focused on one thing, gaining as much muscle mass as possible. For this reason, we’re selecting supplements that help maximize hypertrophy, workout stamina, and most of all the PUMP!

Nitric Oxide Boosters

In your desire to be an elite bodybuilder, you’ve no doubt seen a plethora of products labeled as “Nitric Oxide Boosters.” You’re probably wondering why in the world you’d need to increase N.O. levels in the body?!

Quite simply having more Nitric Oxide makes just about everything better! Energy availability, endurance, and recovery rates are all increased with greater nitric oxide levels. [25][26][27] Additionally, it also reduces fatigue during higher rep training schemes, something all bodybuilders utilize in their never ending quest for gainzzzzzz!

All kidding aside, improved N.O. levels have far too many benefits for you to not include it in your supplement regimen. To maximally increase levels, look for a supplement with either:

  • 6-8g of Citrulline Malate
  • 3-4g of L-Citrulline
  • 1g Agmatine
  • 1-2g Nitrates (depending on what form)

BCAAs

The goal of all bodybuilders is to build as much muscle as possible in the most effective manner possible. This means keep net protein balance positive, so your body is in a constant state of muscle-building, and not muscle-tearing.

BCAAs should be at the forefront of all bodybuilders list of supplement goodies. They’ve been shown time and again to drive muscle protein synthesis via stimulation of the mTOR pathway.[28][29]

Additionally, incorporating BCAAs into your pre, intra, or post workout supplementation protocol reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery. [30][31]

To get the true benefits of this ingredient, look for at least a 5g dose of BCAAs in your supplements!

Phosphatidic Acid

A rarely discussed ingredient, phosphatidic acid (PA) is a phospholipid which you’ll find as part of every cell membrane in the body. Without getting too deep into the science (trust us, it’s dizzying!), realize that PA directly activates mTOR, which drives muscle growth!

Aside from increased lean mass gains, PA also reduces body fat, lowers cortisol levels, and increases strength. [32][33] These are all traits an aspiring bodybuilder wants to maximize when training for hypertrophy.

The dose need to reap the benefits of Phosphatidic Acid is 750mg, so keep an eye out on the label for how much a particular product has!

Takeaway

Hopefully you’ve arrived at the end of this article with a clearer understanding of choosing the appropriate supplements for your particular goals. There’s an awful lot of confusion and misinformation out there, but with a clear vision of your goals (and this handy guide) you’ll be able to navigate the vast sea that are sports supplements with great success, and little to no money wasted.

References

1) Chilibeck, P; Effect of creatine ingestion after exercise on muscle thickness in males and females.; College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan; 2004
2) Hoffman, J; Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes.; Dept. of Health and Exercise Science, The College of New Jersey; 2006
3) Netreba, A; Creatine as a metabolic controller of skeletal muscles structure and function in strength exercises in humans; Ross Fiziol; 2006
4) Bemben, M; The effects of supplementation with creatine and protein on muscle strength following a traditional resistance training program in middle-aged and older men.; Neuromuscular Lab, Dept. Health & Exercise Science, U. Oklahoma; 2010
5) Anomasiri, W; Low dose creatine supplementation enhances sprint phase of 400 meters swimming performance.; Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University; 2004
6) Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on markers of skeletal muscle damage after strenuous contractile activity.
7) The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30km race.
8) Baguet, A et al.; Journal of Applied Physiology; “Important role of muscle carnosine in rowing performance;” July 2010;” 2005
9) Roger C. Harris; et al.; “The effect of a supplement containing β-alanine on muscle carnosine synthesis, ventilatory threshold and exercise capacity in Korean cyclists, during 12 weeks combined endurance and weight training“
10) Hill, CA et al.; Amino Acids; “Influence of beta-alanine supplementation on skeletal muscle carnosine concentrations and high intensity cycling capacity ;” February 2007
11) Kendrick IP, et al. The effects of 10 weeks of resistance training combined with beta-alanine supplementation on whole body strength, force production, muscular endurance and body composition. Amino Acids. (2008)
12) von Duvillard, Serge P et al.; Fluids and hydration in prolonged endurance performance. Nutrition, Volume 20, Issue 7, 651 – 656
13) Kreider, R. B., et al. (1992). Effects of phosphate loading on metabolic and myocardial responses to maximal and endurance exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 2(1), 20-47.
14) Czuba, M., et al. (2008). The influence of sodium phosphate supplementation on VO2max, serum 2, 3-diphosphoglycerate level and heart rate in off-road cyclists. Journal of Human Kinetics, 19, 149-164.
15) Czuba, M., et al. (2009). Effects of sodium phosphate loading on aerobic power and capacity in off road cyclists. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 8(4), 591.
16) Kreider, R. B., et al. (1990). Effects of phosphate loading on oxygen uptake, ventilatory anaerobic threshold, and run performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 22(2), 250-256.
17) Lee EC, et al. Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2010)
18) Effect of betaine supplementation on power performance and fatigue
19) del Favero S, et al Creatine but not betaine supplementation increases muscle phosphorylcreatine content and strength performance . Amino Acids. (2012)
20) Betaine supplementation enhances anabolic endocrine and Akt signaling in response to acute bouts of exercise.
21) “The Effect of ElevATP™on Whole Blood ATP Levels: a Single Dose, Cross over Clinical Study. (PDF Download Available).” ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/260944047_The_effect_of_ElevATPon_whole_blood_ATP_levels_a_single_dose_cross_over_clinical_study.
22) “Twelve Weeks Supplementation with an Extended-release Caffeine and ATP-enhancing Supplement May Improve Body Composition Without Affecting Hematology in Resistance-trained Men (PDF Download Available).” ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/303892639_Twelve_weeks_supplementation_with_an_extended-release_caffeine_and_ATP-enhancing_supplement_may_improve_body_composition_without_affecting_hematology_in_resistance-trained_men.
23) “Supplementation with a Proprietary Blend of Ancient Peat and Apple Extract May Improve Body Composition Without Affecting Hematology in Resistance-Trained Men (PDF Download Available).” ResearchGate, http://bit.ly/2d2K5zA.
24) Joy JM et al., “Ancient peat and apple extracts supplementation may improve strength and power adaptations in resistance trained men,” BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1 (July 2016): 224
25) Giannesini B., et. al.; European Journal of Pharmacology; “Citrulline malate supplementation increases muscle efficiency in rat skeletal muscle;” September 2011
26) Perez-Guisado J, Jakeman PM; Journal of Strength and Conditioning; “Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness;” May 2010
27) Hickner RC. et. al.; Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; “L-citrulline reduces time to exhaustion and insulin response to a graded exercise test;“
28) Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.
29) Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R; Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S
30) Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul 12;9:20.
31) Sharp CP, Pearson DR. Amino acid supplements and recovery from high-intensity resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1125-30.
32) J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Oct 5;9(1):47. doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-47
33) Joy JM, Lowery RP, Dudeck JE, De-Souza EO, Jager R, McCleary SA, Wilson SMC, Purpura M, Wilson JM.Phosphatidic Acid Supplementation Increases Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength. Poster presentation at the ISSN Conference 2013.

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