I am a big believer in wholesome nutrition. With that said I can completely understand those that want to push their limits further without the need for an excessive amount of calories from whole foods each day – this is where strength training supplements come into play.
Let’s be clear – there are some obvious advantages to using strength training supplements (especially the good ones). Here are a couple reasons…
1. Supplements Can Metabolize Faster
Most supplements will be able to metabolize and enter the bloodstream much faster than whole foods. Much of this comes down to the simple compounds found in supplements like powdered protein rather than the complex amino acids in whole foods.
2. Supplements Provide Consistent Calories
This is a big one. The body thrives in situations where it can accumulate the same amount of calories on a consistent basis.
Although one could argue that the calories contained in whole foods are much more complex and more beneficial to strength – the calories in a supplement will always be consistent.
You know that one scoop of protein will give you 20-25g of protein every time. The same cannot necessarily be said for eating legumes or lean meats – the calories and quantity of food will always be slightly variable.
3. Supplements are Super Convenient
Everyone likes when they can consume something easily and see clear benefits from it. Consuming a protein supplement from whatever source you prefer will always be faster and more convenient than cooking up a bowl of legumes, nuts or lean meat.
Understanding all the small benefits of a supplement can help you to see why choosing the right product can help you to push your limits further without having the process take over your life.
Having the right protein supplement means a quick 20-second shake for recovery versus the time it takes to meal prep your post-workout recovery food.
These are just some of the main reasons why I could recommend supplements to certain individuals and why I am going to break down the four best supplements essential to any strength training athlete.
Four Supplements Essential To Strength Training
The best supplement for a strength athlete will always be those that help your muscles to resynthesize glycogen and ATP (your primary fuel sources).
Above creating a sustainable fuel source for exercise you must also provide enough protein to enable efficient recovery of soft tissue.
There should always be a balance of recovery and fuel.
Both play an important role in your ability to go from one workout to another without entering into an overtraining spectrum.
Here are four supplements that will help you to effectively recover from strength training and provide fuel to working muscle for the next session.
1. Creatine HCL
I am a big fan of creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL. I have been using it for years and have always recommended it to many of the athletes under my training.
On a very basic level, creatine helps to resynthesize ATP.
In other words – creatine does not necessarily help you to grow stronger, instead, it helps to provide the fuel for your workout so that you can continue to engage in strenuous exercise with readily-accessible fuel.
Want to learn more about creatine? Check out this Creatine article on size and strength.
You can find Concrete on Bodybuilding.com.
Perhaps the most forgotten and overlooked supplement in the world of strength training. Beta-Alanine helps to reduce the onset of lactic acid. Specifically, it works to buffer lactic acid in the cell.
This means you can continue to train without feeling the effects of strenuous exercise.
You know that feeling around rep 7 or 8 when your muscles start to shut down – sometimes this can be an accumulation of lactic acid.
Beta-Alanine helps to improve your strength training by allowing you to train at the same weight for higher reps – perfect for those deloading or high-rep recovery weeks.
3. Pumpkin Seed Protein
Pumpkin seed protein contains a great balance of amino acids, is relatively cheap and contains a plethora of nutritional value.
Pumpkin seeds are heavy in vitamins, minerals and great amino acids – including a hefty value on L-Leucine – essential elements for any strength athlete.
My favourite pumpkin seed protein can be found here.
The king of all supplements. When used properly I really do not think there is anything more powerful than caffeine. Understanding the pro’s and con’s is important (blog to come soon) caffeine can be used as a great ergogenic aid.
Caffeine does not help you to recover faster, but has been shown time and time again to improve athletic performance by increasing metabolic rate and has even been correlated to an increase in gross motor performance – perfect for strength-based sports.
When consuming caffeine you have two choices. A cup of coffee (preferably espresso) or a caffeine anhydrous supplement.
Caffeine anhydrous is a version of caffeine that is not suspended in water – this means it provides the same effect but does not take time to drink. If you’re interested in a caffeine anhydrous supplement I would recommend grabbing this one from bodybuilding.com.
Improving Strength With Supplements
Let’s make something clear – supplements are not some magical substitute for a wholesome diet. They are supplemental to your diet.
Using the supplements above correctly will inevitably help you to perform at a higher level but remember to supplement intentionally, eat clean and grab yourself a complete training program suited to your sport or athletic goals.